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Research Overview

Optimizing Cognition to Reduce Anxiety and Sustain Performance Under Stress

Performing any skill or task at an elite level is a difficult undertaking in itself. Combine these perception, cognition, and action demands with high levels of stress, such as those encountered on the battlefield, and one could easily see how anxiety might disrupt the ability to maintain peak performance. For high-stakes occupations, overcoming this common impairment could be the difference between success and failure and in some cases life or death. This line of research examines two such methods that may ease the burden, mindfulness and cognitive reappraisal. These cognitive mindsets seek to train the mind by improving attention regulation with the goal of reducing the negative affect stressful events may trigger. As a result, one could expect to see a reduction in objective and subjective measures of anxiety coupled with less of a decline in performance. To investigate this notion we are having participants play a low- and high-stress version of a first-person shooter game in an immersive, virtual reality environment. Prior to playing participants will take part in either mindfulness training, cognitive reappraisal training, or no training to serve as a control.

Optimizing Cognition