Create New Brain Cells

With each passing year, I become more acutely aware of my mind, or lack thereof.  I struggle with word retrieval and remembering facts.

This topic is embarrassing for me to admit; however, last January I had a serious conversation with my physician. I was concerned I had early onset Alzheimer’s. My physician smiled and responded “April, welcome to middle age.” She stressed the importance of learning something new in effort to create

NeViolin Music Fireworks pixabayurogenesis

At one time scientists thought we were born with all the brain cells we would ever have. However, in 1962, Joseph Altman debunked this theory. His findings were ignored for decades until further research showed brain cell regeneration occurred in non-primates and humans, a concept called neurogenesis. [1]

Neurogenesis: The process by which new nerve cells are generated. [2]

In an effort to create new brain cells, I began to play the violin. The first year I learned to play employing the classical Suzuki method. However, as a southern girl, I prefer Bluegrass over Bach. I was overjoyed when my instructor, Mrs. Peterson, agreed to teach me the fiddle technique. Goodbye Mississippi Hot Dog Twinkle and hello Bile ‘em Cabbage Down.  (I didn’t realize how vastly different violin and fiddle playing can be. If you are curious read “Twelve Questions Violinist Ask about Fiddling.” by Donna Herbert.)Neuron brain cell pixabay

Playing an instrument is a full-body brain workout. When I am struggling with learning a new song, I tell myself, “Fireworks! There are fireworks going off in my brain.” My violin instructor showed this video during a lesson and I was amazed. Please take a few minutes to watch and learn “How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain.” by Anita Collins.


The human brain is capable of sprouting new brain cells (neurons) and forming new connections in the brain. These new connections or paths can be formed after injury (a stroke for example) or when learning something new.

Snow path pixabay Neuroplasticity: The brain’s ability to rewire itself by forming new connections or paths. [3]

Our habits form paths or tracks in the brain.[4] Imagine a heavy blanket of snow outside your front door. Every day when you walk to the mail box you walk in the same path as the day before. The snow continues to build, but your path never varies. Then one day, you decide to do something new and go off the path. At first, it is difficult because this is uncharted territory. As you forge ahead you create a new path, a new neural connection. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to do something new. Create new brain cells.

We can build new neural pathways by taking Robert Frost’s advice and take the road less traveled.

Other musical articles I’ve written include:

“Forty New Things” pixabay

“Practice Makes Permanent”


“Rock. Stop. Ready. Play

~April Dawn White


Happy 40th Birthday: A Forty New Things Series

My turn to turn off the birthday plate.

Today is my fortieth birthday. For some crazy reason, I devised a plan to try forty new things this year.  I borrowed the idea from our pastor who spoke about the importance of stepping outside our comfort zone. “You should never stop taking first steps” was the phrase I scribbled in my journal on that monumental Sunday.

I shared a few things from my list already in the article Forty New Things. Today I will expound on that initial list. This experiment has been more than merely adding items to list. It has been a project of self-exploration, discipline, and determination. Trying forty new things has been both thrilling and terrifying. 
I’ve learned rejection sometimes follows risk, but so does great reward.

