Deepak Chopra has authored numerous New York Times bestsellers. His training is in internal medicine and endocrinology and he is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a distinguished executive scholar at the Columbia Business School, Columbia University.
On the other hand, Rudolf Tanzi, a professor of neurology at Harvard University, has been investigating the genetics of neurological disease since the 1980s. Tanzi isolated the first Alzheimer&’s disease gene. He now heads the Alzheimer&’s Genome Project and is currently developing new therapies for it.
Chopra and Tanzi have together authored a book called Super Brain, which has articulated, in simple language, the relevance of understanding the human brain and utilising it to our advantage. They have inspired readers to believe that it is indeed possible to form new pathways towards success by making use of one&’s brain.
The human brain has about 100 billion nerve cells forming a trillion or even a quadrillion connections, called synapses, which are constantly — in their dynamic ways — remodelling responses to the world around us. The brain therefore links you to everything, every day, from your morning coffee, to the love you feel for your family or to a brilliant idea at work.
The authors reassure readers that there is no difference between William Shakespeare writing a soliloquy in Hamlet and new poets writing their first sonnet — this emphasises that the physical brain is not the entire story. It&’s not the number of neurons Shakespeare had in his brain or some magic in his being. When Albert Einstein died in 1955, there was curiosity about the most famous brain of the 20th century. An autopsy was performed and the findings defied opinions that it was a big brain. Einstein&’s brain, on the contrary, weighed 10 percent less than the average human brain!
The secret of one&’s success is to ask the brain for more because it has a miraculous capacity to give much more. There is no user&’s manual for the brain; however, it needs proper management all the time. People search for vitamins but the correct level of nourishment is a mental and physical process. Both authors warn that alcohol and tobacco are toxic to brain functioning as are fear and anger. A new study has shown that stress shuts down the prefrontal cortex — the part of the brain responsible for decision making.
The essential principle here is how best one relates the mind to the brain. Encoura-gement fosters resolve, patience and diligence. We relate to a feedback loop when our minds order the brain. The authors illustrate this through Buddhist monks who adhere to tumo when meditating in caves covered by snow. But they first order their brains by patting themselves, which generates heat in their bodies in almost freezing conditions.
Stroke patients were discouraged to use the side of the body, which was paralysed. The rehab method now encourages the patient to use the arm or limb affected by the stroke — contrary to earlier rehab therapy when the patient only used the unaffected side because the feedback was to encourage the “good” side. With the patient being motivated by therapists to use the affected side, the rate of recovery is astonishing. The mind orders the brain to use the affected side and the brain helps recovery. Chopra and Tanzi assert that this reflects how we must use our brains, as opposed to brains using us.
Both authors dispel the myth that millions of brain cells are lost every day, which cannot be replaced. It has stem cells that are capable of maturing into new brain cells throughout one&’s life — news that will cheer people who fear losing their mental capacity as they age. If some of the brain is injured in an accident or stroke, the neighbouring neurons compensate for the damaged connections by rebuilding the network. When Tanzi discovered this, Chopra compared it to a rose plucked from a bush, with the neighbouring bush having produced a new rose.
The authors advise to be vigilant on memory power. The memory for example is exercised in different ways — doing a crossword puzzle is different compared to remembering your grocery list. Focus on things or people you associate with the lost memory and you will likely recall it.
Biologists say as brain cells age so does a person. But over the course of evolution, these cells have been designed to survive. Their chemical processes are as old as the universe — it also highlights the fact that instead of popping pills the focus on preventive measures should be paramount, for example, stop smoking or consuming the wrong foods.
If one is depressed, the mind can assure the brain that it does not rain every day and the depression is lifted. This underlines the importance of Chopra and Tanzi&’s advice to stimulate the brain with positivity. You free yourself from negative thoughts, which make impulse control easier and create a space for better choices.
The stress one can experience when missing a flight results in screaming at the air line staff and blaming others. After reacting in frustration, the answer is to become mindful as without mindfulness, stress can continue. To cultivate mindfulness its best to meditate, say the authors. Mindfulness is recognised by consciousness, which becomes friendly with the brain and one depends less on external stimulation to be happy. Chopra and Tanzi term this “fusion with the true self”.