Daily Archives: February 16, 2013
How the Brain Creates New Neural Pathways
We always talk about NLP, NAC, and NLC so today I decided we would get to the core of simplicity to address the complexity.
There are a variety of reasons that drive the creation of neurons linking together in new ways. A few drivers of the way existing neurons may begin to link in a new manner might be through focused learning of new information or situations we are exposed to. Another could be an area of the brain damaged by an illness such as a stroke might drive the injured part of the brain’s essential functions to be taken over by a healthy area (usually an area close in proximity), mental illness, but there are a multitude of reasons it can happen.
Here is an example of how it might happen. You might decide to learn that new language that you’ve been meaning to for the last 10 years. As you study the language neurons housed in the area of your brain that’s storing your native language would send electrical messengers down the axons to the cell’s center (soma) where it is then routed to a particular group of connected dendrites which would then release a chemical messenger to the new targeted group of neurons that are located next to it. New neural pathways begin to be formed to acquire and store the new language. These new pathways become stronger the more they are used, causing the likelihood of new long-term connections and memories.
PLASTICITY IN NEURAL NETWORKS
Every time you learn something, neural circuits are altered in your brain. These circuits are composed of a number of neurons (nerve cells) that communicate with one another through special junctions called synapses.
When you learn something, it is actually these synapses whose efficiency increases, thus facilitating the passage of nerve impulses along a particular circuit. For example, when you are exposed to a new word, you have to make new connections among certain neurons in your brain to deal with it: some neurons in your visual cortex to recognize the spelling, others in your auditory cortex to hear the pronunciation, and still others in the associative regions of the cortex to relate the word to your existing knowledge.
To learn this new word, you repeat it to yourself several times, and this selects and strengthens the connections among these various circuits in your cortex. And it is this new, durable association among certain neurons that will form your memory of this word. The strength of this association may of course depend on several factors.
To remember the word days or years later, you will have to successfully reactivate these same neural circuits. Obviously, this will be easier if, when you first learned the word, you built these circuits to last, by repeating the word and thus sending the corresponding nerve impulses down them many times. In contrast, if you repeated the word only a few times, then the connections among the new neurons would be weaker, and the new circuit would be harder to reactivate.
All your memories (of events, words, images, emotions, etc.) thus correspond to the particular activity of certain networks of neurons in your brain that have strengthened connections with one another.
Building new neural pathways by going off the beaten path
An analogy to consider how this function might take place is if you grew up in the woods. Everyday you took the same few paths to get the things you needed to sustain yourself. You never strayed from those paths at all. Then one day as you walk down your normal path that is heavily worn from years of use down to the river you notice a little building way off the trail you’re on. You think wow I’d like to check that out, but you’ve never been off the trail. You decide to go check it out. You leave the worn path that you were on to ground that you’ve never stepped foot on before. You approach the door of the building then walk inside to notice that there is a large volume of books on the subject of building log cabins. You are looking around the room and notice a note on a table that states you are welcome to use the place anytime you want but please never take the books from the building with you. So you begin to come and go everyday to read and focus on learning how to build new log cabins. Everyday as you come and go you begin to develop two fresh paths that diverge off of the worn river path that you use to get to the building. When walk to the cabin everyday these fresh paths begin to become worn and easily noticeable. Even though the paths never become as ingrained and worn as your original paths they are still distinct and worn. This is similar to how neuroplasticity occurs in our brains as we learn something new. The more we repeat something and use that portion of the brain in a focused way new neural pathways might develop in your brain.
February has long been a month of romance. It is the month associated with Valentine’s Day celebrations. We have, time and again, heard the name St. Valentine being uttered before us in this season of love, but just who is this St. Valentine and why is this month associated with love and romance?
Learn about St. Valentine, how Valentines Day came into practice as it is today. The origin of this lover’s day goes back as early as 270 A.D and started with the clash between a kindly priest and a mighty ruler.
Every year, the fourteenth day of the month of February has millions across the world presenting their loved ones with candy, flowers, chocolates and other lovely gifts. In many countries, restaurants and eateries are seen to be filled with couples that are eager to celebrate their relationship and the joy of their togetherness through delicious cuisines.
There hardly seems to be a young man or woman who is not keen to make the most of the day.
The reason behind all of this is a kindly cleric named Valentine who died more than a thousand years ago.
It is not exactly known why the 14th of February is known as Valentine’s Day or if the noble Valentine really had any relation to this day. Saint Valentine and the history of Valentine’s Day is impossible to be obtained from any archive and the veil of centuries gone by has made the origin behind this day more difficult to trace. It is only some legends that are our source for the history of Valentine’s Day.
The modern St. Valentine’s Day celebrations are said to have been derived from both ancient Christian and Roman tradition. As per one legend, the holiday has originated from the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalis/Lupercalia, a fertility celebration that used to be observed annually on February 15.
But the rise of Christianity in Europe saw many pagan holidays being renamed for and dedicated to the early Christian martyrs. Lupercalia was no exception.
In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius turned Lupercalia into a Christian feast day and set its observance a day earlier, on February 14. He proclaimed February 14 to be the feast day in honor of Saint Valentine, a Roman martyr who lived in the 3rd century. It is this St. Valentine whom the modern Valentine’s Day honors.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there were at least three early Christian saints by the name of Valentine. While one was a priest in Rome, another was a bishop in Terni. Nothing is known about the third St. Valentine except that he met his end in Africa. Surprisingly, all three of them were said to have been martyred on 14th February.
