Preparation for anticipated situations is the heart of training. An integral part of this is forming associations. This article delves into how the brain establishes these connections and the science behind it.Read more: Brain Associations: The Intricacies of Forming Connections & Memory
The Power of Association:
Our brain possesses the remarkable capability of recalling and connecting events separated by time. This ability is often termed “association”. Recent studies at The Zuckerman Institute at Columbia University have shed light on the mechanics of how our brains forge such lasting bonds.
Trauma and Associative Disorders:
Disorders related to trauma, like panic and PTSD, often arise due to associations formed between intense events. For instance, a woman witnessing her friend getting shot might later associate the sound of a garbage truck backfiring with a gunshot, triggering a panic attack. But how are such connections established in our brains?
Pavlov’s Association Insights:
One of the most cited studies on association is the experiment involving Pavlov’s dogs. Pavlov’s concept of classical conditioning showcased how a conditioned stimulus can be linked with an unconditioned one. Over repeated pairings, dogs began to associate a ringing bell with forthcoming food, turning the bell into a conditioned stimulus. This principle has been widely applied in modern marketing strategies. Take, for instance, commercials associating happiness with a refreshing beverage.
Unraveling Brain Mechanisms:
While Pavlov’s studies have been pivotal, recent research from Columbia University delves deeper into brain functions related to associations. The hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped area in the brain, plays a pivotal role. “It’s believed that cells in the hippocampus maintain a certain activity level to make such associations,” says Dr. Ahmed, Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in Columbia. To explore this, researchers studied mice exposed to two stimuli, observing how they began to associate a neutral sound with a subsequent unpleasant scent. Advanced two-photon microscopy allowed them to record neuronal activity during these tests. Contrary to expectations, they observed sparse activity during the 15-second gap between the stimuli. This suggested neurons might save energy by encoding information in cell connections, called synapses, rather than continuously communicating.
Practical Application in Sports:
The principle of association is effectively employed in sports. For instance, if a team has performed exceptionally and won, you can anchor this euphoric feeling by associating it with a specific song or phrase. This association can then be utilized before subsequent games to evoke a similar positive response. Liverpool’s coach, Jurgen Klopp, epitomizes this, often using phrases like “Play as if it’s your best game ever.”