Medical Can one change their brain's efficiency?

  1. Can one do anything to sort of rewire the brain, so to speak.

    For instance, say I continually teach myself new subjects all the time. Not multitasking- just sort of "hey i learned ___, now i can teach myself ___". Can my brain get better at learning?

    By better I mean more efficiently.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Drakkith

    Staff: Mentor

    I'll go out on a limb and say that yes, the brain can get better at learning. But I think that really depends on what you mean with "getting better at learning". I'm sure it's a complicated issue.
  4. Pythagorean

    Pythagorean 4,483
    Gold Member

    If you practice, yes.
  5. Ryan_m_b

    Staff: Mentor

    It's not a question of changing your brain per se but simple education and attitude. Improve your critical thinking skills and general knowledge as well as improving your organisation and work ethic etc and you will get better at learning. You may find that a boring answer but there really is no magic tricks you can do nor medicines/foods that you can take that will drastically improve your brain; limitless was not a documentary (unfortunately).
  6. well i think it is about changing the brain..not just your attitude, though that certainty helps. i think people change how their brain is wired all the time.. or we wouldn't be able to learn new things. adults couldn't learn new things. neuroplasticity. i've been reading more and more books about it, and i appreciate everyone's responses, but i've come to my own conclusion, thanks guys!
  7. Pythagorean

    Pythagorean 4,483
    Gold Member

    Perhaps changing your attitude is changing your brain. You wouldn't be able to change your attitude without synaptic plasticity, either.
  8. my apologies. i thought he was just getting at that he thought our brains are hard wired like this permanently.

    -_- and yeah, i didn't think there was any "magic" food or medicines.. not sure if i said that when i posted this..
  9. A really worthwhile book to read. I'd recommend it to anyone. Good story, nice out of the box it!
  10. Bacle2

    Bacle2 1,168
    Science Advisor

    Actually, from what I know , learning happens within material that is in the periphery ("neighborhood") of your knowledge base. The more you know, the bigger this periphery is.

    Also, your brain needs and consumes oxygen, so the better your aerobic shape, the more effectively your brain will work.

    I would say, more speculatively, that, since your brain must multitask to keep one's system going, the better your overall health, the more your brain can can attend to learning without distraction. As informal support for this last, try studying when hungry, or with a headache, acid indigestion, etc. Moreover, in terms of distractions, it seems that students living close to the school (college, actually) tend to do better than those that do not. I'd say it may have to see with having your life revolve around the learning process and minimizing distractions (specially in larger cities). Think , too, about the amount of time commuting back-and-forth over some 4 years (undergrad), or 5+ years for a graduate degree.

    I'd say , without having actual proof, that the more you're willing to challenge yourself by learning new things and by challenging your ownexisting views (by sidestepping, e.g., confirmation bias), the sharper you will be.
  11. Pythagorean

    Pythagorean 4,483
    Gold Member

    this is a popular psychological observation known as the "region of proximal learning"
  12. rhody

    rhody 710
    Gold Member


    Echoing Pythagorean's thoughts, you may enjoy this, explores how neurons respond, rewire if you will to repeated focused attention to a task, it is quite lengthy, but worth your review, IMHO. Lots of personal stories and results from years of experiments from dedicated professionals, Dr Merzenich being among them.

  13. thank you. the most helpful by far
  14. atyy

    atyy 11,189
    Science Advisor

    If there are multiple stable attractors without plasticity, couldn't a change of attitude be a change of the attractor whose basin of attraction you are in?
  15. Pythagorean

    Pythagorean 4,483
    Gold Member

    This reminds me of two things. 1) have you ever heard of chaotic itinerancy?

    2) a thread where I asked a similar question nearly 2.5 years ago. (My empirical suggestion is kind of silly after having taken all of the local neuroscience classes and being exposed to real experimental methods.)


    The concept of a stable attractor can be applied in all kinds of ways though; If it's a true stable attractor, there's no getting off it, unless there's an externtal perturbation, but then you can always make the perturbation part of the system, in which, case the attractor is only transient, since it can be moved off of. But I think you mean to intentionally separate external (environment) from internal (organism).

    The reality is that there's all kinds of different cues going on from both inside and outside the body; from the rest of the body, immediate environmental changes, and day/night changes; all of which metabolically modulate important proteins like Post-Synaptic Density (PSD-95), by changing PSD-95's transcription rate, and all acting over different temporal scales, so there's always plasticity happening and how that influences attitude hasn't been separated from how external perturbations (environment) can shift attractor states. There'st also evidence showing that the lateral distribution of receptors across the post-synaptic cell can change synaptic strength. So you can have the same number of receptors but acting differently as a function of how they distribute themselves spatially (and this is not a constant over time!).

    But you're right, some emergent phenomena like "atittude" probably isn't necessarily bound only to synaptic plasticity. But I still think there is a strong case that this plasticity that is always happening keeps the system dynamic and sensitive to perturbations, allows us to store thoughts and associate stimuli with feelings. Particular behaviors are associated with particular attitudes (which way does causation go, or is there any? They are both very possibly simultaneously modulated by a third system (the external envrionment).

    Lastly, the "binding problem" has some approaches where we only experience what we experience, all senses bound together, because we are "writing" the current moment to our hippocampus, where all the sensory signals are bound, together with expectation signals (like semantics and world model). If the implications of this research ever come to dominate the field, we might consider that plasticity is absolutely necessary for your every cognitive moment.

    Interesting question!
  16. atyy

    atyy 11,189
    Science Advisor

    No, what is it?
  17. Pythagorean

    Pythagorean 4,483
    Gold Member

    There's lots of ways to characterize it; Ichiro Tsuda has published a couple papers on it (I think he might have coined the term) and they all generally contain a definition or a list of characteristics... but basically we have a system that contains several transient attractors (i.e repellors) intersecting, possibly even with a true chaotic attractor.

    Trajectories can get caught in one repellor for a while. It's associated with a particular lyapunov exponent, but given a perturbation (either internal or external, depending on how your system is defined), it can be knocked into another repellor/attractor where the (short time) lyapunov exponent now shifts to another value.

    It's fairly common to have this kind of behavior in network of coupled spiking neurons.
  18. atyy

    atyy 11,189
    Science Advisor

    Thanks, that's interesting. Google gave . Do you think the heteroclinic channel is a simple (maybe non-chaotic version) of chaotic itinerancy? Actually, now reading the second article more carefully, in the section "Mathenatical Image and Models", they do explicitly discuss chaotic itinerancy as being similar, topologically, but they weren't able to find parameters that made it work for their application.
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