Hillbillies and the Brain

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I’m doing something nerdy, and I’m just going to own it. That’s kind of my mindset after chasing kids all day in Spanish. Some might consider it practical, but bear with me as I have my carpe crazy moment.

I probably should have been a doctor (sorry Mom) because genetics, biology, and the brain fascinate me. I was that girl who brought a dogfish shark to dissect for extra credit in high school biology. The shark happened to be pregnant with eggs and babies, and my grandmother made shark hors d’oeuvres for my class (sorry grandma).

Keep that image in your head as we move on to the fact that I’ve been going bonkers over the neuroplasticity bandwagon for a couple of months now. In English, neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to restructure itself after training and practice. It’s like zumba for your brain. Anyone can do it, meaning you can teach any aged dog multiple new tricks.

Basically, let’s look at this in terms of family feud, and I mean real life instead of the game show with Steve Harvey. I’m talking about a feud Beverly Hillbillies style.

Those guns. Enough said.

Anyway, picture the Clampetts as your neurons. They are a pretty tight knit, Southern Confederate family. When they all act as a unit, they are a force to be reckoned with and they are much stronger that way. Especially when an event triggers something that makes them all band together, which in this case was the courting gone wrong of Ellie Mae. The more events force them together, the easier it’s going to be for them to respond to a crisis until it’s habit and they just get the guns. However, if they don’t have events that pull them together, they won’t have the need to band together and those actions stay dormant and unused.

In essence, this is neuroplasticity: the more you practice an activity, your neuron clique will band together and form a pathway. But if the pathway isn’t utilized, it will gradually fade into obscurity to make room for more important neuron cliques. However, cliques are hard to kill, so the pathways will stick around for a bit.

What’s interesting about this is that a popular mode of thinking was that the brain can only change and adapt from infancy through childhood. While neuroplasticity is rampant in children, adults and the elderly also have the ability to form new habits and change their brain. The brain never starts changing and evolving. Mindboggling.

Now that I’ve had my moment, the deliciously nerdy activity that I’ve been taking part in is brain training through Brain HQ. It’s pretty intriguing. I saw a program the creators made for an Australian businessman who apparently increased his efficiency and sped up his brain processing by 30 percent. I decided that yes, I want that can of Red Bull.

So far, I’ve been remembering where I’ve put my keys. Remembering all the kids’ names is a plus too. And switching from English to Spanish and vice versa has been easier. Another plus is that I’m actually understanding more of the comedy telenovela called Que Pobres Tan Ricos than I thought I would. Although I cannot lie, those Spanish subtitles make my life.

I wanted more though. So I went deeper.

Yesterday I found yet another way to engage more of the brain instead of just the prefrontal cortex that engages short term memory via a Psychology Today article. I was really looking for my next superpower, but I got sidetracked. And yes, I took the quiz at the end and I actually was surprised because I have a horrible memory. I have lost my glasses on my face, my keys in my pocket, a pencil under a blanket…basically had absent-minded professor moments all the time.

Then I went on a goose chase to learn about mnemonics and the pegging system, which seems like so much work that it should be a summer project. The Romans probably only used it because they didn’t have paper. Needless to say, putting my brain through an an Olympic training sized workout seemed a little harsh because it stopped eating Wheaties a few years ago. On the other hand, it would probably save me a lot of work if I mastered this, especially because the above link has mnemonics for a foreign language. The mnemonics form that I was most interested in is the topical system, to be able to pull memories out at will via pictures in your mind.

Although my New Year’s resolution list didn’t include fitness, or brain fitness for that matter, I’m intrigued by mnemonics and what Brain HQ has to offer. With the help of both, I can proceed with my plan to take over the world every night.

Or at least every other night–that looked like too much work.

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