The classical textbook tells you that you’re immutable after a certain point, that in fact, you can no longer change. After your teens, your neurocognitive code is set in place.
But today’s neuroscience studies show that the mind is elastic. Staying challenged and interested in new experiences, you can plant even more brain cells and make even more connections. Writes Sharon Begley in Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain:
William James, the father of experimental psychology in the United States, first introduced the word plasticity to the science of the brain, positing in 1890 that “organic matter, especially nervous tissue, seems endowed with a very extraordinary degree of plasticity.”
It’s therefore vital that the information you choose to digest and the pathway you decide to take enhance the brain’s flexibility rather than deteriorate it.
You may be born with a set number of preconditions, but that will never account what you can gain from trial and error. Neuroplasticity ensures that you can redesign your brain if you so wish.
Only 60 people in the world are known to have the memory condition. And while it comes with benefits — she can even remember every word from the Harry Potter books — there are negative moments in her life that she can’t forget. Yet, even when times get tough she can recall the good memories to balance it out.
If you’re looking to boost your memory and brain power, this video contains some excellent tips and reminders.
Exercise. Physical exercise helps form new brain cells and solidifies existing neurons. It also increases the hippocampus brain area which is responsible for memory and learning
Never stop learning. Learning something new builds new brain cells. In fact, parts of your brain shrink when you stop learning. Be a life-long learner!
Play music. Learning to play music stimulates your verbal memory. This is because music training improves your left temporal lobe.
Use Mnemonics. Associate new information with a shortcut of memorable images, sentences, or simple words. Also, try the Acrostic and Mind Palace techniques. The more you can combine words with images, the stronger your brain power. Keep in mind what Einstein said about creativity.
Gain new experiences. Do small things like eating with your weaker hand to stimulate more connections between areas of your brain. Such practice also strengthens nerve cells and ward off the negative impact of aging.
Try brain games. You can also work out your brain with puzzles, crosswords or Sudoku. Playing brain games improves cognition and keeps surviving neurons active.
“Does the sun ask itself, ‘Am I good? Am I worthwhile? Is there enough of me?’ No, it burns and it shines. Does the sun ask itself, ‘What does the moon think of me? How does Mars feel about me today?’ No it burns, it shines. Does the sun ask itself, ‘Am I as big as other suns in other galaxies?’ No, it burns, it shines.”
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”
“It‘s a curious fact, because Friday is a day of work and Sunday is a day for pleasure, so you would expect people to enjoy Sunday more, right? But we don’t. It’s not because we really like being in the office and can’t stand strolling in the park and having a lazy brunch. We prefer Friday to Sunday because Friday brings with it the thrill of anticipating the weekend ahead. In contrast, on Sunday the only thing to look forward to is work on Monday.”
The human head consists of a left brain and a right brain, each with distinct cognitive functions. The left hemisphere is known for processing logic and doing verbal and mathematical analysis while the right half excels in creativity and imagination, the visual stuff.
But the left brain holds responsibility for how we react since it’s the one that interprets. As we think, so are we. As neuroscience writer Eric Barker points out, “anxiety and depression are caused by thinking problems.” In other words, we tend to exaggerate and jump to conclusions when there’s none to be drawn. Exhibit A:
Right Brain:The boss seems agitated.
Left Brain:Better get the resume together. We’re getting fired.
Mindfulness acts as the parent-guardian to a brain in flux. It helps people take a step back from the false information they design in their heads. Polish-American scientist Alfred Korzybski once said that “the map is not the territory.” In other words, a map is an abstraction of land, a mere model of reality just as skeuomorphismmakes an icon for trash look like a garbage can. Similarly, the medium is the message.
There is no such thing as the left-right lateralization of brain function; there’s only one brain that works with the sum of its parts. Designers can be mathematicians and vice versa, as the brain may be partial to skills but impartial to sidedness. It’s how we think about ourselves and our surroundings that usually gets in the way.
People don’t know themselves, let alone others, as well as they think. Sorry, David Hume.
In an op-ed published in the New York Times, Duke neuroscientist Alex Rosenberg debunks a popular belief that we know our minds best.
“There is no first-person point of view.”
The way you interpret yourself may be just as faulty as the way you perceive others.
But humans aren’t the only ones with the “mind reading” faculty. Jane Goodall revealed that Apes also had their “theories of mind.” Animals are trying to guess each other’s intentions all the time.
What separates humans from other organisms is language. But heard speech is only a part of the sensory experience. We also take into account other people’s’ behavior: the way they walk, talk, and dress. We’re overconfident in our ability to guess the thoughts and actions of others, most of which is wrong. We say the same faulty things about ourselves.
“there is compelling evidence that our own self-awareness is actually just this same mind reading ability, turned around and employed on our own mind, with all the fallibility, speculation, and lack of direct evidence that bedevils mind reading as a tool for guessing at the thought and behavior of others.”
The old age rings true: Don’t judge a book by its cover.