What’s going on in a players brain during extremely high performance on the golf course? And how do we explain stories of time slowing down, with the mind completely blank or even forgetting entire rounds? Learn from Dr Michael Lardon as he explains what you need to know about the Zone and how to get there more frequently.
I’m here with Dr. Debbie Crews; she is the founder of Opti International and she is also one of those interesting people to talk about brain research in golf with the yips, what kind of state we are trying to get in and all that good stuff. We are going to try out the Opti, the band and go to Brain and the Train and see what it’s all about. I’m looking forward to it.
Where do we start with this? We have the Muse headband which has the four sensors; correct?
Interviewee: Yes, two in the front and two behind the ears. They are good indicators of what is going on in the brain. We got our phone, we got our apps on our phone and that’s all you really need. What I like to do first is just get a resting measure of your brain and figure out where you tend to be more in life. That’s helpful information. The first thing the app is going to do is look for the headset, it is going to look to make sure that we are connected right and it’s good. That’s just the last two behind the ears; relax your jaw, you are ready to go and I’ll stop talking for this one. So we just took a 10-second baseline. You might have seen those little bars blinking on and off, those were your eye blinks. The signals might go in and out a little bit, but that’s okay because all that will be removed before the maps. I’m going to label this one –
Interviewer: So we just took a 10-second baseline; I was just chilling out here and so we are going to get a brain map of that to see the resting state of my brain without golf, without a club, without doing anything.
Interviewee: We just pull up the center icon, your file is right there and there’s your brain maps. What they are showing us is, Theta is pretty active in this one, Theta is a good state, the pleasure-displeasure, it’s a meditative state etc. I like to look at the values in terms of the left and the right side; you tend to be, usually, I think a little more right-sided.
Interviewer: What do we take away from this? It’s on the screen here; when people look at this, this is just a resting – do we learn anything from this?
Interviewee: We do. We tend to look for the pattern to see if one side is a little more active than the other, to see what the color pattern is. If all four of the maps that you see here tend to have the same pattern across them, that is pretty indicative of your own particular pattern. The real value is to compare it with other things down the road. The next we want to compare with is while you putt. Lots of times people are certainly in line, and as soon as you put a club in their hands, they tend to be in a little different place. Often, a very good state of performance.
Interviewee: I’m going to go out of here and this time we are going to put a club in your hands if you don’t mind. I’ll move this aside, and –
Interviewer: Now we have a challenge.
Interviewee: Now we have a challenge; that looks like a good hole over there to go to Cordie.
Interviewee: I’ll give you a ball to start with. What I’m going to do is, I’m just going to have you do what you normally do. Go through your routine, I’m going to press ‘Start’ and what I’m going to do is press ‘Stop’ as soon as you take the putter back. We are just going to go back and look at the one second right before you took the putter back. That is the one that’s predictive of performance.
Interviewer: Got it.
Interviewee: Okay, so in terms of looking at these, I’m looking at the patterns. You seem actually quiet around the ones that was really good, which to me is kind of telling me that you got done with all your processing. Then if we look at the balance, you are very right-sided there on the good one, but you are left on the not-so-good one. Over here, you are right on this one, you are right on – oh, this one is exactly even. It’s very synergistic, it’s excellent. Left on that side again, which is not so good; little more left on that last one, but so overall, we are seeing something that is a little bit quieter and probably a little more right-sided when you perform.
Interviewer: Yes. So, the people can see this; the numbers are closer, which means the synergy – it’s more aligned to the left and the right side. We see blue and green as well; are we taking away from that or –
Interviewee: The green is higher activity and you’ll notice in your good putts, it’s a little more blue. You see more blue than you do green.
Interviewer: Okay. That just means that there’s less thinking or what does it mean?
Interviewee: I like to think because we are looking at the last second that you got done; there’s another interesting one that I see. If you look just at Alpha activity in those two frontal areas, in the good putt, you tend to be – the left side is higher there and that’s an indication of an approach mindset rather than an avoid. It’s the opposite in the one that you did.
Interviewee: You were in more an avoid mindset than an approach.
Interviewer: So, we just did the Opti Brain portion over here; measuring the different maps of a good and bad putt, very apparent the differences there. So, now we are going to look at training. We have a measurement, how do we get better at it, right?
Interviewee: You bet. The whole goal is to train people to be better than their best.
Interviewee: Okay, because we are outside, I’m going to use the music. It can be a simple action; it’s just pushing ‘Start’ and you are going to listen to the music. The music is going to be changing; going up and down, maybe every second, because it updates that often. You only have one goal; and that is to get the music low before you take the putter back.
