Friday, March 1, 2013

Thinking about doing something is almost the same as doing it

Would you believe that just thinking about doing something can improve actual performance? While this may seem far fetched, a lot of research is actually pointing in this direction. This is because imagining/visualizing something, to the brain, is the same thing as actually doing something minus the motor output. So for instance when I imagine myself scoring a long distance free kick at home in my couch my brain will do approximately the same things as it would if had been standing there on the pitch. Similarly, remembering a certain event in ones life will activate the same set of neurons that was active when that event was experienced, but this time the visualization is generated without the help of external sensory systems (eyes, touch, hearing taste etc etc).

This set up has many, many implications. One recent and interesting implication is that simply thinking about eating will cause a feeling of satiety, which in turn will result in reduced calorie intake (see reference below). So one way to loose those extra pounds is to think a lot about eating... 

Also related to this are the so called mirror neurons. Mirror neurons are neurons that fire both when you are doing something, say moving your hand, and when you are observing someone else doing the same thing. Upon hearing this many people immediately jump to conclusions that brains must be communicating via quantum entanglement vibrations at dark energy frequencies. A much more plausible explanation for the phenomenon is that when you see someone else do something, you typically imagine yourself doing the same thing. If brain A and brain B are fairly similar then the same sets of neurons in the same locations in the brain are probably involved in planning the action -  hence the mirror neuron effect...

I am obviously just touching the tip of the iceberg of this interesting field of research and philosophical thinking, and all I can do is to encourage all readers to go check it out for yourselves.
Morewedge CK, Huh YE, & Vosgerau J (2010). Thought for food: imagined consumption reduces actual consumption. Science (New York, N.Y.), 330 (6010), 1530-3 PMID: 21148388

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