Neuroplasticity – An In-Depth Guide to How it Works and How to Transform Your Brain

By on May 29, 2015

Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to reshape itself in response to experience and stimuli – just like a muscle can change shape. Thanks to countless studies, we now know for a fact that using specific brain regions and networks will cause those areas to grow and thicken as new connections are formed and even new neurons are birthed.

In a previous post, I postulated that intelligence ultimately comes down to adaptability + opportunity. A high propensity for plasticity combined with training will allow you to increase the size and efficiency of brain regions that take care of specific skills. At the same time, it will also increase the connectivity between those brain regions to improve whole-brain thinking.

With great plasticity comes enhanced learning, better physical performance and the key to ultimate ‘personal development.

This would be the biohack to unlock all other biohacks.

But how can you increase plasticity? To answer that, we first need to understand it.

The Possibilities of Neuroplasticity

brain plasticity

Until relatively recently, it was thought that our brains were only capable of neurogenesis (growing new neurons) and large-scale reorganization during childhood. In fact though, it turns out that we’re more than capable of growing and changing the shapes of our brain at any age.

Did you know that taxi drivers actually have more hippocampal grey matter which corresponds to them learning more routes around their given city (1)? Brail readers have larger areas of their motor cortex corresponding with their fingertips.

Neuroplasticity neurons

Now you’re probably thinking: great, so I can learn stuff. Whoopdy-doo.

Hear me out though: brain plasticity is actually much more exciting than that. Plasticity during development is responsible for the entire way we see the world. Our brains are nothing more than an adaptation brought about through operant conditioning (with a little pre-programming for good measure). When something goes ‘right’ our brain ‘saves’ the behavior. When we practice something, it strengthens that connection. We are born, pretty much, as blank slates.

So in theory, if you were able to tap into the full potential of brain plasticity, you could accomplish nothing less than to change your entire subjective experience of reality. Where would you even being with that? Well how about learning echolocation, AKA sonar (it’s possible!). How about learning synesthesia (2) and using it to see grids of numbers as you perform maths? What about perfect pitch? Or eidetic memory? Ambidexterity? Thinking with two simultaneous internal monologs (not proven but wouldn’t that be cool)?

How about training your central nervous system to give yourself perfect balance? Better muscle fiber recruitment (yup, super strength)? Or how about instantaneous blocking for insane self-defense skills?

Maybe we could just focus on thickening our corpus callosi (callosums?) in order to improve the communication between our left and right brain hemispheres (ala Einstein) and thus increase our global brain connectivity. Einstein also had particularly large inferior parietal lobes with a reduced sylvian fissure. Aaaand his were symmetrical whereas they are normally significantly reduced on the left side. It’s likely that this unusual brain ‘geography’ is what gave him the ability to visualize his ideas so well (and his descriptions of how he came up with his ideas reinforce this). In other words, we know what Einstein’s brain looks like and we know that our brains have the ability to change shape… So if we want Einstein’s skills, we should aim to train our brains specifically for that shape. Just as a bodybuilder (hello!) might choose to try and mimic the physique of say, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And yes, if you could ‘improve’ your plasticity then you could also learn stuff… but superfast. New languages, new instruments, whole new subjects…

I once had this idea that we could replace our language with a more efficient one. If we could think in a language that had fewer syllables, or that even used pictographic representations, we could in theory think faster. That would take some effort to accomplish – but with enhanced neuroplasticity it would be possible.

How Neuroplasticity Works

So maybe I’m getting a little carried away here. I’m not saying that half of those ideas are possible in practice, only in theory.

So let’s get real: what precisely is neuroplasticity and how exactly does it work?

The basic principle behind this is that ‘cells that fire together, wire together’. In other words, your brain is a massive ‘web’ of neurons (brain cells) which are connected by their dendrites (tendril like things) and axons (tails). Axons and dendrites connect via synapses – small gaps that allow for the exchange of electrical impulses and neurotransmitters – and the resulting web is what we call a ‘connectome’. For all extents and purposes, you are your connectome as that is what stores all your experiences, memories, abilities, opinions and more. (Though you could argue that your hormone balance and neurotransmitters also house your personality.)

