More On The Remarkable Brain - Part 2


Thank you for all the wonderful emails I received after my E-Report about Dr Norman Doidge's work and his book "The Brain that Changes Itself". There was so much I gained from reading his book that I needed to tell you about it in two parts. As I mentioned before, I was told about this book by somebody who receives my E-Report and now, following my E-Report, I have been told (by several people) about Dr Doidge's impending (or current) tour of Australia and I am sure many of you, as I have, have now seen and heard him interviewed on several TV and radio programs, including the ABC. You may be lucky enough to be able to see him when he is here and could check out this website for details of his tour. It seems that almost every week now much of what I believe in, have written about and teach about, is spoken about so much more than it was 30, 20 or even 10 years ago, and aired through the media, which I find extremely exciting. Only yesterday I caught a glimpse on TV of an interview with a doctor explaining how day-dreaming was so important to happiness and brain development.


Our brains are shaped by the culture we are raised in and in fact different cultural neural pathways will  be formed in the brains of people from different cultures.  This may sound a simplistic statement but it can have huge implications ... especially in today's world where there is much movement from one culture to another, and immigration en masse.
Immigration can become a life-long challenge for some - especially for the older person - as it requires so much "re-wiring" of the brain.  Many cultural differences can be subtle such as how close we stand to a person when speaking to them, the rhythm and volume of our speech, our non-verbal communication, gestures - we can be shocked to discover when going to live or stay in a different culture that what has always seemed the norm to us can be quite different elsewhere.  The music, food, dress code and other things like this are obvious differences and although may be known about in advance, can also come as quite a culture shock for some.  Different cultures do interpret their own world and the world at large, differently.
Effect on Children
Dr Doidge shows how whole cultures can be shaped in a certain way by giving the example of how in North Korea children are forced to go to school at the age of 2 and are constantly indoctrinated and totally immersed into the cult or adoration for dictator Kim Jong Il and his father Kim Il Sung.  They can only see their parents on weekends.  They are taught systematically to hate the "enemy". (Did you see this on a recent TV Current Affairs program? Frightening!)
The media too of course is responsible for shaping people's thoughts and therefore their brains.  This is one of the reasons why I always advise to beware of what we read and watch on TV.  A recent study in USA of 2600 toddlers has shown that early exposure to TV is directly linked to attention problems in later life.
Quite apart from the content of what we see and hear in the electronic media there is the aspect which Dr Doidge mentions about the re-organising of our mind and brain. He quotes Marcel Just:  "Listening to an audio book leaves a different set of memories than reading does.  A newscast heard on the radio is processed differently from the same words read in a newspaper." His experiments show that each medium creates a different experience and therefore different circuit in the brain.  The balance of our senses is if you like "out of whack" - "The ratio among our senses is altered." This in itself doesn't necessarily prove that it is harmful but the effect it has on the attention of our children can be harmful to those who spend endless hours in front of a video fighting game, computer or television.  Dr Doidge believes that the electronic media is altering the nervous system.  I think you would be fascinated to read more about this in "The Brain that Changes Itself" - I certainly was.
The Sea Gypsies
Have you ever heard of Sea Gypsies?  I certainly hadn't until I read about them in this book.  They are groups of nomadic wandering water tribe people living in islands off the west coast of Thailand and Burma.  They live over half their lives in boats and on the open sea (where they are usually born and die) and learn to swim before they learn to walk.  Doidge explains best himself as follows:
     They survive by harvesting clams and sea cucumbers.  Their children dive down, often thirty feet beneath the water's surface, and pluck up their food, including small morsels of marine life, and have done so for centuries.  By learning to lower their heart rate, they can stay under water twice as long as most swimmers.  They do this without any diving equipment.  One tribe, the Sulu, dive over seventy-five feet for pearls.
     But what distinguishes these children, for our purposes, is that they can see clearly under water because as sunlight passes through water, it is bent, or "refracted," so that light doesn't land where it should on the retina.