Accepting the title as writer was the first new thing I had to overcome. I have a desire to pen words to a page and hopefully encourage someone else along the way. Coming to terms who I really am (a wife, mom, obnoxious sports mom at times, friend, pharmacist, encourager, and writer) was absolutely freeing. No games, no drama, no masks, just me. And at forty years old, I like me.
I’ve made several uncomfortable steps outside my comfort zone this year. I attended a writer’s weekend retreat, ordered Red Chair Moments business cards, joined the American Christian Writers origination, and the local Roanoke Valley chapter. In May, I scarified a week of vacation to attend the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in North Carolina. While at the conference I pitched ideas to publishers, editors, and agents. I applied for writing and blog contests and lost. I submitted multiple articles for publication and was turned down.
God’s ways are not our own (Isaiah 55:8). I’ve learned not to misinterpret a hearing the word no for when what God really is saying is not now. Using those same writing samples, which were initially turned down, I was extended an invitation to write for Inspire A Fire and Focus on the Family’s children’s magazine, Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr.  In addition, I had several devotions chosen for the 2016 publication of Penned from the Heart, a 366 day devotional book.
Rejection stings and so does a dog bite. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced both this summer. A few weeks ago, I was attacked by a German shepherd. I see this dog often on my morning run and I don’t know why he chose to take a bite from my right hip. It hurt and so did the tetanus shot that followed. But a random dog bite won’t keep me from running, nor will a rejection letter keep me from writing.
My Circle of Seven
Since January, God has placed amazing people in my life as a result of stepping outside my comfort zone. My friend Brenda Shumaker author of Decorating Your Heart and Home, holds the keys to opportunity. She introduced me to Editor, Vie Herlocker who encouraged me to attend the BRMCWC. I prayed for God to send me at least one friend at the conference and He sent me seven. (You can read all about that answer to prayer in the article Circle of Seven.) I met writer and Editor Cindy Sproles, author of Mercy’s Rain. I will never forget the sound of her sweet Appalachian drawl when she spoke the words I longed to hear, “Why, yes you can write.”  I also met my favorite author Susan May Warren and captured her autograph. Last month I had to opportunity to meet Rwandan genocide survivor, Amen Mirbaraka. She has a powerful testimony of God’s deliverance from blood and evil to blessings.
On a lighter side, I bought my first diesel car this year and I am thrilled about 52 mpg on the highway. I am also proud to announce I have progressed from the Twinkle Twinkle melodies to playing Bach. My progress on the violin is slow but I enjoy the challenge. While I’m on the subject of the violin, Rachel participated in her first off Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof. This was my first time watching this amazing play. The students and musicians at RVCS rocked the show. Speaking of musicians, Chris and I experienced Harry Connick Jr. in concert. What can I say? He and his musicians are incredibly gifted and I look forward to attending another concert.
My list is still growing. I hope you have been encouraged to step out of your safe and comfortable world and try something new. Yes sometimes rejection follows risk, but so does great reward.
Gotta go. I think I hear birthday cake calling my name.  


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40 New Things

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
(Isaiah 43:19, NIV)

Robed in white, I secured my personal belongings in a dark mahogany locker and waited my turn. The dimmed lights and soft music suggested a spa atmosphere instead of a medical facility. This would be one of my forty new experiences.

All of a sudden I felt grown up. When did that happen? I was about to experience a rite of passage for all women. Lisa, the technician called my name.  Cinching my robe tighter, I shuffled into her dark lair.

Often, I use humor when facing awkward situations. I exclaimed with apprehensive excitement, “Congratulations Lisa, you made my list! I’ve decided to try forty new things this year and you, my dear are part of it!” Curious, Lisa asked about my list.

Over the next several minutes I went on to explain that I’ve decided to try forty new things this year! Forty new things, because I will turn forty-years-old this year.

I shared with Lisa, earlier this year our pastor, offered this challenge: “You should never stop taking first steps.” A few days later I heard Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church, utter these words: “You cannot fulfill God’s calling in your life from your comfort zone.”  Like flies on sticky tape, those two statements clung to my mind.

Leaning forward Lisa asked, “How many things do you have on your list?” “Around twenty five,” I replied “maybe a few more, not bad considering it’s only June right?”

I shared how embracing the title as a writer was my first new step for 2015.

“April, I’m so glad I met you. What else is on your list?” Sensing I needed to lighten the mood (mine not hers) I spoke of our recent cruise to the Bahamas, our first cruise with the kids. We snorkeled in the Caribbean and swam at the Atlantis. During mealtime my kids suggested I order the strangest item on the menu touting “Mom, remember new things.” So I ate fried alligator, which you guessed it, tasted like chicken.

Forgetting the reason I was in this medical office, I laughed about celebrating my friend’s fiftieth birthday over dinner at Cedars of Lebanon and participating in my first Paint-Nite. This was a double hitter of first new experiences. Lisa asked for my contact information and I gladly offered her my card.  It was time to get down to the reason I was there.

This will be the first of several posts chronically my new forty new things. I hope you return to learn what else God has up his holy sleeve!

“For we live by faith not by sight.” 
(2 Corinthians 5:7, NIV)

Trying something new requires the initial hesitate step outside our comfort zone. God is teaching me to step out in faith and let Him take care of the outcomes.

What new steps do you feel nudged to take? Let’s talk, reply below.


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