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Brain Highways: Making Life Easier

Just a few decades ago, everyone thought the brain was hard-wired—which (when we think about it) was a rather gloomy outlook. The inference was: We’re stuck with whatever brain we have.

But guess what? Turns out that claim was whopper. Scientists now know, with 100% certainty . . . the brain can change. Yes, at any time in our life, it’s possible to rewire our very own brain!

So, who wouldn’t want a focused brain? A calm brain? An efficient brain?  All sounds great, right?

Yet, how do we go about rewiring our brain so that it works the way we’d like?  After all, formal education rarely includes how the brain works—let alone how to change it.

Enter Brain Highways, an entertaining, educational program created to make neuroplasticity (a big word for saying the brain can change) accessible to parents and kids.

What Brain Highways Participants Learn

Parents and kids learn how change their brain by doing the following:

1.  Disable automated stress responses.

Thank goodness, the brain likes automation. Can you imagine if we had to do everything as though it were the first time? That would be exhausting.

Yet, unfortunately, our brain isn’t very discriminatory. For example, it never thinks, “Oh, there’s a great behavior to automate”—any more than it thinks, “Whoa. Definitely don’t want automate that one.” Nope, from the brain’s view, whatever behavior we do lots of times, gets automated--including not-so-helpful stress reactions.

That means we’re literally wired to trigger our automated stress reactions as soon our brain senses a threat--real or imagined, big or small.  Such reactions might be (but are not limited to) screaming, whining, glaring, hitting, expressing negative self-talk, clinging, rolling the eyes, showing poor sportsmanship, and insisting on perfectionism.

But here’s the good news. While we all have automated stress reactions, it’s entirely possible to disable such circuitry!

2.  Complete lower brain development.

Our lower brain is supposed to develop during our first year of life. But what if we never completed that development? Well, then we may be struggling in a variety of ways—without ever connecting the dots that such challenges might be related to this underdevelopment.

For example, if we haven’t completed our lower brain development, we may have problems with one or more of the following: anxiety, reading, writing, math, handwriting, social skills, focus, coordination, spatial awareness, auditory processing skills, speech, eye contact, distorted fears, enuresis, and sensory overload. In other words, there may be a physiological reason that explains why we’re not moving forward.

Fortunately, our brain has a back-up plan. If we didn’t get the work done during that first year, we can always complete such development right now—at any age. 

3.  Prevent fight, flight, and freeze reactions.

By design, the survival part of our brain takes over the second it senses a threat. At that moment, all cortex options are off the table, and we’re now only able to respond in one of three ways: fight, flight, or freeze.

Don’t get me wrong. If there’s true danger (like a tiger is about to attack us), we want to be in survival mode. The problem is . . .  our brain has no clue what’s real danger or not.

So, that means if our brain views schoolwork or our boss’s note to call immediately—as threatening—it’s going to react the same as if it believes we’re about to be that tiger’s lunch.

Worst of all, the more we trigger our brain’s danger alarm, the more hypersensitive it becomes. That’s why it’s important to not only learn how to prevent survival reactions (when there’s no true threat), but also how to quickly return to our cortex—since that’s where we need to be to move forward in a positive, productive way.

4.  Wake up the brain and keep it focused.

While movement, in general, is helpful to the brain, specific movements keep the brain alert and focused. So, Brain Highways participants easily integrate those movements while learning, as well as into daily routines throughout the day.

Brain Highways Classes

Those who live near one of our two Brain Highways Centers (in San Diego or Denver) come to onsite classes, but they also do much of the program at home. Those who live everywhere else in the world participate in online classes, and they do their entire program at home.

However, thanks to modern technology and the world of multimedia, the onsite and online program results are the same. Why do we say that?

Well, all participants complete an end-of-the-course questionnaire, where they list changes they’ve experienced since starting the course. When we review those questionnaires, it’s impossible to know whether participants were in the onsite or online classes.

But that’s not surprising. When we learn how to disable automated stress responses, complete lower brain development, prevent fight, flight, and freeze reactions, calm the brain, and integrate specific movements to keep our brain focused throughout the day . . . it doesn’t matter where we learn such information.

The Bottom Line

Whether we chose to spend time learning about neuroplasticity or not, it’s happening.

So, why leave our brain circuitry to chance? Why not decide to create a brain that’s focused, calm (but also energized), and functions in the most efficient way—especially since that’s something all of us can learn to do.

Learn more about the brain and Brain Highways: brainhighways.com 
Listen to Nancy Green’s Tedx presentation on the brain at the University of San Diego: https://brainhighways.com/videos/tedx-san-diego
Nancy Green is the creator and executive director of Brain Highways. She has been an educator for the past four decades, which includes being a classroom teacher, author of programs for major educational publishers, an educational consultant, presenter at national education conferences, and a guest lecturer at San Diego State University, San Jose State University, and the University of California at Santa Barbara.