A recent study of 460 study participants (aged 22-35) from the Human Connectome Project, reported in Nature Neuroscience, found a single, stark difference in the way brains were connected. In addition to scanning study participant’s brains (in a resting state), the scientists collected information on approximately 280 traits, such as the person’s age, whether they have a history of drug use, their socioeconomic status and personality traits, and their performance on various intelligence tests.
In running a computer analysis, they then found that the brains of those possessing “positive variables” (such as higher education, stronger physical endurance, above-average performance on memory tests, verbal acuity, higher income levels) seemed to be more strongly connected, and able, therefore, to communicate more efficiently, than the brains of participants with “negative traits” (such as smoking, aggressive or anti-social behavior, a family history of alcoholism, poor sleep quality).
The scientists don’t yet know if the weakened brain connections are the cause—or the effect—of negative social or personality traits (whether behaviors, such as using alcohol or drugs, diminished connections). They did find evidence that recent marijuana use decreased connectivity (more on that in future posts).
So what does this mean for you? It means that the more you work on bolstering positive neuronal connections and positive personality traits, the stronger your connectome (internal brain communications) will become. Seven things you can do to bolster connections related to writing:
- Improve verbal acuity (learn new words, learn new verbs).
- Continually “educate your brain” by studying and analyzing the craft of writing.
- Read extensively.
- Read more complex works.
- Research topics related to what you’re writing.
- Brainstorm ideas before writing.
- Practice cognitive concentration (time spent focused on thinking) before you write.
Fire Up Your Writing Brain: To boost your brain’s connectivity, spend 15 minutes before you begin to write brainstorming on what you’re going to write. Give your brain free rein to come up with ideas, jotting down thoughts, words, dialogue, setting notes, a scene list, or whatever springs to mind. This will spark neuronal connections and strengthen the connectome related to whatever you’re currently writing. And get plenty of restful sleep!