To date, it is commonly agreed that physical practice, as well as mental types of practice, have the potential to bring about improvements in motor performance and to induce motor learning. The perceptual-cognitive representational background of these changes, however, is still being debated. In this experiment, we investigated the influence of observational practice on the performance and the representation of the golf putt. With this we aimed at adding to the ongoing debate on the particular contribution of observational practice to motor learning. Novices were assigned to one of two groups: observational and combined observational and physical practice. Motor performance and mental representation were measured prior to and after practice and after a three-day retention interval. Performance improved in both practice groups from pre- to retention-test. Together with performance improvements, mental representation structures developed functionally and became more elaborate over the course of the experiment. Interestingly, however, the pattern of changes over the course of the experiment and across the two practice types was different. Combined practice led to improvements in motor performance from pre- to post-test with representations developing alongside these improvements. Observational practice alone did not lead to performance improvement until after task execution, as shown by improvements in motor performance from post- to retention-test, even though mental representations changed from pre- to post-test. From this, observational practice seems to promote the development of representational frameworks of complex action, and thus action-related order formation in long-term memory.
Cornelia Frank, Gian-Luca Linstromberg, Linda Hennig, Thomas Heinen and Thomas Schack
A team’s cognitions of interpersonally coordinated actions are a crucial component for successful team performance. Here, we present an approach to practice team action by way of imagery and examine its impact on team cognitions in long-term memory. We investigated the impact of a 4-week team action imagery intervention on futsal players’ mental representations of team-level tactics. Skilled futsal players were assigned to either an imagery training group or a no imagery training control group. Participants in the imagery training group practiced four team-level tactics by imagining team actions in specific game situations for three times a week. Results revealed that the imagery training group’s representations were more similar to that of an expert representation after the intervention compared with the control group. This study indicates that team action imagery training can have a significant impact on players’ tactical skill representations and thus order formation in long-term memory.
Ming-Yang Cheng, Chung-Ju Huang, Yu-Kai Chang, Dirk Koester, Thomas Schack and Tsung-Min Hung
Sensorimotor rhythm (SMR) activity has been related to automaticity during skilled action execution. However, few studies have bridged the causal link between SMR activity and sports performance. This study investigated the effect of SMR neurofeedback training (SMR NFT) on golf putting performance. We hypothesized that preelite golfers would exhibit enhanced putting performance after SMR NFT. Sixteen preelite golfers were recruited and randomly assigned into either an SMR or a control group. Participants were asked to perform putting while electroencephalogram (EEG) was recorded, both before and after intervention. Our results showed that the SMR group performed more accurately when putting and exhibited greater SMR power than the control group after 8 intervention sessions. This study concludes that SMR NFT is effective for increasing SMR during action preparation and for enhancing golf putting performance. Moreover, greater SMR activity might be an EEG signature of improved attention processing, which induces superior putting performance.
Christoph Schütz, Matthias Weigelt, Dennis Odekerken, Timo Klein-Soetebier and Thomas Schack
Previous studies on sequential effects of human grasping behavior were restricted to binary grasp type selection. We asked whether two established motor control strategies, the end-state comfort effect and the hysteresis effect, would hold for sequential motor tasks with continuous solutions. To this end, participants were tested in a sequential (predictable) and a randomized (nonpredictable) perceptual-motor task, which offered a continuous range of posture solutions for each movement trial. Both the end-state comfort effect and the hysteresis effect were reproduced under predictable, continuous conditions, but only the end-state comfort effect was present under nonpredictable conditions. Experimental results further revealed a work range restriction effect, which was reproduced for the dominant and the nondominant hand.