I am neuroscientist Dr. Michael Merzenich, a principal discoverer of lifelong brain plasticity. AMA about your brain’s ability to change...


Proof: http://imgur.com/iEJ46Bu

I’m here to introduce you to strategies for growing your brain power, and for adopting strategies for managing your organic brain health. For nearly five decades, I’ve been a leading pioneer in the science of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change its anatomical, neurochemical, and functional performance status across the lifespan. Neuroplasticity can enable the brain to change for the better, or for the worse. We know the neurological rules that govern this remarkable process—which has led us to a new understanding of why most individuals functionally deteriorate at an older age and also reveal powerful new strategies for more effectively engaging your brain to restore its functionality. With the proper forms of brain engagement and intensive computer-guided training, you can increase key neurotransmitters controlling brain change; improve the structural integrity of your brain; accelerate, refine, and grow the reliability of the brain’s information processing and recording (remembering); and improve your overall brain health. In other words, we now know how you can AGAIN GROW your brain powers [see my book, Soft-Wired](https://www.amazon.com/Soft-Wired-Science-Brain-Plasticity-Change/dp/0989432807).

When I first helped pioneer this research beginning in the 1970s, most mainstream neuroscientists rejected the conclusion that the brain was subject to continuous, large-scale, lifelong brain remodeling. Hundreds of thousands of research reports have subsequently documented the fact of ‘adult’ brain plasticity, and millions of individuals have now benefited from the application of our intensive, highly efficient computer-guided training programs.

More recently, when we tried to explain to the scientific community that using pharmaceuticals to clear amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease would and could never really restore cognitive function—that drug trials predicated on this assumption were doomed to fail—this avenue for treatment was still being very aggressively pursued to the tune of billions of dollars. That investment reflects a fundamental lack of understanding of brain plasticity-related science and Alzheimer’s/dementia ‘disease’ origin. Although there is an ongoing presumption that Alzheimer’s disease is a disease, our brain science argues that Alzheimer’s is actually the catastrophic end stage of a long, completely natural, negative-plasticity-driven change progression. A fundamental misunderstanding of the origins of this train wreck explains why more than 450 FDA drug trials searching for a ‘magic bullet’ to treat Alzheimer’s have failed.

I’m joining the Reddit community to try to help you understand that the ways that scientists and doctors have thought about neurological and psychiatric illnesses like Alzheimer’s has been substantially in error. The slow, unrelenting decline in our functional abilities that culminate in those train wrecks that we’ve labelled “Alzheimer’s” or “dementia” or “Parkinson’s” or “schizophrenia” (among dozens of other adult-acquired maladies) are natural change progressions. Importantly, the same scientific studies have clearly shown that these negative progressions are NOT inevitable. *We have the power to throw the plasticity switch from ‘decline’ to ‘grow.’* Understanding how to throw that switch is a central topic that I’m opening up for discussion on Reddit! What, exactly, should you be doing, to sustain or even grow your abilities, to successfully manage your organic brain health, to improve your lot in life, and keep yourself safer? My goal on Reddit is to educate you and other citizens about this scientific, economic, and societal revolution that is educating us about better ways to combat—and hopefully defeat— Alzheimer’s and other brain-related catastrophes. Our failure to apply this science in the world is currently devastating elder and other human populations. A medical course correction may be extremely important for you, and for every other older or otherwise-at-risk individual who you care about.

Credentials: I am an Emeritus Professor from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), have published more than 250 articles in peer-reviewed journals, and been awarded more than 60 US patents. For this work, I have been awarded the Kavli Prize, the highest international honor in neuroscience. I have also received the Russ Prize (highest honor in bioengineering), Ipsen Prize, Zülch Prize, Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award, Purkinje Medal, and membership to the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine.

I will be here all day. My goal is to answer every question, which means I may visit again tomorrow.

Obligatory legal disclaimer: By law, medical information cannot be offered online. All information, content, and material is for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider. What I say here are my own opinions and may not necessarily reflect the views of the brain training companies I have founded.

EDIT: Thanks everyone — I enjoyed your questions, they were good ones. I will try to get to the ones I didn’t answer yet tomorrow.

EDIT: I’m back and ready to answer more questions.

EDIT: I’m signing off for the day. I might be back tomorrow.



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85 Comments

  • Nootropics is a very growing market. What are your thoughts on the use and/or the regulation of nootropics?

