Can a person change oneself? For example, became more talented, more intelligent? Often we can hear: ,,he is never going to change…” or: ,,people can’t change themselves…” And how often we realize that people around us – our friends, or we ourselves, constantly repeat the same mistakes. We say then: ,,I’ve learned nothing…”. What about our New Year’s resolutions?- ,,this year everything’s gonna be different!” – and what happens next? It is as it used to be…
It is our daily observations that show us that it is not so simple to change old habits. But, in that case, do the efforts of those more persistent and more stubborn, has any chance for success?
Fortunately, apart from our own observations, often cursory, simplistic and to be frank – rather aiming to justify ourselves, we have still some other sources of knowledge about human nature which may brighten the cloud of pessimism that hung at the beginning of that article above the picture of possibilities for human development.
Take a look at this issue from the perspective of the latest achievements of neuroscience researches. Well, scientists oriented biologically would say that our mental and physical lives depend on the functioning of our brain. With that view in our minds and being eager to look at it a little bit closely, it becomes necessary to restate our initial question. Let’s ask now: ,,Can we influence our brain, develop it, and will then these changes be reflected in the way we function?”
Not so long ago – until the results of modern neuroscience- it was believed that development of the brain stops relatively early in life. Probably, this view derived from the knowledge that human brain reaches about 90% of its final weights by early childhood and changes very little in size after the age of five. The results of latest post-mortem studies have provided strong evidence that brain development is far from complete in childhood, and that changes in its architecture occur throughout the course of the whole human life.
It seems that somehow our brain has been prepared to cope with the challenges that are posed by changing environment. Genes define only general outline of development. If we enrich our milieu with various stimuli, our brain, in order to adapt to these external changes, is able to modify (to some degree) its structure. Acquisition of new skill, such as three-ball cascade juggling (as in one experiment), can lead to subtle modification in the grey matter in the occipito-temporal cortex. Intriguing is that these changes are temporal and therefore it seems that they are just the reaction for novelty of the task – after some time, when the exercise had been abandoned, although participants were still able to juggle, the changes receded. We can draw the assumption that from the point of our nervous system it is more important to encode new ability than practicing one we possessed.
What we need is more scientific research in this field but for sure it looks like that learning new things throughout the whole life pays off :-) Also, we still don’t know what kind of impact these changes may have on a human being functioning. However, we can see clearly that human brain, the core of our personality and cognitive abilities (generally these ones connected with perception and processing information) is not a rigid structure and deaf to changes but actually quite contrary, it keeps up with them and undergoes them. The fact that the meaning and nature of these changes have not yet been discovered, turns itself into an undisputed evidence of the magnitude of possibilities lying inside it.
All the best!