Cardio Imagery & Rehearsal is a new technique developed in 2011 by Dr. Patrick Gannon that relies on particular neurophysiological effects of aerobic (or cardio) exercise to promote, enhance and install mental scripts of optimal performance behaviors. Ideally, these scripts have already been “installed” using EMDR. On their own, the performer then repeatedly rehearses these mental scripts while aerobically exercising at a heart rate around 120 beats per minute (moderate exercise). Cardio Imagery & Rehearsal is repeated seven to ten times in the days and weeks leading up to the performance.
Neuroscience research provides an explanation for how this process aids performance. When we exercise, a growth protein called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factors or BDNF is released that stimulates Neurgenesis which is neural cell growth. When we exercise AND mentally visualize the desired performance behaviors, the brain encodes that information via the creation of the new brain circuits. This can be explained as Applied Neuroplasticity, which is our brain’s ability to grow new brain functions by applying new learning. In essence, the exercise drives the new learning because the brain is flooded by the growth factors that stimulate the encoding of the new neural circuits that support the new learning of mental scripts. By repeatedly rehearsing the mental scripts while exercising, the new performance capability is integrated into the behavioral repertoire and can be called up more easily when it is time to perform.
Another feature of exercise is that it balances the activation levels of the two brain hemispheres, a finding referred to as Transient Hypo-frontality. While exercising, additional blood flow is re-directed to the motor parts of the brain, allowing the pre-frontal cortex which controls conscious thinking to step down in activation. This adjustment in activation level permits more synchronization between the linear, conscious thinking of the left hemisphere with the more creative, synergistic parallel processing of the right hemisphere. By reducing the dominance of the left hemisphere, the whole brain, acting in sync with each other enters a more balanced state. This state promotes creative thinking, memorization and problem solving.