October 19, 2018
In the previous blog we covered how to manage sessions, in the last of this 3 part blog we’ll delve into how to take NeuroTracker training to the next level. In this more in-depth guide you’ll get tips on when to progress training from basic to advanced, the types of dual-tasks exercises you can integrate into your programs, and how to make sure that they are adapted to your users’ needs.
A key scientific concept behind NeuroTracker is learning consolidation. This essentially means that basic training needs to be completed first so that, as Professor Faubert says, ‘the brain is prepared for learning’. In this training protocol, the user begins by completing an Initial Baseline consisting of three Core sessions. This is followed by a consolidation phase consisting of another twelve sessions. During the consolidation phase, the user is expected to rapidly improve.
Sessions 13-15 should be Core sessions. The first reason is that this provides what is called an Elevated Baseline, that can be compared to Initial Baseline for a scientific measure of a user’s learning rate. The second reason is that this baseline provides a useful reference that allows you to evaluate the impacts of advanced training on NeuroTracker speed thresholds.
Dual-tasks are a great way to keep rapidly increasing overall learning. They basically involve performing an additional task while actually NeuroTracking.
In terms of what type of tasks can be used, well, the sky is the limit. To give a pretty wild example, NeuroTracker has actually been combined with live jet plane maneuvers. However it takes some trainer expertise and know-how to understand what types of dual-tasks are best to use, as well as when to start using them. Before we go into detail, let’s review some key types of dual-tasks.
Physical Dual-Tasks – these can be based around motor-skills, for example balancing on a bosu ball. Or they can be exercise based, such as using an exercise bike for cardio load, or weight-lifting for strength load. Although they are physical, they still tax the brain and central nervous system, in fact even just standing still requires demands more cognitive resources than sitting does.
Skill Specific Dual-Tasks - these are a refinement of physical dual-tasks, focusing on certain skills used in sports. An example is basketball dribbling while NeuroTracking. The advantage here is that abilities needed in specific performance domains can be trained and tested in combination with the demands of NeuroTracking.
NeuroTracker itself is a perceptual-cognitive task, so here we’re adding additional loads to the same performance domain. Any task that presents a mental challenge is valid, even something as simple as counting down from one hundred in steps of three, will add a significant working memory load.
These tasks can also be passive, meaning that the user does not have to consciously do anything different. An example is NeuroTracker ‘Optic Flow’ mode, which brings a huge 3D undulating tunnel into the NeuroTracker environment that simulates backwards and forwards motion. This automatically induces additional visual and balance cognitive processes. Even when Optic Flow is performed on its own, it challenges a user’s visuo-balance system.
Alternatively, perceptual-cognitive tasks can include decision-making demands, for instance elite US special-forces train themselves on identifying shoot/don’t shoot scenes while NeuroTracking. This is known as NeuroTracker Tactical Awareness.
Finally, very advanced training can integrate multiple types of dual-tasks. Here is a photo combining Optic Flow (perceptual-cognitive), with balance pads (physical), and hockey stick handling (skill-specific). It is being coached by osteopathy expert Kyla Demers.
Now we have some idea on the depth and breadth of dual-tasks, let’s see how you can best put them to use.
An important thing to note is that when attempting a dual-task for the first time, NeuroTracker will be a lot more difficult. Accordingly the user’s session score will also drop. However, if the added task is not too difficult, within just a few sessions the user should adapt, and their NeuroTracker score will rise back-up again quite quickly. This means that with training over time, an individual can learn to maintain their full attention while performing a secondary task. It also means that dual-tasks should be steadily progressed from simple to complex. Jump in at the deep-end with a task that’s too difficult, and it will be a case of drowning rather than learning.
The simplest and most practical dual-task to start with is just standing. After this you can use a basic balance skill, such as placing one foot in front of the other, or standing on one foot (alternating between left and right each trial).
A common question for NeuroTracker trainers is ‘how do I know if a dual-task is too difficult?’ The user’s personal experience is the first reference. Usually they will feel instinctively overloaded, and their motivation will wane when NeuroTracker speed drops significantly lower than what they are used to.
For a more objective reference, if a user’s NeuroTracker score falls to less than 50% of their current Core baseline, then it is likely too difficult for efficient learning. A similar but easier task should be used in its place, for example swapping standing on one foot, to standing with one foot in front of the other. Then once this is mastered, let the user attempt the more difficult task again - a significant improvement will likely be seen.
With that being said, if the primary goal is to assess performance readiness or skill weaknesses under cognitive pressure, then any result will be informative. Just remember to avoid making very difficult assessments a significant part of a user’s training program.
Then next question to answer is when to move from one task to a more difficult one. Too some extent it’s down to your own evaluation skills to decide when to graduate a user to a more difficult dual-task. However here are two common strategies to help guide you.
1. The simplest method is to set a fixed number of sessions for each skill. For example for a basketball player, you might create a program of 4 sessions with standing, then 4 with balance, then 4 with one basketball pass per trial, and then 4 sessions with basketball dribbling. Note that every 5th session should be Core only (simply sitting), as this provides a up-to-date reference from which to evaluate dual-task results.
2. Achieving mastery is a more disciplined and analytical method. This involves reaching within 90% of a user’s current Core baseline (the average of their last 3 Core sessions). This method demonstrates that a user’s attention capacity has expanded to the point that they can effectively perform a skill while under significant cognitive load. Just keep in mind that for very difficult tasks it can require a lot of training to achieve mastery, depending on the user’s learning capacity.
A unique advantage of performing NeuroTracker dual-tasks is that specific real-world skills can be assessed under mental pressure. It’s well known in sports that even the most skilled athlete can fold under pressure or in the heat of action on the field. Once a particular skill is mastered on NeuroTracker, it’s more likely to maintained under real-world demands, or be a sign that automaticity has been achieved.
If you’d like to learn more about the different ways NeuroTracker dual-tasks can be evolved for various performance needs, then check out this blog.
Missed the earlier blogs in this series? Then catch them here,
Tips for NeuroTracker Trainers – the First Session
Tips for NeuroTracker Trainers – Managing Sessions
Already read them? Then look out for the upcoming NeuroTracker Academy, where you will be able to take online courses on just about everything NeuroTracker.
Maxime Chevrier, founder of Synapse Plus, is a Sports Psychology Consultant and has been a Professor in psychology at the College of Valleyfield since 2008. Maxime is best known as a performance specialist.
Throughout his youth, Maxime played at the highest levels of competitive hockey. After completing his studies in psychology at UQTR, Maxime was determined to pursue his desire to work with athletes in this highly specialized area. He is one of the first to be fully trained with NeuroTracker and to use it for performance, attention issues, concussion management and much more. Maxime works with many professional athletes and teams, to accelerate their recovery and increase their performance after experiencing any form of head trauma. Maxime’s track record is justified by his extensive years of experience in this field, which have benefitted many proven and up-and-coming Amateur, Professional and Olympic Athletes who attribute some of their highest levels of performance to the Neuroplasticity Training administered by Maxime. Maxime also co-authored the book, used by several psychology curriculums at both the collegiate and university levels, titled “Psychopathology: An Integrated Approach” and published in 2011 and reedited in 2017.
A large emphasis of Maxime’s work is focused on cognitive training and on concussion-prevention practices and techniques, as well as rehabilitation exercises that help players recover from concussion symptoms. Moreover, Maxime is also very aware of the fact that athletes also deal with unusual amounts of stress and other issues. Maxime aims to help athletes remain focused by mentally preparing them to perform to their best ability. Find out more at www.synapseplus.com
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