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Neuroplasticity
Loretta G. Breuning Ph
D

Inner Mammal Institute
Make it Fun, Keep it Simple
Your clients can
fi
nd their power
over their own neuroplasticity
Here are
some tools
to mak
e

it easier
and even
fun
You’ve surely heard tha
t

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
But we also hear tha
t

new neurons grow throughout life
.

How to reconcile these two views?
New neurons are not connected in useful ways. We fall
back on old “tricks” because the old neural pathways
are so well-developed. How to build new pathways?
Any old dog can do it when they
know how their brain works
• Repetitio
n

• Emotion
 

• Youth
Neural pathways build from:
1. How YOUTH builds neural pathway
s

Neural pathways build easily whe
n

you’re young because you have a lot o
f

myelin- the substance that coats neuron
s

so they conduct electricity 100 times faster
.

Myelin is most abundant before age 8 and during puberty
,

so we build neural pathway easily during those years. We rely on
our myelinated pathways for life because they’re so ef
fi
cient
.

Alas, pathways built from the experiences of youth are never a
perfect guide to healthy choices, so we all need to update our
old pathways. Building new pathways is your superpower!
2. How EMOTION builds neural pathways

Neurons connect when your brain is releasing cortisol,
dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, or endorphin. These
emotions are your brain’s signa
l

that the information is important.
 

The connections cause yo
u

to turn on that chemical faste
r

in similar future situations
.

A monkey
fi
nds food and avoids predators without abstract
cognition because past reward and threat chemicals wired
it to repeat behaviors that got rewards or relieved threats
before. Monkeys rarely update these responses.
3. How REPETITION builds neural pathway
s

Synapses grow ef
fi
cien
t

with repeated activation
.

But it’s hard to repeat an activit
y

when it’s not supported b
y

myelinization or reward chemicals
.

Repetition is UN - FUN
.

How can you get yourself to do it?
• Repetitio
n

• Emotion
 

• Youth
Neural pathways build from:
Emotion = reward chemicals
They’re like paving on your neural pathways
It’s how an old dogs learns new tricks
The brain is always learning
from rewards
to replace an old happy habit
When you understand this, you can
use it to build a new happy habit
BUT………
The word “reward” has
become “problematic”
“Behaviorism
”

is taboo to some
What if it’s just semantics?
Semantics of “reward
”

#
1

I use it to refer not to what society de
fi
nes as a reward or what genetics
de
fi
nes as a reward, but to the reward chemicals actually released in
your unique brain as wired by your unique experience, which includes
the social rewards you experienced in youth



Examples:

It’s only a reward if it has a positive

association is your unique brain
:

the beach? the park? cooking?

guitar? yoga? a novel? a movie?

“a cookie”
Semantics of “reward
”

#
2

The biggest reward from you
r

brain’s perspective is

relief from perceived threat



— We de
fi
ne threat with neural pathways
 

paved by past cortisol (your unique past)

— Distraction relieves threat in the human cortex

— Whatever distracted you from cortisol in
 

your youth triggers a rewarding feeling today
Examples
:

- When a gazelle smells a lion,

it
fi
nds an escape path

and then goes back to

enjoying the grass
.

- When a human gets a whiff of a threat,
we augment it with our huge cortex, and
then rush to the happy habit we learned
in youth without conscious intent.
Distraction triggers the great
feeling o
f

relief from threat
,

which wires in
a

positive associatio
n

for whateve
r

distracted you.
You can wire in a new happy
habit by using reward learning
1. Break the target behavior
into small chunk
s

2. Reward each chun
k

3. Repeat
Rewire Yourself in 3 Steps
1. Break the target behavior
into small chunks
Skinner’s pigeons
learned to spin in a circle
without knowing what a
circle is. They were
rewarded for turning
their head to the right
,

so they kept turning!
2. Reward each chunk
• The reward must be
immediate to link up to
the desired behavio
r

• But how can you
reward a dolphin while
it’s in the air
?

