Advanced: Cognitive Programme Design.

Advanced Cognitive Programme design is strictly for coaches who are using Soma Analytics.

Advanced: Cognitive Programme Design.

Advanced Cognitive Programme design is strictly for coaches who are using Soma Analytics, The 5 step process is as follows:

  • Identify the cognitive demands for your athlete's sport.
  • Create a Baseline Test.
  • Analyze the Data.
  • Create the Cognitive Training Plan.
  • Perform a Baseline Comparison.

Step One

Identify the cognitive demands for your athlete's sport.

Here, the first step is to think about your athlete's sport. You need to read the list of demand definitions below and put yourself into your athlete's shoes. Go through the list of demands below and think about how they apply to your athlete when they are competing. This will give you an idea of which demands may be key for their sport and position.

Memory is the ability to consciously hold and use information.

Is your athlete required to consider various tactical options in their mind and select the best one depending on what unfolds during the game?

Attention involves focusing mental awareness on relevant environmental cues and maintaining that concentration.

Is your athlete required to stay focused for long periods, such as being able to ignore irrelevant information, change their attentional focus, or pay close and continuous attention to what’s going on around them?

Response Inhibition refers to the ability to suppress inappropriate, irrelevant, or suboptimal actions.

Is your athlete required to inhibit responses during a game, such as not responding to an opponent’s feint (i.e., “not tricked into buying a dummy”)?

Decision-Making is the cognitive process resulting in the selection of an option or a course of action among several possible alternative options.

Is your athlete required to constantly make decisions based on new information becoming available?

ALL cognitive tasks require decision-making.

We have classified pure decision-making tasks as cognitive tasks without added memory or inhibition components.

Once you have identified the most dominant demands of your athlete's sport, order the list of demands starting with most dominant to least dominant. Most athletes will require all demands to some degree but not equally. Here you decide the order from most dominant to least dominant to lay the foundation for the next step, designing the baseline.

Step Two

Create a Baseline Test.

Now that you have identified a dominance hierarchy of cognitive demands for your athlete's sport it is time to build a bespoke baseline test for them. The task selections will be based on your athlete's current cognitive capabilities as follows:

Select 2 tasks from each of the categories from your athlete's dominant category list.

If your athlete only has one dominant category, they may have 4 tasks in their baseline.

  • If you have found your athlete's cognitive demands are spread fairly evenly, select 1-2 tasks from each list with a maximum of 6 tasks in their baseline.

DO NOT overthink this step. The purpose is to collect data to estimate where their current capabilities are. This is the point where coaches begin to overthink which task to select, focus on the cognitive demand, and adapt the load of the tasks as needed. Soma Analytics gives coaches the ability to make even an easy task difficult with specialized training modes.

For Example,

You may select a very basic cognitive task with a minimal cognitive load but apply a specialized training mode to adapt the task in a variety of ways, including the following:

  • Maintain heart rate in a particular heart rate zone during the task.
  • Have the task adapt based on performance.
  • Have the task adapt based on heart rate variability (HRV).
  • Extend the task duration based on errors.
  • Have the athlete respond to a secondary task stimulus.

Specialized Training Modes allow you to take any cognitive task and manipulate the cognitive load.

Cognitive demands need to be continually incrementally increased or few gains are seen. (Bergman Nutley et al. 2011, Holmes et al. 2009, Klingberg et al. 2005)

Cognitive demands list and corresponding cognitive tasks.

Baseline Guidelines

We suggest the following when creating a baseline test,

Cognitive Task Selection

  • 2 cognitive tasks per cognitive demand.
  • a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 6 cognitive tasks per baseline test.

Remember you need plenty of data in order to make good decisions. Baselines that are too short (with not enough tasks) will not allow you to pinpoint where your athlete is struggling because the tasks are not long enough to tax them sufficiently to tire them out. Also, short baselines will not give you enough data in terms of the number of responses (i.e., micro-decisions).

However, we should be mindful that baseline assessments are also training their brain and so we need to load them carefully according to the stage of their year-long season. Here we must strike a delicate balance of obtaining the data needed, without disrupting the athlete's training regime.

