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Don’t look, don’t think, just do it! Toward an understanding of alpha gating in a discrete aiming task



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--- - |2 Abstract Prior to and during movement, oscillatory alpha activity gates cognitive resources toward motor areas of the cortex by inhibiting neuronal excitability in nonmotor areas. The present study examined the effect of manipulating target variability on this alpha gating phenomenon. Using a baseline‐test‐retention design, we measured EEG alpha power, performance accuracy, and task difficulty in 32 recreational golfers as they putted golf balls (20 per target) to one central target (baseline, retention) and four targets of different directions and extents (manipulation). For participants in the random group (n = 16), target location varied with each repetition in a random fashion, whereas for participants in the blocked group (n = 16), it was kept constant within blocks. Regional analyses revealed a focal pattern of lower central alpha and higher occipital and temporal alpha. This topography was specific to preparation for movement and was associated with performance: smallest performance errors were preceded by decreased central combined with increased occipital alpha. The random group performed worse than the blocked group and found the task more difficult. Importantly, left temporal alpha prior to movement onset was lower for the random group than the blocked group. No group differences were found at baseline or retention. Our study proved that alpha gating can be altered by manipulating intertrial variability and thereby demonstrated the utility of the alpha gating model. Our findings underscore the importance of inhibiting occipital and left temporal areas when performing movements and provide further evidence that alpha gating reflects neural efficiency during motor tasks. - Psychophysiology, EarlyView.