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Motor-Evoked Potentials for Early Individual Elements of an Action Sequence During Planning Reflect Parallel Activation Processes

Lawrence P. Behmer Jr., Mathew J.C. Crump, and Kelly J. Jantzen

Several computational models make predictions about the activation states of individual elements of an action sequence during planning and execution; however, the neural mechanisms of action planning are still poorly understood. Simple chaining models predict that only the first response in an action sequence should be active during planning. Conversely, some parallel activation models suggest that during planning, a serial inhibition process places the individual elements of the action into a serial order across a winner-takes-all competitive choice gradient in which earlier responses are more active, and hence likely to be selected for execution compared with later responses. We triggered transcranial magnetic stimulation pulses at 200 or 400 ms after the onset of a five-letter word, in which all but one response was planned and typed with the left hand, except for a single letter which required a right index finger response exclusively at one of five serial positions. We measured the resulting motor-evoked potentials at the right index finger as a marker for the activation state of that planned response. We observed no difference in motor-evoked potential amplitude across any serial position when a right index finger response was planned at 200 ms after the onset of the word; however, we observed a graded pattern of activation at 400 ms, with earlier positions that required a right index finger response showing greater motor-evoked potentials amplitude compared with later positions. These findings provide empirical support for competitive queuing computational models of action planning.

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The Effects of Subthreshold Vibratory Noise on Cortical Activity During Motor Imagery

Kishor Lakshminarayanan, Rakshit Shah, Yifei Yao, and Deepa Madathil

Previous studies have demonstrated that both visual and proprioceptive feedback play vital roles in mental practice of movements. Tactile sensation has been shown to improve with peripheral sensory stimulation via imperceptible vibratory noise by stimulating the sensorimotor cortex. With both proprioception and tactile sensation sharing the same population of posterior parietal neurons encoding within high-level spatial representations, the effect of imperceptible vibratory noise on motor imagery-based brain–computer interface is unknown. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of this sensory stimulation via imperceptible vibratory noise applied to the index fingertip in improving motor imagery–based brain–computer interface performance. Fifteen healthy adults (nine males and six females) were studied. Each subject performed three motor imagery tasks, namely drinking, grabbing, and flexion–extension of the wrist, with and without sensory stimulation while being presented a rich immersive visual scenario through a virtual reality headset. Results showed that vibratory noise increased event-related desynchronization during motor imagery compared with no vibration. Furthermore, the task classification percentage was higher with vibration when the tasks were discriminated using a machine learning algorithm. In conclusion, subthreshold random frequency vibration affected motor imagery–related event-related desynchronization and improved task classification performance.

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A Multiday Professional Padel Tournament Impairs Sleep, Mental Toughness, and Reaction Time: A World Padel Tour Field Study

Jesús Díaz-García, Bart Roelands, Jelle Habay, Inmaculada González-Ponce, Miguel Ángel López-Gajardo, Tomás García-Calvo, and Jeroen Van Cutsem

This study aimed to assess, for the first time, how self-reported sleep, mental toughness, and reaction time are impacted by a professional padel tournament. In addition, we evaluated whether sex, age, and/or ranking play a role in this possible effect of a tournament on these variables. Twenty-three professional players (15 men, M age = 24 ± 6 years; eight women, M age = 21 ± 5 years) were evaluated on two occasions: (a) baseline, in a noncompetitive week and (b) postmeasure, the morning after an individual was eliminated from the tournament. The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, the Mental Toughness Questionnaire, and the psychomotor vigilance task were used to evaluate the dependent variables. Wilcoxon tests or paired samples t tests were employed to assess the effect of participating in the tournament. To test correlations between variables, Pearson correlation coefficients (quantitative variables) or chi-square distributions (qualitative variables) were employed. Results showed that self-reported sleep (p < .01), mental toughness (p = .01), and reaction time (p = .04) were significantly impaired by the tournament. Exploring moderating variables, results showed that mental toughness did not correlate with sleep impairments (p > .05). In contrast, a nearly significant correlation between sleep impairments and higher reaction times was found (p = .066). No significant effects of age, sex, and ranking were observed. In conclusion, participating in a padel competition impairs the self-reported sleep, mental toughness, and reaction time of professional padel players. A trend toward a significant correlation between the competition-related impairment in sleep and reaction time was observed, whereas age, ranking, and sex were not found to be moderators of any of these impairments.

