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4 Surprising Neuroscience Insights About Your Brain

Neuroscience is a pretty fascinating field. It talks about how your brain shapes the reality that you experience. By understanding how your brain works, you would be able to understand yourself better. This can help you make lasting changes in your habits and behaviour.

β€œAny man could, if he were so inclined, be the sculptor of his own brain.”

― Santiago Ramon

Here are four fascinating insights about your brain -

  1. Neuroplasticity: Your brain can change according to the experiences you have. 

Neuroscience research has shown that the human brain can adapt and change its structure and function in response to different prolonged experiences. This is called neuroplasticity.

It was once believed that the brain reached a fixed state in adulthood, but research has shown that the brain is capable of reorganising itself in response to new experiences and learning throughout our lifespan.

Practical Application - If you want to learn a new skill or form a new habit, the key is consistency. When you act once, neural pathways are formed in your brain. When you do it repeatedly, those pathways are strengthened in your brain. It is just like going to the gym and working out. Once you stretch your muscles, it hurts, but as you get used to it, it becomes less painful and your muscles strengthen.

  1. Sleep and memory: Sleeping enhances the process of learning and memory retention.

Neuroscience research has established a strong link between sleep and memory retention. During sleep, the brain replays memories created when one was awake, this helps in memory processing. This replay process is thought to be particularly important for strengthening memories of newly learned information. 

This explains why most offices have nap-pods in the workplace these days. It helps the employees take a short nap and recharge to work on the next important task.

Practical Application - Research has shown that sleep is critical for brain health and overall well-being. Prioritising sleep by maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and avoiding sleep-disrupting behaviours like screen time before bed can improve sleep quality.

Remember to get a good sleep the night before your exam or before an important presentation!

  1. Visualisation works: When you visualise yourself doing something it is actually as if you are practising it.

Visualisation can be a powerful tool for improving performance and learning new skills. When we visualise ourselves performing a task or activity, we activate many of the same neural pathways as when we actually perform the task, leading to improved performance.

Research has shown that visualisation can be particularly effective for improving motor skills, such as in sports or musical performance. By visualising ourselves performing a task, we can reinforce the neural connections involved in that task, leading to improved motor control and coordination.

Practical Application - Visualization can be particularly effective when combined with actual practice. By visualising ourselves performing a task before actually attempting it, we can prepare ourselves for optimal performance. You can also use visualisation during breaks in practice or competition, to reinforce neural connections and maintain mental focus.

  1. Reward yourself to form a better habit: Getting rewards actually improves your performance.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a critical role in learning and motivation. It is released in response to rewarding or feel-good experiences, such as eating good food, achieving a goal, or receiving positive feedback.

When dopamine is released during a rewarding experience, it can strengthen the neural circuits involved in that experience, making it easier to learn and remember associated information.

This might help you understand why you used to seek out rewards as a child to complete homework on time. 

Practical Application - One trick you could apply to learn quickly is to break down your goals into smaller achievable targets. Instead of waiting to reward yourself after you achieve the end goal, it is better to set small goals and reward yourself as you achieve them. This can be something small, like taking a break to do something you enjoy, or something bigger, like treating yourself to something you've been wanting.