Honoring the way human brains work is at the heart of all ecosystemiQ practices. Although our capacity for learning new things diminishes after puberty (think of how difficult it is to learn a foreign language as an adult), our brains evolved to change and learn with the world around us, even as adults.
What happens at puberty is that our brains’ patterns become fixed. As babies, we are constantly taking in new information and forming new neural pathways. By age three we have about 15,000 neural connections! But as we recognize patterns in our world, our brains learn that they don’t need so many synapses and the number of connections decreases by half after puberty. The pathways we use most are strengthened, while those that we rarely use weaken. This rigidity is a product of our evolution: mammals that are mature enough to reproduce know the environment well enough to care for their young and don't need to take in as much new information.
However, humans can build new neural pathways as adults. Neuroscientists call the brain’s ability to modify learned patterns and to build new ones “neuroplasticity.” For example, stroke victims who have lost the neural pathways connected to speech can re-form them in other parts of the brain with therapy, regaining their ability to speak. Neuroplasticity also enables the brain to change fixed patterns of social behavior or thoughts. Gaining abilities lost due to a medical condition is different from deliberately modifying learned patterns to gain new skills or to adapt to change, but the path to extending our abilities is the same: intentional practice.
One of the most devastating patterns that has emerged as a result of industrialized and individualistic society is a focus on individual merit instead of the wellbeing of the collective group. The harmful consequences of this pattern surfaced as our country’s communities reeled in the midst of the pandemic. Focusing on the individual instead of collective wellbeing weakens our ability to adapt to new ways of living and learning.
EcosystemiQ employs practices that prepare you to build new neural patterns by extending your neuroplasticity. Shifting from achieving as an individual to forwarding shared wellbeing will require you to be open and ready to expand your mind.
“All ecosystemiQ practices ask people to move beyond their learned neural pathways and to extend into new ones,” says Marsha Shenk, ecosystemiQ Guide and founder.
EcosystemiQ’s BrainMoves exercises are simple, physical movements that flick on your brain’s plasticity switch so that you are more open and able to learn new ways of thinking and being. Dojo practices facilitate small group exchanges and reflection, opening your mind to valuable benefits available in rich interacting. Choosing to extend your neuroplasticity in this way can have far-reaching effects on you, your career, and your loved ones.
Written by Rena Kingery