Re-wiring the Brain

These circuits are not just activated, but with REPEATED ACTIVE LEARNING AND PRACTICE, grow larger and stronger and spawn new circuits. Acts of memory and learning stimulate the production of new neurons that are integrated into the current brain circuits. Recent research has shown that the old and the very recent new neurons have distinct functions in connecting two different types of memory. REPEATED use creates more connections between neurons, with more dendrites, axons, and synapses. When learning a new task multiple regions are activated to create the new circuit. More capable circuits are grown and solidified in any region of the brain where there is repeated focus of attention. This applies to a variety of fields: artists grow and connect visual regions of their brains, musicians their auditory regions, and athletes their motor regions.

Everyday Neuroplasticity

By FOCUSING on a single activity, we re-wire our brains. In fact, cortical maps of the brain are changed in this process. Dramatic examples of this re-wiring occur in the newly deaf or blind. The visual and auditory brain regions change to accommodate the new, more frequently used sense. The brains of amputees change their body maps to accommodate new prosthetics. New wiring can change the purpose and function of neural circuits.

When something is well learned, such as a Bach sonata, a poem, the solution to a math problem, or a three-point basketball shot, brain activity moves from a learning center to a center for automatic activity. A common example is driving a car: we can be unconscious of our driving for long periods of time while still making decisions to slow down or change lanes. When something new and unusual occurs that requires more than an unconscious loop, the conscious process often takes over, hopefully in time to avoid an accident. When new learning is applied to already advanced skills, the original learning areas light up again until the new learning, too, becomes automatic. Even in ‘overlearned’ circuits, the brain can continue to change.

ATTENTION IS WHAT CHANGES AND GROWS THESE BRAIN CIRCUITS. In other words, the conscious choice to focus—a mental decision—can physically alter the brain.” – John Lieff M.D.