Neural Plasticity, Habit Formation, and Consciousness


Science and Consciousness – the paths are coming together for more and more people.  Here’s neuropsychologist Rick Hansen being interviewed by Rick Archer from  In this talk Hansen focuses on one of the fundamental findings of neuroscience – neuroplasiticty.  It’s summarized in the words, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”

Strength and Weakness:

I loved every minute of this interview, but my own summary includes many strengths and (from my perspective) two weaknesses.

Strengths: Hansen shares methods for building the habits of awareness and appreciation.  And he bases this on how the brain works.  Today, he says, we have an understanding of how the brain functions, so enlightenment and awakening can become more accessible for people with everyday lives.  An enlightened person in a monastery doesn’t need the scientific insights, but for the person juggling everyday life, the better we understand the brain, the better we can live from a place of consciousness, from “response” rather than “reactivity.”  Hansen also makes the point strongly that we are wired to respond to negativity rather than positivity.  The stick could kill us, so a single exposure to the stick taught us a lifetime lesson.  We need carrots to survive, but if we don’t get a carrot today, we can get one tomorrow.  Hansen emphasizes that we must take this basic characteristic of the mind into account when we want to address the movement toward consciousness.  Which brings me to the weakness.

Weaknesses:  Negatives are stored in our mind as peptides at the synapses of the brain.  We know this through our knowledge of how memories consolidate.  And we know that these emotional peptides can be replaced based on the phenomenon of Memory Reconsolidation.  That’s what The ICE Method is all about.  If you could remove the negatives, you could clear a space to be much more effective for pursuing the positives.  It feels so WEIRD to have used scientific discovery and developed the dependable tool of The ICE Method, and to have no mention of it in a talk on increasing consciousness. 

The second weakness I observed in this interview is the dismissal of quantum.  When asked, Rick Hansen replied that quantum is interesting and may be very useful but it takes us outside of the natural framework for understanding the brain – and there’s so much to be explored within this framework that there’s no need to step outside the natural at this point.  I believe Hansen is correct when he says that brain research today is like the Wild West, there’s so many new areas to explore and develop.  But perhaps the analogy to the Wild West can go a bit further – “white folks” overran the existing native cultures without sufficient regard for the value of indigenous people and their ways of life. The Wild West was developed with severe blinders.  It seems to me that without a quantum curiosity, we are going to have severe blinders on if we stick only to a “natural” framework for understanding the brain.

That said – a very worhtwhile, inspiring, and enlightening interview.