Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

Exp Brain Res. 2019 Dec;237(12):3363-3373. doi: 10.1007/s00221-019-05677-x

Predicting the fate of basketball throws: an EEG study on expert action prediction in wheelchair basketball players

The ability to anticipate and detect changes in human movement helps people to modify their behaviors in ever changing environments. Studies indicate that expertise modulates observation of domain-specific actions in sports-a process that is crucial for adapting rapidly to a new situation, often before awareness of environmental changes is achieved. Here, we explored the electrophysiological underpinnings of wheelchair basketball players predicting the fate of free throws performed by wheelchair basketball athletes. We performed electroencephalography (EEG) in semi-professional wheelchair players with different degrees of expertise (players) and in ambulant, non-expert people (controls) while they observed movie stimuli of a free throw that could land inside or outside the basket. On each trial, participants were asked to predict the outcome of the throw. For each group, event-related potentials (ERPs) were averaged as a function of condition, using only the trials that were correctly predicted. Results show that compared to controls, expert players exhibit a greater negative amplitude of oCNV over Pz (an observational contingent negative variation-like waveform which is considered a marker of action effect prediction) during the wrist movement preceding the ball release (the last 100 ms of the shot), which carries the most crucial kinematic information regarding the fate of the throw. Our data provide further support to the view that functional modulation of the action observation network is associated with expertise.

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