Norman Doidge writes, in The Brain That Changes Itself, “experiments have shown that we can change our brain anatomy simply by using our imaginations.” Using various methods for scanning the brain, researchers have discovered that “from a neuroscientific point of view, imagining an act and doing it are not as different as they sound.”
Doidge discusses the topic of imagination in detail in chapter eight, and presents tantalizing evidence, based upon experiments, that “imagination and action are” integrated, “despite the fact that we tend to think of imagination and action as completely different and subject to different rules.” And he goes even further, stating “But consider this: in some cases, the faster you can imagine something, the faster you can do it.” This reminds me hugely of the process of visualization.
Karin Wells, of CBC Radio Canada, did an interview with Norman Doidge. You can read more about the interview, and even listen to it, on the Feldenkrais Manitoba blog in Feldenkrais ahead of his time: CBC Radio on Rebuilding the Brain. In the blog, Feldenkrais is quoted as writing that “…[Learning] is also the foundation of imagination…”
In discussing what he is doing to stave off cognitive decline, Doidge leaves us with this message about new learning:
It’s really important to do something you enjoy, that you’ve always wanted to do….because….you turn on the same neurochemical system, the dopamine system, which both gives you the thrill of completing the goal and consolidates that network that led you to the goal. So it’s much better to do something that’s fun; fun and a challenge.
There is so much yet to understand about imagination. Take, for instance, the following two short films. In the first, author Neil Gaiman tries to answer a question from the audience about his imagination. The second is a Japanese commercial on children’s imagination.
Above: Neil Gaiman and His Imagination (4/13/08 – Just watched the 2007 movie Stardust, based upon Gaiman’s novel. If you are not familiar with his writing, this is a delightful display of his imagination. He also wrote the English translation of Princess Mononoke.)
Above: A Japanese commerical on children’s imagination