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The Write Way

10 October 2008

Use It or Lose It!


Chatting about exercising a couple of weeks ago reminded me of one of those Questions that reverberate through your life at times ... I read this particular question, or series of questions, in a book some years ago, but can't recall the book or author, even though I've given my best mate, Google, a regular going over these past couple of days trying to find it.

It may have been Carl Sagan or Paul Davies or one such, because I seem to remember that it was in the context of the Meaning of Life, or that's what I've always been contemplating when this has popped into my mind over the years.

Whoever penned it, it's something I'm sure you've pondered yourself at times, and it's this: What makes you "you?"

The simple answer is, "me." But what are "you?"

Well, I'm a body with two arms, two legs...

So, if you suddenly lost one of your arms, would you cease to be "you" or would you be a lesser version of "you?"

No, of course not.

What about if (Heaven forbid) you lost both arms and both legs? Would you still be "you?"

Yes, of course I would.

What about if you were injured almost beyond repair and had to undergo a hemicorporectomy?  Would you still be "you?

Yes ...

So, if we take away half of your body, you're still "you." Then what exactly makes you, "you?"

Which is a long way round to get you to answer: "something else" ... apart from the arms and legs and bits.

And that something else, boys and girls, we'll call the Brain. That keeps us safely away from any of those arguments that can develop over whose imaginary friend is better or kinder or more powerful or whatever.

Once upon a time, scientific wisdom decreed that once your little grey cells had given up the fight, that was it, and it was a case of All Over, Red Rover. So when you got to Your Prime and started to forget things, you'd shake your head and mutter something about too much Rough Red in your misspent youth and resort to carrying a notebook and writing everything down.

But now it seems that's not the case at all, in fact, your brain, (surprise, surprise) is just like very other organ in your body and can repair and regenerate itself.

When you cut yourself, you don't have to resign yourself to spending the rest of your days with a gaping wound, do you? No, because your body is perfectly equipped to repair the damage and grow new cells to replace those damaged. And so is your brain!

Recent research shows that our brains have plasticity ... that means they can "rewire" themselves throughout our lives. And if you know even a little about how the brain works, you'll see why it's so important to use it and keep those little grey cells active and working. Here's a quick outline: 

"Every part of the brain—and the rest of the nervous system, for that matter—contain neurons (more than 100 billion of them in all). Neurons are nerve cells with some very special properties. Each one has dendrites that gather information transmitted from other cells, and an axon that transmits information to other cells. The average neuron communicates with between 1000 and 10,000 other cells.

"Neurons don’t touch when they communicate. Instead, they secrete chemical molecules called neurotransmitters that ferry nerve impulses across the tiny gaps, or synapses, to other neurons. How many neurotransmitters are secreted is important. If many are secreted, the message travels very strongly. If few are secreted, the message is weak." (Source) 

So, the more times you can get messages leaping across synapses, the better!

That's why this week's Little Something Extra has some simple things you can do to make sure you keep your brain (the thing that makes you "you") in the best possible condition. Note, I didn't say these were easy ... this is all about exercising your brain and giving it a good workout to keep it fit and healthy.

Just to give an example ... you can try wearing your watch on your right wrist instead of on your left, because this makes your brain develop new neural connections. Or take your shoes off and walk on uneven, rough surfaces every now and then. This means lots of new signals coming from lots of different directions, which equals more neurotransmitters and better brain power.

There are six qualities that any brain exercise should have in order to be effective:

1. It should be new - there's no point in the the same old, same old.

2. It should (naturally) be challenging - if your brain is on autopilot, it's not creating any new connections.

3. It should have scope to become more challenging and more difficult as you master each stage.

4. It should exercise lots of different parts of your brain - so the best activities force you to use as many of your senses as possible. 

5. It should be fun and rewarding - you won't last long with anything that's dead boring.

6. It should be something that has a few surprises for you ... something that makes you smile and feel good about yourself.

And what, dear reader, meets all of these criteria perfectly?

Writing, of course.

Writing about new topics, researching, thinking, trying out new things to write about. Talking to lots of different people about something new you're learning. Tracking down evidence and proof and examples.


It hits the spot one very count!

But since you have experience in your particular field, your knowledge and experience are in demand by others who want or need to improve their own knowledge or skills in that area. That means you don't have to just sit at your desk and write ... you can diversify into critiquing, consulting, training and presenting -- all activities that exercise your brain and can also boost your bank account in these tough times. 

