Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Amazing Flexible Brain

"And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man."  Luke 2:52

We are created in the image of God.  We have a body, a mind, and a soul.  It is important that we pay close attention to our health in all three areas. 

Over the last few decades, neuroscientists have learned that your brain has the amazing ability to grow and change at any point in your lifetime. This breakthrough has opened the door to myriad possibilities, from increasing intelligence and memory in daily life to recovering from traumatic injuries. 

I find this really interesting because it pertains to exercising in every way.  New physical tasks help your brain grow as well as emotional breakthroughs and spiritual "ah ha's" that you act on and explore.   Every time you learn a new dance move or a new routine in your fitness class, that is stretching your brain to grow.  When you take the stairway instead of the elevator, not only do you reap the physical benefits but your brain has to tell you to pick up your feet.   Read on to find out more.

Your brain has the innate ability to physically change itself when faced with new, challenging experiences. This ability is called neuroplasticity.

Your brain's billions of neurons —its cellular building blocks—interact with each other in complex ways. Signals travel from one neuron to another down intricate neural pathways whose structures determine your thoughts, impulses, emotions, insights, and more.

As our brains age through childhood, these neural pathways change: less-used pathways are pruned away while pathways that you use regularly grow stronger. Each task relies on a different neural pathway.

Neuroplasticity is your brain's ability to create neural pathways and reshape existing ones—even as an adult. Your brain makes these small changes naturally throughout your lifetime. But when neuroplasticity's potential is thoughtfully and methodically explored, this physical reorganization can make your brain faster and more efficient at performing all manner of tasks—no matter how large or small they may be.
Neuroplasticity suggests that anyone can improve their brain, no matter what their age or background. A growing body of research adds more credence to this concept every day.


Recently, Dr. Susanne Jaeggi from the University of Michigan found that young adults improved fluid intelligence performance after training with a working memory task called dual n-back (Jaeggi, et al., 2008). Fluid intelligence is the type of dynamic problem-solving that you use when encountering new challenges—it's what most people mean by "intelligence."

A study of over 2,000 elderly adults in 2002 suggests that even older brains have plenty of room to improve and learn. (Ball, et al., 2002). After 10 hours of training over the
course of six weeks, elderly participants gained skills that transferred to real-world abilities —they experienced fewer declines in their ability to perform basic daily activities.

And finally, Lumos Labs collaborated with Stanford and San Francisco State University researchers to publish a groundbreaking study showing that healthy adults benefit from web-based cognitive training (Hardy et al., 2011). Participants in this peer-reviewed controlled trial saw 20% improvements in visual attention and 10% improvements in working memory.

You, too, could achieve amazing improvements. But not every experience can rewire your brain for the better: in order to fully harness the power of neuroplasticity, you need to challenge your brain with training that's novel, adaptive, and complete.  This goes for the training you do physically, emotionally, and spiritually.   Don't get stuck in a rut but continue to learn new and different things.

This complex formula explains why some popular games

such as Sudoku and crosswords don't increase intelligence—the more you play these games, the more you retrace overlearned pathways in your brain. You need carefully calibrated challenges to really strengthen and stretch your brain.

Novelty forces your brain to change

Novel challenges present unexpected obstacles, forcing your brain to work in new ways. When your brain encounters these new challenges, it must remodel its existing circuitry and find new pathways for information processing.

That's because the brain assigns special neural pathways for each type of task. Just as you use different muscle groups for running and swimming, so you use different neural circuitry for reading and watching a movie. Familiar tasks simply reactivate existing circuitry—which can keep your brain active, but won't change or improve it in fundamental ways.

Adaptivity keeps your brain challenged

You have a unique set of cognitive strengths and weaknesses. A task that's easy for someone else may be a challenge to you, and vice versa.

In order to improve, you need tasks appropriate for your brain's ever-changing ability levels. As your brain becomes stronger, it's able to handle tougher challenges. This response to challenges is a key part of neural growth, and you need challenges that adapt quickly enough to push you.

Imagine watching an action movie. You need to process information quickly to understand how the plot evolves. You need to pay sharp attention or you'll miss key details and dialogue. You need to store and manipulate information in your working memory throughout the movie to understand how all of it ties together.

Even the simplest tasks require a sophisticated choreography of neural activity. That's why it's important to get the kind of training that exercises a wide variety of skills—and improves abilities you need to successfully navigate your daily life.


Brain training has the potential to change lives

Neuroplasticity can have wide-ranging applications if properly and carefully explored. Researchers have used brain training to rehabilitate patients with brain trauma, chemofog, Mild Cognitive Impairment, and more. But healthy people have also used brain training to sharpen their daily lives and ward off cognitive decline. You, too, can harness the power of neuroplasticity to remember more, think faster, and achieve your full potential in every aspect of life.  This means body, mind, and soul.  The benefits are endless.    source
"Be transformed by the renewing of your mind."  Romans 12:2

Remember The Call on the 15th of each month at 6pm Pacific time.  Join my husband and I when we interview Dr. Daniel Amen on October 15, 2013.  All you need is a phone.  At 6pm California time dial:  530-881-1300 and when prompted enter: 642848#
 Dr. Amen is a world re-known brain specialist so we will ask him all about the latest in brain health.     Click here to read more about him.  Contact me for more information:


  1. Absolutely right on, Donna and I have experienced the amazing brain possibilities first-hand. They said I would not, could not walk again in 2001 after Multiple Sclerosis caused numerous plaques/bleeds in my brain. I am stubborn but only to the extent I believe we can do anything with His help. So I prayed and woke up with a get out of the hospital, taking muscle strength training techniques and going from a walker used to hold me up and strengthen my arms again and now walking with just a cane.

    Along with other things like puzzles and playing scrabble I got back small muscle use in my hands. And it seems from tests that my nerve path grew a new route from the central brain to the connection that was blocked by a plaque...and the reason was I was forcing my brain to get a way to connect the points. And I recall talking with God how I would be patient but do whatever He led me to. And that was when I woke with the plan I spoke of.

    God has designed us and our brain to re-invent pathways and so again thanks for the reminder, Donna. Nothing is impossible with Faith and following God's perfect plan which includes fixing techniques if we ask him how.

    Last point. How do we fix a cut? God made us with an automatic patch (scab) that falls off when fixed. God gave us an amazing brain and we use basic needs but can do much more for us and HE and others. JOY Jesus first, Others next.Yourself last!


  2. Thank you Donna for this article about the brain. It was very informative.
    I am impressed by the progress you made in your recovery, Michael.

  3. Thanks Liz...1 tiny shuffle can get to be 1 tiny step. And we can mostly all manage just 1 more step and another. And when we have to lean on HIM, He is right beside us, always in sprit or through another persons good spirit. You encourage me Liz with your kind words and good spirit!

    God is Blessing all, always

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