Is it possible to self-direct brain neuroplasticity?
As I have explored the concept of brain fitness, two words keep popping up over and over, neuroplasticity and neurogenesis.
Neurogenesis describes the birth of new neurons in the human brain. The discovery of neurogenesis not too many years ago overthrew a lot of previous dogma and theory about the human brain and the human experience.
And I think it gives some of us Boomers a bit more confidence as we age into our 60’s and 70’s about our ability to maintain our mental effectiveness.
I guess I should speak for myself, and I am relieved to know that I have new neurons appearing in the memory centers daily. Now to get them locked in.
The other term, neuroplasticity. refers to the brain rewiring itself based on usage.
Somehow I had gotten the idea that neuroplasticity happened when a critical mass of knowledge was reached, and then the brain changed somehow, then knowledge needed to be poured in until another critical mass was reached, and I had another new addition added somewhere in my neural architecture again, like a wing to a library.
Imagine my surprise to learn that brain neuroplasticity does not have as much to do with stored knowledge as it does with neurons reaching out to each other to connect when new information is processed or a new topic is learned about, which is a CONSTANT process, ongoing, ceaseless, sort of what I would imagine the Dance of Shiva to look like.
New connections can be formed, according to Simon Evans, Ph.D. co-author of Brainfit for Life, in minutes and hours, not after some critical mass is reached once per year, or something.
I am delighted to know that my brain is letting its dendrites and axons do the walking, to paraphrase that old Bell Telephone commercial, all the time.
Self Directed Brain Neuroplasticity
Now there are folks out there talking about self-directed neuroplasticity which is apparently the administration of sound, light, taste, smell, and tactile stimulus to the brain so that its change or building of connections is not so random, hence self directed.
Other folks are describing Self Directed Neuroplasticity as a process of attention, rather than sensation.
Seems to me focusing on attention has been around for a long time, whether you call it meditation or nlp or cognitive behavioral therapy or TM or Zen Buddhism.
Why for example, would a mystic spend a lifetime contemplating an icon, or a guru spend a lifetime practicing meditation in isolation?
To develop better attention, which represents a neuroplastic adjustment in the brain.
I know I have used sound and light technology and biofeedback and TM to accomplish something similar, the establishment of habits which are strong and deep, which must strengthen the connection between the neurons.
I think it is important to do the mindfulness in brief bursts. My mind is supposed to pay attention to movement in the environment. That is called the human orienting response, so maybe I do mindfulness exercises to engineer brain neuoplasticity using computerized brain fitness programs, and the meditative aspects of mindfulness can happen when I am exercising and breathing deep. That can happen while pushing the lawnmower in the yard, if I focus on something, like a mantra.
So is self-directed brain neuroplasticity possible? Sure is. Folks have been doing it forever.
Ask your neighborhood Shaman.
Source by Michael Logan