Visualization during intense bouts of exercise can help alter brain body maps – these are cortical regions of the brain that are physical mappings – perhaps a centimeter across for the face, the same amount for the hands, less for the back etc.
So what gives?
Visualizing alters the power of nerve impulses sent from that muscular region to that physical part of the brain (one part of the brain impeding the signal in another part, all on the Gettysburg battle field called the motor cortex) – this is why pain perception is so mysterious – it is not real.
To take a phrase out of Richard Feynman, “there is no such a thing” as pain, these are things mapped on the brain from nerves coming from everywhere, and your brain creates a ‘best guess’ as to where that location is in physical space. You don’t really have a ‘body in space’ – it is a genetically created map that doesn’t have to have any correlation to reality: people born without limbs can still feel them in space, and those with amputated arms still feel them wobbling about.
How is that possible?
Who we are as people – our essences – our souls, is based on this notion that you and I are real entites, beings that are physically here constituting the atoms of the universe and we walk hither and thither! Not so, says Brain Science – it is an ephemeral flash in the pan, a programmed guess that happens to be accurate 90% of the time but not all the time, and that’s why visualizing has any real influence it all, it shows you that your body, while running, while pushing yourself, while working, is something you can adapt your own perception of, and dampen or heighten sensory cues accordingly.
What a mystery!