A beautiful drawing I did of synaptic transmissions...

A beautiful drawing I did of synaptic transmissions…

If two neurons repeatedly fire at the same time then, a connection (called a synapse) will form between them (synaptogenesis) allowing those electrical impulses (which are called action potentials) to cross so that they can communicate.

And if you repeat this process over time, then the synaptic connection will strengthen in accordance. This is called long-term potentiation (LTP), which acts via glutamate receptors (NMDA and AMPA) to increase the overall excitability of a postsynaptic neuron. Glutamate is the primary excitatory neurotransmitter, so the better a neuron can receive it over the transmission, the more likely it is to fire when it receives input. In short, the recipient neuron becomes more sensitive to inputs and thus is more likely to fire when the other does.

Equally as important though, is long term depression (LTD), which reduces the excitability of a synapse; and synaptic elimination (synaptic pruning). In other words, strengthening valid connections is no more pertinent than the weakening of invalid ones.

strengthening valid connections is no more pertinent than the weakening of invalid ones

Other forces influencing brain plasticity include the birth of new neurons (neurogenesis) and the strengthening and insulation of axons via myelination – which helps action potentials (electric charges) travel more quickly through brain cells. Axons being tails that allow neurons to reach each other across great expanses of the brain. All this is possible through changes in gene expression (though it gets pretty complicated).

We also know that these processes are modulated by a number of different neurochemicals. These include the likes of BDNF – brain derived neurotrophic factor (4). BDNF also works as a neurotransmitter, meaning it is generally involved in the communication between neurons across the synapses. Like other neurotransmitters it binds to receptors, those being TrkB (‘Track B’) and LGNFR (low-affinity nerve growth factor receptor).

Other neurotransmitters also seem important for brain plasticity. In particular, the catecholamine neurotransmitters. These are the neurotransmitters associated with stress, focus and attention like dopamine and epinephrine. So any two neurons firing regularly are likely to connect given time and repetition, but if the correct flood of hormones tells us that what’s happening is important then they will be even more likely to connect. And that is where ‘flashbulb memories’ come from – memories of shocking events that we remember in precise detail (like where I was when Michael Jackson died – I was in my fiancé’s kitchen when Goof texted me, we had tickets). Dopamine is also our ‘reward’ chemical and it increases our production of BDNF (5). Likewise, serotonin also seems to play a role in modulating neuroplasticity – one possible reason that depressed patients also suffer from memory impairments in many cases (6).

Similarly, certain positive emotions can also make connections and neural pathways more likely to form and cement themselves. When you attempt to hit a golf ball, you play it through your mind first. Then, when you hit it and it goes right, your brain celebrates by releasing reward hormones. Thus the neural pathways that led to that perfect swing are cemented. Watching other people can help us to create more effective mental models of our performance, so it may be that there’s a lot of merit to just watching the pros do what they do. Dopamine meanwhile appears to be produced during goal-oriented behavior, in anticipation of reward. In other words, it gets released so that important things get better encoded. Keep this in mind: the more you are engaged with what you are doing, the more likely it is to impact the structure of your brain.

The more you are engaged with what you are doing, the more likely it is to impact the structure of your brain.

Then you have nerve growth factor, which is also a member of the ‘neurotrophin family’ along with BDNF. Nerve growth factor is essentially a chemical that increases the growth of our axons (the nerve branches) and that also protects them from damage. Likewise, it is able to improve communication between neurons over a distance. It seems perhaps then that nerve growth factor helps the neurons to reach out, whereas BDNF is more useful for getting them to hold hands… That was a beautiful metaphor.

