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Examining Neural Activity Related to Pitch Stimuli and Feedback at the Plate: Cognitive and Performance Implications

Jason R. Themanson, Alivia Hay, Lucas Sieving, and Brad E. Sheese

This study investigated the relationships among neural activity related to pitch stimuli and task feedback, self-regulatory control, and task-performance measures in expert and novice baseball players. The participants had their event-related brain potentials recorded while they completed a computerized task assessing whether thrown pitches were balls or strikes and received feedback on the accuracy of their responses following each pitch. The results indicated that college players exhibited significantly larger medial frontal negativities to pitch stimuli, as well as smaller reward positivities and larger frontocentral positivities in response to negative feedback, compared with novices. Furthermore, significant relationships were present between college players’ neural activity related to both pitches and feedback and their task performance and self-regulatory behavior. These relationships were not present for novices. These findings suggest that players efficiently associate the information received in their feedback to their self-regulatory processing of the task and, ultimately, their task performance.

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The Relationships Between Neural Activity and In-Game Hitting Performance in Baseball

Jason R. Themanson, Grace Norton, Evan Daly, Leah Thoma, and Brad E. Sheese

The current study examines the relationships between hitters’ neural activity and their in-game hitting performance. Collegiate baseball players completed a computerized video task assessing whether thrown pitches were balls or strikes while their neural activity was recorded. In addition, each player’s hitting statistics were collected for the following baseball season. Results showed that neural activity during the computerized task was associated with in-game hitting performance, even after accounting for other individual difference variables. These findings indicate that players’ neural activity measured in a laboratory environment shows a translational relationship with in-game hitting performance over time. Neural activity provides a more objective analysis of players’ ongoing self-regulatory processes during hitting and a better understanding of the cognitive processes associated with hitting performance. Self-regulatory cognitive control is adaptable and trainable, and this research advances the measurement of cognitive variables related with in-game hitting performance in baseball.

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The Influence of Pitch-by-Pitch Feedback on Neural Activity and Pitch Perception in Baseball

Jason R. Themanson, Nicole J. Bing, Brad E. Sheese, and Matthew B. Pontifex

This study was designed to examine the influence of performance feedback on task performance and neural activity in expert and novice baseball players. Participants completed a video task to determine whether thrown pitches were balls or strikes while their neural activity was recorded. After each pitch, participants were given feedback on the accuracy of their choice. Results indicated that college players exhibited larger frontocentral positivity amplitudes compared with novices, regardless of feedback type. Furthermore, results showed that the feedback-related negativity was related to response accuracy following incorrect feedback for college players, with larger feedback-related negativity amplitude associated with greater response accuracy. This relationship is independent of any relations between overall task accuracy and either feedback-related negativity amplitude or response accuracy following incorrect feedback. These results indicate that the nature of neural activity during pitch feedback for college baseball players can inform and influence participants’ subsequent pitch-location performance.