Ready, set, go: Cortical hemodynamics during self-controlled sprint starts

Wolff, Wanja; Thürmer, J. Lukas; Stadler, Kim-Marie; Schüler, Julia (2019). Ready, set, go: Cortical hemodynamics during self-controlled sprint starts. Psychology of sport and exercise, 41, pp. 21-28. Elsevier Science 10.1016/j.psychsport.2018.11.002

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Objectives: Successful sprint starts require self-control: Athletes need to avoid a false start (impulse control) and at the same time need to start as fast as possible (action initiation). Research from cognitive neuroscience shows that such self-control acts hinge on activity in areas in the lateral Prefrontal Cortex (lPFC). We are harnessing these findings in order to accurately analyze and better understand the neural basis of self-controlled sprint start performance. Design: In a within-subject experimental design, participants executed three different sprint start sequences (Ready-Set-Go) for ten times each. In the no-start condition, participants only had to avoid producing a false start (impulse control) and in the experimental conditions - either with fixed or with supposedly variable set-start intervals - they additionally had to execute a fast start (impulse control + action initiation). Methods: We used functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to assess cerebral oxygenation in the lPFC during sprint start in 33 male participants. Results: Results show that cerebral oxygenation increased after the set-signal and this increase was particularly pronounced in the fixed and supposedly-variable start conditions. Post-hoc analyses further indicated that oxygenation differences between no-start and the two start conditions were particularly pronounced in anterior parts of the LPFC. Discussion: This is the first study to reveal oxygenation changes in self-control relevant cortical areas during sprint start performance. This substantiates the claim that sprint starts impose self-control demands and provides a much called for application of neuroscience findings to the sport context.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Education > Educational Psychology

UniBE Contributor:

Wolff, Wanja


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 370 Education




Elsevier Science




Wanja Wolff

Date Deposited:

28 Mar 2019 09:53

Last Modified:

23 Oct 2019 05:45

Publisher DOI:





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