Background

Brain Neuroplasticity: Neuroscience Of Self States

Uploaded 6/30/2022, approx. 37 minute read

Okay, that's my last video before my forthcoming trip to Bucharest, Romania. Tell me that you'll miss me, Shoshanim. Today we are going to discuss the brain, more precisely neuroplasticity, and what does it tell us about the antiquated concept of a unitary self?

We're going to discuss fascinating things, such as ambivalence, cognitive dissonance, compartmentalization.

It's not the longest word I know, but it sure competes with the longest word I know.

And we're going to start with London cabby drivers.

But before we go to London and to its infamous famous cabs, a few service announcements.

Number one, I'm going to be in Romania, July 1st to July 11th. I would be seeing paying customers. I still have a few slots, time slots available. If you're interested, make contact with me. My email is samvaknin, that happens to be my name, at gmail.com, samvaknin at gmail.com. Write to me and I'll see if I can fit you in, face to face, one-on-one counseling with me, me in Bucharest, Romania.

That's one thing.

Second thing, don't forget, there's a seven days, seven days, not five days, but seven days free. Free means no cost, no pay, nada, no money, free cold therapy seminar in another city in Romania, the fairytale, Tounou Severin.

There's another video that I've made a few days ago. Go to that video, watch everything, write to me and I'll reserve a seat for you. We have well over 200 participants by now. So hurry up. We, the city of Tounou Severin, had given us a cultural palace, a veritable palace, a beautiful building and the seminar is going to take place in that palace, but even there, the number of seats is limited and you want to hurry up.

The early bird catches the baknin.

Okay, Shorshoshanim. My name, as you have just surmised, is Sam Vaknin. I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, and I'm also a professor of psychology to all my unfortunate students around this shrinking polluted globe.

Before I proceed into the main topic, I want to tell you about a modification I've made in some of my thinking.

Hereto, I've told you that the narcissist needs only three things. I call them the three S's, sex, supply, the supply could be narcissistic or sadistic, and services.

And I told you repeatedly that two out of three is enough. If you provide the narcissist with two out of these three, out of which must be supplying, then you can, you qualify as a narcissist, intimate partner.

So there's sex, services and supply. If you provide the narcissist with supply and sex, you're in. If you provide the narcissist with supply and services, you're in.

Supply is a pillar, without which precondition, without which narcissist will never be your intimate partner, but you can tack onto it. You can add onto it either sex or services as the spirit dawns upon you.

I want to modify this picture. I think it's actually the four S's, sex, supply, services, and safety. Safety means the narcissist can trust you. You never lie to the narcissist. You incite the shared fantasy. You come to be seen by the narcissist as a mother who would never deceive him and never lead him astray.

That doesn't mean that you cannot reach an accommodation with a narcissist. For example, to have other men, but this accommodation must be explicit and honest. The communication must be sincere. Deception renders the narcissist, renders anyone actually feel unsafe. Narcissist has abandonment anxiety and needs to feel safe.

So the four S's, supply must be one added to these sex, services, and safety.

These are the four S's.

And if you have three of these four, you qualify to be the narcissist's intimate partner.

Sex is not a prerequisite. It's not a sine qua non. It's not a condition.

You could have a sexless relationship with the narcissist as long as you give him the other three. And as long as one of these three is supply.

Okay. I'll discuss it in my next video, next recording when I discuss how the narcissist experiences the shared fantasy because hitherto I've discussed your experience of the shared fantasy.

And I want to give you the narcissist point of view, insider point of view of how does he feel when he is in the throes of a shared fantasy?

Let's go to today's topic, which as I said, is neuroplasticity.

The amazing ability of the brain to rewire itself, to rebrand itself, so to speak, and to render you a new person.

Now immediately, those of you who are discernible enough, those of you who are discerning enough, I'm sorry, will come to the fore and say, Vaklin, again, you're contradicting yourself. You said people can't change.

Well, certain things cannot change indeed. They cannot change because they occupy too many areas of the brain. The brain as a whole cannot change areas of the brain can change. And usually that's limited to one or two areas, but there are phenomena. There are issues.

For example, your personality, which encompass the bulk of the brain, the majority of the brain, and these things are immutable, cannot change their lifelong, but they are not the same as having a self.

We are going to review phenomena such as ambivalence, emotional ambivalence, cognitive dissonance, and compartmentalization. And these well-observed, well-documented psychological phenomena support my view that the best way to go forward in psychology is to adopt a model of self-states, an assemblage of self-like apparitions, if you wish, self-like constructs, which are provoked and triggered by environmental external cues and then take over for a while until they are no longer needed.

It's like a theater troupe or a theater group. And so each one has his role or her role in the script.

The self-states model, in my view, is much superior to the unitary self or to the core identity models.

And when we look at these phenomena, ambivalence, cognitive dissonance, compartmentalization, they militate against any model involving a unitary self or a core identity.

But I want to start, of course, with London cabbies.

