Dragos Cirneci PhD
senior consultant
Neuromyths
= common misconceptions about brain mechanisms,
which are taken for granted in today’s society
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
we have 5 senses
“the primitive part of the brain”
the rational vs the emotional brain
the brain as a camcorder
new neurons doesn’t appear in adult brain
genes vs environment effect
mental problems as effect of childhood traumatic
memories
The most important myth is that
consciousness dictates our decisions and
actions
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Neuromyths
= common misconceptions about brain
mechanisms, which are taken for granted in today’s
society
1. we have 5 senses
Actualy we have 13 (discovered until now): sight
(ophthalmoception), hearing (audioception), taste
(gustaoception),
smell
(olfacoception
or
olfacception), touch (tactioception) , feromonal
sense,
blue
light
sense,
temperature
(thermoception), kinesthetic sense (proprioception),
pain (nociception), balance (equilibrioception),
visceral sense (the perception of internal organs),
chemical sense (e.g. the different chemoreceptors
for
detecting
salt
and
carbon
dioxide
concentrations in the blood)
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Neuromyths
= common misconceptions about brain
mechanisms, which are taken for granted in
today’s society
2. “the primitive part of the brain”
Human brain is similar in its organization and
functions with all the mammals brain. Only some
parts are more evolved but these parts exist also
in mammals brain.
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Neuromyths
= common misconceptions about brain mechanisms,
which are taken for granted in today’s society
3. the rational/the emotional brain
Emotions appear almost in all parts of the brain.
Differences consist only in timing and type of
context/action.
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Neuromyths
= common misconceptions about brain mechanisms,
which are taken for granted in today’s society
4. the brain as a camcorder
The memories are not “replayed from the tape” when
they are remembered.
The information stored in the brain is actually
reconstructed and updated every time when we
remember.
Every time when we do this that
memory could become a new
memory incorporating new
information related with it.
We can learn only things related
with what we already know
Schacter & Addis, 2007
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Neuromyths
= common misconceptions about brain
mechanisms, which are taken for granted in
today’s society
5. new neurons doesn’t appear in adult brain
The brain generates new neurons during the
entire life. These new neurons are essential
for learning and coping with stress.
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Neuromyths
= common misconceptions about brain
mechanisms, which are taken for
granted in today’s society
6. genes vs environment effect
The environment acts upon our brain
by modifying the brain’s genes activity
(some genes are turned on some are
turned off). Learning and stress are
actually examples of genetic effects–
or more precisely “epigenetic effects”.
Robinson et al. 2008
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Neuromyths
= common misconceptions about brain mechanisms,
which are taken for granted in today’s society
7. mental problems as effect of childhood traumatic
memories
Adult mental problems are frequently rooted in
childhood traumatic events but in most of the cases
not the memory of the event is the cause of the
problem. Traumatic events exert epigenetic effects
upon the brain’s genes responsible for the circuits
involved in adapting to novelty, fast changing
environment, uncertainty and negative feedback.
Trauma
Brain’s
genes
Brain
Circuits
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Behavior
&
emotions
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The left hemisphere


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

declarative & narrative consciousness
language (semantic & categories)
the construction of “meaning” and “sense”
the feeling of control over life and environment
in the first 3 years of life is smaller than the left
one, after becomes gradually bigger
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The left hemisphere
The right hemisphere
Familiar things
Beliefs
Routines
Relaxation
Pleasant, rewarding things
Lower activity in depression
Unfamiliar things
Uncertainty
New learning
Focus, mental effort
Stress, danger
Higher activity in anxiety
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The left hemisphere
The right hemisphere
Feelings of meaningless
Adaptability/reaction to novelty
problems
Learning new things problems
Lack of satisfaction
Returning to
familiar
Brain Training
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The right hemisphere
Unfamiliar things
Uncertainty
New learning
Stress, danger
Adaptability/reaction to novelty
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Stress
= inability of the brain
to deal with novelty,
uncertainty & change
Brain’s plasticity = The key to adaptation

Plastic derives from the Greek word meaning "molded" or "formed"
and could be described as the tendency of the brain to shape itself
according to experience

Plasticity networks the brain, gives it cognition and memory, as
well as fluidity and adaptability
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Hagmann et al., 2008
3 factors to induce plasticity in adult brain
Recipe for a good mental exercise
1.Variety
Excessive specialization is not the best strategy for a longterm brain health. A better strategy is to stimulate the multiple
functions of the brain. This can be done by creating a mental
“workout circuit” similar to a physical exercise circuit in a
health club since our brains are composed of multiple
structures with multiple functions.
2. Challenge
The goal is to be exposed to increasing levels of challenge,
so that a task never becomes to easy or routine.
3. Novelty
Trying new things is important since very important parts of
the brain, such as the prefrontal cortex, are mostly exercised
when we learn to master new cognitive challenges.
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Gomez-Pinillia, 2008
Brain’s connections in stress & depression
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
In depression the brain genes involved in plasticity & learning are
turned off
Chronic stress negatively impact connectivity in the brain
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Liston, McEwen & Casey, 2009
Critical periods = in developmental psychology
and developmental biology, a “critical period” is a phase
in the life span during which an organism has
heightened sensitivity to exogenous stimuli that are
compulsory for the development of a particular skill
Lower level abilities (visual, auditory, sensory-motor)
has a shorter critical period, which close earlier in the
development (i.e. critical period for visual ability closes
at 5 years old)
Higher level abilities (language, cognition, decision
making) has a longer critical period, which close later in
the development ( i.e. critical period for language
acquisition closes at 12 years old)
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Behavioral inhibition = a pattern of behavior
involving withdrawal, avoidance, fear of the unfamiliar,
and over-arousal of the sympathetic nervous system.
Behavioral inhibition typically appears as a
temperamental predisposition found in childhood.
Behavioral inhibition emerges at 8-9 months, is usually
measured at 21 months and becomes a stable
temperament trait at 7.5 years old
Behavioral inhibition is a strong predictor of adolescent
and adult emotional and social problems, and a relative
good predictor for anxiety and depression
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Behavioral inhibition is caused by an abnormal connectivity
between 2 brain structures: amygdala (part of the limbic system) and
anterior cingulate cortex (part of the prefrontal cortex) which results
in an overactivated amygdala
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Reexposure/
remember
the trauma
Asociation
traumaneutral info
10 min-1h
after
Reconsolidation
of new
memory
6h
Efects
visible after
24-48 h
Extinction of traumatic
memories procedure
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CONCLUDING REMARKS
All the thoughts, behaviors and emotions are triggered by the brain
The brain functioning (including genetics) is permanently impacted
by the environment
The brain is a learning machine – all the diseases of the brain are
also malfunctions of learning mechanisms
All the superior mental abilities – from envisioning the future to
creativity – lies in brain’s plasticity (ability to create networks upon
the impact of environment)
Mental health and superior performance could be achieved by
knowing how to control brain’s mechanisms
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Thank you for your attention!
Dragos Cirneci PhD
E-mail address: [email protected]
www.synergonconsulting.ro
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