Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Changing the Brain

In this article they would like to change the brain to be more empathetic, appreciative and compassionate. There are other ways to change the brain to feel better. “Practices like physical exercise, certain forms of psychological counseling and meditation can all change brains for the better…moreover, given advances in neuroscience, these changes can now be measured” They know doing these practices can change the brain. They say the brain is constantly changing. They would like to enhance the brain to other qualities and not skills. “Modern neuroscience research leads to the inevitable conclusion that we can actually enhance well-being by training that induces neuroplastic changes in the brain.” The changes enhance well-being and that will be well. They go on to tell you what neuroplasticity does to the brain. “Neuroplastic” “changes affect the number, function and interconnections of cells in the brain, usually due to external factors.” It rewires the brain. It is very good for people with mental illness if you can change the brain. Especially if you can change the way they have negative symptoms. They did not use the practices of modern neuroscience. “Although the positive practices reviewed in the article were not designed using the tools and theories of modern neuroscience, these practices which cultivate new connections in the brain and enhance the function of neural networks that support aspects of prosocial behavior, including empathy, altruism, kindness,” They do say prosocial behavior. I am wondering if it could be used to help people with mental illness. The article goes on to talk how brain training is the new physical exercise. “If you go back to the 1950s, the majority of middle-class citizens in Western countries did not regularly engage in physical exercise. It was because of scientific research that established the importance of physical exercise in promoting health and well-being that more people now engage in regular physical exercise. I think mental exercise will be regarded in a similar way 20 years from now.” When I was growing up you never saw joggers or anybody exercising. This might become a regular way of life for some. Most people think the brain ages and that is it. “Rather than think of the brain as a static organ, or one that just degenerates with age, it’s better understood as an organ that is constantly reshaping itself, is being continuously influenced, wittingly or not, by the forces around us.” I believe that this neuroplasticity and mental illness have a long way to achieve the good this can bring. Although it will be worth the wait if it is good news, I am closing with a youtube video that is a feel good story. It may have a little to do with this story as it is of an old man in a nursing home that does not come to life until he hears music that he likes. Does the brain react to this?

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