A recent article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (June 3, 2009, Neuroscience, Molecular Biology, and the Childhood Roots of Health Disparities) stated that:
“A scientific consensus is emerging that the origins of adult disease are often found among developmental and biological disruptions occurring during the early years of life. These early experiences can affect adult health in 2 ways – either by cumulative damage over time or by the biological embedding of adversities during sensitive developmental periods…“weathering” of the body under persistent adversity (i.e., the increased wear and tear induced by stressful experiences…) reflects an acceleration of normal aging processes…As the primary organ of stress and adaptation, the brain is both vulnerable and adaptable…Stress-induced remodeling of neuronal structure…alters behavioral and physiological responses, including anxiety, aggression, mental flexibility, memory, and other cognitive processes. New imaging techniques are driving rapid advances in knowledge about how the human brain changes with experience…” (emphasis all mine).
As science is discovering the amazing pliability of the brain exposed to different stimuli, I thought about how important it is for the believer in Christ to keep renewing the mind to God’s truth: “And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Neuroscience is providing physical data to reinforce the truth that keeping the mind renewed to God’s truth will not only provide mental/emotional peace and direction, but also may physically alter the structure of the physical brain (and other organs) and alter the rate of biological aging! Renewing the mind is good for “brain health.”
The researchers from this article attributed biological alterations of brain structure to the effects of early-life stress and chronic stress (what they termed toxic stress). It is our reaction to real and perceived stress/threats that is the driving force of the biological change. The researchers acknowledged that toxic stress can produce negative changes and also acknowledged that “positive stress” (their term) could produce healthy changes. Another quote from the article: “Moreover, although early adversity can lead to greater vulnerability later in life, positive experiences can decrease such risk.”
The corollary truth for the believer in Christ is that positive exposures and healthy responses (knowledge of God’s Word revealed and applied by the Holy Spirit) can have a renewing/protecting effect in the human body. The believer in Christ is not a slave to their inherited genes; nor are they a slave to any accumulated biological change that may have developed over time. Original biology does not determine destiny! Accumulated biology does not determine destiny!
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
(Jeremiah 29:11)(2 Corinthians 5:17)