Talk about win-win! Click here for a great ebook that shows you how to offer a portfolio of skills based on your own speciality. 

Maybe you could even become a mentor or coach, participate in a tele-seminar or even get onto the speaking circuit. Now there's something that could get those little grey cells zapping away!

So here are some tips if you decide to go the public speaking road:

The opening for a speech.  

The closing.

The lost art of rhetoric.  

Some topic tips for speaking in public.  


And did you hear about the politician who went to see the doctor to get the results of his brain scan. The doctor said: "I'm sorry, I have some bad news for you. First, we have discovered that your brain has two sides: the left side and the right side."

The politician interrupted, "Well, that's normal, isn't it? I thought everybody had two sides to their brain?"

The doctor replied, "That's true. But your brain is very unusual because on the left side there isn't anything right, while on the right side there isn't anything left."

You know, it's always easy to say we're going to focus on writing that article, book, family history, thesis or whatever, but life has a way of interrupting the best intentions, doesn't it? You sit down to start (or finish) some task and the next thing, your mind is whirling off in a dozen different directions ...

Been there, done that, got the T-shirt ... But you'll be delighted to know that there is something you can do to control that mouse on a wheel that runs around inside your brain! It's something that promises to help you think faster and sharper.

It says it can grant you limitless energy, help you to think like a genius, and enable you to release all stresses and tension. And what is "it?" I hear you ask.

It's a six-level meditation program that uses special sounds to help influence brainwaves. You may have heard of the “Mozart Effect” ... This is the name given to the findings from the early 1990s, when a team of trained psychologists found that sound waves -- all by themselves -- could improve your brain’s ability to think, learn, create and solve problems.

When they tested their subjects, the researchers found that men and women who listened to a Mozart Sonata before taking an IQ test scored 8 to 9 points higher than men and women who hadn’t listened to the music.

And that's where the Brain Evolution System -- or BrainEv, for short -- comes in, because it uses something known as "brainwave entrainment" to help skip years of unnecessary meditation. It uses specially manipulated sounds to help influence brainwaves, putting the mind into a deep state of meditation within minutes of listening - removing the need for countless hours of mind-quietening, Zen-monk-like practice.

And once your mind is focused, you can achieve anything! 

Sounds good? Then why not try it? For a risk-free preview copy of this new, breakthrough mind-boosting system for doubling your ability to think creatively and effectively click here now.  

This week's quiz:

How much do you know about your little grey cells? Try these on for size ... If you're like me, you'll find yourself wanting to know more and more about this most astounding of all our Bits.

frontal lobe, amygdala, cerebellum, hippocampus, angular gyrus, lateral ventricle, thalamus, cerebrum, temporal lobe, pons

1. the largest structure of the brain; containing the cerebral cortex (the outer layer), which is made of grey matter, and an inner core composed of white matter (myelinated nerve fibers and gray basal ganglia); divided into a number of regions known as lobes

2. one of the lobes of the cerebrum, situated below the frontal and parietal lobes, and above the hindbrain; is primarily concerned with sensory experience - specifically, with hearing, and with the integration of information from multiple senses; part of this also plays a role in memory processing 

3. means "inner chamber", and accordingly is located deep within the cerebrum; an egg-shaped structure lying at the very top of the brain stem; relays all information received from the senses (except smell) to the various processing centers in the cerebral cortex. Recent research also suggests that it regulates the electrical rhythms that parts of the brain use to communicate with each other. It has been speculated that tips-of-the-tongue experiences (when only part of a memory is recalled) may occur when the rhythms don't synchronize with the regions properly - which would put these memory failures at the door of this part of the brain; it also seems to be involved in memory consolidation processes that occur during sleep 

4. critically involved in computing the emotional significance of events; recent research indicates it is responsible for the influence of emotion on perception, through its connections with those brain regions that process sensory experiences, thus "allowing perception of emotionally significant events to occur despite inattention;" teaches us what happens to us when we do something; ganglion of the limbic system adjoining the temporal lobe of the brain and involved in emotions of fear and aggression 

5. one of the oldest parts of the brain, and is buried deep inside, within the limbic lobe; is important for the forming, and perhaps long-term storage, of associative and episodic memories; specifically, it has been implicated in (among other things) the encoding of face-name associations, the retrieval of face-name associations, the encoding of events, the recall of personal memories in response to smells; may also be involved in the processes by which memories are consolidated during sleep 

