Thursday, December 14, 2006

Beyond the Decade of the Brain

The ten years from 1991 to 2001 were dubbed “The Decade of the Brain.” Of the numerous important breakthroughs during that period, the most exciting to me is the discovery that the brain indeed creates new cells. The new cells the brain creates later in life apparently survive when they are used, or have a better chance of surviving if they are used.

I see happy implications in this news. The arrival of new brain cells can be seen as a gift – and an opportunity to use more of my brain.

The formation of new neurons is called neurogenesis. One area where this is taking place is in your cerebral cortex – the most complex region of the brain, and the area responsible for the highest-level decision making.

One implication of these findings is that the introduction of new neurons into the circuitry of the brain may play a role in memory. Most theories of learning and memory hold that memories are formed by changes at the synapse, or the junction between neurons.

Many studies are currently under way to further our knowledge about newly developed brain cells. The ongoing news from current scientific research is very inspiring -- and motivating.

I look for productive challenges to keep my own brain growing. I want to be sure to put those new cells to work! Learning about the brain is one way I challenge myself. Discovering how to share the news with my readers is another kind of challenge.

Creators of brain exercises say that the brain thrives on newness – and I’d say newness is thriving in the brain!

Be exuberant,

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