Studies about 10 years ago, or so, 11 years ago, studies have shown that the brains of London cab drivers are not the same as the brain of normal people. Anyone who is used a cab in London could have told you that without any investment in fancy equipment and researchers.

But what the study had discovered is that some areas are trophied, actually, while others, the hippocampus, had grown almost malignantly.

And so this was one of the most conclusive truths of what came to be known as neuroplasticity.

Now, neuroplasticity had been described 230 or 40 years ago. It's nothing really, really new.

I'm going to read to you the definition in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Neuroplasticity is the capacity of neurons and neural networks in the brain to change their connections and behavior in response to new information, sensory stimulation, development, damage or dysfunction.

Although, says the Britannica, although some neural functions appear to be hardwired in specific localized regions of the brain, certain neural networks exhibit modularity and carry out specific functions, while also retaining the capacity to deviate from their usual functions and to reorganize themselves.

Hence, neuroplasticity is considered generally to be a complex multifaceted fundamental property of the brain.

And so this is the latest edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Before I go into what we know today about neuroplasticity, and of course there's a lot of hype, a lot of media hype, and I blame neuroscientists for this hype, for a change. I don't blame self-styled YouTubers because they just picked up on the lead of unscrupulous neuroscientists who were after funding. And so they exaggerated numerous claims and hyped the whole concept of neuroplasticity.

I'm going to bring all of you and myself a bit down to earth later.

But the aim of this whole exercise is to demonstrate that if neuroplasticity does exist, then we cannot have a unitary self. There's no such thing as a core identity which is unchangeable, immutable throughout the lifespan.

These two concepts are mutually exclusive.

But again, let's start with observable psychological phenomena.

Ambivalence, emotional ambivalence, first described well over 100 years ago.

Take for example, hate and love. Ambivalence is when you have two conflicting emotions simultaneously, when you hold them simultaneously, so you love someone and you hate them.

Think about your mother. So hate is often confused with love, because it produces the same bonding and attachment to each subject.

The transition from love to hatred is seamless and imperceptible. The two emotions often cohabit.

Ambivalence is a form of dissonance. Such conflation between love and hate is especially pronounced in mental health disorders that involve object inconstancy, persecutory object, dysregulation and abandonment anxiety.

In these disorders, the wish to subsume the intimate partner, to merge or to fuse with the intimate partner, is felt as a wish to destroy an object that is at times frustrating.

The idea of merging with the partner is about controlling the partner and you need to control the partner because he frustrates you.

Consequently, hate is sometimes mistaken for love and vice versa. And this is especially true when certain defense mechanisms such as projection, reaction formation, splitting, projective identification, when these defense mechanisms are at work, they reframe reality and it's easy to deceive yourself that you love someone when actually you're terrified of them or you want to control them or they frustrate you and make you angry all the time and so you want to merge and fuse with them and so you feel that you love them.

Ambivalence is not strictly, exactly like cognitive dissonance, is not strictly a defense mechanism but it exhibits many of the hallmarks of a defense mechanism.

I mentioned cognitive dissonance.

By the way, there's a whole video, the whole video I've made on my channel dedicated to ambivalence, love and hate.


Let's proceed to cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is when you sound simultaneously at the same time. You harbor or you have two or more conflicting pieces of information, contradictory thoughts, beliefs, values and so on.

So you could say that ambivalence is a subspecies of cognitive dissonance because today we consider emotions to be a form of cognition.

Anyhow, when you have two thoughts or beliefs or values or pieces of information that are mutually exclusive, contradicting conflict with each other, you have a cognitive dissonance.

When you hold simultaneously two bits of data which call for diametrically opposed decisions or actions, you are in the throes of a cognitive dissonance and this state of things is uneasy, it's uncomfortable, it generates an inner conflict, it triggers several primitive infantile defense mechanisms such as denial or splitting or projection or reaction formation.

One way to cope with this predicament of the cognitive dissonance is to transition from dissonance to consonance.

And how do you do that?

You come up with a reconciling narrative, a theory which seamlessly accommodates both conflicting points of view or data.

But when you do this habitually, when you consistently adhere, obey, trust in and follow such reconciliation narratives, you will start your reality.

Because in reality a bit of information is either true or false and not two conflicting bits of information can be true at the same time. Not two contradictory bits of data can be true at the same time.

So this is unreal. If you create a narrative where your inner conflict, the mutually exclusive pieces of evidence are somehow accommodated, that narrative is counter-factual, defies the facts, is unreal.

And if all your life is constructed around such narratives, you become mentally ill.

Indeed, personality disorders can be reduced, can be easily described as a set of narratives intended to somehow accommodate, ameliorate and mitigate dissonances.

People with personality disorders who are high-functioning are very disconcerting because they compartmentalize their promiscuous, antisocial, addictive, sadistic and defiant behaviors.

During the day these people are competent professionals, diligent students, pillars of the community, responsible citizens, fathers and mothers, public intellectuals, loving husbands and wives, thriving entrepreneurs. That's during the day.

