Mental Fatigue - Associated Decrease in Table Tennis Performance: Is There an Electrophysiological Signature?


Jelle Habay, Matthias Proost , Jonas De Wachter, Jesús Díaz-García,

Kevin De Pauw, Romain Meeusen, Jeroen Van Cutsem and Bart Roelands

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Mental fatigue (MF) is a psychobiological state negatively impacting both cognitive and physical performance. Although recent research implies that some table tennis (TT) performance outcomes are impaired by MF, open skill sports such as TT require a more detailed overview of MF-related performance decrements. Moreover, research into MF and sport-specific psychomotor performance lacks the inclusion of brain-related measurements to identify MF mechanisms. 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 outcomes were reaction time on a sport-specific visuomotor task and EEG activity throughout the trial. The subjective feeling of MF was significantly different between both conditions and confirmed that the MF condition induced the mentally fatigue state of participants (p < 0.001), though no behavioral indicators (i.e., decrease in performance on Stroop and flanker task) of MF. MF worsened reaction time on the visuomotor task, while other secondary measurements remained largely ambiguous. Spectral power (i.e., decreases in upper α band and θ band) was influenced by MF, while ERPs measured during the visuomotor task remained unaltered. The present study confirms that MF negatively impacts table tennis performance, specifically inhibitory stimuli during the visuomotor task. These findings also further augment our understanding of the effects of MF on human performance.