Monday, July 2, 2012

New Neuroscience of "Choking"

Humans sometimes fail under pressurewitness the unexpected catastrophes in the Olympic trials and in almost any high-stakes sports eventalthough the reasons may be worlds apart. In “The Art of Failure,” Malcom Gladwell described the difference between panic (too little thinking and reverting to instinct) and choking (thinking too much and a loss of instinct). Although most people get nervous at times, not everyone chokes. A team of neuroscientist in London used fMRI studies to gain insight into choking. They found that activity in the ventral striatum (a subcortical brain region dense with dopamine neurons) tended to increase as people got more excited about potential rewards. In some, however, striatum activity was inversely related to the magnitude of the reward. Translated, this may mean that some individuals fall apart (choke) under the pressure of the moment because they care too much. The pleasure of the activity has vanished. What remains is the fear of losing, a fear of failure, which can trigger choking.

No comments: