Presentation on “Neuroplasticity and Memory” to the Speaker’s Bureau of the Museum of Jewish Heritage – Living Memorial to the Holocaust, Sept. 26/2016

On Monday September 26, I will give a presentation entitled “Neuroplasticity and Memory” to the Speaker’s Bureau of the Museum of Jewish Heritage – Living Memorial to the Holocaust (http://www.mjhnyc.org/) in Manhattan.

The ability to navigate well the challenges and crises of life is the core of resilience and well-being. Therapy aims to help individuals expand their coping skills and learn more adaptive coping strategies to employ in their dealings with everyday stress and disappointments as well as with more serious life transitions and even with traumatic events. Change in psychotherapy can happen because the human brain has the capacity to grow new neurons and, in particular, to create ever new connections between neurons and neural circuits. These new connections allow for new learning and new and more adaptive strategies to replace older ones.

At this time, we are witnessing a revolution of sorts when concepts of mental health from the fields of psychology and psychiatry are incorporated into a new field of neuroscience. This new paradigm, made possible by the technologies of neuroimaging, allows non-intrusive study of what goes on in the brain while people are involved in particular activities, emotions and thoughts. Neuroscience integrates concepts from psychology, psychiatry and brain science that begin to show what brain functions and structure are involved in specific cognitive and emotional tasks.

Over the past twenty years, another shift occurred within psychology, directing attention to the psychology of well-being. With Positive Psychology, questions about what makes it possible for people to live better and be happier became the focus of attention, rather than problems in living and pathological conditions.

Studies show that using positive psychological perspectives effects beneficial changes in the brain. Increased life expectancy and other gains were observed in the brains of mice that were held and talked to. Improvements in function, structure and chemistry in human brains has been increasingly reported in research.

The presentation will focus on increasing awareness to healthy life style choices, at any point in life. Intentionally shifting towards more positive and constructive methods of coping can promote better well-being and improve adaptation to earlier experiences of trauma. Specific examples of resilient coping strategies will be presented.

       Irit Felsen

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