Performing Under Pressure

By Meghan Bialt-DeCelie ’19

Performers can blame involuntary communications in the brain for performing differently for a crowd from practicing alone.

According to new research led by Dr. Michiko Yoshie of the University of Sussex, performing on a stage with an audience is more stressful than practicing alone for professional performers.

The research involved the study of several cases. In one case, participants were asked to perform a task while watching a video of two people observing them. In another case, they performed a task again while observing someone else. The researchers noticed that the inferior parietal cortex (IPC) in the brain was inactivated in the first case, meaning participants performed the task with slightly more force. The IPC communicates with the posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) to form the action-observation network (AON). The pSTS perceives physical cues of the observer and carries out the physical response with the IPC. Under judging eyes, involuntary trips in performances reveals the performers’ inner anxiety.



  1. Image acquired from:
  2. Yoshie, et al., Why i tense up when you watch me: inferior parietal cortex mediates an audience’s influence on motor performance. Scientific Reports. (2016).
  3. Why your brain makes you slip up when anxious. Science Daily (2015).

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