Brain plasticity and renewal of conscience

  1. Lemma
  2. Plasticitatea cerebrală și înnoirea cugetului
  3. Romanian
  4. Stavinschi, Alexandra
  5. Scientific theories and disciplines > Medicine - Orthodox theological tradition and practice > Cult and spirituality - Orthodox theological tradition and practice
  6. 20-11-2016
  7. Mihalache, Sorin [Author]. Plasticitatea cerebrală și înnoirea cugetului [Brain plasticity and renewal of conscience]
  8. Ziarul Lumina
  9. neuroscience - neurogenesis - neuroplasticity - fasting - Niketas Stethatos
  10. Click Here
    1. In recent years, scientific research, with the aid of increasingly more refined technology, started to shed light on the human inner realm, by investigating the relevant biological and psychological processes. In particular, deep issues such as emotions, mind, will and consciousness, came under the spotlight. Neurosciences aim at unravelling even greater mysteries, including the processes associated with the religious experience. Such investigations bring scientific research closer to philosophical thinking and spiritual experience. In fact, research has revealed how the human person makes or breaks itself, through its everyday habits, actions and choices. Through this type of approach, medical sciences, in particular neuroscience, support the need for spiritual life. This comes to reinforce last century’s trend, whereby science began to open up to philosophy and theology. The quantum mechanics and cosmology revolution, as well as the new philosophical approach that shifted the research focus from the world to the subject, are amplified in a spectacular way. The author points out that neurosciences predict the possibility of life renewal. He goes on to discuss two scientific findings that enable relevant connections with spiritual life. In the last decades of the 20th century, these findings triggered major changes in the science paradigm about the brain. Both findings, i.e. neuroplasticity and neurogenesis, show the possibility of neuronal change and generation, which drive long-lasting transformations in the structure and function of the brain during adulthood. The author discusses in detail the coincidence of these groundbreaking findings with the much older philokalic intuitions that underpin the orthodox lifestyle. In particular, he thoroughly examines the medical benefits of fasting as far as spiritual progress is concerned. Crucially, fasting turns out to enhance the two mechanisms that accompany the changing of human lives, i.e. neuroplasticity and neurogenesis, by stimulating the emergence of new neurons and enabling the neural networks to encode novel contents and cognitive behaviors. Fasting indirectly boosts learning skills, improves memory and promotes behavioural change. Ultimately, it appears to increase neurogenesis. These medical findings show that the ascetic, while cleaning his body, renews his mind more quickly, as he is more ready to learn new meanings and behaviours. This is exactly what Niketas Stethatos had claimed almost one thousand years earlier, as mentioned in the Philokalia.