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Sathguruve Saranam



No son sólo las experiencias físicas, que procesas a través de los sentidos, las que
cambian tu cerebro… Tus pensamientos, emociones, ideas, creencias, aprendizajes,
hasta tus sueños, esperanzas y lo que no haces, también moldean tu cerebro.

El verdadero APRENDIZAJE se genera a través de tu EXPERIENCIA INTERNA, por

medio de lo que estás pensando mientras ves, hueles, tocas, escuchas; y por medio de
las imágenes que creas en tu mente. Esto es lo que genera cambios en tu cerebro.

¿Qué propicia la NEUROPLASTICIDAD?

Meditación causa

Se activa la MINDFULNESS es
CORTEZA una forma de
PREFRONTAL meditación

Al generar
concentración en la


El efecto placebo no es sólo psicológico, pues genera cambios fisiológicos.

Entonces, lo que piensas (y creas en tu mente) tiene consecuencias.
 ¿Cómo te sientes cuando pones TU ATENCIÓN en algo (o alguien) que te
 Por el contrario, ¿cómo te sientes al pensar en algo (o alguien) que amas?

Todo cambia al bajar las experiencias de la mente al corazón.

Estás generando CONSECUENCIAS en ti y en tu entorno,

ya sea que elijas poner tu atención en:

Lo que agradeces Lo que te molesta

Tus decisiones más constantes GENERAN HÁBITOS en tu cerebro, nuevas conexiones


Tu nueva forma de pensar persistente hace CRECER las conexiones.

Tus viejos se DEBILITAN

NUEVO HÁBITO: Si eliges poner TU ATENCIÓN más en lo que agradeces y no en

quejarte, se genera un nuevo mapa mental que procesa tus pensamientos.


Nuestros pensamientos recurrentes estimulan la secreción de substancias y envían

señales al núcleo de la neurona, lo que alcanza a afectar nuestro ADN.

Esto activa o desactiva genes que producen substancias que generan nuevas
conexiones neurales. Y ello provoca los cambios en el cerebro, es decir, la

Nuestros pensamientos, emociones, ideas, creencias, expectativas, etc., tienen

efectos: neurológicos, fisiológicos, genéticos y epigenéticos.

Chapter 4
The Power of Plasticity
‘To think is to practice brain chemistry.’

Your brain is changing as you read these words. The phenomenon is called

Everything you see, hear, touch, taste and smell changes your brain, and every thought
causes microscopic changes in its structure. In a sense, thoughts leave physical traces in
the brain in much the same way as we leave footsteps in the sand on a beach.
As you think, millions of brain cells (neurons) reach out and connect with each other,
moulding the actual substance of the brain just as a potter moulds her clay. The
connections between brain cells are called neural connections. Think of the brain as like a
giant 3D map containing towns and cities with networks of roads linking them. New roads
are constantly being added to the map as some towns connect in more and more ways,
and some old roads are lost as they’re no longer used.

In a similar way, your brain contains maps and these also expand and contract depending
on how much you use them. For instance, if you used your right hand for a few hours
without using your left, the ‘map’ for your right hand would expand as several new roads
(neural connections) were forged in it. In this way, as we go through life our brain maps
are in a continual state of expansion and contraction.

Take a well-known study of symphony orchestra musicians, for example. Publishing in the
journal NeuroImage, scientists from the Magnetic Resonance and Image Analysis
Research Centre at the University of Liverpool showed that years of being a musician had
expanded an area of the brain known as ‘Broca’s area’, which is an area associated with
language and musical abilities. When they compared this area of the brain with those of
people who weren’t musicians, it was much bigger in the musicians.

Similarly, studies of blind people who learn Braille show that as they practise, the brain
maps governing the tips of their index fingers expand because they’re using their fingertips
more often.

Another way to think of neuroplasticity is to imagine individual neurons as trees rather than
towns and cities. Neurons have branches, just as towns and cities have roads, and these
branches reach out to connect with the branches of other trees. As activity in a particular
brain region increases, the trees grow new branches. As activity decreases, so unneeded
branches dissolve and fall away.

Your Mind Changes Your Brain

As I’ve pointed out, it’s not just your physical experiences – which are processed through
your five senses – that change your brain. Your thoughts, feelings, ideas, beliefs, things
you learn, even your hopes and dreams, shape the brain too.

As an example, a 2007 scientific study of mathematicians, published in the American

Journal of Neuroradiology, showed that the area of the brain that controlled mathematical
thinking was biggest for those who’d been mathematicians longest. With each year spent
as a mathematician – thinking, abstracting and analysing as a mathematician does – more
new branches were added to the ‘mathematical map’.

