Applying the correct amount of cognitive load is essential to the success of any cognitive training plan, we must strive for a balance between intensity, duration and frequency to ensure we create enough cognitive load to create adaptations. Without enough cognitive load, the training plan may have a minimal impact on cognitive and physical performance. Periodization ensures that you are correctly manipulating the intensity, duration and frequency.
Once you are comfortable with how to adapt the intensity, duration and frequency of a cognitive task over a mesocycle it is time to layer the cognitive task with specialized training modes to increase cognitive load.
Performing cognitive tasks in their pure form without any additional layers can get very boring quickly with high-level athletes as they adapt quickly. Specialized training modes give coaches the ability to take any task and add layers on top of the traditional cognitive task to increase the overall cognitive load.
In this article, we are going to give an example of one cognitive task which is very simple and show you all the ways you can layer a mode on top of the task to make the task more difficult and increase the overall load. Soma Analytics allows coaches to customize cognitive tasks and create a dynamic cognitive training environment for their athletes. This ensures athletes do not plateau and stay engaged with their cognitive training.
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)
Switched Attention Test
In this choice reaction task, the athlete must respond to the direction the arrow is facing and inhibit responding to which side of the screen the arrow is on. While this task is a great task for inhibition and decision making it can be short-lived as high-level athletes will adapt to the cognitive load within a few sessions. More cognitive load and uncertainty is needed to ensure the athlete does not adapt too quickly to the cognitive load.
Below is a list of modes which may be applied to the task to increase the overall cognitive load,
Adaptive mode adjusts the task difficulty based on the athletes' cognitive performance, this means the athlete will be constantly pushed to the edge of their current capabilities.
Task Switching Mode is designed to give the athlete a secondary high cognitive load task to respond to.
Detection response task mode allows coaches to get insights into an athlete's attentional capacity for specific cognitive tasks.
Heart Rate Zone mode allows coaches to set a fixed HR zone that athletes must maintain while completing their cognitive training.
Adaptive Heart Rate Zone Mode allows coaches to push the athlete through multiple heart rate zones while they are performing their cognitive training.
Adaptive Heart Rate Variability Mode allows Soma NPT to adapt the cognitive stress based on the athletes' physiological stress.
Physical Consequence Mode is designed to increase punishment sensitivity by getting the athlete to physically exert themselves every time they make an error.
Consequence mode is designed to apply a time penalty for every incorrect response.
Cardiovascular exertion mode pushes athletes to physically exert themselves to select the answer to the cognitive task with their heart rate.
Time to exhaustion pushes athletes to maintain a certain reaction time range until they can no longer maintain it.
Time Pressure Mode is designed to create additional time pressure. TPM mode will track an athlete's response speed performance and create time pressure based on response times.
Deviating pacing mode tracks variations in performance and gives the athlete visual feedback when cognitive performance deteriorates.
Specialized training modes add more cognitive load to tasks and bring variety, challenge and a more dynamic process to training. Applying them adds another layer of challenge to cognitive training without having to move from task to task in order to keep things interesting. This means you can maintain the focus on the cognitive demand and even use the same tasks, but still bring increasing value and add another dimension to your athlete's plan.