By: Dr. Roger Landry, MD, MPH
Think of the brain as a collection of millions of roads – 100,000 miles of neural pathways. And every time we wish to move, learn something new, recall a fact, recognize someone, or do any of the magnificent things our brain is capable of, messages travel along these pathways at hyper-speeds of up to nearly three hundred miles per hour and enable us to do the task we wish.
This is neuroplasticity at its best. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to rewire itself in response to new stimulation gained through learning and new experiences. It’s what allows our brains to compensate for injury and disease and adjust to changes in its environment. But in order to grow new brain tissue and improve and retain memory skills we need to challenge our brains with new information.
I often say, “Scare yourself a little every day,” and that means being fearless in learning new things on a regular basis. What have you always wanted to learn or attempt? Forget about becoming an expert. Forget about how long it will take to learn. Strive to be a beginner because the beginner’s mind is where neuroplasticity is most effective.
Routine may be comforting, but if your brain is on autopilot it’s not developing new pathways and growing new brain tissue. Engage your brain with new information, skills, pastimes. It can be anything. Learn how to play an instrument, or a new song on the instrument you do play. Study a foreign language, or even how to order your meal in a different language. Take a different way home from the grocery store or try a new hobby.
This week’s challenge is scare yourself a little each day.
Live long. Live well!