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

  • Hormigo, Sebastian1, 2
  • Cardoso, Antonio1, 3, 4
  • Sancho, Consuelo1, 3, 5
  • López, Dolores E.1, 3, 6
  • Moreno, Carlos1, 4, 7
  • 1 University of Salamanca, Institute for Neuroscience of Castilla y Leon (INCYL), Salamanca, Spain , Salamanca (Spain)
  • 2 Drexel University, Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, Philadelphia, USA , Philadelphia (United States)
  • 3 University of Salamanca, Institute of Biomedical Research of Salamanca (IBSAL), Salamanca, Spain , Salamanca (Spain)
  • 4 University of Salamanca, Department of Nursing and Physical Therapy, Salamanca, Spain , Salamanca (Spain)
  • 5 University of Salamanca, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Salamanca, Spain , Salamanca (Spain)
  • 6 University of Salamanca, Department of Cell Biology and Pathology, Salamanca, Spain , Salamanca (Spain)
  • 7 Area de Fisioterapia E.U. DE ENFERMERÍA Y FISIOTERAPIA, Calle del Donante de Sangre, s/n Campus Universitario “Miguel de Unamuno”, Salamanca, 37007, Spain , Salamanca (Spain)
Published Article
European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology
Publication Date
Jan 28, 2019
DOI: 10.1007/s00421-019-04081-1
Springer Nature


PurposeThe 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.MethodsWe 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.ResultsOur 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.ConclusionsAll 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.

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