On The Brain

neuronsVery intense week, and very fun. I will be writ­ing more about this week’s 3 speak­ing events, but let me say now that our key messages

1) our brains remain flex­i­ble dur­ing our lifetimes,

2) we can refine our brains with tar­get­ed practice,

3) good brain exer­cise, or “men­tal cross-training”, requires nov­el­ty, vari­ety, and increas­ing lev­el of chal­lenge (but with­out cre­at­ing too much stress),

are being very well accept­ed from both healthy aging and work­place pro­duc­tiv­i­ty points of view. We have ONE brain: health and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty are 2 sides of the same coin.

If you want to make sure we learn more about our brains, you can help fel­low blog­ger Shel­ley Batts get a col­lege schol­ar­ship by voting here. She has a great neu­ro­science blog, is now final­ist in a com­pe­ti­tion to win a nice schol­ar­ship, and needs out help.

Have some more time? You can watch this excellent 90-sec­ond video of cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tist Dr Lisa Sak­si­da doing yoga in front of the fire while explain­ing the nature of Brain and Mind (via Mind­Hacks). Quotes:

I wish peo­ple under­stood that there is no mind/brain dual­i­ty. Specif­i­cal­ly, I wish peo­ple under­stood that there is no such thing as a pure­ly psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­or­der. Every event in your psy­cho­log­i­cal life, and there­fore every psy­cho­log­i­cal change, is reducible in the­o­ry to events and changes in your brain. We should there­fore not judge peo­ple dif­fer­ent­ly, accord­ing to whether they are con­sid­ered to have a ‘psy­cho­log­i­cal’ as opposed to a ‘neu­ro­log­i­cal’ problem.”

Of course, a lack of mind/brain split does not mean that we should aban­don all talk of psy­chol­o­gy. Psy­chol­o­gy and neu­ro­science are two ways of study­ing the same thing, and both are essen­tial for under­stand­ing the human condition.”

For more, check the posts in these always great blog car­ni­vals (select­ed col­lec­tions of blog posts by a num­ber of blog­gers around spe­cif­ic topics)

Tan­gled Bank (sci­ence in general)

Encephalon (neu­ro­science)

Cred­it: Pho­to of Neu­rons by sym­pha­nee via flickr


  1. Ian Kemmish on October 12, 2007 at 1:17

    If one want­ed to ensure that we learnt more about our brains, would­n’t it make more sense to award schol­ar­ships based on tal­ent and abil­i­ty, rather than on charis­ma and popularity?

  2. Alvaro on October 12, 2007 at 4:39

    Hel­lo Ian: I agree with you. If we had orga­nized that con­test, we would have defined mer­it-based cri­te­ria. How­ev­er, the fact is that the rules are dif­fer­ent from what you or I would have done.

    I don’t know Shel­ley per­son­al­ly, so can­not speak about her “charis­ma and pop­u­lar­i­ty”. I sim­ply know that she writes a great neu­ro­science blog. And that her blog is one of the few sci­ence-based blogs among the finalists.

    Of course, your decision.

  3. Joel on October 15, 2007 at 5:45

    I just became aquaint­ed to neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty and it seems a very impor­tant aspect we should all be aware of!… But, I won­der… how far can you actu­al­ly mold your brain? Is such a thing as per­son­al­i­ty and intel­li­gence com­plete­ly malleable

  4. Alvaro on October 15, 2007 at 9:36

    Hel­lo Joel, great ques­tion: what is the lim­it of neuroplasticity. 

    There is not much research there, so let me spec­u­late a bit. Our brain is way more mal­leable than we usu­al­ly think it is. Hav­ing said that, as we age we accu­mu­late expe­ri­ences that shape our brains and, in a sense, reduce the range of pos­si­bil­i­ty. It would be tough to think (med­ical prob­lems except­ed) of a “smart” per­son becom­ing “dumb”, or vicaev­er­sa. But both could ben­e­fit from work­ing on refin­ing their brains and minds. 

    Anoth­er way: for a native Eng­lish-speak­er, learn­ing flu­ent Chi­nese would require sig­nif­i­cant brain change. This is eas­i­er when we are kids, more dif­fi­cult as we grow older. 

    Being prac­ti­cal, I’d reit­er­ate the pre­vi­ous com­ment: our brains are more mal­leable than we think we are. I have seen research show­ing how adults with spi­der pho­bia can learn to pre­vent amyg­dala acti­va­tion-they lit­er­al­ly con­quer their fear. What is the pre­cise lim­it? good ques­tion to ponder…

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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