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This month, we feature videos of a Greater Good presentation by Rick Hanson, the best-selling author and trailblazing psychologist. In this excerpt from his talk, Dr. Hanson explains how we can take advantage of the brain’s natural “plasticity”—it’s ability to change shape over time. gobyg There’s this great line by Ani Tenzin Palmo, an English woman who spent 12 years in a cave in Tibet: “We do not know what a thought is, yet we’re thinking them all the time.” It’s true.
I recently read a fascinating book, The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge. He describes case histories and research indicating that the brain is far more malleable than we once thought. We used to think each function was localized to a small area of the brain and if you lost that area of brain tissue the function was gone forever. We once thought you couldn’t teach an old dog new tricks. Now we know better.
I have no problem with this, just scared if it gets out of hand. Would pregnant women from all over wake up in a strange room one night with their baby missing? Their fetus and umbilical cord sold in the black market like kidneys. My mind is imagining all sorts of different things! From baby eating cultist (which there probably are some) to ZOMBIES! I also had a thought of the people obsessed with looking younger harvesting fetuses to FEEL younger too.
Sabine Kastner likes to show people that the difference between Darth Vader and Yoda is largely a matter of perception. "Put these glasses on," she says, offering a pair of goggles with two different-colored lenses, "then look at the screen and tell me what you see." A glance at her laptop reveals the visage of Vader, the dark-helmeted nemesis of Jedi Knights from the "Star Wars" films, on the screen. But tell her so, and Kastner then asks, "Are you sure you don't see anything else?"
Researchers from the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC), a joint project of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, have for the first time described a mechanism called "dynamic connectivity," in which neuronal circuits are rewired "on the fly" allowing stimuli to be more keenly sensed. The process is described in a paper in the January 2008 issue of Nature Neuroscience, and available online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nn2030. This new, biologically inspired algorithm for analyzing the brain at work allows scientists to explain why when we notice a scent, the brain can quickly sort through input and determine exactly what that smell is. "If you think of the brain like a computer, then the connections between neurons are like the software that the brain is running.