How to Improve Neuroplasticity

So now we know some of what makes the brain plastic, the question is how we can leverage that in order to learn faster, to pick up new skills and to fundamentally reorganize our brains…

One seemingly obvious method would be to increase BDNF, which you can do in a number of ways. One straightforward one is to exercise, which increases BDNF and particularly in the hippocampus (7). Exercise has been shown to elicit neurogenesis and it also increases serotonin.

Diet is also very important. All our neurotransmitters require a healthy diet and are largely made from amino acids. Studies also show that nutrients like omega 3 fatty acid (8), milk lipids (9) and many others. Sleep is also important for memory consolidation and seems to be when the brain ‘replays’ the memories we’ve laid down during the day, thereby strengthening those connections. I made a video on a hack you could use to make the most of this a while ago:

But every article tells you to ‘eat well, sleep and exercise’. What if we wanted to go further? Here are some more biohack-y ways you could potentially try and take plasticity to the next level.

tDCS for Neuroplasticity

tDCS is ‘transcranial Direct Current Stimulation’. Essentially, it is the process of running very low currents through specific brain regions via pads attached to the skull. More specifically, you have an anode and a cathode and it’s the anode you use to stimulate specific regions, while the cathode can have a suppressant effect. A particular set-up for your pads is called a ‘montage’ and for instance, placing your anode on the right temporal lobe and cathode on the left may potentially help to increase ‘insight’ and even encourage ‘savant-like’ abilities (10). The effects also seem to last for about half an hour following the actual process.

transcranial direct current stimulation

The idea here is not to cause the neurons to fire but rather to ‘excite’ them which appears to increase plasticity via BDNF (11) and this can facilitate learning (on top of the immediate effects). tDCS has been shown in a laboratory setting to be pretty reliable in providing slight improvements in motor learning, memory (12) and other tasks and is also becoming popular as a potential treatment for depression. For brain plasticity, the general idea is that you would use it while learning a new subject or practicing a new motor skill. I’m wondering whether you could use it during overcoming isometrics to improve muscle fiber recruitment and to strengthen your ‘mind-muscle connection’.

Meanwhile, biohackers, grinders and transhumanists have also had partial success creating tDCS devices of their own in their garages and applying weak currents that way. There’s a pretty buzzing subreddit on the subject if you want to find out more.

In the future this sort of thing could have even more potential, as future technologies could use electrical brain stimulation to cause specific neurons to fire in tandem, thus forcing them to connect. Theoretically this could result in ‘Matrix learning’ where you simply strap on a device to learn things like new motor skills. Plug in, learn kung fu. Qualitative knowledge would be harder but either way, we’re probably a good hundred years away from this technology (a number I just entirely made up by the way).

matrix learning

For now, should you try using tDCS? There are actually already commercial products available for the general public to try – including a ‘Halo headset’ that allows you to stimulant your motor cortex (you can learn more about tDCS for neuroplasticity here). But I would recommend that only the most hardcore biohacker experiment with this and even then – use extreme caution. Why? Well, apart from the inherent danger of buying something online designed to run current through your brain… there’s also the issue of negative plasticity. That is to say that if you become too heightened in your learning, you might pick-up bad habits too. And more seriously, you might place the pads incorrectly (especially seeing as every brain is different!) and strengthen and grow random connections that serve no benefit. Remember, pruning is just as important as growth

I don’t know man… I just don’t think we know enough about this yet.

Nootropics for Brain Plasticity

Of course the nootropics scene is also ripe for a bit of neuroplasticity. The ‘CILTeP stack’ for instance, which began life on Longecity and is now being sold by Natural Stacks in supplement form, is designed entirely around the idea of increasing long term potentiation by increasing cAMP.

While there is some anecdotal evidence for CILTeP being effective though, there are also a number of criticisms to be levelled at it on a conceptual level and I can’t say I was really blown away by it in my own experiments (you can read my full review here). CiLTEP works through a combination of forskolin and artichoke extract. You can buy both independently and forskolin has a bunch of other benefit so I recommend it!

