Although we cannot regenerate limbs, we can re-invent our brains (and thereby ourselves) through neuroplasticity. Early theories depicted the human brain as a “machine,” which could not physically change its makeup. Today, we know that our brains undergo daily renovations to adapt to our ever-changing world.
By the 20th century, genetics was widely accepted as the basis of human characteristics, displacing John Locke’s 17th-century notion of the tabula rasa, which suggested that the mind started as a blank slate from which our competencies, including intelligence and personality, were developed. Locke and others argued that the environment indelibly etched its signature on each individual. The resulting “nature vs. nurture” binary dispute is collapsing today under the weight of a mounting body of evidence. So, we enter the world with some brain physiology already set, but each brain is reshaped into its own unique configuration, by virtue of the experiences it is exposed to.
Brain plasticity or neuroplasticity, refers to the ability of the brain to modify its structures and neural mechanisms. Changes in brain function occur as the brain re-wires itself in response to new demands/experiences placed on it by the external environment. Our malleable brains help us survive/thrive by crafting environmentally appropriate life strategies. Brain plasticity underlies the brain’s extraordinary capacity to learn, unlearn and relearn. We have the capacity, through repetition to become anything we truly want to become. It’s all about where we place our focus….
Neuroscientist Sara Lazar’s amazing brain scans show meditation can actually change the size of key regions of our brain, improving our memory and making us more empathic, compassionate, and resilient under stress.
Watch this short film and see the possibilities.