Our office was abuzz as we welcomed Canadian sport pistol Olympian and Pan Am games medalist Avianna Chao, along with her coach and husband Patrick Haynes to our downtown Toronto HQ.
Sport pistol shooting is one that involves intense mental focus and discipline; Olympic-style pistol shooting is a quieter, more static shooting style than that of sport shooting, where loud, powerful weapons are often used. Avianna describes her sport as “very Zen;” one where her mind is “my greatest ally, but can also be my greatest enemy.”
Of course, we wanted to know how brain sensing technology – with its emphasis on focused attention training – might benefit a sport like Avianna’s.
We discussed the common challenges high performance athletes face on the field, like distraction, anxiety and over-evaluation. It quickly became clear that focused attention training can contribute to marksmanship by:
- Improving emotional resilience
- Increasing the ability to block out distractions
- Reducing unproductive and self-defeating mental chatter
- Improving the single point of focus
Next, we explored how real-time feedback on your brain can make focused attention training more effective.
Brain sensing technology brings science to the table
Our brain emits signals at different frequencies according to the state that we are in. For instance, when we sleep the brain emits high amplitude, low frequency signals known as ‘Delta’ waves. During high concentration – while doing Sudoku, for example – the brain churns out fast, low amplitude signals called ‘Beta’ waves.
In between Delta and Beta, the ‘Alpha’ waves are the frequency sweetspot when it comes to marksmanship. People exhibit the strongest Alpha waves when they relax with their eyes closed. Scientific studies have shown that pre-shot Alpha power strongly correlates with the accuracy of the subsequent shot.
What’s more, researchers have observed that expert marksmen have a special ability to reduce their internal dialogue and emotions. They also seem to rely more on their physical senses than amateurs, who only use their eyesight.
Focused-attention exercise with real-time brain feedback can help athletes increase the Alpha power they produce. This can clearly be seen in this graph which compares the output of experts to novices.