Athletes participating in ball or racquet sports have to respond to visual stimuli under critical time pressure. Previous studies used visual contrast stimuli to determine visual perception and visuomotor reaction in athletes and nonathletes; however, ball and racquet sports are characterized by motion rather than contrast visual cues. Because visual contrast and motion signals are processed in different cortical regions, this study aimed to determine differences in perception and processing of visual motion between athletes and nonathletes.Methods
Twenty-five skilled badminton players and 28 age-matched nonathletic controls participated in this study. Using a 64-channel EEG system, we investigated visual motion perception/processing in the motion-sensitive middle temporal (MT) cortical area in response to radial motion of different velocities. In a simple visuomotor reaction task, visuomotor transformation in Brodmann area 6 (BA6) and BA4 as well as muscular activation (EMG onset) and visuomotor reaction time (VMRT) were investigated. Stimulus- and response-locked potentials were determined to differentiate between perceptual and motor-related processes.Results
As compared with nonathletes, athletes showed earlier EMG onset times (217 vs 178 ms, P < 0.001), accompanied by a faster VMRT (274 vs 243 ms, P < 0.001). Furthermore, athletes showed an earlier stimulus-locked peak activation of MT (200 vs 182 ms, P = 0.002) and BA6 (161 vs 137 ms, P = 0.009). Response-locked peak activation in MT was later in athletes (−7 vs 26 ms, P < 0.001), whereas no group differences were observed in BA6 and BA4. Multiple regression analyses with stimulus- and response-locked cortical potentials predicted EMG onset (r = 0.83) and VMRT (r = 0.77).Conclusion
The athletes' superior visuomotor performance in response to visual motion is primarily related to visual perception and, to a minor degree, to motor-related processes.