Saturday, April 9, 2011

Interesting news from the brain science front

The term neuroplasticity seems to be everywhere these days.  Or at least everywhere I’ve been.  So what is it?  And what’s so new about it?  Neuroplasticity is the notion that the brain is always forming, all throughout life.  The neural networks in the brain change and adapt in response to new information it's receiving.  Whereas previously, people thought that the brain stopped forming after childhood, new studies have shown that this is not the case at all and, in fact, people are always learning new things.  Every time we learn something new, the brain changes in such a way that new pathways are created.  The brain basically rewires itself in this new way when we are doing something productive (aerobic exercise, learning a new language, doing those brain teasers that we used to do as kids).  And just as the brain rewires and grows as we learn new things, it shuts down when we are feeling stuck; when we’re depressed, or sad or worried those neural pathways not ony stop forming, but they actually break down.  In the language of Rapid Resolution Therapy, we could say that brain growth happens automatically when the camera lens is pointed out, when we are curious and interested in what's out there.  In contrast, when the camera  lens is pointed in, when those painful emotions are causing us to be introspective, the brain shuts down and even deteriorates.

Now, what’s so new about this?  I don’t know.  I’ve always told my clients who said that their problems were due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, or to something having to do with the neurotransmitters in the brain, that every experience we go through changes the make-up of the brain.  I never had any scientific proof to back this up, but it just made sense to me.  It made sense that if someone is traumatized from having served in Vietnam, then their brain structure was different than others who didn't share that experience.  It also, then, made sense that if someone were at the wedding of a good friend,  or witnessed a child being born, that that too would change the structure of their brain.  Now, listening to Norman Doidge, Daniel Siegal, Bill O’Hanlan and others talk about this, it’s all coming  together in a clear, scientific format that’s both informative and easy to understand.  The implications for applying the results of  neuroplasticity research in practice are tremendous and exciting.  To learn ways to actually grow the brain way into adulthood and beyond is very interesting indeed.

For more information on neuroplasticity, I encourage you to visit or any of the links above.