Improvising a New Brain

by Stuart on April 24, 2010

Perhaps one of the most difficult ideas to accept coming from today’s neuroscience is that the brain is far from a static, unchangeable information processor, locked into its ‘functional parameters’ by software drownloaded into the system long ago. In fact, the brain is a constantly changing, always evolving organ of perceptive creation (or creative perception if you prefer), ceaselessly re-organizing itself as a result of experience.

In addition, the evidence strongly suggests that the brain’s ‘plasticity’ is engaged when we consciously and regularly act on intentions mindfully held, and invite the brain’s connective networks to ‘catch-up’. The brain, to put it simply, loves novelty (maybe more than ‘we’ do!) Try brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand tonight, and watch your brain try to figure it out. At first it will feel awkward, but with a few weeks of practice will feel quit ‘normal’. You would have improvised a new ‘brushing my teeth’ performance, and would have eventually (perhaps in as little as a month) have been able to pass the activity off to your ‘automatic brain’.  No  longer necessary to pay attention to it – you can do it without a thought.

Although it seems simple, the fact that you can create new performances and change the brain’s wiring so as to functionally automate new behaviors, skills and perceptions was anethma to the brain researchers of the past several centuries. It is turning out though, that signifigant changes in brain activity are associated with musical improvisation, and may well be associated with other forms of creativity as well.       

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