Melinda Rácz1, 2, 3, 4, Dávid Horváth5, 6, János Négyesi5, 6, 7, Tamás Győri6, 8, Zsolt Matics6, János Csipor3, Levente Rácz5
1 János Szentágothai Doctoral School of Neurosciences, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary
2 Selye János Doctoral College for Advanced Studies, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary
3 Research Centre for Natural Sciences, Eötvös Loránd Research Network, Budapest, Hungary
4 MindRove Kft., Győr, Hungary
5 Department of Kinesiology, Hungarian University of Sports Science, Budapest, Hungary
6 Fit4Race Kft., Budapest, Hungary
7 Department of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, Sendai, Japan
8 Department of Psychology and Sport Psychology, Hungarian University of Sports Science, Budapest, Hungary
Introduction: Achieving the best sports performance requires not only strength, endurance, and sport-specific training but also the improvement of perceptual and decision-making skills. Implementing these types of exercises into the training regime could help athletes to process the most important information at the right time to make accurate decisions during the competitions.
Aims: Our aim was to develop an electroencephalography-based (EEG-based) biofeedback device that can help athletes enhance their performance. Our hypothesis was that the efficacy of EEG-neurofeedback may be equal to or greater than of other perceptual-cognitive training systems such as market leader software NeuroTracker.
Method: We developed an electroencephalography headset along with an application that displays the sensorimotor rhythm–theta wave (SMR/T) ratio in an engaging way. The efficacy of our system neuroMoon (nM) was compared to NeuroTracker (NT) and neuroMoon sham (nMS). The assessment took the form of a 12-session training with the participation of 31 young athletes. At the start and the end of the training, participants completed a cognitive test set consisting of tests from the Vienna Test System and the digit span backwards test (DSB).
Results: Regardless of group, participants had faster median reaction time in both the color-naming and word-reading conditions of STROOP; regarding the SWITCH test, statistical analysis indicated faster working time and mean reaction time of the incongruent stimuli, repetition task, and shifting task; in addition, we found fewer omitted and more post-intervention answers in DT. Finally, participants in each group performed the DSB with larger post vs. pre scores following the training.
Conclusion: Overall, perceptual-cognitive training with nM as compared with NT induced similar results in cognitive abilities suggesting its potential to be used to achieve and maintain better mental performance. However, considering that the sham stimulation also induced similar improvements in cognitive abilities, future studies should clearly determine the cognitive measures that could benefit from NF training.
Funding: Melinda Rácz is thankful for the SE 250+ Doctoral Scholarship for Excellence (supported by project EFOP-3.6.3-VEKOP-16-2017-00009 ‘Az orvos-, egészségtudományi- és gyógyszerészképzés tudományos műhelyeinek fejlesztése’).