Brain Activity in Biathlon : A Comparison between Experts and Novices and Acute Effects of Exercise
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Background: The theta activity from frontal electrodes in electroencephalography (EEG) is discussed to originate from the anterior cingulate cortex, an important brain area for executive functions and the processing of sensory information. Several EEG-studies have linked higher frontal theta activity to more focused attention and superior performance in goal directed precision tasks. Purpose: The primary purpose of this study was to compare frontal theta activity between biathletes and cross-country skiers during shooting, thereby comparing frontal theta activity between experts and novices. The secondary purpose was to examine the effects of vigorous exercise on the possible differences in frontal theta activity between the groups. Methods: EEG frontal theta (4.01-6.2 Hertz) activity was compared between nine biathletes and eight cross-country skiers who fired 100 shots on a 5 m indoor shooting range both before and after high intensity roller skiing intervals on a treadmill. Results: There was a highly significant group difference in performance in both conditions (p < 0.01). Biathletes had on average 6% higher frontal theta activity during shooting as compared to cross-country skiers (F1,15 = 4.82, p = 0.044), but no significant effect of vigorous exercise on frontal theta activity in either of the two groups were found (F1,15 = 0.14, p = 0.72). Conclusion: Compared to cross-country skiers with similar endurance capacity, biathletes had significantly higher frontal theta activity during shooting. Vigorous exercise did not decrease frontal theta activity during shooting in neither biathletes nor cross-country skiers.