So you thought you were the only one who changes how you play when you have an audience? Just nerves, right? Well, actually there’s more to it than that. In fact, there’s a part of your brain network that causes you to play differently when you are being watched.

As musicians, figure skaters and anyone who takes a driving test will know, the anxiety of being watched can have a disastrous effect on your performance.

Now neuroscientists at the University of Sussex’s Sackler Centre and Brighton and Sussex Medical School have identified the brain network system that causes us to stumble and stall just when we least want to.

Dr Michiko Yoshie and her colleagues Professor Hugo Critchley, Dr Neil Harrison, and Dr Yoko Nagai were able to pinpoint the brain area that causes the performance mishaps during an experiment using functional magnetic resonance neuroimaging (fMRI).

Previous research has shown that people tend to exert more force when they know they are being watched. For example, pianists unconsciously press keys harder when they play in front of an audience compared to when playing alone.

In the new study, published in Scientific Reports, participants’ brain activity was monitored while carrying out a task that required them to exert a precise amount of force when gripping an object.

During the experiment, they viewed video footage of two people whom they believed were evaluating their performance. They then repeated the task while viewing video footage of two people who appeared to be evaluating the performance of someone else.

read more at sciencedaily.com