Interviewee: So, I’m going to start you on beginner level; and we’ll just from there.
Interviewer: Okay so the music needs to be quiet because that means that our brain is in a synchronous state. So, it’s looking at the four sensors and want them to be aligned or similar.
Interviewee: Yes, they’ll be synchronized. They don’t have to be the exact same values, they probably aren’t going to be, but the pattern will be synchronized.
Interviewer: Got it.
Interviewee: And you will have your own unique pattern, which just fine. We allow for that.
Interviewer: Okay. Let me ask you this; when is it important? Does it only matter right here, like about to putt or is it even start back here when I’m thinking about it?
Interviewee: Right there.
Interviewer: Right here.
Interviewee: Yes. All the research has suggested this as the most important point. People get ready all different and that’s fine, but what’s needed is, as you train, you are going to find that the music will fall into your own pattern as well. It’s consistent as can be when people perform.
Interviewer: Perfect, okay.
Interviewee: So, we already have you connected in, so we are ready to go. I’m going to push ‘Start’.
Interviewee: Loud and soft. That’s it. Okay, and again.
Interviewer: So is loud – it’s loud right there. It’s loud when I’m thinking about the target even sometimes?
Interviewee: You can be if you are planning your processing when it’s loud, and that’s okay. It’s not that it’s incorrect. The only thing you do your thing to get ready, but we want it soft right before you start the motion.
Interviewer: I’m thinking about it; there we go.
Interviewee: Very good.
Interviewer: So, what does that mean?
Interviewee: It means that –
Interviewer: So I was about to hit it and then it came on really loud.
Interviewee: Yes, you went back to processing. You can either wait through that until it goes back down because it’s a pattern I see really often. People might look at the hole and it goes up and then it comes down and then it might go up one more time right before they stop going, but they got to wait for it to get back down and go.
Interviewer: So should I just stand there and wait until I get
Interviewee: Yes, figure out how to get it low. Look at the hole again if you want, but you’ll figure it out.
Interviewer: Just curious, when you are talking and listening, does this mean something? Sometimes when I talk, it comes on, sometimes like now, it’s not on. What does that – is there anything about that?
Interviewee: Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve had people who, if they would just talk all the time, they would be in a better place to perform.
Interviewee: This is just measuring the amount of activity in the brain and it might be changing sometimes like you are listening to me now and you are taking in information, which is receiving, which is a good place to be. You are also processing, as we go along through this information as well. It’s just going to change accordingly, there’s no good and bad to it.
Interviewer: Okay. Let’s try it again and see what we can –
Interviewee: That one was better.
Interviewee: You went up again, which I said – I see that pattern all the time. I’m not sure what it’s saying, maybe it’s just that we are ready to go and when it comes back down, it’s good.
Interviewer: Talk to us about this; should we be backing off of the ball more often would you say, or do we stand here – let’s say in a performance environment, we are performing, we are trying to hit the best shot, should we back off? Do we just stand here like this until we feel like we are in the quieter place?
Interviewee: When you are training, stay here and you’ll figure it out. Your brain will figure it out.
Interviewee: It’s fine. If you are out on the course though, you don’t have this with you, but something comes in there, a question mark, you can’t hit a ball with a question mark in your head. Anything, it doesn’t matter anymore if you are or not, you need to start over because there is a question in your head. So, if this has a question, it’s now giving clear directions to this, which is your subconscious.
Interviewer: That’s good. Let’s see if we can do that again.
Interviewee: That was good.
Interviewer: It’s easy.
Interviewee: It’s easy.
Interviewer: It’s simple.
Interviewee: What’s fun to me is, I get to listen to what’s going on in your brain. Usually I have no clue what’s going on in somebody’s brain. At least I have some idea now.
Interviewer: Every time, before I hit the ball, it goes up as loud as it can; what does it mean?
Interviewee: Very common pattern. I don’t know. I think it must be a piece of readiness. The idea that we always have to be quiet or relaxed or in this one place, to me, I’ve not heard that. I hear people’s pattern change. We can start back there and it might be in a certain pattern and sometimes, as soon as people set their club behind the ball, it gets low and stays. Sometimes, you hit it low before the putt and it’ll go back up again as soon as you start to putt. That’s okay. I often find, if they train for a little bit, it starts to stay low longer. They find that place to go to, they get really good at giving that.
Interviewer: That’s amazing. I can feel the difference. I can almost feel when it’s loud and then when it goes quiet right before you hit it, you kind of feel something kind of shift, right?
Interviewee: That’s exactly right.
Interviewer: That’s crazy.
