Pre-stimulus alpha rhythms are correlated with post-stimulus sensorimotor performance in athletes and non-athletes: A high-resolution EEG study

Claudio Del Percio, Nicola Marzano, Stefania Tilgher, Antonio Fiore, Enrico Di Ciolo, Pierluigi Aschieri, Andrea Lino, Giancarlo Toràn, Claudio Babiloni, Fabrizio Eusebi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: In this study, we tested the hypothesis that a pre-stimulus brief (1 min) 10-Hz audio-visual flickering stimulation modulates alpha EEG rhythms and cognitive-motor performance in elite athletes and in non-athletes during visuo-spatial demands. Methods: Electroencephalographic (EEG) data were recorded (56 channels; EB-Neuro) in 14 elite fencing athletes and in 14 non-athletes during visuo-spatial-motor demands (i.e. subjects had to react to pictures of fencing and karate attacks). The task was performed after pre-stimulus 15- (placebo) or 10-Hz (experimental) flickering audio-visual stimulation lasting 1 min and after no stimulation (baseline). Results: With reference to the baseline condition, only the 10-Hz stimulation induced a negative correlation between pre-stimulus alpha power and reaction time in the fencing athletes and non-athletes as a single group. The higher the enhancement of alpha power before the pictures, the stronger the improvement of the reaction time. The maximum effects were observed in right posterior parietal area (P4 electrode) overlying sensorimotor integrative cortex. Similar results were obtained in a control experiment in which eight elite karate subjects had to react to pictures of karate and basket attacks. Conclusions: The present results suggest that a preliminary 10-Hz sensory stimulation can modulate EEG alpha rhythms and sensorimotor performance in both elite athletes and non-athletes engaged in visuo-spatial-motor demands. Significance: Identification of the EEG state of sporting experts prior to their performance provides a plausible rationale for the modulation of alpha rhythms to enhance sporting performance in athletes and sensorimotor performance in patients to be rehabilitated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1711-1720
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2007


  • Alpha rhythms
  • Audio-visual flickering stimulation
  • Electroencephalography (EEG)
  • Elite athletes
  • Sport science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Physiology (medical)


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