How To Manipulate Cognitive Load With Task Intensity.

Changing the intensity of a cognitive task is going to alter the overall cognitive load on the athlete's brain.

How To Manipulate Cognitive Load With Task Intensity.

Once we have designed and implemented a cognitive program, we want to be able to make adjustments along the way. We also need to be able to progress that program, to continue to push the athlete and get results.

Often people assume you need to keep selecting different tasks or "harder tasks" to achieve this, however, there are many ways to manipulate cognitive load. We can alter the way tasks are performed and the kind of pressure we put an athlete under, to make the tasks challenging in different ways.

How To Vary Cognitive Load With Specialized Training Modes.
Specialized training modes allow you to create dynamic cognitive training plans that constantly push your athletes to avoid plateaus in their training regime.

Here we will outline some of the ways you can alter the cognitive load of a task.

The first and most obvious is to alter task intensity. Changing the intensity of a cognitive task is going to alter the overall cognitive load on the athlete's brain. Increasing the intensity of a cognitive task causes the task to become more demanding. It can also increase the number of cognitive reps an athlete must perform over the duration of the cognitive task. This is the most straightforward way to manipulate the amount of load on an athlete's brain.

Task Intensity

Example

Undulating Periodisation

Increase/Decrease the intensity of the cognitive tasks each week.

Weekly undulating periodisation (WUP)

  • Week 1  70%
  • Week 2 40%
  • Week 3 80%
  • Week 4 60%

Daily undulating periodisation (DUP)

Increase/Decrease the intensity of the cognitive tasks each session.

  • Session 1  40%
  • Session 2 70%
  • Session 3 50%
  • Session 4 80%

Progressive Overload

Increase the intensity of the cognitive tasks each week.

  • Week 1  70%
  • Week 2 80%
  • Week 3 90%
  • Week 4 100%

Task duration is also another option to manipulate the overall load on the athlete's brain.  Changing the duration of a cognitive task is going to alter the overall cognitive load on the athlete's brain. By extending the task duration even by a few minutes, the entire load of the session increases, and the extra minutes add up over the course of the cognitive training plan. A few minutes more may not seem like very much, but when you add up what is happening over those minutes you will understand why increasing task duration can be so essential. The same works in reverse, taking a few minutes off each session is an effective deloading strategy as a handful of minutes off each session will significantly reduce the total reps and overall load on the athlete.

For example,

Performing 9 minutes of cognitive training per week over a month can total 1,620 cognitive reps per month. BUT performing an additional 6 minutes of cognitive training (15 minutes total) per week takes the monthly total to 2,700 cognitive reps. These small changes to task duration can have a huge influence on the total amount of REPS your athlete's brain clocks up. These reps are vital practise, repetition is how we train ourselves to be great at anything. Plus this significantly increases the cognitive load your athlete experiences.

How To Manipulate Cognitive Load With Task Duration.
Changing the duration of a cognitive task is going to alter the overall cognitive load on the athlete’s brain.

The value of decreasing the intensity of a cognitive task.

By decreasing the task intensity the athlete is forced to wait for longer periods of time between each stimulus and therefore must hold their attention for longer. Once the stimulus appears they must respond as quickly as possible. For some athletes, reducing the intensity of a task can become extremely frustrating as they begin to lose focus waiting so long for the next stimulus to appear. The reduction of task intensity is also a great strategy to reduce the overall cognitive load on the athlete if they have been working at high intensities for extended periods of time. Just like in physical training reducing the volume for short periods during a mesocycle gives an athlete time to recover.

Progressive Overload Example

  • Week 1  70%
  • Week 2 80%
  • Week 3 90%
  • Week 4 100%

Decrease Task Intensity

  • Week 5 40%

Increase Task Intensity

  • Week 6 70%
  • Week 7 80%
  • Week 8 90%

All athletes must be able to maintain high levels of focus and wait for the perfect time to execute their game plan. This can be the difference between winning and losing. An athlete cannot only be good at performing in fast-paced situations they also must be able to adapt to slower-paced situations where they may have to wait for long periods and then react quickly with a high degree of accuracy.

Athletes must be able to maintain high levels of focus and wait for the perfect time to execute their game plan. This can be the difference between winning and losing.

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