The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of hell,
A hell of heaven.
—John Milton, PARADISE LOST
DID YOU EVER WONDER, somewhat apprehensively, whether
your true inner Command Center rests in the complex biomechanics of your brain or the vast reaches of your mind? It
always seemed to me as inscrutable as asking which came first,
the chicken or the egg. But the study of neuroplasticity is changing the way scientists think about the mind/brain connection.
While they’ve known for years that the brain is the physical substrate for the mind, the central mystery of neuroscience is how
the mind influences the physical structure of the brain. In the
last few decades, thanks to PET and MRI imaging techniques,
scientists can observe what’s actually going on in the brain while
people sleep, work, make decisions, or attempt to function under
limitations caused by illness, accident, or war.
We now know that the prefrontal cortex is one of the last brain regions to develop, and its connections with other cortical and subcortical targets are very slow to form. These processes are especially slow in the human, and evidence of continued development has been documented through adolescence and adulthood. This slow-paced and sustained development renders the prefrontal cortex and its connections vulnerable to environmental insults (e.g., early psychosocial adversity), but at the same time offers great potential for extensive learning from positive, enriching environments, and the optimization of neural processes that will facilitate regulated behavior. Its end-product is an incredibly rich emotional regulation repertoire in the mature adult. Continue reading “Emotion Regulation Without a Mature Prefrontal Cortex”→