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    I’m currently at the chapter about Dr. Merzenich in the book, the Brain that Changes Itself.  He is one of the leading scientists in the area of brain plasticity.  He has a very interesting blog, which includes information about brain plasticity that I highly recommend everyone read.  It has impact for all of us, as we work to change our thoughts and behavior patterns – in essence as we rewire our brains. 



    Magdelene Nashira

    Interesting article.

    We know that brains grow and elaborate and strengthen when they are CHALLENGED, and that they change little when solutions are easy to come by. We know that brains differentially strengthen specific heavily-exercised processes.

    I’ve heard that idea before, but any more I begin to wonder to what degree it is true.  After I went to college for computer programming and pushed myself into something that was probably way over my head, I don’t know if my brain will ever be the same.  Not long after I graduated I suffered from clinical depression and it kind of seemed like my brain power, particularly my memory, seems to have gone down, especially if I compare it to when I was younger.  Now that I’m going to college again, I find myself really struggling to memorize things.  So I’m not so sure about this theory.  I think maybe they are failing to consider the age of the brain.  I’m wondering if after a certain age we are more likely to blow our brains up by pushing them too far past the limit.  But that’s just me muzing.  I’m seriously hoping that if this is the case, that as I proceed my brain will accomodate for the damaged part of itself.  I’ve read that brains do that.


    You have to build up to it.  Just like any physical activity, if you try to do things beyond your ability, you will fail.  If you undergo training to build up to it, however, there is no reason why you can’t reach it.  I’m trying to find resources for building up the brain without paying for it.  I’ll post what I find.

    You should consider reading the book above, as people have recovered from truly traumatic damage.  With appropriate stimulation and training there’s no reason why you can’t remap your brain.

    Magdelene Nashira

    I hope you’re right, but what worries me is that perhaps just the age of the brain may get in the way.  The brain is a physicl organ just like any other organ, and I am hopeful about the remapping capacity, but if the problem is that the entire thing is old and worn out, then that would be possible that the remapping capability is old and worn out too.  But don’t worry.  It won’t stop me from trying.

    Kol Drake

    Do not give up just yet!
    Plasticity was beginning to be ‘newsworthy’ about a year ago and more is coming to light monthly.

    The interesting news about brain injury (and aging): specific interventions can encourage brain/dendritic plasticity, brain healing, and neurodendritic rearborization. Hang on, it gets easier if you read more about it.

    If you are interested, I strongly suggest you take a moment click over to review On The Brain, a blog by Dr Michael Merzenich, Francis Sooy Professor in the Keck Center for Integrative Neurosciences at the University of California at San Francisco.

    For many years brain deterioration [with a decrease in arborization and plasticity] from injury, age, neurotoxins or stress was considered somewhat inevitable. If dementia arrived, forget it, nothing could be done. The brain was gone.

    Here is how he starts his post on the Top Ten Misconceptions about… Cognitive Loss:

    For those of you out there banking on that long-promised cure-all memory pill to save your bacon, get over it. The problem, in a nutshell, is that you don’t lose your memory because any single process is defective, or because any single molecule is in short supply. Fixing your problem is not as simple as turning up that dimmer switch, to restore light where there is now only darkness.

    And just a bit more – next page

    YOU can’t remember because the machinery of your brain has gone through a long, slow, incredibly complicated epoch of change that has enduringly revised its basic parameters of operation. The emergent, older YOU is representing information in your brain is a substantially degraded way, with machinery that has slowly re-adjusted in a rich variety of ways, through plasticity processes, to sustain an acceptable level of performance and control, given that degradation. You can’t really fix this kind of multivariate problem with a chemical tweak. YOU HAVE TO LEARN YOUR WAY OUT OF IT.

    And while you are over there just look at his excellent references…


    I have a friend who was recently diagnosed with celiacs disease (nasty full body allergy to gluten).  She has found that gluten hides in more then ‘just’ breads and pastas.  It’s in ice cream and even certain brands of lip balm.   Anyway, while doing some information surfing for her I came across some recently studies (last decade and newer) that indicate gluten free diets are showing surprising results in general brain function and brain ‘healing’.  Here’s a snippet of some info…

    SPECT brain imaging of the majority of the few celiac disease patients studied reveals abnormalities that are usually most severe in the frontal areas of the brain. Improvement of these abnormalities are seen on a gluten-free diet. The frontal area of the brain is important in brain function that controls attention, impulse control, organization, and problem solving. Problems in this area of the brain result in short attention span, disorganization, procrastination, short-term memory problems, anxiety and depression.

    Not surprisingly these are common symptoms reported by Sprue patients and in non-celiac gluten sensitivity that improve with a gluten-free diet.  ADD, schizophrenia, alcohol and drug addiction problems and depression, all associated with gluten in some studies, are also associated with functional disturbances in the frontal area of the brain seen on SPECT scans.

    So, perhaps a change in diet might help improve the old ‘gray matter’?
    (( ya, I know that doing a whole ‘gluten-free’ diet can be a chore and a pain in the backside — but IF it helps …. then it’s worth the pain and trouble??? ))


    diet and exercise….
    for the body and for the brain… 
    just can’t get away from it…


    anyway… fyi.


    Exactly.  Age means nothing.  But typically people go about keeping their intelligence the wrong way.  You need to learn new things, not just engage in the same old things.  Try to learn a new language.  it will take longer than a younger person, but will do a lot for your brain health.  Learn a new physical activity.  That will also stimulate your brain and help your body. 

    But basically, throw out the idea that you can’t improve your brain.  The first story in the book (well, second) is of a man who had a stroke in his 60s and completely recovered.  After his death they did an autopsy and found severe scarring and damage in most of his brain.  Yet he recovered fully at an advanced age.  There is no, absolutely no reason why you can’t turn around your brain.  Once you get past that idea, just get creative with learning new things.  It’ll all help.

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