brain power

Our brain power may be affected by the decisions we make

by Keith Robertson, medical writer

Brain Power and understanding the brain chemistry behind our decisions

We may not realize that all of the accumulated decisions we make over the years have a basis in our brain chemistry.

As they age, some people turn into grumpy old men, who drive people away, while others become the iconic sweet little old grandmother, who is positively glowing.

I want to examine this phenomenon in the next few articles, because I believe that it is especially important to periodically assess where our life is heading.

As Socrates once said, “an unexamined life is not worth living”. We have choices to make and to a great extent, they can determine the quality of our life and its impact on others.

My decisions: I chose what?

“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” As a good Canadian lad of a certain age, I love Rush and have always been struck by this lyric, from the song Freewill. Freedom is a most cherished gift in western society. But, we must decide how we are going to use our level of brain power.

From a moral standpoint, one could say that we are responsible for our choices; from a brain chemistry point of view, it seems that the choices we make actually change our brain. Mounting evidence indicates that many diseases may be produced by these changes in brain power.

I did it My Way

We obviously all come into this world with different personalities, and not as carbon copies of our brothers or sisters. However, when we say, “this is just how I am” or how God made me, or whatever, this is not quite true. How we are today is also greatly affected by the decisions we made yesterday, at least the ones we have made repeatedly.

We humans have freedom to make decisions. We make thousands of decisions per day. Our decisions have the power to change the world around us. But have you ever thought about how your decisions change you?

Re-wiring the Brain

The neurological basis for these changes is known as neural plasticity, which is the creation of neural pathways. These pathways are connections of brain cells, known as neurons, which conduct messages to each other and to muscles. These connections can either be strengthened or weakened as a way of storing information, thus affecting brain power.

One of the ways this is done involves the surrounding proteins forming scaffolding attached to neurons in the brain. When enzymes adjust the connections between neurons by detaching these proteins, the neuron can form new connections, resulting in new pathways. These new connections are our response to experiences in our environment. This is part of the process that we call learning.

Other enzymes inhibit this process, permitting the neurons to stay glued together. Which enzymes are released will determine whether this connection will be made more or less permanent. As a neural pathway is used repeatedly, the easier it is to be triggered next time, resulting in memory formation.

Depending on how they respond to positive and negative messages in their life, people change their brain chemistry by the decisions they make. For example, do we choose to strengthen the neural pathway for forgiveness or choose to get even?

Keith Robertson
Click on the photo for Keith's profile.

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