A Brain-Based Peak
Performance Model Using
Meditation, EMDR & Cardio
Imagery & Rehearsal
J. Patrick Gannon, PhD
Peak Performance Systems
San Francisco
Background To Study
 Clinical practice working with
performance issues over 10 years
 Personal experience as college athlete,
tennis coach, public speaker, trainer
 Developing knowledge in neuroscience,
exercise physiology, meditation, state
dependent learning, dissociation
Exploratory Study of Small
Sample of Performers
 Singers
 Musicians
 Public Speakers (2)
 Job Seekers (2)
Purpose of Study
 Test 3 brain-based peak performance tools on
various performance measures
 Can we “imprint” new learning in brain?
 Can we bypass old neural circuits that hold
anxiety and “install” new circuits?
 Can we install elements of Flow state?
 Can we “BrainScript” new performance
routines that redefines peak performance
Traditional Sport/Performance
Psychology Tools
 Relaxation
 Goal Setting
 Visualization/Imagery
 Self-Talk
 Concentration/Focus
Limitations of Traditional Peak
Performance Training
 Creative arts performers (not athletes)
often overlook performance skills in lieu of
practicing their craft
 Research suggests only half benefit from
psychological skill training when used.
 Training is not “state dependent”--skills
learned in non-performance situations do
not always “cross over” into performance
 Hypothesis: Performance anxiety blocks
execution of newly learned skills
Performance Anxiety
 Anxiety includes trait anxiety
(personality) plus state anxiety
(situational) which interacts to create
intensity of performance anxiety
 PA is biggest barrier to peak performance
 PA has a “long tail” - back to childhood
trauma and past performance failures
 Must be clinically treated first using
EMDR, before peak performance scripts
can be installed
Performance Stress Triggers
Hardwired Survival States
 PA triggers/consequence of hardwired selfpreservation instincts such as “fight/flight”
 Evolutionary psychology has identified three
other survival states: freeze, fright and faint.
 Sequence: Freeze, Flight, Fight, Fright, Faint
 Is there a sixth “F”?
 Flow?
Study of British Conservatory
Students (Gruzelier, Egner &
Vernon, 2003-06)
 Random assignment, coaches’ blind ratings of
performance following one of six
interventions: three brain states (alpha/theta,
sensory-motor response and Beta1), exercise,
mental skills or Alexander Technique
 Results: only alpha/theta brain state training
using neurofeedback showed significant
performance improvement
Aerobic/Cardio Exercise
 Aerobic exercise enhances neurogenesis and
synaptic plasticity in hippocampus responsible
for learning and memory
 Exercise produces and releases
neurotransmitters affecting mood, attention,
perception, motivation and arousal
 Exercise stimulates blood flow in brain and
release of BDNF which stimulates cell growth
 Neurons that “fire together, wire together”
Impact of Exercise On Anxiety
 Exercise acts as analgesic (pain
relieving) and sedative (anti-anxiety)
 Exercise reduces physical symptoms of
 Exercise offers sense of mastery and
control over challenging situations
especially when combined with imagery
and goal setting
Three Brain-Based Tools for
Peak Performance
 Meditation/Neurofeedback
 Eye Movement Desensitization and
Reprocessing (EMDR)
 Cardio Imagery and Rehearsal (CIR)
 Promotes relaxation response, focused
attention (concentration), mental
discipline and reduces distractability
 Builds resistance to stress
 Promotes non-judgmental acceptance
of self
 Limitations of meditation and
 Clinical technique for PTSD, anxiety disorders,
past trauma and performance anxiety
 Used effectively with athletes, musicians,
singers, public speakers, business and sales
 Triggers REM brain state allowing rapid
information processing capability
 Used for clearing past trauma and installing
new behavioral scripts for peak performance
Cardio Imagery & Rehearsal
 Combines aerobic exercise concurrent with
mental imagery of performance
 Repeated mental rehearsal of performance
routines while exercising “primes” the brain to
learn new performance scripts
 Repeated rehearsal activates “imprinting” of
new scripts which aids memorization and
performance skills
 Replaces anxiety scripts with mastery scripts
 Six session training model provided
 Introduction/Assessment
 Training in MM, EMDR, CIR with focus on
past performance problems/trauma
 EMDR installation of performance scripts
 Review and re-installation using EMDR
 Review CIR with pre-performance plan
 Follow-up assessment
Reduced Performance Anxiety
Improved concentration, focus, mental clarity
High engagement with Content
Good execution of the performance plan
Low level of self-consciousness
Ease of experience applying skills
Internal/External Feedback positive
 BrainScripting: Proposing A New Theory of
Peak Performance Based on Neuroscience
 Applied Neurogenesis & Neuroplasticity
 Create new neural pathways supporting peak performance
using EMDR to install performance scripts and Cardio
Imagery and Rehearsal as a “driver” of new skill learning
and neural cell growth
 Training in interhemispheric coherence-balancing right and
left brains using three brain-based techniques
 Use meditation and neurofeedback to evoke alpha/theta
brainwave on demand
 Install Flow states using EMDR
Workshop Promo
 Performance clinic for anyone wanting
to reduce performance anxiety or install
performance scripts
 Fill out self-assessment first (hand out)
 Visit website:
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A Brain-Based Peak Performance Model Using Meditation, EMDR