EEG Study Shows Playing Sudoku Helps Cricketers Concentrate

Playing mind games helps concentrate more, says a study which was discussed last week at the World Conference on Science and Medicine in Cricket. According to the study, batsmen who played Sudoku before going into bat reported a significant better mental state compared to the controls who just sat still for 15 minutes prior to batting in the nets.

A study done by a South African researcher, MS Taliep, of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, says electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings in the brain indicated that a decrease in right temporal cortical alpha power prior to ball release was associated with skilled batting performance on a simulated batting task. This decrease in alpha power is related to visual spatial processing of advanced cues of the bowlers action and is also associated with an optimal mental state for batting.

Keeping this in mind professor Tailep recruited 11 batsmen to see if it was possible to induce a decrease in right temporal alpha power by playing a visual spatial and mathematic game like Sudoku and to investigate if playing a game of Sudoku assisted in the mental preparation of batting and whether it affected batting performance in a net practice situation.

EEG recordings were taken two minutes before (baseline) and five minutes after the subjects played 15 minutes of Sudoku. Results indicated that there was a significant decrease in the right temporal mean alpha power after playing a game of Sudoku compared to baseline.

Sudoku game: The objective is to fill a 9×9 grid with digits so that each column, each row, and each of the nine 3×3 sub-grids that compose the grid (also called “boxes”, “blocks”, “regions”, or “sub-squares”) contains all of the digits from 1 to 9. The puzzle setter provides a partially completed grid, which typically has a unique solution. Source: Wikipedia

In the second part, a randomized, controlled, cross-over trial design was employed to determine the effects of playing Sudoku on batting performance of club cricketers. The experimental trial played Sudoku for 15 minutes, while the control sat still for 15 minutes prior to batting in the nets. After 15 minutes the batsmen were required to face a standardized set of 60 medium-paced deliveries from a bowling machine. Batting performance was subjectively rated using a validated and reliable technique. The batsmen were also required to answer questions pertaining to their mental state before and during the trials by rating themselves from 1-10.

According to the professor, batsmen who played Sudoku reported a significant better mental state prior to going into bat compared to the controls. They also felt significantly more relaxed, yet alert while batting.

“Keeping this study in view more such games and relaxation techniques could potentially be introduced into batting preparation in the future, and the Sports Psychology specialists in PGI would now be asked to design such protocols to help Indian players,” said Dr Mandeep Dhillon, secretary of the organizing committee and head of PGI orthopaedic department.

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