How the Outwork Book Club Works
Posts for the Outwork Book Club will be continuous; I will post updates as I work through each book. It is a living document, because it doesn’t immediately die as soon as it becomes published like everything else. It is something that is continuously updated and changed over time to reflect the newest information, thoughts, and ideas.
THE BRAIN THAT CHANGES ITSELF
By Norman Doidge | Link to book
February 1, 2017
My first book for 2017 is one that reflects the unlimited potential for cognitive growth. I always knew that a person can become smarter in a sense if they worked at it hard enough. But Norman Doidge insists that there is more to it; that the human brain can change itself to meet the demands of the body.
“One of these scientists even showed that thinking, learning, and acting can turn our genes on or off, thus shaping our brain anatomy and our behavior- surely one of the most extraordinary discoveries of the twentieth century.”
Learning adjusts genes which creates changes in behavior.
March 01, 2017
What is Neuroplasticity?
The entire premise of this book is based around the idea of neuroplasticity. It is an idea of a malleable brain that constantly changes throughout our lives and one that we can actively change by using our thoughts.
Interesting, because this idea contradicts the theory of the brain as a machine. A machine is unchanging. A machine isn’t malleable and it has very specific programming. The brain is not a machine.
The brain is much more complex than any machine that has ever existed and that will ever exist.
The brain can change with just thoughts. It can change with practice and training and therapy. It can be molded to meet the demands of the animal.
If you think about it, some people seem to possess superhuman powers but really, they have just forged a brain that is consistent with what they want and desire in life.
These “superhumans” do not give in to whims. They do not fold in the face of adversity. Their brains have been molded to induce discipline. They do not sit around watching television all day, gossiping about the silliness of today’s popular culture. They have brains structured in a way that seeks out progress.
The brain operates on a lose it or use its principle. Either use it for what you want to accomplish or it will become tainted by the ideas of the average (everything you see and hear).
Take control of your thoughts and use it to forge a brain that is built for action.
The Law of Attraction: Thoughts become Things.
THE PLASTIC PARADOX
The rule of plasticity can be positive or negative.
From Doidge, we learn, “some of our most stubborn habits and disorders are products of our plasticity. Once a particular plastic change occurs in the brain and becomes well established, it can prevent other changes from occurring.”
Competitive plasticity also explains why our bad habits are so difficult to break or “unlearn.” Most of us think of the brain as a container and learning as putting something in it. When we try to break a bad habit, we think the solution is to put something new into the container. But when we learn a bad habit, it takes over a brain map, and each time we repeat it, it claims more control of that map and prevents the use of that space for “good” habits. That is why “unlearning” is often a lot harder than learning.
April 01, 2017
The Powerful Brain
We are born with a brain that is adaptable, changeable, purposeful, and opportunistic. More so than we can and have ever imagined.
The brain is a far more open system than we ever imagined, and nature has gone very far to help us perceive and take in the world around us. It has given us a brain that survives in a changing world by changing itself.
Here are some interesting real-life stories from the book that helps to highlight the power of a changing brain:
• A woman with a dysfunctional vestibule apparatus, or the sensory organ for balancing, regained her balance. Most people with her disorder fail to cope with the psychological stress associated with an unbalanced world. This woman overcame her dysfunction by “unmasking” neural pathways that were re-awoken to assume the responsibility for keeping her balanced.
• A renowned scientist teaches herself to understand symbolic relationships. Inspired by the book I’ll Fight On, she exposed herself to a series of mental exercises, toiling on end for weeks at a time. “At the end of many exhausting weeks, not only could she read clocks faster than normal people, but she noticed improvements in her other difficulties relating to symbols and began for the first time to grasp grammar, math, and logic. Most importantly, she could understand what people were saying as they said it.” www.arrowsmithschool.org
• A plastic brain may be the competitive advantage that has allowed humans to rise to the top of the food chain. “Plasticity might be a basic property of the brain that had evolved to give humans a competitive edge.” Dr. Merzenich further explains, “claims that when learning occurs in a way consistent with the laws that govern brain plasticity, the mental “machinery” of the brain can be improved so that we learn and perceive with greater precision, speed, and retention.” When we learn, we gain knowledge but we also gain the ability to acquire more knowledge.
• Mental visualization has the power to improve performance. The brain conceives visualization as actually performing an event. A study showed that two groups, one doing physical exercises and one just imagining the exercises only yielded a different of 8% at the conclusion of the study. “During these imaginary contractions, the neurons responsible for stringing together sequences of instructions for movements are activated and strengthened, resulting in increased strength when the muscles are contracted.” Thoughts can change brain structure.
• There is a woman that was born with only half of her brain. This woman only functions with one side of her brain, perhaps the most notable and exceptional example of neuroplasticity. She struggles with some mental functions, such as the ability to correlate events, which makes her socially awkward. This is because half of her brain assumed responsibility for all of her mental functions. What’s more is that she is a savant, able to recall events up to 18 years old, with precision and speed. Although she may not be able to live a completely normal life, her brain adapted enough to give her a fighting chance.
The brain is powerful beyond measure and capable of changing to meet the demands of our environment.
However, it is also capable of conforming to bad habits, when its capabilities are not fully exploited. The brain becomes what the mind makes of it. Some of the most reoccurring principles of the book are that we use it or lose it and that neurons that fire together wire together.
The more we demand of it, the more powerful it will become.
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