The seven Tenets of the Plastic Brain
- Change can occur only when the brain is in the mood. Chemical on and off switches that allow learning to occur are turned on by your attention to novelty, and turned off by repeating already learned non-challenging behaviors or an intentional refusal to accept new experiences to be recorded. The brain is in constant flux, always either rearranging or reinforcing its pathways and patterns. Your point of attention is the key to what disectable physical formation the brain will soon be in.
- Change strengthens connection between neurons engaged at the same time. Learning is accomplished by testing combinations of connections then comparing observed outcome vs what the brain wants or doesn’t want. Changing hardwire connections selectively as the behavior approximates the desired outcome, previously formulated by the brain.
- Neurons that fire together wire together. Your sensory input is rich and complex. The brain strengthens its connections between that things that reliably occur in serial time and from that makes predictions of possible outcomes. By saving these connections it has the capacity to make continuous adjustable predictions about what goes with what, and what will happen next. The point of attention, where learning occurs is not compartmentalized; past memories, present sensory stimulation, and imagination all constantly blend as your brain weaves its own explanation of reality, and from that developes memories, skills and dreams.
- Initial changes are temporary. If the brain judges the experience to be interesting, exciting, or somehow novel and relates to either a desirable or undesireable outcome it will releases a chemical that makes these connections permanent. The brain is constantly making decisions on which thought or experience needs to be recorded. Permanent wiring change occurrs in an over and over incremental layering system. The boundries of conscienceness will either expand or contract directly according to what the point of attention is focused on.
- Brain Plasticity is a two way street – The point of attention drives physical brain change just as easily positively as negatively. Many identified mental disorders can be explained with the plastic brain. Chronic pain syndromes occur when the electrical signal from a pain sensory cell is overstimulated for a long time, like riding a bike, the brain gets really good at using these connections. So that, any associated stimulation (a smell, someone you don’t like) will fire the whole wire and further attract the point of attention into a viscious cycle. Unwanted bad habits continue to pester us because through years of repeated behavior the brain has hard wired itself into that set of connections. Then by repreated timeline association of this behavior (set of connections) with other experiences, it becomes entrenched into our entire understanding of ourself. Obsessive compulsive disorders are treated by teaching the person that those obsessive fears are not real, they are just old wires repeating an incorrect message. As they learn to ignore that incorrect wire, the brain begins to unravel it, and all the while is connecting and reinforcing more rewarding behaviors. A word of caution, a maliable brain is also a vulnerable brain. Sensory bombardment is changing our brains as much as any other experience. Our brain is always changing towards the point of attention. That is why television is such a problem. Marketers know this information, and by holding your point of attention they are modifying the physical structure of your brain to include thier teachings.
- Memory is crucial for learning. The brain is continually setting up models about where it thinks it is headed. Constantly evaluating everything going on in the now, with similar past memories and imagined outcomes. Playing golf involves millions of nerve signals from the muscles of the body and commands to these muscles. To learn such a complex behavior the brain formulates a mental image of how it wants the effort to turn out. It actually stores desired outcome in memory. Then it fires the muscles, and at the same time, released “remember this” chemicals. Then like a picture it locks in this pattern, then weighs the observed outcome against the desired outcome, makes corrections by physically disconnecting and reconnecting synapses and trys again. Try by try it lays down the neuronal patterns until the behavior becomes literally hard wired into the brain and second nature to you.
- Motivation is a key factor in brain plasticity. The brain is far more plyable than we ever imagined. This knowledge is part of an amazing awakening to who we are and why we are here. Life is meant to be lived with enthusiasm passion and joy. Be careful of ruts, take up new challenges, constantly push the boundries back. The plastic brain will unwire old habits and begin laying down new hardwire circuits to increase your skills at new tasks. When something becomes second nature, it is time to find a new interest. Along with these new skills you regain your sparkle, your zeal for life. You become a part of the solution.
As a wise man once said, life is a jouney, not a destination, enjoy the ride!
Some tips to optimize the plasticity of your brain.
Cardiovascular exercise is needed to supply the oxygen to the brain to help it grow. Manual therapies like chiropractic and Skill training like Yoga are important because they cause the brain to grow in the area of body coordination.
Always challenge yourself, expand your capabilities, if a task is rountine find a way to do it better, or a better way to do it!
The ultimate goal is to get our brain span to outlive out lifespan. Exercise your brain and joy, vitality and enthusiasm for life returns.