In the last few decades there has been an explosion of books and articles to popularize the idea that the adult brain can indeed change—not just functionally, but structurally. The stories are compelling, and the author cites studies on the individual techniques used. However, many of the patients are uncommonly driven, which matters because many of the techniques described require intense, time-consuming, long-term, and repetitive practices. Often it can be done by intensely repeating a new behavior.
Such stories are real, and such cases need to be studied. But these types of recoveries have always been seen on occasion, even when the brain was thought to be relatively rigid. Birbaumer works with such patients and says many of them, once they have been taught to communicate by focusing on certain thoughts to signal intent, describe normal moods, even happiness, and do not desire to end their lives. Nonetheless, these patients are still paralyzed and have to communicate slowly and inefficiently.
Later in the book, Birbaumer tries to present evidence that a brain can unlearn psychiatric disorders like phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder. But he over-promises while promoting some ethically questionable to say the least!
But to avoid actually worsening these conditions, exposure is done slowly, and the intensity is very gradually increased, with the patient always being given the maximum sense of control over the situation. Indeed, some patients are actually re-traumatized and they get worse.
All this is a reminder that plasticity is complicated and often elusive. Costandi is a NEO. LIFE contributor. Neither is a book of miracle cures or tales of superhuman persistence or endurance. The plasticity that allows this, however, comes at the expense of later plasticity, once a skill has been learned.
Bad habits are harder to undo than to establish in the first place. Ascent Insights. Remember that famous line from the s movie The Graduate? It was Mr. New discoveries in the rapidly expanding field of neuroscience show that our brains hold some of the most powerful plastics of all.
He was referring to plastic, that malleable substance so flexible it can be used in the production of everything from automobiles and accordions to zippers and zoom lenses. McGuire was onto something that was about to truly revolutionize manufacturing. Plastics was, indeed, the pathway to building many large fortunes.
Welcome to the exciting world of modern neuroscience! During the past two decades, remarkable advances have occurred in the understanding of human nature and behavior, via integrating two disciplines: psychology the study of cognitions, emotions and behavior and neuroscience the study of the anatomy and physiology of the brain. Breakthroughs in brain imaging technologies and brain wave analysis have revealed previously unseen neural connections and activity in the living human brain, challenging some long-held notions about the relationship between the human brain and behavior.
Our neurons do not function in a fixed way, rather they constantly respond to and influence a wide range of other chemical, electrical and structural elements throughout our bodies and brains. Advances in brain imaging technology during the s led to the discovery that neurons in both hemispheres fire along with any mental activity, leading to re-evaluation of whether there is really any significant difference between the two.
They are seeing differences not so much in what each hemisphere does, but how each attends to the world, and are recognizing that each way of attending changes our perception of, and responses to, the very same phenomena. Neuroscientists are also finding that our conception of DNA as a fixed blueprint for the development of the organism is incorrect. Both external environmental exposures and internal events such as thoughts, emotions and hormones influence DNA.
Genes can be expressed or not — turned on and turned back off — by a variety of factors. In fact, you could view our nervous system as quite kaleidoscopic, reflecting an ever- changing set of patterns that emerge and recede, re-emerge and then resolve into new patterns. And as recently as 10 years ago it was largely assumed that by the time we reached adulthood, our brains were fully formed and essentially fixed, and that the only further changes would be negative: loss of brain cells from injury, disease or aging.
Now, we know differently. Throughout our lives, parts of our brains can indeed grow new neurons, form new neural networks and even be reshaped and restructured. Furthermore, it is now known that we can influence the development of these new brain structures, both in ourselves and for one another.
The wise family leader leverages this knowledge for good. At the cellular level, our brains communicate through neuronal connections, in networks of neurons brain cells that look a bit like spider webs. A computer networking expert would see these neural networks acting like parallel distributive processors, which are far more intricate than linear processors, and able to process information rapidly in very complex ways.
This complexity is astonishing when you consider that the human brain contains nearly billion neurons, each with many connections to other neurons, and that activated neurons can fire signals to nearby neurons at rates of up to pulses per second! At the structural level, the human brain is comprised of essentially three brains, built one on top of another. A brief overview of these brain parts and their functions will help demonstrate how their coordination and flexibility can enhance leadership.
It takes a whole-brained approach to be a great leader for the modern family enterprise. It is in recognizing and respecting the important functions of each of these brain regions that savvy leaders can find clues to managing change and other stressful events.
This cortical engagement is necessary for great creativity and for breakthroughs in thinking while managing differing opinions or oppositional demands. Clues from brain science for family enterprise leadership. New findings in brain science and neuroplasticity provide clues on how to create and sustain better leaders, especially within family enterprises. Consider the roles and functions we commonly associate with effective leadership in such enterprises:. Researchers are now beginning to better understand how these processes work and what we can do to influence them. We all know the pace of change has accelerated dramatically over the past few decades, and shows no sign of slowing.
We also recognize that change is difficult at best, and is often actively resisted or even sabotaged. Why is change so hard? It dominates energy flow, calling the shots more than the other portions of the brain, and it operates outside of our conscious awareness. Because its job is to maintain homeostasis, it resists — and often defeats — change.
Neuroscience suggests that the best way to do this is to capture the imaginations of followers to help them vividly taste and see desired outcomes in their own minds. Emotion can develop a synapse instantly. In your brain, emotions are chemical molecules that can change a synapse immediately and permanently.
Like we learned earlier, the human brain has billions of neurons at birth. Pruning actually increases intelligence and helps a child stay focused and alert instead of attending to everything in their environment. Most pruning takes place between the ages of two and seven. For electricity to jump a synapse, the dendrite on one side has to release a neurochemical that arrives at a receptor on the other side.
Each of our brain chemicals has a unique shape that only fits certain receptors. So, your brain makes more. Think of the implications of this in your life. In this way, depression, anxiety, and many other mental health conditions reinforce themselves in your brain.
Click To Tweet. In youth, your brain creates new circuits effortlessly. As an adult, new connections and patterns can be made throughout your life, but it requires more effort. In brief, the circumstances according to Dr. Now that the brain has learned to control its neuroplastic brain-changing ability, it activates it by releasing modulatory neurotransmitters. Merzenich explains this with this example:. For instance, if you achieve a learning goal or feel successful, one of those modulatory neurotransmitters, dopamine, is released.
Thank you for sharing the example by Mr. It makes things clear to me on the need to anchor in positive feelings and to celebrate achievements. Wish I had learned all these when I was much younger. Still it is not too late. Thanks, Evelyn. Now that we know, we can put the info to good use! The next generation certainly needs to know.
I would be surprised if they were being taught about neuroplasticity. Many medical professionals still are not aware, sadly. Wow Debbie this is so powerful and love that even as we mature we can change our life, maybe even more than I think we can , so inspiring.