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Neuroscience: Changing your brain

The good news is that your brain can change.  The bad news is that your brain can change.  Neuroscientists refer to this phenomena as plasticity.  We may think of things that are plastic as pretty hard to change, but science feels differently.  The pieces of ourselves which are plastic can change.  The brain is one of those organs.  In fact, the brain is very adaptable.

Our brains have the incredible ability to become more dense – to build more connections in regions we utilize frequently.  This means that our thoughts can change the chemistry and connections in our brain.  Mind truly does dominate over matter.

For students and teachers this is incredibly powerful.  Imagine the possibilities of your students.  Explain to them the power of their thoughts.  Practice makes perfect by increasing brain function required for that practice.

This is also news to be taken seriously.  For students who are living in stressful circumstances their brains are being changed, too.  The practice of self-defense, that fight-or-flight instinct, will absolutely alter brain chemistry.

The brain under duress becomes sensitized to stress and danger.  This means energy is concentrated here, instead of in other regions, and that sensitivity is heightened.

Our nervous system is connected by synapses whose activity is described as firing.  When synapses fire, the outcome is movement and thought.  When brains are chronically stressed, especially in early childhood, they can fire their self-protective synapses more easily.  In this case, self-defense and mistrust are not about perception but about altered brain chemistry.  Where non-stressed brains may not see attack or a need to defend, stressed brains send messages of impending danger.

Let’s use brain plasticity to motivate our students.  Let’s teach them how powerful their thoughts can be.  And, for those students who may be living in chronically stressful situations, let’s remember that their brains are highly sensitized and consider how truly precious their need for security in the classroom is.

Hugs,

AK

Source: How Stress Disrupts Brain DevelopmentNational Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (2014) Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain. Harvard University.  Retrieved from: http://developingchild.harvard.edu/

 

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