According to Connectome by Sebastian Seung, you can teach an old dog new tricks. We are more than our genes, and life events and experiences can help our brains rewire our neurons. How much they get rewired may be based on the role our genes play in these new connections, but we are not necessarily strictly bound by biology.
Over at Brain Pickings, Maria Popova takes a look at Seung’s new book and the new science of mapping the connectome.
A “connectome” denotes the sum total of connections between the neurons in a nervous system and, like “genome,” implies completeness. It’s a complex fingerprint of identity, revealing the differences between brains and, inversely, the specificity of our own uniqueness. Seung proposes a simple theory: We are different because our connectomes differ from one another. With that lens, he argues, any kind of personality change — from educating yourself to developing better habits — is a matter of rewiring your connectome.
As The Discarded Image is in search of “belief changing ideas,” Connectome by Sebastian Seung is a book that seems to hit on the “changing” part. Ideas alone do not change human beings, and that is why two human beings can talk right past each other. Ideas are powerful, but there needs to be an experience that helps promote the re-wiring as well.
This is something I run into in the classroom on a regular basis. My students are not always able to see the world through my lens; my journey has taken me through a world of experiences that have helped to forge my way of thinking. They are often several years behind (if they are even close to the kind of path I’ve taken) or intersecting my world from a completely different path altogether. Perhaps the best I can hope for is an opportunity to create those life changing events myself. Read Popova’s full review of Connectome Sebastian Seung at Brain Pickings.