Here are some more:

Lion’s Mane: Lion’s Mane is a mushroom that really does look like a lion’s mane and which is able to increase nerve growth factor and thus encourage nerve growth (13) and myelination ((14) the myelin sheet is the protective coating around the dendrite). It seems to be promising as a dementia treatment, which is always encouraging (15). I used it and didn’t notice a huge difference.

Magnesium Threonate: Magnesium has been shown to increase plasticity and is well known for improving sleep. Magnesium threonate in particular appears to more successfully reach the brain than other forms, making it the best choice.

Turmeric: Turmeric has been shown to enhance plasticity. I read that you could try adding it to your coffee but I tried that and it was awful.

Caffeine: Yup, good old caffeine can also increase plasticity. It does this by enhancing dopamine, which is correlated with increased BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor). In plain English, caffeine makes things seem more important and more interesting, which makes the brain more likely to absorb and retain new information.

Lutein: Lutein was shown a while back to improve the function of mitochondria, leading to greater energy and potentially a boost in cognitive performance. Turns out it’s also potentially able to increase plasticity, particularly in the womb and during our development but also later in life (report).

Inositol: I’ve also talked about Inositol a fair bit recently. This has been shown (among other things) to increase the density of dopamine and serotonin receptors (which has obvious benefit). Interestingly, inositol seems to be modulated by tDCS and may even play some role in its effects.

Omega 3 Fatty Acid: Of course for its ability to increase cell-membrane permeability, allowing nutrients and impulses to more easily pass through cell walls, and for its ability to increase myelination.

Coffee Bean Extract: This is used in the new product from Bulletproof called ‘Neuromaster’. They sent me some to try (but then oddly asked me not to publish my review…). I actually found this one quite effective. I liked using it because I found it made it easier for me to stay focussed and seemingly retain information. That’s the great thing about potentially increasing BDNF – it would also result in an increase in dopamine and thus focus. Many people describe feeling an ‘increased desire to learn’. It’s hard to rule out placebo. And keep in mind that the studies looking at coffee-bean extract concluded that it was able to increase BDNF ‘almost as much as caffeine’. So this isn’t a game-changing effect.

You’re not going to become a genius overnight with any of these supplements in fact. All these things give you a ‘little edge’. If you combined tDCS, Lion’s Mane and CILTeP? You might have… a little bit more of an edge.

I’d still recommend fixing your sleep and exercising more first though!

The Valproate Study

You know what may provide benefits an order of magnitude above the norm though? Valproate. Valproate has been said to ‘reopen the critical learning period’, giving the brain back some of its plasticity from early in life. In one study, it was used to help train adults to identify notes accurately (as you could if you had perfect pitch). In the study, adults were able to significantly improve their ability to correctly identify notes after just 15 days of training as compared with a control group (16).

Valproate works as a HDAC inhibitor, while HDAC appears to limit neural plasticity. Before you rush out and start gobbling down all of the valproate though, bear in mind that it is harsh on the liver and can cause a number of unwanted side effects.

In the study, adults were able to significantly improve their ability to correctly identify notes after just 15 days of training as compared with a control group

It’s also worth noting that there’s a reason our adult brains produce HDAC and generally inhibit plasticity. While a highly plastic brain is awesome for learning new skills and topics you see, it also leaves us vulnerable to picking up bad habits and damaging psychological traits. This is a double edged sword to be sure… It’s that negative plasticity again.

So the conclusion when looking at ways to boost brain plasticity? Most methods give you a minor advantage at best… and the one method that might do more is ill-advised. In other words? We’re actually more than plastic enough!

There is a study where a guy wore goggles that turned the world upside down and after a while his brain adapted and he began to see the upside down world as normal. That is an insane level of adaptability that we all have already (you can read about it here).

