Do our brains grow toward what we choose?
Our brains our changing. At least mine is. It has to, in order to keep up with the constant influx of information, sensory input, and data. To analyze it properly and make the right decision. I read and process information differently. My brain is adapting, as a survival strategy.
I’m not sure what that means, exactly. But, it seems, based on information provided by the new technology of brain study that we may actually be laying down new neural pathways, repairing some and pruning away others, all the time. In the “old days” – which by scientific standards was only 15 years ago – we didn’t think so. We thought that the brain’s circuitry, at least after a period of pruning from “excess” neurons that happened early in our lives, was fixed and unchangeable. After this, we had to live with whatever we had left. (Thus, the significant concern for some of us who were “killing off brain cells” with our brain-altering recreation.)
But what if our brain’s structure continues to adapt and grow in response to our thinking? What if we actually grow brain pathways toward what we are thinking about. More pathways to the frequent thoughts. More scattered pathways if we head in lots of directions.
This isn’t so far-fetched. Exercise and its increases to brain blood flow apparently result in enhancement of executive processing function and stimulate the production of brain growth factors. Do these repair nerves? grow them? re-route them?
This is exciting…and dangerous. It means that our brains are more like the rest of our bodies than we thought. The “use it or lose it” threat we address to our bodies may apply to our minds as well. Which means the things we focus on, that we learn and pattern and practice, are enhanced. The neural highways to (and from) those places are firmed up, bolstered, paved in concrete and there to stay. Pathways to those things we dismiss or fail to attend to would shrivel, get grown over, fall to disrepair and die.
What if our thoughts and actions actually act as our own pruning mechanism? A self-fulfilling brain circuitry. This sounds pretty good if we’re rightly directed. But, if we give into temptation or satisfy our pleasure center at the expense of other things, those pathways will be the ones enhanced. And, the highways to them will become easier to travel. The more connections we make, the more likely we re-visit.
Could addiction happen just this way? Can temptation that leads to sin be this simple? At some point is an “urge” truly irresistible?
No wonder God wants us focusing on Him. Because the world is full of distraction that tempts us away. Marketing and media and online ads flash to get our attention. Do we click – harmlessly, just to see?
During Advent I have downloaded a Christmas devotional playlist on Spotify, the free version because I have not paid extra for the “ads free” version. Today I play “Make Me A Servant”… and in the margin of my computer screen scroll a line of attractive men, the faces are photos like we used to take in the photo booths, one on top of the other, with a different expression on each. Though my ears hear…make me a servant today…my eyes see the message that pops up, “Do you want a boyfriend in Herndon?” All I have to do is click on the age group I prefer. Even in our devotion, Satan lurks.
To protect my brain from engaging the images I close my computer screen and focus on the listening. The Maranatha Singers sing…
Make me a servant, humble and meek
Lord, let me lift up, those who are weak.
And may the pray’r of my heart always be;
Make me a servant, make me a servant,
Make me a servant, today.
This is what I seek, but the world would draw me away.
Is the attraction and the paving and the same with you, Lord? Does the pathway to you grow stronger when I pray? Is making a way in the wilderness of our minds something we are meant to live? The more we seek and the more we search and the more we attend to things as you intend them, can we discover, uncover and lay down our way to You?
Are we otherwise, in fact, shaping our own brains according to our own will, own ways in our own circumstances, based on our own choices?
Let me choose You! And keep choosing you. Until the way to you is the only way I see.