Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Journal of Imagery Research in Sport and Physical Activity

Editor-in-Chief: Hall, Craig R. / Short, Sandra E.

1 Issue per year

CiteScore 2016: 0.40

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2015: 0.296
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2015: 0.199

See all formats and pricing
More options …

Brain Wave Activity Differences in Task Complexity and Perspective During Imagery

Robert Vangen / Phillip Post / Duncan Simpson / Gualberto Cremades
Published Online: 2017-10-18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jirspa-2017-0005


The present study investigated how task complexity and imagery perspective affected brain wave activity during imagery using electroencephalography (EEG) measures. EEG recordings were collected from 21 collegiate soccer players (male n = 14, female n = 7; M age = 20.71 years, SD = 1.55) visualizing from two perspectives (internal and external) on two motor tasks (simple and complex). Results reveal no differences in alpha brainwave activity during imagery when adopting different imagery perspectives (internal and external) or when imagining a complex or simple task. Results indicate that the left hemisphere was processing more information during imagery of the simple task, as measured by greater alpha brain wave activity in the upper values (11–13 Hz) in the right hemisphere as compared to the left. Findings indicate that the main area of the brain where this activity is different is the temporal lobe (lower and upper alpha levels), which is associated with the processing of auditory information, visual recognition, comprehension and production of language (Corr, 2006). Results imply that guided imagery scripts may interfere with athletes’ imagery experiences as they appear to be devoting greater cognitive resources to processing audio information.

Keywords: electroencephalogram; mental practice; imagery perspective; task complexity; soccer


  • Babiloni, C., Infarinato, F., Marzano, N., Iacoboni, M., Dassù, F., Soricelli, A., … Del Percio, C. (2011). Intra-hemispheric functional coupling of alpha rhythms is related to golfer’s performance: A coherence EEG study. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 82, 260–268. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Bakker, F. C., Boschker, M. S., & Chung, T. (1996). Changes in muscular activity while imagining weight lifting using stimulus or response propositions. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 18, 313–324. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1123/jsep.20.3.313CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Callow, N., Hardy, L., & Hall, C. (2001). The effects of a motivational general-mastery imagery intervention on the sport confidence of high-level badminton players. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 72, 389–400. doi:CrossrefPubMedGoogle Scholar

  • Callow, N., Roberts, R., & Fawkes, J. Z. (2006). Effects of dynamic and static imagery on vividness of imagery, skiing performance, and confidence. Journal of Imagery Research in Sport and Physical Activity, 1. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Corr, P. (2006). Understanding biological psychology. Malden, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar

  • Côté, J., Salmela, J. H., Baria, A., & Russell, S. J. (1993). Organizing and interpreting unstructured qualitative data. The Sport Psychologist, 7, 127–137. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Cremades, J. G. (2002). The effects of imagery perspective as a function of skill level on alpha activity. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 43, 261–271.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Cremades, J. G. (2015). Electro-cortical measures during visual and kinesthetic imagery performance following visual- and auditory-guided instructions. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 1–14. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Cremades, J. G., Hilliard, T. M., & Gapin, J. I. (2010). The effects of physical practice on a mental imagery task as measured by EEG recordings. Journal of Imagery Research in Sport and Physical Activity, 5, 1–19. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Cremades, J. G., & Pease, D. G. (2007). Concurrent validity and reliability of lower and upper alpha activities as measures of visual and kinesthetic imagery ability. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 5, 187–202. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Cumming, J., Nordin, S. M., Horton, R., & Reynolds, S. (2006). Examining the direction of imagery and self-talk on dart throwing performance and self-efficacy. The Sport Psychologist, 20, 257–274. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Cunningham, S., Scerbo, M. W., & Freeman, F. G. (2000). The electrocortical correlates of daydreaming during vigilance tasks. Journal of Mental Imagery, 24, 61–72.Google Scholar

  • Davidson, R. J., & Schwartz, G. E. (1977). Brain mechanisms subserving self-generated imagery: Electrophysiological specificity and patterning. Psychophysiology, 14, 598–601. doi:CrossrefPubMedGoogle Scholar

  • Driskell, J. E., Copper, C., & Moran, A. (1994). Does mental practice improve performance?. Journal of Applied Psychology, 79, 481–492. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Drobes, D. J., & Lang, P. J. (1995). Bioinformational theory and behaviour therapy. In W. O’Donohue & L. Kasner (Eds.), Theories of Behavior Therapy: Exploring Behaviour Change. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar

  • Farah, M. J. (1988). Is visual imagery really visual? Overlooked evidence from neuropsychology. Psychological Review, 95, 307–317. doi:CrossrefPubMedGoogle Scholar

