Neuroplasticity: the good and the bad

neuroplasticity I’ve written on here before about neuroplasticity, and since it is kind of a massive deal in the world of neurology, mental health, etc., doubtlessly most of you have heard about it by now. Basically, everything we thought for a long time about the brain’s development – i.e., that you reach a certain level of cognitive development and then it’s set for life (or worse, inevitably eroding little by little) – is total bull. Neuroplasticity posits that as long as you’re alive, your brain is growing and changing. It’s like a forest, with neural pathways become clearer and more familiar every time they are used, or fainter and less reliable as they are left untaken.

As my therapist pointed out in my final session with her a couple months ago, I’ve actually physically altered my brain by actively fighting BPD through therapy, medication and DBT. She showed me some MRI scans she had of BPD brains versus “normal” brains. The differences were astounding. For the non-BPD brains, light/activity covered most of the brain, with information travelling smoothly from left to right and back again: constant communication. In the brains with BPD, whole sections were dark, void of any activity. This tied into what we had discussed regarding “part work” – wherein parts of the brain (such as painful memories or beliefs) are closed off from other parts (such as the adult brain which regulates emotions), thus leading to massive mental health issues as you literally fight with yourself for control. Accessing suppressed parts of ourselves isn’t just some airy-fairy imaginative exercise: it correlates to the physical and observable disassociation between the parts in your head. So yeah, pretty important stuff.

Anyway, suffice it to say, I was feeling pretty proud of myself as I wrapped up therapy – like that feeling you get when you’ve been working out consistently and you can actually start to see little muscles peeking through the chub (“mmmhm, check out THIS well-developed amygdala, everyone”). I’d physically changed my thinking! But as the months have gone by, I’ve noticed another way that neuroplasticity has affected me.

Despite my clear awareness of how much computer time/technology affects my mental health, I’m still just not able to put my money where my mouth is and DITCH THIS SHIT. I spend hours – I shudder to think just how many hours – staring into a computer screen and accomplishing NOTHING. I’ll open a word document to work/edit or write, and suddenly find myself on instagram or Facebook 45 minutes later, bewildered as to how much time has just passed. Or a poorly written piece of click bait catches my eye and I waste 4 minutes skimming it… and then another 4 minutes skimming the comments on it… and then another 4 minutes skimming the next article that it links to… and so on and so on. Far too many times a week, I’ll find myself heading to bed wondering where the hell the evening between work and sleep went: I literally just sat there on a couch for THAT long?!?!

It’s a disturbing trend that is affecting virtually everyone who uses the Internet, and the implications of it really only started to scare me after reading this awesome article (which won a Pulitzer btw, and is infinitely more compelling than this post itself so please read it instead if you’re strapped for time!). Is my computer usage actually making me “stupider”?

There’s no doubt that everything this author said hit home. Over the last few years – and the last few months, in particular – I notice alarming changes. I am less creative. I am less focused. I have far more difficulty immersing myself in a narrative and I barely read real books anymore (which is INSANE when I think of my past and how much I love to read). I also struggle on a daily basis with productivity and the ability to listen to my gut and make decisions. I often feel pulled in so many directions by so many bits of unsorted information that it’s no wonder my ability to really sink into deeper levels of contemplation has evaporated. I don’t know what the answer is though. I mean the benefits of computer/Internet use are obvious (this blog being one of them, for me!) and I’m not sure how I’d even function at my job(s) without them. But surely there must be some way to grow my creativity again, which is currently withered to nothingness by all my senseless surfing… any ideas?  :/

-Cat xxxxx

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Author: halfasoul

I am a lot of things, but for the purposes of this blog, I am a textbook case of borderline personality disorder (BPD). My intention is that this blog give others with BPD - as well as those that care about them - perspective, insight, and hopefully, even a little bit of hope, help or comfort regarding the nature of this very strange and overwhelming disorder.

5 thoughts on “Neuroplasticity: the good and the bad”

  1. Hiya. Doubtless, I am old enough to be your mother–but no matter. Though I am computarded, still unable to grasp what “copy and paste” now means to most ppl save those over 80, and with no barking idea what “download” and “save file(s)” actually, physically entail, it seems that we have at least two things in common: complex PTSD and a disturbingly altered ability to use and make sense of the written word. (For what it’s worth, my fingers just committed at least one Freudian slip, typing “fail” for “file”. Disheartening at the least. Not at all funny.)

    Looking back, I have understood for decades that reading–anything with a narrative, actually–was one of my first escapes. I am hyperlexic, diagnosed two and a half years ago with non-language-related learning disorder. If I can, or could, make sense of something using words, I was okay; if I could not, well, I was scrooged. Food and animal contact came next. Since my living situation doesn’t allow for dogs, I am a dog molester these days, grinning like a fool whenever I see one on a leash, loose, in a fenced-in yard, anywhere. Horsies and puppies and kitties are infinitely kinder than most people. I have been clean from benzos three years now, and from most other things also. Still, I digress: I cannot control a narrative like I used to do, and with some skill, surfing inspiration and metaphor like….dunno. There was something there but it vanished.

    Also, I cannot read.

    I did make it through a couple of Stanford-trained-shrink-penned (I have no barking idea anymore how to punctuate that phrase) books about Internet addiction and the dangers of what one writer called the e-personality. Compelling shit.. Should you choose to correspond with me, I will give you the authors’ names, but now that I consider it, you are likely very able to locate them yourself. They looked into the ways in which computer use fundamentally derails the ability to use the written word as I, at least, am familiar and very fond of doing. These days, I must use a colored notecard–something I used to think a device of the mentally challenged–to underline sentences as I go. I skip, I scan, I stutter through material that would have once ensnared me to perhaps an addictive degree. And though I have not tried to work through the emotions that this engenders, I do know that I grieve.

    (Sorry if none of this made sense. I just turned half a century old, and am in pretty good physical shape, but I dodder and gibber and am desperate to stop, to regain a shred of the delight and facility I once exercised in my relationship with the Word.)

    julia

    Oh, yeah: NIcholas Chase, I think, is one of the journalists who writes about the ways in which, and speculatively why, Internet use alters brain function. I hope I hear back from you. Peace to you and yours.

    1. Hi Julia, Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I’ll definitely looking into the writings of Nicholas Chase: compelling indeed. Some of my favourite people are “old enough to be my mother” and others probably would be called “mentally challenged” (including me!) so don’t discount your comments for reasons you think make you unworthy of attention. Hope you are doing well and planning an eventual move to somewhere that does allow doggy friends! hugs xxxx

  2. I go through the same thing. I don’t think the answer is to get rid of it completely. Obviously, you write this blog (which is great btw!) and do other things. But perhaps the answer lies in being in the present moment. I think that deep down we know when we are wasting our time, and surfing the net and probably avoiding either some task or some emotion. So, perhaps then, one should try to engage in something better, less digital I suppose.

    1. Agreed – there is definitely an element of willpower, just learning to get up and shut the computer the instant you feel that familiar sense of wasting time (easier said than done of course)! xxxx

      1. Perhaps making some kind of schedule, which is designated only for email and/or browsing? But I always tell myself: you have to ask yourself why are you browsing in the first place. 🙂

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