Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Molding their little minds: New Science of Neurology

The most recent Discover magazine features a book review of Train Your Mind Change Your Brain (Link to Amazon), by Sharon Begley. Link to Science Friday , which also interviewed Begley on their show for a nice excerpt of the book. Evidently, neuroscientists are coming to the exhilirating conclusion that adult brains are more plastic than had long been thought. This means that adult brains have a better chance to recover from damage, with proper care. (The image is from an ad on Mind and Life Institute, http://tinyurl.com/2rzhbt, for a dvd of a talk by His Holiness at Denver in Sept., 2006).

It also means that you can change your mind, literally. The excerpt linked above discusses the link between activities, imagination, meditation, and brain structure and development, not just in childhood, but also in adults. Begley also tells about the Dalai Lama's remarkable work with western scientists, through the Mind and Life Institute link. "Buddhism defines a person as a constantly changing dynamic stream," according to Matthieu Ricard, a French-born Buddhist monk quoted by Begley. He goes on to explain that mental training, such as meditation, can reshape our patterns of thought and emotion, bringing us to enlightenment, and actually affecting the brain. The Dalai Lama, himself, has said many times that, while Buddhist traditions use very different terms, they agree with newer neuroscience findings that the human brain is very adaptable, and can be rewired. New findings show that the brain can rewire existing neurons to replace the work of damaged portions of the brain, and can even grow new neurons in adulthood. From changing such brain-based disabilities as dyslexia and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, to changing habits of thinking such as defeatism, xenophobia and bitterness, the Mind and Life Institute envisions that we can learn to retrain our brains. Exciting stuff.

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