Stage fright: don’t get over it, get used to it, advises Emory neuroscientist Anwesha Banerjee in her recent talk at TEDx Decatur. Many can feel empathy with the situation Banerjee describes. It was her first public presentation eight years ago, facing “a room full of scientists, who for whatever reason, did not look very happy that day.”
“What if I fail in front of the crowd? What if everybody thinks I’m an idiot?”
That feeling of scrutiny might have an evolutionary relationship to the fear of being eaten by a predator, she speculates.
Through participating in Toastmasters International, she has made public speaking more of a habit. She contrasts the two parts of the brain: the amygdala, tuner of emotional responses, with the basal ganglia, director of habits.
“I still get stage fright,” she says. “In fact, I have it right now, thinking how all you predators might try to eat me up! But my brain pays less attention to it.”
Banerjee is a postdoctoral scientist in cell biologist Gary Bassell’s lab, studying myotonic dystrophy. In 2017, she was funded by the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation to create a mouse model of the neurological/sleep symptoms of myotonic dystrophy.