  • Good Morning Dr. Merzenich! Thanks for taking the time to do this AMA! My question is about brain health and it’s role in education. NPR recently did a [story](http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/06/12/530893427/how-to-apply-the-brain-science-of-resilience-to-the-classroom) on a school that is beginning to utilize an understanding of neuroplasticity and brain health in the classroom to combat the effects of poverty and chronic stress on the brains of school children and to eventually improve educational outcomes.

    The role of neuroscience and plasticity as applied in the traditional model of education seems so limited given what we know about the brain and what we are still learning. Talking about brain health in a school setting feels so taboo. Why do you think that is? What are some ways that we can bring more awareness of neuroplasticity to teachers? And if the principles of neuroplasticity and brain health were implemented in classrooms what might that look like and do you think we would have better educational outcomes? Thanks again for your time!

  • What do you think about brain training companies like Lumosity?

  • What is the latest research on reversing short term memory loss? Also in specific ,memory loss from damaged hippocampus. Thank you.

  • Hey Dr. Merzenich, thanks for doing this AMA! And for all your important work. I’ve been interested in neuroplasticity for almost a couple of years now. I’ve also read Dr. Mlodinow’s book on the subconscious and how your brain changes memories to create logic in your reality’s syntax. I’ve also read Dr. Langer’s book on Mindfulness, where she talks about how you view old age shapes how you age yourself. And as an Electrical Engineering student, I’ve seen first hand how positive neuroplasticty (via repetitive solving of math problems) can not only increase my intellect, but cognitive functions and general well being.

    I would like to know how I can get involved with neuroscientific research on neuroplasticity and the evolution and longevity of the brain, given that I have a background in electrical engineering mostly. But an interest in computer data, analytics, programming, consciousness in nature, and transhumanism.

    Also, I would like to to know your views on Elon Musk’s recent venture, NeuraLink. Do you see devices that connect your brain to a machine intelligence disruptive in any way to the process of neuroplasticity?

  • What are your thoughts on brain nutrition and/or supplementation? I know that DHA (i.e. fish oil) is supposed to be very beneficial. What about other supplements (various choline supplements like Alpha GPC, l-theanine, uridine, etc) or nootropics (racetams and noopept)?

    I’ve also noticed that exercise, specifically of the cardio variety, seems to give me a quite noticeable mental edge for most of the day. Is that just due to the increased alertness from the increased heart rate/circulation, or is there something else going on there? How important is exercise for preventing age-related brain diseases?

  • Hi there! You mention making natural lifestyle changes to maintain brain health. Can you give us some examples of these changes?

  • How do I increase (either temporarily or permanently) my brain plasticity to help me learn new things?

  • If you could choose to study one animal brain, which brain would you choose and why?

  • 1) Do the quality of our thoughts also change our brains? Can having positive self talk etc improve our brains?

    2) Can I become smarter at 25 given I’ve been cognitively stagnant for the past 9 years? Is it possible?

  • Sorry for bombarding you with questions!

    Do different parts of the brain express different levels of plasticity? If yes, what makes some parts more plastic than others?

    Also, are NMDA and AMPA receptors absolutely necessary for plasticity? Do non-glutamatergic synapses exhibit plasticity as well?

  • I recently started a Paleo / Ketogenic diet and while the weight loss has been fantastic, the real amazing part for me has been the mental focus I’ve recently acquired. Things that I have struggled with work wise for months are suddenly clear. Can you talk about the relationship of the diet to memory and focus?

  • Within the context of your field of expertise, what thing(s) do you believe/speculate are *probably* true, but for which there is currently no conclusive evidence?

  • For those who can’t afford BrainHQ, what other domestic methods do you suggest to make their brains perform better and repel degradation?

  • Two questions. First, what is your opinion of nature vs. nuture? Do you think we all start out with tabula rasa, or are some of our quirks pre-determined? Second (and arguably more important) question, are you a 49ers or Raiders fan? Thank you very much for your time

  • Is there a level of plasticity that can occur outside the brain? For example, given enough time (even if longer than a typical human life span) could a paraplegic reroute certain functions via peripheral nerves to reconnect below the point of injury? I know in cases of heart blockages there is often evidence of angiogenesis trying to route blood around the blockages. Anything like this in the neural arena?

  • How can I know if I’m at risk for Alzheimer’s?

