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"Investigating Physiological Responses to Differently Distributed Practice and their Effects on the Learning and Performance of a Gross Motor Task"

Andy Blow

University of Bath (Department of Sport and Exercise Science) and Benetton Formula One Human Performance Centre

The project aimed to utilise the BATAK reaction board to assess what effect different methods of practice had on the learning and performance of a reaction based task over repeated 30 second intervals.

Origin of the Idea

The idea was conceived from a set of data originally collected at the playzone of the Millenium Dome where several hundred individuals were observed recorded whilst completing the 30 second accumulator. This task required the participant to stand in front of the BATAK board and accumulate points by striking out as many lit buttons as possible in 30 seconds. It was noticed that individuals who played the game more than once rapidly increased their score level. In fact, members of staff at the playzone, who often played several times a day, were extremely proficient often scoring 3 - 4 times as many hits as a novice. The research project therefore aimed to look at which kind of practice methods were most effective at improving their BATAK score something that is directly related to their ability to see, process and react to visual information.

Research Project

Volunteers for the project were a group of 19 - 29 year old sportsmen from a variety of sports. They were split into two groups and practised the BATAK game 80 times. This was done in a continuous manner with no rest between 30 second games (known as massed practice) or with 30 seconds rest between each game (known as distributed practice). During the trials the subjects wore a device to measure the amount of oxygen they consumed and read their heart rate. This gave an idea of the level of physical activity attained during the repeated games.

Results and Conclusions

The results showed that there was very little difference between the two groups in terms of how much they improved over the trials. However, it was clear that there was a relationship between the level of physical stress and physical activation and the performance level. Those subjects who achieved a higher heart rate and oxygen uptake (more physical stress / activation) scored more highly in the tests. This trend suggested that the performance of the BATAK task (and similar sporting tasks) is approaching optimal when the performer is physically and mentally 'up for it' and motivated. This kind of idea is not new to sport and exercise science but what is interesting is that the performance on the BATAK system in different states of readiness may provide a measurable way to assess a sportsman's optimal level of physical activation for reaction type tasks. It is hoped to continue research in this area to further explore the ideas generated by this study.

Andy Blow

BSc (hons) Sport and Exercise Science. University of Bath. 
Ex Sports Scientist to Benetton and Renault Formula 1 teams

Now running the votwo lab with Phil Mosley Andy's expertise is available to athletes at all levels helping them to accurately measure their fitness and prepare more scientifically for competition.










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