Esports Science Research Lab Keynote Presentations

10/08/20, 9:30 AM - 10:30 AM PT

About the Presentation

Converging evidence supporting the cognitive link between exercise and esport performance: a dual systematic review.

Action Video Game (AVG) research has surged with the rise in popularity of esports over the past three decades. Cognitive ability has shown to be important for AVG performance, with top level esports players being defined as ‘cognitive athletes’. As a result, identifying strategies that can improve the cognitive performance of esports athletes may provide them with a performance advantage in competition. Additionally, physical exercise has been shown to enhance cognitive skills such as memory (e.g., Etnier et al 2016) and learning (Winter et al., 2007). As a result, professional esports teams, such as Team Liquid, have recently employed personal trainers to promote physical exercise among their players (Kaser, 2018). However, the results surrounding the cognitive benefits of exercise are mixed and no review to date has established the role that physical exercise has on different cognitive abilities in young healthy adults. By establishing the cognitive abilities implicated in esports performance, and whether physical exercise can improve those same cognitive abilities, we can begin to establish whether physical exercise may be a viable strategy to adopt among esports players to provide them a performance advantage.

The Effect of Sleep Restriction on Cognitive Performance in Elite Cognitive Performers: A Systematic Review

Many professionals engage in activities where optimal cognitive performance is imperative for success and avoidance of catastrophe. These Elite Cognitive Performers (or ECPs) can include athletes, pilots, military personnel, and those in the fields of medicine or mining and oil, among others. Together, these individuals are known to experience sleep restriction (SR) more frequently than the general population. Recent reviews have highlighted the detrimental effects of SR on cognitive performance in the general population (Lowe, Safati, & Hall, 2017; Wickens, Hutchins, Laux, & Sebok, 2015), however it is less clear how ECPs might specifically be affected. This is important not only because of how vital cognitive performance is to task success for ECPs, but also because some have suggested that ECPs may better maintain performance despite SR (Caldwell et al., 2005; Kamimori, Johnson, Thorne, & Belenky, 2005; Veasey, Rosen, Barzansky, Rosen, & Owens, 2002). Moreover, understanding the effects of SR on ECP performance may benefit players of the emerging phenomenon of esports, where top professional players, who have been defined as ‘cognitive athletes’ (Campbell, Toth, Moran, Kowal, & Exton, 2018), have been known to suffer from poor sleep quantity.

The effect of expertise, training and neurostimulation on sensory-motor skill in esports

Our knowledge of the mechanisms underlying motor skill acquisition originally stems from Von Holst & Mittelstaedt, who hypothesized that during motor learning, an efference copy signal produced in the CNS is compared with, and updated by, reafference produced during subsequent movement. Recently, research has examined the potential of accelerating efference copy refinement, thus accelerating motor skill acquisition. One technique used to facilitate this process is transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS)14. When applying tDCS over the motor cortex, motor skill performance is found to improve more quickly than during practice alone. One unique area where complex motor skill is displayed, that has recently attracted significant research attention, is esports. Esports are video games played competitively, and often professionally, and their popularity has exploded over the past decade. Esports predominantly require precise motor control of the hands and arms to operate a peripheral device, consequently making esports-related tasks ideally suited for studying motor learning and the effects of tDCS.

Magdalena Kowal, MSc

Research Assistant in Esports Science
University of Limerick

Magdalena Kowal is researcher in Esports Science Research Lab in Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software, at University of Limerick, Ireland. She completed her MSc degree in Applied Psychology at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland in 2017 with focus on psychological aspects of environmental design, performance psychology and cognition. Her initial research interests were driven by everlasting passion for sports and music, which resulted in the scholarship in Sport and Exercise Sciences program at Radboud University in Nijmegen in 2015. Following her graduation, Magdalena combined all her interests in sport and performance psychology research within Physical Education and Sport Sciences Department at University of Limerick where she explored esports performance. Currently she investigates psychological factors of esports performance, cognition and perception of esports athletes (i.e. via neuropsychological assessments, eyetracking). In her work she has successfully published on different cognitive abilities among esports players of varied expertise.

Niall Ramsbottom, MSc.

Research Assistant, University of Limerick

Niall Ramsbottom is a 23 year old psychology researcher who has been employed in the Esport Sports Research Lab at the University of Limerick, Ireland since early 2019. Niall completed a Bachelor of Arts Psychology degree in Maynooth University in 2017 and went on to complete a MSc in Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology at the University of Limerick in 2018, graduating with a First Class Honours. Thus far, Niall has been involved in several large scale esport research studies that are being reviewed for publication and was the corresponding author on the paper titled ‘Life After Esports: A Grand Field Challenge’. Further, Niall is involved in research examining the effect of mental practice on golf performance, with several publications in the area. Niall aims to complete a PhD in the area of health and cognitive psychology in the coming years while maintaining his involvement in esports research in UL.

Mr. Tim David Smithies

PhD Student, University of Limerick

Tim Smithies is a PhD student at the University of Limerick researching the relationships between sleep and performance for esport athletes. Tim has previously completed his honours (1st class) at the University of Western Australia, investigating sleep, travel, and performance in a professional rugby union team. Tim has previously performed research in collaboration with a professional sporting franchise (The Western Force) and consulted for another (The Melbourne Rebels) advising on training times and post-game sleep strategies for their players, as well as creating travel plans (including selecting international and domestic flights) for the team’s 2018 season. Further, he has been invited to present guest lectures for an ‘English for Academic Purposes’ program (November 2018, Dalhousie University). Thus far, Tim has published on the topic of post-career opportunities for esports athletes and the shared demands of esports and other occupations such as in aviation and military.

Dr. Adam Toth

Manager of Esports Science,
University of Limerick

After completing his PhD in Neurophysiology and Biomechanics at the University of Guelph, Canada, Adam's journey into esports led him to Ireland, where he joined a SFI-funded project investigating the skillsets that make up elite esports players. In the 4 years since, Adam and Dr. Mark Campbell have grown the lab's capabilities and now manage a team of researchers in the first bespoke esports research lab in Europe, where the team's interests range anywhere from the biomechanic and neurocognitive attributes that contribute to the health and performance of esports athletes.