Neuroplasticity, the capacity of our brain to modulate itself throughout life.
Another extraordinary function of our brain is its cerebral plasticity, or neuroplasticity. The brain has this incredible ability to constantly adapt to the environment by creating new connections between neurons during a new learning or experience.
Let's imagine the brain as a forest: if we walk several times on the same path, a trail appears. In the same way, with each new learning, new neuronal connections are made. The more it is repeated, the stronger the connection between neurons, the faster the information flows, and therefore the more automated and acquired the learning is. Neurons activated together connect as a result of new learning, and repeated actions strengthen their connection. Remember your first bike ride. That experience required a lot of concentration: balancing, choosing a direction, braking ... there was a lot of new information. Today, you don't think for a second once you're on the saddle: the information circuit works at the speed of light!
Conversely, a neural network corresponding to an action or mechanism that is little used will disappear if it is not reactivated: this is why it is difficult to speak a language learned a few years ago if it is not practiced regularly. In the same way, doing your scales daily on the violin is essential in order not to lose the dexterity of the gestures!
The brain is capable of learning, and therefore of transforming itself at any age: if it is stimulated, it will modulate itself according to the environment and experiences.
Training for relaxation: techniques available.
In order to practice letting go, it would be a matter of learning to slow down the rhythm of brain waves: when practicing relaxation, we decrease the production of beta and gamma waves, waves produced in ordinary waking states, and we stimulate the production of alphas waves, associated with states of relaxation.
To do this, there are many relaxation techniques that generally revolve around body awareness, working on breathing and focusing on something soothing. Yoga and meditation are well-known examples of relaxing practices. Positive visualization exercises or progressive muscle relaxation are others that are just as effective. Whichever practice you choose, its psychological consequence is the same: the state of relaxation results in an increase in the production of alpha waves, associated with the feeling of relaxation that then pervades the body and mind.
And as with any practice, regularity is key! A relaxation exercise will relax you in the moment. Regular practice will help to create and then reinforce the learning of relaxation by the brain. The more you practice relaxation, the more you teach the brain to relax, the easier and more beneficial the exercise is!
Neurofeedback is a particularly effective technique for training the brain to relax.
Born in the 1960s, neurofeedback is an effective technique for learning to relax, although it is still little known to the general public. This biofeedback procedure is based on a real-time representation (feedback - most often visual or auditory) of brain activity with the aim of training the brain's self-regulation and neuroplasticity mechanisms. This technique generally uses the measurement of brain activity by EEG (remember, this is the tool used to access electrical activity and therefore measure the frequencies of brain activity).
The principle of this technique is to present brain waves to an individual live, on a screen for example, or through a sound. Because he witnesses his brain activity live, he has the possibility to try to modify the signal. He can try to produce more alpha waves than beta waves. Regular training in neurofeedback relaxation will thus enhance his ability to generate more alpha waves, and thus put him into a state of relaxation. In the same way, the strategies (conscious or unconscious) put in place to try to increase the generation of alpha waves and its level of relaxation will also be reinforced.
The practice of neurofeedback is extremely powerful since it is one of the only existing techniques at the present time allowing a live feedback on a consciously modifiable state. And consequently, to measure over time the learning of relaxation by the brain!
For our brains in over-activity and with constant stimulation, it is reassuring to know that being an actor of