In the final episode of Victoria Azarenka’s “Think About It” podcast, the two-time Australian Open champion discusses the brain's optimal cognitive performance with guest Dr. Rahul Jandial, a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist.
“From the inception of this show, I knew I wanted to talk to a brain surgeon, so I was really excited about this one,” Azarenka kicks off the discussion. “Our conversation is full of take-home advice about how you can boost your brain and improve cognitive performance.”
Dr. Jandial, who is also a best-selling author, took an unusual route to becoming a brain doctor.
“How I got there was very haphazard; it wasn't conventional,” Dr. Jandial reveals. “I dropped out of college at UC Berkeley, I was working as a security guard, I went back in, finished my degree, then went to medical school.”
Unlike a tennis match, where losing is not the end of the world, Dr. Jandial is in the business of saving lives; he can’t afford to lose. So how does his brain handle that kind of pressure?
“When it's me that's responsible when I meet somebody, and they're talking to me, much like yourself, and I say, ‘Okay, now I'm going to put you under anesthesia next week, and open your skull, and perform surgery, and get you through that,’” he explains. “There's ownership with it, there's risk with it. For me, that brings out my attention.
“There's two things going on in the mind: there's attention, but there can be too much attention that's stress and anxiety. You're just too dialed in, you're thinking about it too much. So, the attention has to be there, but not too much. And a lot of people think that there is some special focus, but for somebody who's an elite athlete or an elite surgeon, the skill is actually not dialing up attention, but dialing down distractions.”
Dr. Jandial goes on to explain why some people, like elite athletes, perform better than others.
“So, when you look at the brains of people who are performing well, they're less frenetic, they're less chaotic, they're actually using less energy because they're letting habits, and rituals, and well developed skill release itself,” he says. “Just like imagination and performance, it has to be released by trimming down the distraction.”