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Table Tennis, as a Method of Sensorimotor Training, Induces Haptic and Motor Gains in Children With a Probable Developmental Coordination Disorder

Yu-Ting Tseng, Chia-Liang Tsai, Tzu Hsuan Wu, Yi-Wen Chen, and Yi-Hsuan Lin

This study examined whether table tennis as a method of sensorimotor training improves haptic and motor function and to what extent haptic function gain correlates with changes in motor ability in children with probable developmental coordination disorder (pDCD). Children with pDCD were randomly assigned to the table tennis and nontraining control groups. The children in the table tennis group received 36 sessions of table tennis training, including ball balancing, hitting the ball against the wall, strokes, and serving. Haptic sensitivity, acuity, and motor function domains were measured. The results showed a 41.5% improvement in haptic sensitivity in children exposed to table tennis training compared with 2.8% in those without training. This improved haptic sensitivity significantly correlated with motor function gain, suggesting that somatosensory gains occur simultaneously with changes in motor function in children with pDCD. This novel upper limb motor training approach may be an interesting method of sensorimotor training in neurological rehabilitation in children with pDCD.

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A Narrative Literature Review About the Role of Microsaccades in Sports

Alessandro Piras and Milena Raffi

In many daily and sport situations, people have to simultaneously perceive and process multiple objects and scenes in a short amount of time. A wrong decision may lead to a disadvantage for a team or for a single athlete, and during daily life (i.e., driving, surgery), it could have more dangerous consequences. Considering the results of different studies, the ability to distribute visual attention depends on different levels of expertise and environment-related constraints. This article is a narrative review of the current scientific evidence in the field of eye movements in sports, focusing on the role of microsaccades in sporting task situations. Over the past 10 years, microsaccades have become one of the most increasing areas of research in visual and oculomotor studies and even in the area of sport science. Here, we review the latest findings and discuss the relationships between microsaccades and attention, perception, and action in sports.

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Dual-Task Interference Slows Down Proprioception

Linjing Jiang, Satoshi Kasahara, Tomoya Ishida, Yuting Wei, Ami Chiba, Mina Samukawa, and Harukazu Tohyama

It is well-known that multitasking impairs the performance of one or both of the concomitant ongoing tasks. Previous studies have mainly focused on how a secondary task can compromise visual or auditory information processing. However, despite dual tasking being critical to motor performance, the effects of dual-task performance on proprioceptive information processing have not been studied yet. The purpose of the present study was, therefore, to investigate whether sensorimotor task performance would be affected by the dual task and if so, in which phase of the sensorimotor task performance would this negative effect occur. The kinematic variables of passive and active knee movements elicited by the leg drop test were analyzed. Thirteen young adults participated in the study. The dual task consisted of performing serial subtractions. The results showed that the dual task increased both the reaction time to counteract passive knee–joint movements in the leg drop test and the threshold to detect those movements. The dual task did not affect the speed and time during the active knee movement and the absolute angle error between the final and the target knee angles. Furthermore, the results showed that the time to complete the sensorimotor task was prolonged in dual tasking. Our findings suggest that dual tasking reduces motor performance due to slowing down proprioceptive information processing without affecting movement execution.

