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Physical and Mental Exercise: Why Pitch One Against the other?

Read­er There­sa Cerul­li just for­ward­ed this Let­ter to the Edi­tor that she had sent to the New York Times and went unpub­lished. The let­ter address­es the OpEd men­tioned here (pitch­ing phys­i­cal vs. men­tal exer­cise), and refers to the Cogmed work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing pro­gram, whose results have been stud­ied in mul­ti­ple papers pub­lished in top med­ical and sci­en­tif­ic jour­nals.

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Dear Edi­tor:

I applaud San­dra Aamodt and Sam Wang for throw­ing some cold water on the cur­rent brain fit­ness craze in their recent New York Times Mag­a­zine Opin­ion Edi­to­r­i­al “Exer­cise on the Brain.”  They are cor­rect in label­ing the host of “men­tal fit­ness” prod­ucts that tar­get aging baby boomers as “inspired by sci­ence ”  not to be con­fused with actu­al­ly proven by sci­ence. For the last 30 years, terms like “brain plas­tic­i­ty” have been wide­ly and casu­al­ly used, cre­at­ing hype that risks drown­ing out the real break­throughs that brain researchers are mak­ing in this area.

How­ev­er, I would like to dis­tin­guish the “men­tal fit­ness” trend that Aamodt and Wang right­ly crit­i­cize from actu­al researched-based cog­ni­tive train­ing such as the Cogmed pro­gram devel­oped in Swe­den. Unlike “men­tal fit­ness” pro­grams, cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­grams focus very nar­row­ly on spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive func­tions that research has shown to be plas­tic. This is in stark con­trast to com­pil­ing a smat­ter­ing of exer­cis­es or activ­i­ties that are gen­er­al­ly thought to be Read the rest of this entry »

Best practice for top trading performance: biofeedback (EmWave personal stress reliever)

Brett N. Steen­barg­er , Ph.D. Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chi­a­try and Behav­ioral Sci­ences at SUNY Upstate Med­ical Uni­ver­si­ty, active trad­er for over 30 years, for­mer Direc­tor of Trad­er Devel­op­ment for Kingstree Trad­ing, LLC, author of The Psy­chol­o­gy of Trad­ing and the new Enhanc­ing Trad­er Per­for­mance, and of the blog Trader­Feed: Exploit­ing the edge from his­tor­i­cal mar­ket pat­terns, is writ­ing a great col­lec­tion of best prac­tices for traders (many of which are very rel­e­vant for all high-pres­sure occu­pa­tions).

He wrote a great arti­cle a few weeks ago on the val­ue of biofeed­back in achiev­ing self con­trol, and now deep­ens the dis­cus­sion with this best prac­tice for traders.

Both arti­cles are a fun read-here go some quotes from the most recent one

  • This best prac­tice describes biofeed­back as a tool for per­for­mance enhance­ment among traders. It empha­sizes that the role of biofeed­back is to keep us in touch with our (implic­it) knowl­edge, not to elim­i­nate emo­tion from the deci­sion-mak­ing process.”
  • we want to con­trol the lev­el of cog­ni­tive and phys­i­cal arousal so that we retain access to exper­tise that is already present. Biofeed­back is a pow­er­ful tool for achiev­ing such cog­ni­tive and phys­i­cal con­trol.”
  • Through struc­tured prac­tice, peo­ple can learn to sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly improve their abil­i­ty to enter and remain in states of calm focus. Such abil­i­ty is impor­tant to trad­ing (and many oth­er per­for­mance activ­i­ties), not because it elim­i­nates emo­tion, but because it pre­serves our access to the somat­ic mark­ers that rep­re­sent our mar­ket feel. The heart rate vari­abil­i­ty feed­back is par­tic­u­lar­ly user friend­ly, because it is com­put­er based and can track progress both in prac­tice ses­sions and in real time per­for­mance.”
  • Using the Freeze-Framer pro­gram, audi­ble sig­nals tell the user when he or she is expe­ri­enc­ing high, medi­um, or low “coher­ence”, which is a mea­sure of emo­tion­al reg­u­la­tion. On-screen games require the user to keep a float­ing bal­loon in the air, for instance, based upon sus­tained medi­um and high read­ings. I recent­ly had an inter­est­ing expe­ri­ence dur­ing one feed­back ses­sion: I sus­tained a high lev­el of the bal­loon, but then clicked a wrong but­ton on the screen and erased my data acci­den­tal­ly! After that frus­tra­tion, it was *much* hard­er for me to keep the bal­loon in the air. It was a nice illus­tra­tion of the impact of frus­tra­tion even sev­er­al min­utes after an event.”

You can learn more about this best prac­tice for Traders and oth­er high-pres­sure occu­pa­tions where learn­ing how to iden­ti­fy and man­age our emo­tions and lev­els of stress is crit­i­cal for per­for­mance.

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