Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Mind Body Problem

The REAL brain drain: Modern technology - including violent video games - is changing the way our brains work, says neuroscientist | the Daily Mail
Anyone who doubts the malleability of the adult brain should consider a startling piece of research conducted at Harvard Medical School.

There, a group of adult volunteers, none of whom could previously play the piano, were split into three groups.

The first group were taken into a room with a piano and given intensive piano practise for five days. The second group were taken into an identical room with an identical piano - but had nothing to do with the instrument at all.

And the third group were taken into an identical room with an identical piano and were then told that for the next five days they had to just imagine they were practising piano exercises.

The resultant brain scans were extraordinary. Not surprisingly, the brains of those who simply sat in the same room as the piano hadn't changed at all.

Equally unsurprising was the fact that those who had performed the piano exercises saw marked structural changes in the area of the brain associated with finger movement.

But what was truly astonishing was that the group who had merely imagined doing the piano exercises saw changes in brain structure that were almost as pronounced as those that had actually had lessons.

"The power of imagination" is not a metaphor, it seems; it's real, and has a physical basis in your brain.

Alas, no neuroscientist can explain how the sort of changes that the Harvard experimenters reported at the micro-cellular level translate into changes in character, personality or behaviour.

But we don't need to know that to realise that changes in brain structure and our higher thoughts and feelings are incontrovertibly linked.

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