Sunday, January 10, 2010
Allah and Neuroplasticity of the brain
Contemplating Allah will change your brain! Surprise? Surprise no more. Allow me to explain. If you contemplate the Big Bang, or immerse yourself in the study of evolution – or choose to play a musical instrument, for that matter – you’ll change the neural circuitry in ways that enhance your cognitive health. But religious and spiritual contemplation changes your brain in profoundly different way because it strengthens a unique neural circuit that specifically enhances social awareness and empathy while subduing destructive feelings and emotions .
This is precisely the kind of neural change we need to make if we want to solve the conflicts that currently afflict our world. And the mechanism that allows these changes to occur relates to unique quality known as neuroplasticity: the ability of the human brain to structurally rearrange itself in response to a wide variety of positive and negative events .
In the last two years, advances in neuroscience have revolutionized the way we think about the brain. Rather than seeing it as an organ that slowly matures during the first two decades of life, then withers away as we age, scientists now look at the human brain as a constantly changing mass of activity. According to Akira Yoshii, a brain researcher at the MIT,’ the development of particular neurological connections or skills does not occur suddenly, appearing in short intervals after robust stimulation’. He further added that ‘ it is as if there is a single important trigger and then a functional circuit rapidly comes online’ .
The Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel, who proved that neurons never stop learning, demonstrated another important dimension of neuroplasticity. If you alter the environmental stimulus, the internal function of the nerve cells will change, causing them to grow new extensions called axons capable of sending different information to other parts of the brain . In fact every change in the environment – internal and external – will cause a rearrangement of cellular activity and growth. Even more interesting, every neurons has its own “mind”, so to speak, for it can decide whether to send signal , and if it does, how strong a signal to send .
If you contemplate (tafakkur) about Allah and learn more about Islam, you will develop more neurons, and indeed ‘islamize’ the neurons mind and the end results will be an islamic thought, feeling and behaviour. Imagine what will happen if Muslim Islamize their own neurons minds.