Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Revolution of Neuroplasticity

In a recent discussion of depression, the usual stuff came up. This is a sensitive area, and as I've said a hundred times, I am nothing if not compassionate about depression, having suffered from it so severely for so long.

But I refuse to believe that we cannot overcome this, just as we can overcome so much in this life. I refuse to believe that we are nothing more than chemical reactions over which we have no control. For me, this is tantamount to saying we are nothing but soul-less machines.

This is not to say that this struggle will not last for a life time, but I believe wholeheartedly, and with a passion these words cannot convey, in the nobility and necessity of that struggle.

I am also not saying that wishing for something makes it so. I have been quite clear about my feelings when it comes to such magical thinking as the watered-down, pseudo philosophy of most people's use of the "secret", for example.

As I said, this is a struggle. For a simple example: you cannot grow muscles by simply thinking about them; you must consistently DO something -- lift weights or work those muscles in some way.

It is the same with our brains. This takes sometimes Herculean effort -- over a long period of time. I am proof of that.

Though I have always approached this from a more spiritual perspective -- believing that as a manifestation of the infinite divine I have infinite potential -- science is catching up. What science is learning has been there all along, in art and poetry and theology. But when science catches up in this very western, product-oriented world, we start to see that change filter down to the masses.

This guy is not the most dynamic speaker, but he introduces the idea of neuroplasticity -- the idea that we are not limited by yesterday's chemical reactions, that we can create our brains anew, that we are more than we have ever thought we were. (And, before you ask, he's not some wacko. This thinking is now permeating all of neuroscience.)


Lori-Lyn said...

This is very cool; thanks for posting.
(& I love your redesign! & "watered down pseudo psychology" is one of the best descriptions I've heard for this widespread misunderstanding spread by the Secret. )

Lisa said...

Yea, this is important stuff. I first got introduced to the idea of neuroplasticity in the context of meditation, and some of the studies on long-term meditators that have been done, that show how their brains seem to get 'rewired.' I had not thought of it in the context of depression, or other mental health conditions that are commonly medicated for life nowadays.
Love the header picture.

Linda-Sama said...

"that we are more than we have ever thought we were"

Buddha said this 2600 years ago.

and what is talked about in that article are things I talked about in my dharma talks in Africa.

there is much research on how meditation, indeed, mindfulness meditation, literally rewires our brains. this is not science fiction, but medical research.

UCLA has a mindfulness research center:

so why aren't more people meditating?

In Africa I made them do walking meditation for 30 minutes -- their experiences with that were profound.

Mamma said...


Thank you for sharing this information.

Jenn said...

This is beautiful! Thank you for allowing me to be here today and read this lovely post! ;)

I liked this part especially: you cannot grow muscles by simply thinking about them...

I am learning to share my story for the first time and what resistance,.. ick! and yet I must start singing a song or something soon cause my heart is wanting to.

for me the dance is to write, but I have become afraid to do the very thing I love to think of sharing it openly. It is hard to do it for myself and not think that it will be seen by others. So, I move from my mind into my heart completely,.. or that is my intention. I hope to have the emotional courage to share also as you are doing with depression ;)


Allysa said...

I do not disagree with what you've said here exactly. I do have an issue with how it's being said and maybe not even with that but with the philosophy it seems to support. I believe it can be incredibly important to have faith in the ability to change yourself, however some people can't there emotional state is so influenced by there chemistry that trying to change their thought is just not enough. So if they cannot get better on their own there is a sense of failure. For instance my emotions are heavily influenced by my hormonal cycle. Hormones, the chemicals in my body it is quite possible that I will need some sort of medication to help balance them out. So while I agree that the way we think is vital sometimes it will not be enough. Check out this is just one of many posts that discuss mental illness(much more articulately than I do) she also speaks frequently about medication and mind body stuff (disclaimer she is coming from a catholic christocentric viewpoint)

Christine Claire Reed said...

Allysa, I think I'm pretty darn clear here that this is NOT about "faith" curing anything. It's actually about chemicals curing chemicals. It's about the fact that emotional responses are ingrained paths within our brains and we ARE capable of making new paths. Sometimes we (temporarily) need pharmaceutical help so that we can do this work, but we are capable. There's nothing woo-woo about it.

My post about the awfulness of the secret, I think, makes my own beliefs very clear.

My own story does this also. It has NEVER been "faith" that has made me better but a hell of a lot of hard work and difficult but necessary change. This has been an incredibly long and arduous path.

belladawn said...

When I first read the name of this post I thought you were talking about plastic surgery of the nose. I was so confused. I thought, "surely blisschick isn't considering plastic surgery." LMAO! This is fantastic!


Allysa said...

I would like to apologize for any confusion or offense I have caused. I did not mean to imply that you were advocating faith healing. I wanted to bring forward concerns I have with self healing preventing people from getting the help they need. In addition I think it is important to remember that some people will need pharmaceutical help permanently.

Christine Claire Reed said...

Allysa, thanks for the clarification. I have a feeling we are the exact same page -- and it's a delicate, balancing kind of page. :)

Brain Training Advocate said...

I read Norman Doidge's book "The Brain That Changes Itself" and it's full of incredible scientific research showing just how adaptive our brains can be. We grow new brain cells daily even as adults, and any attentive thinking pattern or physical action will eventually change the way our brains are wired.