Neuroplasticity ‘s Role in Keeping us Juicy! (aka: Functionally Youthful and Engaging!)
By Kathy Wolstenholme, author of Juice! 7 skills for deepening the body mind connection (published August 2012, Cape Town, South Africa)
Norman Doidge in The Brain that Changes Itself (Penguin Group. New York. 2007) says our brains are not the stiff, inflexible, programmed-at-birth, not-to-be modified, hardwired machine we thought they were. The brain can change its own structure and function through thinking, learning and acting.
I venture to say that the brain also changes its structure by ‘coming to its senses’, and activating imaginary (mental) scenes for the senses to encounter. By choosing alternate responses to different stimuli, our senses can help us build new pathways of neurological expression.
Firstly, it’s important to note that our senses have receptor cells that send electric signals via nerves to areas of the brain mapped to accept that information.
Doidge says, “Much of the brain is ‘polysensory’ – its sensory areas are able to process signals from more than one sense. This can happen because all our sense receptors translate different kinds of energy from the external world, no matter what the source, into electrical patterns that are sent down our nerves. These electrical patterns are universal language ‘spoken’ inside the brain – there are no visual images, sounds, smells or feelings moving inside our neurons.” (p. 18, The Brain that Changes Itself)
We can increase neural pathways by experimenting with our sense of touch. In my book Juice! skill 5, ‘Engage’, identifies ‘touch’ as our body’s medium of expression.
Our sense of touch is not just our ability to sense the texture and temperature of what we touch; our sense of touch does not always have to come from being in contact with something else in order to register.
Touch is also the ability to sense how we touch. The ‘energy’,or electricity, of the touch is what is transmitted to our brains.
In other words, our hands are free to chop, smooth, and knead to our heart’s content without needing wood or food as a recipient. Indeed our whole body is welcome to jiggle, wiggle and giggle to whatever inspires it!
”When we speak of touch we usually refer to hands, yet the whole body has a sense of touch….(even our eyes and voice have a touch).
Touch is based on subconscious calculations that are ongoing, subtle and neuromuscular (from nerves to muscles, bypassing the thinking brain, no mental decision making). Our brains offer and process ‘touch’ variables of pace, range and expression (ie: timbre) to and from our nerves like electrical impulses shuttled along power lines.
We find the correct touch when we’re observant (through pausing), and in answer to the question ‘How do I want or need to be in this situation?” Inevitably our response results in a variety of touches: from a delicate brush to a light press, a nudge or a shove. “ (which can be calibrated into the hands, the eyes, or the voice!)
This is where the skill of ‘Engage’ comes in. Just as athletes experiment with a myriad of different strokes to increase their range of response, we can experiment to have a variety of touches ‘at our fingertips’. Since the body and mind are intimately connected, what we can apply physically, we can apply emotionally. A wider range of touch expression in our motions can translate to our emotions. We become more exciting to others and ourselves through that multidimensionality.
Let’s stop “running our energy” habitually, ie: the same type of electrical pattern in the same way to the same part of the brain continually. Juice! happens when we break out of habit and find versatility in expression. Speed, depth, volume and intensity are all variables of our touch.
He Who Feels it Knows it More
Laban Movement Analysis breaks touch into 3 categories:
time, weight of the movement and how you move through space.
Weight: Light, Heavy, Direct or Indirect
Time: Sudden or Sustained
Manner (defined by 8 effort qualities): slash, dab, punch, press, wring, glide, flick, float
- Put on some music and explore endless possibilities of combinations of the Laban movements through your body – ie: your feet, your arms, your whole body.
- Have fun as you attempt to adapt each manner into your eyes and manner of speaking.
- How would your interaction be affected by each energy?
- What is your signature touch?
- Has anyone ever commented on your unique touch?
ENJOY playing with different touches to discover the many sides of your personality and to develop creativity!