This is your brain on winning - Newsweek

Illustration by Bryan Christie for Newsweek

Newsweek published this awesome graphic last week’s looking at the neurological activities and sequences that happen in the brain when you play sport. Pretty cool huh? If you need a new reason to get off the couch – look at what a workout it gives your grey matter!

I’ve been meaning to explore brain activity during sport in this blog what with Wimbeldon, the cricket season kicking off at Lord’s today, and of course Olympics 2012. With all those competitors slogging it out, you wonder what makes them tick?

The Newsweek article ‘The New Science of Triumph’ by Nick Summers (featuring the above pic) looked at the burgeoning area of neuroeconomics – that is, the new links being forged between winning, brain chemistry, social theory and economics of winners.

It has been discovered recently that the traditional hormone of ‘dominance’ (or winning), testosterone, has a close relationship with cortisol, a stress hormone. When balanced in the right levels this directly can affect winning – good stress can motivate, and alert you. But too much cortisol/stress is not a winning combination.

“Testosterone is helpful only when regulated by small amounts of another hormone called cortisol. What’s more, for those with a lot of cortisol in their blood, high levels of testosterone may actually impede winning.”

Also the dopamine system of the brain, which is involved with rewards and anticipating rewards, also affects winning because it affects your expectations to win:

“People’s brains are constantly comparing what happened with what could have happened,” says Scott Huettel, the director of Duke University’s Center for Neuroeconomic Studies.

“A bronze medalist might say, ‘Wow, I almost didn’t get a medal. It’s great to be on the stand!’ And the silver medalist is just thinking about all the mistakes he made that prevented him from winning gold.”

Read the full article here – The New Science of Triumph – Newsweek.

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