Awakening the Brain

The impact of belief and spirituality on the brain—and how we view the world.

Cognition: How to Improve Your Brain

Neuroplasticity and memory.

Neuroplasticity builds new neural networks for anything you do with repetition. Just like the story in Awakening the Brain about little Barbara who improved her visual spatial skills and increased her IQ by practicing drawing, puzzles, and other visual tasks, the brain will always respond to the sensory input we engage.

At age 65, I decided to write a book about all these wonderful things for those who have been asking me for years what they could read. My challenge was that I could not type my thoughts. I had learned to write them with a pen and then type them. That turned out to be too taxing for me, which motivated me to try to engage new skills for myself. With repetitive effort, I typed away as I thought of the next concept to share and slowly there were fewer and fewer red lines under my words on the computer screen showing the errors my fingers had made. Slowly, I began to have my fingers translate my thoughts. That, too, is neuroplasticity at work.

The brain is a use it or lose it organ. When we stop using a foreign language we start losing it. When we retire and stop reading or keeping a calendar, those skills diminish as well. The two examples, of little Barbara and myself, make my point: age does not matter. What matters is what you do and the intention you have for doing it. All the mental functions of the brain work this way. Finding words, using your memory, paying attention, solving complex problems, doing math—we humans have lots of cognitive functions, and if we use them they get stronger.

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Your intention focuses your brain on why you want to build that neural network and sustains your effort through all the mistakes you make until you reach automaticity. Yes, if you persist, it will become an automatic skill. You will reinvent who you are. Because I persisted, I am now a neuropsychologist and a writer, and a whole new world for sharing this information is available to me to offer it to you.

To access the power of neuroplasticity to enhance the mental functions of your brain, persistence is essential. In order to persist in spite of errors, we must believe that the persistence will pay of and the skill will get easier and stronger. Who do you know or what experience have you had where significant cognitive expansion occurred? Please share your challenges, questions, and solutions with neuroplasticity and cognitive skills. How have you developed skills and reinvented yourself to be the person you are today and able to rely on the neural networks that provide the action you want?

Charlotte Tomaino, Ph.D., is a former nun and studies the field of neuroplasticity with over 30 years of clinical experience as a neuropsychologist.

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