But come evening and night the mask drops, they suddenly drink, they do drugs, their behavior is replete with disrut, reckless, self-trashing sex with virtual strangers, gambling, any number of addictive and dysfunctional even self-destructive behaviors.

It's as though they have two personalities. Indeed, two self-states, cognitive dissonance and the mental illness that comes out of cognitive dissonance are proof positive that we have self-states, not a unitary cell.

Anyone who had witnessed a psychopath or a borderline in action would confirm to you that there are several pseudo personalities, several pseudo-identities competing for the same body.

What Baffler's scholars is that all these self-states are a part of the personality. There is no faking involved.

The switching is abrupt but it is also seamless. Dissociation is frequently involved but never to the point of rupturing continuous autobiographical memory and core identity.

Core identity in the sense that there is an organizing mechanism, an algorithm which decides which self-state will out.

So I replace the concept of self and the concept of core identity with an algorithmic operating system, which essentially is a form of artificial intelligence. Collectively called it in the 1940s the mass of sanity.

It challenges everything we thought we knew about psychology because we have organized modern psychology around counterfactual concepts and narratives, wrong concepts and narratives such as self-individual, identity, personality. These things don't exist. It's nonsense. It's not even helpful, not even helpful as an idealized hypothesis.

And you see this a lot in people with mental disorders but also in people who have been victimized by abusers who are mentally ill.

So victims of narcissistic abuse have been victimized by narcissists, victims of psychopathic abuse, victims of borderline abuse. These victims also kind of fragment and split into their constituent self-states.

They develop extremely strong cognitive dissonances, ambivalences and compartmentalization. They begin to mirror their abuses through the process of entraining.

I urge you to watch my videos with Richard Grannon on this topic.

Some people adopt the role of a professional victim and in doing so, they become actually their abusers. They become self-centered, devoid of empathy, abusive and exploitative.

In other words, they become narcissists or psychopaths.

So the role of a professional victim is the role of someone whose existence and very identity rests solely and entirely on his victim or her victim.

It's well researched in victimology and it doesn't make for a nice reading.

But what I'm driving at is that these victims entertain the false notion that they can compartmentalize their narcissistic behaviors. They think they can be abusive only with a narcissist. They're going to abuse only the narcissist.

In other words, such a victim trusts her ability to segregate her conduct and to be verbally abusive towards the narcissist while at the same time she is civil, affectionate, compassionate and empathic with other people.

When the narcissist acts with malice, when the narcissist is concerned, she is scheming and malevolent and cunning and so on because she has to survive. It's a survival strategy.

But at the same time, she displays Christian charity and altruism towards everyone else.

This belief, I call it the faucet of a tap theory, this kind of victim believes that she can turn on and off her negative feelings, her abusive outbursts, her vindictiveness and vengefulness, her blind rage and her non-discriminating judgment.

This is of course untrue. These behaviors spill over into interactions with innocent non-narcissists.

So as you see, there's a limit. There's a limit to how much you can change. There's a limit to how differentiated the self-states are.

The self-states are not mutually exclusive. They share a lot in common. They have access to databases, for example, your memories, and they share these databases to a large extent. They have what we call partial dissociative partitions.

So there is in some parts of your brain and some parts of who you are, are immutable. They are not changeable, but they don't amount to what we call the self.

These parts, which can never change and which are with you till the day you die, these parts are not what is normally called the core identity because they are disparate, because they are not enough, like they are, I don't know, maybe 60% of you or 40% of you, no one is measured. And there's a lot of you, at least half of you maybe, that is changeable, permutable and mutable.

So the self-state model doesn't imply that you are never you, that every minute or every day or every second or every year you become someone else. That's not what the self-state model says.

It says that within certain confines and boundaries which determine your immutability, determine your inability to change within these boundaries, you're in flux.

Think of a river. A river has river beds and river banks. These rarely change. They take eons, millennia to change.

But the river itself flows constantly. You can never enter the same river twice. Pantary.

This is the self-state model.


Now it's of course everything, so we believe at least, everything happens in the brain. So any changes, any outing of a self-state, any alteration in your pattern of cognitions, motions and behaviors must be somehow reflected in the brain. And if these patterns become ingrained and long-term, there must be a corresponding change in the brain, which is also ingrained and long-term.

In other words, there must be new neural pathways. The brain must somehow rewire itself. The dopamine pathway, for example, is fixed. The structures of the brain, the hippocampus, the cerebro, they're all fixed.

No one is implying that the brain shapeshifts physically or physiologically.

But what happens in the brain where electrochemical signals move and transition from and to these pathways, these highways of the brain, they keep changing, they keep rewiring themselves. And this is definitely known as neuroplasticity. It happens, it's a myth, it's wrong to say that it happens only in humans. It happens in all life forms with the brain.

And so in animals, individuals, in animal species, their brain morphology even changes. Actually you could easily make a claim that animal neuroplasticity is much more prevalent and dominant and discernible than human neuroplasticity.