  • Fink, A., Grabner, R., Neuper, C., & Neubauer, A. (2005). EEG alpha band dissociation with increasing task demands. Cognitive Brain Research, 24, 252–259. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Hale, B. (1982). The Effects of Internal and External Imagery on Muscular and Ocular Concomitants. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 4, 379–387. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Hall, C. R., & Martin, K. A. (1997). Measuring movement imagery abilities: A revision of the movement imagery questionnaire. Journal of Mental Imagery, 21, 143–154.Google Scholar

  • Hall, C. R., & Pongrac, J. (1983). Movement imagery questionnaire. Ontario, Canada: University of Western Ontario.Google Scholar

  • Hatfield, B. D., & Hillman, C. H. (2001). The psychophysiology of sport: A mechanistic understanding of the psychology of superior performance. In R. N. Singer, H. A. Hausenblas, & C. Janelle (Eds.), Handbook of Sport Psychology (2nd ed., pp. 243–259). New York, NY: Wiley.Google Scholar

  • Hatfield, B. D., Landers, D. M., & Ray, W. J. (1984). Cognitive processes during self-Paced motor performance: An electroencephalographic profile of skilled marksmen. Journal of Sport Psychology, 6, 42–59. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Hecker, J., & Kasczor, L. (1988). Application of imagery theory to sport psychology: Some preliminary findings. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 10, 363–373. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Holmes, P. S., & Collins, D. J. (2001). The PETTLEP approach to motor imagery: A functional equivalence model for sport psychologists. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 13, 60–83. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1080/10413200109339004CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Hugdahl, K. (1995). Psychophysiology: The mind-body perspective. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar

  • Hung, T., Haufler, A., Lo, L., Mayer-Kress, G., & Hatfield, B. (2008). Visuomotor expertise and dimensional complexity of cerebral cortical activity. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 40, 752–759. doi:CrossrefPubMedGoogle Scholar

  • Jasper, H. H. (1958). The ten twenty electrode system of the international federation. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, 10, 371–375.Google Scholar

  • Jeannerod, M. (1994). The representing brain: Neural correlates of motor intention and imagery. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 17, 187–245. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Jeannerod, M. (2001). Neural simulation of action: A unifying mechanism for motor cognition. Neuroimage, 14, S103–S109. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Jedlic, B., Hall, N., Munroe-Chandler, K., & Hall, C. (2007). Coaches’ encouragement of athletes’ imagery use. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 78, 351–363. doi:CrossrefPubMedGoogle Scholar

  • Jordet, G. (2005). Perceptual training in soccer: An imagery intervention study with elite players. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 17, 140–156. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Kalicinski, M., Kempe, M., & Bock, O. (2015). Motor imagery: Effects of age, task complexity, and task setting. Experimental Aging Research, 41, 25–38. doi:CrossrefPubMedGoogle Scholar

  • Kandel, E., Schwartz, J., & Jessel, T. (2000). Principles of neural science (4th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar

  • Kerick, S., Mcdowell, K., Hung, T., Maria, D., Spalding, T., & Hatfield, B. (2001). The role of the left temporal region under the cognitive motor demands of shooting in skilled marksmen. Biological Psychology, 58, 263–277. doi:CrossrefPubMedGoogle Scholar

  • Lang, P. J. (1977). Imagery in therapy: An informational processing analysis of fear. Behavior Therapy, 8, 862–886. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Lang, P. J. (1979a). A bio-informational theory of emotional imagery. Psychophysiology, 16, 495–512. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Lang, P. J. (1979b). Language, image, and emotion. In K. Pliner, K. R. Blankenstein, & I. M. Speigal (Eds.), Advances in the study of communication and affect: Perception of emotion in self and others (pp. 107–117). New York, NY: Plenum Press.Google Scholar

  • Levy, A. R., Perry, J., Nicholls, A. R., Larkin, D., & Davies, J. (2014). Sources of sport confidence, imagery type and performance among competitive athletes: The mediating role of sports confidence. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 55, 835–844.Google Scholar

  • Liang, Z. P., & Lauterbur, P. C. (2000). Principles of magnetic resonance imaging: A signal processing perspective. New York, NY: SPIE Optical Engineering Press.Google Scholar

  • Loze, G., Collins, D., & Holmes, P. (2001). Pre-shot EEG alpha-power reactivity during expert air-pistol shooting: A comparison of best and worst shots. Journal of Sports Sciences, 19, 727–733. doi:CrossrefPubMedGoogle Scholar

  • MacInnis, D. J., & Price, L. L. (1987). The role of imagery in information processing: Review and extensions. Journal of Consumer Research, 13, 473–491. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • MacIntyre, T. E., & Moran, A. P. (2007). A qualitative investigation of meta-imagery processes and imagery direction among elite athletes. Journal of Imagery Research in Sport and Physical Activity, 2. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Mahoney, M. J., & Avener, M. (1977). Psychology of the elite athlete: An exploratory study. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 1, 135–141. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Marks, D. F., & Isaac, A. R. (1995). Topographical distribution of EEG activity accompanying visual and motor imagery in vivid and non-vivid imagers. British Journal of Psychology, 86, 271–282. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Martin, K. A., Moritz, S. E., & Hall, C. R. (1999). Imagery use in sport: A literature review and applied model. The Sport Psychologist, 13, 245–268. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1123/tsp.13.3.245CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Morris, T., Spittle, M., & Watt, A. P. (2005). Imagery in sport. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.Google Scholar

