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The Power of Unlearning

The human brain is undoubtedly the most mysterious and fascinating organ of our body. With every new research, we discover different potentials of our brain.

The concept ‘unlearning’ is science’s trending discovery. To understand ‘unlearning’, we first need to know how our brain works.

Throughout our life, our brain is learning new things by establishing networks of neurons. This discovers new relationships through the timing of electrochemical impulses called spikes. These spikes are used by neurons to communicate with each other. This temporal pattern of spike transmission strengthens or weakens connections between cells, forming the physical part of memory. Certain signals are identified as a precursor to something, for instance: associating smoke with fire and becoming prepared. This association process has given us an edge over other species on Earth. This also explains why revision before exams is profitable: it strengthens the neuronal couplings.

More often than not, our brain learns habits and retrieves events that had caused extreme delirium: both good and bad. These develop through well-strengthened connections between neurons.

Let’s consider a situation: you’ve just stepped down from the school stage after badly stuttering and have expressed your will to never go on the stage again. The year passes by, and before you know it, you’re on stage, and after speaking a few lines, you’re again feeling dreadful just like you did the last time. That is your neurons triggering you. Great excitement from your previous shot has immensely powered the neuronal connections which made you feel wretched. Following the events similar to the last time; standing backstage, walking to the podium; the association cycle has sent you into a frenzy.

The question arises that if your neurons could learn when to panic, couldn’t they ‘unlearn’ it too?

Scientists have high hopes as some people seem to have ‘unlearnt’ their nervous conditions merely by their thoughts. Just before their events, they convinced their minds of tranquility and success- weakening their troublesome neuronal connection. They also, sometimes unknowingly, stimulated the vagus nerve- a nerve that calms us down and works automatically most of the time.

At times, we can control the nerve to some extent by pressing our eyeballs, singing, splashing our face with cold water, taking deep breaths and even laughing! You can stimulate, and therefore, calm yourself down depending on your circumstances.

Combined with motivating thoughts and self-confidence, the vagus nerve stimulation can help you fight stress and weaken your on-stage fright. Every once in a while, you can de-stress yourself and also ‘unlearn’ your fears over time. And soon you’ll be speaking flawlessly on the stage, acing your exams and winning the matches you were nervous about!

-Gauri Chaturvedi

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