Shifting Your Attention Can Change Your Brain

October 8, 2010  |  anxiety, brain, neuroscience, stress, worry

Repetitively shifting your attention to positive outcomes may actually result in growth in areas of your brain that start to do this automatically. My colleague, neuroscientist Dr. David Bresler, always says that “what you pay attention to grows” and research proves him correct.

Neuroscience journalist Sharon Begley wrote in a 2007 Wall Street Journal article, “Attention, … seems like one of those ephemeral things that comes and goes in the mind but has no real physical presence. Yet attention can alter the layout of the brain as powerfully as a sculptor's knife can alter a slab of stone.” She describes an experiment at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) in which scientists “rigged up a device that tapped monkeys' fingers 100 minutes a day every day. As this bizarre dance was playing on their fingers, the monkeys heard sounds through headphones. Some of the monkeys were taught: Ignore the sounds and pay attention to what you feel on your fingers…Other monkeys were taught: Pay attention to the sound.”

After six weeks, the scientists compared the monkeys' brains and found that monkeys paying attention to the taps had expanded the somatosensory parts of their brains (where they would feel touch) but the monkeys paying attention to the sounds grew new connections in the parts of the brain that process sound instead.

UCSF researcher Michael Merzenich and a colleague wrote that through choosing where we place our attention, "We choose and sculpt how our ever-changing minds will work, we choose who we will be the next moment in a very real sense, and these choices are left embossed in physical form on our material selves."

Positive Worry imagery reduces worry, anxiety, and stress, which is what The Worry Solution is all about. 



1 Comment


  1. It's wonderful that science is finding such possibilities – new ways we can improve our lives.  It's especially fantastic when many of us have believed these things for so long, and they're finally being supported by more and more science all the time. 

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