Why your brain makes you slip up when anxious (Science Daily):
“As musicians, figure skaters and anyone who takes a driving test will know, the anxiety of being watched can have a disastrous effect on your performance…
In the new study, published in Scientific Reports, participants’ brain activity was monitored while carrying out a task that required them to exert a precise amount of force when gripping an object.
During the experiment, they viewed video footage of two people whom they believed were evaluating their performance. They then repeated the task while viewing video footage of two people who appeared to be evaluating the performance of someone else.
Participants reported that they felt more anxious when they believed they were being observed. Under this condition, they gripped the object harder without realising it. Scan results showed that an area of the brain that helps us to control our fine sensorimotor functions — the inferior parietal cortex (IPC) — became deactivated when people felt they were being observed…
For those with extreme performance anxiety, she said there has been a substantial advancement in brain stimulation techniques such as the transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which could activate desired behaviour.
And there are also now various types of neurofeedback training, which can help people to learn how to control their own brain activity.
She added: “It’s important to believe that the audience is supporting you and wishing for your successful performance.”
Study: Why I tense up when you watch me: Inferior parietal cortex mediates an audience’s influence on motor performance (Scientific Reports)
- Abstract: The presence of an evaluative audience can alter skilled motor performance through changes in force output. To investigate how this is mediated within the brain, we emulated real-time social monitoring of participants’ performance of a fine grip task during functional magnetic resonance neuroimaging. We observed an increase in force output during social evaluation that was accompanied by focal reductions in activity within bilateral inferior parietal cortex. Moreover, deactivation of the left inferior parietal cortex predicted both inter- and intra-individual differences in socially-induced change in grip force. Social evaluation also enhanced activation within the posterior superior temporal sulcus, which conveys visual information about others’ actions to the inferior parietal cortex. Interestingly, functional connectivity between these two regions was attenuated by social evaluation. Our data suggest that social evaluation can vary force output through the altered engagement of inferior parietal cortex; a region implicated in sensorimotor integration necessary for object manipulation, and a component of the action-observation network which integrates and facilitates performance of observed actions. Social-evaluative situations may induce high-level representational incoherence between one’s own intentioned action and the perceived intention of others which, by uncoupling the dynamics of sensorimotor facilitation, could ultimately perturbe motor output.
To learn more: