This series is adapted from a speech delivered on December 29, 2018, in Loma Linda, CA. Read part 1 here.
A Biblical Perspective on Neuroplasticity
Unsurprisingly, the Bible makes reference to neuroplasticity. In fact, it is safe to say that neuroplasticity is one of the most important purposes of the gospel – to cause a long-lasting transformation on the inside of human beings. For example, the book of Proverbs states that as we think, our behavior changes. This means when we think certain ways, neural paths are created in the brain which in turn impact our behavior. The good news is you are capable of changing your brain’s neural connections and triumphing over the issues of addiction, bad behaviors, etc. Such tremendous change can happen in a person that will make him seem like someone who has been reborn.
Romans 12:1 even uses metamorphosis to signify this tremendous change, like changing from a worm to a butterfly. It says, “do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of the mind”. Another scripture Philippians 2:5 talks about the wholesale changes to those connections in our brain. It says God wants to put His mind into us through neuroplasticity. In the aftermath, we become a different person entirely, totally capable of doing things that had seemed impossible to us. This is what is talked about in 2 Corinthians 5:17 which says, “therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things are passed away, behold all things are become new”. This possibility of being reborn as a new man with an entirely different conduct, character and way of doing things is also talked about in 1 Peter which says we are being reborn, not of a corruptible seed but rather of incorruptible seed by the Word of God which lives and abides forever.
God wants to put His mind into us through neuroplasticity. In the aftermath, we become a different person entirely, totally capable of doing things that had seemed impossible to us.
The Relationship Between Environment and Neuroplasticity
As pointed out earlier in part 1, our environment can trigger neuroplasticity, and determine the type of neuroplasticity we experience – either positive or negative. Our environment has a big effect on that sympathetic and parasympathetic state. For instance, an experiment was carried out some time ago on rats. In the experiment, different rats were put in separate places that simulated a gloomy environment without any form of external stimulation or anything they could look forward to. After some time when the rats had settled into that simulated environment, the rats were presented with an opportunity to make a choice between drinking water or using morphine. The rats chose the morphine as a way to try to escape from that reality. They proceeded with the second part of the study where they simply changed the environment of the rats to a place that simulated living in the city. There was the opportunity to start families, make babies, maintain a fit and healthy body, and even establish social connections. They allowed the rats to settle into that simulated environment, and then presented them with another opportunity to make a choice between drinking water or using morphine. This time around, the rats chose water voluntarily. The conclusion of the experiment was that the environmental change that the rats experienced directly informed their change in choices, hence it is important to pay attention to our environment as it has a direct but subtle impact on neuroplasticity.
Similar research was done in order to find out if neuroplasticity in humans had anything to do with their environment. They made use of Vietnam veterans who had experienced horror in their environment during the War. The conditions they lived in were really horrible. Everything that surrounded them at that time was enough to cause them to be fearful. Soldiers could come out of nowhere and start shooting at people sporadically. A war plane could start fly above you and start throwing bombs, and you’d have to run for cover. You could even be walking harmlessly, minding your own business, and you’d suddenly step on a land mine. Some of them watched their friends and families killed before their very eyes. When the horror reached the apogee for many of them, they fell back on addictive substances as a way of escape from that horrible reality. In the aftermath of the war, the people travelled to their homes, an environment that had love in it. With loving people now around them (their parents, girlfriends, wives, etc.), 75% of them were documented to have willingly quit the use of addictive substances.
In an environment with loving people around them, 75% of war veterans willingly quit the use of addictive substances.
Dr. Eddie Ramirez, MD is a physician, author, and researcher. He has 27 years experience working in lifestyle centers and has been in 39 countries the last two years presenting his research. He has 80 published studies showing the impact of lifestyle interventions.Follow him on twitter @EddieRDMD