Category Archives: Sports Performance

Cognitive Neuroscience Part 4: Teaching an old dog new tricks

Cognitive Neuroscience Part 4: Teaching an old dog new tricks

Twenty years ago, most physicians, psychologists and researchers believed that the human brain stopped developing after a certain age. The brain could grow and change during childhood or adolescence, but not adulthood. On the surface, this makes sense. It is sometimes difficult to teach an old dog new tricks.

However, most new research (using modern imaging techniques like SPECT and fMRI that weren’t around in the 1970’s) strongly suggests that the brain actually can continue to develop new connections well into adulthood.

Research in cognitive neuroscience has identified three activities that all enhance the brain’s ability build new connections and neural networks. Psychiatrist Curt Thompson refers to them as the “neuroplastic triad.” They are:

  1. Aerobic activity – Engaging in light aerobic activity for at least 45 minutes per day at least 5 days a week. It’s good for our bodies and our minds.
  2. Focused attention exercises – These are things like engaging in prayer or meditation. We can pick and choose what we focus our attention on. For example, right now you are focusing your attention on the words on this screen as you’re reading. However, if you were to suddenly hear a loud crash outside, you might shift your attention to the nearest window or door to see what happened. By learning to focus and center our attention, we better prepare our brains to engage in mental rewiring.
  3. Novel learning experiences – This includes any activity that expands your level of creativity. Learning a foreign language, how to play an instrument or taking an art class are all excellent examples. However, creativity, communication and expression are key. For example, memorizing the phone book does not appear to have the same affects on brain development.

Whenever I am working with a client who feels “stuck,” I often recommend these three activities. By engaging in these actives, we prime the brain for change, which can often help us shift our thinking in other areas of life.

Eric McClerren, LAPC
emcclerren @ growcounseling.com

Cognitive Neuroscience Part 2: The Brain vs. The Mind

Cognitive Neuroscience Part 2: The Brain vs. The Mind

Over the next few posts, we’re going to talk about an emerging field of study called cognitive neuroscience. But don’t worry. We’re going to leave (most of) the 7-syllable words to the textbooks and wikipedia entries. Instead, we’re going to focus on the practical applications of this science on our every-day life. In our previous…

Student-Athletes:  Tips on how to Stay Emotionally Fit During the Holidays

Student-Athletes: Tips on how to Stay Emotionally Fit During the Holidays

The holidays are typically an exciting time for students. This is a time for taking a break from rigorous academic schedules, spending more time with loved ones from far and near and eating traditional foods you’ve waited for all year long.

Most student-athletes have a very different outlook on the holiday season. The holidays can be a very stressful and sacrificing time for them.Read More »






Letter to an Injured Student Athlete

Letter to an Injured Student Athlete

You are not alone. Did you know that, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, high school students account for an estimated 2 million injuries each year? Although this statistic is a fact, I know you may “feel” alone. Other feelings that may be surfacing for you are fear, sadness, anger, guilt and disappointment. These feelings can be frowned upon often by coaches, classmates and even parents. I want you to know that these feelings are absolutely normal and you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel them at times.Read More »






Pro Sports Wives: Is Venting on Social Media Wise?

Pro Sports Wives: Is Venting on Social Media Wise?

Social media can definitely be a positive, constructive outlet for pro sports wives to support their husbands and their team, promote philanthropic projects, and to connect with other pro sports wives. Throughout your husband’s career—with its many ups and downs—it can be very tempting to vent via social media.Read More »






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