Neuroplasticity and Healing

13 Jul

…defined neuroplasticity as “the capacity of the brain to change its structure. For 400 years, we thought the brain was fixed and unchangeable. Neuroplasticity is now mainstream teaching within neuroscience.”

Doidge lauded Dr. Edward Taub, a UAB behavioral neuroscientist whose groundbreaking work into Constraint-Induced Movement therapy has helped the “rewiring” of brains of stroke victims, patients with traumatic brain injuries and children with cerebral palsy.

“UAB is the premiere place in the world to get treatment for stroke if you have a movement problem,” Doidge said, referring to the Taub Therapy Clinic. “This is a national treasure. There have been 600 papers written about what Taub has discovered.”

Dr. Michael Merzenich, a top brain plasticity researcher for nearly five decades, has been cited in hundreds of books and his work has been featured on four PBS specials.

“His approaches are extraordinary, worthy of a Nobel Prize,” said Doidge.

Each panel member gave outlines of their research with the aid of slides and videos, the Dalai Lama posing questions on such topics as memory loss, states of consciousness, training the mind, and the confluence of Eastern and Western science.

“The purpose of this study is to expand our knowledge and further our understanding, deeper, deeper,” said the Dalai Lama. “Training the mind is not for the next life or heaven, or what Buddhists call nirvana. These things are simply for our present life.”

Merzenich pointed out that the meeting of East and West is a collaboration, and much work still needs to be done.

“Neuroplasticity can help a lot, but it’s not complete,” he said. “We still have to operate with the complexities of real life. One of our goals is to get each person to be in charge of their own self-correction.

The Dalai Lama asked if there were places in the brain where anger, fear, hatred and jealousy are located, or if there were some techniques to reduce those and other negative emotions.

“The technique is called meditation,” answered Taub, citing studies on meditators that have yielded positive results by living more compassionate lives and affecting their overall well-being. “There is a great deal of evidence in a long line of research that there is a very marked decrease in the use of health care systems in the United States and Canada as a result of long-term practice of meditation – 90 percent fewer hospital days, an increase in longevity, a decrease in heart attacks. That’s hard data.”

Answering a question from the audience about reducing cynicism, the Dalai Lama responded, “Look at the wider perspective. In this city with one million population, there may be some murders. That means many people have survived with human love. I lost my own country at the age of 16. I lost my freedom at age 24. If you are looking with two eyes, now you should look with a third eye. There are plenty of reasons to be happy.”

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