    In my mid 30s now, and noticing I’m not remembering things as well as I used to. Not sure if this is just a normal part of aging. I’ve done a commercial genetic test (23andMe), which was negative for increased Alzheimer’s risk, but my understanding is that Alzheimer’s is not strongly linked genetics anyway. Is there anything else I can do to get a sense for my current brain health, and potentially spot early warning signs of dementia?

  • I used to be deep in the whole nutrition/homeopathy cult and now I tend to discount anything that even remotely sounds like woo. So I can’t tell you how much it bothers me that every article I’ve seen on mindfulness meditation shows it produces positive changes in the brain as determined through fMRI studies in illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. Could you elaborate on how a simple exercise of consciously focusing on your breath with a quiet mind is able to change how the brain unconsciously handles business?

  • I apologize if this is somewhat broad, but could you discuss the role of neurotrophic factors in plasticity and adult neurogenesis?

  • Hi Dr. Merzenich!

    Was wondering if you have studied brain plasticity as it relates to hearing loss. There is some interesting research regarding the reorganization of the brain following a hearing loss and following amplification. As far as I know, there is no definitive link between hearing loss and mental decrease but I am taught that a loss may in fact be linked. What is your opinion on this?

    Thanks!

  • Does your work in neuroplasticity extend to the idea of changing from a “talent” to a “growth” mindset, or is it more concerned with actual medical conditions like Alzheimer’s? If it does extend that far, do you have any advice?

  • In terms of brain plasticity, what features must an artificially intelligent neural network be capable of to model the brains capability to adapt to the stimulus or environment with such efficiency?

  • Dr. Merzenich,
    At the age of 19 I contracted viral Encephlomyelitis from a presumed enteroviral source. It was a long and ardorous healing process, and I can tell it made changes to my memory. My visual memory seems to be taking over for the pneumonic memory. (I now recall test material better by “reading the words in the textbook again in my minds eye” during tests, as opposed to word memorization, which mine has deteriorated.)

    My question is, can neuroplasticity be jump started by inflammatory challenges such as encephalitis?

  • How much do you think that genetics play a role in the overall brain functions? I know people that smoked , drank and ate extremely unhealthy diets for most of their lives . They still do that and they are doing pretty well (keep in mind they are over 50 years of age) .No symptoms of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s , no strokes or heart problems.

    Another question I got for you is why clearing amyloid plaques would not restore cognitive functions? Wouldn’t BDNF and NGF injections (plus brain exercise) help partially restore these functions once (or at least create new ones which can relieve some of the damage done by the disease) all amyloid plaques got cleared?

    Also… There has been a ton of research focused on psychedelics ultimately. Do you think LSD got any potential in helping with brain plasticity? Maybe combined with specific brain exercises?

  • Frontotemporal Dementia

    I am under the care of a neurologist due to peripheral neuropathy.
    Long story short, the first brain MRI showed early frontotemporal dementia, the second, brain shrinkage. My father and grandfather died of Alzheimer’s. My memory isn’t what it used to be, but it is not incapacitating.

    Is there any treatment, or hope?

  • What is your professional opinion, and your personal opinion, about this little corner of reddit called r/Tulpas?

  • Hi! I’m a researcher in the field of neurology, and I’m working with the PoNS device. What are your thoughts concerning this device?

  • I watched my grandmother suffer with dementia for five years before she died. Why do patients become irrationally angry/afraid/tearful out of nowhere? Is the response then a traumatic memory their brain files away or do they forget it happened?

    Do you think scientists will be able to cure or prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia in our lifetime? What can an average citizen do to help? Is there a particular fund that ensures most of the money goes to actual research and patient care?

  • I collaborate with an organization that works on the social and job inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities. I am a computer programmer and I am in charge of the IT workshop.
    I would like to know if games like puzzles, Labyrinths or finding the differences between two images can be useful to keep their brains more agile or they just get better at those games.
    Do you have any other suggestion on how to use IT to help people with intellectual disabilities?
    Thank you very much and sorry if I make any grammar mistakes or something I wrote doesn’t make sense. I’m not an English native speaker.

  • You mentioned that you have used your research to provide benefits in adults with psychiatric illnesses. You also claim that some psychiatric illnesses are “natural change progressions”. So, I want to know your personal opinion on how far you think neuroplasticity based therapy can go. Do you think it will be able to be used in place of some psychiatric medications, for instance? If so, in which conditions would you say that is most likely to happen? For which particular illnesses do you believe neuroplasticity has the most to offer? In particular, I would like to know what you think regarding the most common conditions, such as depression, anxiety, ADHD and bipolar disorder.

