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Likewise, the simple model for addiction, which holds that the brain causes illicit drugs like cocaine to trap the addict, should be viewed with caution. The Freudian notion that childhood traumas cause adult psychiatric problems is no more than a half truth. Yet millions of people casually accept the assumption that their brain is in control of their behavior, as when someone says, "I'm a bit OCD" or "I have uncontrollable food cravings" or “I'm so addicted to chocolate."
Several years ago I co-authored a book to turn the tables on this kind of thinking, with the noted Harvard Medical School geneticist Rudolph Tanzi. It was called Super Brain, because we wanted to demonstrate that higher brain function is within a person's capacity as the one who uses the brain instead of the other way around. Not just the user, either. You have the ability to inspire and guide your brain. You are not the victim of its hard wiring. The brain is a flowing, dynamic, ever-changing organ that responds, all the way down to the genetic level, to the kind of input you give it.
Every cell in the brain stays in balance by being incredibly sensitive to the input it receives, forming a feedback loop where input alters output. As a result, the brain's system of soft wiring is highly malleable, as is its ability to heal, produce new pathways, generate new cells, and send better messages to the other trillions of cells in your body. You can assert your control over your brain by becoming a better user of it, which means supplying positive input in place of negative input.
That's the simplest way to put it, and by now the difference between positive and negative input isn't a mystery. Good sleep, moderate exercise, meditation, stress reduction, a balanced diet, and the absence of toxins like alcohol and nicotine should be seen as input to the brain. But if you want to directly impact your brain to optimize its function, there are mental habits that make a huge difference.
Since this post has limited space, I'll simply list these habits - they are discussed in detail in Super Brain - because they play a major role in making sure that your brain doesn't get stuck in old pathways and functions.
Life has become so materialistic that it's easy to assume that your brain's functioning is beyond your control, or that the strongest way to change it is through prescription drugs. The truth is far otherwise 99 percent of the time. Nothing is more powerful for changing the brain than being the best user of the brain that you can be, and hopefully you can go further to guide and inspire it.
reprinted from San Francisco Chronicle with permission
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