Because our brains are so complex, anything that happens in our brains is mere tinkering. While animal brains are much more primitive and much more amenable to massive changes.

In animals, even the morphology, the shape changes. A release of hormones, evolutionary factors, developmental stages, even seasons affect the brains of many species and enhance or even generate responsive behaviors which are sometimes utterly new.

And we see animals change their behaviors in ways which are interpreted as learning but may be only the outcome of a changing transforming brain.

Children have undeveloped brains. When they are born, their brain is only about half developed. Many areas of the brain in a newborn are utterly undeveloped.

So children are easily comparable to animals in this sense. They have primitive brains.

And indeed neuroplasticity is most active in childhood. It's a part, it's a normal part of human development. It's a mechanism. It's a mechanism which allows the child to avoid risk and to develop resilience in the face of the exigencies and dangers of life taking on the world. It's very traumatic, very terrifying.

And what happens is, when this process of neuroplasticity is disrupted, when this process of evolving, changing, unfurling brain, which takes well over 25 years, when it is disrupted, this is what we call trauma.

Trauma negatively affects the brain, puts a strain on sympathetic nervous system. And it either prevents constant activation or triggers constant activation. It alters the brain's connections.

Trauma creates severe problems in childhood because it causes the child to become hypervigilant or hyperaroused, overly aroused. The excitation state becomes permanent.

Neuroplasticity, whenever the child is traumatized and abused, and there are many forms of abuse, as I mentioned, spoiling and pampering and pedestaling and parentifying and instrumentalizing the child are as bad as sexual abuse or verbal abuse. So there are many forms of abuse.

When the child is not allowed to separate from the parent and become an individual, that's abuse. The child is treated as an extension of the parent, that's abuse.

So this kind of abuse is traumatizing. When the child is helpless and small and terrified and not grandiose enough to take on the world, the child is traumatized, even by the slightest things, even by frustration.

And had it not been for neuroplasticity, all of us would have ended up a state bounty, or even worse, a Sam Vaknin.

Neuroplasticity saves the day. It allows the brain to rewire on the fly in the face of adverse childhood experiences, ACE, ACE.

Neuroplasticity has several categories and several types of neuroplasticity. And almost every imaginable area of the brain and almost every imaginable neuron functioning is neuroplastic.

So neuroplasticity, and I will come in a minute to the various types of neuroplasticity and so on and so forth.

Neuroplasticity is the mechanism of the brain, the process in the brain that competes with adverse processes, such as impairment, or access, or trauma, or even negative adaptation, maladaptation.

There have been many, many studies. Everything affects the brain. Everything changes in multids. The brain is very malleable, indeed very, very plastic.

Musical training actually is one of the most powerful influences of the brain, which led me to suggest that in training via abusive verbiage, in training via abusive words, is the equivalent of music, or musical training, and therefore leverages the brain's neuroplasticity in a bad way maliciously or malevolently.

When these changes in the brain occur, they are unique to the individual.

So not two brains are alike. It's a myth. If you play sports, if you learn multiple languages, if you do theater, if you listen to music, depends which type of music. If you do the knowledge and you become a cab driver in London, your brain is not the same as anyone else's.

Our brains are highly unique. Yes, you can identify the structures, but they will be of different size. They will be wired differently. They will interact differently with other structures of the brain, etc.

Changes in the brain start very early. There are studies that have demonstrated conclusively that brains begin to deviate from each other. Brains begin to be idiosyncratic. They begin to be unique to the individual.

As early as 15 months, the degree of plasticity in the brain, as care in Nelson had written, helps provide a form of intervention for children with developmental disorders and neurological disorders or diseases.

Another type of neuroplasticity, which is not structural, again, when we come to all the other types, but another family of neuroplastic processes is what is known as activity dependent neuroplasticity. It's the only type of neuroplasticity that is both functional and structural, and it arises from the repeated use of cognitive functions and is very responsive to personal experiences.

Actually, when sub-starved experts on YouTube use the term neuroplasticity, they mean this sub-subtype activity dependent neuroplasticity.

When your cognitions are of a specific type, especially when they are reactive to specific experiences, for example, abuse, or on the very contrary, compassion and love, these reshape the brain.

There's a biological basis for learning and the formation of new memories. There are new pathways created all the time.

Activity dependent neuroplasticity arises from intrinsic endogenous activity, from inside.

All other forms of neuroplasticity are reactive. They arise from exogenous, extrinsic factors from the environment.

When we stimulate the brain electrically, or we give ECT in inpatient settings, when we administer drugs, these treatment modalities also have an effect on neuroplasticity.

I've been claiming for decades that talk therapy is a form of neuroplastic engineering. We are using structured sentences and words within well-defined algorithms in order to induce a rewiring of the brain and the mind.

Of course, psychopaths and narcissists, they have this cold empathy, so they intuitively know how to rewire your brain with words and actions.

