What we can learn, we can unlearn
Up to now, we have been discussing neuroplasticity as though our brain is a one-way street, but that’s definitely not the case. Our brain is totally fluid, what we can learn we can unlearn just as quickly. In the first part of this chapter, I mentioned that our neural circuits are pruned to the tune of 20 billion synapses a day, or so, during adolescence, and this practice continues, although at a slower rate, for our entire lives.
Pathways we don’t use simply shrivel-up and die. We forget people, places, and things; we lose skills, some acquired with a great deal of effort; we change habits, likes, dislikes, political parties; we adapt new ways of doing things, discarding the old; in other words, if we are the sum of our experiences, we become different people over time, and this is all a result of neuroplasticity.
Baseball players have batting practice every day, during the season, and many continue all winter; actors rehearse again, and again, and again; in fact, every learned skill must be practiced to maintain the neural circuits we have created, or we lose it, over time. Jascha Heifetz, the renowned violinist is rumored to have said: “If I don’t practice one day, I know it; two days, the critics know it; three days, the public knows it.”Continue reading