  • For years, I have diligently recorded my night dreams in order to try to interpret them and learn from them, especially with regard to the emotions they reveal; what is your belief, experience and approach to the use of night dreams in changing emotional patterns in the brain?

  • I agree with you 99% (I don’t believe anything 100%, even that I am sitting here typing this). Here is my experience why:

    I smoke pot and back on a day in 1983 I started thinking about how often I smoke weed and then fall asleep. I started thinking about how much money I was wasting, and every other con, to getting high and then falling asleep. It bugged me all day. It was like the worst case of a song being stuck in your head. I couldn’t stop thinking about that singular issue. After that day forward, whenever I smoke pot, I would get hyper. I would have a tremendous drive to get up and do something. Falling asleep was not possible.

    That experience has taught me how to use plasticity as a tool for rewiring my brain, pretty much, at will. You mention the “power to throw the plasticity switch from ‘decline’ to ‘grow.’” I contend that it is more than just a general on/off switch, and that it is an actual process anyone can learn to use to,essentially, re-program their brain at will. Do you have any experience with similar scenarios like this during your research and/or have you considered this as a possibility and/or what is your experience with it, if so?

    Keep pushing on!

    Followup: After several years it started to decline. After a couple decades it got to the point where I didn’t fall asleep, but I would not get hyper either. After another couple decades it is just now starting to get to the point where I can fall asleep while high, but that could also be cause I am just getting old.

    EDIT: This AMA deserves a lot more attention than it is getting

  • Do you largely concur with Dr. Sarno’s work regarding the brain and pain? If not, why not? To drill down a bit, some of us who have applied his insights about the brain and have experienced much less pain for months will inexplicably relapse into pain and then get stuck, unable to successfully apply the principles that seemed to work earlier; do you have any insights or suggestions to address this dilemma from a neuroplasticity perspective?

  • You mention that the brain has several stages of change during the course of a lifespan. I have seen imaging videos of a dramatic pruning process occurring during the teenage years that is a natural function of every human brain. Jung mentioned the midlife of a person is a peak moment for embracing elements of themselves neglected through the first half of their life, typically instigated by a sense of dissatisfaction. What other essential stages are there if any, and how might they be managed effectively?

  • Can a neurological condition like ASD impact neuroplasticity (or vice versa)? If so, how?

  • My father died from Alzheimer’s. Per your intriguing intro, will you help us understand how to throw the switch? What, exactly, should we be doing to sustain or even grow our abilities, to successfully manage our organic brain health, to improve our lot in life, and keep ourselves safer? Thank you!

  • I do my own neurorehab using physical activity and using my own system for biofeedback (Heart Rate, skin respons, Blood glycos,muscle control) and I notice a correlation between having a sharp mind and getting better muscle control or not being able to think and no power to the muscles.

    Basically I use existing physical activities with a different low load profile short duration, pacing, Heart Rate zone and daily repetition combined with extreme loading that forces shutdown muscles to engage.

    Does it exits “neuro plastic” research that evaluate best practice physical training methods ?

    My ANS function is effected and my sensory brain / vision/hearing is a limiting factor. Adjusted physical activity reduces pain and stiffness for me.
    How can physical activity/training replace computer based for brain plasticity training?

  • What is your opinion of Dr. Wyss-Coray’s (and other’s) work that suggests circulating factors within the blood affect age-related impairments in neuroplasticity?

    Also, do you have any advice for current neuroscience graduate students? What do you think it will take to be successful in the field, given the high competition for funding and positions?

  • What do you think of neuroprotective mechanisms following injury to the brain? Be it a concussion, stroke, or cardiac arrest, there have been studies showing a delayed onset of symptoms, approximately a day or two after injury. How do you think the brain is responding to this? Or, why do you think this delay happens? Sorry if this is too broad. Thanks!

  • My grandpa has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s/ Dementia. It has been tearing me up because I live so far away that I can rarely get down to see him. Because of that, he doesn’t see my wife and I that often. He recognizes her but not me. Is there anything that I can do to help him?

    Also, how is it that he can recognize my wife who he has known for 7 years but not me, who he has known my whole life, 27 years?

  • In the early days of your research, the accepted idea was that the brain was static and that the only change in structure and function that occurred during mid-late life was degeneration. What was some of the early evidence and findings that led to the acceptance of the idea of neuroplasticity? What made you go against the largely accepted school of thought?