6. part of a series of interconnected cavities containing cerebrospinal fluid in the core of the brain 

7. the main structure in the hindbrain, situated at the base of the brain, at the top of the spinal cord; controls our balance and postural stability and is involved in motor coordination - not, it appears, in the initial learning of motor skills, but in the performance and improvement of learned motor skills; growing evidence that it might also be involved in processing speech and language 

8. bridge of nerve fibers connecting the cerebellum and the medulla oblongata with other regions of the brain, most particularly with the frontal lobe 

9. a gyrus (a fold or convolution in the cerebrum) located in the inferior parietal lobule, at the crossroads of areas specialised for processing touch, hearing and vision; is larger in hominids than other primates and has been implicated in our understanding of metaphor 

10. critical for those faculties that humans regard as special to our species - reasoning, planning, attention, some aspects of language; women have up to 15% more brain cell density in this area, but with age, appear to shed cells more rapidly from this area than men -- by old age, the density is similar for both sexes 


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Don't forget to bookmark the page when you get there ... or even make it your Home Page. (For Internet Explorer, just click on Tools ... Internet Options ... General ... fill in and click OK. For Netscape, select Edit ... Preferences. Then select Navigator from the left menu, click Home Page and enter the URL above next to Location and click OK. For all the flash new browsers, you'll have to do a search on my mate google to find what to do. There's a search box on the archives page!)

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Never-Ending Story

An Ape that wants to play Hamlet after being type-cast as King Kong, a talking anvil and ... Dr Morgenes is still caught in the nightmare that is the casting couch. Help him find a plot!  Just click on the Comments button at the end of the entry to add your contribution. If you have friends who fancy themselves as writers, invite them to contribute (just forward this newsletter in its entirety to them).

Map of the World

I often trawl this for comments to post on my site ... so if you say something about the newsletter or site, be warned, you may end up being read by one of the 2,000+ unique visitors who visit Write101 every day! Make your Mark on the World. Then stop by our Map of the World and read the messages. (Just click List) and add your mark.

And a story about ... a brain:

A brain walks into a bar and says, "I'll have a pint of beer please."

The barman looks at him and says "Sorry, I can't serve you."

"Why not?" asks the brain.

"Because you're already out of your head," says the barman.


Last week's quiz:

barefoot pilgrim, cartel, alligator spread, bear, amortization, angels, beggar-thy-neighbour, bubble, daisy chain, bull 

1. theory under which security prices sometimes move wildly above their true values, or the price falls sharply - BUBBLE

2. international trade policy of competitive devaluations and increased protective barriers that one country institutes to gain at the expense of its trading partners - BEGGAR-THY-NEIGHBOUR

3. individuals providing venture capital - ANGELS

4. investor who believes a stock or the overall market will decline - BEAR

5. term used to describe a spread in the options market that generates such a large commission that the client is unlikely to make a profit even if the markets move as the investor anticipated - ALLIGATOR SPREAD

6. group of businesses or nations that act together as a single producer to obtain market control and to influence prices in their favor by limiting production of a product - CARTEL

7. manipulation of the market by traders to create the illusion of active volume to attract investors - DAISY CHAIN

8. repayment of a loan by installments - AMORTIZATION

9. any market in which prices are in an upward trend - BULL

10. slang term for an unsophisticated investor who has lost everything on the stock market - BAREFOOT PILGRIM

A Little Something Extra

Test your brain with these simple exercises here. 

And see how you go with these 14 exercises (I'm sure you'll have no trouble with the first one!) here. 

Word of the week:  cauda equina - The bundle of spinal nerve roots running through the lower part of the subarachnoid space within the vertebral canal below the first lumbar vertebra; the bundle of nerve roots below the end of the spinal cord.

This word comes from the Latin for 'horse's tail' ... Now you know why we refer to some people as the horse's ... tail-end.

Oxymoron of the week: artificial intelligence

And what other Latin phrase could we possibly have this week but this one?

Mens sana in corpore sano

[MAYNZ SAH-nah EEN koh-POH-ray SAH-no]

(A healthy mind in a healthy body)

Did you know that you can have your very own Latin reminders? How about undies proclaiming, Bene est rex esse? (It's good to be king) Or a shopping bag that warns, Emptrix nata sum (Born to shop)? 

Kind regards,


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