The brain's ability to remodel itself is an asset, but it's also a liability because other people can abuse it, can use it against you. The brain's capacity to retain memories, improve motor functioning, enhance comprehension and speech, all these rely on neuroplasticity.

We wouldn't have been human without neuroplasticity. The very ability to retain memories, even to form memories, what is to form a memory is to reconnect neurons, which is the foundational mechanism of neuroplasticity.

We do it on a daily basis, when neuroplasticity on a daily basis.

But abusers know this and they use it against us. They know they can reach into our minds, into our brains, reshape them, rearrange the furniture and come up with a totally new thing.

That totally new thing is a zombie. It's a slave. It's an extension.


Another type of neuroplasticity is intimately connected to gene expression. Gene expression, genes can be triggered by what we call signaling cascades. Signaling cascades cause the release of signaling molecules. Even simple substances such as calcium, glutamate, dopamine, they are other neurotransmitters, they are actually signaling molecules. These molecules trigger certain genes and this enhances neuronal activity.

Neuroplasticity is also reactive to the genetic template. It's also an integral part of epigenetics, but let's stop it for another fascinating lecture, because we can actually transmit neuroplasticity intergenerationally via expressed and triggered genetic material.

These are recent discoveries in the past 10 years. They are revolutionizing the way we see evolution, introducing Lamarckian elements into it.

Consider, for example, a right-handed person. A right-handed person can practice his left hand and become ambidextrous and then his brain changes. Someone with autism, someone with a stroke can rewire his brain to mitigate these kinds of dysfunctions.

I promised to give you a breakdown of the various types of neuroplasticity.

As you notice, neuroplasticity is good when you have a physiological problem, a medical problem, a biological problem or even a genetic problem. It's good because it allows you to circumvent the problem, to create a shortcut or bypass of the problem.

Neuroplasticity also allows you to form memories, to cope with emotions, to counter and fight back when you're traumatized and abused.

Neuroplasticity is just a general term, I think, for adaptation. It's the biological template of adaptation.

It's simply the physiological, electrochemical, neuronal, biological machinery that underlies what we call adaptation, which is a second order phenomenon, an epiphenomenon, an emergent phenomenon.

Adaptation emerges from the ability of this machinery to self-assemble in reaction you of something?

Yes, self-states.

I think neuroplasticity, again, the capacity of our mental machinery to self-assemble in ad hoc networks, I think neuroplasticity, as defined this way, is the biological foundation for self-states.

There are various types of neuroplasticity.

First, there's homologous area adaptation. This occurs during early childhood in a critical period of development.

If a particular brain module becomes damaged in early life, the normal operations of this module shift to other areas in the brain that do not include the affected module.

The function is often shifted to a module in a matching or homologous area of the opposite brain hemisphere. So it shifts from left to right and from right to left.

I'm pointing here because I think I have a brain, although this is still hotly disputed online.

The downside of this form of neuroplasticity is that it comes at costs, to functions that are normally stored in the module that is now used.

But this module has to make room for new functions and this decreases other functions.

Similar with London cabbies, by the way, the frontal area of the hippocampus grows dramatically in London cabbies, but the back area becomes depleted and atrophied.

There's always a compensatory mechanism at work. You do something well, you do something else less well. You use some structure, it can be used for other things.

There's no parallel processing and there's no multitasking in any given square inch of the brain. Everything is dedicated.

So redundancy is in terms of structures. Everything is a double, but not in terms of function.

When the right parietal lobe, for example, the middle region of these cerebral hemispheres, when the parietal lobe, the right one, becomes damaged early in life, the left parietal lobe takes over visual and spatial functions.

But this impairs arithmetical functions, which the left parietal lobe usually carries out exclusively. It's an example.

Timing is also very crucial because a child learns how to navigate, for example, physical space before the child learns arithmetics.

So if the left parietal lobe is compensating for a damaged right parietal lobe, this child will never learn how to calculate. It will have serious troubles with mathematics.


Another type of neuroplasticity is known as compensatory masquerade. They have names.

Oh, I love it. Very literary. Compensatory masquerade is when the brain figures out an alternative strategy for carrying out a task when the initial strategy cannot be followed because of some structural impairment or some other problem.

Because every task has a strategy, this kind of algorithm that tells the brain how to act in order to accomplish the task. For example, drinking coffee from Munch's lips. We should try it.

And so, example, you try to navigate from one place to another. Most people have an intuitive sense of direction and distance, and they employ it for navigation.

But we all know people who are totally disoriented. If someone has some kind of brain trauma or an impaired spatial sense, they need to develop another strategy just in order to find the way back home or in a foreign city. They need another strategy for spatial navigation.

So, for example, some memory areas in the brain, short-term memory areas, will spring to life and they will try to compensate by memorizing landmarks.

So, the masquerade here is that it's a reorganization of pre-existing neural networks. It's like the brain says, I can't find my way home relying on my sense of direction and navigation and spatial recognition. So, I'll find my way home using memory. I'll memorize landmarks.

This way, I'll find my way home.

And that's the masquerade.