Interviewee: That’s synchrony. That’s synergy.
Interviewer: That is so cool. Well, I’m never going to hit a putt any more without this on.
Interviewee: Well, we can turn it off and do you want to putt some now and I’ll collect an Opti Brain?
Interviewee: Lots of times we will train and then if you want to see, we’ll turn it off and in fact, sometimes we get the best results after we move away from it and come back.
Interviewer: Okay. I’ve hit a handful of putts here using the Train and figuring out what state. Now no music, we are just going to collect the data and we are going to see what’s better or see what’s improved since the last map that we did.
Interviewer: Okay, let’s see what happens.
Interviewee: Okay; rating on that?
Interviewee: Can we hit another one?
Interviewer: Yes. I felt –
Interviewee: You were lost without your music.
Interviewer: I knew I was going to miss; let’s just say that.
Interviewee: I’ve seen what that looks like in the brain, but we are going to say, let’s go to one more.
Interviewer: That one was good. Number?
Interviewee: This was a nine.
Interviewer: All right, do you do ten?
Interviewee: I don’t know. I guess I don’t do ten.
Interviewer: We got to get you to the ten because we are going better than your best.
Interviewee: Okay, better than your best, take you to ten.
Interviewer: Let’s compare that one.
Interviewee: This is really interesting; Dr. Debbie is going through some of the brain maps here and in my resting state, I am pretty right-sided.
Interviewee: It’s pulling me, so there’s more left side of the brain which gets me in synchrony which is really interesting.
Interviewer: What I did is, I compared your good putt from before training to your good putt after training. You rated it a nine both times, and they both went in the hole.
Interviewer: So what I’m kind of seeing in the maps is, you tend to be a little more right-sided and the activity appears to have gone up a little, which to me represents a little more focus. So perhaps there was a little more focus after the training. So, the Theta was stronger right before and it came over a little left. It got balanced out a little bit. Alpha was a little bit higher right and stayed right. Beta was a little higher- actually it was even on both sides before training and it came over a little more left, and so did Beta two. That’s in indication to me saying a little more focus might be better for you and a little more balance might be –
Interviewee: So that’s the whole point; so you say better than your best is kind of the take on – because we all have different things, right?
Interviewee: For me, it’s more right-sided, and I need to get a little more focused and bring it back in the middle with a little more of the left side. So that’s for me, but for everyone else, that is completely different, which is crazy.
Interviewer: Correct. It is going to be whatever their brain needs in order to get this to work and the thing is, the program was built from performance backwards. So, we just looked at what put putts in the hole over and over again, and from that, we determined the brain states and it showed us that pattern of synergy or synchrony all the time. So that’s what we created in terms of the algorithm.
Interviewee: That’s awesome. I can feel it absolutely when I’m over the ball the difference, like 100%. Now that I actually feel and I have this awareness, even if I don’t train any more, I have something that I know that I’m looking for, that state that I know that I’m going for.
Interviewee: Eye-opening. This has been amazing. Thank you so much.
Interviewer: Thank you so much.
If you have enjoyed this video, make sure to check out the entire series at golfsciencelab.com/Opti and get our complete guide to using the Muse headbands and the Opti apps to improve your performance and your mental game on the golf course.
There’s a couple of different ways that you can use the Opti training app.
If we are going to be performing, since you are not going to be able to look at your phone, you’ll be using the music. The music, you can just turn it on, select a limited time, stick it in your pocket after you push ‘Start’ and it’s just going to keep playing and you just keep training.
If you were sitting at home or in the hotel room and you wanted to train your state of synergy or serenity, you could pick one of the videos and your brain is going to run the video. It’s either going to be at normal speed, slow motion or it’s not going to move at all if you are not in that good place.
I’ll just put on the flower one and the flower is going to start out of focus and come in focus. We’ll do ‘Start training’ and I’ll push ‘Start’ and you can see that it is quite out of focus to start with.
As he gets in his better space, and these spread out across the top of the screen, the picture comes into beautiful focus. His Opti Index is also coming up. I have it on ‘Unlimited’ so it’ll just keep playing over and over again and he can keep training.
Then we’ll go into the Synergy training and I’ll go back over to Opti Train. I’m going to select ‘Synergy’ rather than ‘Serenity’ because we are doing performance. I’m going to select ‘Music’ so that I can listen to his brain.
That’s one of the key features that I like about the app, I get an idea of what’s going on in their head and I can do this by the music. The music will be in three levels of loudness, what I would call loud, medium and soft.