• Karen Pryor developed
“clicker training”
3. Repeat
How to motivate those repetitions?
First, a bit of theor
y

Then, let’ see how it works for two
clients, Ori & Babo
The electricity in your brain

fl
ows like water in a storm,

fi
nding the paths of least resistance
Flowing into
an old
pathway
makes you
feel like you’re
on track
even when your behavior has harmfu
l

long-term consequences.
• Trying to activate a new pathway is like looking for
a word in a foreign language.
 

• In your native language, the word comes
effortlessly because you built that pathway in your
myelin years
.

• Your emotions got wired like your native language
It’s so hard that you feel like you’re wrong
,

even when you’re right
It takes a lot of energy to send electricity down an
undeveloped neural pathway
• Activating a new neural pathway is as hard as
slashing a new trail in the rainforest
.

• After all that work, the trail grows overs

so it’s hard the next time too
.

• You’re’ tempted to just take the old road.
But if you slash th
e

same trail every day
,

a new path gets established
You can blaze a
new trail
through your
jungle of
neurons if you
repeat a new
thought or
behavior every
day without fail.
It won’t be a
super-highway
but it’s enough.
Babo wants to build her
communication skills
1. Break the desired behavior
into small chunks
Babo decides to spend an hour a day listening
to audiobooks on communication skills
 

Babo decides to spend 5 minutes each morning
and evening designing new ways to express
herself at home and at wor
k

Babo commits to expressing herself
authentically while respecting others once a day
Babo lists healthy ways to reward herself
each time she acts on her plan
 

She decides to give herself 10 min. of
guitar or reading a novel or eat 1/4 of a
brownie each time she meets goa
l

The reward creates a good feeling, which
wires in the expectation of a good feeling
after the goal work is done
2. Reward each chunk
Babo knows that the the new behavior will feel
awkward and even dangerous at
fi
rst, because old
wiring is so ef
fi
cien
t

Babo knows that it takes a lot of energy to
activate a new neural pathway, so she saves her
energy for this purpos
e

Babo knows that it will get easier each time
because connections build with repetition
3. Repeat
Ori wants to wire in a new

“happy habit” to replace an
unhealthy habit from his past
1. Break the desired behavior
into small chunks
Ori learns to notice his threatened feelings by
stopping to look for them for 1 min., 3 times a da
y

Ori lists healthy feel-good activities that he can
turn to in bad moments to teach his brain to shift
from bad feelings to good feeling
s

Ori commits to 20 min. of a feel-good activity

(to give his cortisol time to metabolize) followed

by 1 min. of effective action, once each day
Ori decides to reward himself with 15
min. of chatting with a friend, watching
a movie, or sketching, each time he
accomplishes his daily goa
l

The reward builds positive associations
for the new happy habit, even as the old
happy habit feels more desirable
2. Reward each chunk
Ori sets a goal of repeating his new habit
every day for 45 days in a row without fail
 

Ori is relieved to know that everyone
fi
nds it
hard to activate new neural pathways because
electricity doesn’t
fl
ow there easil
y

Ori experiments with alternative rewards so
they continue to feel rewarding without
harmful consequences
3. Repeat
You can wire yourself to feel good
in ways that are good for you
You will give your electricit
y

a new place to
fl
ow
Small steps are enough if
you repeat them consistently
You will build a pathway that
expects to feel good
book
s

podcast
s

video
s

infographic
s

training certi
fi
catio
n

slide shows (incl this)
5-day Happy-Chemical Jumpstart

* all are free except the books
InnerMammalInstitute.org
The Inner Mammal Institute
 

has the resources you need t
o

make peace with your inner mammal:
get the full story at:
Habits of
a

Happy Brain
Retrain Your Brain to
Boost Your Serotonin,
Dopamine, Oxytocin,
and Endorphin
14 Days to
Sustainable
Happiness
 

A Workbook fo
r

Every Brain
Tame Your
Anxiet
y

Rewiring Your Brain
for Happiness
Status
Games
 

Why We Pla
y

and How to Stop
The Science
of Positivit
y

Stop Negative
Thought Pattern
s

By Changing Your
Brain Chemistry

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Neuroplasticity: Make It Fun, Keep It Simple

