In recent years, the field of neuroscience has benefited from greater interest and better technology than ever before; “I’m a neuroscientist” is kind of the new “I’m a doctor.” Once a little-understood region of the human anatomy, the brain has become the ultimate research tool, providing clues to some of life’s biggest questions. Brain activity scans have been used to help scientists learn how the human mind responds to stimuli of every kind, leading to new ideas about how pleasure works, how addiction works, how people learn and make decisions–even why they believe in God.
One of the main insights from recent years: The brain is not an unchanging entity, the pattern of which is encoded once and for all by genetics. Instead, it is a highly malleable organ, reorganizing itself moment by moment. As each of our thoughts occur, our brains either create a new neural pathway (arrange multiple axons in a way that allows them to send neurotransmitter chemicals back and forth between two remote areas of the brain), or strengthen pathways that already exist (build up myelin around the axons). The pathways that don’t get used eventually die. Even more significant: Neural pathways continuously send out chemical requests for more of their kinds of thoughts to travel their way–and the stronger they get, the more requests they’re able to send.
All this to say, we can change our thought patterns, the physical ones.
We can change our brains.
Since learning meditation and other spiritual techniques, my appreciation of the mind has only grown. However, there’s another type of human power I mentioned that’s equally important.
There’s the old-fashioned kind.
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