  • Dr. Merzenich, thank you for doing this AMA and offering your knowledge to those of us with questions. What are some practices, in your scientific opinion, that the average person could do to combat the future possibility of Alzheimer’s, as well as cultivate life long brain health from an early age?
    Also, a bit more of a generic question, what is the biggest breakthrough you personally have discovered and how did it change/affect your research?
    Also also, would it ever be within the realm of possibility to obtain an autographed copy of one of your books, Soft Wired?

  • My question: Do you have any suggestions on how I could further pursue this line of research in a credible and safe way? I believe it is a good example of neural plasticity.

    I inadvertently developed a relatively simple, sensory-based, self-hypnotic strategy to help me regulate my mood. The strategy seemed to have a very positive effect so I then experimented with different applications. Of course, the outcomes described below may be examples of coincidental cause and effect, but if not, they may be worth investigating further.

    Stress Reduction, mood alterations.

    Restless leg syndrome elimination.

    Minor pain relief – myself and others.

    Targeted memory recall reduction.

    Allergic Reaction Reversal within minutes.

    In an attempt to reduce bags under my eyes, I ended up with extremely huge bags, as well as, black eyes. I had to take the week off of work until my face became presentable.

    Credentials: My professional background has focused on research into memory / behavioural support and enhancement systems for people with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder to help them better transition from adolescence into adulthood.
    Maggie

  • Do you have any recommended reading on the subject of damage to the brain, where another area of the brain has taken over the responsibilities of the damaged area, leading to interesting and unique ways in which plasticity can lead to improvements in cognition?
    Recently read ‘the brain that changes itself’ by Norman Doige and it had a great section about this, I’m just wondering if there is more?

  • Can you comment on how your findings could help improve brains of those with some form of addition? (alcohol, drug, video games,…) Given some research indicates their ability to reason diminishes.
    thank you

  • Thank you, sir, for this amazing post. What can be done regarding anger? Is this an inherited characteristic?

  • Hello Dr. Merzenich. Can neural feedback sessions correct ASD and ADHD symptoms in adolescents? What is your view of the Qeeg as a valid test for understanding what aspects of the brain need treatment?

  • Hi, Dr Merzenich. I am a student practitioner of The Anat Baniel Method. I have heard you speak a couple of times. The last time I heard you speak, you were talking about reversing the negative brain changes that come with age. At the end of your lecture you said something to the effect of – What can change in the brain? Everything. – I was very encouraged, particularly because I have a 3 year old with an intellectual disability, due to a chromosomal deletion (5p minus syndrome). My question to you is, do you think that it is possible for a child with a genetic syndrome’s brain to make the same type of changes, to the point where there is no longer an intellectual disability? Many thanks.

  • There is a saying in academia that ‘mathematics is a young man’s game’. This is disheartening to many researchers who reach 30 without proving something important, and evidence seems to suggest that most of the best theorems in mathematics were proven by people younger than 30. Is this just a remarkable coincidence, or is something going on here? Maybe it is not related to cognitive ability, per se, but a willingness to take on a daring and seemingly hopeless task and keep at it for up to a decade. I’d be interested in your take on this phenomenon.

  • I had a TBI in 2010 and suffered from anterograde and retrograde amnesia. Any tips for exercising a damaged brain that the speech/occupational therapists may have missed?

  • How much does personal willpower take into account for brain plasticity and recovery after a traumatic brain injury?

  • What modulates brain plasticity?

  • How important is the 21 day rule? Does it significantly affect the learning process? Can you stop and then retake again after a while, or will the effectiveness be seriously reduce?
    Thank you for such a great work through the years.

  • In your opinion, what is the best medical approach for repairing complex neural circuits(in the CNS)?
    The one that’s most deserving of research.
    Can you elaborate on neural precursor transplants and the role of NOGO in this scenario?
    Also, do we know the mechanism of how newly generated neurones(from the dentate gyrus) are able to be integrated i in the surrounding neuronal circuitry?

    Thank you for this AMA

  • Good morning Dr Michael Merzenich 🙂

    My name is Arun and I am a pharmacist from UK.

    My question is should we combine BrainHQ with dance classes to improve cognitive function and physical strength in synergy? If yes, should a brain science coach/practitioner be present to quantify the improvements when carried out in the local library?

