Top sportmen's unique brain characteristics make them true champions
Washington, June 19 (ANI): Some people excel - whether as world-class athletes, virtuoso musicians, or top CEOs.
Now, scientists have discovered that these outstanding performers have unique brain characteristics that make them different from other people.
A recent study found that 20 top-level managers scored higher on three measures - the Brain Integration Scale, Gibbs's Socio-moral Reasoning questionnaire, and an inventory of peak experiences - compared to 20 low-level managers that served as matched controls.
This is the fourth study in which researchers have been able to correlate the brain's activity with top performance and peak experiences, having previously studied world-class athletes and professional classical musicians.
"What we have found is an astonishing integration of brain functioning in high performers compared to average-performing controls. We are the first in the world to show that there is a brain measure of effective leadership," said Fred Travis, director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa,
Dr. Travis, Dr. Harald Harung of the Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences in Norway, and colleagues have carried out a total of four empirical studies comparing world-class performers to average performers.
This recent study and two others have examined top performers in management, sports, and classical music. In addition, a number of years ago Dr. Harung and colleagues published a fourth study on a variety of professions, such as public administration, management, sports, arts and education.
The researchers looked at three different measurements that all reflect how well the brain works as a whole: 1) Coherence, which shows how well the various parts of the brain cooperate, 2) Amount of alpha waves, which reflect restful alertness, and 3) How economically or effectively the brain works.
The three measurements are then put together in an expression of brain refinement, the Brain Integration Scale.
World-class performance has so far been mostly regarded from a psychological point of view, especially speaking of management. Researchers often explain management skills as a result of special personal or psychological characteristics that some have, and others don't.
"Our research in brain activity and brain integration is done from more of a natural science angle. By such means, we hope we are closer to an effective and comprehensive understanding of why some succeed better than others," said Harung.
In all the groups of top performers, measurements were checked by using control groups. The controls were average performers, such as low-level managers or amateur musicians.
The data gave one surprising result: Among the musicians, both the professionals and the amateurs turned out to have a high level of brain integration. In the two other studies, this measurement showed major differences between the persons with top-level performance and the control groups.
"We believe that for musicians, the explanation might be that classical music in itself contributes to such integration, regardless of your performance level," said Dr. Harung.
The researchers found it's not just that their brains function differently; the world-class performers also had particular subjective experiences that were associated with their top performances.
Called peak experiences, these experiences are characterized by happiness, inner calm, maximum wakefulness, effortlessness and ease of functioning, absence of fear, transcendence of ordinary time and space, and a sense of perfection and even invincibility.
The researchers have developed a new theory, a Unified Theory of Performance, which suggests that higher levels of mind-brain development form a platform for higher performance, regardless of profession or activity.
The study was published in May in the journal Cognitive Processing. (ANI)
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