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athletic performance biofeedback body mental health mind psychophysiology sports performance Jan 15, 2022

We usually think of “Mind” and “Body” as two separate entities. However, our thinking and physiological responses are not separated. The Mind and Body are NOT two separated kingdoms. Mind-body are one, interdependent on each other. Psychophysiology is the science that focuses on the relationship between mind and body as one (mind-body). For example, suppose you are cutting vegetables to cook dinner and start replaying in your mind a situation in the sport where you were insulted by another athlete. In that case, the imagery of being insulted will cause physical changes in your body that are fed back to your brain and lead to changes in the way you perceive and remember the action you just performed (cutting all the vegetables), and hopefully, you did not cut your finger off.

Also, sensations from your body can change the states of your mind (because they are one). Take hunger for example the physical desire translates to chemical activity in your brain, prompting a change of priorities to find food - eating has further effects on cognitive processes and your behavior is normalized. Pain is another body sensation that can greatly influence behaviors.

Now, if you are preparing to perform and worry too much about the outcome of the game, the nervousness and overthinking will cause sweaty palms, shortness of breath, the tension in the neck and shoulders, and poor decision-making. However, taking slow breaths before the performance and letting go of the tension in the muscles will reduce anxiety and refresh the mind.

Luckily, we have the science that looks at the interactions between mind and body and shows us how thoughts and emotions elicit changes in brain waves, heart rate, muscle tension, and respiration rate. And by using sophisticated technology to see inside the brain and body of athletes to investigate how they feel, think, and perform during challenging situations in sports; we can train new responses.

The computer-based technology that allows us to see inside the athletes’ bodies is called Biofeedback or biological feedback. After learning how athletes are responding, protocols developed to enhance athletic performance guide the biofeedback training that will change the responses that were previously automatic and maximize sports performance. During the biofeedback session, sensors are placed on the athletes’ bodies and connected to a computer that feed-back information about the athletes’ state. By becoming aware of physiological processes, athletes can now use mental skills and biofeedback to manage thoughts and emotions, voluntarily deactivate unconscious physiological responses, and choose the behaviors that will result in the best performances.

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