In The Scientific American Brave New Brain: How Neuroscience, Brain-Machine Interfaces, Neuroimaging, Psychopharmacology, Epigenetics, the Internet, and … and Enhancing the Future of Mental Power, Judith Horstman writes “We’ve learned more about the brain in the past fifty years than in the preceding fifty thousand, and the cooperation of sciences over the next two decades may even surpass that record.” According to Sharpbrains, a leading market research firm, the digital brain health market will grow to $1 Billion by the end of this year, and likely to $6 Billion by 2020. Information about how to maintain a healthy brain and how it influences our lives for better or worse is exponentially different than what was thought to be even a decade ago.
In their book, Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-Being, Deepak Chopra M.D. and Rudolph E. Tanzi Ph. D. combine cutting edge research and spiritual wisdom to dispel long standing myths about the “three-pound universe” in our skulls. The five most widespread brain myths are:
Myth 1 – The injured brain cannot heal itself – Now we know that the brain has amazing powers of healing, unsuspected in the past.
Study after study has confirmed that,when neurons and synapses are lost due to injury, neighboring neurons undergo “compensatory regeneration” trying to reestablish connection replacing the damaged neural network. Through neuroplasticity,changes in neural pathways and synapses due to behavior, environment and thoughts, your brain is constantly remodeling itself. The authors describe neuroplasticity as: “if a rose were plucked from a bush, and the bush next to it handed it a new rose.” Neuroplasticity takes place every day in healthy brains too.
The authors write:
Neuroplasticity is better than mind over matter. It’s mind turning into matter as your thoughts create new neural growth. In the early days, the phenomenon was scoffed at and neuroscientists were belittled for using the term neuroplasticity. …. Neuroplasticity overcame a rough start to become a star.
Myth 2 – The brain’s hardwiring cannot be changed. – In fact, the line between hard and soft wiring is shifting all the time and our ability to rewire our brains remains intact from birth to the end of life.
Hebbs law, “neurons that fire together, wire together,” means that as brain regions interact in novel ways, fresh circuits are created. In everyday life, if a person learns a new skill, exposes themselves to a different environment or experience, or does familiar things in unfamiliar ways, their brain responds by rewiring and improving itself.
The authors conclude:
The bottom line is that we are not “hardwired.” Our brains are incredibly resilient; the marvelous process of neuroplasticity gives you the capability, in your thoughts, feelings, and actions, to develop in any direction you choose.
Myth 3 – Aging in the brain is inevitable and irreversible. – To counter this outmoded belief, new techniques for keeping the brain youthful and retaining mental acuity are arising every day.
With age, people tend to simplify life, limiting mental and physical activity and reducing new experiences as they retreat into their comfort zone. This lifestyle paves the way for decline of both the mind and brain.
The authors stress:
You can choose to follow an upward learning curve no matter how old you are. By doing so, you will create new dendrites, synapses, and neural pathways that enhance the health of your brain and even help stave off Alzheimer’s disease (as suggested by the latest research findings).
Myth 4 – The brain loses millions of cells a day, and lost brain cells cannot be replaced. – In fact, the brain contains stem cells that are capable of maturing into new brain cells throughout life.
According to the book, our brains lose around 85,000 cortical neurons per day or about one per second. While this may sound like a lot, it is only .0002 of the 40 billion neurons in your cerebral cortex. “At this rate, it would take more than 600 years to lose half of the neurons in our brain!”
According to Chopra and Tanzi:
The bottom line for now is that as we age, key areas of the brain involved with memory and learning continue to produce new nerve cells, and that this process can be stimulated by physical exercise, mentally stimulating activities (like reading this book), and social connectedness.
Myth 5 – Primitive reactions (fear, anger jealousy, aggression) overrule the higher brain. – Because our brains are imprinted with genetic material over thousands of generations, the lower brain is still with us, generating primitive and often negative drives like fear and anger. But the brain is constasntly evolving, and we have gained the ability to master the lower brain through choice and free will.
The brain is a multidimensional entity with checks and balances between desire, restraint, and compulsion. The sentiment of the authors is:
Accepting that biology is destiny defeats the whole purpose of being human… But surely to label human beings as puppets of animal instinct is wrong, in the first place because it is so unbalanced. The higher brain is just as legitimate, powerful, and evolutionary as the lower brain…. The choice is always there.
With the new information available to us dispelling these long held brain myths, anyone can take control of and transform their life by doing the same with their brain.