Brain Debates and Delusions – Food for Thought

Man considering himself is the great prodigy of nature. For he cannot conceive what his body is, even less what hisspirit is, and least of all how body can be united with spirit. That is the peak of his difficulty and yet is his very being. – Blaise Pascal

colorful brain clipart

The brain has been deliberated for hundreds of years. The physician Alkmeon of Kroton proposed that sensory information such as sight and sound were more earthly and occupied distinct brain areas.  Thoughts, however were spiritual in his book, so he decided they were part of the soul, and therefore, unable to locate in the physical body.

Plato said that the brain was supreme among the organs of the body, but thought that the lower, rounded part of the brain (medulla) was where God planted and enclosed the soul.

Aristotle thought the heart was the place to find the human soul and the brain was merely a type of radiator or “kettle” that either warmed or cooled the blood.

Today brain research is unravelling the mysteries of the brain.  Just thirty years ago we were able to first ‘see’ the way nerve cells communicated with each other. This is very fascinating to brain geeks, like me! In fact, I have a video tape of one of the very first brain cells captured electronically – yes on VHS. And thank you, Tony Buzan, for sharing it with me!].

I have tossed about food for your brain to ponder.  I challenge you to consider what you think and what you know about your brain and your soul.  Now, I challenge you to dig deeper.  Always seek the Word of God, in conjunction, with trusted research.  Anything that outright contradicts the Bible is false.  Trust me, the more you search scripture the more you will see the great depths of wisdom revealed about the science of our brains.  A few starting points for you: the work of Neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf and the book used for this post: Blame It on the Brain? by Edward T. Welch.


Why it is Smart to Smile

😁 Smiles seem to be caught. Often I pass a person by and he smiles at me.  Then it dawns on me, that I first smiled, and in response the passerby returns the gesture.

Dr. Caroline Leaf says: “Did you know that the mere act of smiling could stop a negative toxic mindset? In fact, research shows that smiling a lot helps towards rewiring the circuit in the brain that helps you keep a positive attitude to life! This means God has designed us in such a way that when we smile with our eyes and mouth…a real deep meaningful smile (called the Duchenne smile), the part of your brain involved in decision-making, intellectual pursuit, shifting between thoughts, and thinking things through rationally becomes stronger and more effective. Simply put, smiling makes you happier and more intelligent!”

According to Leo Widrich in his article The Science Behind Smiling, ” Once the smiling muscles in our face contract, there is a positive feedback loop that now goes back to the brain and reinforces our feeling of joy. To put more succinctly:

“Smiling stimulates our brain’s reward mechanisms in a way that even chocolate, a well-regarded pleasure-inducer, cannot match.”

Smiling then, seems to give us the same happiness that exercising induces terms of how our brain responds. In short: our brain feels good and tells us to smile, we smile and tell our brain it feels good and so forth.”

A joyful heart is good medicine… Proverbs 17:22a ESV

Wise Wednesday Brain Byte: Developing the Preschool Brain

According to David A. Sousa in The Leadership Brain: How to Lead Today’s Schools More Effectively:

After birth the neurons in the young brain make connections at an incredible pace as the child absorbs its environment.  Information is entering the brain through “windows” that emerge and taper off at various times.  The richer the environment, the greater the number of connections that are made; consequently, learning can take place faster and with greater meaning.  Thus, at an early age, experiences are already shaping the brain and designing the unique neural architecture that will influence how it handles future experiences in school, work, and other places (Sousa, 2001a).

Preschool Learning Toy

Glenn Doman of The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential made a personal impact on my extended family’s life when my cousin’s brain was damaged a birth by the use of forceps her parents were told that she would never walk, nor live a quality life.  My Aunt and Uncle did not accept that diagnosis and did everything they could to get educated, get help, and make a difference in Karen’s life.  Including attending the Doman Brain Institute, as it was called at the time.  Through a long series of physical, social/emotional and intellectual exercises, Karen, responded with remarkable results!  She was walking and talking by about the age of three. She turns 50 years old this year and has accomplished so much more than the MDs predicted.

