Triathletes are experts in self-regulating physical activity – But what about self-regulating neural activity?

Silvia Erika Kober*, Manuel Ninaus, Matthias Witte, Finn Buchrieser, Doris Grössinger, Florian Ph S. Fischmeister, Christa Neuper, Guilherme Wood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Regular exercise improves cognitive control abilities and successful self-regulation of physical activity. However, it is not clear whether exercising also improves the ability to self-regulate one's own brain activity. We investigated this in 26 triathletes and 25 control participants who did not exercise regularly. Within each group half of the participants performed one session of sensorimotor rhythm (SMR, 12–15 Hz) upregulation neurofeedback training, the other half received a sham neurofeedback training. The neurofeedback training session took about 45 min. In a separate session, participants underwent structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to investigate possible differences in brain structure between triathletes and controls. Triathletes and controls were able to voluntarily upregulate their SMR activity during neurofeedback when receiving real feedback. Triathletes showed a stronger increase in SMR activity in the second half of the training compared to controls, suggesting that triathletes are able to self-regulate their own brain activity over a longer period of time. Further, triathletes and controls showed differences in brain structure as reflected by larger gray and white matter volumes in the inferior frontal gyrus and insula compared to controls. These brain areas are generally involved in cognitive control mechanisms. Our results provide new evidence regarding self-regulation abilities of people who exercise regularly and might impact the practical application of neurofeedback.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108406
JournalBiological Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • Brain volume
  • Cognitive control
  • Exercising
  • Neurofeedback
  • Self-regulation
  • Sensorimotor rhythm
  • Sport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Triathletes are experts in self-regulating physical activity – But what about self-regulating neural activity?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this