Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Nuggets From Mozart's Brain and the Fighter Pilot

* Most of us now incorporate into our daily life some form of regular physical exercise.  We do this because such efforts improve our general physical health and, in addition, make us feel better.  A similar situation exists when it comes to exercising our brain.  The more we exercise it, the better it performs and the better we feel.  In addition, the brain, in contrast to other physical organs, doesn't wear out with repeated and sustained use.  On the contrary, the brain improves the more we challenge it.  This observation has led to a fundamental principle about the brain's operation: use it or lose it.

* . . . throughout our lives the brain retains a high degree of plasticity; it changes in response to experience.  If the experiences are rich and varied, the brain will develop a greater number of nerve cell connections.  If the experiences are dull and infrequent, the connections will never form or die off.

* Networking is a fundamental operating principle of the human brain.  All knowledge within the brain is based on networking.  Thus, any one piece of information can be potentially linked with any other.  Indeed, creativity can be thought of as the formation of novel and original linkages.  

* Our perceptions take on richness and depth as a result of all the things that we learn.  The eye is not a camera that objectively takes a photo of the "world out there."  Rather, what the eye sees is determined by what the brain has learned.  This suggests a short mantra: learn more, see more.

* There is no better known or more generally useful precept in one's personal self-discipline, than that which bids us pay primary attention to what we do and express, and not to care too much for what we feel.  Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.  (this quote by William James)

* One important attitude change involves keeping ourselves physically and mentally occupied.  Internal distress often results from having too much empty time on our hands.  Physical and mental inactivity lead to boredom, anxiety, and depression.  In turn, these uncomfortable states exert powerfully negative effects on our functioning. 

* The bottom line?  Development of your manual skills will result in the establishment of new circuits in widely dispersed brain areas. . . manual and mental skills are not opposed to each other, but form a continuum.  By enhancing your finger-and-hand motor dexterity, you boost your brainpower.  So practice your chosen manual skill enough to establish and maintain the brain circuits devoted to that skill.  By practicing, even just a little each week, you will be able to maintain complex networks of nerve cell interactions.  

-- Dr. Richard Restak, M.D., from Mozart's Brain and the Fighter Pilot: Unleashing Your Brain's Potential

No comments: