The Mind and Renewal

In “The Mutable Brain,” an article in The Scientific American, Marguerite Holloway offers a metaphor for how the brain works:

It is as if the brain is a vast floodplain. One year the water might run eastward in a series of small channels; the next it might cut a river deep through the center. A year later, and a map of the floodplain looks completely different: streams are meandering to the west. It is the same with a brain, the argument goes. Change the input—be it a behavior, a mental exercise, such as calculating a tip or playing a new board game, or a physical skill— and the brain changes accordingly. Magnetic resonance imaging machines reveal the new map: different regions light up. And Merzenich and others who work in this field of neuroplasticity are not just talking about young brains, about the still developing infant or child brain, able to learn a first language and then a second in a single bound. These researchers are describing old brains, adult brains, your brain.

This image of the brain as a landscape, molded into a new form as its inputs change, offers an extremely hopeful and optimistic view for our lives. It suggests that we aren’t hindered forever by a difficult childhood, or a tendency toward anger. It suggests we can always improve.

Just as a floodplain changes according to external, physical elements, we can be radically changed with the help of the Holy Spirit. It’s not only possible, but required by God to become different through conversion. We have the responsibility to decide how to invoke that change in our lives on a day-to-day basis, according to our knowledge of God. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

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2 thoughts on “The Mind and Renewal

  1. The scripture reference is so fresh when matched with the plasticity information. Romans 12:2 would be a great thought on which to meditate. At my age (old), there are so many times when I see people who are living lives they do not really like but are doing so mainly because they did not break out of bad habits earlier. That is very sad to see. This post and the verse really can be life changing.

  2. We should not be conformed to this world, or by this world. I am grateful that we have significant choice and control in changing our neural landscape. But, I am wondering about the “testing” that we should engage in the process of change. It seems to require active metacognition.

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