Differences between high vs. low performance chess players in heart rate variability during chess problems
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de la Vega R.
Background: Heart rate variability (HRV) has been considered as a measure of heart-brain interaction and autonomic modulation, and it is modified by cognitive and attentional tasks. In cognitive tasks, HRV was reduced in participants who achieved worse results. This could indicate the possibility of HRV predicting cognitive performance, but this association is still unclear in a high cognitive load sport such as chess. Objective: To analyze modifications on HRV and subjective perception of stress, difficulty and complexity in different chess problem tasks. Design: HRV was assessed at baseline. During the chess problems, HRV was also monitored, and immediately after chess problems the subjective stress, difficulty and complexity were also registered. Methods: A total of 16 male chess players, age: 35.19 (13.44) and ELO: 1927.69 (167.78) were analyzed while six chess problem solving tasks with different level of difficulty were conducted (two low level, two medium level and two high level chess problems). Participants were classified according to their results into two groups: high performance or low performance. Results: Friedman test showed a significant effect of tasks in HRV indexes and perceived difficulty, stress and complexity in both high and low performance groups. A decrease in HRV was observed in both groups when chess problems difficulty increased. In addition, HRV was significantly higher in the high performance group than in the low performance group during chess problems. Conclusion: An increase in autonomic modulation was observed to meet the cognitive demands of the problems, being higher while the difficulty of the tasks increased. Non-linear HRV indexes seem to be more reactive to tasks difficulty, being an interesting and useful tool in chess training. © 2019 Fuentes-García, Villafaina, Collado-Mateo, de la Vega, Olivares and Clemente-Suárez.
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