  • 1. Neuroplasticity Loretta G. Breuning Ph D Inner Mammal Institute Make it Fun, Keep it Simple
  • 2. Your clients can fi nd their power over their own neuroplasticity
  • 3. Here are some tools to mak e it easier and even fun
  • 4. You’ve surely heard tha t “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
  • 5. But we also hear tha t new neurons grow throughout life . How to reconcile these two views?
  • 6. New neurons are not connected in useful ways. We fall back on old “tricks” because the old neural pathways are so well-developed. How to build new pathways?
  • 7. Any old dog can do it when they know how their brain works
  • 8. • Repetitio n • Emotion • Youth Neural pathways build from:
  • 9. 1. How YOUTH builds neural pathway s Neural pathways build easily whe n you’re young because you have a lot o f myelin- the substance that coats neuron s so they conduct electricity 100 times faster . Myelin is most abundant before age 8 and during puberty , so we build neural pathway easily during those years. We rely on our myelinated pathways for life because they’re so ef fi cient . Alas, pathways built from the experiences of youth are never a perfect guide to healthy choices, so we all need to update our old pathways. Building new pathways is your superpower!
  • 10. 2. How EMOTION builds neural pathways
 Neurons connect when your brain is releasing cortisol, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, or endorphin. These emotions are your brain’s signa l that the information is important. The connections cause yo u to turn on that chemical faste r in similar future situations . A monkey fi nds food and avoids predators without abstract cognition because past reward and threat chemicals wired it to repeat behaviors that got rewards or relieved threats before. Monkeys rarely update these responses.
  • 11. 3. How REPETITION builds neural pathway s Synapses grow ef fi cien t with repeated activation . But it’s hard to repeat an activit y when it’s not supported b y myelinization or reward chemicals . Repetition is UN - FUN . How can you get yourself to do it?
  • 12. • Repetitio n • Emotion • Youth Neural pathways build from:
  • 13. Emotion = reward chemicals They’re like paving on your neural pathways
  • 14. It’s how an old dogs learns new tricks The brain is always learning from rewards
  • 15. to replace an old happy habit When you understand this, you can use it to build a new happy habit
  • 16. BUT……… The word “reward” has become “problematic”
  • 18. What if it’s just semantics?
  • 19. Semantics of “reward ” # 1 I use it to refer not to what society de fi nes as a reward or what genetics de fi nes as a reward, but to the reward chemicals actually released in your unique brain as wired by your unique experience, which includes the social rewards you experienced in youth
 
 Examples:
 It’s only a reward if it has a positive
 association is your unique brain : the beach? the park? cooking?
 guitar? yoga? a novel? a movie?
 “a cookie”
  • 20. Semantics of “reward ” # 2 The biggest reward from you r brain’s perspective is
 relief from perceived threat
 