The brain is a remarkable organ.  I have another friend who had healthy children, and yet she sought to learn all of the best methods to teach them to be all that they could be, so she attended Doman’s Institute for a different reason, but with successful results.  She credits his work with helping her to train her exceptionally creative and musically gifted children.

Here is the information included on Amazon with regard to several of his books that tap into growing preschool brains:

Time and again, the work performed at The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential has demonstrated that children from birth to age six are capable of learning better and faster than older children. How To Teach Your Baby To Read shows just how easy it is to teach a young child to read, while How To Teach Your Baby Math presents the simple steps for teaching mathematics through the development of thinking and reasoning skills. Both books explain how to begin and expand each program, how to make and organize necessary materials, and how to more fully develop your child’s reading and math potential.
How to Give Your Baby Encyclopedic Knowledge shows how simple it is to develop a program that cultivates a young child’s awareness and understanding of the arts, science, and nature—to recognize the insects in the garden, to learn about the countries of the world, to discover the beauty of a Van Gogh painting, and much more. How To Multiply Your Baby’s Intelligence provides a comprehensive program for teaching your young child how to read, to understand mathematics, and to literally multiply his or her overall learning potential in preparation for a lifetime of success.

The Gentle Revolution Series:

The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential has been successfully serving children and teaching parents for five decades. Its goal has been to significantly improve the intellectual, physical, and social development of all children. The groundbreaking methods and techniques of The Institutes have set the standards in early childhood education. As a result, the books written by Glenn Doman, founder of this organization, have become the all-time best-selling parenting series in the United States and the world.

I cannot personally attest to his work, as I did not implement his systems literally for my kids.  However, I did incorporate several concepts he promotes and I believe he has made a positive impact on many lives, in spite of the criticism he receives for being pseudoscientific.  Will scientists ever be in full agreement with one another, let alone someone who is not a PhD?  I value critical research and the scientific community greatly, however, there is a vast territory of the unknown in the world of intellectual development:  I say, go with what works!  And continue to be a lifelong learner, testing what is said to work against real time results and making adjustments along the way.

Bottom Line:  Let your preschooler explore their environment with all the senses and encourage him/her to try new foods, experiences, and so on to grow new neural connections.  This I did do, and my boys are achieving high marks in school.  Start early and make learning fun!


Brain Breaks for Better Brainpower

Phrenology1Recall during learning dramatically falls when a brain is not expected to get a break from information gathering for hours at a time.

The optimal time spent learning something new is twenty to fifty minutes.  After this, do your brain the favor of a break and it will return the favor by increasing your ability to assimilate and recall the information you are learning.

When you take a break, get up and walk around to get the oxygen flowing and to give your body a new position to relieve any tension from sitting or standing.

Break for five to fifteen minutes.  Less than five minutes is not enough time for your brain to get the relief it requires and more than fifteen minutes is so long that you begin to move away from short term recollection of what you were learning.

At work you are not always learning something new, but it will benefit your brain to break at least twice during the day for some well needed physical movement.  This helps your brain to refocus when you return and perhaps even create a little more enjoyment to your job than just sitting still for hours without a fresh view.

Brain Byte: You Have Unlimited Brain Potential. How Much Do You Use?


Pyotr Anokhin of Moscow University published research in 1968 which demonstrated that the minimum number of potential thought patterns the average brain can make is the number 1 followed by 10.5 million kilometers of type written zeros.

That is virtually an infinite amount of thought capacity!  Our brain is incredibly synergistic.  Each brain cell can connect with up to ten thousand other brain cells in a single instant.

