Associations between sensorimotor gating mechanisms and athletic performance in a variety of physical conditioning tests

  • Sebastian HormigoEmail author
  • Antonio Cardoso
  • Consuelo Sancho
  • Dolores E. López
  • Carlos MorenoEmail author
Original Article



The elite athlete is fine-tuned all around to deliver favorable results in sporting events. In this study, we address the question of whether basic movements—such as reflexes—and heterogeneous attentional modulation components—such as sensorimotor gating mechanisms—are also tuned up to maximize the results of middle-distance runners in physical conditioning tests.


We selected an array of professional middle-distance runners and healthy counterparts that were submitted to measurement of (1) physical conditioning parameters, including somatotype, jump, strength, and flexibility tests; and (2) sensorimotor gating mechanisms, including acoustic startle reflex, prepulse inhibition, and habituation.


Our results showed athletes scored better on the athletic tests compared to controls, as expected. They also exhibited a lower startle amplitude, while maintaining higher prepulse inhibition values. They reacted faster to the acoustic stimuli, and sex-related differences—found in controls—were not present in athletes. Our data also pointed out to substantial correlations between sensorimotor gating and physical conditioning parameters.


All in all, these data may point to physical conditioning-driven neural plasticity of brain sensorimotor gating circuits in charge of triggering involuntary movements to harness control and efficiency over reflexed muscle activity.


Anthropometric measurement Biological adaptations Bosco jump test Fitness Habituation Humans Prepulse inhibition Startle reflex 



Acoustic startle reflex


Body mass index


Counter-movement jump


Drop jump




Prepulse inhibition


Squat jump



We would like to express gratitude to Laboratory 2 of the INCYL, especially Ana Alves and Peter Johannesen for helping with the calibration of the startle sound source; Juan Carro for assistance with bio-statistics; and Kristiina M. Hormigo for language editing services.

Author contributions

SH and CM conceived and designed research. SH and AC conducted experiments. CS contributed new reagents or analytical tools. SH, DEL, and CM analyzed data. SH wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the manuscript.


This study was partially funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, MICINN # BFU2010-17754. The funders did not take part in this study whatsoever.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Neuroscience of Castilla y Leon (INCYL)University of SalamancaSalamancaSpain
  2. 2.Institute of Biomedical Research of Salamanca (IBSAL)University of SalamancaSalamancaSpain
  3. 3.Department of Nursing and Physical TherapyUniversity of SalamancaSalamancaSpain
  4. 4.Department of Physiology and PharmacologyUniversity of SalamancaSalamancaSpain
  5. 5.Department of Cell Biology and PathologyUniversity of SalamancaSalamancaSpain
  6. 6.Department of Neurobiology and AnatomyDrexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  7. 7.Area de Fisioterapia E.U. DE ENFERMERÍA Y FISIOTERAPIASalamancaSpain

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