Neural Connections

It is simply fascinating to me that all of our sensations, feelings, thoughts, motor responses, emotional responses, learning and memory, and any other function or dysfunction of the brain can emerge from the electrochemical interactions of neurons.  Neurons are just like other cells in the body except they have an axon, which allows for communication between neuron to neuron via an electrochemical process; therein lies the complexity of these basic building blocks.  Additionally, unlike other cells, neurons stop reproducing shortly after birth and are not replaced when they die.  Research shows that new connections between neurons form throughout life, which indicates to me that new behavioral patterns must be available to us throughout our lives, that our brains are malleable and that we are capable of breaking old patterns and adopting new ones that better serve us.

 

 

neuron (1)

 

As a yoga practitioner and teacher, I am especially excited over the idea that our brains are malleable and adaptable and that brain research has supporting evidence that we can change the workings of our brains and create new neural pathways through mindfulness and meditation practices.  Dr. Richard Davidson, world – renowned neuroscientist and leading expert on the impact of mindfulness/meditation practices has studied the brains of meditating Buddhist monks and has produced scans that show the ability of the brain’s ability to change its’ structure and function, otherwise known as neuroplasticity.  From these studies, Richardson has concluded that the brain, of all other organs, is built to change in response to experience. This is an incredible new discovery in science since not too long ago, scientists believed that the brain was stagnant and fixed, unable to change into adulthood.

 

 

As I study and learn about neurons through this Biopsychology class, I can’t help but think about my own behavior and specifically my own reactions to certain stimuli and how my behavior is directly related to the inhibitory or excitatory processes that take place and how particular information is processed within my own brain chemistry.  I am filled with curiosity around the idea of how I can break certain habitual behavioral patterns that no longer serve me, those so called “bad habits” if you will, through paying attention to when they are happening and then changing my thought patters.

Daniel Siegel, clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and founder of the emerging field of interpersonal neurobiology suggests that we can in fact change old patterns through new neural connections, even though our earliest interpersonal experiences may have created detrimental or destructive repetitive patterns.  Through Dr. Siegel’s research, he has concluded that change must happen in the mind in order for a person to change, that mental processes of attention and imagination change the firing in the brain which create new neural pathways or changes within the brain.  The popular phrase “mind over matter” holds true to its’ long time usage!  In fact, it is the mind that drives the mass, the idea of mind over matter, the evolutionary growth of the human mind!

http://www.parabola.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=243:the-neurobiology-of-qweq

It has been through my own experience with yoga, meditation, and other forms of mindfulness that I have been introduced to the concept that change can happen within the neural pathways of the brain.  After years of struggling with depression and self – destructive behavior, I decided to make the dedication to paying attention to my body, noticing and focusing on breath, noticing my thoughts and committing to changing the negative thoughts into positive ones over and over again, cultivating awareness around my actions and reactions and learning to pause and breathe in order to choose to react differently as the need arises, and through the years I have began the process of neuroplasticity within my own brain and have realized that through A LOT of everyday practice, not only is change possible, but healing is as well!  And the process all takes place within the neurons of the brain.  Simply AMAZING!!

 


 

 References

de Llosa, Patty. “The Neurobiology of We”. Parabola Magazine. Summer 2011: 4 pages. Parabola Magazine Web. 11 July 2014

Kaufman, Marc. “Meditation Gives Brain a Charge, Study Finds”. Washington Post 3 Jan. 2005: 5 pages. Washington Post Web. 11 July 2014

Ryan, Denise. “Health: Mental Exercises Like Meditation Can Literally Change Our Minds”. Vancouver Sun. 25 September 2009. 2 pages. Vancouver Sun Web. 11 July 2014

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6 thoughts on “Neural Connections

  1. djbmn123

    I agree that changing behaviors begins in the brain. I believe this to be true for people who are overweight and need to get professional help to loose this weight for health reasons. Many people believe that they will get gastric surgery to loose weight and all their problems will be over. Well this is so far from the truth. People need to fulfill many psychological test and support meetings to being the weight loss process. First we need to fix the brain before we can fix the body.

    Reply
  2. chelleb52 Post author

    I do agree that changes in the brain must occur before changes in the body. I am a huge believer behind the mind – body connection. Through yoga, I have learned that I am capable of way more than I think, that it is our minds that hold us back from doing what we think is impossible. I am much stronger and able to things at almost 36 years of age now that I never thought I would be capable of. I realize that through ongoing internal dialogue and continuous practice, I am able to keep growing mentally and in return physically.

    Reply
  3. mlopicc2014

    I agree that to change you need to change your self and practice is always the key. Neurons are incredible. Its very intersting to see how we change over a period of time. I also think that its amazing that you changed your self and with breathing and focusing on positive things that great. I do get my self so stressed out alot with school and work, but after the last 2 years I learned to be calm and just work one day at a time. I experianced 1 panic attack and I never want to do that again. I also used breathing and positive thoughts to get my self out of it.

    Reply
  4. veharris2014

    Very fascinating blog! I do agree that bringing positive energy simply takes a deep breath and a minute to relax. It is very interesting knowing we can adopt to new habits, bad or good. Taking Yoga classes help me deal with stress in my body, mind and spirit.

    Reply
  5. mningram

    I started doing yoga after the birth of my last child about two years ago. I was rehospitalized and became severely depressed after the ordeal. It was recommended that perhaps I try yoga to refocus my thoughts and energy. After a few months it became apparent how much it changed my entire attitude. Not only was I able to come out of the post partum depression that I was experiencing, I also saw the positive effects elsewhere in my life. Where I work, it can become emotionally charged and overwhelming in the blink of an eye. Before I focused on changing my reactions through yoga I would get anxious and frustrated over the emotions that I would feel at work. Now I am able to take a brief step back, practice some deep breathing and power through the shift without any distractions. Proof positive that I have been able to change my old neural patterns for new ones.

    Reply
    1. chelleb52 Post author

      So amazing and congratulations on putting the work into it to make these positive changes for yourself. It is so exciting and refreshing to know that we are capable of creating change from the inside and through determination and will. This concept alone makes life worth living and exploring:)

      Reply

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