The Brain and Visualisation - 2023

The Brain and Visualisation

Apr 21, 2022Mental Wellbeing, Performance0 comments

“I think; therefore I am” – Descartes

 Have you ever wondered about the role our brain plays in defining our abilities, character and life chances?

Guided Meditation

The brain is a complex piece of human machinery, from the cerebellum, parietal lobe, thalamus and all the way down to the medulla oblongata, the names are barely pronounceable, let alone understandable. The exciting thing, in terms of human endeavour, is that there is still so much unchartered territory to discover, so much mystery to uncover, and more importantly, so much potential to unlock.

The part of the brain we are interested in this blog is the motor cortex. This is involved in planning, controlling, and executing voluntary movements. Our moves are initiated directly by thought, but only if we exceed the threshold of excitatory postsynaptic potential (EPSP) which causes the neurons in the brain to generate actual movement.

Visualisation basically follows the same process but doesn’t exceed the threshold of EPSP, you therefore get similar activity in the brain, but it doesn’t initiate actual movement.

Put more simply, you can think of something that activates the same region of the brain involved in the movement without generating movement. Other components of the brain are also stimulating regions involved in the rehearsal of movement, such as the basal ganglion and the putamen.

Visualisation activates our motor cortex located in the frontal lobe of our brains and can be regarded as ‘non-movement rehearsal’ that is priming your brain in a similar way to actual physical rehearsal but not carrying out the movement itself, so your brain develops a higher level of proficiency while your body rests in anticipation of eventually carrying out this action, hopefully at a higher level of proficiency!

The 10,000 hour rule

Whether you are a believer in Malcolm Gladwells 10,000 hour rule, which basically defines how many hours are needed to achieve mastery in your chosen discipline, the addition of regular visualisation practice in your overall development programme surely is going to eat into those 10,000 without actually lifting a finger!
Even visualising others can prime similar areas of our brain, but ultimately visualisation is most powerful when performed from a first person perspective, keeping us focused on what is immediately around us, as would be the case if you were actually physically performing the task. The third person perspective gives a more birdseye view and not quite the same immersive focused experience the brain needs for rehearsal.

Visualisation during meditation

It would seem that the quality of our visualisation plays role in actual performance enhancement. To visualise in the first person and engage the five senses from an imaginary perspective, and to focus more clearly on the desired task for a period of time, carried out regularly, will have the greatest impact on our motor cortex, so when we come to executing the task physically, our brain has a greater degree of familiarisation with the actions required to perform to a more proficient degree!
Combining the benefits of meditation to enhance focus and engage more of the subconscious brain arguably has the potential to take your visualisation practice to new heights, whilst giving you the added well-being benefits of regularly meditating.
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