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The more you do something, the better you get at doing it because the brain adapts

quadrants in the brain, each representing a specialized cluster of mental activities. Different people prefer different types of thinking, but we can all tap into each quadrant to maximize performance. “I was leſt-brain trained in the education system but in my mid-40s I found out my core mind-set is more naturally a right- brained, creative thinker,” says Foster. “It dawned on me, that’s why I hated the tax and accounting work and enjoyed working with clients to help them make more money. The assessment allowed me to see I was not naturally inclined to the detailed nature of the profession. I was the opposite.” With that revela- tion, in 2011 he transitioned out of the “numbers” business and launched The Business Therapist to focus on teaching entrepreneurs how to start and grow their businesses. He hasn’t looked back. Is there such a thing as an accounting brain? Or a doctor’s

brain? Or any type of brain? Do some people have neuro- pathways that are more developed and so better suited for a given function? Or does life experience and environment carry more weight than biology? And what would you do if you knew one way or another? Advancements in neuroimaging are pro- viding a window into the brain that we’ve never had before and getting us closer to understanding how it works and why we act the way we do. This research is being popularized in a number of best-selling

books, such as We Are Our Brains: A Neurobiography of the Brain, from the Womb to Alzheimer’s by D.F. Swaab and You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life by Jeffrey Schwartz and Rebecca Gladding. These two titles clearly shine the light on the divide in the brain science community. On the one hand, Swaab and like-minded neuroscientists

such as David Eagleman, author of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, and V.S. Ramachandran, who penned The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes Us Human, argue the brain’s machinery is essentially hardwired from birth and doesn’t allow much room to manoeuvre. The conscious brain plays little or no role in our decision-making. Eagleman sums it up this way: the brain is three pounds of neurons and glia. A typical neuron makes about 10,000 connec- tions to neighbouring neurons. These billions of neurons operate their own programs. The result: “Most of what we do and think and feel is not under our conscious control. In fact, the conscious you is the smallest bit of what’s transpiring in your brain,” he writes. Swaab extends the power of the subcon- scious brain well beyond our capabilities and how we function to our moral choices, which he says are limited. This view is


DID YOU KNOW? Perception is not reality According to neuroscientist David Eagleman, vision and hearing and the perception of time are all constructs of the brain. Sight is processed faster than hearing but we experience them simultaneously after an event that has already happened. “We have the impression we are experiencing reality fully, in real time, like a video camera would, but that’s a fiction,” says Lesley Fellows, a professor of neurology at McGill University in Montreal. “The brain spends a lot of effort filling in the gaps and on projecting what might happen next because that’s what we need to know to respond optimally.”—MTB

referred to as neuro-Calvinism, reflecting the doctrine of pre- destination espoused by the Protestant theological system of John Calvin. Posing a direct rebuttal to the my-brain-made-me-do-it argu-

ment are Schwartz and Gladding, as well as Norman Doidge, author of The Brain That Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing, who are proponents of a new science, neuroplasticity. They make the case that far from being fixed, the brain can rewire and repair itself through conscious thought and action. Doidge, a psychiatrist on the faculties of both the University of Toronto and Columbia University in New York, goes so far as to say the brain can change its own structure to compensate for even the most challenging neurological conditions, including strokes, Parkinson’s disease and learning disorders. Brain science is entering the age-old philosophical determin-

ism versus free will debate, thanks to advances in brain mapping technology such as positron emission tomography (PET) scans, electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetic reso- nance imaging (MRI). A real breakthrough in human neurosci- ence came in the 1990s with the discovery that functional MRI could be used to not only look at the structure of the brain, which was commonplace at that point, but to see how a healthy human brain works. “The key discovery here was when a brain area becomes acti-

vated there is a demand for more blood, which delivers oxygen and nutrients and glucose, allowing that region to function optimally,” says Daniel Ansari, Canada Research Chair in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience and director of the Numerical Cognition Lab within the department of psychology at Western University in London, Ont. “When you get an increase in blood flow you get more oxygenated hemoglobin,

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