Emotional life of the brain: Thinking, and thinking alone

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But the brain can also change in response to messages generated internally—in other words, to our thoughts and intentions.
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These changes include altering the function of brain regions, expanding or contracting the amount of neural territory devoted to particular tasks,
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strengthening or weakening connections between different brain regions, increasing or decreasing the level of activity in specific brain circuits, and modulating the neurochemical messenger service that continuously courses through the brain.
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My favorite example of how “mere” thought can change the brain in fundamental ways is an experiment I’ll call the virtual piano study. .
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Scientists led by Alvaro Pascual-Leone, of Harvard University, had half a group of volunteers learn a simple five-finger keyboard piece, practicing over and over for a week with their right hand.
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They then used neuroimaging to determine how much of the motor cortex was responsible for moving those fingers, finding that the intense practice had expanded the relevant region.
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That was not too surprising, since other experiments had found that learning specific movements causes such an expansion.
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But the scientists had the other half of their group of volunteers only imagine playing the notes; they did not actually touch the ivories.
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Then the researchers measured whether the motor cortex had noticed.
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It had.
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The region that controls the fingers of the right hand had expanded in the virtual pianists just as it had in the volunteers who had actually played the piano.
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Thinking, and thinking alone, had increased the amount of space the motor cortex devoted to a specific function.
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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Christopher on April 30, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    Fantastically hope filled!

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