Brain Training

Brain training games in theory are a great tool for training specific skills. Unfortunately, they are also often not that much fun and appear to provide us with largely only ‘non-transferrable’ abilities. Proper scientists have devised brain training games that do result in more ‘real world’ benefits such as improved blood flow, memory and strategizing (the Dual N-Back test is particularly useful for increasing working memory) but don’t expect to become a genius using Nintendo Brain Age. The same goes for something like Sudoku – it’s great if you want to be… amazing at Sudoku.

I think brain training programs like those from Brain HQ have some merit but ultimately they still pale somewhat in comparison to Sonic the Hedgehog.

Yup, you heard me: Sonic the Hedgehog. Or Halo. Or Call of Duty. But I prefer Sonic the Hedgehog.

I’ve talked in the past about how computer games can improve visual acuity, special awareness and all that (17) but did you know that they also increase your grey matter generally throughout your brain? They increase global brain connectivity, meaning that the disparate areas of the brain become more interconnected and the brain becomes thicker overall (18) – something which correlates highly with intelligence.

Why is that? It’s because you’re using multiple brain areas at once – you’re listening out for sounds, you’re scanning the horizon, you’re using fine motor controls with the thumbsticks, you’re reacting to enemies and you’re solving puzzles/making fast decisions. All of this working together is what really gets the brain going. And they’re designed to keep you more engaged and focussed – to trigger dopamine releases.

Now think how much better this would be if you were to use VR – which would immerse your entire body into that environment:

And sports may be even better – as they also involve the body and many more of the senses. When you’re playing sports you need to be aware of the ball, of all your teammates and of the opposition – all while balancing, running, jumping and moving through space. We’ve already seen that exercise stimulates

Well-constructed brain training games like Brain HQ are good because they specific target desirable traits such as brain speed, memory and maths (Sonic sadly will not make you better at maths). Sports and computer games are good because they incorporate multiple different senses and skills. Learning new skills – like languages and instruments – is particularly good for your brain’s overall plasticity. Keep learning and keep trying new things and your brain will be more adaptable and more plastic. Rely on the same old routine however and you’ll gradually lose plasticity and grey matter.

This is another reason being a gamer is particular good for plasticity – because each time you pick up a new game, you’re forced to learn entirely new rules and gameplay mechanics. I actually devised a little puzzle game entirely around this idea that continuously introduces new rules and controls to keep you in that uncomfortable ‘brain ache’ feeling. It’s called Debugger: Brain Untraining and you can get it for Android here.

brain untraining

In the future, I believe that virtual reality will have incredible implications for our ability to evolve our brains. Imagine a game like Call of Duty where you were actually running around through a virtual environment? Or imagine spending significant time in a reality with rules entirely different to those of our world – how would the brain adapt?

Imagine a virtual reality that was our world… but sped up. Could that increase the processing speed of our brain? More on this in a moment…

oculus rift brain training

CBT

I’d also like to point out the potential usefulness of CBT – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This is a psychotherapeutic technique that’s all about training yourself to think in certain disciplined manners. Remember: reality is subjective and it’s our interpretation of events that affects our brain more than the events themselves. Using mindfulness, affirmations and cognitive restructuring (breaking down negative beliefs and replacing them) we can become more present (thus heightening the feedback loop to further improve plasticity), we can overcome nervous ticks and we can challenge ourselves to think in new ways. As mentioned before, plasticity is often controlled by operant conditioning – if the brain feels rewarded for a certain behavior or thought pattern, that neural network is reinforced. You can reward yourself by the way you think about what just happened.

Likewise, when we visualize something, we activate the same neural pathways as though we were doing that thing – which is why it is possible to reinforce negative beliefs if we have persistent ruminations and anxiety.

You can change the shape of your brain simply by changing the way you think.

The Ultimate ‘Hack’

But I have a theory as to what would serve as the ‘ultimate’ hack for triggering child-like plasticity.

Most believe that our brains are most plastic when we are children due to biological differences. It’s as though our brain’s ‘switch off’ their plasticity once we reach a certain age and as such, we begin to find learning more difficult. You can’t teach an old dogs new tricks, and all that.

