Elevated state anxiety alters cerebral cortical dynamics and degrades precision cognitive-motor performance

Li Chuan Lo, Bradley D. Hatfield, Chien Ting Wu, Chih Chieh Chang, Tsung Min Hung*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


The examination of brain dynamics during cognitive-motor performance under conditions of mental stress provides insight into the influence of state anxiety and may guide interventions for performance enhancement. Accordingly, the present study was conducted to assess and compare cerebral cortical activity and connectivity between motor planning and nonmotor brain regions during a dart-throwing task executed under mentally stressful and nonstressful conditions. State anxiety was measured in 21 male participants, after they had practiced the task for a period of 3 months, via the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory 2, and cortical dynamics were assessed via electroencephalography to capture low- (8-10 Hz) and high-alpha (10-12 Hz) spectral power, as well as high-alpha coherence, over four consecutive 0.5-s time intervals immediately before the dart release. Participants exhibited higher cognitive and somatic anxiety, lower self-confidence, reduced throwing accuracy, and higher variability of performance in the stress condition. A series of 2 ∫ 2 ∫ 2 ∫ 4 (Order of Conditions ∫ Condition ∫ Cerebral Hemisphere ∫ Time) analysis of variance applied separately to the EEG spectral power and coherence measures derived from each of the frontal, temporal, central, parietal, and occipital regions revealed an increase in high-alpha power in the right occipital region during stress accompanied by an elevation in electroencephalography coherence between the motor planning (Fz) and verbalanalytic (T3) regions. The findings suggest a reduction in task-related visual attention and an elevation in explicit monitoring of task-related movements, respectively, during state anxiety, which translate as degradation in the accuracy of throwing performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-37
Number of pages17
JournalSport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Feb 1


  • EEG coherence
  • Mental stress
  • Reinvestment
  • Social evaluation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Applied Psychology


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