Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Developing Your Brain Potential

Journey of the Developing Brain
Only recently have scientists been able to learn how the neural network of the brain forms. Beginning in the womb and throughout life this vast network continues to expand, adapt, and learn. Take a look inside the brain at a cellular level to find out how our three pound universe forms and even how we learn.

Hippocampal Neurons
Evolving Brains Inspired Movement
Step back a half-billion years ago, to when the first nerve cells developed. The original need for a nervous system was to coordinate movement, so an organism could go find food, instead of waiting for the food to come to it. Jellyfish and sea anemone, the first animals to create nerve cells, had a tremendous advantage over the sponges that waited brainlessly for dinner to arrive.
  After millions of generations of experimentation, nervous systems evolved some amazing ways of going out to eat. But behind all the myriad forms of life today, the primary directive remains. Movement. In fact, a diminished ability to move is a good measure of aging. Inflexibility heralds death, while a flexible body and fluid mind are the hallmarks of youth.
Elasticity and Plasticity
Elastic comes from the Greek word for "drive" or "propulsion." It is the tendency of a material to return to its original shape after being stretched.
Elasticity is the basic animal drive that powers your muscles, giving you strength and balance – flexibility, mobility, and grace.
  Plastic derives from the Greek word meaning "molded" or "formed." It is the tendency of the brain to shape itself according to experience.
Plasticity is the basic mental drive that networks your brain, giving you cognition and memory – fluidity, versatility, and adaptability.
The Growth of Your Amazing Neural Network
Before birth you created neurons, the brain cells that communicate with each other, at the rate of 15 million per hour! When you emerged into the world, your 100 billion neurons were primed to organize themselves in response to your new environment – no matter the culture, climate, language, or lifestyle.
During infancy, billions of these extraordinary cells intertwined into the vast networks that integrated your nervous system. By the time you were four or five years old, your fundamental cerebral architecture was complete.
  Until your early teens, various windows of opportunity opened when you could most easily learn language and writing, math and music, as well as the coordinated movements used in sports and dance. But, at any age you can – and should – continue to build your brain and expand your mind.
Expanding Your Amazing Neural Network
Throughout life, your neural networks reorganize and reinforce themselves in response to new stimuli and learning experiences. This body-mind interaction is what stimulates brain cells to grow and connect with each other in complex ways. They do so by extending branches of intricate nerve fibers called dendrites (from the Latin word for "tree"). These are the antennas through which neurons receive communication from each other.
  A healthy, well-functioning neuron can be directly linked to tens of thousands of other neurons, creating a totality of more than a hundred trillion connections – each capable of performing 200 calculations per second! This is the structural basis of your brain's memory capacity and thinking ability.
As a product of its environment, your "three pound universe" is essentially an internal map that reflects your external world.

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