Attention trumps experience

mon16nov2009—47w320d87%— 07h17m00s—0utc

Particularly important when traveling. Your new experiences will matter but your attention will matter more — what will you choose to notice?

[In] some experiments by Mike Merzenich.. He took a group of monkeys and put them in an apparatus where they
  • received a tap on their finger a 100 times a day.
  • At the same time, they were
  • listening to music piped in through headphones.

Half the monkeys were rewarded with a sip of juice when they indicated that the rhythm of the tapping changed.

Merzenich was teaching the monkeys in the first group to pay attention to the tapping,

After six weeks, in the brains of those in the tapping group, the size of the sensory cortex that corresponds to that particular finger was enlarged.

The other monkeys were rewarded with juice when they indicated that the music changed.

and the second group to pay attention to the music.

In the brains of the music group, that part of the cortex hadn’t changed at all but the part that corresponds to hearing had grown.

Remember that the monkeys were treated identically; they all had the music and the tapping going on at the same time. The only difference was what they were trained to pay attention to.

[Sharon Begley comments in Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain:]

Experience coupled with attention leads to physical changes in the structure and future functioning of the nervous system

moment by moment

  • we choose and sculpt how our ever-changing minds will work,
  • we choose who we will be in the next moment in a very real sense,
  • and these choices are left embossed in physical form on our material selves."
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