Thursday, October 19, 2006

Change your brain

Yesterday I attended a lecture on "Zen and the Brain." It was geared toward psychiatry residents, so it was at once familiar (giving an overview of what meditation is) and difficult (using clinical terms to talk about the brain).

But basically, there's this: meditation changes your brain. Literally.

There's been a good bit of research on this lately, headed up by a professor at UW-Madison.

I'm really taken with this idea that the brain can change, but maybe not everyone is. Last semester in my blogging class, for instance, a student brought up an article about the possibility of emplanting chips in the brain as a treatment for neurological disorders. Some heated discussion followed: folks weren't too keen on the idea of altering the brain, which, to most of them, seemed to be the most basic unit of the thing called self. (Of course, meditation is all about getting rid of that notion.)

In any case, the idea of altering the brain, for them, was tantamount to fundamentally altering who you are. And that seemed wrong.

(But then KR assured us these chips weren't likely to be available any time soon, so no worries.)

Me, though, I'm quite happy to change my brain. I find it really freeing to know my brain isn't set for the rest of my life.

It's the old plasticity thing that I've blogged about before. I even like that word. Plasticity. Because, you know, they talk about the plastic arts.

So meditation is a plastic art. With the brain as medium.


Daniel said...

I like that, the brain as medium. Great metaphysical riff--meditation and media. I also like all of the fmri research of late on the brain and language or music. I'm trying to remember the one about language. I think it might have been verbs move the brain more than nouns. Maybe not. Brain not cooperating.

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