Tuesday, January 19, 2010
I just finished a fascinating book called The Brain that Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doige, M.D. This book explains that the brain is plastic, which means that it changes. Formerly, the brain was thought of as fixed (this part of the brain does this, this part of the brain does that), but what they have discovered in the past few decades is how plastic, pliable, resourceful, and adaptable the brain can be. The book explains (in greater detail than this...) how the brain makes connections. It forms what they call 'brain maps.' These brain maps are different for every person because they are made from every experience we have. We all have similar brain maps (the brain map for the thumb is next to the pinky because that is how most of us grip something...followed by the other fingers)...but we all have different experiences/interests/hobbies, etc that individualize the mapping of our brains. It goes on to explain that 'neurons that fire together, wire together.' To explain this concept, they used the example of a sled. On first route down the hill, you can take whatever path you want. On the second route, you can choose a different route because the grooves made from the first route aren't very deep. But if you keep going down one route, it becomes very difficult to change courses. It is so with our brains. The reason I write about it in this blog, and recommend it for you, is that this book really made me change my mind about how I am treating my own brain. What routes am I taking time and again? We can literally change our brains both positively and negatively by what we are exposing ourselves to day after day. A positive mantra in the morning...a yoga practice....meditation...etc....will actually change the way our brains our mapped. On the flip side, negative thoughts....laziness...bad behavior will also re-map our brains. So this very esoteric-seeming non-fiction book takes on very real, personal implications for each of us. And that is only the tip of the iceberg of what I have learned and am thinking about after reading it. Pick yours up here.