Rewire your brain (Part 6) - Neuroplasticity
Lara Boyd challenges us by asking how do we learn? And why does some of us learn things more easily than others?
In the part 5, The Satir Change Process Model, we looked at how the model can help transform unhealthy behaviors to more positive behaviors by working through the different stages of how we cope with change.
These stages show how a change can impact us and how we can get to a point where we can thrive.
Neuroplasticity1 is the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury. ‘Neuroplasticity offers real hope to everyone from stroke victims to dyslexics’
If we look at the term plasticity on it's own it means that something can easily be shaped or moulded. In biology, it means that organisms can change in its environment or different various habitats.
Debbie Hampton defines it as the umbrella term referring to the ability of your brain to reorganize itself, both physically and functionally, throughout your life due to your environment, behavior, thinking, and emotions 2.
She further shares her understanding by stating that the adult brain isn't a static or hard-wired organ. This means that you are not "stuck" with the brain that you are born with 3.
She mentions that it helps people recover from:
- A stroke, injury and birth abnormalities
- Improve symptoms of autism
- Improve ADD and ADHD
- Helps with learning disabilities and other brain defects
- Pull you out of depression and addictions
- Reverse obsessive-compulsive patterns
Among other things, neuroplasticity means that emotions such as happiness and compassion can be cultivated in much the same way that a person can learn through repetition to play golf and basketball or master a musical instrument, and that such practice changes the activity and physical aspects of specific brain areas. ~ Andrew Weil, Spontaneous Healing
She has discovered the powers of it first-hand by performing her own home-grown, experience-dependent neuroplasticity-based exercises for years to recover from her trauma. She also incorporated extensive practices to encourage neuroplastic change:
This list is merely a paraphrased summary of Debbie Hampton's list as I am new to this concept. For a more elaborate scientific list check out her article Ten Fundamentals Of Rewiring Your Brain 2.
Be in the right frame of mind to make a change.
Your mood affects the brain release of neurochemicals. If you are in the right frame of mind then you would probably be actively engaged in what you are doing.
By actively being engaged in what you are trying to master, you need to focus intensely on what you are doing to help you experience a greater change.
The more you practice this change, moment by moment, in time, the more you strengthen the connections of your neurons.
Cell-to-cell cooperation is crucial for increased reliability. Learning- driven changes increases this cooperation.
Merzenich says that the more powerfully coordinated your nerve cells are, the more powerful and more reliable their behavioral productions.
Create a conscious flow of behavior.
The brain strengthens its connections between teams of neurons representing separate moments of successive things that reliably occur in serial time.
This allows your brain to predict what happens next and have a continuous “associative flow” instead of a series of separate, stagnating events.
Initial changes are temporary.
Your brain experiences that change and decides if it must be permanent but it only does this if the experience is fascinating or novel enough.
Mentally rehearse your change.
The brain is changed by internal mental rehearsal in the same ways and involving precisely the same processes that control changes achieved through interactions with the external world.
According to Merzenich, “You don’t have to move an inch to drive positive plastic change in your brain. Your internal representations of things recalled from memory work just fine for progressive brain plasticity-based learning.”
Memory guides and controls most learning.
As you learn a new skill, your brain takes note of and remembers the good attempts, while discarding the not-so-good tries. Then, it recalls the last good pass, makes incremental adjustments, and progressively improves.
Take time to learn.
Every movement of learning provides a moment of opportunity for the brain to stabilize – and reduce the disruptive power of – potentially interfering backgrounds or “noise.”
Each time your brain strengthens a connection to advance your mastery of a skill, it also weakens other connections of neurons that weren’t used at that precise moment.
This negative plastic brain change erases some of the irrelevant or interfering activity in the brain.
It can be healthy and unhealthy.
Brain plasticity is a two-way street; it is just as easy to generate negative changes as it is positive ones.
You have a “use it or lose it” brain. It’s almost as easy to drive changes that impair memory and physical and mental abilities as it is to improve these things.
Merzenich says that older people are absolute masters at encouraging plastic brain change in the wrong direction.
Pushing our self past our boundaries of limitation and extreme, sometimes to something that knocks off our comfort zone, it creates new neuro pathways with our brain, we become smarter, wiser, more clarity, our life becomes more fulfilling. Only because we have a totally new experience. We get a new brain with that. Neuroplasticity ~ Angie karan
My final thoughts
Here we can see how the chemicals of the brain can change. Changes can be short-term (chemical), medium term (structural) and long term (functional) 7 and the effects can be introduced in many ways to make these changes.
I specifically focused on Debbie Hampton's research and knowledge on this topic as this topic is exceptionally broad and offers a variety of techniques to rewire one's brain.
- Neuroplasticity, English Oxford Dictionaries
- Ten Fundamentals Of Rewiring Your Brain, The Best Brain Possible, Debbie Hampton, October 4, 2015
- You’re Not Stuck With The Brain You Were Born With, The Best Brain Possible, Debbie Hampton, September 14, 2014
- Can We Talk?, The Best Brain Possible, The Best Brain Possible, Debbie Hampton, September 8, 2014. Focusing on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
- You Are Not Your Thoughts, The Best Brain Possible, The Best Brain Possible, Debbie Hampton, September 8, 2014. Focusing on Meditation.
- The Meaning Of Mindfulness, The Best Brain Possible, The Best Brain Possible, Debbie Hampton, September 8, 2014. Focusing on Mindfulness.
7 After watching this, your brain will not be the same TEDxVancouver, Lara Boyd, Brain Researcher