An elite athlete employs complex skills during competition that have been learned and perfected over long periods of training. Skills that include kicking, throwing, and hitting are complicated and require heightened motor control, focus, and attention. Attention allocation and motor control may be evaluated by the P3 wave, a neurophysiological measure of cognitive control. The Go/NoGo task is often used to elicit a P3 wave by averaging electroencephalogram readings from frequent stimuli that require a response (Go) and infrequent stimuli that require response inhibition (NoGo). Anxiety may also affect performance, both on the athletic field and in the research laboratory. Physiologically, heightened anxiety is associated with skin conductance responses, triggered by activation of the sympathetic nervous system. The goal of this study was to compare behavioral and neurophysiological responses of athletes and novices during the Go/NoGo task under both calming and anxiety provoking conditions. The hypothesis that participants would perform better following anxiety induction was based on drive theory that suggests motivation to compete creates heightened arousal and allows people to perform at a higher skill level. Since athletes have experience performing under pressure, the anxiety induction manipulation was expected to be more beneficial for athletes compared to novices. Each of the 26 undergraduate participants completed the Go/NoGo task once following a calming manipulation and once after anxiety induction, with the order counterbalanced. Analyses of skin conductance responses and participant reports confirmed that anxiety was induced successfully during the anxiety induction manipulation, and was reduced during the calming manipulation. In contrast to the hypothesis, novices made significantly more errors on the Go/NoGo task following anxiety induction and had reduced P3 amplitudes. In contrast, neither accuracy of athletes nor amplitudes of P3 differed between the anxiety inducing and calming manipulations.
Waters, Conley and Weed, Keri
"The Influence of Induced Anxiety on the P3 Event Related Brain Potentials of Athletes and Novices in a Go/NoGo Task,"
Journal of the South Carolina Academy of Science: Vol. 16:
1, Article 10.
Available at: https://scholarcommons.sc.edu/jscas/vol16/iss1/10