Have you ever thought to yourself “I wish I could just delete that thought from my mind forever.”? Well, according to science you can, and it’s not that difficult to access this feature inside of your mind.
In neuroscience, it is often said that “neurons that fire together wire together.” Basically, what this means is that the more you run a neuro-circuit in your brain, the stronger that circuit will be. In other words, practice makes perfect. Have you every wondered why you had to rigorously practice day in and day out to learn a new instrument or language? This is why.
Scientists have actually understood this concept for years. There is another part of this simple truth, as well. In order for you to be able to learn something, you must also learn the ability to unlearn, or to break down past neural connections. In scientific terms, it is referred to as “synaptic pruning.”
If your brain was a garden, it would grow synaptic connections that take place between neurons. It is these very connections in which neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and other mood chemicals access to travel.
The gardeners which work for your brain are the “glial cells” and they work to speed up te signals that take place between neurons. Of course, there are “weed killing” glial cells also, as well as pruning gardeners which scientists call microglial cells. They work to prune your synaptic connections. So how exactly do they know which ones need pruning?
Researchers have just recently been able to begin unraveling this very mystery. What they have found is that the synaptic connections that are used less are marked by a protein, C1q. When the microbial cells detect the protein, they bond to it so that it can be destroyed.
Why Does Sleep Matter?
Have you ever felt completely overloaded? Like perhaps maybe you were reaching your storage limits? This is typically caused by a lack of sleep.
When your brain takes in new information, it builds connections, but they are inefficient ad hoc connections. In order for the brain to streamline these new connections, they need to be pruned. This is what takes place while we sleep. This is why we wake up feeling refreshed, and ready to take on new tasks. Even a 10-20 minute nap provides your brain with the ability to begin pruning.
What’s more interesting is that we actually have a bit of control of what our brain does and doesn’t delete. Think about it. If you spend ample amounts of time studying what will happen at the end of your favorite show, and not enough thinking about work, which do you think the brain will prune?
It is actually quite easy to delete unwanted information from your brain. Simply focus on what is important, and push the thoughts that need to be deleted to the back-burner. In turn, your brain will thank you for removing those unnecessary connections and strengthening those that need it.