The Situationist

Archive for February 3rd, 2007

Imagine You Could Change Your Brain. Oops, You Just Did!

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 3, 2007



Science writer Sharon Begley has a new, mind-bending book, Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain. Begley, who is one of the world’s leading science journalists, delivers good news for people (like us) who aren’t exactly thrilled with their current brains.

begley-book.jpgSummarizing the revolutionary research in neuroscience, Begley shows how our brains can flower neurons throughout our lives. She takes readers to the Mind and Life Institute’s meeting (Neuroplasticity: The Neuronal Substrates of Learning and Transformation, at Dharamsala, India in 2004) and uses the meeting as a springboard to survey the state of neuroplasticity. Publisher’s Weekly provides this summary:

With frequent tangents into Buddhist philosophy, Begley surveys current knowledge of neuroplasticity. Most interesting is a series of experiments with Buddhist adepts who have spent over 10,000 hours meditating. What these experiments show is tantalizing: it might be possible to train the brain to be better at feeling certain emotions, such as compassion. No less interesting are the hurdles the scientists face in recruiting participants; yogis replied that if these scientists wanted to understand meditation, they should meditate.

Illustration for TIME by David Plunkert

In the book’s conclusion, Begley writes, “The discovery of neuroplasticity, in particular the power of the mind to change the brain, is still too new for scientists, let alone the rest of us, to grasp its full meaning. But even as it offers new therapies for illnesses of the mind, it promises something more fundamental: a new understanding of what it means to be human.” Very Situationist.

To read a brief article by Begley in the recent Time issue on “How the Brain Rewires Itself,” click here .

To listen to a thirty-minute interview of Begley about her new book from NPR’s Talk of the Nation, click here.

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