I am sure that they manage to bring down their heart rate by their own specially devised form of meditation or by going into the Alpha brainwave state.  Other research has shown that they have also learned to control the shape of the lenses in their eyes to constrict the size of their pupils by as much as 22%, which is quite incredible as apparently most people's pupils become larger under water.  This ability further demonstrates "brain plasticity" and how cultural activities can change brain circuits.
Music and the "Plastic Brain"
Music is something else which can change our brain structure, and brain imaging has shown that musicians have certain areas of their brains which differ from non-musicians.  Our current information age is producing a generation of computer users, TV watchers and is also changing the shape of this generation's brain.
The idea of the "plastic brain" is not something new ... although it is something on which there has been most research in recent years.  Our ancient ancestor's brain was just as "plastic" as the modern brain - it too was able to change its structure and function to adapt to the demands and changes of its day.  The neurons that fire in the brain of today's child to learn to read and write still existed in thousands of years gone by .... but fired to help them learn perhaps about writing on cave walls or other skills they needed for their time.  Our brain is modified each time we learn a new skill or ability.
Young Children and Language
What I have always found fascinating is that when a very young child is exposed to more than one language, it will be able to absorb this learning and differentiate between the two (or more languages).  There is a small window of time to achieve this and the younger someone is when they start to learn another language, the easier it will be.  Dr Doidge says: ... an infant reared in a single culture loses the capacity to hear many of those sounds, and unused neurons are pruned away, until the brain map is dominated by the language of its culture.  Now its brain filters out thousands of sounds.
My wife and I observed with interest only the other day our 8 month old granddaughter looking at us in amazement when firstly Sandra spoke to her in French and then when I counted to her in Hindustani (counting the numbers is all that I can remember of that language from when I spent my first 6 years in India and picked up the language from my Ayah).  We could tell by the look on her face that she knew we were not speaking to her in the language she is used to hearing.
Mentally Challenging is Good
I will finish off this E-Report by leaving these word of Norman Doidge with you and hope that what you have read here will inspire you to read the entire book.
     We now know that exercise and mental activity in animals generate and sustain more brain cells, and we have many studies confirming that humans who lead mentally active lives have better brain function.  The more education we have, the more socially and physically active we are, and the more we participate in mentally stimulating activities, the less likely we are to get Alzheimer's disease or dementia.
     Not all activities are equal in this regard.  Those that involve genuine concentration - studying a musical instrument, playing board games, reading, and dancing - are associated with a lower risk for dementia. Dancing, which requires learning new moves, is both physically and mentally challenging and requires much concentration.  Less intense activities, such as bowling, babysitting, and golfing, are not associated with a reduced incidence of Alzheimer's.
So, nurture and protect your own brain and indeed your mind by thinking positively, create happiness, stay active, stay involved, be enthusiastic about life - the CHI Seminar covers all of this so consider attending - take a week off and do it in BALI (or Sydney of course) - I guarantee you'll be glad you did!
All the Best
  Sandy signature
Sandy MacGregor 
Success Story
Thanks so much for the opportunity to attend your CHI seminar, it has changed my life remarkably even in such a short period and I am feeling so GOOD! Even on days when I am feeling a little low I go to Peaceful Place or meditate and all the colour comes back into the world again. I have been meditating every morning before I start work and nothing stops me, if I’m late to a meeting so be it! Hehehe. Still sleeping so much better too, dropping off before I even get to the colours now.  L.M.  NSW
     I just wanted to let you know that in the 10 days since you called me things are much better.
     I have watched the Active Meditation DVDs and found them very useful. I also have been using the Overcoming Fear CD and also took your advice and saw a Kinesiologist on Friday . It is amazing I actually feel like a different person. I am studying without fear and I know the information is actually being retained. My exam is next Monday evening and I am hoping that the day of the exam will be a lot less stressful than the last one.
     Thank you again Sandy for your help, I really do appreciate it. It was very kind of you to call me that day, I can’t believe the difference in ten days. I will continue to use the CD each day and will book into next CALM Life Skills seminar.
  C.L.  NSW


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