Times of Social Unrest Appear to Boost Our Brain’s Neuroplasticity

Social Unrest Boosts Neuroplasticity

New research suggests that times of global unrest present a unique opportunity for neurological growth and profound behavior change, but only when leveraged correctly.

Kayla Osterhoff is a neuropsychophysiologist who studies the interaction of the mind and brain, which she calls the ‘human operating system.’

“One of the greatest mysteries in modern neuroscience is actually how the brain produces the mind. The reason why we have not been able to come up with the answer for this is because that’s not how it works. These two are actually separate systems that interact together to produce what I call the ‘human operating system,’ which is responsible for our version of reality as humans,” Osterhoff said.

Osterhoff has recently been researching the hypothesis that times of social unrest provide a valuable opportunity to neurologically upgrade this human operating system.

“Right now, we have this very unique opportunity to upgrade our ‘human operating system’ globally,” Osterhoff said. “And that is because as a society around the entire world we are experiencing this social unrest and this has caused a couple of significant cognitive and neurological shifts that have provided an opportunity for us to grow and evolve as a society.”

Osterhoff points to several fascinating factors that contribute to this phenomenon.

“So, studies are showing that acute states of stress, like shock, trauma, or something surprising like what we’re currently experiencing in our world, caused this cognitive psychological shift that actually makes our subconscious mind more suggestible, meaning that our subconscious mind is brought forward so to speak, and it’s more malleable, it’s more programmable,” Osterhoff said. 

“If you look back at clinical hypnosis research and Ericksonian research — he was kind of the father of clinical hypnosis — he found in his research that shock and surprise are actually a form of hypnotic induction that can be utilized to reprogram the subconscious mind or increase subconscious suggestibility,” she said. 

Another contributing factor Osterhoff has uncovered has to do with the phenomenon of neuroplasticity.

“So, neuroplasticity refers to the way that our neurons, our brain cells, fire, and wire together. So, neuroplasticity increases our ability to change and reshape these neural pathways,” Osterhoff said. “The second opportunity that we have right now is a global increase in neuroplasticity. Now, in these times of unrest, our lives have been upended, our patterns have shifted, and we’re experiencing things for the first time. So, because of this our globe is experiencing heightened neuroplasticity and heightened subconscious suggestibility.”

What are the implications of these findings?

“Now, the opportunity here is that we can leverage these two abilities to change, grow, evolve, shift, and learn to our benefit or if we remain unaware of this, we can be shifted in a way that is detrimental to us as well,” Osterhoff said. 

“For instance, if you want to quit smoking, or you want to change some kind of behavior, you have a greater ability to do that right now than ever before. On the opposite side of things, if you spend this time in fear or in worry, you risk hardwiring those behaviors into your physiology. Because this is happening on a mass scale, our world has a greater capacity to evolve, shift, and grow than it ever has before. So we need to leverage this, we need to take advantage so that we can make the positive changes that we want to see in the world happen.”

Woman Missing Large Part of Brain Ranks 98th Percentile in Speech

Woman Missing Brain Normal Speech

A recent study sheds light on the remarkable case of a woman who grew up without a key part of her brain and was barely affected by it.

In the endless search to understand the workings of the human mind, scientists take special interest in cases of the most unique brains. The most recent and fascinating is that of a woman known as EG (to protect her privacy.)

Now in her fifties, EG first learned her brain was atypical in her twenties when she had it scanned for an unrelated reason. She was told then that she had been missing her left temporal lobe from infancy, which was most likely the result of an early stroke. This part of the brain is thought to be involved with language processing, which makes EG’s story so extraordinary.

Despite being repeatedly told by doctors that she should have major cognitive deficits and neurological issues, EG has a graduate degree, has enjoyed an impressive career, and speaks Russian as a second language.

Several years ago, EG met Dr. Evelina Fedorenko, a cognitive neuroscientist at M.I.T. who studies language. Fedorenko was immediately fascinated by EG’s case and conducted a number of studies, the first of which was recently published in the journal Psychologia.

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