The Science of Positive Brain Change

For thousands of years, philosophers, poets, mystics, and ordinary people have wondered about human experience: What is the nature of, and what causes, all those sensations, thoughts, feelings, desires, and sense of “me?”

 

The modern sciences of psychology and neurology have been slowly but surely establishing a body of knowledge about the mind and its relationship to the brain and the body. This emerging “science of mind” is in its infancy, and a certain humility is called for.

 

That said, enough information has emerged to begin connecting some of the major dots, shedding real light on some of our biggest questions. Rick Hanson has been collecting resources to help answer these questions, including:

Understanding Neuroplasticity with Rick Hanson, Ph.D.

In this video, Rick Hanson explains how we can use our minds to change our brains to change our minds for the better. This video was taken at the Greater Good Science Center in UC Berkeley as part of the Science of a Meaningful Life Series.

Brain Basics

The Power of Positive Experiences

Self-Directed Neuroplasticity

Mind Full of Good

Your Amazing Brain

Perhaps the most complex object in the universe!

Your Amazing Brain

Although your brain is just three pounds of soft, gooshy tofu-like tissue–it has about 1.1 trillion cells.

Nueron

There are 100 billion neurons in your brain, averaging about 5,000 connections each–called synapses– like having 500 trillion microprocessors wired together in a vast network.

BrainNetwork

When a neuron fires, that excites or inhibits its receiving neurons. Basically, the sum of all the signals a neuron receives determines whether it will fire–sort of like the dominant message from a crowd of people all shouting “go!” or “stop!”

brain-potential

Adding up all possible combinations of 100 billion neurons firing or not, the number of potential states of your neural network is at least 10 to the millionth power: one followed by one million zeros. (There are “just” 10 to the 80th power atoms in the entire universe.)

FAST AS LIGHTNING

Neurons typically fire 5-50 times a second, with millions and even billions of them pulsing together.

clock

In the half second it takes you to clap your hands, billions of synapses have activated in your brain.

iceberg

Most brain activity is lightning fast and forever outside of awareness. The slower stuff that we call thoughts and feelings is just the observable tip of an iceberg of lightning quick electrical, chemical – and possibly quantum – activities.

3.5 BILLION YEARS OF EVOLUTION

Human DNA is 98-99% identical to chimpanzee DNA. The crucial 1-2% difference is mainly about the brain–especially its relationship functions.

evolution

More than learning how to use tools, more than adapting to moving out of the forest into the grasslands of Africa, it was learning how to love and live with each other that drove recent human evolution.

IT’S ALWAYS HUMMING

Like a refrigerator, the brain is always “on,” with billions of neurons firing every minute in order to keep your body alive and ready for urgent needs.

circle-charts

Even though your brain is just 2-3% of your weight, it uses about 20-25% of the oxygen and glucose circulating in your blood.

THE MIND IS WHAT THE BRAIN DOES

What is the purpose of the remarkable complexity, activity, speed, and evolution of the brain? It is the mind.

The function of the nervous system is to process information. All the information in your nervous system is your mind.

thoughts (1)

Your mind–like any information–is not physical: you can’t touch it, but it is still real. The brain represents your mind.

Therefore, all mental activity–your thoughts and feelings, joys and sorrows–requires neural activity.

NEURONS THAT FIRE TOGETHER, WIRE TOGETHER

Repeated patterns of mental activity require repeated patterns of brain activity.

Repeated patterns of brain activity change neural structure and function.

YOU CAN USE YOUR MIND
TO CHANGE YOUR BRAIN
TO CHANGE YOUR MIND

To benefit yourself and other beings.