Finding the zone!

I finally cracked open the magazines that Santa left in my stocking, one of them had an interesting article titled “Wired for Victory” (here), which is about Neurofeedback and how it can greatly increase mental ability and concentration, which supports peak performance.

Many moons ago I worked on Neurofeedback equipment. At the time the medical industry was just warming up to the idea that Neurofeedback could be used as a treatment modality for everything from ADD/ADHD to chemical dependency. Of course the study of the brain, how it functions, and how that information can be used provides interest in many fields. As an example, we did some work with several researchers from the Air Force who were interested in ways to provide feedback to pilots as they encounter aerial hypnosis – I think that was the term – basically coming out of a barrel roll at tremendous force could result in the pilot becoming disoriented and frozen. The basic premise was that brain wave patterns change when someone enters this state and a mechanism in the helmet would monitor for these patterns, when they occur feedback would be provided, probably in the form of loud blinking alarms and lights, which would hopefully pull the pilot out of that state. Aircraft utilize these mechanisms for monitoring anomalies in the plane, but monitoring physiological changes in the pilot were not widely adopted (similar evidence could probably be gained from monitoring and correlating heart rate, breathing patterns, muscle activity, etc). What was more interesting was their work in trying to determine if Neurofeedback could be used to condition pilots to find the “zone” and result in faster response times and more accurate targeting.

Another area of interest, and what the article discusses, is peak performance conditioning. Everyone has experienced the “zone” I can recall playing pool, golf, basketball, or some other sport and for some inexplicable reason I was just on, I couldn’t miss a shot, I was batting a thousand, I was all net – I was playing in the zone! I can’t replicate these conditions on demand and I was never quite sure what I did differently but I know that when it occurred I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it, I just did it.

Can’t afford an EEG machine? I would note that mediation techniques combined with goal-oriented visualization result in similar benefits as Neurofeedback. It requires one to learn how to quiet the mind, visualize an outcome, and execute or react in the real world. Each of these requires a lot of practice and is not easy in our wired, fast paced, to-do list lifesytles, but through repetition and supporting a connection between the mind and body, the execution and the reaction become automatic.

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