April 25, 2019 | 52° F

BOZTEPE: Brain plasticity allows for personal growth


Opinion Column: Kaanotations


Your brain has the power to consistently grow. While the brain is not actually made of plastic, neuroplasticity means that the brain has the capability to change and grow throughout life experience. Plasticity is the capacity of the brain to change with constant education and we as humans, are far from reaching our potentials, so the growth is seemingly endless. 

Neuroplasticity occurs in the brain at birth, when a newborn's brain is forming, a brain injury in which the person has lost some neurological functions that their brain was typically accustomed to and through adulthood and life experiences whenever you are learning something new and absorb the information. 

Many things are predetermined by your genes, but the brain can continue to grow. Neurons can continue to mature, and this maturity can increase more connections within your brain that can help you retain more information, synthesize difficult situations and have quicker problem-solving skills. There are certain parts of the brain that are associated with specific functions, some of which specialize in hearing, seeing, tasting and other sense-derived attributes. But, there are plenty of non-defined parts of the brain that can be rewired for your benefit. 

To put it in simpler terms, many people have gone through traumatic experiences that have often led them to having avoidance behaviors, which stem from the anxiety and stress one encounters due to those events, and in turn can hold someone from truly living their life and moving on. Yet, with neuroplasticity, we might be able to open new paths for our thoughts to travel through, in a way to reinvent ourselves while also completely overcoming past traumatic events. 

So, to change your brain and experience the benefits of the plasticity, I will be providing some surefire ways to strengthen your self-control and growth. First, we must identify what we believe in and why. If you truly want to mentally grow, you must first realize your beliefs and hopes are possible to manifest in your life. Examine the beliefs and consider why they align with your possibility of achieving your goal. 

Next, we must embrace and be self-aware of our emotions. Humans are emotional creatures, but they are also known to suppress their feelings which just causes more stress and anxiety in their minds, leading to fogginess and incoherent thoughts that will limit their possibility of growth. Rather, we must realize that emotion is the power behind accomplishing our intended goals — it is our fuel. 

After embracing our emotions, we must then begin to visualize. The brain cannot tell the difference between if something is real or imagined, thanks to the cognitive function of memory and imagination which helps you visualize things even when your eyes are closed. We must identify images that align with our goals and visualize our goals to the point that it becomes habitual. Once we accomplish visualization, we can then act to support our goals. 

At this stage, we must realize that our actions must match what we say we want, in order to strengthen our newfound habits and expand our brains' plasticity. Overall, this whole system requires constant repetition, but this constant practical thinking, feeling and visualization will not only help you reach your desired goal, but will also help expand your mind and give your brain new paths to cross when dealing with difficult situations. 

These examples I provided are just ways to enhance your growth — practice will still be key. For example, a taxi driver in New York can memorize the layout of the city as it becomes habitual to them, leading their visual-spatial cortex to grow. It is important to also keep in mind that the brain reacts far more strongly to negative experiences, so it is crucial to be consciously aware of your happiness and what you can do to manage your stress and or anxiety. Remember, the brain must be exercised regularly, so read, meditate, work out, smile, think positive even when times are tough and remember to forgive yourself and others and focus on your growth. 

Kaan Jon Boztepe is a School of Arts and Sciences junior double   majoring in philosophy and history. His column, "Kaanotations," runs on   alternate Tuesdays.  

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Kaan Jon Boztepe

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