by Viatcheslav Wlassoff, PhD - Not so long ago a breakthrough in neuroscience took place. It came in the form of neuroplasticity. The concept refers to the ability of the brain to change during our entire life. It puts aside the old theory that the brain fully forms early in our development and then remains static for the rest of life.
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Not so long ago a breakthrough in neuroscience took place. It came in the form of neuroplasticity. The concept refers to the ability of the brain to change during our entire life. It puts aside the old theory that the brain fully forms early in our development and then remains static for the rest of life.
Now we know, and have proven, that everything we do alters our brain not only on the molecular and cellular level, but also leads to the rewiring of brain and sometimes significant morphological changes inside the organ. When we learn, walk around a new place, meet somebody new or achieve new experience, our brain and its connections change.
Some brain areas become larger, some others shrink in size, some become more active, while others get inactivated. The process is known to be mediated by the production and release of a protein called NGF (nerve growth factor) which creates more connections between neurons.
An interesting aspect of this new view of brain functioning is the notion that our positive or negative attitude towards life can physically shape and change our brains. Experimental evidences for that come from the Human Connectome Project.
The Human Connectome Project aims to build a “network map” of the brain and create a detailed database of the anatomical and functional connectivity in the brain and, by doing so, advance our understanding of brain’s normal and pathological functioning.
Attitude in the brain
In a recent article published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, researchers from Oxford University analyzed the fMRI data from 461 project participants. Specifically, they mapped the links between 200 regions of the brain. Each participant also filled a questionnaire that helped to establish his or her basic behavioral traits and attitudes.
Among other things, the scientists discovered that people with behavioral traits normally viewed as negative or positive had markedly different connectional and functional brain characteristics. These differences in brain connections prove that our basic attitude is indeed reflected in our brain structure. It is tempting to speculate that mechanisms of neuroplasticity may play a role in changing our attitude throughout life and thus have positive or negative effects on our health and wellbeing.
A number of other interesting experiments has demonstrated the link between our attitude and behavior and the changes in various regions of the brain.