Athletes in a Slump: Neurophysiological Evidence from Frontal Theta Activity

Jingu Kim


The purpose of this study is to investigate the neurophysiological differences in athletes who suffer from a slump and other athletes who do not. Eighteen high school student athletes participated in this experiment. A subjective questionnaire was conducted to identify athletes in a slump (i.e., the slump group) and not in a slump (i.e., the no-slump group). EEG data was recorded at 4 regions (left prefrontal, right prefrontal, left frontal, and right frontal). A two-way (2 groups x 4 regions) ANOVA was performed on the dependent variable (i.e., frontal theta power). The findings of this study demonstrated that participants in the no-slump group showed higher frontal theta activity than their counterparts in the slump group. From the findings of this study, it is suggested that mental fatigue may cause low frontal theta activity in athletes who experience a slump. The present study makes an important contribution to the current literature by being the first to report that EEG theta power over frontal regions can be used as a marker of athletes suffering from a slump.


EEG; Frontal theta activity; Athletes; Mental fatigue

Full Text:




Aftanas, L. I., & Golocheikine, S. A. (2001). Human anterior and frontal midline theta and lower alpha reflect emotionally positive state and internalized attention: high-resolution EEG investigation of meditation. Neuroscience letters, 310(1), 57-60.

Cohen, M. X., & Donner, T. H. (2013). Midfrontal conflict-related theta-band power reflects neural oscillations that predict behavior. Journal of Neurophysiology, 110, 2752-2763

Craig, A., Tran, Y., Wijesuriya, N., & Nguyen, H. (2011). Regional brain wave activity changes associated with fatigue. Psychophysiology, 49 (2012), 574–582.

Cummins, T. D., & Finnigan, S. (2007). Theta power is reduced in healthy cognitive aging. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 66(1), 10-17.

El-Badri, S. M., Ashton, C. H., Moore, P. B., Marsh, V. R., & Ferrier, I. N. (2001). Electrophysiological and cognitive function in young euthymic patients with bipolar affective disorder. Bipolar Disorders, 3(2), 79-87. doi: 10.1034/j.1399-5618.2001.030206.x

Ericsson, K. A. (Ed.). (2003). Expert performance in sports: Advances in research on sport expertise. Human Kinetics.

Grove. (2004). Performance slumps in sports: Prevention and coping. Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology, 2, 833-841.

Hammar, Å., & Årdal, G. (2009). Cognitive functioning in major depression–a summary. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 3, 26.

Horn, T. (1984). The expectancy process: Causes and consequences. In W. F. S. J. M. Williams (Ed.), Cognitive Sport Psychology (pp. 199-211). Lansing, NY: Sport Science Associates.

Isoard-Gautheur, S., Oger, M., Guillet, E., & Martin-Krumm, C. (2010). Validation of a French version of the Athlete Burnout Questionnaire (ABQ): In competitive sport and physical education context. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 26(3), 203.

Kim, J., Lee, H., Kim, W., Park, H., Kim, S., Moon, D., Woo, M., & Tennant, L. K (2008). Neural correlates of pre-performance routines in expert and novice archers. Neuroscience Letters, 445 (3), 236–241.

Kubota, Y., Sato, W., Toichi, M., Murai, T., Okada, T., Hayashi, A., & Sengoku, A. (2001). Frontal midline theta rhythm is correlated with cardiac autonomic activities during the performance of an attention demanding meditation procedure. Cognitive Brain Research, 11(2), 281-287.

Laukka, S. J., Järvilehto, T., I. Alexandrov, Y., & Lindqvist, J. (1995). Frontal midline theta related to learning in a simulated driving task. Biological Psychology, 40(3), 313-320. doi:

Law, M. P., Côté, J., & Ericsson, K. A. (2008). Characteristics of expert development in rhythmic gymnastics: A retrospective study. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 5(1), 82-103.

Missonnier, P., Deiber, M. P., Gold, G., Millet, P., Pun, M. G. F., Fazio-Costa, L., ... & Ibáñez, V. (2006). Frontal theta event-related synchronization: comparison of directed attention and working memory load effects. Journal of Neural Transmission, 113(10), 1477-1486.

Purvis, D., Gonsalves, S., & Deuster, P. A. (2010). Physiological and psychological fatigue in extreme conditions: overtraining and elite athletes. PM&R: The Journal of Injury, Function, and Rehabilitation, 2(5), 442-450.

Raedeke, T. D., & Smith, A. L. (2001). Development and preliminary validation of an athlete burnout measure. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 23(4), 281-305.

Smith, M. E., McEvoy, L. K., & Gevins, A. (1999). Neurophysiological indices of strategy development and skill acquisition. Cognitive Brain Research, 7(3), 389-404.

Soo, C. K., Mee, Y. K., & Ah, M. L. (2004). The influence of plateau and slump on dance performance and adaptation to universtiy life of students majoring in dance. Korean Journal of Physical Education, 43(3), 571-580.

Suetsugi, M., Mizuki, Y., Ushijima, I., Kobayashi, T., Tsuchiya, K., Aoki, T., & Watanabe, Y. (2000). Appearance of frontal midline theta activity in patients with generalized anxiety disorder. Neuropsychobiology, 41(2), 108-112.

Tanaka, M., Shigihara, Y., Ishii, A., Funakura, M., Kanai, E., & Watanabe, Y. (2012). Effect of mental fatigue on the central nervous system: an electroencephalography study. Behavioral and Brain Functions, 8(1), 48.

Taylor, J. (1988). Slumpbusting: A systematic analysis of slumps in sports. The Sport Psychologist, 2(1), 39-48.

van Luijtelaar, G., Verbraak, M., van den Bunt, M., Keijsers, G., & Arns, M. (2010). EEG findings in burnout patients. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 22(2), 208-217.

Wascher, E., Rasch, B., Sänger, J., Hoffmanna, S., Schneider, D., Rinkenauera, G., Heuera, H., & Gutberlet, I. (2013). Frontal theta activity reflects distinct aspects of mental fatigue. Biological Psychology (in press)



  • There are currently no refbacks.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License


If you find difficulties in submitting manuscript please forward your doc file to Our support team will assist you in submission process and other technical matters.

In order to get notifications on inbox please add in your email safe list.

Journal of Arts and Humanities (Print) ISSN:2167-9045

Journal of Arts and Humanities (Online) ISSN: 2167-9053

[Journal of Arts and Humanities previously published by MIR Center for Socio-Economic Research, MD, USA. From February 2018 this journal is published by the LAR Center Press, OR, USA]