Learning to Work with Your Brain

an excerpt from Get More Power from your Brain

Most of us at work today are paid to think, but how often have you had instruction that would help you get more value out of your thinking?

According to UCLA School of Medicine professor Dr. Daniel Siegel, your mind – how you regulate the flow of energy and information – uses the brain to create itself. Your brain has nearly 86,000,000,000 neurons. To help you understand what that number means, 30,000 neurons could fit into this circle: o.

For your brain, learning something new is like sledding down a snowy hill. The first trip down the hill will carve out a path. Each subsequent trip down the hill will carve a similar path, but not exactly the same path. By the end of the afternoon, there will be one deeper path that will attract the sled every time, but the sled will never start at exactly the same spot at the top of the hill, nor will it stop at exactly the same spot at the bottom of the hill. Learning has occurred because the trip from the top to the bottom of the hill follows a path that has a rapid and predictable response that was not there at the beginning of the afternoon.(1)

How does this analogy of the snowy hill work with your brain? Suppose you are learning to play the piano. When you focus your mind on something, hundreds of thousands of neurons transmit electrical signals from your eyes, ears, skin, muscles, nerves, and bones to the surface of your brain through your thalamus to your hippocampus. As you persist in performing what you’re learning, those neurons fire faster and faster, and a pathway is formed. Neuroscientists say that when neurons fire together, they wire together.

So your new learning (the firing of your neurons) may create a new way of thinking or a new way of doing something (new wiring in your brain’s electrical system). Now your brain has physically changed.

(1)Credit for this analogy goes to Alvaro Pascual-Leone in Dr. Norman Doidge’s book, The Brain that Changes Itself.

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The information included in this chapter of Get More Power from Your Brain is in order of effectiveness to get and keep your brain as healthy and productive as possible. The most important thing to understand about your brain is that it can continue to grow new neurons and dendrites throughout your life.

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