The Three Key Pillars of Brain Performance
In our busy day-to-day lives, it’s often easy to overlook just what’s going on deep within the complex network of neurons and cells that make up our brain. And while we may think we’re in control as we go about our daily routines, it’s actually our brains that are calling the shots – keeping us alive and processing incredible amounts of information from the world around us. All of this occurs in just a fraction of a second, without us even being aware of just what our brains are even doing.
One of the most important things our brain does behind the scenes is make predictions about what’s going on around us. Is that cyclist heading towards us going to hit us? Are we going to drop the coffee cup we’re holding in our hands as we reach for our keys? Can we safely cross the road or is there a car just out of sight? We often aren’t conscious of these split-second, high-level cognitive predictions that the brain is making – yet it’s what truly keeps us alive and safe.
In fact, there are three key systems associated with brain performance.
- The Visual System
- The Balance System
- The Movement System
When all three of these systems are working in harmony, our brain performance is maximized and we can achieve remarkable things.
The Visual System
When most of us think of “vision” we assume that it’s our eyes that process how we see the world around is. In reality, it’s our brain that does most of the heavy lifting, while our eyes are really the “hardware” that takes in the visual information. In fact, 100% of vision occurs entirely in the brain, with the occipital lobe (located in the back part of the brain) taking in and sorting through the complex visual information being transmitted from our eyes.
Because of this, we can actually use brain performance training – such as hand-eye exercises and eye movements – to improve the way we process visual information, allowing for faster reflexes and quicker response times to changes around us.
The Balance System
The vestibular system – also known as the inner ear – is simply what keeps us upright and balanced as we move through our environment. The vestibular system does this by using a complex network of canals, fluid and tiny hairs inside our inner ear to pass along information to our brains about motion, gravity and spatial orientation. Once our brain processes this information, it’s able to respond instantly to sudden changes.
While this might seem like a closed system, in fact through brain performance training we can actually work to improve the responses of our vestibular system. Just think how figure skaters, martial artists and gymnasts are able to spin, leap and flip at dizzying speeds that would make most of us fall over backwards. That’s because these athletes have essentially rewired their brains to be able to more effectively respond to the information provided by their vestibular systems.
The Movement System
Behind every subtle movement in your body is something known as the proprioceptive system. This – along with your inner ear – is what allows your muscles and joints to respond to sudden changes in movement, pressure and gravity. For example, if you’re walking across the street, muscle receptors in your body will send a signal through your spinal cord and into your brain that you are moving. Your brain then processes this information and causes your muscles to respond appropriately to allow you to cross from one side of the street to the other. All of this occurs in a split second – without you ever having to think about it.
As with the other parts of your body, brain performance training can actually work with your proprioceptive system to allow your muscles and joints to respond more effectively. This is where the term “muscle memory” often comes into play, as your brain processes information from your muscles in a more effective way, allowing for faster and more powerful movements, and even potentially rebuilding movement after an accident or injury.
Putting It All Together
Each and every day our brains are working hard behind the scenes, controlling how we see, balance and move. When all three systems are working at maximum efficiency we’re able to do remarkable things – often without even thinking about it. But believe it or not, we can actually strengthen and train these three unique systems, giving our brains a little bit of extra help and allowing us to heal, overcome pain and perform at levels we never thought possible.
Are you interested in improving brain performance? Contact Align for Performance in Ottawa today to learn more.