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Mindful : June 2015
test the notion that skilled movements such as a soccer penalty kick become encoded in the implicit-knowledge system a nd that rumination— worrying about performance in a stressful situation—can interfere with that system. Rumination is largely a left-hemisphere function. But the right hemisphere is associated with superior performa nce in skills that rely on muscle memory. The right bra in a lso controls move- ments by the left side of the body. Squeezing a ball with the left hand, the scientists suspected, would activate the right hemisphere, giving it a fighting chance against the rumination-triggered acti- vation of the left brain. Sure enough, 30 semi-professional soccer players who squeezed a ball with their left hand performed as well before a crowd as during practice, while non-squeezers missed more shots in the pressure situation. (The judo experts and badminton aces showed similar effects.) According to a 2012 report by Jürgen Beckma nn of the Technical University of Munich and colleagues in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, the benefits of giving the right hemisphere a boost likely apply to any sport requiring accuracy a nd com- plex movements. If you worry you might look odd squeezing a ball before a pressure-packed per- formance, try singing. Beilock has found that when skilled golfers sing to themselves just before and while striking a three-foot putt, brain regions that interfere with implicit learned movements are kept at bay. The ball drops into the cup with a sweet thwonk. Prelimina r y evidence suggests that meditation might also be one of the ways to keep the prefrontal cortex from getting in the way. In a pair of studies, Beilock and colleagues had students take a high-stakes math exam and for 10 minutes prior, they either 1) sat quietly and did nothing (the control group for both studies), 2) wrote about their test-related worries, or 3) took a quick meditation lesson. In the first study, those who just sat quietly scored 12% worse than they had on a comparable test with nothing at stake, while the writers showed a 5% improve- ment. Although the study was too small (20 students) to be definitive, in the second study, the meditation g roup scored five percentage points higher (an 87 as opposed to an 82) than the control group. Perhaps any tech- nique that avoids rumination keeps the prefrontal cortex from squelching the circuits needed to access your talents. This is one you can’t try at home, but a 2013 study in The Journal of Neuroscience showed even more directly how the prefrontal cortex can betray us. Scientists led by Tara z Lee of the University of California, Santa Barbara, showed pa rticipants kalei- doscopic images for about a minute, waited one minute, then tested their memory by having them distinguish images they’d just seen from novel ones. Then they used a mag netic device to quiet activity in the prefrontal cortex. Result: people remem- bered better. Sometimes, it seems, there is such a thing as too much bra inpower. ● June 2015 mindful 21 DharmaCraf ts THE CATALOG OF MEDITATION SUPPLIES THE CATALOG OF MEDITATION SUPPLIES THE CATALOG OF MEDITATION SUPPLIES Meditation Cushions Yoga Mats Inspirational Jewelry Meditation CDs DharmaKids Collection since 1979 dharmacrafts.com 866.339.4198 Keycode MFA Request a Catalog Call for Volume Discounts on Cushions Sign Up for Teaching Emails