  • Munroe, K. J., Giacobbi, P. R., Hall, C., & Weinberg, R. (2000). The four Ws of imagery use: Where, when, why, and what. The Sport Psychologist, 14, 119–137. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Munroe-Chandler, K. J., Hall, C. R., Fishburne, G. J., & Strachan, L. (2007). Where, when, and why young athletes use imagery: An examination of developmental differences. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 78, 103–116. doi:CrossrefPubMedGoogle Scholar

  • Olsson, C. J., Jonsson, B., Larsson, A., & Nyberg, L. (2008). Motor representations and practice affect brain systems underlying imagery: An fMRI study of internal imagery in novices and active high jumpers. The Open Neuroimaging Journal, 2, 5–13. doi:CrossrefPubMedGoogle Scholar

  • Post, P., Muncie, S., & Simpson, D. (2012). The effects of imagery training on swimming performance: An applied investigation. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 24, 323–337. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Post, P. G., Simpson, D., Young, G., & Parker, J. (2014). A phenomenological investigation of divers’ lived experience of imagery. Journal of Imagery Research in Sport and Physical Activity, 9. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Post, P. G., & Wrisberg, C. A. (2012). A phenomenological investigation of gymnasts’ lived experience of imagery. The Sport Psychologist, 26, 98–121. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Post, P. G., Wrisberg, C. A., & Mullins, S. (2010). A field test of the influence of pre-game imagery on basketball free throw shooting. Journal of Imagery Research in Sport and Physical Activity, 5, Article 2. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Rebert, C. S., Low, D. W., & Larsen, F. (1984). Differential hemispheric activation during complex visuomotor performance: Alpha trends and theta. Biological Psychology, 19, 159–168. doi:CrossrefPubMedGoogle Scholar

  • Roosink, M., & Zijdewind, I. (2010). Corticospinal excitability during observation and imagery of simple and complex hand tasks: Implications for motor rehabilitation. Behavioural Brain Research, 213, 35–41. doi:CrossrefPubMedGoogle Scholar

  • Sauseng, P., Klimesch, W., Schabus, M., & Doppelmayr, M. (2005). Fronto-parietal EEG coherence in theta and upper alpha reflect central executive functions of working memory. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 57, 97–103. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Smith, D., Holmes, P. S., Whitemore, L., & Devonport, T. (2001). The effect of theoretically-based imagery scripts on field hockey performance. Journal of Sport Behavior, 24, 408–419.Google Scholar

  • Smith, D., Wright, C., Allsopp, A., & Westhead, H. (2007). It’s all in the mind: PETTLEP based imagery and sports performance. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 19, 80–92. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Smith, D., Wright, C. J., & Cantwell, C. (2008). Beating the bunker: The effect of PETTLEP imagery on golf bunker shot performance. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 79, 385–391. doi:CrossrefPubMedGoogle Scholar

  • Szameitat, A. J., Shen, S., & Sterr, A. (2007). Motor imagery of complex every day movements: An fMRI study. Neuro Image, 34, 702–713. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (1996). Using multivariate statistics (3rd ed. ed.). New York, NY: HarperCollins.Google Scholar

  • Vealey, R. S., & Greenleaf, C. A. (2010). Seeing is believing: Understanding and using imagery in sport. In J. M. Williams (Eds.), Applied sport psychology: Personal growth to peak performance (6th ed., pp. 267–304). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar

  • Wakefield, C., & Smith, D. (2011). From strength to strength: A single-case design study of PETTLEP imagery frequency. The Sport Psychologist, 25, 305–320. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1123/tsp.25.3.305CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Wakefield, C., & Smith, D. (2012). Perfecting practice: Applying the PETTLEP model of motor imagery. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 3, 1–11. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Wei, G., & Luo, J. (2010). Sport expert’s motor imagery: Functional imaging of professional motor skills and simple motor skills. Brain Research, 1341, 52–62. doi:CrossrefPubMedGoogle Scholar

  • Weinberg, R. (2008). Does imagery work? Effects on performance and mental skills. Journal of Imagery Research in Sport and Physical Activity, 3. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

About the article

Published Online: 2017-10-18

Citation Information: Journal of Imagery Research in Sport and Physical Activity, Volume 12, Issue 1, 20170005, ISSN (Online) 1932-0191, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jirspa-2017-0005.

Export Citation

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston. Copyright Clearance Center

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in