liveonearth (liveonearth) wrote,

Neuroplasticity and Limbic Attractors

Neuroplasticity wanes with age. It gets harder to learn. It gets harder to unlearn. It gets easier to do the same thing you have done the whole time and to expect the same response. This process gets more and more concentrated until suddenly you are demented. You don't know that it's 2010, almost 2011, suddenly you're stuck in 1984. Suddenly everyone is your honey, or your special version of the boogey man, and you can't imagine anything other than the 100 stories that are still active in your mind. When somebody reminds you of something, you are off to the races, galloping down memory lane. The right turn or left split or U-turn spot are not seen, only that familiar story with all its referents. Santa clause playing bagpipe riding a unicycle is not even there.

But he was there, on Hawthorne, today. Embodying a nonsequitur. Playing. I thank him for adding random cross connections to my neural networks, for jolting me out of the ordinary and into the realm of possibility. Thanks also to the authors of A General Theory of Love, for their excellent storytelling, and to Oliver Sachs whose book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is firing many of the brain cells I have left, and in new combinations. Thank you.

In A General Theory of Love they write of attractors, those being the sets of neurons that have been fired together often enough to get wired together. In the limbic system, the mammalian brain which forms attachments and is so rich with emotion, we form limbic attractors as infants that influence our relationship choices for life. This quote captures some of what I am learning from experience in life:

QotD: The reach of limbic Attrators stretches beyond the moment. The sine qua non of a neural network is its penchant for strengthening neuronal patterns in direct proportion to their use. The more often you do or think or imagine a thing, the more probable it is that your mind will revisit its prior stopping point. When the circuits are sufficiently well worn such that thoughts fly down them with little friction or resistance, that mental path has become a part of you--it is now a habit of speech, thought, action, attitude. Ongoing exposure to one person's Attractors does not merely activate neural patterns in another--it also strengthens them. Long-standing togetherness writes permanent changes into a brain's open book. pages 143-144.
Tags: aging, books, brain, dementia, education, memory, mind, psych, relationships

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