A neuroscientific experiment shows that pure mental practice brings about almost the same improvements as actual practice. That's good news!
I am reading this in “The brain that changes itself” by Norman Doidge. In an experiment, a scientist asks groups of people to practise a piano exercise. Some are practising on a real keyboard, and others are only practising mentally. (They have to sit in front of a keyboard for the time of the exercise, but without touching it)
After five days, the group who practises mentally has improved almost as much as the group who actually practises the exercise. Scanning their brains, the scientist, (Pascual-Leone) shows that the motor brain maps have improved in both groups: “Remarkably, mental practice alone produced the same physical changes in the motor system as actually playing the piece” The author also mentions the pianist Glen Gould who relied largely on mental practice when preparing an audition.
“From a neuroscientific point of view, imagining an act and doing it are not as different as they sound”
This is also true of emotions. Imagining and really feeling...are one and the same!
We can use our imagination to prepare ourselves to confront difficult situations...or simply situations that need preparation, like making a speech.
There is no need to force ourselves into positive thinking by the way. When we are in the mood to imagine we are on top of the world performing our speech like a speaking genius, great, let’s go for it!
But when we can’t conjure up the perfect success dream, just imagining we’re confronting the situation –and our difficulties- is also good and efficient training.
May I remind you of the next session, entitled “The art of contact”? You are invited to prepare and perform a speech. Try a one to two minutes one....