The human brain is amazing and allows us to imagine – this is something unique to humans. Thanks to this amazing ability we have produced great works of literature, art and music. We have changed the face of the planet with our roads and buildings. Everything man made was born from someone’s imagination.
The incredible fact is that what we imagine can physically alter the wiring in our brains. An experiment by neuroscientist Alvaro Pascual-Leone demonstrated this beautifully. He took a number of Harvard students and asked them to perform one of two activities. One group was asked to practice a simple five fingered piano movement for five days on a piano. The second group was asked to practice the same movement for the same amount of time. However, this group was asked to imagine playing the piece but with their hands held still.
The brains of the participants were scanned after every two hour practice session using transcranial-magnetic-simulation (TMS) which allows scientists to produce pictures of brain activity. These scans showed that the stretch of motor cortex which controls the finger movements for the piano activity grew significantly for the group playing the piano. What was remarkable was that those who only imagined moving their fingers showed very similar growth in motor cortex.
Essentially, your brain can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality. This is a double-edged sword. When we worry about things that might happen or we mull over things we wished we’d done differently in the past, the brain treats these worries as real events and reacts with feelings of stress and anxiety. On the flipside, mentally rehearsing an activity such as swinging a golf club well can improve sporting performance. It has even been shown that positive visualization has improved the recovery time of stroke patients.
At ONE LIFE, we help people harness the power of their imagination to achieve their goals. Imagine that, eh?