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Home Library Tutorials Neurohacking Tutorial 5 - Improving & Augmenting N1 & N2 - Cells That Fire Together Wire Together
Neurohacking Tutorial 5 - Improving & Augmenting N1 & N2 - Cells That Fire Together Wire Together PDF Print E-mail
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Neurohacking - Tutorials
Written by NHA   
Wednesday, 18 November 2009 01:01
Article Index
Neurohacking Tutorial 5 - Improving & Augmenting N1 & N2
Stress And Relaxation in Rear Networks
Growth And Development vs Protection Modes
What Happens If Things Go Wrong
Cells That Fire Together Wire Together
Motivation, Coercion and Unconditional Positive Regard
NHA Guide to Methods and Tech
Hacks and Exercices
Notes, References & Answers
All Pages


Stretching & relaxing brain networks

When you habitually stretch and relax muscles in exercise, they get bigger, fitter and more efficient over time, and consequently your physical performance improves. Exactly the same thing happens to the networks in your brain.

How do you 'stretch' a network? The same way that you stretch a muscle -you give it something to do that is new suitable input for its natural functions, something just a little different, and maybe difficult, but that it can get the hang of with practice. The mental ‘stretching’ takes place when we encounter new or unknown challenges, and the ‘relaxing’ takes place when that thing becomes known, familiar and automatic. These events are marked chemically by the release of different transmitters in the brain and physiologically by changes in the actual networks themselves, making them more efficient at transferring and processing information, improving the speed and acuity of your mental abilities.

When we relax and assimilate new information, the brain restructures itself to store and co-associate our newfound knowledge.

You'll recall that our fourth golden rule is “cells that fire together wire together”. This saying was originally coined by Donald Hebb (6).

Hebb combined up-to-date data about behavior and the mind into a single theory. His theory became known as Hebbian Theory and the models which follow this theory are said to exhibit Hebbian learning. This method of learning is best expressed by this quote from his book “The Organization of Behavior”:


"When an axon of cell A is near enough to excite cell B and repeatedly or persistently takes part in firing it, some growth process or metabolic change takes place in one or both cells such that A's efficiency, as one of the cells firing B, is increased.”


This is often paraphrased as "Neurons that fire together wire together" and is commonly referred to as Hebb's Law.

Hebb's law explains how plasticity works. Put simply, it means that the brain uses coincidence for association; that is to say, events that occur at the same time as each other are assumed to be connected and so are associated in memory, and this association of ideas causes different networks to fire in synchrony even if only one network is receiving input.

We introduced plasticity in tutorial 1, as one of the most important processes of developing intelligence. If you have read previous tutorials you will know that plasticity affects ability and function (software), as well as brain cells (hardware) and also the genome.

Plasticity enables learning and memory, and is usable in NH for changing habits. You will also know that anxiety prevents plasticity, because plasticity usually takes place via epigenetics; interaction between genes and signals from their environment.

Researchers distinguish between 'functional' and 'structural' plasticity. Functional plasticity refers to neuronal activity; functions enabled, and communication in the brain, while structural plasticity refers to the physical shape, connectivity and density of the brain and cells themselves.

These changes are not only proven but measurable. There are marked changes measurable by Diffusion Imaging MRI in the characteristics of brain microstructure showing structural plasticity happening in only two hours, and this discovery in particular has been pivotal to the way scientists view the effect of learning and memory on the brain (7) (Scientists used to believe that the brain took days or weeks to change its microstructure.)

“Cells that fire together wire together” describes the mechanism of neural plasticity, and it means: each time a group of neurons fires together and makes a pattern, their tendency to fire in the same pattern again is increased –because they pay closer attention to their associated neighbors. Synchronous firing is triggered by association (events happening at the same time as each other.) The more cells fire together, the more connections they build between each other. Eventually, repeated synchronous firing creates multiple connections between neurons so that the slightest activity on one will trigger all those that have become associated with it to fire, too. A long term memory, set of associations and habit of thought have been formed.

When cells are firing, this is the 'stretching' half of learning. In the 'relax' half, new connections are being built as association defragments the new information and stores it in long term memory alongside other connected information. If you look at the neurotransmitters connected with stress/relaxation you'll see that we use more dopamine when paying attention and more serotonin when assimilating information. The transmitters are essential for easy learning, and they can only be triggered by motivation. This is why learning under coercion cannot trigger long term memory.

