Who among us doesn’t want to reach our full potential? Most of us have been told by someone at least once during our lives—possibly a parent or other family member, or maybe a friend or someone else in a position of trust, like a teacher—that we have a great deal of potential for achieving great things in life, and if we could summon the dedication, discipline, and mental fortitude to unlock it and utilize it to its fullest, we’d be successful!
Using our mind’s full potential could benefit us in all areas of our lives, from strengthening personal relationships to reaching our professional and career goals and everything in between, so putting in the effort to unlock this hidden potential is a worthwhile investment.
According to a blog post on pickthebrain.com, there’s a great deal of evidence that suggests people can unlock significant dormant mental potential and go on to achieve great success: “Your mind is a vast, largely unexplained source of energy and power… many very successful people have believed in these powers and used them to create incredible fortunes and success…They exist whether you are willing to admit it and use it to your benefit or not. If you don’t, then you are missing out on getting the very most out of your life.”
So… the big question remains: How do you go about unlocking your mind’s hidden potential? Well, a recent Psychology Today article by Dr. Chris Gilbert, MD, PhD may just hold the answer to unlocking what she terms your “inner genius.”
Dr. Gilbert focuses on a curious phenomenon that occurs in individuals who have suffered damage to the left anterior temporal lobe (LATL) in the brain and acquired what’s known as acquired savant syndrome, a disorder in which people spontaneously develop incredible memories and genius level abilities. This rare occurrence has been documented in a very small number of individuals (just 32 at the time of this writing), but their experiences paint a powerful portrait of tapping into one’s latent potential.
Take Derek for instance, who’s referred to in the article:
Derek was a 39-year-old sales trainer with no musical skill when he dove head first into a very shallow swimming pool while visiting his mom. He suffered a severe head concussion and was taken to the hospital. Four days later, when he was resting at one of his friends’ house, he discovered that he was able to play the piano flawlessly and beautifully even though he couldn’t read music. That day, he played the piano for 6 hours. He is now working as a well-paid musician and composes music.
Pretty powerful stuff, right? And Derek is just one example. There are others who, for some reason or another, often through an accident or brain altering illness like a stroke or dementia, acquired new talents after getting acquired savant syndrome. Dr. Gilbert notes, “Special skills in acquired savants, like the unusual abilities of ‘natural savants’ like autistic children, usually manifest as musical abilities—most often the piano with perfect pitch like Derek—visual memory, arithmetic abilities, painting, drawing, sculpting, and spatial skills where the savant can construct complex accurate models or excel at direction finding and map making.”
However, before you go off and assume that you need to damage your brain’s LATL in order to get acquired savant syndrome, don’t get the wrong idea! Dr. Gilbert is not suggesting that anyone hurt themselves or do anything tragic and irreversible to their brains. However, she is saying that we can learn from the experiences of Derek and the others who have been diagnosed with acquired savant syndrome and apply this knowledge to answer the following question: Can healthy people acquire savant-like talents and unlock their “inner geniuses” by suppressing their LATL in a safer way?
Dr. Gilbert argues that the LATL in our brains function to actively suppress certain portions of our ability to help us focus on the primary needs for survival, and that it keeps our full abilities and potential in check and dormant.
Evidence for this has been shown in laboratory studies in individuals without brain trauma. Dr. Gilbert’s article refers to research performed by Dr. Allan Snyder, a neuroscientist at the University of Sidney, Australia, who demonstrated that there is a way to temporarily “turn-off” our LATL without any ill effects, so that all of us could exhibit savant-like talents:
“Dr. Snyder artificially fatigued the LATL by stimulating it with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for 15 minutes in healthy subjects. This technique is the equivalent of tiring out a muscle by vigorously exercising it. After TMS exposure, Snyder’s test subjects showed improved ability to draw objects from memory, to quantify the number of discrete objects in complex visual scenes, and to accurately proof-read documents—all skills that depend upon memory for small details.”
This means that there’s a potential sleeping “inner genius” inside all of us that’s just waiting to be woken up! But…can we emulate these results outside of a lab? It turns out that the answer is yes, we can.
Based on Dr. Snyder’s work, Dr. Gilbert suggests that “anything we do that actively fatigues the LATL in a natural way could allow latent drawing, math, spatial, or musical abilities to surface.” She encourages engaging in activities that allow our brains to hyperfocus on the small, meaningless details of things to loosen the oppressive grip of our LATLs on our brain functioning. Things like transcendental meditation, repetition of a nonsensical mantra, and some forms of hypnosis can simulate the effects needed to temporarily suppress LATL activity, and allow our brains to unlock our hidden potential.
The next time you’re eager to unleash your mind’s hidden potential, consider the simple tricks mentioned here. Dr. Gilbert sums it up best: “So here’s the bottom line: To unleash your hidden talent, either focus exclusively on meaningless details or go overboard thinking about the meaning of things around you. Either way, you will push your LATL into the back seat and put your inner genius in the driver’s seat.”
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