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For years scientists believed that the brain was static, unchanging and locked.
But our understanding has changed drastically to the point where we now see the brain as
plastic and constantly changing. But what if I told you that simply thinking could
not only the way your brain works but its physical shape and structure as well?
It turns out this is exactly what happens. From a neuroscientific
standpoint imagining an action and doing it require the same motor and sensory
programs in the brain. For example, if you were to close your eyes and imagine the
letter "B" the primary visual cortex lights up in the same way it does when you
look at the letter on the screen. Take a moment and imagine yourself writing out
your signature with your dominant hand.
Chances are the amount of time it takes you to simply imagine doing it is
similar to how long it actually takes to write it out. Try doing the same thing
with your non dominant hand and it actually takes you longer to write and
How is this relevant?
Well because imagination and action are actually integrated and engage the same
neural pathways, practicing one actually influences the other.
One fascinating study took two groups and had them practice piano for two
hours a day.
Except one group was only allowed to use mental practice, they couldn't touch the
piano but would sit in front of it and imagine practicing. The surprising result,
the exact same physical changes took place in the motor cortex of both groups.
And after three days their accuracy in playing was the exact same,
beyond five days the physical practice group did begin to excel faster
but the imagination group, when given the chance to practice physically, was able
to catch up to their skill level quickly. Perhaps more incredible is an experiment
which used imagination in an effort to strengthen muscles. Both groups did the
same figure muscle exercises for four weeks
though one group simply did it mentally. Those who actually did the physical
exercise increased their strength by thirty percent while those who imagined
doing it increased their muscle strength by twenty two percent.
This is because the neurons responsible for the movement instruction were still
being used and strengthened, resulting in increased strength when the muscles
actually contracted. So while your thoughts don't have some mystical or
magical power, mental practice is an effective way to prepare for a physical
skill. Each thought actually changes the structure and function of your brain by
affecting the neurons at the microscopic level.
Though as much as we wish you could sit there and become the next Mozart, it won't
happen without a lot of hard physical work, but a little imagination never hurts.
This episode of a AsapSCIENCE is supported by audible.com, the leading provider of
audio books, with over one hundred thousand downloadable titles across all
types of literature. This episode was inspired by the book "The Brain That
Changes Itself" by Norman Doidge. You can download this audiobook or another of
your choice for free at audible.com/asap.
Special thanks to audible for making these videos possible and offering you a
free audio book at audible.com/asap, and subscribe for more weekly
science videos.
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The Scientific Power of Thought

21492 Folder Collection
VoiceTube published on November 6, 2017    Tanya Chiu translated    黃艾瑄 reviewed
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