Baseline Duration

The length of their baseline will depend on where they are in the season. We want to get the information we need and not overload them in the midst of their current training program.

  • Off-Season 45-60 min
  • Pre Season 30-45 min
  • In Season 20-30 min

Task Duration

Use the cognitive tasks you have selected, to make up at least the minimum time requirement for your baseline.

  • 5 min
  • 10 min
  • 20 min

Specialized Training Modes

Apply specific modes depending on the goals you want to set for the mesocycle.

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Example Baseline


  • Double Mackworth - 5 min
  • RVIP - 5 min


  • CMSIT - 5 min

🔗 DRT Mode applied to CMSIT


  • 4 Choice Flanker - 5 min
  • 2 Back  - 5 min
  • PASAT - 5 min

🔗 TSM Mode applied to 4 Choice Flanker & 2 Back.

Total Baseline Duration - 30 min

Step Three

Analyze the Data.

Once your athlete has completed the baseline test, have a look at their data and identify their strongest and weakest cognitive tasks for that cognitive demand. The best tool for this is the Profiling Tool in Soma Analytics.

The Soma Analytics profiling tool gives you percentile breakdowns for each cognitive task across all measures. Performances are categorized into Elite, Average, and Poor.

This profiling tool gives coaches insights into their athlete's cognitive performance and makes it easier to see at a glance, how an athlete performed in their baseline test. Therefore, we suggest you use Soma Profiling to assist you in your decision-making process when creating your athlete's cognitive baseline and training plan.

Generally speaking, if your athlete falls in the elite range for all the cognitive tasks you have selected for their baseline test, you may have underloaded the baseline (i.e., made it too easy for them). You will need to find harder or more intense tasks for that cognitive demand or apply a specialized training mode to increase the load on the athlete's brain. Most athletes will struggle with at least two areas of cognitive training when they begin. If your athlete is acing everything (i.e., universally performing at an elite level), go back and create a new and more difficult baseline for them before you move to the next step.

🔗 How To Vary Cognitive Load With Specialized Training Modes.

Soma Profiling Tool

Step Four

Create the Cognitive Training Plan.

Based on the data from the baseline test you should now see your athlete's strengths and weaknesses and can now begin selecting cognitive tasks from the cognitive demands you want to focus on during the current mesocycle. This step is usually a hurdle for most people, who ask themselves “Which cognitive task do I select?” It is best to try and not overthink at this stage – remember that this is an interactive process – you may need to adapt the plan, sometimes more than once, to optimize it for your athlete.

When designing the cognitive training plan we suggest focusing on your athlete’s weakest cognitive demand and then building their cognitive training plan by adding elements of the stronger cognitive demands, with a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio of weak to strong demands. For example, if your athlete performed "poor" in the tasks chosen from the attention demand in the baseline, and "average" in the tasks selected from the inhibition demand in the baseline, your training plan could contain 2 attention tasks for every 1 inhibition task.

This means the cognitive training plan is not just focusing on their weaknesses or strengths but rather is a mix/blend of both. Remember that you are only as good as your weakest link but you still need to maintain and update your strong cognitive skills. A broad program – made up of core demands that comprise cognitive demands that need improvement as well as cognitive demands that need maintenance -  is the proven key to success.

Adapt the load to the current season.

We suggest that you adapt your athlete’s plan to fit in with the phase of their season: sessions should be relatively long, medium, and short in the off-season, pre-season, and in-season, respectively.

Select tasks from the cognitive demand you want to focus on and apply the principles from these loading guidelines when deciding on the session durations and intensities in the plan.

Just like in physical training there is NO magical cognitive training task. Instead, the magic is in the reps, sets, rest combinations, and layers within a training plan. The same principle applies to cognitive training. Apply sufficient intensity, duration, and a specialized mode that increases the cognitive load on your athlete's brain. Track the data (i.e., check how well they are performing on the task) and adapt (revise the plan) as needed.

Cognitive Training Plan Loading Guidelines

  • Session Duration is the total length of each cognitive training session.
  • Task Duration is the total length of each cognitive task.
  • Frequency is the number of times the athlete performs their cognitive training per week.


