How Thinking Can Change the Brain

Sharon Begley’s article about changing your brain appeared in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago -you can read it here, and you can also listen to Sharon Begley discuss the mind’s ability to reshape the brain on NPR.

Begley talks about the fact that thoughts can alter and shape the brain’s structure and circuitry – you can actually change your brain with your own mind. She gives many incredible examples of the effects of thinking on the brain, including the fact that a person playing a piece of music and a person ‘thinking their way through’ a piece of music will show the same neural activity and expansion of the motor cortex region.

Begley describes how Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) can change the brains of depressed patients, as demonstrated through brain imaging technology. CBT works to calm activity in the “seat of reason” in the brain, helping depressed patients to regulate their emotions.

Begley also talks about the connection between Buddhist monks in meditation and gamma wave activity in their brains (the monks volunteered to have their brains hooked up to wires while they meditated on compassion). What’s even more amazing is that the effects of their thinking actually resonated in their brains long after they had stopped meditating – while novice meditators did not have this effect.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Buddism both produce positive effects in people’s brains and in people’s lives. A year and a half ago, the founding father of Cognitive Therapy, Dr. Aaron Beck, and his Holiness the Dalai Lama met to discuss the connections between CT and Buddhism. The picture above is from their “Meeting of Minds” Dialogue, which is also available on DVD.

1 reply
  1. Ellen Weber
    Ellen Weber says:

    Great point and it also makes the case for doing changes the brain too – since it rewires nightly based on what we think and do daily. Thanks for the great reminder to mind:-)


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