Arousement (see common management errors)

. In the brain there is a constant shifting of arousal; some areas become busy, others go quiet. Blood, oxygen, nutrients and electrical activity pour into the brain to support its activities

. The full range of performance of the prefrontal cortex is

- too little arousal/stress (results in making a mistake or boredom)

- right level of arousal/stress (performs well)

- over arousal/stress (everything goes wrong)

"...The prefrontal cortex needs just the right level of arousal to make decisions or solve problems well..."

David Rock, 2009

  • Peak mental performance requires an apt level of stress, not minimal stress. It involves having intermediate levels of 2 important neurotransmitters, ie norepinepgrine and dopamine, which relate to alertness and interest. You can manipulate your levels of these two neurotransmitters to improve or adjust your alertness or interest.
  • Between neurons there is a small gap called a synapse. An electrical signal travels down a neuron cell body and is converted into a chemical signal at the synapse. There are receptors on both sides of the synapses that receive messages from these chemical signals. There are 2 types of signals, ie excitatory which tells the neuron to do more of something, or an inhibitory signal which tells it to do less of something. Synaptic firing is the electrical-to-chemical-to-electrical communication system. Trillions of ever-changing neurons are organised into networks through patterns of the neuronal firing. In the prefrontal cortex, the 2 neuro-chemicals (norepinepgrine or noradenrenaline and dopamine) are needed. Too much of these chemicals causes over-arousal and too little under-arousal. Noradenrenaline makes you intensely alert like when you are frightened. Remember: visualising a fearful activity can generate a similar metabolic response to actually doing it.

"...norepinepgrine is the chemistry of alertness, dopamine is the chemistry of interest..."

David Rock, 2009

. Dopamine levels rise when the orbital frontal cortex detects something new; humour is about creating unexpected connections. The more you repeat something, the less the dopamine buzz of novelty. It has been shown that expecting a positive event is perceived by the brain as a reward and generates dopamine. Rewards include food, sex, money and positive social interactions.

. It is better to use positive expectations or humour to generate arousal rather than fear.

. Over-arousal means that too much electrical activity is generated in the pre-frontal cortex. Reducing the volume and speed of information that is flowing through the mind or activating other large regions of the brain such as focusing your senses on sounds around you, in order to deactivate the prefrontal cortex, can be achieved by doing something physical like exercise.

. Too much arousal results in experiencing fear and anxiety but can be linked to excitement or lust. Sometimes dopamine is called the "drug of desire"but too much dopamine is exhausting!!!!

. There is a gender difference in the use of the two neuro-chemicals. Males generally prefer the increased arousal caused by doing things at the last minute; women prefer to get things done ahead of time.

. When the level of arousal is appropriate, one is described as being in the "flow"and has been described as one of the main drivers of human happiness.

  • Fear and urgency can generate a helpful level of focus at times but too much and/or for too long, can reduce performance
  • Increase adrenaline levels when needed by visualising mild fear; dopamine levels can be increased by changing perspective, using humour or expecting something positive. Levels of both these neurotransmitters can be reduced by activating other regions of the brain than the prefrontal cortex

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