The Greatest brains use measurably more of their brains than the average.  According to Tony Buzan and Raymond Keene (world chess champion) in The Book of Genius, the top ten greatest brains of all time are:

10.  Albert Einstein

9.  Phidias (architect of Athens)

8.  Alexander the Great

7.  Thomas Jefferson

6.  Sir Isaac Newton

5.  Michelangelo

4.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

3.  The Great Pyramid Builders

2. William Shakespeare

1. Leonardo da Vinci

Buzan and Keene rated their subjects in categories including Originality, Versatility, Dominance-in-Field, Universality-of-Vision, and Strength and Energy.

Brain Byte: Exercise Grows Your Brain

Exercise literally grows the brain, increasing the number of brain cells.

According to No More Brain Drain by Reader’s Digest the birth of new brain cells decreases as we age, but this trend may be reversed with regular physical exercise.

The book reports that researchers from the University of Illinois found that after 3 months of getting a few hours of aerobic exercise weekly, study subjects’ brains grew to a size equal to that of people 3 years younger.  Their number of brain cells increased dramatically, especially in the frontal lobe, where much of learning and memory making takes place.

In addition, the connections between brain cells also increased, especially in the corpus callosum, a structure that connects the two hemispheres of the brain and allows them to speak to each other, enhancing creativity and efficiency of thought.

Wise-up Wednesday: Let the Light Shine In

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA “You are My Sunshine, My Only Sunshine, You make me happy when skies are gray….”

When the dawn’s early light strikes the human eye, it sends a signal to the brain regions that control alertness.  The result: You go from drowsy to mentally stimulated, fast. I admit, I LOVE this phenomenon!

Steps to take advantage of the connection between light and mental alertness:

1) Pull up the shades first thing in the morning

2) Go outside when possible

3) Sit near a sunny window, when inside

4) Only 30 minutes of sunshine increases alertness; go for a walk at lunch time; wear sunscreen or sun hat

5) Turn on lights when you require mental stimulation.  Conversely, dim the lights 30 minutes prior to bedtime to signal to your brain it is time to wind down and rest.


Wise-up Wednesday: The Link Between the Art of Juggling Balls and Tasks


Juggling is a task most people believe they cannot accomplish.  It seems so complicated or athletic or requires too much coordination.

I have watched many men and women give it a go real time in the Radiant Learning workshops I conduct.  Many will even say out loud, “I can’t juggle!”  Many make pitiful attempts and either laugh, cry (not really), or get frustrated.  Those who are most frustrated are those who thought they could juggle, even though they did not have a clue HOW to juggle.  There is a process to follow that ensures success over time with practice and process improvement.

Often times we take on tasks the way we take on those juggling balls for the first time.  We pick up so many tasks but are not certain what order to start them.  Sometimes we take them as we get them rather than stepping back to evaluate the best process. Which task is most important? Which requires the most time?

Just as there is a simple pattern (process) and rhythm to the art of juggling balls, there is also a process and rhythm with tasks.  Learn to apply the art of juggling to your everyday.

A great resource from my mentor and creator of Mind Maps, Tony Buzan, is the book Lessons from the Art of Juggling: How to Achieve Your Full Potential in Business, Learning, and Life. 

Wise-up Wednesday: Shape Your Thinking

“As  we think, the brain has the ability to change itself for better or for worse.  the recognition of this is a gigantic and significant leap in the history of mankind.” Dr. Caroline Leaf, Neuroscientist

“We take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5b

So make a plan today to put a positive change in place to re-wire your brain in a good and healthy way that will have a long term impact on your brain and your thinking.  This may also positively affect your relationships.  Include 21 consistent days for your plan to change this part of your thinking. For example I will choose to confess my resentment each day; I will allow the Holy Spirit to lead me in love and not condemnation; I will be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.  I will record my progress daily and forgive myself when I fall back into an old pattern, and I will try, try again.

Wise-Up Wednesday: How to Age Proof Your Brain

Here is a link to the short video clip from Tony Buzan, creator of Mind Maps, entitled How to Age Proof Your Brain.

The video is less than 4 minutes.

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