As the science develops, the humanity acquires the new insights that shape the understanding of the causal relations of the external realities and people’s inner world. For example, an important discovery about the plasticity of an adult brain is revealed by a famous scholar, Norman Doidge in his book The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science. The fact is that, previously the brain of an adult individual was considered to be static and not, or at least, poorly perceptive for changes. Scrutinizing this premise, one can rightfully deduce that it is irrational because if it has been the case, the mankind would not have been capable of evolving. Besides, it is necessary to consider that different nations and civilizations that live during the same time develop diverse cultural characteristics. Without doubt, the difference in cultural characteristics of the contemporaries stipulates the diversity of their views, attitudes and life styles. At the same time, the formation of cultural characteristics depends on the outer conditions and, respectfully, performed actions. It means that human’s brain develops specific connections of neurons in an attempt to assure the survival and flourishing in concrete conditions. The plasticity of a brain can be used to change personal dietary habits with the aim to improve health and advance life-quality by deploying Doidge’s concepts of culturally modified brains, changeability of perception, and concentration on good aspects.
To begin with, it is logical to consider several important assumptions that are revealed in the discussed book. Firstly, cultural characteristics that are shared by a group of people are imprinted in their brains. Secondly, the similarities in neurons connections stipulate the resemblance in individuals’ way of thinking, decision-making, problem-solving and other life aspects. Thirdly, cultural similarities are predefined by the external factors that impact a human (or, in a broader meaning, a nation); therefore, these variables are positively related. Fourthly, human brain is not a static organ, on the contrary, its important quality is plasticity, –the ability to develop and rebuild the new connections between neurons. Fifthly, the ability of a human brain to change the form and structure of certain areas means that different nations have different brains. Sixthly, considering that human brains change in accordance with the external circumstances, it is appropriate to suggest that the regulated and purposeful changes are possible and benevolent for a human being. Seventhly, to conduct a beneficial mental adjustment, one should learn to tolerate and embrace the needed changes. It is necessary to clarify that this task is not easy because humans’ mentality tends to resist changes as a part of psychological self-defensive mechanism. Nevertheless, to succeed with this goal, an individual must correctly identify the involved variables and change them accordingly. Keeping in mind the above-stated insights, it is appropriate to refer to a personal example of practical implication of Norman Doidge’s ideas.
Specifically, as was mentioned above, the author reveals that a brain can change itself because of being “culturally modified”. Linking this insight to the set goal of changing eating habits, one should clarify that the change should be made in limiting the daily consumption of calories with the purpose to avoid gaining weight. It is a critical preventing measure that should be considered to avoid the development of obesity and conjunctive health issues. The comprehension of the idea that brains are culturally modified helps identifying the factors that may inhibit the achievement of the set goal. For instance, culture includes such important attributes as language, customs and traditions. In this regard, the positive association between the food and its names and/or situations when it is consumed increases its value and, respectfully, the hunger. Besides, popular culture reveals the idea that socializing and interpersonal relations are closely related to food intake and the latter significantly increases the quality of the former. This causal relationship is well-known and often perceived without being scrutinized; however, it encourages overconsumption of food. Consider the rationale, the existence of such connection between the identified matters shifts the priority of food consumption from taming hunger and getting necessary nutrients to maintaining social function. It is not surprising that this incorrect perception of eating and the formation of the corresponding habits are wicked and, thus, must be changed.
What is more, the notion of culturally modified brains implies that food may be used to distinguished oneself from the rest of social group. For example, acknowledging one’s culture, people tend to eat traditional dishes, which they associate with their nation/culture/ethnicity and other personal features. Scrutinizing this approach one can rightfully deduce that it may also lead to overconsumption and, thus, the revealed causal connections should be dismissed. Moreover, Norman Doidge accentuates that as “preeminent bearers of culture” people trigger the changes in their community. At the same time they are being changed by outer stimulus; and other social members are important irritants that should be taken into account while striving to review and rebuild own habits. This idea does not necessarily presume the change in interpersonal relations, but it suggests the alteration in the perception of food, its role and meaning in one’s life.
Scrutinizing the nature of perception, the author educates that there can be “a new and seemingly impossible change in perception”. In particular, the change in perception demands identifying the previous connections and modifying them into the desired direction. Doidge claims that “we are often haunted by important relationships from the past that influence us unconsciously in the present”. Further, the author explains that “as we work them through, they go from haunting us to becoming simply part of our history”. Linking this theoretic knowledge to personal example of food consumption, it is possible to state that I realize that my dietary habits are subordinated to the rule: if I have food it should be eaten at once. While being estimated from the viewpoint of the primitive biological needs, this desire is natural since it serves to save an organism from plausible starving. On the other hand, one can presume that, in a societal meaning, eating everything at once is formed by poverty or the moments of the scarcity of resources. Comprehending these insights and underlying causal relations, one can successfully modify brains connections developing the diverse perception of food, and urges of its intake. It goes without saying that the processes of change are always tough, that is why, human’s psyche treats potential changes with resistance.
To mitigate the plausible negative reactions, Doidge recommends concentrating on the positive aspects of prospected changes. The author assures that “the power of positive thinking finally gains scientific credibility”. Therefore, it is crucial to take into account the benevolence of successful concentration on the positive matters (goals, aspects) that is supposed to decrease anxiety that occurs as a response to changes. For instance, the positive aspects are improved health condition, fit body, expanded possibilities for hobbies and, in general, more ways to enjoy life. Norman Doidge teaches that “our brain is modifying on a substantial scale, physically and functionally, each time we learn a new skill or develop a new ability”. Given this supposition, the corresponding process regarding maintaining the proper weight is set in motion and, in a case of being systematically supported with the further relevant changes, the set goal is supposed to be successfully achieved.
Summing up the above-mentioned, it is necessary to emphasize that in his book The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science Norman Doidge educates that cultural characteristics of brains are crucial variables. It is known, that culture involves such attributes as language, habits, traditions, social norms, concepts and classifications, as well as definition of the right and wrong. Consequently, to change neurons connections and develop the new ones, a person should be able to change his/her cultural attitudes and perceptions. It presumes detecting the factors that earlier contributed to the formation of certain personal features (for instance, these can be memories about personal experience and/or about behavioral patterns of the role models). In other words, the factors that shape one’s perception can be reconsidered, which leads to the change in perception. As a result, the new neuron connections are constructed and a person obtains mental tools needed for achieving his/her goals. Finally, it is essential to understand that the ability to lessen the resistance-related anxiety and concentrate on the positive changes is an approach that accompanies the plasticity of brains. The insights that were highlighted above were acquired while reading Doidge’s book. One should stress that the revealed ideas help forming the new approaches towards world cognition and assist in successful achievement of educational, career and personal goals. Being considered from a narrower viewpoint, the author’s idea about brains’ plasticity and related premises can be quite helpful in changing eating habits that is an important preventive measure taken to avoid obesity and accompanying illnesses.