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Volume 27 (2023): Issue 1 (Jan 2023): Special Z-Issue in Honor of Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky

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Intramuscle Synergies: Their Place in the Neural Control Hierarchy

Mark L. Latash, Shirin Madarshahian, and Joseph M. Ricotta

We accept a definition of synergy introduced by Nikolai Bernstein and develop it for various actions, from those involving the whole body to those involving a single muscle. Furthermore, we use two major theoretical developments in the field of motor control—the idea of hierarchical control with spatial referent coordinates and the uncontrolled manifold hypothesis—to discuss recent studies of synergies within spaces of individual motor units (MUs) recorded within a single muscle. During the accurate finger force production tasks, MUs within hand extrinsic muscles form robust groups, with parallel scaling of the firing frequencies. The loading factors at individual MUs within each of the two main groups link them to the reciprocal and coactivation commands. Furthermore, groups are recruited in a task-specific way with gains that covary to stabilize muscle force. Such force-stabilizing synergies are seen in MUs recorded in the agonist and antagonist muscles but not in the spaces of MUs combined over the two muscles. These observations reflect inherent trade-offs between synergies at different levels of a control hierarchy. MU-based synergies do not show effects of hand dominance, whereas such effects are seen in multifinger synergies. Involuntary, reflex-based, force changes are stabilized by intramuscle synergies but not by multifinger synergies. These observations suggest that multifinger (multimuscle synergies) are based primarily on supraspinal circuitry, whereas intramuscle synergies reflect spinal circuitry. Studies of intra- and multimuscle synergies promise a powerful tool for exploring changes in spinal and supraspinal circuitry across patient populations.

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Effect of Vertical Jump and Sprint Training on Power and Speed Performance Transfer

Rodrigo Ghedini Gheller, Rafael Lima Kons, Juliano Dal Pupo, and Daniele Detanico

The aim of this systematic review was to investigate the effect of specific sprint and vertical jump training interventions on transfer of speed–power parameters. The data search was carried out in three electronic databases (PubMed, SCOPUS, and SPORTDiscus), and 28 articles were selected (13 on vertical jump training and 15 on sprint training). We followed the PRISMA criteria for the construction of this systematic review and used the Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) scale to assess the quality of all studies. It included studies with a male population (athletes and nonathletes, n = 512) from 18 to 30 years old who performed a vertical jump or sprint training intervention. The effect size was calculated from the values of means and SDs pre- and posttraining intervention. The percentage changes and transfer of training effect were calculated for vertical jump training and sprint training through measures of vertical jump and sprint performance. The results indicated that both training interventions (vertical jump training and sprint training) induced improvements in vertical jump and linear sprint performance as well as transfer of training to speed–power performance. However, vertical jump training produced greater specific and training transfer effects on linear sprint than sprint training (untrained skill). It was concluded that vertical jump training and sprint training were effective in increasing specific actions of vertical jump and linear sprint performance, respectively; however, vertical jump training was shown to be a superior alternative due to the higher transfer rate.

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Effects of Mental Fatigue on Strength Endurance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Carlos Alix-Fages, Jozo Grgic, Pablo Jiménez-Martínez, Eneko Baz-Valle, and Carlos Balsalobre-Fernández

The purpose of the present systematic review and meta-analysis was to explore the effects of mental fatigue on upper and lower body strength endurance. Searches for studies were performed in the PubMed/MEDLINE and Web of Science databases. We included studies that compared the effects of a demanding cognitive task (set to induce mental fatigue) with a control condition on strength endurance in dynamic resistance exercise (i.e., expressed as the number of performed repetitions at a given load). The data reported in the included studies were pooled in a random-effects meta-analysis of standardized mean differences. Seven studies were included in the review. We found that mental fatigue significantly reduced the number of performed repetitions for upper body exercises (standardized mean difference: −0.41; 95% confidence interval [−0.70, −0.12]; p = .006; I 2 = 0%). Mental fatigue also significantly reduced the number of performed repetitions in the analysis for lower body exercises (standardized mean difference: −0.39; 95% confidence interval [−0.75, −0.04]; p = .03; I 2 = 0%). Our results showed that performing a demanding cognitive task—which induces mental fatigue—impairs strength endurance performance. Collectively, our findings suggest that exposure to cognitive tasks that may induce mental fatigue should be minimized before strength endurance-based resistance exercise sessions.