I talk a lot to people about the concept of neuroplasticity. I’ve done speeches on it in front of groups, and I talk with my patients about it continually. Neuroplasticity is the concept that the brain changes neuronal connections when you learn. This isn’t in some wishy washy quantum physics or metaphysical concept. The brain literally lays down new protein and creates new physical connections when you stimulate it to do so.
If you give enough focus and concentration on something, the brain will start to fire neurons in new patterns. If you focus with enough quality and quantity, the nerve cell connections will change and become permanent.
This focus is called Attention Density, as described by David Rock and Jeffery Schwartz [.pdf warning].
The mechanism that describes this is attention density,
and it has profound implications for leaders, managers,
trainers, coaches, parents, and politicians—in
other words, anyone who wants to influence others.
Attention density is the quantity and quality of attention
paid to a particular circuit in the brain.
The amount of circuits in the brain that fire off depend on how you think about a topic. They call this “The ladder of intensity:” If I were to ask you to think about the city of St. George, you would form a mental image of St. George, but your attention would quickly shift to a new topic. If I asked you to tell me about the city of St. George, your neuronal network would recruit far more circuits in many areas of the brain to pull together resources to adequately describe the town. Even further, if I were to assign you to write about the town, your attention on the topic for a longer period of time would cause you to use those same circuits for longer, and this will even help to cement some permanent thoughts on the subject.
Every leader knows that it is hard to effect long-term
change in people and organizations. That may be because
change inflicts physiological pain, something most people
try to avoid. But if we can enable people to give sufficient
quality and quantity of focus to something, the circuitry in the
brain will be stabilized in a new pattern.
An important thing to know about this is that you can’t force the attention density, and you can’t force neuroplasticity. If you force the brain to stressfully learn something new, it will push back. Things tend to come together better when you are at ease. It sometimes seems like a paradox, but you need to work like you aren’t working to become an effective worker. You need to learn new topics as if you are discovering them like a child; you can’t stress your way through it. You have to bring in the information with all of your modalities: sight, sound, touch, smell, taste, and emotional involvement.
Knowing about the concept of neuroplasticity and attention density can make a profound difference in your own life. The old concept of “you are what you think about” use to be a vague philosophical construct, but when you know that you are literally changing the structure of your brain depending on what you are focusing your attention on is far more profound and more practical.
Todd Lloyd, DC
a St. George Chiropractor