Change your brain

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How many times have you been told that you can do whatever you set your mind to?

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Though cliché, this statement is true. Neuroplasticity is a phenomenon that scientists and neurologists have been studying for years. Neuro means brain. Plasticity means change. The neural networks in your brain can change through reorganization and growth. For many years, it was believed that only the brains of children were capable of changing in this fashion. However, it has been proven that the brains of adults can change too. Activities such as skill learning, exercising, changing your environment, and practice all contribute to the brain’s ability to change itself.

The particles that are responsible for the growth and longevity of neurons in the brain are known as neurotrophic factors. Aerobic exercise has been shown to aid said neurotrophic factors. Additionally, consistent aerobic exercise has been seen to improve executive function. Executive functioning skills are the mental skills required for one to stay focused, multi-task, process, and regulate emotions. The by-product of this is the strengthening of gray matter. The regions of the brain where this is most pronounced are the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus.  

Traveling can also aid in neuroplasticity. Most of us have a route that we take consistently throughout the day. Through repetition, we have forced our brains into autopilot and made the morning commute into a mindless activity of rote drudgery. Endeavor to take an alternative route tomorrow. Eat at a new restaurant. Leave the house through a different door. These new experiences require your brain to form new connections to process these new experiences.  

Learning a new language is one of the most salient ways that one can improve their mental faculties. It is well known that those who are multilingual experience enhanced cognitive function and ability than their monolingual counterparts. The brain is made up of grey and white matter. One of the building blocks of white matter is myelinated axons. These axons are associated with learning and communication. A study was done in which neurologists used a scanning device to compare the white matter of monolinguals and multilingual. Not surprisingly, the white matter of the multilingual was considerably denser. This is not surprising as the rigors of applying multiple languages in daily life require the brain to work more efficiently and cohesively.   

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Many of us believe that we are the product of our brains. However, the fact of the matter is that our brains are the product of us. Many of us have a fixed mindset in which we believe that our abilities and talents are assigned to us at birth. This is one of the most detrimental mental roadblocks. If one decides to change their mindset from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, the potential we have for greatness is infinite. One thing that must be noted is that this process does not happen overnight. One must set goals that are within the realm of reasonability.  It is with consistency and diligence over a long period that we can expect to see improvements.  

Joseph is in his third year of Political Science. When he is not writing for the Baron, he can be found in Hazen Hall practicing the piano. His other hobbies include sailing and boxing.