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Shooting under cardiovascular load: Electroencephalographic activity in preparation for biathlon shooting

Shooting under cardiovascular load: Electroencephalographic activity in preparation for biathlon shooting

Germano Gallicchio, Thomas Finkenzeller, Gerold Sattlecker, Stefan Lindinger, Kerstin Hoedlmoser
International Journal of Psychophysiology

This study explored the influence of sub-maximal cardiovascular load on electroencephalographic (EEG) activity preceding biathlon shooting. Frontal-midline theta and alpha power were examined to assess monitoring processes and cortical inhibition, respectively. Thirteen experienced biathletes (mean age: 17 years; 5 males, 8 females) fired sets of five consecutive shots from the standing position at a 50-meter-distant target, under two fixed-order conditions: (i) at rest and (ii) immediately after 3-minute exercise on a bicycle ergometer at 90% of maximum heart rate (HR). HR and rate of physical exertion (RPE) were measured as manipulation checks. Shooting accuracy was assessed in target rings for each shot. Frontal-midline theta and alpha power were computed in the last second preceding each shot from average-reference 61-channel EEG and inter-individual differences were minimized through a median-scaled log transformation (Appendix). HR and RPE increased under cardiovascular load, however, shooting accuracy did not change. Pre-shooting frontal-midline theta power decreased, whereas alpha power increased over temporal and occipital – but not central – regions. These changes were larger for greater HR values. Additionally, higher frontal-midline theta, lower left-central alpha, and higher left-temporal alpha power were associated with more accurate shooting. These findings suggest that monitoring processes are beneficial to shooting performance but can be impaired by sub-maximal cardiovascular load. Greater inhibition of movement-irrelevant regions (temporal, occipital) and concomitant activation of movement-related regions (central) indicate that greater neural efficiency is beneficial to shooting performance and can allow trained biathletes to shoot accurately despite physically demanding conditions.


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