Motor readiness, visual attention, and reaction time (RT) were assessed in 15 elite table tennis players (TTP) and 15 controls (C) during Posner's cued attention task. Lateralized readiness potentials (LRP) were derived from contingent negative variation (CNV) at Sites C3 and C4, elicited between presentation of directional cueing (S1) and the appearance of the imperative stimulus (S2), to assess preparation for hand movement while P1 and N1 component amplitudes were derived from occipital event-related potentials (ERPs) in response to S2 to assess visual attention. Both groups had faster RT to validly cued stimuli and slower RT to invalidly cued stimuli relative to the RT to neutral stimuli that were not preceded by directional cueing, but the groups did not differ in attention benefit or cost. However, TTP did have faster RT to all imperative stimuli; they maintained superior reactivity to S2 whether preceded by valid, invalid, or neutral warning cues. Although both groups generated LRP in response to the directional cues, TTP generated larger LRP to prepare the corresponding hand for movement to the side of the cued location. TTP also had an inverse cueing effect for N1 amplitude (i.e., amplitude of N1 to the invalid cue > amplitude of N1 to the valid cue) while C visually attended to the expected and unexpected locations equally. It appears that TTP preserve superior reactivity to stimuli of uncertain location by employing a compensatory strategy to prepare their motor response to an event associated with high probability, while simultaneously devoting more visual attention to an upcoming event of lower probability.
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