I’ve been at a conference over the last couple of days and listened to a key note (hmmm key note – not to be confused with any election reference…more like ‘off-key’ note in that case) from Dr Michael Merzenich a very learned man with a passion for this stuff that was almost contagious. I tend to inoculate myself with a natural dose of non-attachment to any definitive theory of anything.

Brain plasticity is a not a new idea, but there have been some assumptions about when that plasticity ends and hardened or engrained neural pathways become set. From this point on we get the saying ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’. No-one of course ever bothers to wonder if the dog is actually just giving the human equivalent of the middle finger rather than perform on command. It seems some theories might need a bit of plasticity as new research reveals the brain is indeed plastic at all ages and stages of life. Of course this has huge implications for healing trauma, learning, quality of life, memory and recall.
We saw lots of high quality data to support this, many graphs, diagrams, stats, none of which I can remember – but probably could if signed up for the programme Dr Merzenich has designed (and has shares in he so openly declared) and I trained myself to. And here is the dilemma. Whilst I appreciate the revelation I’m hoping it doesn’t start a wave of relentless pursing of ‘upping learning capacity’ or creating a new wave of extra training to add to an already growing obsession with training in general.

Plasticity however is a great concept in general. If we can apply the idea of plasticity to rigid beliefs and values and generate new pathways of social connection, understanding and respect that isn’t fixed in fear and ignorance, that will be far more valuable than recalling 200 random objects at will. My guess is the events that lead to the initial chaos and damage requiring repair would probably not be so prevalent. I’d rather have a share in that.

Really – it’s a no brainer.


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