The Changing Brain: Part 2

 

In the last blog, we started looking at some of the ideas that were brought up in Deepak Chopra’s book Super Brain (written by Deepak Chopra M.D. and Rudy Tanzi Ph.D; ). What was immediately apparent was that many of the old ideas of nerves and the brain, that most of people from my generation grew up with, were not completely right. The nerves and the brain are not static, never to be repaired. We are starting to take a new and refreshing look at neurology and the brain. These studies are not new, but they are gaining a great deal of momentum in recent years.

Known as neuroplasticity, our brains can be rewired and reshaped. The most interesting thing about this is that we are ultimately in control of the changes producing this neuroplasticity. If we consider our brain (physical) a radio, it receives its signal from our mind (non-physical). Possibly a better way of looking at this is that our brain is like a computer and the mind is like software (electromagnetic field energy). Our brain is not a hardwired computer like the ones we are used to, but a meat computer. It is alive and evolving. This means not only can the mind’s software upgrade the programing of the computer; it can actually rewire the meat computer. Yes, we (our mind) can rewire ourselves. This has now been shown in many experiments. But before we get into the details of this let’s look at a few quotes from Super Brain:

“A SUPER BRAIN CREDO: HOW THE MIND RELATES TO THE BRAIN

1. The process always involves feedback loops.

2. These feedback loops are intelligent and adaptable.

3. The dynamics of the brain go in and out of balance but always favor overall balance, known as homeostasis.

4. We use our brains to evolve and develop, guided by our intentions.

5. Self-reflection pushes us forward into unknown territory.

6. Many diverse areas of the brain are coordinated simultaneously.

7. We have the capacity to monitor many levels of awareness, even though our focus is generally confined to one level (i.e., waking, sleeping, or dreaming).

8. All qualities of the known world, such as sight, sound, texture, and taste, are created mysteriously by the interaction of mind and brain.

9. Mind, not the brain, is the origin of consciousness.

10. Only consciousness can understand consciousness. No mechanical explanation, working from facts about the brain, suffices. “

If we set high expectations for the brain by our mind, we will reach for higher functioning. The human brain can only do what it thinks it can do. We (our mind, consciousness) can instruct it to achieve higher goals.

Our brain is always eavesdropping on our thoughts. As it listens, it learns. If we teach it about limitation, then the brain will become limited. If we do the opposite, teaching it to expand, it will. At first one might think that this can only happen in the young, but this is not true. The brain is continuing to make new pathways up until the day we die. No matter how old you are, you can still play a large role in rewiring your brain. The best way to promote neuroplasticity is by exposing yourself to new experiences. Even better is to deliberately set out to learn new skills. By engaging the emotions of passion and enthusiasm, the rewiring is all that more thorough.

“Neuroplasticity is better than mind over matter. It’s mind turning into matter as your thoughts create new neural growth and pathways.”

Deepak is especially passionate about the fact that:

“It isn’t correct to say that the brain “creates” a thought, an experience, or a perception, just as it isn’t correct to say that a radio creates Mozart. The brain’s role, like the transistors in a radio, is to provide a physical structure for delivering thought, as a radio allows you to hear music. When you see a rose, smell its luxurious scent, and stroke its velvety petals, all kinds of correlations happen in your brain. They are visible on an fMRI as they occur. But your brain isn’t seeing, smelling, or touching the rose. Those are experiences, and only you can have an experience. This fact is essential; it makes you more than your brain.”

Many of us think we are just a life support mechanism for the on-board computer of the brain. We are much more than this. We our conscious Beings who use our brain as a mechanism to perceive the world around us. We are not our brain; it is just one more tool that helps us evolve in consciousness. Our mind can reprogram the brain to live and perceive a fuller life.

We can transform our perceptions:

“Take responsibility for your own experience. Be skeptical of fixed reactions, both yours and anyone else’s. Confront old conditioning. It leads to unconscious behavior. Be aware of your emotions and where they come from. Examine your core beliefs. Hold them up to the light, and discard beliefs that make you stuck. Ask yourself what part of reality you are rejecting. Freely consult the viewpoint of the people around you. Respect what they see in the situation. Practice empathy so that you can experience the world through someone else’s eyes.”

We all have times of negative thought and emotions that get us stuck, but we can slowly change these.

“Once your experiences are not so sticky, you can transcend them to reach a higher level of experience where all of life is meaningful. By being mindful of your thoughts and feelings, you start creating new pathways that register not just anger, fear, happiness, and curiosity but all the spiritual feelings of bliss, compassion, and wonder. Reality making has no upper limit. When we assume that reality is a given, what we’re really accepting isn’t the world “out there” but our own limitations “in here.”

The book explores many situations from depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s, weight management and aging. But some of the most exciting research is into how meditation can improve one’s life.

“In 2010 an exciting joint study from the University of California at Davis and UC San Francisco revealed that meditation leads to an increase in a crucial enzyme called telomerase. At the end of every chromosome is a repetitive chemical structure called a telomere, which acts like the period at the end of a sentence—it closes off the chromosome’s DNA and helps to keep it intact. In recent years the fraying of telomeres has been connected to the breakdown of the body as it ages. Due to imperfect cell division, telomeres get shorter, and the risk emerges that stress will degrade a cell’s genetic code. Having healthy telomeres seems to be important, and therefore it’s good news that meditation can increase the enzyme that replenishes telomeres, telomerase. This research sounds highly technical, mainly of interest to cell biologists. But the UC study went a step further and showed that the psychological benefits of meditation are linked to telomerase. High telomerase levels, which also seem to be supported by exercise and a healthy diet, are part of a feedback loop that results, surprisingly enough, in a sense of personal well-being and the ability to cope with stress. This one finding helps to cement the most basic tenet of mind-body medicine: that every cell is eavesdropping on the brain.”

In our next blog we will explore deeper into this interesting world of neuroplasticity.

 

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