Pflügers Archiv - European Journal of Physiology

, Volume 471, Issue 2, pp 285–299 | Cite as

Deception of cycling distance on pacing strategies, perceptual responses, and neural activity

  • Georgia WingfieldEmail author
  • Frank E. Marino
  • Melissa Skein
Integrative Physiology
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Integrative Physiology


Pacing during exercise performance is well-established; however, little is known about the neural responses associated with changes in power output and the effect of exercise end-point knowledge. Therefore, the aim of this study was to examine the effect of deception of cycling distance on pacing, cerebral oxy- (O2Hb) and deoxy-haemoglobin concentrations, and alpha (α) wave activity. Ten well-trained male cyclists (23.7 ± 6.6 years) completed three cycling time trials (TT) on a stationary air-braked cycle ergometer and were informed the study was to examine the reliability of 3 × 30-km TT. Participants unknowingly completed three distances (24, 30, and 36 km) in a randomised order. Performance (power output; PO), physiological (heart rate; HR), perceptual (rating of perceived exertion; RPE), and neurological (O2Hb, HHb, and α activity) measures were recorded throughout each TT. Data were converted to a percentage relative to the total distance covered. At 100% completion, HR and PO were lower during the 36 km compared to the 30 km trial (P ≤ 0.01). Compared to the 24 km trial, α waves were reduced at 100% (effect size; ES = 1.01), while O2Hb was greater at 70% of completion in the 36 km trial (ES = 1.39). RPE was also higher for 36 km compared to 30-km trial at 80% and the 24-km trial at 10% and 40–100% of completion (P ≤ 0.02). We conclude that the increase in O2Hb and RPE during the 36-km trial, while a reduction in HR and PO is present, may indicate that the pre-frontal cortex may influence the regulation of exercise performance when deceived of the duration end-point by increasing perception of effort to reduce premature onset of physiological strain.


Anticipation Central regulation Cerebral blood flow Pacing strategies 



The authors would like to acknowledge the staff at Cycling NSW for their support with data collection.

Funding information

Georgia Wingfield was supported by a post-graduate scholarship through Charles Sturt University.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Exercise Science, Sport, and HealthCharles Sturt UniversityBathurstAustralia

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