Design that Manipulates the Brain

The brain is dynamic. It can be physically changed by both internal and external factors. Neuroplasticity refers to the processes by which the brain is collectively remodeled, or rewired. Neuroplastic changes can be viewed as adaptive when associated with a gain in function, or as maladaptive when associated with negative consequences such as loss of function or increased injury. This means that the brain continually reorganizes itself throughout our lifetime by forming new neural connections. It allows neurons, or nerve cells, in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in the environment.

The brain has the ability to change at any age, for better or for worse. As you can imagine, this flexibility plays an incredibly important role in our brain development, or decline, and in shaping our distinct personalities, and behaviors.

There are a number of behavioral, environmental, and biochemical factors that affect this process, many of which we have considerable power to influence.

When it comes to neuroplasticity, the brain is a lot like film. When you photograph a picture, of say, a mountain, you’re exposing the film to new information. It reacts to the light, and its makeup changes in order to record the image of that mountain. In the same way, your brain’s makeup changes when it’s exposed to new information, so that it may retain that information.

For example, each time we learn a new dance step, it reflects a change in our physical brains: new “wiring,” or neural pathways, form, that give instructions to our bodies on how to perform the step. Each time we forget someone’s name, it also reflects brain change, “wires” that once connected to the memory degenerate, or even sever. As these examples show, changes in the brain can result in improved skills, like a a new dance step, or a weakening of skills, like a forgotten name.

Neuroplasticity makes it possible for the design of your products, environments, and services to harness the brains constant remodeling.
Direct it in ways that can enhance overall functionality, improve quality of life, and train your customers brain, for any number of reasons that you choose.

Neuroplasticity is the next frontier of design. It truly is mind manipulation. Dr. Michael Merzenich, of UCSF Medical Center, pioneered this revolutionary field by first legitimizing the science, then launching, Posit Science, and Brain HQ. Through Brain HQ Posit Science can actually enhance your brain’s information processing speed, vision, hearing, ability to pay attention, everyday cognition, mood, and sense of self control, and restore lost functioning, from traumatic brain injury.

Those of you that follow my work have probably heard/read, that Helix Opportunity’s Harmony at Work, through Common Sense Design, is derived from this science. What you may not know, is that it evolved out of my participation in Dr. Merzenich’s research and development of Brain HQ.

Understanding neuroplasticity allows you to design products that can treat drug, and alcohol addiction/abuse, depression, PTSD, and a myriad of other medical conditions, or just embed the desire for customers to want to use your products, environments, and services, deep in their brains. To better understand this, I will break it down into a couple examples:


Drug, and alcohol addiction/abuse

Drug, and alcohol abuse/addiction, is a case of maladaptive neuroplasticity. The brains reward system establishes memories of [drug] experiences, which we psychologically interpret as beneficial, because of the pleasure associated with them. Those memories are what influence relapse. Our reward circuits are shaped by these drug experiences, coordinating the brain’s interest in pleasureful rewards that associate with the body’s physiological state. It integrates brain function with our physiological needs.

Chronic exposure to addictive drugs like Cocaine produces a progressive pattern of brain plasticity in reward circuits that can continue to develop well into periods of drug abstinence. This is adaptive plasticity, rewiring of the brain by forming, or strengthening, neural connections, even though they have negative consequences.

For instance, Let’s say that you used cocaine, while you lived at your parents house. You moved away, and sobered up. It’s been 12 months since you last used cocaine. Your parents invite you over for dinner, and suddenly you have the urge to use cocaine, again, and relapse. This is a highly likely scenario to occur because of your brain’s adaptive neuroplasticity. Your brain’s reward system manipulated by your cocaine use caused you to pay particular attention to this environment, and associate it with the pleasureful rewards of your cocaine use.

Returning to that environment stimulates the neuropathways in your brain to seek out that pleasureful reward of cocaine again. In order for neuropathways to form beneficial connections, they must be stimulated by pleasure.


Adaptive neuroplasticity

The brain’s ability to efficiently reorganize allocation of its resources to meet demands and compensate for deficits is uniquely illustrated in research utilizing individuals with different kinds of sensory disabilities. Both blind and deaf individuals often demonstrate superior skills in their remaining senses, as compared with individuals with all senses intact. That is because areas of their brain normally dedicated to the missing sense are recruited for use by their other sensory abilities. The intact, Sensory-specific, areas receive direct inputs from other sensory brain regions. This interconnectivity provides the brain with multiple pre-existing pathways with the potential to redirect neural activity so that lost, or new functions, can be “unmasked” when needed.

Harnessing the power of neuroplasticity is the next frontier of design, with infinite human potential. Only one company on this planet has actually devised a design methodology, and training, to do just that. That company is Helix Opportunity. Feel free to contact Helix to learn more.

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