Changing the Shape of the Brain Helps Addicts Recover

One field that is radically changing addiction treatment is neuroscience. Learning that the brain is highly plastic, that is that it can change both in form and function, has revolutionized addiction treatment, giving us more and encouraging therapies to help addicts recover.

The brain is not an unchanging mass. It responds to what we think and what we do. Medical Daily reports:

One of the great findings of the late 20th century in brain research came in the late 1970s and early 80s. Scientists began to discover in fact that the brain did not settle into a nice, shapely block of concrete. Actually, it remained fairly plastic. It could change, and especially in the presence of new information and stimuli. Thus, the field of neuroplasticity was born.

The brain is changed by many different activities. A study in 2010 shared in the journal Psychiatry Research showed that meditation improved brain function.  In response to meditation, “a number of changes took place, particularly with regards to enlarging in subjects’ posterior cingulate cortexes, temporo-parietal junctions, and the cerebellums. People became more adept at learning, processing memory, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective-taking.” Regular exercise also improves brain function and grows the brain. And like a muscle, the more you use the brain, the more you can enhance its function.

What does all this mean? For addiction recovery, it means that we can use a variety of therapies that help change the way the brain works, perhaps even overcoming the deficits caused by addiction. We can help addicts develop a sense of peace and security, make good decisions, improve emotional regulation and even change world-view. Through activities such as yoga, meditation, and exercise, along with intensive psychotherapy to heal underlying psychological issues, pain, or trauma, addicts can and do recover. Thank you researchers in neuroscience!