What makes auditions, performances, giving speeches, just generally being on the spot, so anxiety-provoking? According to previous research, people literally exert more force when they know they’re being watched. The pianist presses harder on the keys when there is an audience. But why?
The article says that “…neuroscientists at the University of Sussex’s Sackler Centre and Brighton and Sussex Medical School have identified the brain network system that causes us to stumble and stall just when we least want to.”
Here’s how the research was designed:
In the new study, published in Scientific Reports, participants’ brain activity was monitored while carrying out a task that required them to exert a precise amount of force when gripping an object.
During the experiment, they viewed video footage of two people whom they believed were evaluating their performance. They then repeated the task while viewing video footage of two people who appeared to be evaluating the performance of someone else.
Brain scans (fMRIs) showed that the areas of the participants’ brains controlling fine motor movement were deactivated when they reported feeling anxious. And it was the participants who thought they were being watched who felt the most anxiety. So anxiety means decreased fine motor movement control. Not good for pianists or golfers or anyone else who wants to be at their best.
The article suggests strategies for decreasing anxiety in front of others, such as practicing in front of friends, and also cites the usefulness of neurofeedback.
NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback for Performance Anxiety
Good results are certainly what I’ve seen using NeurOptimal® with clients. Neurofeedback is helpful with many, many areas of life (see Neurofeedback Benefits and Client Comments). Specifically related to performance, here are the kinds of things my clients report:
In my over 30 years as a psychotherapist, NeurOptimal® Dynamical Neurofeedback® is the best thing I’ve encountered for reducing performance anxiety.
You’re welcome to post comments here or to email me. If you’re not in New York City or close by, I’ll be happy to help you find a NeurOptimal® trainer near you.
Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW
New York Neurofeedback