Another form of neuroplasticity is known as cross-model, cross-model, M-O-D-A-L, reassignment. It entails an introduction of new inputs into a brain area deprived of its main inputs.

So, for example, imagine that you're blind.

Okay, don't imagine. Imagine that you're blind and your blind sees birth.

And so, you see the world by touching it. You visualize by touching.

It's a somatosensory input. It's redirected.

I don't know if you know, but when a blind person touches your face, the input is not tactile. It's not the touch.

What happens is he touches your face, this creates electrochemical signals, and they are transferred to the visual cortex in the occipital lobe.

The blind person literally sees your face with his fingertips. The visual cortex of the blind person in his brain reacts to touch.

This area is known as V1, the neuroscience buffs among you.

But people who have normal eyesight, they're not blind. They don't display any activity in the V1 area. They don't display any compensatory activity.

When they touch faces, the signal goes to the right place. Neurons communicate with each other in the same abstract language of electrochemical impulses, regardless of sensory modality.

This is something which is lost on many people. The language is the same. It's identical. It's the routing that matters, where the language elements go, where the input divides and beats the data, where it's redirected.

So, in a blind person, the same data will be redirected to the visual cortex, while in a sighted person, the person who sees, it will be redirected elsewhere. All the sensory cortices will bring the visual, the auditory, olfactory, smell, gustatory, taste, somatosensory. All of them have a similar six-layer processing structure.

So, the visual cortices of blind people can still carry out the cognitive functions of creating representations of the physical world, but base these representations on input from another sense, namely touch, not sight.

So, it's one area of the brain compensating for a lack of vision. But it's not only that. It's a change in the actual functional assignment of a local brain region.

You see how amazingly flexible the brain is, how neuroplastic.

The last form of neuroplasticity is known as map expansion. It entails the flexibility of local brain regions that are dedicated to performing one type of function or storing a particular form of information.

The arrangement of these local regions in the cerebral cortex is what we call the map.

When one function is carried out frequently through repeated behavior or repeated stimulus, by the way, conditioning, addiction, repetition, they rewire the brain. They create neural pathways, neuronal pathways.

So, when one function is repeated sufficiently, the region of the cortical map dedicated to this function grows and shrinks. If you don't repeat it often, it shrinks. We read it often, it grows. It's responsive to exercise. It's a kind of use it or lose it.

And this phenomenon takes place during the learning or practicing of a skill, such as playing a musical instrument, but can easily respond, for example, to learning how to cope with suicidal ideation. It is responsive to learning how to reframe trauma.

The region grows as the individual gains implicit familiarity with the new skill. And the new skill can be anything. And it shrinks to baseline once the learning becomes explicit. Explicit and implicit learning are very important concepts. Implicit learning is the passive acquisition of knowledge through exposure to information. Explicit learning is the active acquisition of knowledge gained by consciously seeking out the information.

So, it's not the same when you search for something on Wikipedia and you then read the article. These are two types of learning, actually.

As you continue to develop a skill of a repeated practice, the region retains the initial enlargement, as cab drivers in London can tell you. Those of them who are neuroscientists.

This type of neuroplasticity, map expansion neuroplasticity, has been observed in association with pain in a phenomenon of, for example, phantom limb syndrome. After amputation, you can still feel your limb, the amputated leg or amputated arm. And this is because of this map expansion.

Neuroplasticity, you have a map of your organ, of the missing organ in the brain. The brain still reacts to it as if it were.

The relationship between cortical reorganization and phantom limb pain led us to understand many, many things.

It seems that the brain map shifts to take over the adjacent area of the missing organ. And the cortical changes could be reversed, for example, by peripheral anesthesia.

So, there's a lot still we don't know. But we know that we have a representation of ourselves. This is the map in the cortices, the cortical areas, for the presentation of ourselves. And we can modify some parts of this representation, but not all.

Again, we come back to the same model of self-states. There is a part that is a kind of boundary. There is a part that is unchanging, but it's not the self. It's not a core identity. It's like conditions, boundaries, limits, language, terms of use, within which changes can take place, within which you as an individual, trying a word I dispute, you as a person can flow and transform and use various self-states in response to the environment.

It's a much more factual model. It's much more evidence-based and fact-based. And it's much more powerful. It's a model that is much more powerful. It's a normal explanatory power, much, much better than any model of unitary cell or model of core identity.


Consider, for example, stress. Stress or continuous stress affects the brain very bad. The many areas of the brain that are sensitive to stress can be damaged by extended exposure to constant triggering, neuronal activation, multi-unit activities and so on. So many areas of the brain actually get worn out, exhausted, eroded, corroded by stress. Hormones also have some impact on the brain, however indirectly. Most of the mechanisms involved in increased memory retention, comprehension, adaptation, they somehow involve activity-dependent plasticity mechanisms. And stress suppresses these mechanisms.

I want you to understand, stress destroys your ability to retain memories and form new memories, to comprehend what you're being told and to adapt to an ever-changing environment.