In the UK, a study of London taxi drivers found the same kind of thing. Brain maps had
expanded through years of learning and memorizing routes. Learning is more than just
your brain processing what you see, hear, touch, taste and smell: it involves what you
think about what you see, hear, touch, taste and smell, as well as the pictures you make in
your mind as you think about, anticipate, reminisce and even memorize things. All of these
processes change your brain.
Studying for exams even changes the brain. Indeed, a 2006 study published in the
Journal of Neuroscience found brain map changes when students were studying for their
exams. Scientists at the University of Regensburg in Germany followed 38 medical
students while they studied for their medical exams and discovered that the areas of the
brain that process memory and abstract information grew thicker.

So, our experiences and our thinking change the brain. The brain is not a static lump of
organic matter that delivers genetically programmed instructions to the body, as many of
us have come to believe. It’s a constantly changing network of neurons and connections.
And we’re the cause of the changes.

Norman Doidge, MD, author of The Brain That Changes Itself, writes, ‘The idea that the
brain is like a muscle that grows with exercise is not just a metaphor.’ Just like muscles,
regions of the brain grow thicker as we use them – as we repeat the same movement,
imagine the same thing, ponder the same thought or idea, feel the same feeling, or even
dream the same dreams over and over again, just as muscles grow as we repeatedly
perform an exercise.

It may come as little surprise to learn, then, that meditation also changes the brain. Many
studies now show that meditation causes neuroplasticity. As an example, a study of
meditators using the Buddhist ‘Insight’ meditation that was conducted at Massachusetts
General Hospital in the USA showed that the meditation had increased the thickness of
the prefrontal cortex of the brain – the area that controls concentration.

One of the simplest forms of meditation is mindfulness and one of the easiest ways to
practise it is to simply become mindful of the fact that you’re breathing. That’s it.
Mindfulness 101. But in placing our attention on our breathing, we activate the prefrontal
cortex of the brain and it undergoes neuroplasticity. In a sense, it grows like a muscle. The
prefrontal cortex is like the brain’s CEO in that it controls not only concentration but things
like attention, compassion, free will and even the ability to control ourselves and override
knee-jerk emotional reactions. This is why mindfulness is associated with improvements in
all of these areas.

Even practising a kindness and compassion-based meditation, like the Buddhists’ ‘Loving-
Kindness’ meditation (also known as metta bhavana), causes neuroplasticity, this time on
the left-hand side of the prefrontal cortex, a region associated with positive emotion, and
also in the insula, a region associated with empathy and compassion.

When you use visualization – where you imagine something happening – one of the things
that occurs is that you change the microscopic structure of your brain through
neuroplasticity. We shall learn how to do visualization later in the book. We now know that
the placebo effect isn’t ‘just psychological’, but results in real physiological changes, and
that visualization isn’t just a psychological thing either, an inert mish-mash of mental
pictures that are just there to make you feel good. What you do with your mind has

If, at first, that sounds like a stretch of the imagination, think of what happens when you
place your attention on something (or someone) that makes you feel stressed! Think,
instead, of someone you love. As I showed in my book The Five Side Effects of Kindness,
this brings about physical changes in the heart, the arteries and even in the immune

Use It or Lose It – a Leopard Can Change Its Spots

Metaphorically speaking!

If you repetitively flexed your right hand over several days, the brain map for your right
hand would expand because lots more neural connections would have formed in it. But if
you stopped doing this and switched to flexing your left hand, the map for your right hand
would shrink because you were no longer using your right hand and the map for your left
hand would grow instead.

As Norman Doidge has pointed out, the brain is like a muscle. The more you use a
muscle, the thicker it gets. If you stop using it, it atrophies and gets smaller. Thus, any time
you change your way of thinking, many connections that correspond to your old way
dissolve and connections that correspond to your new way of thinking begin to grow.

So, let’s say you’ve always complained about things. You’ll have built up brain maps that
process your negative thoughts and emotions. But, say, after reading this book you decide
that you’re going to look at things differently. You realize that your mind affects your body.
You decide to think more positively and focus on what you’re grateful for instead of what
annoys you. Now you grow new maps that process your new way of thinking. Complaint-
based maps begin to shrink and gratitude maps expand.

In a surprisingly short space of time (studies suggest somewhere between three weeks
and two months), your new positive gratitude map is larger than the negative, complaint-
based one. At the neurological level, positive thinking and gratitude become a habit. These
new ways are now wired into your brain and you really are a different person.

We needn’t think that we, or our loved ones, can’t change our ways. All we need to do is
make the effort to change our mind. The brain responds to the mental and emotional
changes we make and in time, as it develops new maps, we don’t need to make as much
effort any more. The new behaviour is wired and has become a habit.