“Brain research is beginning to produce concrete evidence for something that Buddhist practitioners of meditation have maintained for centuries: Mental discipline and meditative practice can change the workings of the brain and allow people to achieve different levels of awareness.”
“What we found is that the longtime practitioners showed brain activation on a scale we have never seen before,” said Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the university’s new $10 million W.M. Keck Laboratory for Functional Brain Imaging and Behavior. “Their mental practice is having an effect on the brain in the same way golf or tennis practice will enhance performance.” It demonstrates,” he said, “that the brain is capable of being trained and physically modified in ways few people can imagine.”
It seems that science is finally catching up to practices that are literally thousands of years old. It is always amazing and somewhat frustrating that for centuries, millions of people have realized they can rewire their brains; however, science is just now beginning to understand the process and accept that it can actually occur.
Biofeedback and neurofeedback practitioners use equipment to undergo the same changes that the Buddhist monks undergo through training in the process of meditation. The machines used in biofeedback and neurofeedback allow the user to move into the same states as Buddhist monks. Sensors are attached to the scalp which permit the neurofeedback practitioner to view what the brain is doing, called brainwave activity, as it immediately happens via the computer screen. Repeating the practice of neurofeedback can be very similar to meditation. The Keck Laboratory verifies that physical activities or training can actually rewire the brain and this has been demonstrated for feedback practitioners too.
“The brain uses an enormous amount of the body’s energy. Even under normal circumstances it uses about 20 percent of your body’s entire energy production. When you work your brain harder, [meditate, use neurofeedback or biofeedback] you use more. The blood flow goes to the brain and it’s really like working out,” says Duke University neurobiologist Dr. Lawrence Katz.
Executive Director of the Center for Brain Health and professor of behavioral and brain sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas, Dr. Sandra Chapman says she wants to dispel the myth that the brain is “an untouchable black box. The brain is highly modifiable by everything we do.” Everything we do includes physical exercise, social interaction, meditation, prayer, or playing. Chapman says, “Whatever you spend time doing is what part of your brain is going to strengthen. Don’t do random things. Ask yourself if that’s the part of your brain you want to build. We see people who lose a lot of their ability, but the first thing to come back is the thing that they did the most.”
From our new knowledge of the working brain, it is evident that the opportunity exists to rewire the circuits that are weakest in persons with ADHD, i.e., those circuits that don’t allow attention to low-level stimuli like balancing a checkbook, cleaning your room, finishing homework, staying organized, or finishing a project at work. The object is to practice mindfulness and work on the aforementioned specific tasks. I developed Play Attention for just this purpose and science is finally catching up to us.
In referring to rewiring and strengthening the brain, research psychiatrist, Jeffrey Schwartz, of UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute says, “The key really is the refocusing. When you refocus you activate alternative brain machinery… [It] really is like going to the gym; you’re strengthening your brain. When you stop doing it, you have a stronger brain.”
So, to rewire the circuits that are weak and strengthen them, we must repeatedly practice. For people with ADHD, this practice is clear: we must practice attention and those subordinate skill sets that are conspicuously missing. That’s the foundation of Play Attention. It is the only feedback based learning system that incorporates attention training with cognitive skills training. Our patents guarantee that. The scientific community IS finally catching up.
Portions of this blog were derived from Sky Magazine’s Brain’s World by Sophia Dembling (Feb. 2005)