My theory though, is that it seems more likely this correlation works the other way around. We stop learning and thus our brains become less plastic.

Studies show us that learning any new subject makes our brain more plastic. If you learn a language or study a new programming language for instance, you will begin to produce more BDNF – brain derived neurotrophic factor.

Now think about what it’s like to be a child: you are constantly flooded with new information and forced to learn everything. I’m not just talking about learning English, I’m talking about learning how to balance and walk. Learning what a human is. Learning that objects make sounds. Learning to make use of all your senses in a cohesive manner…

And the same thing happens to someone who loses their vision – they are plunged into a different kind of reality where new rules apply, reawakening some of that dormant neuroplasticity.

You’ll never be as plastic as you were as a child, because you’ll never be forced to deal with that much new information again. THAT is why we lose our super-plasticity. Young children are surrounded by new information and that makes their brain flood with neurotransmitters like dopamine, BDNF and more. This then means it’s much easier to teach them other new things such as languages or maths.

he best thing you can do then, is to keep learning new things. Keep having new experiences. Travel.

This also explains why many people see a sharp cognitive decline as they age – because the older we get, often the less we learn. As a child we’re still learning at school. As a teen we’re learning to drive. As a young adult we’re learning parenthood and jobs. Then jobs. Then the same job. And the same friends. You get stuck in your ways. Less open to new ideas. Less able to learn new things.

Eventually, you have some kind of accident and stop being able to move about so much. Or get outside so much. And that’s when the degenerative brain diseases start to creap in.

The best thing you can do then, is to keep learning new things. Keep having new experiences. Travel. Push yourself. Don’t let yourself get comfortable.

Most important of all: move. In challenging ways. Use it or lose it: if you want your brain to be more plastic, use its plasticity. If you are in an unchanging environment with unchanging challenges, your brain has no reason to change. The cemented patterns become more cemented and BDNF levels lower.

Although I do believe that it would be possible to come close with some kind of virtual reality program. Virtual reality has the ability to subject us to entirely new realities, which could flood our senses with just as much novel stimuli as we experienced as infants. Imagine spending an hour in VR – where down is up and up is down – and then using that increased plasticity to pick up other new skills. Or to use CBT to reprogram negative thoughts.

Don’t believe that we could ever trigger that same level of plasticity again by changing our inputs drastically? Then consider the case of a recently blind person – who will experience cortical remapping as the neighboring brain areas encroach on the vision-oriented brain regions (and those atrophy in kind). That’s because a blind person is forced to completely rethink their relationship with the world around them. VR could potentially do that for us – without the loss of vision!

And it has even been suggested that the reason we feel a sense of ‘awe’ when we’re in an amazing environment (like a mountain top) is that our brain is forced to reconsider its position in the world and all that new input causes a flood of BDNF – of attention and learning.

This is why I believe that virtual reality has a very important role for the future of brain training. Lawnmower Man was right!

Get Ambitious

So what’s the takeaway from all this rambling?

The message I want to put forward is simple: the state of our brain is entirely arbitrary. The way you think is the way you think because your brain adapted that way. This is possibly true all the way down to the speed of your thinking and the way you use your senses.

I’ve talked about synaesthesia and echolocation in the past. These are things you can learn and I for one find that fascinating.

Think as well about the brain areas that you really want to improve – don’t go randomly and haphazardly into brain training. If you want to be a better physicist, train that corpus callosum and those inferior parietal lobes. Want to become a savant? Look at the right temporal lobe. Looking for enhanced motor skills? Take a stab at the cerebellum (don’t actually stab it though).

