Skill-specific changes in somatosensory-evoked potentials and reaction times in baseball players
Athletic training is known to induce neuroplastic alterations in specific somatosensory circuits, which are reflected by changes in short-latency somatosensory-evoked potentials (SEPs). The aim of this study is to clarify whether specific training in athletes affects the long-latency SEPs related to information processing of stimulation. The long-latency SEPs P100 and N140 were recorded at midline cortical electrode positions (Fz, Cz, and Pz) in response to stimulation of the index finger of the dominant hand in fifteen baseball players (baseball group) and in fifteen athletes in sports such as swimming, track and field events, and soccer (sports group) that do not require fine somatosensory discrimination or motor control of the hand. The long-latency SEPs were measured under a passive condition (no response required) and a reaction time (RT) condition in which subjects were instructed to rapidly push a button in response to stimulus presentation. The peak P100 and peak N140 latencies and RT were significantly shorter in the baseball group than the sports group. Moreover, there were significant positive correlations between RT and both the peak P100 and the peak N140 latencies. Specific athletic training regimens that involve the hand may induce neuroplastic alterations in the cortical hand representation areas playing a vital role in rapid sensory processing and initiation of motor responses.