We recognize there is a dark side to the brain’s plasticity, because its nature makes it vulnerable to problems caused by the wrong sort of habits (wronguse and nonuse become habitual through plasticity), but we also know how to use plasticity as intended; using networks in the right way and practising helpful habits of thought triggers the signals for epigenetic changes towards optimal development.

Rather than dismissing ourselves as unchangeable creatures of habit, we now know that we can instead direct our own change by consciously developing new habits. In fact, the more new things we try — the more we step outside of what is 'known' into the unknown —and return safely to the 'known', the more inherently intelligent we become.

Once you begin input control, you are literally in direct control of your own brain structure and function; the density of networks can be increased by focusing your input control on sparse areas, and networks in wronguse can be redirected to more beneficial activities. Once you have done an FA you should know where any sparse or wronguse areas are. You are able to direct your own development via input control, and you know what kinds of behavior lead to the green zone and away from it. Regardless of whoever and whatever influenced your development in the past, you are now responsible for whatever you become from here.

From this point on you are no longer an observer. You are a participator. You recognize yourself as Captain and as in control.

The impact of this responsibility cannot be understated. To return to our starship analogy, if you have not been in control up until now you will have been drifting; your course through life and whatever you have believed to be real and true may have been strongly influenced or even totally determined by others, all sorts of people will have been trying to pull you in to their own orbits for their own purposes, many of which are not in the interests of your wellbeing. In retrospect you may realize that now.

Snapback WARNING!

If you experience this realization suddenly, be careful not to get really pissed off about how much time you've wasted in the past or how much your potential has been denied.

You may not have been in charge of your own ship since childhood, or you may have no awareness of ever being in charge before, and things may seem overwhelming. It is precisely at times of sudden awakening to reality that snapback can happen, so we need to be extra careful to maintain emotional balance, and it's important to maintain anxiety reduction whenever you feel you have made a leap in understanding or awareness.

Instead of looking backwards, remind yourself that in the here and now most people are still stuck out there drifting, pulled about like leaves in the wind, whereas you now have an amazing opportunity to develop optimally without interference or imposed control. In other words Captain, it doesn't matter how long the mutiny lasted; or how long the Toilet Empire had you fooled; what matters is that you're back in charge and you know where you are heading.

Once you realize how powerfully input can shape your mind and behavior you will begin to realize the scope of your personal power, but that power can't be realized until you get your 'crew' in line. That's why you'll pay special attention to any sparse areas and get them busy so that they'll call in new recruits, and you'll take care of any crew silliness by hacking areas of wrong input and replacing it with healthy stuff.

It can also be startling to find that you're suddenly on the bridge in charge of your own ship, expected to cope with everything. You've begun to navigate your way out of society's asteroid fields of dodgy input, you have set a course for better things, but you're not quite sure what to expect next! Having been in this position ourselves, we can share with you some important techniques for staying on course while going through changes in awareness, behavior or attitude. Look for the section called: “Helm control through asteroid fields” in the hacks section below.





Fine Tuning Your Personal Plan

Here is a checklist to see how you are progressing and whether your personal plan provides everything you need. When you have done all the tutorials so far and started putting your plan into regular practice you should be able to answer 'yes' to ALL the following questions:

  1. Do you feel well-informed about plasticity or have you grasped some basic scientific understanding about how these hacks and exercises can help you?
  2. Do you understand how anxiety gets in your way and have you begun regular anxiety reduction practice?
  3. Are you aware of the benefits of input control and have you begun to implement it?
  4. Does your plan tell you what part of your brain and/or which cognitive skill you are exercising, and does it include a strategy for regular assessment to measure your progress?
  5. Is your plan structured, with notes on how many hours per week and days per week you're going to use it?
  6. Do the exercises vary as you go along and continually present something new?
  7. Does the rate of progress challenge and motivate you, or does it feel like it's all too easy, too boring or too difficult?
  8. Does the plan fit your personal goals for abilities you'd like to improve?
  9. Does the plan move you towards a more beneficial lifestyle on the whole?
  10. Are you ready and willing to do the program, or would it be too stressful?

If you cannot answer 'yes' to all of these, you will know which areas of your plan need tweaking to tailor-fit your personal needs.



Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 August 2018 10:28