Enhancing Golf Putting Performance by Neurofeedback Training
Introduction: Neurofeedback training (NFT) is a technique to improve the brain's functioning through self-regulation of the electroencephalogram (EEG). Among the EEG signatures regarding focused attention, sensorimotor rhythm (SMR) activity has been related to the adaptive focused attention during skilled action execution. However, few studies have bridged the causal link between SMR activity and sports performance. This study investigated the effect of SMR neurofeedback training (SMR NFT) on golf putting performance. We hypothesized that pre-elite golfers would exhibit enhanced putting performance after SMR NFT. The increased SMR power after training would be a result of improved focused attention which may reduce the irrelevant motor information processing in the sensorimotor cortex. Method: Sixteen pre-elite golfers were recruited and randomly assigned into either an SMR or a control group. Participants were asked to perform 40 putting trials while EEG was recorded, both before and after intervention (8 sessions). Results: Our results showed that the neurofeedback group performed more accurately when putting [pre-post comparisons; t(7) = 3.42, p = .011] and exhibited greater SMR power [t(7) = 2.93, p = .022] than the control group [no significant effects] after 8 intervention sessions (significant interactions of group x session; F(1,14) = 5.03, p = .042; F(1,14) = 33.19, p = .001, respectively). With our control analysis, we found that the higher SMR power mainly presented at the sensorimotor area and exhibited less fluctuation in other frequency bands in the neurofeedback group after training.
Furthermore, the neurofeedback group exhibited a day-to-day learning curve in which they improve the ability to control the SMR power from the first session of training to the last session. Discussion: This study concludes that SMR NFT is effective for increasing SMR power during action preparation and for enhancing golf putting performance. Moreover, greater SMR activity might be an EEG signature of improved focused attention which can induce superior putting performance.