The golfer has one goal, and that is to get the music soft right before they start backwards. So, we’ll do ‘Start Training’ and we’ll start with ‘Music’. The music is going to come on in three different levels: loud, medium and soft and the goal is for the golfer get the music to soft right before they take the club back. The music will change every one second if his brain is changing, and that’s fine. That’s loud, medium and soft. These bars across the top are all representing those four sensors and when they spread out all the way across the screen, he is in a state of synergy.
There’s an Opti Index here; he got up to 72%, which is very good, that’s a measure of the time. I can save this and look at it later and map it if I’d like, or I can push the black button. What that is going to do is save it, close this app, go over to Opti Brain and open it and create the map of the training session so we can see what is going on in his brain as he trained.
Those are the maps and what you’ll probably notice right off the band is some of those differences are a little more subtle. We’ve got green kind of nicely balanced across the two sides of the brain. He’s a little more left-sided here, left here, he’s a little left here and still a little bit left there, but the differences are more subtle. That was with one trial, so if he did a few more trials, we’ll probably see him balance out into right-sidedness as well.
The music always starts out loud and then it’ll start changing to medium and then soft volume and your brain, of course is running this. So when it gets to soft volume, that’s telling you that your brain is in the most highest level of synergy or serenity.
You usually see those bars spread out across the screen and that is also an indication that you are in the place that you would like to be in for performance. I’m going to stop this one and it always asks if you would like to go on to the next level. We don’t move up a level fast; we take our time and make sure that it’s training people on confidence.
Another feature of the app is that all of your training trials are stored over here, and it can tell you your progress over time. Any one of these, if you select them, for example, you can actually take it over into Opti Brain once again and map it.
How we typically use Opti Brain is by starting with a resting measure. I like to know in general, what their thinking patterns are. I never quite know what they are thinking, so obviously they can be influenced. EEG is a very sensitive signal, so what they are thinking will influence that, but what I typically want to do is turn on Opti Brain and will go to the ‘Collect’ mode. What you’ll see on it, is the signals will start coming in, each of these different colors represents one of the different electrodes.
We’ll do some adjustments here and as those all get filled in, we know where everything is connected and that we are going to get good signals.
Some of the connections might go in and out a little bit, but when we map them, all of the distractions or the eye blinks and the disconnects will be taken out of the signal, so it will be all good signals. I’m just going to do a little 10-second connection here. I have different options and we’ll record and I’ll typically have the person just looking at the screen while we are recording and stop talking.
We’ll label this one ‘Resting Condition’ and I also have, on the app, if they were doing a putt for example, we could put in a quality rating of what the putt might be and we could also put in notes of what the outcome is.
We’ll go ahead and save this one, we come back to the middle, we go in, his trial is right there and there’s his maps. We can look at Aaron’s maps here; I kind of like to look at the left and the right are averaged together in numbers here.
He tends to be a little left-sided, so you’ll notice the left is higher there, the left is higher there, left is higher there and the left is higher there.
He’s got pretty good balance in terms of the color; the colors tell us the pattern in his brain and everybody is unique and different. Those are quite different right there, and what my guess is that when he gets on Synergy, some of these are going to become more alike.
I like the values as well, because they are going to tell us exactly how high and low the activity is in those different areas.
From here what I normally do is, go out and catch a baseline with him putting and collect several putts so we can go back and compare the brain maps.
We often get asked, what’s the difference between Opti and Focusband.
From my understanding of Focusband, they are training FP-1, which is the prefrontal lobe side of the brain and they are training it to quietness, which is a very good skill to have. We did some of that research in the ’80s. We started with gun-shooters, archers and I took it to golfers. We were looking for what occurs in the brain when people perform well. You do want to definitely quiet the left side. They are also training Quiet Eye Joan Vickers’ work and that’s a very important one as well.
If you are looking at somebody who tends to be a little more left-side dominant, analytical, logical, verbal in their thinking, Focusband can be very helpful to teach them to quiet that. If you have a golfer that is pretty balanced or a little more right-sided, I’m not sure we’ll have such a big effect on their performance using only the Focusband.
The other thing we find is I’ll get a resting measure with people on Opti, and then as soon as you put a club in their hand, they are in a quiet different state. They might be a little more left-sided in life and when you go down and perform, or they go to perform, they tend to switch over a little bit already. So, it’s always interesting.
One of the unique features of the band is that we are training patterns in the brain and not states. So, we are not in the linear domain, we are in the nonlinear domain.
What we are attempting to do is help people find their pattern, and there’s leeway in terms of what those different sides are doing. Once they find their pattern, we are training them the skill of being able to create synergy during that last second before they perform. They do use different techniques to get there just like in the swing.
