Do you ever wonder what goes on between your body and your brain when you hit a 3-point shot, throw a touchdown pass or just experience the thrill of a victory? Or how about when you gear up for a big game and your anxiousness won’t go away?
ASAP Science has produced several videos (shown below) explaining in layman’s terms how specific chemical pathways in the brain work to send signals to the body before and during a competition, as well as while watching sports and cheering for teammates. After watching all of them, the main takeaway is this: never underestimate the influence of your mental abilities on your physical performance. Whether running through plays in your head, visualizing your imminent success, or simply letting a teammate hear you out before practice, your brain is the engine room prepping and powering everything.
Watch the videos below to learn about the science of teamwork, pride, pain, nervousness, and why we love sports so much.
1. A hormone called oxytocin, otherwise known as “the bonding hormone,” facilitates social behavior and feelings of trust and empathy. Often produced in greater quantities in athletes, it deserves the credit for the loyalty and responsibility (or pressure) you may feel while urging your teammates to perform well.
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2. Many of the same areas of the brain (and cells called mirror neurons) activated during athletic activity are also activated while watching sports, either from the sidelines or on television (e.g., raising your arms in celebration, slouching after a loss).
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3. Pain is a learned experience. Athletes have actually been shown to have a higher tolerance for pain. In the heat of battle when the body is in “fight or flight” mode, or when our focus is aimed elsewhere, the brain numbs our pain to varying degrees.
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4. The adrenaline pumping through our bodies when we are nervous redirects blood and energy to the heart and muscles, and away from the digestive system, which is why we feel those butterflies.
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Bonus: A song with at least 120 beats per minute will facilitate a better performance.
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