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Everyday Spirituality

Until recently, it has been believed in mainstream neuroscience, that plasticity in the brain is present only in children. The younger years are considered critical in brain development because once we become an adult, the brain wiring is permanent, localized. Therefore, parts of the brain have been mapped. Localizationist, Torsten Wiesel, won the Nobel Prize for determining where visual processing occurs in the adult brain.

But, along comes experimental and open-minded Michael Merzenich, to discover that plasticity is found in the adult brain also. However, Nobel Prize winner, Torsten Wiesel opposed the idea and his opposition frustrated Merzenich because many other neuroscientists automatically accepted the position of the peer majority supported by Wiesel, even though the position was arrogant and weak.

Years later, Wiesel did accept adult brain plasticity and did graciously acknowledge in print that for a long time he was wrong and that Merzenich’s brave experiments ultimately commanded attention. In other words, Wiesel’s brain changed.

But, what did other hardcore localizationists do? They believed in adult brain plasticity because Wiesel did.

I learned two lessons from this real life story: One, when I am wrong, gracefully, publicly admit it and move forward with an appreciation and respect for the brave soul who brought the wrongness to my attention. Two, think for myself and don’t believe someone because they are technically in a position of authority.

 

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