Neuroplasticity of the Collective Brain
A panel moderated by Arthur Zajonc, president of the Mind and Life Institute, started off with remarks by Richard Davidson, one of the leading neuroscientists of our time.
Davidson talked about the neuroplasticity of the brain, a concept that has replaced the older static view of the brain. Neuroplasticity is based on the discovery that the structure (anatomy) and function (physiology) of the brain are much more malleable by our behavior and the environment than previously thought. For example, recent advances in epigenetics suggest that our behavior can alter the expression of the genes. According to a recent study, even a single day of mindfulness practices can change the epigenetics of your brain. What follows from this is that well-being and its key drivers, such as generosity and conscientiousness, can be learned. Says Davidson, “There is absolutely no doubt that these factors can be learned.”
Listening to Richie Davidson’s intriguing presentation, I thought: Boy, the plasticity of the human brain is an unbelievable leverage point that points us to our ultimate leverage points as human beings: paying attention to our attention. It calls for a new type of leadership work that focuses on the cultivation of our inner instruments of knowing. But what would it mean to cultivate the neuroplasticity of the collective brain at the level of a whole system? That would seem to require a new type of leadership work that we all need to learn to engage in.
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