 — We de fi ne threat with neural pathways paved by past cortisol (your unique past)
 — Distraction relieves threat in the human cortex
 — Whatever distracted you from cortisol in your youth triggers a rewarding feeling today
  • 21. Examples : - When a gazelle smells a lion,
 it fi nds an escape path
 and then goes back to
 enjoying the grass . - When a human gets a whiff of a threat, we augment it with our huge cortex, and then rush to the happy habit we learned in youth without conscious intent.
  • 22. Distraction triggers the great feeling o f relief from threat , which wires in a positive associatio n for whateve r distracted you.
  • 23. You can wire in a new happy habit by using reward learning
  • 24. 1. Break the target behavior into small chunk s 2. Reward each chun k 3. Repeat Rewire Yourself in 3 Steps
  • 25. 1. Break the target behavior into small chunks Skinner’s pigeons learned to spin in a circle without knowing what a circle is. They were rewarded for turning their head to the right , so they kept turning!
  • 26. 2. Reward each chunk • The reward must be immediate to link up to the desired behavio r • But how can you reward a dolphin while it’s in the air ? • Karen Pryor developed “clicker training”
  • 27. 3. Repeat How to motivate those repetitions?
  • 28. First, a bit of theor y Then, let’ see how it works for two clients, Ori & Babo
  • 29. The electricity in your brain
 fl ows like water in a storm,
 fi nding the paths of least resistance
  • 30. Flowing into an old pathway makes you feel like you’re on track even when your behavior has harmfu l long-term consequences.
  • 31. • Trying to activate a new pathway is like looking for a word in a foreign language. • In your native language, the word comes effortlessly because you built that pathway in your myelin years . • Your emotions got wired like your native language
  • 32. It’s so hard that you feel like you’re wrong , even when you’re right It takes a lot of energy to send electricity down an undeveloped neural pathway
  • 33. • Activating a new neural pathway is as hard as slashing a new trail in the rainforest . • After all that work, the trail grows overs
 so it’s hard the next time too . • You’re’ tempted to just take the old road.
  • 34. But if you slash th e same trail every day , a new path gets established
  • 35. You can blaze a new trail through your jungle of neurons if you repeat a new thought or behavior every day without fail. It won’t be a super-highway but it’s enough.
  • 36. Babo wants to build her communication skills
  • 37. 1. Break the desired behavior into small chunks Babo decides to spend an hour a day listening to audiobooks on communication skills Babo decides to spend 5 minutes each morning and evening designing new ways to express herself at home and at wor k Babo commits to expressing herself authentically while respecting others once a day
  • 38. Babo lists healthy ways to reward herself each time she acts on her plan She decides to give herself 10 min. of guitar or reading a novel or eat 1/4 of a brownie each time she meets goa l The reward creates a good feeling, which wires in the expectation of a good feeling after the goal work is done 2. Reward each chunk
  • 39. Babo knows that the the new behavior will feel awkward and even dangerous at fi rst, because old wiring is so ef fi cien t Babo knows that it takes a lot of energy to activate a new neural pathway, so she saves her energy for this purpos e Babo knows that it will get easier each time because connections build with repetition 3. Repeat
  • 40. Ori wants to wire in a new
 “happy habit” to replace an unhealthy habit from his past
  • 41. 1. Break the desired behavior into small chunks Ori learns to notice his threatened feelings by stopping to look for them for 1 min., 3 times a da y Ori lists healthy feel-good activities that he can turn to in bad moments to teach his brain to shift from bad feelings to good feeling s Ori commits to 20 min. of a feel-good activity
 (to give his cortisol time to metabolize) followed
 by 1 min. of effective action, once each day
  • 42. Ori decides to reward himself with 15 min. of chatting with a friend, watching a movie, or sketching, each time he accomplishes his daily goa l The reward builds positive associations for the new happy habit, even as the old happy habit feels more desirable 2. Reward each chunk
  • 43. Ori sets a goal of repeating his new habit every day for 45 days in a row without fail Ori is relieved to know that everyone fi nds it hard to activate new neural pathways because electricity doesn’t fl ow there easil y Ori experiments with alternative rewards so they continue to feel rewarding without harmful consequences 3. Repeat
  • 44. You can wire yourself to feel good in ways that are good for you
  • 45. You will give your electricit y a new place to fl ow
  • 46. Small steps are enough if you repeat them consistently
  • 47. You will build a pathway that expects to feel good
  • 48. book s podcast s video s infographic s training certi fi catio n slide shows (incl this) 5-day Happy-Chemical Jumpstart
 * all are free except the books InnerMammalInstitute.org The Inner Mammal Institute has the resources you need t o make peace with your inner mammal: get the full story at:
  • 49. Habits of a Happy Brain Retrain Your Brain to Boost Your Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin, and Endorphin
  • 50. 14 Days to Sustainable Happiness A Workbook fo r Every Brain
  • 51. Tame Your Anxiet y Rewiring Your Brain for Happiness
  • 52. Status Games Why We Pla y and How to Stop
  • 53. The Science of Positivit y Stop Negative Thought Pattern s By Changing Your Brain Chemistry