Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Neurogenesis and mental health.

Can neurogenesis heal mental health conditions?
Let me first explain what neurogenesis is. Do you remember the saying “you can’t teach the old dog new tricks?” Well, it turns out that you can.

No matter how old you are now, the fact is that our experiences add new neuronal pathways to our brain.

When you learn something new or start a new activity like playing the piano, for instance, new neurons create new synaptic connections in the brain. When you first learn the piano it takes much effort to remember the keyboard and the location of the keys like F, G, A, B. Every time you practice piano the neuronal synapses coding the right movement of your fingers develop better and better. After some time you do it automatically, without such a tremendous effort or focus like in the beginning.

Do you remember how you learned to ride your bike? I guess not. You were very young back then. Maybe your father taught you this. I remember mine did. It took many collapses and cries before I learned to keep my balance right on the bike.

Now when you get on your bike – the process has been automated. You don’t need to even think on how to ride it.

Can we use the process of neurogenesis in healing mental health conditions?

Learning something new changes our brain. Let’s say you meditate or practice body awareness – the possible healing can be a result of gene expression that depend on activities that take place in stem cells of the brain and other body parts.

There is already some positive evidence showing that people who practice meditation or body awareness create other thought patterns and exercise calming both their body and mind.

The body, after all, is nothing else than an unconscious mind.
All body conditions that you may have – scoliosis, astigmatism, cramps – are influenced by emotional patterns of your mind and past tough experiences. Body is a book of your mind, where all invisible emotional patterns can be physically read as symptoms or bodily dysfunctions.

Our brain, thanks to constant impulses from our behaviors, physical exercises, new environment and newly created experiences (memories), becomes a pulsating creative mass that can change itself.

Change your brain = change your life?

Dr Richard Davidson dealing with neurobiology at University of Wisconsin was examining the impact of meditation on the brain. He published a series of tests based on PET-scanner examination and EEG (electroencephalogram), which monitor those parts of the brain which stay active during meditation.

The results of the tests were more than promising. They proved that people who meditate develop those parts of the brain that enhance the positive mood. Can this mean that meditation can help in depression just like mood-enhancing antidepressants? Perhaps.

There are still many things we don’t know, espiecially about the capacity of our own bodies to “self-medicate” and self-regulate.

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