The mental fatigue-associated decrease in table tennis performance: is there an electrophysiological signature?

Habay, J. (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentationTalk or presentation at a conference


Introduction: Mental fatigue (MF) is a psychobiological state caused by prolonged periods of cognitive activity, and which negatively impacts both cognitive and physical performance [1]. Recent research has also shown that MF negatively influences sport-specific psychomotor performance across a myriad of sports, including table tennis (TT) [2]. Although some research already exists implying that some TT performance outcomes are impaired by MF [3], open skill sports such as TT require a more detailed overview of MF-performance decrements. Moreover, most research investigating both MF and sport-specific psychomotor performance lacks the addition of brain related measurements to identify MF mechanisms. The present study sought to overcome these gaps in knowledge. Methods: Eleven experienced TT players participated in this randomized counterbalanced crossover trial. Participants were either required to perform an individualized Stroop task (MF condition) or watch a documentary (control condition). The primary outcome was reaction time assessed using a TT-specific visuomotor task, utilising both simple (i.e. non-inhibitory response) and inhibitory (i.e. using an inhibitory control response) stimuli. Electroencephalography (EEG) (event related potentials (ERP’s) and spectral power analysis) was measured throughout the trial. Secondary outcome measures include the subjective level of MF experience, the NASA-TLX, motivation, heart rate, rating of perceived exertion and other behavioural MF parameters. Results: M-VAS was significantly different between both conditions and confirmed that the MF condition induced a higher mentally fatigued state of participants compared to the control group (p<0.001). No behavioural indicators (i.e. decrease in performance on Stroop and flanker task) of MF were present. MF worsened reaction time on the visuomotor task, specifically on the inhibitory stimuli (p=0.001). Secondary outcome measurements remained largely ambiguous. Spectral power (i.e. decreases in upper α band and θ band) during the visuomotor task was influenced by MF, while ERPs remained unaltered. Conclusion: The present study further confirms that MF negatively impacts TT performance [3], specifically inhibitory stimuli during the visuomotor task. These findings are in line with other research [4] on the link between visuomotor performance and MF. EEG measurements show a further desynchronization of brain areas in MF effects on motor tasks, with ERP’s remaining non-influenced, further augmenting our understanding of MF and its mechanisms. The findings also suggest that coaches and other personnel employed in TT should be aware of MF and its effects, and possible ways to counteract it. 1. Van Cutsem, J., et al., The effects of mental fatigue on physical performance: A systematic review. Sports Medicine, 2017. 47(8): p. 1569-1588. 2. Habay, J., et al., Mental Fatigue and Sport-Specific Psychomotor Performance: A Systematic Review. Sports Medicine, 2021. 3. Le Mansec, Y., et al., Mental fatigue alters the speed and the accuracy of the ball in table tennis. Journal of sports sciences, 2018. 36(23): p. 2751-2759. 4. Van Cutsem, J., et al., Mental fatigue impairs visuomotor response time in badminton players and controls. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 2019. 45(June): p. 101579-101579.
Period16 Dec 2021
Event titleC4N PhD Day December 2021
Event typeConference