So we don't quite know how stress accomplishes this suppression.

Had we known, we would have known how to intervene and we still don't know how to intervene.

There are studies by Dr. Lee and others, but we still don't know much. We just know that there is an ability of neural networks in the brain to change through growth and reorganization. And trauma and stress suppress many of these mechanisms.

Neuroplasticity is the brain's attempt to cope with a changing environment that is potentially frustrating, traumatic or stressful. And it does this by creating new neural pathways, connections, systemic adjustments like cortical remapping and circuit and network changes, which are the outcome of learning and so on and so forth.

Everything affects the brain. Everything induces neuroplastic kind of responses. That is especially true in childhood, as I told you.


Okay, so we distinguish between two broad categories of neuroplasticity, structural neuroplasticity. It's the brain's ability to change its neural connections, as I've repeatedly mentioned. New neurons are constantly produced in some areas of the central nervous system, although not in some areas of the brain, but in other areas. And so they're integrated throughout the lifespan. It's also a form of neuroplasticity. And all kinds of imaging studies have demonstrated this restructuring, this constant restructuring in action, the effects of internal and external stimuli of the brain on the anatomical reorganization of the brain. They're stunning. These are beautiful things to behold. Even things like gray matter and white matter, synaptic strength, all these change, fluctuate all the time.

Now, this raises issues with the brains of psychopaths, brains of border lines. We know that these brains have abnormalities in terms, for example, of white matter. Does this limit their ability to be neuroplastic? Does it limit the capacity of neuroplasticity to operate in these diseased brains?

We don't know yet, but it's a fair assumption.

I would imagine that in borderline brains, and definitely in psychopathic brains, neuroplasticity, especially of the structural kind, is very limited because of the abnormalities, structural abnormalities.

Functional neuroplasticity, however, is more open to question. Functional neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to alter and adopt functional properties of neurons. It's a response to previous activity, as I mentioned, activity dependent, memory acquisition. It's a damage or malfunction of neurons. This is called reactive plasticity, some pathological event, brain injury and trauma, which is a physical event, prolonged, complex trauma, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD.

All these traumatic events, and there is reactive plasticity. The functions from one part of the brain transfer to another part of the brain based on the demand to produce recovery of behavioral or physiological processes.

What about the physiological forms?

There is something called synoptic plasticity. The strengthening or weakening of synapses results in increase or decrease of the firing rate of neurons, and this is called long-term potentiation and long-term depression, LTP and LTD.

These are also examples of synoptic plasticity associated with memory, and it's a form of neuroplasticity.

The cerebellum is a typical structure, and there you have combinations of LTP and LTD, long-term potentiation, long-term depression, and there's a lot of redundancy within the circuitry, and consequently it's a very plastic structure of the brain.

It has multiple sides of plasticity. Synoptic plasticity is complemented by another function by another form of activity-dependent plasticity, and it involves the intrinsic excitability of neurons, and this is known as intrinsic plasticity.

So you see there are multiple mechanisms. The brain can change and does change in every possible way.

Synoptic strength, the rate neurons fire, intrinsic excitation, how they connect and reconnect, you know, memories, everything affects the brain, and it's constantly shape shifts, at least functionally and even structurally, as some parts become bigger, owing to exposure to stimuli and learning, and others shrink.

As opposed to homeostatic plasticity, intrinsic plasticity of neurons does not necessarily maintain the overall activity of a neuron within a network, but contributes to encoding memories.

So it seems that memories are somehow connected to the level of excitability of neurons. We don't know exactly how. It's a very modern treatment, the neuroscientific treatment of neuroplasticity is very modern.

We know that there is functional neuroplasticity on the level of brain networks. We know the training alters the strength of functional connections in the brain, but we don't quite know yet how. We don't know, for example, if there is a systematic requirement of the brain network for reorganization. We don't know if this reorganization is not like spring cleaning, so to speak. We also don't know how neuroplasticity and the constant shifting and, you know, to and fro in the brain, how they're connected to phenomena such as dreaming and sleep.

There's a lot, it's a fascinating area in neuroscience, but it intimately ties in with a model in psychology which is flexible, open, involves multiple entities, redundancy, algorithmic approach, plasticity, and the only kind of model that fits all these demands is a self-states model. Not necessarily mine, could be Bromberg's or others, but a self-state model.

The self-model, the model of a unitarism, the model of cognitive congruence and stability, the model of core identity, these were invented 120 years ago or 100 years ago. We knew far less about the brain than we do today, and the people who had come up with these concepts were Germans and Austrians embedded in empires, where rigidity and hierarchy and unitary control were critical. Their culture and societal mores are reflected in these theories, as Feirebund and others, Thomas Kuhn and others have made clear.

Science is not divorce from social influences and cultural influences, it's culture bound.

So today we are much more open, we are much more transigent, and we need to adopt new models, new models in psychology which correspond far better to current knowledge and current findings in neuroscience and to an open, tolerant, networked society with crumbling hierarchies and institutions.

