Neuroplasticity in action

It’s likely that by now you have at least heard the term “neuroplasticity”. Our understanding of the human brain’s capacity to rewire itself has grown dramatically over the past few decades. We have written about it previously in our blog post Rewire your brain: neuroplasticity FTW!.

It’s one thing to hear about neuroplasticity. But it is something else altogether to see it in action. Today I stumbled across this youtube video:

There are lots of skills that are complex and difficult to master, for which the development of new neurological wiring through continual practice will be essential to mastery. But rarely do we see such a <em>dramatic</em> challenge to achieving the most rudimentary level of competence. Why is this bike so difficult to ride?  If we reversed the steering in a car people would very quickly be able to adjust. Anyone who has played a reasonable number of flight-simulating computer games will know how quickly that adjustment can occur, because a proportion of those games reverse the vertical control axis. Adjusting to that can be accomplished in hours. It took <em>eight months</em> for the presenter of this video to be able to ride this bike.

The challenge with reversed steering on a bike is that steering is not <em>only</em> used to control your direction, but constant small adjustments are made to maintain balance on the bike. With the steering reversed there is almost <em>no room for error</em> that would allow the brain to try an option, realise it is producing the wrong result and adjust accordingly. It is worse than learning to ride the <em>first</em> time because the brain is predisposed by existing wiring to select a set of motor responses that are the precise <em>opposite</em> of what are needed, amplifying any imbalance instead of correcting it.

…so the thing that amazes me most, watching this video, is that even under circumstances that are tremendously prejudiced to failure, the neuroplasticity of the brain makes success possible. What might your brain be capable of that may seem impossible to you today?

Bicycle leaning against a wall

“Bicycle” by fedeanimationCC BY 2.0

The Science on Mindfulness

Mindfulness forms an important part of a range of strategies we use at Thrive Wellness to facilitate psychological well-being. So far we have never written on the subject on our blog. Now, once again, the Radio National program All in the Mind has done a great job summarising what mindfulness is and the current state of the science on its usefulness. Also included are some good personal accounts of its benefits.

Have a listen to the program, or read the transcript, here: All in the Mind – On being mindful.

Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse - WA

Radio National program on Borderline Personality Disorder

The All in the Mind program on ABC’s Radio National recently aired a good segment on effective treatments for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Treatment is out there, and it works. To listen to the program, or read the transcript, follow the link here: Borderline personality disorder—what works?

On the program Catherine Bennett, formerly diagnosed with BPD, says the following:

BPD is not a choice, but recovery is. And like any mental illness, no one ever chooses to have a mental illness, but fighting for recovery, having a life worth living, that’s a choice. And making that choice is the first step.

If you would like to know more about BPD, you may also like to read Life on the Line – what is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Do you feel wise?

Have you ever noticed that many people are emotionist? This is a made-up word I am using here to refer to people being prejudiced against certain emotions. Some emotions are treated as acceptable – or even admirable – while others are treated as “bad” or “wrong”. Happiness is generally seen as something positive to aspire to, while anger, jealousy, fear and many times sadness are treated as though they are feelings that healthy people should not have. They are treated as feelings that you should eliminate as quickly as possible and it is even suggested that people should try to prevent them occurring in the first place.
Sad man crying in rain

Well, that is baloney. Every emotion exists for a reason. Continue reading

Motivation experiment days 19-21

On day 19 of my experiment with drawing every day and observing the effects on my motivation I again found myself without ideas for what to draw. Part of my commitment to this exercise from the outset had been that the important thing was to draw something each day, not to draw something “good” or “interesting” every day. So for day 19 I settled with drawing out a pattern in curving lines without too much thought, then adding a little colour:

Abstract swirling lines

Motivation experiment day 19 – drawn 9/05/2014

This was done very quickly. I didn’t like the result at all, but I’d stuck with my commitment to draw and was happy enough with that.
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Motivation experiment days 16-18: the joys of imperfection

On day 16 of my exercise in daily drawing I experienced a drop in my intrinsic motivation. After a few days of easily producing drawings I liked by tracing pictures, going back to drawing from my imagination meant struggling again with ideas for what to draw.

Drawing of a skull

Motivation experiment day 16 – drawn 6/05/2014

Having been involved in some planning for a pirate-themed birthday party, the idea of drawing a skull came to mind.
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