What is neuroplasticity exercises? Perhaps it would be helpful to know what neuroplasticity is.
Neuroscientific dogma up until about ten years ago was that past a certain point in our lives, our brain did not change, we had what we had, and that was it. In fact, any change would be that it shrank, actually, as neurons died.
But that dogma has been overturned. Our brains are constantly trying out new connections. Each neuron has branches which are connecting with other neurons based on what we are learning in the moment.
Those connections can be kept, and form what is called a cognitive reserve, which can reroute signals around trouble spots in an aging brain, for example. Here is how neuroplasticity is described in a review of Sharon Begley's book, Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain, from the Mindfulness Institute.
"For decades, the conventional wisdom of neuroscience held that the hardware of the brain is fixed and immutable — that we are stuck with what we were born with. As Begley shows, however, recent pioneering experiments in neuroplasticity, a new science that investigates whether and how the brain can undergo wholesale change, reveal that the brain is capable not only of altering its structure but also of generating new neurons, even into old age. The brain can adapt, heal, renew itself after trauma, and compensate for disability."
"Begley documents how this fundamental paradigm shift is transforming both our understanding of the human mind and our approach to deep-seated emotional, cognitive, and behavioral problems. These breakthroughs show that it is possible to reset our happiness meter, regain the use of limbs disabled by stroke, train the mind to break cycles of depression and OCD, and reverse age-related changes in the brain. They also suggest that it is possible to teach and learn compassion, a key step in the Dalai Lama's quest for a more peaceful world. But as we learn from studies performed on Buddhist monks, an important component in changing the brain is to tap the power of mind and, if particular, focused attention. This is the classic Buddhist practice of mindfulness, a technique that has become popular in the West and that is immediately available to everyone."
In other words, I do not have to attend 50 or 100 lectures to reach a knowledge tipping point, and then suddenly I have new connections.
Those connections are part of the ceaseless activity already going on in my brain.
Begley's work focuses on contemplative approaches to neuroplasticity, or the use of meditation, such as that practiced by Buddhist monks.
In the west, research is, or course, revealing some technological tools for enhancing neuroplasticity exercises.
In particular, Micheal Merzenich, Ph.D. of Posit Science is demonstrating some very strong results using the auditory training in the Brain Fitness Program.
I happen to own and use this program, and have some anecdotal successes to report from its use.
I have also been a student of Chi Gong for about 9.5 years, and find that I can focus for much longer periods of time than I used to, especially when exercising.
So it appears that there are a number of neuroplasticity exercises we can participate in, either of the technological or contemplative traditions.
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