The Science of Change

How often have you heard someone say with exasperation that there is no way he is going to change or “that is the way I am – don’t expect me to be different” and so on. The underlying assumption in all such statements is that we are hard wired to behave in such and such a fashion and nothing on earth can change that behaviour or attitude. On the other end of the spectrum,we also do see lots of people who literally reinvent themselves at all stages of their lives. Some of the best examples of this are great musicians who make it a point to keep innovating all the time. In fact if they don’t innovate they perish. The best and successful people in any field are known to achieve and maintain their success only by rediscovering themseves constantly.
How does one reconcile these two extreme behavioural patterns – one refusing to change for the better and the other constantly striving to change and improvise. Neuroscience has scientific answers for this.
As we will see presently,neuroscience has enough evidence to show that in spite of the hard wiring that has taken place in our brain due to genetic factors,there is still plenty of hope and scope to completely change oneself. The good news is that yes we are wired although not hard wired. What is the difference? To introduce a technical jargon,the difference lies in what is known as NEUROPLASTICITY. In layman’s terms this simply means that the wiring in our brain is highly flexible and therefore can be manipulated with some effort on our part. To introduce another technical term,the wiring is referred to as SYNAPTIC CONNECTIONS between Neurons in the brain.(Neurons are basically brain cells). To get an idea of how complex our brain is,we are born with 100 billion neurons with 100 trillion SYNAPTIC CONNECTIONS. And to add to this complexity,we are making and breaking billions of connections all the time during each day of our lives. Each set of connections predisposes us to a certain instinctive,preset behaviour. Whichever connection or network of connection is used consistently and repeatedly,the corresponding pattern of behaviourit gets reinforced. On the contrary,if a set of network is lying unused for a long time,it will disconnect and can participate in the formation of a new network. Herein lies the key to changing our mindset or behavioural pattern.

In order to understand the mechanism for change in our personality,we need to dwell a little bit on the science behind our addictions. A brief understanding of this goes a long way towards getting rid of them. Therefore,I will deal with addictions in the next post. I assure you to keep it as simple as possible and free of scientific jargon.

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Published in: on February 6, 2011 at 8:54 am  Leave a Comment  

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