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Thinking differently about your brain

     Monday, I got a few small lessons in neuroscience. An article was forwarded to me in the morning entitled, “Your Brain is a Rainforest.” The article, by Thomas Armstrong, examined the nature of the brain and society’s tendency to diagnose the differences that exist among all the brains out there. Armstrong calls for a focus on the strengths that the differences between brains provide to individuals, instead of the negatives that are associated with mental disorders, which only serve to fracture society and stigmatize individuals with disorders or disabilities. “The concept of neurodiversity provides a more balanced perspective. Instead of regarding traditionally pathologized populations as disabled or disordered, the emphasis in neurodiversity is placed on differences,” Armstrong writes.   

     After reading the article (which I strongly recommend), I thought to myself, “That makes sense. No two people are exactly alike, so why should two brains be exactly alike?” What would the world look like if we celebrated the differences between us, instead of trying to diagnose those who don’t fit our ever-evolving and very narrow mold of “normal?” What if we played to the strengths of each individual instead of forcing individuals to perform tasks for which they aren’t suited?

     In order to answer these questions, you may have to step into a different hemisphere of your brain. This is where my second lesson in neuroscience comes in. Monday afternoon, I was forwarded a video of Jill Bolte Taylor speaking to a group of people about how the brain works and the unique opportunity she had to study the hemispheres of the brain. I won’t spoil it by going into detail about her speech, but I recommend that you take 20 minutes and listen to what she has to say. Then see if it helps you answer the questions I posed. I have a strong suspicion that these two concepts connect somehow, and that we could make the world an altogether better place if we took these two small lessons in neuroscience and turned them into actions instead of words.

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