Advanced Mental Training to Maximise your Success

What happens in an actor’s brain?

This is a fascinating article from the BBC.  It looks at what an actor’s brain is doing during a performance.

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By Nick Higham
Today programme

Original article here with additional video and images.

For an actor, the performance conditions weren’t exactly ideal: flat on her back in a large machine, under strict instructions to lie as still as possible, speaking in short bursts interspersed with the shrill sound of a magnetic resonance imaging scanner.

But last week Fiona Shaw, one of Britain’s leading actresses – who has in her time played everything from the tragic heroine Medea to Shakespeare’s Richard II – volunteered in the cause of science to spend an hour having her brain scanned while “acting”.

Professor Sophie Scott of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London wanted to know what happens physically in an actor’s head when they pretend to be someone else.

She hoped that scanning Fiona’s brain in action would be able to tell us.

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Brain Training – saves money and you live longer…

The value of brain training is becoming increasingly black and white – you save money and live longer.  This month I have written two separate comments on recent research backing up the value of quality brain training.  However here I want to promote that the two are intrinsicly linked. Brain training in a corporate environment can save companies billions of dollars / pounds each year.  High quality brain training courses for an individual can mean you have more chance of living longer…

Facts:

  • Stress related illness cost the UK £28 billion each year
  • This is a 1/4 of the UK’s sick bill
  • More than 13 million working days a year are lost in the UK because of work related stress
  • Stress is thought to contribute to coronary heart disease (CHD)
  • More than $475 billion is spent annually in the USA treating CHD
  • Meditation, or relaxing the brain, can reduce number of heart attacks and stroke by 47%

Brainwave training is a simple and cost effective way assist with these issues.

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Controlling brainwave activity ‘eases heart disease’

The American Heart Association has published research showing that 20 minutes of meditation twice a day can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke by 47%.  This is a very powerful endorsement for just how important is it to learn to control your brainwave activity.

Whilst many of my clients are looking to improve their levels of focus and concentration, especially top athletes, it is just as important to be able to slow your brainwaves down.  I describe this as having full mobility of brainwaves.

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Brain training the military

The future of military might may not just be in bigger and better hardware of warfare, but in fitter and faster brains of military personnel.

The Brain Training Company is at the cutting edge of mental fitness training.  What was seen ten years ago as kooky executive training or fringe athletic training to achieve the mental edge, may now become a mainstream component of military training.

It is demonstrably possible to improve someone’s mental fitness; be that to increase IQ, manage stress better, enhance levels of focus and concentration when under pressure, or learning information at a greatly increased speed.  The foundation of this at The Brain Training Company is brainwave training.  Developing the ability to consciously control brainwave activity.  From this there are knock on benefits, such as greater neural connectivity and increased blood flow to the brain.

For military personnel this is a critical step in improving personal performancefaster and better decision making when under pressure.

This article from Wired.com looks at this topic:

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Synchronized Brain Waves Focus Our Attention

For many years now, the courses of The Brain Training Company have promoted the importance of cerebral balance and synchrony between the two hemispheres.  Clients have gone on to show enhanced personal performance; be that in the classroom, boardroom or in sport.  This is an interesting article looking at the significance of synchronized brainwave activity and its role in mental focus and attention.

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Rise in youth hyperactivity prescriptions

Extract from the Independent:

The number of prescriptions for drugs to treat hyperactivity in children is on the rise, figures suggested today.

…Data obtained by the Conservatives found more than 420,000 prescriptions were written for under-16s in 2007 – up 33 per cent on 2005 figures. More than 40,000 prescriptions were also written for 16 to 18 year-olds, up 51 per cent since 2005.

In 2007, the NHS spent more than £17 million on the drugs….

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Effect of brainwaves on movement and peak performance

This scientific study proves and reinforces one of the training objectives in our Peak Performance for Sport training course:- the importance of being able to control beta brainwave production.  Note especially the sentence I have highlighted and put in bold text.

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Study highlights effect of brain waves on human behaviour

Boosting a certain type of brain wave can slow people’s movements, UK researchers have discovered. The findings, published online by the journal Current Biology, offer the first direct evidence that brain waves can influence behaviour in otherwise healthy individuals. They could also lead to the development of new drugs for medical conditions characterised by either uncontrolled or slowed movements.

Different types of brain wave have different frequencies and different locations. In this study, the researchers investigated beta waves, which have a frequency of around 20 Hertz (Hz). Earlier studies have shown that beta waves are linked to sustained muscle activity, such as that employed when holding a book. Beta activity drops just before people initiate movement.

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study shows exercise improves brain power

Physical exercise is usually associated with improved physical fitness.  However now there is proof that exercise will improve your mental fitness as well.

A recent study at the University of Calgary has show that those people who participate in light exercise are mentally fitter than those who do not exercise. The study was published in the journal, “Neurobiology of Aging”, and finds that physical fitness helps improve brain function because physical exercise benefits blood flow in the brain and, as a result, aids cognitive abilities.

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Right Brain vs. Left Brain

Last week I received an email with a so-called brain test. The sender wanted to know why the brain reacted in the way described in the test. Attached to the email was a computer generated back and white image of a female dancer.

By coincidence, I came across the same image in an online news article today, so perhaps this is now going round the internet. Have a look at the image for yourself here.

When you first look at the image, which way round did the dance appear to be turning? Are you able to get it to change direction? With a few minutes practice you should be able to control the direction she turns.

But how does this effect occur? Is it really a right vs. left brain issue, as suggested in the article? Unfortunately no sources for their claim on this are mentioned.

My opinion is that it is more to do with how to brain interprets visual input, rather than left / right brain. With this image it is a flat two tone picture. There is little reference point of perspective for the brain to use.

If you create your own reference point in your imagination, such as thinking whether the girls hair is towards you or away from you as she turns. The same can be done with her foot and if it is towards you or away from you. As there is not possible to know this, by using your imagination and telling your brain this is what you see, your brain will create the image and perception to what you believe in this moment. A classic optical illusion.

In our training courses we measure brainwave activity to compare left hemisphere brainwave activity with the right hemisphere. It is possible to measure the amplitude of activity and thus which side is more active. Where optimal levels of performance are achieved, be that in a sport or other activity, a balance of brainwave activity is seen. Conversely, we often notice that those who struggle to perform well, especially in academic skills, that they have a significant imbalance of brainwave activity.

There are other images, like this dancer, where your brain has to fill in the gaps of information it cannot see. Have you seen the drawing of the cube and you have to work out if the corner is towards you or away from you? You can see that and other illusions here.

The brain is a very clever piece of kit. If it is not sure as to what it sees, it creates that impression. This might include the child’s imagination that they see the shape of monsters in their bedroom, when it is just how the moonlight falls on a pile of clothes.

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Study skills and brainwaves

Today I found an interesting video on the BBC news website. It is a news item looking at a new teaching style – a brain friendly style.

This incorporates short bursts of learning followed by some physical activity. It also discusses the importance of understanding of brainwave activity.

All of this is exciting as it is exactly what I have been teaching to my clients looking to improve their study skills. Periods of learning should be split into smaller blocks. School classes typically last for 40 – 50 minutes. However younger students cannot concentrate for this length of time.

By adding a period of physical activity, this increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain; essential for laying down the information into neural pathways.

Whilst the study of brainwave activity is mentioned, there is no specific mention of the different levels essential to learning.

Have a look at the news report here. It is great to see this subject, which was previously seen as being very “alternative”, becoming much more accepted and mainstream.

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