Part Three: The Brain Science of Neuroplasticity

I’m Life coach and counselor Peter Winslow, and this is part three of our series on the science of natural recovery from chronic pain. How is it possible? Neuroscientists describe the process through a phenomenon called “neuroplasticity.”

In cases of head injuries that cause blindness, neuroscientists have observed amazing changes in the brains of the victims. Using brain imaging scans they have isolated electro-magnetic energy emitted by the visual cortex, a portion consisting of approximately one third of the brain, and found that this region has adapted and retrained itself in these patients to supervise completely different skills.

Neuroplasticity is the process by which many blind people develop their highly acute senses of hearing, touch, taste and smell and are often able to master completely new tasks and creative endeavors that the rest of us find challenging and even impossible to do.

Until the mid-1990’s it was believed that brain cells do not regenerate beyond the formative years of development, after about two or three years of age. Scientists now know that’s incorrect. Through a process called “neurogenesis” brand new neurons are created when you enrich your environment by taking up new and interesting mental exercises like learning a foreign language, or utilizing mind-body practices like meditation.

Tackling challenging skills like these helps to ward off Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia because the process increases cognitive ability and rebuilds memory function. This means that new and challenging mind-body activities enhance neuroplasticity in the brain.

Here’s the catch: doctors say the initial changes are only temporary because you have to be emotionally engaged in the process to retain the results.

Permanent plasticity occurs when you feel passion, élan, savior faire and a zest for life because positive thoughts and a sense of wellbeing are critical for the release of the specific neurotransmitters and the other brain chemicals that enable the changes to stick.

Your new skills must be taxing, interesting and highly motivating for the results to become permanent. This is solid proof of the mind-body connection: you must consciously choose to feel passion and motivation before your brain can make the physical changes lasting and permanent.

–Peter Winslow

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