    I look forward to hearing from you,

    Arun

  • My mother-in-law has Alzheimers. My husband is wondering do the results of Brain HQ show up in fMRI studies or other brain imaging studies that shows the prevention or delay of Alzheimers? Also, can Alzheimers be treated with Brain HQ?

  • Even though I sleep at 12:00 AM, I wake up at 3:00 AM and do not get sleep until 5:00 AM most of the nights. Would there be any health/brain issues in the later part of my life? I am in my 30’s. Is there anything that can be done to help myself get uninterrupted good sleep? Also, everyday I practice 15 minutes of meditation which has not helped me with sleep so far. Thanks in advance.

  • I know someone who suddenly started forgetting common words (for ex: remote, bell pepper). What changes in plasticity occur in such a huge sudden change?

  • > Importantly, the same scientific studies have clearly shown that these negative progressions are NOT inevitable. We have the power to throw the plasticity switch from ‘decline’ to ‘grow.’

    If that’s true, why haven’t we seen dramatic benefits from cognitive training approaches in neurodegenerative disease patients? All I’m aware of are some studies like ACTIVE showing that it can reduce the risk somewhat. But if a loss of plasticity was the core dysfunction of a disease like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, wouldn’t you expect enhancing plasticity to have strong disease-modifying effects? Are there other factors like amyloid neurotoxicity that limit how much benefit you can get from cognitive training after a person is showing symptoms of disease?

  • Due to being prescribed paxil at a very young age, my boyfriend has a progressing build-up of neurotoxins in his brain. As far as we know or have been informed, there is no treatment for this, and it is only getting worse over time. I’m wondering what your views are on this matter and, to your knowledge, if treatment of this “disease” (for want of a better term) could become possible in future?

  • Hi Mike! I use BrainHQ myself and read some article that Tom Brady does too. What’s he like?

  • Do crosswords work as well as the exercises in BrainHQ? Intuitively, it seems like directly engaging in exercises that are seemingly the most mentally difficult would be the best brain training exercises. Maybe things like crossword or logic puzzles, or games like Chess/Go, or vigorous debate, or some of the video games kids play these days. And yet, Double Decision seems so tame, simple, easy. It is hard to believe it is more effective at preserving cognition than some other tasks.

    Also, like Arun, I am curious about dance. I know some geriatricians recommend to their at-risk Alzheimer’s patients that they remain socially engaged by doing things like dancing or going to bridge clubs. Is there evidence to support such recommendations?

  • Hi Dr Merzenich, im asking myself how much information a human brain can handle?
    and what happens when it reach the limit if there is one.

    Greetings from spain

  • Good Morning from
    Australia Dr. Merzenich. What would be the best interventions if you received a diagnosis of Posterior Cingulate Gyrus involved in Prodromal Alzheimer’s disease? Assume exercise, Mediterranean diet and Posit Science brain games would all be advantageous? Enjoyed hearing you speak in Melbourne recently. Many thanks.

  • Hi Michael, what’s your take on consciousness? Do you think that just chemistry and brain matter = life?

  • Hi Dr. Merzenich, do you have any experience with hemifacial spasm?

  • I have a family history of alzheimers, parkinsons and neurological cancers on both sides of my family, as well as a familial propensity for long life. I also have a couple of questions:

    1. I’m 25 now, and I don’t hesitate to say that being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the future is my greatest fear. I’d like to know if there’s anything I should be doing in order to help lower my risk of it?

    2. What do you think of the fact that the number of cases of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases has been increasing as life expectancy rises? Is there any sort of correlation and do you believe that if you live long enough, you’ll eventually begin suffering from some neurological disease?

  • Thanks for doing this AMA. My question may be a simple one; does alcohol consumption over a long period of time permanently affect the way we think, behave and feel even if we happen to be sober at the moment?

  • Hello Dr. Merzenich, I saw your AMA on the Nootropics subreddit and saw that you aren’t answering any questions over there so I wanted to ask the question that u/Faelostacia asked: can a personality be forgotten then redeveloped from scratch?

    I suppose it would be different scenarios if it was forgotten as a result of brain damage or pathology vs willfully attempting to forget one’s personality (would something like that even be possible? It’s just a random thought that occurred to me).

    Thanks a lot for your time; I’ve really enjoyed all the answers so far.

