Thursday, January 10, 2013

You can('t) teach an old brain new tricks.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

It’d be a slightly less catchy, but still very cultural relevant to say “you can’t teach an old brain new tricks.” Lots of us hope hard that things can be different for us, but our habits are so engrained that it feels impossible to make a change. And young folks aren’t exempt. As a late-twenties gal, I’ve heard this sentiment echoed by my peers. That’s just the way I am, we say.

But it’s not the way you have to be.

This is what we're learning from the field of Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB). I love IPNB because it appeals to the badass-nerdy-scholar in me through its exploration how our brains and minds (inextricable linked) are shaped and reshaped by our own thoughts and by cultural influences. 

And guess what? This “shaping” never stops. Ever. You can teach an old brain (or any brain) new tricks.We are capable of making new neural connections whether we’re 8 or 80.

Brains are awesome.

And the extent to which this is true is, well, mind blowing.

“The number of possible combinations of 100 billion neurons (the number in your brain) firing or not is approximately 10 to the millionth power, or 1 followed by a million zeros, in principle; this is the number of possible states of your brain. To put this quantity in perspective, the number of atoms in the universe is estimated to be “only” about 10 to the eightieth power.”

You don’t have to be a brain scientist to recognize that’s a lot of opportunity.

Given this, you might be wondering why we end up acting in habitual ways when so many other possibilities abound. Or how we got like we are in the first place given the intricacies of the brain. Good wonderings. I'll explore IPNB and it’s relationship to human potential, personal growth, and living more deliberately in coming posts.

And if you just can’t wait, I highly recommend reading The Buddha’s Brain:The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom by Dr’s. Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius which is also the source of the quote above.

Photo Credit: hawkexpress

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