Change Your Brain Change Your Life

neuroscience is unlocking the key to changing the brain to making real and lasting changes in lifestyle habits and choices Research continues to unravel the mystery of how the brain works as they examine how physical changes occur in the brain as people undergo psychological therapy. By using brain scans and functional magnetic resonance imaging (f.M.R.I.), they map areas of the brain that fire under specific conditions. What they’re learning will fascinate you.

An extensive New York Times article outlines some of these findings, which take us steps closer to understanding how the physical brain changes as people change the way they think about themselves and life around them. It also reveals how brain trauma changes personality. Below is a brief summary of some of these findings.

As Andrew J. Gerber, a psychoanalyst and an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, and Bradley Peterson, a psychoanalyst, child psychiatrist and the director of the L.A. Institute for the Developing Mind at Children’s Hospital, worked together to combine psychoanalysis with neuroscience, Gerber saw a pattern in the patients who improved the most.

He noted that they didn’t improve in a linear way, that is, from worse to better as he had expected. Instead, about half way their treatment, they went through a period of swinging back and forth between extreme behaviors. Then they began to improve. To describe this process, he uses a chemistry term “annealing – the act of heating something so that all its molecules excitedly dance around and then slowly cooling it until it assumes a new and more stable state.”

Susan Andersen, a cognitive and social psychologist who studies transference at New York University began collaborating with Gerber and Peterson. They’ve found that when we’re confronted with a situation or a person that reminds of us something or someone we’ve known before, we activate regions in our brain that transfers attributes from these past experiences to our new experiences. These include the left and right insula, the motor cortex and the right caudate.

Mark Solms, a psychoanalyst, neuropsychologist and Freud scholar, has coined the phrase ‘‘neuropsychoanalysis’’, as he brings neuroscience and psychoanalysis together. Through his studies, he discerned that patients with damage to the right half of their brains often become self-absorbed and narcissistic. He discovered that the brain’s right hemisphere is where we understand or distort the boundaries between ourselves and the world around us.

Otto Kernberg, best known for tailoring psychoanalytic treatment for borderline personality disorder patients, found increased amygdala activity, as well as reduced activation in the ventro medial prefrontal cortex, a region that plays a crucial role in inhibiting behavior.

Not only is this information fascinating, it helps those of us in mental health develop better treatments for our clients. It reinforces the hope that the brain can be retrained so everyone can live a healthy and happy life. If you are ready to create healthier life choices and habits and live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment so we can tailor a program that helps you change your life for the better.

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