Ask yourself as well, what improvements in your brain would result in the most noticeable ‘overall’ upgrade to your thinking? Personally, I’m practicing reading aloud to improve my enunciation and am working on my corpus callosum via ambidexterity training. The corpus callosum is thicker in ambidextrous individuals (19) and this correlates with intelligence (20). It’s just a bit more interesting than just trying to get a ‘slightly better memory’, isn’t it? This seems to be what everyone is so focused on… but is your memory really what’s holding you back? I’d wager not for most people…

As a programmer, it might make sense for me to train the language processing, working memory and attention areas of my brain, as these are the ones used when coding (21). Interestingly, coding has more in common with language than maths – but that’s another story for another day. At nearly 5,000 words, I think I’ve gone on quite enough here!

And of course: keep learning.

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About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

3 Comments

  1. Walrus says:

    Hey Adam,

    There seems to be conflicting sources on the internet that indicates ambidextrous training may be harmful? Since this was written last year, can you give some insight on it and your training? By the way, I enjoyed your article very much!

    One example: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-training-to-become-ambidextrous-improve-brain-function/

    (a bit old and may or may not be outdated)

    • disqus_7NtHtO0fV9 says:

      this is a study that confuses correlation with causation. Children with various “learning disabilities” are more prone to ambidexterity and left-handedness. One would expect them to also score more poorly on tests that are not adjusted to take their weaknesses into account. But that has nothing to do with the child’s intelligence or other potential areas of strength.

      I have ADHD and while I’m not technically ambidextrous, I do have cross-laterality… I’m right-handed, but left leg and actually even left eye dominant (my right eye is slightly lazy, also common among “neurodiverse” folks).

      Sure, if you tested my working memory and my visual-spatial reasoning skills, I’m sure I would perform rather poorly (unless I found a way to “cheat” and bypass my disability, which I often can and is the reason why I remained undiagnosed for so long).

      But I have always scored off the charts in verbal reasoning skills, and here I think my ADHD is an asset, for reasons I won’t bore you with.

      speaking as a total layperson, the guy who wrote the article you posted sounds rather ill-informed and alarmist when it comes to learning differences. Regardless he is definitely confusing correlation with causation–it’s not like ambidexterity causes ADHD, they’re all just loosely correlated. And having ADHD isn’t all that terrible.

      Incidentally when I’m really exercising a lot and in good shape, I’m much better coordinated than usual and I find myself spontaneously using my left hand a lot more frequently than I normally would. So in my case better health and presumably better brain communication and organization seems to be correlated with willingness to be a little more ambidextrous.

      Idk how a “normal” person might respond to trying to force themselves to be more ambidextrous though. I can see it having a reverse impact.

      the point of this ramble is that nobody really knows but if you decide to try to become ambidextrous and notice you start getting more disorganized… just stop trying to be ambidextrous.

      Maybe it’s a gift that was bestowed only on the chosen few. 😀

      • thebioneer says:

        Sorry for not responding sooner @Walrus and thanks for stepping in for me @disus_7NtHO0fV9! I completely agree with your assessment. The studies outline a correlation, which might mean that certain developmental conditions make ambidexterity more likely *as well* as various other cognitive changes. However, that doesn’t mean that ambidexterity should necessarily ’cause’ these changes. It also doesn’t mean that ambidexterity couldn’t emerge without affecting anything else. And as you say – you can always just stop the training if it were to become a problem!

        I would love to hear more about your ADHD and how you see it as an advantage, if you’d ever like to write a guest post for the site? You clearly have a great writing style 🙂 You’re certainly not alone in that view and many people think that ADHD is adaptive to our modern way of life. From my research for a health client, ADHD is often correlated with low dopamine (as is RLS, which I have got to a large extent!). Could also be that many of the situations you find yourself in simply aren’t stimulating enough or challenging enough! How do you get on with computer games?

        And speaking of more unusual developmental patterns – Albert Einstein was also said to be ambidextrous as well as dyslexic. The ambidexterity likely came as a result of a thicker corpus callosum and perhaps that difference during development affected his development in other areas too, or vice versa. But I’m sure most of us would agree that his unique brain structure was definitely advantageous on the whole! There’s more about it on the site, if you’re interested 😀

        Thanks again for some interesting debate guys!

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