Science & The Spirit


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Health Helps Part 19

By Dane and Vicki Griffin

How plastic is your brain?

Before you insist that your brain isn’t plastic at all, make sure you understand the question! The more “plastic” the brain, the more ability it has to adapt to different demands, stimuli, or environments. In other words, brain plasticity plays a large part in how your nervous system responds to new information and stress.

The number of brain cells you have cannot be changed. However, you can make your brain more plastic by increasing the number of connections between your brain cells. The more connections you have, the more information you can process—and the easier you will find it to handle sudden mental challenges and stresses.

Go plastic!

It’s as true with the brain as with anything else: Use it or lose it! Make sure you have daily mental challenges—the more mental stimulation, the more connections will form between your brain cells. A healthy brain also needs a good blood flow. Aerobic1 exercise, in particular, increases the amount of capillaries in the brain. Studies suggest that physical and mental exercise actually stimulate special genes in the brain to “switch on” and produce denser, more fibrous nerves and additional capillary support systems! Is your grandmother complaining that she can’t think clearly anymore? Encourage her to exercise her mind and body! According to recent studies, new nerve connections and support systems can develop well into old age!

But what if you don’t take care of your brain connections? You’ll find yourself losing it—and complaining of such things as poor memory, difficulty learning, inability to handle stress, and even depression.

Losing strategies

Are you stressed out? Do you struggle with fear, anxiety, hostility, or negative emotions? If so, your brain’s plasticity may be taking a beating. Such stresses can actually ruin the delicate nerves in an important memory center of the brain known as the hippocampus. Common food items can do the same type of damage. These include caffeine, large amounts of sugar, and food additives like MSG, aspartame, and hydrolyzed vegetable protein.2 A diet that is too high in fat also decreases the oxygen supply to the brain, which means a greater risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s. Other stressors that can decrease brain plasticity include alcohol, tobacco, listening to harsh music,3 and—surprise!—watching television for just four hours a day.

Let’s promote plastic!

The good news is that there are lots of ways to help your brain to keep its plasticity. We’ve already mentioned exercising your brain and your body. Another way to keep the brain supple is to choose a diet that is rich in whole grains, beans, fresh fruits, and vegetables.4 Drinking plenty of water is also important—it keeps nutrients flowing to the brain at just the right levels.

The final Word

One of the most exciting ways to increase brain plasticity is to study the Bible and memorize Scripture. Daily Bible study and memorization increases plasticity, or the very power of the mind. It also increases our capacity for knowing Christ, the Source of all strength and victory. Lastly, it gives us the ability to live above the power of sin, by filling our minds with God’s thoughts.

God, speaking through Solomon, said much the same thing long ago: “My son, attend to My words; incline thine ear unto My sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.”5

Let’s keep plastic!


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1. Exercise that causes marked temporary increase in respiration and heart rate.
2. Often known as excitotoxins or glutamates. See Young Disciple magazine, Vol. 7, No. 25.
3. Because of the stress reaction it produces.
4. Raw fruits and vegetables provide the brain with antioxidants, which fight free radical destruction that causes cell death. A rich supply of vitamins and minerals is essential to brain hormone regulation, enzyme activity, and proper nerve cell reactivity and health. A proper plant-based diet will be naturally lower in fat, so blood oxygenation will be better.
5. Proverbs 4:20–23.