Racing minds – the speed of brain waves
01 February 2022
Dr Elias Mouchlianitis, senior lecturer in cognitive neuroscience from the School of Psychology at the University of East London (UEL), led on a study measuring the brain signals of two professional race car drivers.
The editorial documentary titled 'Racing Minds' which was published by Eurosport in partnership with Ford and Discovery, invited Dr Mouchlianitis to study the brain of two drivers during a race to help improve their mental performance.
The brain activities of Gus Greensmith and Adrien Fourmaux, from M-Sport Ford World Rally Team, was measured using a special helmet with integrated electrodes that could detect brain signals while driving and relay them wirelessly to a computer.
Using GPS technology, the helmet could also detect how the brain reacted to certain areas of the racetrack.
The aim of the project was to help the drivers understand the potential of their own brains when racing to enhance their performance and find a competitive advantage over their opponents.
During the study, Dr Mouchlianitis, and a team of engineers and scientists from technology developer UNIT9 identified a specific brain signal titled alpha. They found that lower levels of alpha were associated with higher speeds and better performances.
"Measuring alpha in real-time while driving allowed us to identify the mental state that drivers would need to be in to perform at their best possible level, a state known as flow," said Dr Mouchlianitis.
"By identifying the brain signals and flow of the drivers during low alpha, we can help trainers create methods and techniques to help them reach and maintain this mental state for longer," he continued.
The documentary highlighted how technology has been used to improve vehicles, however there is little research which analyses mental performance.
"The brain is extremely complicated. It consists of millions of synapses and neurons which react in multiple ways to different challenges," said Dr Mouchlianitis.
"To have the opportunity to measure the brain activity of elite level athletes was a great opportunity.
"From this study, we learned that if the driver can self-regulate their neural signals and identify what gets their brain into its optimal level of alpha, they will be able to improve their performances when driving.
"The data also showed us that this experience can help the drivers identify the effectiveness of different mental preparation techniques that they use before races and how those brain signals might be replicated in a race," he concluded.
For more information watch the 'Racing Minds' editorial documentary on Eurosport. The full documentary will be available from 29 January - March 2022.
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