The Role of Change in Neuroplasticity & in Lifestyle

 

First, take a moment to watch this talk by Lara Boyd, a neuroscientist speaking about the discoveries of neuroplasticity at a TEDx event in Vancouver in 2015.

Listening to the talk by Lara Boyd opens my eyes to the magnificence of the human brain. As Boyd puts it, it’s an exciting time for neuroscientists as the age-old belief that the brain stops developing after a certain age is now a disproven fact. The liberating research on the brain reveals that in fact, the brain possesses a quality of neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s constant and lifelong capacity for change. More specifically, “neuroplasticity is supported by chemical, by structural, and by functional changes, and these are happening across the whole brain… Together they support learning and they’re taking place all the time.” In other words, changes in the brain occur all the time.

This is a transformational discovery because what the science identifies is the brain’s real capacity and the human potential for constant betterment. Remember, the brain is where everything I do as a person originates from. The brain is what allows me to experience changes in the world, it is where I process my experiences of the world, and it is what helps me to function in the world. Therefore, if I want to change my experience of the world, if I want to change my perception of the world, and if I want to change my behavior and how I operate in the world, this change must therefore first occur in the brain. But Boyd also warns, that “neuroplasticity can work both ways, it can be positive, you learn something new, you refine a motor skill, it can also be negative, you forgot something you once knew, you become addicted to drugs, maybe you have chronic pain…[the brain is] being shaped structurally and functionally by everything you do and everything you don’t do.” This places the responsibility of the direction of the changes in the brain on the individual. Sure, there are of course things in the world that is beyond our control, like nature or other people’s behaviors, but when it comes to the things within my control, like my brain and how I experience, react, perceive, and operate in the world, science tells me that I am in control.

Further, Boyd’s research is a clarification on the power each individual has over their own lives. It’s an indication on the inherent human responsibility to guide these changes in the right way because if I am currently living a life that promotes unhealthy or negative habits, then the wonderful news is that it is in my power and capacity to change these habits. The way I choose to behave and the decisions I make are all processed in the brain, it is based on my past learning, my current exposures, and my willingness to act on the knowledge I possess. If the knowledge I’ve harbored until now is what’s limiting me from making better decisions, then it is in my power to find the right kind of knowledge that will help propel me to make better decisions.

Change is inevitable. Change is constant. Change is inseparable from time and from the realities of the world, but change is also directional. Change can either be towards progress or towards regression. Change can become an advantage or disadvantage. Now, as Boyd's research and science have proven, we know that change in the brain is possible. Therefore, change in behavior and habits are possible. For everything, I do originate from the brain and the brain indeed possess the lifelong capacity for change, therefore in order for me to change my lifestyle, I must begin from the brain; or more specifically, the mind.

I will have a follow-up post on how to facilitate positive changes on the brain and mind soon. Stay tuned! For now, here's an earlier insight I had on the mind, The Real Power Of the Mind.