PEP Lab Researching Pre-Workout Supplement, Motor Learning, and Motivation

July 12, 2016

The Performance and Exercise Psychophysiology (PEP) Lab, led by Dr. Matt Miller, received a new $23,000 contract with Maximum Human Performance (MHP) for a project entitled, “Effect of MHP’s New Pre-Workout Supplement to Enhance Focus, Concentration, Mood, Energy, Cognitive and Athletic Performance.” The research is set to begin this summer.

The project has two main components:

1) assessing focus and attention using an attention-switching paradigm; and

2) assessing athletic performance and “flow” using recreational basketball players.

In the attention-switching paradigm, 24 participants will each be shown a letter and a number on a computer, with the letters switching between vowels and consonants and the number switching between even and odd. The colors of the letters and numbers also change, and the participant is instructed to click certain numbers and letters. Meanwhile, the researchers will be recording brain activity using EEG. They will also obtain baseline brain activity measures while the participant is resting in a relaxed state.

“We expect to see an increase in attentional engagement in the computer task for those participants who have consumed the pre-workout supplement,” said Miller.

For the second part of the study, 10 to 12 recreational basketball players will be asked to shoot jump shots at distances ranging between four and 20 feet at four-foot increments. The participants will be asked to assess whether they were “in the zone,” also known as “flow state,” a positive experiential state that occurs when the performer is totally connected to the performance, which is measured using the Flow-state Scale.

Marcos Daou, one of Dr. Miller’s Ph.D. students, will be leading the MHP project. Daou is from Brazil and his wife, Julia, is also a student in the School of Kinesiology, earning her master’s degree.

Currently, Daou, along with Jence Rhoads, another of Dr. Miller’s Ph.D. students, is working to determine ways to enhance motor learning.

“We have found that people remember motor skills better when they are learning to teach the skill, rather than when they are learning for their own knowledge,” said Miller.  “We are now trying to understand why this is.”

Another project that the lab is currently working on is, “Psychological Determinants of Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior.” It looks at the psychological mechanisms leading people to engage (or not engage) in physical activity behavior.  One of the first things the researchers test is whether the participant uses the stairs or the elevator to get to the lab.  This becomes the dependent variable as they study how much the participant’s actions are influenced by automatic or intentional cognitive processes. Daou is the lead investigator on this project.

In addition to his lab projects, Dr. Miller has four Ph.D. students working on their dissertations. Andrew Thompson is examining if trait mindfulness predicts whether one will “choke” under psychological pressure. Maurice Godwin is studying whether it is easier to learn a motor skill using an analogy; for example, thinking about swinging a golf club using “traditional” instructions versus thinking about swinging it in a motion similar to the pendulum of a grandfather clock. Kirk Grand is investigating the influence of incidental choices on intrinsic motivation, feedback processing, and motor learning. Ford Dyke is investigating whether exercising in a “green” (nature-like) environment enhances cognitive function.

For more information and news, visit the Performance and Exercise Psychophysiology Lab (PEP) website.