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I was reading the Courier Mail the other day and saw a quote from Albert Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. My knee jerk reaction was to write this quick Facebook entry:
Now that may well be important for inventors, scientists or physicists when trying to solve important theories and create amazing new discoveries or devices. I can’t think of anything more important than thinking outside the box/square. But knowledge is empowering and women particularly benefit from learning and understanding about their anatomy and what to do to repair after childbirth to regain strength. And I said I think there’s a blog in this somehow…”
Now after a week of pondering this Facebook entry, I’ve sat down to write this blog because I want to put the case for Albert Einstein’s imagination theory. I’ve already alluded to this important concept of imagination when using the model of the pelvis to view better activation of the pelvic floor muscles – patients definitely report a better understanding of what to draw up, when they hold the model of the pelvis and directly view the muscles- it brings in the brain- that organ that constantly amazes and astounds us. But I can also confirm that I can often feel a stronger contraction on palpation, when the patient views the model compared to not looking at it. There is definitely a research project waiting there to confirm this.
But I am also re-reading Norman Doidge’s book ‘The Brain that Changes Itself’ and  reminded myself about the incredible research going on around the world into neuroplasticity. Dr Alvo Pascual-Leone is the head of a research laboratory at the Harvard Medical School doing experiments showing that we can change our brain anatomy simply by using our imaginations. He uses a machine which emits transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS to make neurons fire in the brain- he was the first to use TMS to map the brain. TMS can be used to either to turn on a brain area or to block it from functioning depending on the intensity and frequency used.
The imagining experiment involved two groups of people who had never studied the piano -one got to physically practise the sequence of notes, the other got to ‘mentally practise’ – just imagining that they were practising the sequence. Pascual-Leone found that both groups learned to play the sequence and both showed similar brain map changes- remarkably mental practice alone produced the same physical changes in the motor system as actually playing the piece. Now there is much to read on this subject in much greater detail, in all the work on neuroplasticity but the upshot of it is brain scans show that in action and imagination many of the same parts of the brain are activated – that is why visualizing can improve performance.
I strongly recommend The Brain that Changes Itself for everyone to read. It is fascinating to read the wonderful research happening around the world in brain neuroplasticity – from regaining movement in paralyzed arms after a stroke; improving cognitive function in autistic children; using plasticity to help stop worries, obsessions and compulsions plus many others.
Now back to imagining me surfing at Noosa….