I am neuroscientist Dr. Michael Merzenich, a principal discoverer of lifelong brain plasticity. AMA about your brain’s ability to change from the cradle to the grave.
I’m here to introduce you to strategies for growing your brain power, and for adopting strategies for managing your organic brain health. For nearly five decades, I’ve been a leading pioneer in the science of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change its anatomical, neurochemical, and functional performance status across the lifespan. Neuroplasticity can enable the brain to change for the better, or for the worse. We know the neurological rules that govern this remarkable process—which has led us to a new understanding of why most individuals functionally deteriorate at an older age and also reveal powerful new strategies for more effectively engaging your brain to restore its functionality. With the proper forms of brain engagement and intensive computer-guided training, you can increase key neurotransmitters controlling brain change; improve the structural integrity of your brain; accelerate, refine, and grow the reliability of the brain’s information processing and recording (remembering); and improve your overall brain health. In other words, we now know how you can AGAIN GROW your brain powers see my book, Soft-Wired.
When I first helped pioneer this research beginning in the 1970s, most mainstream neuroscientists rejected the conclusion that the brain was subject to continuous, large-scale, lifelong brain remodeling. Hundreds of thousands of research reports have subsequently documented the fact of ‘adult’ brain plasticity, and millions of individuals have now benefited from the application of our intensive, highly efficient computer-guided training programs.
More recently, when we tried to explain to the scientific community that using pharmaceuticals to clear amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease would and could never really restore cognitive function—that drug trials predicated on this assumption were doomed to fail—this avenue for treatment was still being very aggressively pursued to the tune of billions of dollars. That investment reflects a fundamental lack of understanding of brain plasticity-related science and Alzheimer’s/dementia ‘disease’ origin. Although there is an ongoing presumption that Alzheimer’s disease is a disease, our brain science argues that Alzheimer’s is actually the catastrophic end stage of a long, completely natural, negative-plasticity-driven change progression. A fundamental misunderstanding of the origins of this train wreck explains why more than 450 FDA drug trials searching for a ‘magic bullet’ to treat Alzheimer’s have failed.
I’m joining the Reddit community to try to help you understand that the ways that scientists and doctors have thought about neurological and psychiatric illnesses like Alzheimer’s has been substantially in error. The slow, unrelenting decline in our functional abilities that culminate in those train wrecks that we’ve labelled “Alzheimer’s” or “dementia” or “Parkinson’s” or “schizophrenia” (among dozens of other adult-acquired maladies) are natural change progressions. Importantly, the same scientific studies have clearly shown that these negative progressions are NOT inevitable. We have the power to throw the plasticity switch from ‘decline’ to ‘grow.’ Understanding how to throw that switch is a central topic that I’m opening up for discussion on Reddit! What, exactly, should you be doing, to sustain or even grow your abilities, to successfully manage your organic brain health, to improve your lot in life, and keep yourself safer? My goal on Reddit is to educate you and other citizens about this scientific, economic, and societal revolution that is educating us about better ways to combat—and hopefully defeat— Alzheimer’s and other brain-related catastrophes. Our failure to apply this science in the world is currently devastating elder and other human populations. A medical course correction may be extremely important for you, and for every other older or otherwise-at-risk individual who you care about.
Credentials: I am an Emeritus Professor from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), have published more than 250 articles in peer-reviewed journals, and been awarded more than 60 US patents. For this work, I have been awarded the Kavli Prize, the highest international honor in neuroscience. I have also received the Russ Prize (highest honor in bioengineering), Ipsen Prize, Zülch Prize, Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award, Purkinje Medal, and membership to the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine.
I will be here all day. My goal is to answer every question, which means I may visit again tomorrow.
Obligatory legal disclaimer: By law, medical information cannot be offered online. All information, content, and material is for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider. What I say here are my own opinions and may not necessarily reflect the views of the brain training companies I have founded.
EDIT: Thanks everyone -- I enjoyed your questions, they were good ones. I will try to get to the ones I didn't answer yet tomorrow.
EDIT: I'm back and ready to answer more questions.
EDIT: I'm signing off for the day. I might be back tomorrow.
EDIT: Back again.
EDIT: See you later, Reddit. This was fun.