Right around the impact, people tend to be very similar, but to get there, they do quite different things. It’s no different in the brain.
We help them find that pattern, help them train that pattern to always bring it into synergy. The other unique feature is that we don’t train you to be like anybody else or a standard. Many feedback systems train what they would call a normal standard and let’s bring people into there and they’ll perform better. But our belief is if you are going to be better than your best is that you are going to be a little extraordinary.
If that is the case, we just want to help you find the pattern always and be able to create it on the golf course and that’s going to benefit you the most.
Opti Brain is an evaluation app and what we can do is hook it up to collect and this happens to be a display of some of the brain maps. We can map several different frequency bands on the app. We mostly like to compare between or within a person; so we might have them in a resting state and then we might have them in performance state. We have them thinking one thing versus another, and we can start to look for the differences and see which ones create the most synergy or serenity if that’s what we are after. So the compare feature has been really helpful in the Opti Brain App.
Opti Train is the other app and has something called serenity in it which is going to teach you pretty much how to quiet all four of the brain sensors. It’s really a measure of efficiency in the brain. It isn’t a measure of relaxation.
Synergy is the other side and the one that’s for performance. It’s the final second right before you initiate motion that we like your brain in a synergistic state. People get there all different kinds of ways that’s unique to them.
30 years of research kept showing us this pattern of synergy that exists right before people pull the trigger and that is actually what is pretty addictive about performance.
People are often asking us, what are the strategies that I am supposed to be using in order to get into a place of serenity or synergy? The music in the videos are designed to help them figure it out for themselves.
We do help them and just like a teacher or a coach, they’ll come in and help the student or the golfer with what they might be thinking about, and in our early research, the cues that people told us they were using when they performed their best were target and feel.
So some people will do that; they’ll go and be more focused at the target or they’ll be more into the feel of the motion that they are doing, and that will help them lower into the music and get them into a good place.
I’d say the other half of the people have no clue what they are doing and that’s okay because the brain is still being trained: Neurons that fire together are wired together.
So, as long as they keep doing the trials and they keep lowering the music, they are learning to create that pattern in their brain. A lot of people are worried that when they get on the golf course, the pattern won’t be there, but that is not the case because they are training a pattern just like you do with your physical skill.
About half of the people have no clue what they are doing, but they are still training the brain and I think the reason is that the apps are training how you think. The teacher or the instructor or the person can come in with what you think and that’s kind of the window into your focus of your attention. In my research what I have seen over the years is that how you think is equal, if not more important than what you think.
So the app can teach you how you think.
One of our recent episodes with training was a lady who is a four handicap, very good amateur, a very successful business person who came because she was having trouble with the yips, chipping yips actually.
So, I did some of the things I normally would do with people in terms of behaviors and routine. I pulled out the headset and got her on the music. The music is just playing in the background and she is performing some chips. I couldn’t believe the change in her demeanor; she got very quiet, very focused and started chipping quite well. I think she only did maybe 15-20 chips, I asked her what she was doing because her demeanor was so different.
She says, “Well, I’m just lowering the music, that’s all I am doing.” I learnt the next day that she went out and played in the afternoon and shot 66. It was a pretty good story. I think she got in a place that I’m not sure she’d ever been in before, on the golf course and it helped her perform much better.
Opti International is a performance optimization company and our goal is to help people be better than their best so a lot of times I think our intention is to be the best we can be and perform the best we can.
What we started with was actually the old electrodes from long ago when we were testing that proof of concept for the idea of synergy in the brain which came about 30 years of research then the Muse came along and the Muse is a very good portable easy system to use.
The Muse has four sensors on it, four locations and these four locations are excellent for differentiating performance in sport. So we were really excited about being able to use the Muse for Opti. It’s easy and you can just slip it on and go out on the golf course.
We wrote the apps that go with the Muse headband and our goal to write the training apps were so that we can train people by using music or videos to get into their good state of serenity or synergy. That one is called Opti Train and along the way we created Opti Brain which is an evaluation apps.
“What people really want is to exceed their best.” Dr. Debbie Crews
Opti Brain will simply go through and collect the data from the sensors and map them for you so you can see the patterns from the brain and different frequency bands and then it will also give you the numbers so you can compare it and see what’s going on. We do actually have a compare feature in Opti Brain which you can compare your best putts with the ones that weren’t so good.
You can compare your putting with your driving. You can compare different strategies that you might want to use in your brain and see how they look in terms of brain maps. And then, Opti Brain and Opti Train speak to each other so whatever you train in Opti Train you can bring over to the app in Opti Brain.