Confidence is an attractive and necessary quality to succeed in business, relationships, and life. But, it is a subjective and, sometimes, misunderstood characteristic. From the painfully shy to the arrogantly over-confident, what makes people think and feel what they think and feel about themselves? The authors of a new study report that they have uncovered brain activity patterns that are associated with confidence. And, what’s more, they say that people can be trained to have more confidence.
The new study, published in Nature Communications, used imaging techniques and a method of neural activation called decoded neurofeedback to analyze the brain activity patterns of 17 young-adult participants. The participants engaged in simple perceptual and behavioral exercises that allowed the team of researchers to identify low-confidence and high-confidence brain activity patterns. Next, the participants were given a small monetary reward every time the researchers detected a high-confidence state. The participants also rated their own levels of confidence after the tasks. In the end, the participants unconsciously raised their levels of confidence, in real time, even though they were unaware of the manipulation.
Self-confidence is generally a belief in one’s own abilities. It is a complex internal, emotional state—influenced by myriad factors—that describes how we feel about ourselves. A lack of self-confidence can lead to shyness, social anxiety, lack of assertiveness, communication difficulties, and mental health problems. These factors can, in turn, negatively impact activity levels, relationships, and careers.
To date, self-confidence has been primarily assessed through introspection and self-reports. However, recently, the deeply subjective nature of self-confidence has been examined as an objective quality. Through functional imaging techniques, scientists are beginning to develop neural models for the feelings of confidence, and these new findings have important implications for psychiatry and psychology, as well as understandings of behavior and decision-making.
Self-confidence does not look or feel the same for all people, and, regardless of objective measures of brain activity, it will continue to be an individualized phenomenon, for the most part. The new study does not leave readers with any self-help steps that can be used to improve self-confidence outside of a laboratory setting, but it does support the perspective that self-confidence is flexible and fluid. The finding that self-confidence can be changed by training one’s brain may bring the scientific world one step closer to understanding just how and why certain mental states exist—and, what can be done to change them.
Here is in a nutshell, the most important thing to do on a daily or a least weekly basis :
Depression is associated with widespread changes in brain structure and function. Here are a few examples:
1. A strong body of research shows that people with depression often have a smaller hippocampus. The hippocampus is well known to be important in memory as it processes memories for long term storage. The hippocampus, however, also connects to the many areas of the brain which regulate how we feel and respond to stress. For example, the hippocampus connects to the amygdala which controls our experience of fear.
We all know what sugar does to our waistlines. New studies show its impact on the brain — and it’s not good.
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Listen to the buzz about foods and dietary supplements, and you’ll believe they can do everything from sharpen focus to enhance memory, attention span, and brain function.
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Severe psychological and physical neglect produces measurable changes in children’s brains, finds a study led by Boston Children’s Hospital. But the study also suggests that positive interventions can partially reverse these changes.
Researchers led by Margaret Sheridan, PhD, and Charles Nelson, PhD, of the Labs of Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston Children’s Hospital, analyzed brain MRI scans from Romanian children in the ongoing Bucharest Early Intervention Project (BEIP), which has transferred some children reared in orphanages into quality foster care homes.
Can neuroscience provide unique insights to help struggling children growing up in lower income families?
Poor children often face a combination of deficits in language and selective attention skills, which is the ability to tune out unwanted distractions and focus on classroom activities. Credit: BerSonnE/Thinkstock
Growing up in poverty can hinder childhood achievement and affect life trajectory. Researchers in fields, such as economics and social sciences, have extensively documented these differences, but can neuroscientists develop a more complete understanding of poverty’s reach by studying the brains of infants and young children? If neuroscience research can determine the roots of the disparities by looking inside the brain, we may be able to gain a unique perspective on interventions that lessen these differences. Read More
It is well known and documented that physical activity leads to the fountain of youth. Increased strength, cardiovascular fitness and mobility are all important aspects of fighting age. But what about the aging brain?
Training the brain through physical movement is a highly effective way to strengthen brain function. Because the brain controls the body, and not the other way around, brain training is an opportunity to improve quality of life. The more functions of the brain we use at one time the greater the amount of neuroplasticity that occurs.
Neuroplasticity describes the brain’s ability to change and adapt. It is what occurs when experiences reorganize neural pathways in the brain by learning new things or memorizing new information.
While sitting down and working on mental games like Sudoku can exercise the brain’s mathematical functions, research finds an optimal relationship occurs when movement is performed with verbal dependent exercises. A choreographed fitness or dance class is a perfect example of getting the most of fitness and brain training. The ability to follow verbal instruction while moving, as well as memorizing movement patterns is one of the best ways to build the brain.
Engaging in even a moderately challenging brain skill such as recalling your first memory or doing complex math problems while walking and talking makes it clear how much easier the skill becomes when you stop and think. Stopping the body’s movement decreases sensory input to the brain, allowing it to concentrate on its other processes. While stopping to think helps in solving a problem, is it less effective in the pursuit of stimulating neuroplasticity.
Brain weight and volume decrease approximately five per cent every 10 years after the age of 40. But most of that loss affects just the supporting tissue and nerve fibre insulation. The number of brain cells remains mostly intact throughout life, with the notable exception of cells within the hippocampus, the centre of memory, learning and emotional expression.
Loss of brain cells in general is due primarily to decreased oxygen and glucose metabolism resulting from the slowing of blood flow associated with sedentary lifestyles. Much of the damage can be reversed through daily cerebral and physical activity. The teaming of body and mind activities stimulates new cell growth.
Even the types of movements you do can have a greater affect on the brain. Multi-planar tasks, meaning moving the body in more than one direction, stimulates more brain function. Movements that cross the midline of the body while verbalizing or comprehending information further train neuroplasticity because of the way the brain has to fire to achieve what is being asked. Performing a crossover step such as a grapevine or karaoke movements are good examples of multi-planar patterns that are highly effective brain exercises.
Neuroplasticity training often involves fusing the mental and physical. Progression is the key to success as with any proper exercise program. Begin with simple skills such as listening to instructions and moving with the directions. Movements that require spontaneous action are the most advanced forms of training. For example, agility training drills where you need to quickly respond to commands to move right, left or forward and back.
Adding brain games while moving will enhance the challenge. Try reciting your phone number forward and backwards while exercising. Or perform an exercise that requires an alternating right and left side moment such as alternate lunging. On the right leg pick a word that you can then translate to another language on the left leg. For example, right leg lunge is apple and the left leg is manzana in Spanish.
When choosing exercises for functional, biological, or psychological aging, consider the two sides of the brain. The left side of the brain mostly controls speech, language, math, analytical skills, memory of names and words, and motor skills of the right side of the body. The right side of the brain controls mostly creative skills, problem solving, emotions, memories, spatial zones and patterns of details and motor skills of the left side of the body.
There is a tendency when we age to decrease the complexity of our activity, which is contradictory to what we really need. To keep the brain young and to slow the aging process we need to stimulate the brain regularly. Physical regeneration occurs optimally when we keep our bodies well nourished and maintain excellent physical fitness. Rather then shying away from complex movements and skill development, keep your brain in shape by continuously taking on challenges, such as learning a new dance step.