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Neuroscience, Amygdalae And Beliefs – Oh My!


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By Brien Pittman

Our currently held beliefs, whether good or bad, true or false, were formed without effort, with no sense of strain, and without the exercise of will power. It follows that we must employ the same process in forming new beliefs and new responses. Many of our beliefs were formed without our even knowing it.

The beliefs that we will consider in this series of posts are not religious beliefs, that is an area of study that you must perform on your own. There is limitless and reliable information on the Internet. Investigate the origins of the world’s great religions and not so great religions, research Zoroastrianism you owe it to yourself in order to remain free and authentically you.

In the following posts we will be gaining an understanding of how our brains form and function (neuroscience) in regards to beliefs and the habits they create, also we will discuss how the brain can be changed, thus creating new perspectives, beliefs and habits.

It is no exaggeration to say that every human being is hypnotized to some extent, either by ideas they have uncritically accepted from their culture, society, advertising, religion, or some other unquestioned ideology. Unknowingly, many programmed ideas and beliefs are repeated to ourselves to the extent that we become completely convinced that they are true. These ideas and beliefs implanted into your mind have a powerful effect upon your behavior, and your perceptions of reality. If you are someone choosing to deprogram yourself from repressive religious beliefs or old habits this is not a reason to despair, on the contrary when you have mastered your new beliefs, behaviors and perceptions you will have acquired an enlightened wisdom unique to your experience and obtainable only thru your experience.

Lets consider how all of this happens from a neuroscience perspective. What actually goes on behind our curtain of consciousness?

Neuroplasticity: The Brain Change

Neuroplasticity has replaced the formerly held attitude that the brain is a physiologically static organ, and explores how — and in which ways — the brain changes throughout life. Specifically, for our purposes how neuroplasticity is involved in changing current misplaced perceptions and beliefs of others, the world and us.

Neuroplasticity occurs on a variety of levels, ranging from cellular changes due to learning, as well as, changes in thought processes, to large-scale changes involved in cortical remapping in response to brain injury. Decades of research have shown that substantial changes occur in the lowest neocortical processing areas, including the reticular formation. (More on why this is important later) But for now, it is significant that you realize that these changes can profoundly alter the pattern of neuronal activation in response to experience. Neuroscientific research indicates that new experiences can actually change both the brain’s physical structure (anatomy) and functional organization (physiology). 

Neurobiology: How the Brain Stretches

One of the fundamental principles of how neuroplasticity functions is linked to the concept of synaptic pruning, the idea that individual connections within the brain are constantly being removed or recreated, largely dependent upon how they are used. This concept is captured in the aphorism, “neurons that fire together, wire together” — “neurons that fire apart, wire apart.” If there are two nearby neurons that often produce an impulse simultaneously, their cortical maps may become one. This idea also works in the opposite way, i.e. that neurons, which do not regularly produce simultaneous impulses, will form different maps.

So, where are we going with all of this? Simply put: Your nervous system, especially your cortical maps and the way you process things can be changed by new experiences! If that is not reason alone for excitement then how about this: Your nervous system cannot tell the difference between an imagined experience and a “real” experience.

If the great significance of this hasn’t hit home yet, don’t worry, as we proceed it will, so will the significance of what this means in your individual life.

Brien Pittman
Brien Pittman
Brien’s articles for FāVS generally revolve around ideas and beliefs that create unhealthy deadlock divisions between groups. He has received (minor) writing awards for his short stories and poetry from the cities of Portland, Oregon and the city of (good beer) Sapporo, Japan. In 2010 he was asked to present several articles for the California Senate Committee “Task Force for Suicide Prevention” and has been published by online magazines and a couple national poetry anthologies in print form.




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