And this is a self-state model.

Thank you for suffering throughout all this. I hope I haven't transformed your normal healthy brains into the brains of cab drivers in London, God forbid.

If you enjoyed this article, you might like the following:

How Trauma Breaks You Apart (Structural Dissociation in Cold Therapy)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the opening of a new YouTube channel and responds to a comment about a theory in psychology. He delves into the theory of structural dissociation and its application to trauma and personality disorders. He also discusses the interaction between the apparently normal part and the emotional part in the context of trauma and dissociation. He suggests that all personality disorders should be reconceived as post-traumatic conditions.


ADHD, Autism, Narcissism: No Empathy in Dead Mother Triad

Sam Vaknin discusses the connection between ADHD, autism, and narcissism, speculating that a dysfunctional upbringing can lead to attention deficit and a lack of empathy. He emphasizes the importance of empathy in psychological functioning and highlights the decline of empathy in society. He also criticizes the societal focus on self-interest and manipulation.


Self-destructive Narcissists and Psychopaths

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses self-defeating and self-destructive behaviors, including life constriction, depression, emotional numbing, dissociation, masochism, and insecure attachment. He explores the connection between introversion and clinical depression, as well as the impact of trauma on personality disorders. Vaknin also delves into the behaviors of narcissists and the similarities between narcissism and masochism. He concludes by examining the rejection of life by narcissists and psychopaths, and the impact of upbringing and environment on self-punishment.


Victim: How to Avoid Becoming a Psychopathic Narcissist

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the controversial topics of victims abusing narcissists and the concept of racism. He delves into the impact of trauma on victims, the contagious nature of narcissism, and the development of complex post-traumatic stress disorder. He also explores the behaviors and reactions of victims in extreme circumstances, such as trauma bonding and the challenges of forming new relationships after abuse.


Narcissism, Brain Injury, Personality, Computers (10th Conf. Psychiatry, Psychology & Brain Studies)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the connection between trauma, brain, personality disorders, and cerebral models. He uses the example of Phineas Gage, whose brain injury turned him into a psychopathic narcissist, to illustrate how brain trauma can have massive systemic effects on personality. Vaknin also explores the software metaphor of the mind, suggesting that if the brain is like software, it must contain features such as parity checks, multiple levels of excitation, redundancy, comparison of representational elements to models of the world, recursive functions, and self-organization. However, he acknowledges that understanding the brain and the connection between mind and personality is still a long way off.


Narcissist's Autistic And Dereistic Thinking ( Enactivism Exceptions)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the distinction between autistic thinking and autism spectrum disorder, emphasizing the importance of studying psychology under his guidance. He also touches on his various accomplishments and provides an overview of autistic and de-realistic thinking, linking them to mental disorders and socially condoned behaviors. Vaknin highlights the significance of confronting and suppressing these types of thinking in therapy, particularly in cognitive behavioral therapy. He suggests that autistic and de-realistic thinking can impact emotions and may hold the key to advancements in the study and treatment of cluster B personality disorders.


Retort: I Seek Truth (Freedom), Not Common "Wisdom" (Slavery)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses cognitive dissonance and how people often lie to themselves and others to defend their decisions, such as parents claiming that children bring happiness into their lives. He also talks about how abuse is often misperceived as love and how the truth sets people free. Vaknin emphasizes the importance of committing to facts and truth in psychology and warns against political correctness, fakes, falsities, lies, and new age nonsense. Finally, he recommends an article in the Daily Mail about narcissistic abuse.


YOU=Your Relationships+Self-states (Turnu Severin Intl. Conference on Psychology)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the controversies in modern psychology, the concept of self, and the formation of self-states through dissociation in infancy. He explains that healthy individuals have adaptive self-states that change in reaction to the environment, while those with personality disorders have dysregulated self-states that are protected and complete. He also discusses the connection between internal and external objects in psychology and emphasizes the importance of defense mechanisms for the proper functioning of self-states. Finally, he mentions the importance of early intervention in diagnosing and treating mental illness in children and adolescents.


Why Abuse Survivors are DISBELIEVED: Narcopath’s Double Face (Isolation, Compartmentalization)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the reasons why people disbelieve victims and survivors of abuse. He delves into the psychological defense mechanisms of compartmentalization and isolation, and their role in the behavior of narcissists and psychopaths. He also explores the concept of doublet and its connection to these defense mechanisms.


Change Your Inner Dialog, Narrative Plot

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the inner dialogue and its impact on our psyche. He explains that the voices in our heads are influenced by societal expectations and can lead to emotional dysregulation. Vaknin outlines the characteristics of a healthy inner dialogue and emphasizes the importance of understanding one's own happiness preconditions. He also warns against the dangers of becoming a narcissist or a psychopath in the process of rejecting societal influences.

Transcripts Copyright © Sam Vaknin 2010-2024, under license to William DeGraaf
Website Copyright © William DeGraaf 2022-2024
Get it on Google Play
Privacy policy