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How Your Brain Gets Smarter

The Truth About How Your Brain Gets Smarter,” by Christine Camaford, Contributor

This excerpt is taken from Forbes Daily, Tuesday November 11, 2014

The Smarter Secret

Let’s assume “smarter” means making better choices, getting more of what you want and less of what you don’t. Let’s assume “smarter” means learning things faster, having more “ah ha” moments, breaking through mental barriers swiftly and with deep fulfillment.

Here’s how it works.

Roughly half of your brain is made of grey matter (where neural pathways are forged and reside) and the other half is made of white matter. First it’s key to know that neurons that fire together, wire together. This means to learn something new, to set a new habit in place, repetition is required. When you practice something deeply, intentionally and with some element of struggle a neural pathway is formed. Neurons are now firing together in a new sequence, and thus are wiring together as a collective. Repeated firing signals that this neural pathway is important. Repeated firing with deep practice and either struggle or ecstasy, alerts oligodendrocytes and astrocytes that this pathway needs to be upgraded, or insulated, and the process of myelination begins.

The newly forged and repeatedly fired neural pathway is then insulated like an electrical wire wrapped in a protective coating. This pathway (grey matter) is strengthened via the myelin (white matter) insulation and it is transformed from the equivalent of dialup to broadband. Heavily myelinated neural pathways are up to 300 times faster—they’ve been optimized for speed and efficiency. They’ve also become the default behavior, as the brain will choose the most highly myelinated pathways (because clearly they are the most important). This is how we form new automatic behaviors, also known as habits or habitual behavior choices.

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One Response to “How Your Brain Gets Smarter”

  1. Susan Ezraq says:

    This is a great article on the brain’s functioning and a leaping off point as to the power of imagery in the brain’s abilities.

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