Sunday, April 16, 2006

"The sadness of defeat arouses the same areas deep in the brain that are active during depression," according to Dr. Jaak Panksepp, a neuroscientist at Washington State University.

Canadian researchers performed functional MRIs of the brain on swimmers who did not make the Olympic team as the athletes watched videos of their failed qualifying races. Not only did areas deep in the brain near the hippocampus show heightened activity--consistent with emotional pain--but the swimmers also demonstrated decreased activity in the premotor cortex, the 'planning' area of the brain in charge of coordinating complex physical activity such as the crawl stroke.

After a 20 minute therapy session, the athletes again viewed the agony of their defeats. This time, however, activity in the parahippocampus or emotional center was subdued while the premotor cortex lit up in a 'let's-get-back-in-the-water sort of way.

Scientists theorize that emotional arousal following a tough loss may interfere with an athlete's future performance.

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