The multi-action plan (MAP) model reflects the notion that different psychophysiological states underlie distinct performance-related experiences. Previous empirical evidence suggested that attentional focus, affective states, and psycho-physiological patterns differ among optimal-automatic (type 1), optimal-controlled (type 2), suboptimal-controlled (type 3), and suboptimal-automatic (type 4) performance experiences.
The purpose of this study was to test the cortical patterns correlated to the performance categories conceptualized within the MAP model.
Three elite pistol shooters (age range 16-30 years), members of the Italian Shooting Team and with extensive international experience, participated in the study. Participants performed 120 air-pistol shots at 10 meters from an official target. After each shot, they reported perceived control and accuracy levels on a 0-11 scale. Objective performance scores were also gathered. Electroencephalographic (EEG) activity was recorded with a 32 channel system (ANT). High alpha band ERD/ERS analysis during the three seconds preceding each shot and at shot’s release was performed. Findings revealed differences in cortical activity related to performance categories. In particular, type 1 and type 4 performance were characterized by a clear relative decrease in signal power (ERS) at shot’s release involving the central areas and the contralateral parietal and occipital areas, but differed for the cortical activity patterns before the shot. No ERS pattern was observed at shot’s release in type 2 performance, while a interesting relative increase of signal power (ERD) occurred in the frontal and occipital areas just before the shot, similarly to what occurred in type 1 performance.
Our preliminary results suggest that lower cortical activation at shot’s release is associated with an automatic performance, partially supporting the “neural efficiency hypothesis”. Additionally, the analysis of the cortical activations related to the performance-related experiences defined in the MAP model supports the hypothesis that distinct neural activation patterns are associated with the control and performance levels.