Session Duration

  • 40 minutes


  • 3-4 sessions per week

Task Duration

  • 10 min, 20 min, 30 min


  • Session Duration
  • 30 minutes


  • 3-4 sessions per week

Task Duration

  • 5 min, 10 min, 20 min


Session Duration

  • 20 minutes


  • 3-4 sessions per week

Task Duration

  • 3 min, 5 min, 10 min

When building your athlete's cognitive training plan we suggest selecting 3-4 cognitive tasks per cognitive demand with a maximum of 12 cognitive tasks per mesocycle. This arrangement will ensure that there is some but not too much variation of tasks in the cognitive training plan. You do not need dozens of different tasks during a single training cycle, but instead, you want a small battery of targeted cognitive tasks with sufficient load.

Once this is complete you will need to ensure you have a periodization model for the training plan to avoid any performance plateaus and thereby keep your athlete moving in the right direction. Just like physical training, you must push your athlete to make them progress. This plateauing happens because humans learn how to perform any cognitive task that is completed multiple times.  Importantly, repeating the same task with the same load each week will not improve your athlete's performance.

🔗 The Principles of Undulating Periodization and Cognitive Training.

🔗 The Principles of Cognitive Progressive Overload.

Training Plan Example

Progressive Overload Mesocycle

  • Increase Task Intensity/Duration: Weekly
  • Cognitive Tasks: 12
  • Mesocycle Duration: 4 weeks

Week 1

Session 1

  • Sustained Attention - 5 min
  • RVIP - 5 min
  • Double Mackworth - 5 min

Session 2

  • Colour Shape Task - 10 min - Intensity 60%
  • Task Switching - 10 min - Intensity 60%
  • TLDB - 10m - Intensity 60%

Session 3

  • MSIT - 10 min
  • 4 Choice Flanker - 10 min - Intensity 70%
  • Dots Task - 10 min  - Intensity 70%

Week 2

  • Session 1 - Increase Task Duration
  • Session 2 - Increase Task Intensity
  • Session 3 - Increase Task Intensity/Duration

Week 3

  • Session 1 - Increase Task Duration
  • Session 2 - Increase Task Intensity
  • Session 3 - Increase Task Intensity/Duration

Week 4

  • Session 1 - Increase Task Duration
  • Session 2 - Increase Task Intensity
  • Session 3 - Increase Task Intensity/Duration
  • 48-72 hours of Rest
  • Retest Baseline

Step Five

Baseline Comparison

Once the training plan has been completed you must analyze the data. Soma Analytics gives you the ability to get a breakdown of each cognitive measure per task as well as the overall change in cognitive performance. You can now identify which demands improved and which demands need to improve and therefore should be targeted in your athlete’s next cognitive training plan.

🔗 Understanding Cognitive Baseline Data.

🔗 How to Interpret your Athlete’s Cognitive Data.


These are the 5 steps needed to select the best tasks for your athlete's sport. Do and repeat. Below we have included more detail on each cognitive demand and recent research shows that the dominant cognitive functions depend on the type of sport.

Soma Technologies

The cognitive performance training platform utilised by professional athletes, military, and universities around the world.

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Soma NPT

The Cognitive Training Tool.

Soma NPT is the mobile cognitive performance tool designed to increase an athlete's physical and mental capacity.

Soma NPT’s diverse portfolio of over 80 validated cognitive tasks can be interacted with touch, voice, or heart rate. This provides athlete’s with dynamic, highly engaging cognitive training sessions.

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Soma Analytics

The Neural Link.

Soma Analytics is the neural link to Soma NPT providing 14 real-time detailed cognitive and physiological measures as well as Minute on Minute (MoM) insights.

Soma Analytics creates a seamless cognitive training experience with Soma NPT with the ability to manipulate task placement, duration, intensity, and cognitive load with specialised training modes.

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Educational Videos 📹

Soma Technologies Educational Videos

🔗 Interactive Demo

🔗 Soma Analytics Walkthrough

🔗 How To Create A Cognitive Training Plan

🔗 Cognitive Task Selection & Modes

🔗 Progressive Overload

🔗 Undulating Periodization