Today, for the first time I went into the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney. I went to a very exciting seminar about neuroscience and knitting! yes, you heard right, knitting and neurons were the main subject of the seminar. As a neuroscientist and a keen knitter, I was very excited by this exotic combination.
Have you ever thought about the health of your brain? have you ever thought that doing, looking , reading, writing, and analysis could potentially enhance the health of your greatest friend; your brain. Knitting and crocheting require fine motor control. Even though it looks natural and easy to you, it is in fact quite complicated. Your brain has to control your movements, the tension on your yarn, the treatment of information given by a pattern and also memorising all the symbols or different sections of a pattern (lace works for example) . When you are knitting, you are firing the billions of neurons that make your brain, a brain !
Your brain is an extremely plastic organ. It can recover from injuries, it can build more connections, constantly form new memories from a quite impressive pallet of stimuli such as touch, smell (la madeleine de Proust), shape, colours ….Everyday, your brain can learn new things too. For the rest of your life, your brain will be able to do these things. But you have to take care of it! How ? of course you have to eat well but also you have to make these neurons fire by learning new things, by giving you challenging goals, by changing your habits (even very small one: turn left to go to work instead of right, you will feel uncomfortable)!
Dr Sarah Mckay, one of the presenters, neuroscientist herself gave on her blog your brain health a list of things to do to keep your brain healthy and guess what ?? a healthy brain makes a happy you! Knitting or crocheting can and will make you happy.
Why? because knitting for example can help people with anxieties, depression, stress… And can even prevent dementia! How? well a recent survey published in occupational therapy showed that doing something creative such as knitting significantly improve your well being! your happiness! knitting promotes rhythmic and repetitive movements (needle, loop, stitch, …) this soothes your mind, decreases your heart rate and make you less stressed. It gives you goals to reach and it also gives you a very nice feeling of proudness. You have made from a simple thread something meaningful to you and beautiful!
Knitting and crocheting promote social interactions. How many times I was stuck on a sections and I saw myself calling a friend, chatting on forums with people from all over the world or bringing my knitting problem/s at work to show where I was stuck so a colleague could help me. I have to say, I am in a hard patch of my life at the moment, too many crappy things happened at the same time and this made me flirt with the border of depression. I realised that when I went back to something I always enjoyed to do: knitting and crocheting. Everything became more stable, less unreachable! I think the more I knit the better I feel.
At the end of the seminar I donated my fluffy neuron to Textile artist Pat Pillai! she needs more neurons for the Neural Knitworks exhibition at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery in August. Come and join the network and donate one or several neurons! you can find the free patterns( knitted or crocheted neurons) here and you can send your neuron from anywhere in the world! To be part of the exhibition, your neuron will have to reach Neural Knitworks by the 21st of July
PS: No black can be used for the making of neurons as black is dead matter, we want firing neurons :)!
Happy neuron firing! keep knitting! keep creating ! keep doing things ! feel your brain smiling!