It is clear that Pope Gelasius intended to honor the first of these three aforementioned men. Most scholars believe that this St. Valentine was a priest who lived around 270 AD in Rome and attracted the disfavor of Roman emperor Claudius II who ruled during this time.
The story of St. Valentine has two different versions – the Protestant and the Catholic one. Both versions agree upon Saint Valentine being a bishop who held secret marriage ceremonies of soldiers in opposition to Claudius II who had prohibited marriage for young men and was executed by the latter.
During the lifetime of Valentine, the golden era of Roman Empire had almost come to an end. Lack of quality administrators led to frequent civil strife. Education declined, taxation increased and trade witnessed a very bad time. The Roman Empire faced crisis from all sides, from the Gauls, Slavs, Huns, Turks and Mongolians from Northern Europe and Asia.
The empire had grown too large to be shielded from external aggression and internal chaos with existing forces. Naturally, more and more capable men were required to be recruited as soldiers and officers to protect the nation from takeover.
When Claudius became the emperor, he felt that married men were more emotionally attached to their families, and thus, will not make good soldiers. He believed that marriage made the men weak. So he issued an edict forbidding marriage to assure quality soldiers.
The ban on marriage was a great shock for the Romans. But they dared not voice their protest against the mighty emperor. The kindly bishop Valentine also realized the injustice of the decree. He saw the trauma of young lovers who gave up all hopes of being united in marriage.
He planned to counter the monarch’s orders in secrecy. Whenever lovers thought of marrying, they went to Valentine who met them afterwards in a secret place, and joined them in the sacrament of matrimony. And thus he secretly performed many marriages for young lovers. But such things cannot remain hidden for long. It was only a matter of time before Claudius came to know of this “friend of lovers,” and had him arrested.
While awaiting his sentence in prison, Valentine was approached by his jailor, Asterius. It was said that Valentine had some saintly abilities and one of them granted him the power to heal people. Asterius had a blind daughter and knowing of the miraculous powers of Valentine he requested the latter to restore the sight of his blind daughter.
The Catholic legend has it that Valentine did this through the vehicle of his strong faith, a phenomenon refuted by the Protestant version which agrees otherwise with the Catholic one. Whatever the fact, it appears that Valentine in some way did succeed to help Asterius’ blind daughter.
Claudius II — When Claudius II met Valentine, he was said to have been impressed by the dignity and conviction of the latter. However, Valentine refused to agree with the emperor regarding the ban on marriage.
It is also said that the emperor tried to convert Valentine to the Roman gods but was unsuccessful in his efforts. Valentine refused to recognize Roman Gods and even attempted to convert the emperor, knowing the consequences fully. This angered Claudius II who gave the order of execution of Valentine.
Meanwhile, a deep friendship had been formed between Valentine and Asterius’ daughter. It caused great grief to the young girl to hear of his friend’s imminent death. It is said that just before his execution, Valentine asked for a pen and paper from his jailor, and signed a farewell message to her “From Your Valentine,” a phrase that lived ever after.
As per another legend, Valentine fell in love with the daughter of his jailer during his imprisonment. However, this legend is not given much importance by historians. The most plausible story surrounding St. Valentine is one not centered on Eros (passionate love) but on agape (Christian love): he was martyred for refusing to renounce his religion. Valentine is believed to have been executed on February 14, 270 AD.
Thus 14th February became a day for all lovers and Valentine became its Patron Saint. It began to be annually observed by young Romans who offered handwritten greetings of affection, known as Valentines, on this day to the women they admired. With the coming of Christianity, the day came to be known as St. Valentine’s Day.
But it was only during the 14th century that St. Valentine’s Day became definitively associated with love. UCLA medieval scholar Henry Ansgar Kelly, author of “Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine”, credits Chaucer as the one who first linked St. Valentine’s Day with romance.
In medieval France and England it was believed that birds mated on February 14. Hence, Chaucer used the image of birds as the symbol of lovers in poems dedicated to the day. In Chaucer’s “The Parliament of Fowls,” the royal engagement, the mating season of birds, and St. Valentine’s Day are related:
“For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.”
By the middle Ages, Valentine became as popular as to become one of the most popular saints in England and France. Despite attempts by the Christian church to sanctify the holiday, the association of Valentine’s Day with romance and courtship continued through the middle ages.
The holiday evolved over the centuries. By the 18th century, gift giving and exchanging hand-made cards on Valentine’s Day had become common in England. Hand-made valentine cards made of lace, ribbons, and featuring cupids and hearts began to be created on this day and handed over to the man or woman one loved. Valentine’s day greeting card
This tradition eventually spread to the American colonies. It was not until the 1840s that Valentine’s Day greeting cards began to be commercially produced in the U.S.
The first American Valentine’s Day greeting cards were created by Esther A. Howlanda Mount Holyoke, a graduate and native of Worcester. Mass. Howland, known as the Mother of the Valentine, made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap”. It was when Howland began Valentine’s cards in a large scale that the tradition really caught on in the United States.
Today, Valentine’s Day is one of the major holidays in the U.S. and has become a booming commercial success. According to the Greeting Card Association, 25% of all cards sent each year are “Valentine’s.” The “valentines”, as Valentine’s Day cards are better known as, are often designed with hearts to symbolize love.
The Valentine’s Day card spread with Christianity, and is now celebrated all over the world. Charles, Duke of Orleans, sent one of the earliest valentines in 1415 AD to his wife during his imprisonment in the Tower of London. The card is now preserved in the British Museum.
There may be doubts regarding the actual identity of Valentine, but we know that he really existed because archaeologists have recently unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to a Saint Valentine.