There is confusion around cognitive demands versus cognitive tasks and time is spent focusing on cognitive tasks whereas the focus should be on the cognitive demands.

To make things easier to understand we will make a physical training analogy.

If your athlete needs to increase their leg strength (demand), and there is a large selection of leg exercises (tasks) available to you in order to achieve leg strength (demand), as the coach, you could select one or more of the exercises below. They all target the muscle groups needed to improve leg strength (demand).

  • Squat

  • Hack Squat

  • Pendulum Squat

  • 45 Degree Leg Press

  • Seated Leg Press

  • Smith Machine Squat

  • Dumbell Squat

  • Kettlebell Squat

  • Landmine Squat

  • Zercher squat

  • Overhead Squat

  • Sissy Squat

Why would you select one exercise over another? Load? Intensity? Angle? Difficulty? Could you modify any of those exercises to make them harder by using tempo, bands, chains, super setting, or reducing rest periods? Sure you can.

The same general principles apply to cognitive training. Just consider the cognitive task an exercise. The demand should be your main focus. You can take any cognitive task that targets the cognitive demand and you can manipulate the overall load by changing any of the following parameters,

πŸ”— Task Intensity

πŸ”— Task Duration

πŸ”— Applying a specialized training mode

πŸ”— Applying progressive overload

πŸ”— Applying undulating periodization

πŸ”— Altering the placement of the cognitive task

If the demand matters so much why have so many tasks to choose from?

Just like physical exercises, different mental exercises (tasks) that target the same demand have varying amounts of novelty, suitability and complexity. What one athlete finds easy another may difficult. This is why we give coaches the ability to adapt any cognitive task with intensity, duration, placement and specialized training modes.

Rather than trying to find the perfect cognitive task for your sport (which does not exist), focus on the cognitive demand, follow the data and adapt the cognitive training plan by changing any of the above-mentioned parameters. By doing this you can take a cognitive task that is easy, perhaps too easy, and make it more difficult. You can also take a task that is unachievable and make it more suitable for your athletes. There is no need to think you need another task, first manipulate the parameters below.

πŸ”— Intensity

πŸ”— Duration

πŸ”— Training modes

πŸ”— Progressive overload

πŸ”— Undulating periodization

πŸ”— Placement of the cognitive task

Cognitive Demands

Working Memory

Working memory is the ability to consciously hold and utilize information. Working memory is a crucial aspect for many sports. It has been found that individuals with a higher working memory are better able to stay focused on a particular task. A study in Sweden found that elite athletes scored higher on working memory tasks than amateur athletes. The researchers believe that this was because an enhanced working memory helps athletes process and comprehend what is going on during the game. Having a strong working memory allows an athlete to continually change and adapt their own game plan, while also predicting their competitor’s plan.

πŸ”— Attention, working-memory control, working-memory capacity, and sport performance: The moderating role of athletic expertise.

πŸ”— The role of working memory in sport.

πŸ”— Attention, working-memory control, working-memory capacity, and sport performance: The moderating role of athletic expertise.

Memory Tasks

  • Task Switching

  • Spatial Span


  • TLDB

  • 2 Back

  • Visual Digit Span

  • Tachistoscope


  • Colour Shape Task

  • 4 Choice Flanker


Attention is the ability of an athlete to keep resources concentrated on a task. This is important because athletes are exposed to an infinite number of variables in their sport, so they must athletes can focus on only the stimuli that are relevant. It is often also called focus or concentration. Attention involves focusing mental effort on relevant environmental cues and maintaining that attention.

There are many forms of attention which can be classified into:

  • Focused attention: is having the ability to focus on one task for an unlimited amount of time without distraction.

  • Sustained attention: is a process that enables the maintenance of response persistence and continuous effort over extended periods of time.

  • Vigilance: the process of paying close and continuous attention. It is often described as a quality or state of alertness or watchfulness. Vigilance can also be thought of as the extent of readiness to detect, or the likelihood of detecting, a stimulus that is imperative to safety.

  • Selective attention: involves focusing on a specific stimulus while ignoring other competing or distracting stimuli. Selective attention can be conscious or unconscious. Often a person can be selectively attending to an object without realizing it, especially if he or she is an expert in the particular task where attention is required.

  • Divided attention: refers to instances when an individual must conduct multiple tasks at the same time, and the tasks compete for limited attention resources. This situation is often referred to as multitasking and can be very dangerous since attention resources are strained when an individual attempts to complete multiple tasks simultaneously.

  • Alternating attention: refers to instances when an individual switches attention between tasks that require different thought processes.

  • Attentional control: refers to an individual's capacity to choose what they pay attention to and what they ignore.

Attention Tasks

  • Visual Reaction Test

  • Audio Reaction Test

  • Multi-Object Training

  • Eye-Hand Coordination

  • PVT

  • PVT-B

  • Anticipation

  • Posner

  • Time Perception

  • Mackworth

  • AX-CPT

  • RVIP

  • 4 Choice Reaction

  • 0 Back

  • Attention Switching

  • Double Mackworth

Response Inhibition

Response inhibition refers to the suppression of actions that are inappropriate in a given context and that interfere with goal-driven behavior. It has been shown that athletes acting in dynamic environments exhibit superior motor inhibitory control based on sensory stimuli.

Response Inhibition Tasks

  • Go No Go Visual Test

  • Go No Go Audio Test

  • Stroop Test

  • Switched Attention Test

  • Dynamic Vision Trainer

  • Visual Stop Signal

  • Audio Stop Signal

  • Inverted Stroop

  • Switched Stop Visual

  • Audio Stop Signal

  • Visual Inhibition

  • Sustained Attention

  • Audio Choice Go No Go

  • Visual Choice Go No Go

  • AV Choice Go No Go

  • Numerical Inhibition

  • MSIT

  • Simon Task

  • Incongruent Flanker

  • Flanker Compatibility

  • Tactile Motor Go No Go

  • Visual Motor Go No Go

  • Audio Motor Go No Go

  • AV Motor Go No Go

  • Dots Task

  • Spatial Stroop


Decision Making

Decision-making is the cognitive process resulting in the selection of a course of action among several possible alternative options. Decision-making in sports plays an important role in individual performance. When compared to novices, experts are described as being able to read the game better, to demonstrate superior game intelligence, and appear as if they have all the time in the world to perform an action.

Decision Making Tasks

  • Visual Choice Test

  • Audio Choice Test

  • AV Choice

  • Congruent Stroop

  • Visual Search

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