New issue each Monday
Issue 10,  June 22, 2009     —      Geri O'Neill, Your Amazing Brain

In this issue:   FEATURE: Deepak Chopra, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success     Geri O'Neill, Your Amazing Brain   Christopher K. Randolph, Asking the Right Questions   Guy Finley, Realize Your True Self in Stillness   Daniel Linder, The Most Important Relationship   Desiderata / Sharon Elaine, Affirmations, Patience   Wider Screenings, World Cinema and The Secret    Events   Reviews   Earlier issues   Submit Article

If I had to live my life again I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once a week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied could thus have been kept active through use.
—Charles Darwin


About 95% of what science now knows about the brain has been discovered in the last 20 years. 

Brains are malleable, constantly reconfiguring.  They change shape and chemistry with every experience, thought and emotion. 

The average adult human brain weighs only 3 pounds but uses 20% of the body’s oxygen. 

30% of the water you consume is used by your brain.

40% of the nutrients you consume are used by the brain. 

There are one hundred billion nerve cells in your brain and more connections between brain cells than there are stars in the universe!

Your brain is a living and vital organ responsible for consciousness, intelligence and emotions.  It cannot store water and nutrients so it needs constant nourishment in the form of oxygen, glucose, fluids, exercise and mental activity.  The more oxygen the brain gets, the better it functions.  That’s why exercising both body and brain are of crucial importance.  We don’t want to be like the man who went to apply for Social Security and was told: “I’m sorry, sir, feeling 65 isn’t enough.  You have to be 65.” 

Nowhere is the saying “Use it or Lose” more true than when spoken of the brain.  Every time your brain is stimulated, it either reinforces a neural circuit or grows dendrites -- connections between brain cells.  And it is these connections that assure mental acuity, not the number of brain cells you have. 


The word dendrite comes from a Greek word meaning tree.  Dendrites are branch like protrusions that grow off brain cells.  Every neuron is covered with 10,000 - 100,000 dendrites.  And the branches have branches.  They’re called spines, and can number from 100,000 to 1 million. 

Dendrites reach out and interconnect brain cells forming an intricate web.  There is a continuous exchange of information between all the cells in the body; thousands of neurons are involved in even the simplest of actions.  Dendrites are the Information Highway of the brain, sending and receiving signals that travel through the brain and body electro-chemically.  If dendrites atrophy from lack of use, it is difficult for the brain to receive and retrieve information.  The brain’s communication network breaks down.  Dementia is associated with the loss or shortening of dendrites. 

The exciting news is that barring some diseases, we can build new dendrites at any age.  The more inter-neural connections, the better the brain functions.  The number of new connections a human being can make in a lifetime is 1 followed by 6.2 million miles of zeros. Enough zeros to stretch from here to the moon and back over 12 times. 

Every thought you think and action you perform requires a complex system of brain cells to fire together.  Repeatedly thinking the same thought, saying the same words, visualizing the same image or performing the same action builds a strong inter-connected neural pattern.   If you repeatedly dial a friend’s phone number, the action will soon be automatic.  In your brain, the cells that hold the number are connected to cells associated with your friend.  Think of calling that person, and the number pops up immediately.  That’s because “Neurons that fire together wire together,” as neuroscientist Carla Shatz described it.

If you haven’t dialed a phone number in a while, the pattern is slow to fire.  It’s in a dormant file of your brain.  You will likely need to stop, concentrate and hope the latent pattern will wake up.  If not, you’ll need to look up the number.  Should you start dialing that number frequently, the pattern will grow stronger and soon you won’t have to think about it twice. 

Depending upon how often we perform a task or undertake a new one, we are either strengthening dendrites, building new ones or letting them atrophy. 


The fact that dendrites can be grown at any age and that the brain is constantly being reshaped has given rise to the term ‘brain plasticity.’  Experience, emotion, action, thought change the brain. We discussed that earlier; negative mental patterns can be undone and positive ones established by words, images, shifting our focus, changing our emotional vibration. 
The brain demonstrates plasticity in many ways.  They rewire to bypass damaged circuits.  In “Train Your Mind Change Your Brain, Sharon Begley writes, “The adult brain, in short, retains much of the plasticity of the developing brain, including the power to repair damaged regions, to grow new neurons, to rezone regions that performed one task and have them assume a new task, to change the circuitry that weaves neurons into the networks that allow us to remember, feel suffer, think, imagine and dream.” 

We can change the brain and we can grow the brain. Tests were done on taxi drivers in London before and after they studied and learned all the streets in the city.  Their brains got bigger!  It is a myth that there is a massive loss of brain cells every day after age 30, and mental abilities must decline thereafter.  With stimulation, we can even build new brain tissue. 

As we age, there are changes in the brain, but overall there is lots of…   


Even though thinking and reaction time slow down as we age, mental ability remains strong in healthy people.  The decline is slight and slow.  It affects speed and reaction time, not comprehension.  We remain capable of complex thinking, learning and retaining new facts and skills at any age. In one study, 33% of octogenarians scored as well as younger adults on 11 different tests of mental ability. 

It may take seniors longer to make decisions, but there is a broader range of knowledge to consider.  Consequently, they make better judgments, especially about complex chains of events and human behavior.   Older does mean wiser.  And usually less selfish, more understanding and tolerant.  With age comes a more balanced outlook on life and greater ability to see the humor in it.     

The older we are, the more the ability to do several things at once declines.  But, as previously mentioned, multi-tasking is really an illusion.  It just means attention is jumping around very rapidly.   At any age, the brain functions best when focused on one thing at a time.  Slow down and focus to improve efficiency and accuracy.  

Another positive aspect of aging is what’s been called emotional intelligence.  With their life experience, seniors are more understanding, better able to judge people and situations, have better control over their emotions and reactions to other people’s emotions. In fact, people from 50 - 79 are the least neurotic.  Teenagers are the most neurotic.  Older people process bad news differently than younger people, and are less responsive to negative information.  They are less likely to become depressed by unpleasant happenings.   ###

Excerpt from Geri O'Neill's book, Make the Best of the Rest of Your Life

Visit Geri's website:

A guide to happy, healthy aging.     
Make the Best of The Rest of Your Life presents the latest information on body and brain in an easy to read format, sprinkled with inspirational quotes, real life experiences and funny stories.  It’s all waiting here for just you!
Most people have around 60,000 thoughts a day and 95% are the same as yesterday and 80% of those are negative.
Change your thoughts and quite literally you can change your experience of the world and all in it.

Geri O’Neill’s work focuses on human development, relationships, communication, mind and memory — subjects she has been studying, writing and lecturing about for over 20 years.  Her first book, Super Self, Life Without Limits, was hailed a forerunner of the self-development movement. 




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