LIBERATION & NEUROPLASTICITY — Passover 2010 II

As a follow-up to my last posting several hours ago, I would like to address psychological  liberation from a neuroscientific perspective.

Old habits of behavior and thinking die hard.   From the perspective of neuroscience, our brains have been wired over years to think and react in habitual patterns. 

This issue also touches upon the age old debate of what is the nature of our minds [thoughts and feelings] and are they distinct from our  brains [neurotransmitters, neuronal systems, the physical matter] ?

Neuroscience is providing us evidence [through EEG, SPECT scans, fMRI] that our brain and mind, though related, are not identical.  They are continuously, mutually interacting and transforming each other–ie via neuroplasticity. 

The revelation that our brains/minds exhibit neuroplasticity  offers us a new awareness that change is possible.  Most of us may understand this on an intellectual level, yet in our day to day lives we find it extremely difficult to make changes.  Perhaps, deep down, we don't believe it is possible to change our habits of thought and action.

Slavery, addiction, repeating patterns which reinforce our negative feelings about ourselves reflect the downside of neuroplasticity.  Our brains have been wired to react according to these old and self-defeating patterns.

To some extent, the worrier inside of us, that voice which expects the worst of every possible outcome, is the human default position.

From an evolutionary perspective, those who worried may have avoided destruction better than the eternal optimists.  Therefore, their genes have survived to "infect" our brain patterns with a negative bias.

In our lives we react to each insult, negative response,every news report, every phone call at night, every possibility of failure…..as life or death.

No wonder anxiety and depression are rampant.

But the concept of neuroplasticity offers us hope—of liberation from the habitual negativity that keeps us slaves to our own minds.

Our minds can comprehend the possibility of change and work towards it by choosing to effect change.  Methods include meditation, cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, neurofeedback and, at times, drugs.

What neuroscience now reveals is that possibility of our minds to make choices which will change our brains in ways that bring our ultimate goal–healing.

We should be grateful for the good news.

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