The Architecture of Life: March 2009

The Architecture of Life - Christopher K. Travis

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Brain Rewires Itself Long Term

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen have succeeded in demonstrating for the first time that the activities of large parts of the brain can be altered in the long term.

The theoretical backdrop for our Truehome process has proposed this - as have many in neuropsychology - for over a decade. Psychologist Donald Olding Hebb posited it as early as 1949.

These days it seems like a new study comes up every day that offers more evidence that the brain is constantly rewiring itself in response to its environment. This study once again proves that "your home is in your head" and that by altering your environment and relationships you are actually altering your brain - and therefore - your experience of life. Here is an excerpt from the article.

"Using a combination of functional magnetic resonance tomography, microstimulation and electrophysiology, the scientists were able to trace how large populations of nerve cells in the forebrain reorganize. This area of the is active when we remember something or orient ourselves spatially.

The insights gained here represent the first experimental proof that large parts of the brain change when learning processes take place. (, March 10, 2009).

"Scientists refer to the characteristic whereby synapses, nerve cells or entire areas of the brain change depending on their use as neuronal plasticity. It is a fundamental mechanism for learning and .

"...when a nerve cell A permanently and repeatedly stimulates another nerve cell B, the synapse is altered in such a way that the signal transmission becomes more efficient. The membrane potential in the recipient neuron increases as a result.

"This learning process, whose duration can range from a few minutes to an entire lifetime, was intensively researched in the hippocampus.

"A large number of studies have since shown that the hippocampus plays an important role in and spatial orientation in animals and humans. Like the cortex, the hippocampus consists of millions of nerve cells that are linked via synapses.

"The nerve cells communicate with each other through so-called "": that are sent from the transmitter cells to the recipient cells. If these action potentials become more frequent, faster or better coordinated, the signal transmission between the cells may be strengthened, resulting in a process called long-term potentiatation (LTP), whereby the transmission of the signal is strengthened permanently. The mechanism behind this process is seen as the basis of learning.

"Although the effects of long-term potentiation within the hippocampus have long been known, up to now it was unclear how synaptic changes in this structure can influence the activities of entire outside the hippocampus, for example cortical networks.

"The scientists working with Nikos Logothetis, Director at the for , have researched this phenomenon systematically for the first time. 'We succeeded in demonstrating long-term reorganization in nerve networks based on altered activity in the synapses,' explains Dr. Santiago Canals.'

"The changes were reflected in better communication between the brain hemispheres and the strengthening of networks in the limbic system and cortex. While the cortex is responsible for, among other things, sensory perception and movement, the limbic system processes emotions and is partly responsible for the emergence of instinctive behavior."

Learn more about this at

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Austin - Thank You!

I want to thank all of the amazing people I have met over the last three weeks in the Austin A.I.A., Design Voice, Lifeworks, Tech Ranch, at UT, Bootstrap Austin, Potts and Reilly, during the RISE conference and in the start-up community.

My architecture firm has had an office there for years, two of my children and all my grandchildren live there - and that I spent my formative years with a pony tail stalking those same streets.
But this is the first time I have had the opportunity to really get to know today's Austin people in all the diverse communities in which I participate.

I am very impressed. What an awesome group!

What astounds me the most is the combination of business and social entrepreneurism that is so marked in all of those communities. Smart people who give a damn about other people and act on it. Collaboration as a business model. Serving others taken seriously as a business ethic.

I hope you all know what a special place you have made of the city I left when its population was around 250,000. I only live and hour and a half away, but the entire experience was like coming home.
Thank you so much for your generosity and hard work!