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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00409

Differences between high vs low performance chess players in heart rate variability during chess problems

 Juan P. Fuentes1,  Santos Villafaina1*, Daniel Collado-Mateo1, 2, Ricardo de la Vega3, Pedro R. Olivares2 and  Vicente J. Clemente-Suárez4, 5
  • 1Faculty of Sports Sciences, University of Extremadura, Spain
  • 2Facultad de Educación, Universidad Autónoma de Chile, Chile
  • 3Department of Physical Education, Sport and Human Motricity, Faculty of Teacher Training and Education, Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain
  • 4Universidad Europea de Madrid, Spain
  • 5Grupo de Investigación Cultura, Educación y Sociedad, Universidad de la Costa, Colombia

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 analyse 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.
Method: A total of 16 male chess players, age: 35.19 (13.44) and ELO: 1927.69 (167.78) were analysed 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.
Conclusions: 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.

Keywords: autonomic modulation, Chess, Cognition, heart rate variability (HRV), Cognitive Load

Received: 15 Jul 2018; Accepted: 11 Feb 2019.

Edited by:

Timothy L. Hubbard, Arizona State University, United States

Reviewed by:

Dirk Koester, Bielefeld University, Germany
Fleur M. Howells, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Francisco J. Ruiz, Fundación Universitaria Konrad Lorenz, Colombia  

Copyright: © 2019 Fuentes, Villafaina, Collado-Mateo, de la Vega, Olivares and Clemente-Suárez. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mr. Santos Villafaina, Faculty of Sports Sciences, University of Extremadura, Cáceres, 10003, Spain, svillafaina@unex.es