Growing Neurons?

Photo: Ron on an e-bike (2021)

It was one of those unexpected February moments when the temperature blasted up to 70 and I turned to my husband Ron and said, “Hey, let’s take the e-bikes for a ride!” The relatively new bikes had been gathering dust since November, sulking in a corner on the porch. I awkwardly navigated them into the living room. Where did we put the batteries? Our aging brains failed at several locations and then savored the dopamine rush at discovering the batteries in the storage under the stairs. Standing there holding the batteries, neither one of us was ready to admit we’d forgotten how to put them on.

“I think you need the key.” 

“No, I think it pops on. Um, well, no, that didn’t work. What about this lever thing?” 

“No! That does nothing.” 

“Are you sure?” 

I wished we were wearing clown noses because we were the quintessential picture of failure. And yet, that failure is actually a success.

According to Andrew Huberman, host of the podcast Huberman Lab, making errors makes the brain “plastic.” Once you get good at something, you are no longer “changing your brain.” The struggle to learn triggers Acetylcholine and Norepinephrin, and the sweet taste of success is that dopamine rush. In his episode Using Failures, Movement and Balance to Learn Faster, Huberman recommends novel movement in small increments. He kept talking about inversions and yoga. I couldn’t help but think that nothing offers more novelty in small increments than a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement® lesson. There is an iconic picture of Israel’s Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion doing a headstand as taught by Moshe Feldenkrais. I can imagine his dopamine rush as he found his balance. 

As we finally got outside, figured out how to turn the bikes on: 

“No, you press this button!” 

“Are you sure?” 

“No, yes, but it’s not working. Oh wait, you don’t hold it down, just press.” 

“I am pressing.” 

“No, you’re holding it down!”

I waited for Ron to put on his helmet. He looked at me. “Um, Lavinia, I think you’re wearing my helmet.” 

“I am? Are you sure?” 

 What I thought was novelty, the helmet had felt strange, was actually just another mistake. I could feel my brain sizzling as I learned that I had forgotten what my helmet looked like.

There’s hope for me yet.

For some novel movements in small increments that plays with your relationship to gravity, enjoy this Awareness Through Movement lesson full of surprises and dopamine ☺