  • Dr. Merzenich, thank you for not only breaking new, universally-relevant scientific ground but for giving hope to so many others that could only cling to what they believed was impossible before. My question:

    * What potential does the Blue Brain team’s findings of [eleventh-dimensional structures within the brain](http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fncom.2017.00048/full) hold for the future of neurology? Humanity in general?

    Bonus question:

    * What options do you think [optogenetic](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optogenetics) research will yield in the next 10 years?

  • I want to learn faster specifically drawing but all the memory training techniques are mostly geared to non-visual stuff, is there a way to get my brain to learn this skill better?

  • I’ve suffered several concussions in the last 15 years (I’m 30) all have been untreated..mild to severe: head hit with a pvc pipe, hits from Lacrosse (couldn’t recall my name), head to concrete (parkour)..etc

    My memory isn’t what it used to be and Ive had several “complex migraines” (mimics a stroke?) That scare the shit out of me..

    A friend of mine had a severe concussion last year that took 3 months to recover from and I could see many of her recovering symptoms are things I deal with regularly. As a brain scientist is there anything I can do to repair my head?

  • What are your thoughts on speed reading Dr?
    I realize this is a bit off topic but I feel like traditional reading is like acid to my brain. I can’t finish a page on a book without side tracking, or simply forgetting what I just read. I seem to be doing better with speed reading, but I would like your point of view on it.

    Web sites such as http://www.readsy.co/ is what I am referring to.

  • So how do we do it? How do I make it so I can learn a new language like a baby?

  • Hello Dr. Merzenich, what is your take on phantom pains? For example if someone is under alot of stress after finding out they have some disease, could this trigger the mind to generate for example numbness to the fingers and toes? Is there a way to get rid of the phantom pains, with meditation or similar methods?

  • Hi Michael, thank you very much for doing this post.
    I would so highly value your perspective on dissociation, and on developmental trauma.
    Regarding developmental trauma, some mental health practitioners seem to have a futile attitude towards it, some are excited by/hopeful because of brain plasticity. What might your insights be on this topic? And about dissociation, it just seems to still be a fairly mysterious topic relative to the physical and physiological things occurring during the process of dissociation. Any comments or insight you might have?

    Thank you! Have a lovely day. 🙂

  • What are you thoughts on tinnitus and brain plasticity?

  • Are there any supplements that you recommend to be essential for overall brain health? I am also curious about your opinion on nootropics?

  • [deleted]

  • Thank you for this AMA and for your work, and for your perseverance in getting this information known throughout the years.

    I have sleep apnea (I am not the stereotypical person that has it) and almost died from empyema as a baby (I suspect they all may have an effect on my brain). My memory is noticibly worse the last few years and I’m in my 50’s.

    I am my mother’s sole caregiver (her dementia is getting much worse and she is often angry). I would like the chance at a better life after. I’m upset and scared, I really had hopes for more education, etc., in the future, but worry this is all slipping away.

    I tried BrainHQ last night but even the free parts won’t load on my older phone. I can’t afford a new phone nor the paid part of the program.

    PLEASE tell me other courses of action–other similar programs more accessible to me, supplements, and other activities. I am just starting to feel like I’m worth it and am interested in improving myself and giving myself a better future. I am trying to take better care of myself and improve my brain.

    What are all of the things I can and should do, please?

    Many thanks in advance!!

  • Can a person form new neurons from stem cells and thereby mitigate the effects of demyelination?
    Will restricting protein intake 4 consecutive days every month lead to stem cell growth?

  • Hello Dr Merzenich. First off, thanks for doing this AMA. I’m a high school student, and for a science project I did a presentation on treatment using neuroplasticity, inspired by a NPR broadcast I heard about essentially training/rewiring one part of the brain to do another’s function (They gave the example of a study showing blind people solving math problems using visual areas of the brain, here’s the link: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/09/19/494593600/when-blind-people-do-algebra-the-brain-s-visual-areas-light-up). Here’s something else I read which better details how it’s used for treatment in one section of it: http://web.stanford.edu/group/hopes/cgi-bin/hopes_test/neuroplasticity/). What do you think is the future of using neuroplasticity for this type of treatment, restoring physical capabilities using neuroplasticity as opposed to mental ones, and what do you think of this method? Thanks for your time.

  • Sometimes when I am focusing hard and taking in a lot of information for about an hour straight my head literally starts to sort of feel a buzz like sensation where my brain is. Have you experienced this?

  • Can plasticity be directed to help treat Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders or TBI? and if so how and to what degree?

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