Friday, January 23, 2009

BYBS: Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain's ability to "rewire" itself in response to training or experience. Up until recently, it was believed that the brain could not change very much after age 5 or so.

It has been known that the brain of a person who was, for example, born blind could change so that portions of the brain that typically were used for vision could instead be used for hearing. Hence the brain of a person born with blindness was physically different from a person with normal vision.

It has also been known that a person who becomes blind later on in life may also acquire more sensitive hearing, but it was thought that the corresponding physical changes to the brain did not occur.

Recent advances in brain imaging, however, indicate that the same basic changes in brain structure are possible in people all throughout life.

While such changes are possible in adults, they are much easier for children. A person who becomes unable to walk after suffering a stroke, for example, may have to work at learning to walk again for hours every day for months before regaining their old ability.

If a person can change something as basic as what part of the brain they use to walk with, then it must be possible and perhaps easier to change other, less fundamental things like behavior. If a blind person can use the "visual part" of their brain to hear, then is it easier for say a shy person to become more gregarious?

While the short answer is "yes," I will leave the rest for my next BYBS entry :-)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

BYBS: Benefits of BYBS

There is reason to believe that participating in BYBS may be, from a health standpoint, a good idea.

The results of a study by Emmons & McCullough seem to indicate that keeping a "Gratitude Journal," which bears a striking resemblance to writing entries for Blog Your Blessings Sunday, can have a positive benefit on ones outlook on life.

From the text of the abstract:

The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being across several, though not all, of the outcome measures across the 3 studies, relative to the comparison groups. The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding. Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.

This article also describes the study in a more reader-friendly manner.

Another reason to keep on blogging.