Plastic Brains: Life as an LP

My lady friend Olivia is an Occupational Therapist by day and a Marriage and Family Therapist by night. Frankly, she has more waking hours available during the week to take a third job, but I digress.

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For some time she has been asking me to read a book by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, The Whole-Brain Child. In full disclosure, Tina is my lady friend’s Executive Director at The Center for Connection and the wife of this dorky red-haired guy that I have played pickup basketball with for many years.

That being said, I finally picked up the book a few months ago. My lady friend wanted me to read it so that we could improve our parenting skill set, which may need some tweaking.

I have barely made it past chapter 1 – I find myself still digesting these lines from page 7:

In recent years, scientists have developed brain-scanning technology that allows researchers to study the brain in ways that were never before possible. This new technology has confirmed much of what we previously believed about the brain. However, one of the surprises that has shaken the very foundation of neuroscience is the discovery that the brain is actually “plastic,” or moldable. This means that the brain physically changes throughout the course of our lives, not just in childhood, as we had previously assumed.

The brain is plastic. The brain is moldable. The brain physically changes over the course of our lifetimes. Simply Amazing.

It’s called “plasticity,” but what exactly causes the brain to change over time? What causes it to reshape itself? The answer: experience.

Our brains are physically mature by the age of 25, but they are in a constant state of flux and change. It is a shape-shifting organ. Every experience that we have over a lifetime either creates new neural pathways or reinforces old neural pathways.

Imagine a neural pathway as a groove or impression in a record – the classic vinyl kind. For many of us, there are grooves in our record that were created for us. We did not choose the experiences we had as young children that shaped our LP. These experiences happened to us and impressed upon our brain certain pathways.

As we mature, some of us choose to replay that record over and over again. The record becomes warped and the music distorted. We are mechanized, like the needle on a record player that has no choice but to follow the groove.

But, we are not machines. We are artists.

We can create new grooves. New impressions. We can choose to have new experiences that create new neural pathways that reshape our brains. That is, if we want to.