Does what we expect to happen change our experience?

The predictive brain.

We do not process experiences on a blank slate.

When our brain receives new sensory information about an experience, the information is run through neural pathways that have already been shaped by our past experiences.

These neural memories of our past experiences ensure that our brains are ready to process new information based on patterns it already knows, a form of prediction in other words.

These predictions help save energy because lot of the work of processing information is recycled from one experience to the next.

But the brain can be quite powerful in its predictions. If the brain continues to predict we will have a symptom, there is a high chance we will experience the prediction ‘playing out’ in present reality. This can be one reason we have a symptom over and over again.

For the brain to update its predictions, it needs to notice when new information doesn’t match its old predictions. The ‘unlearning’ process can take some time. However there are things we can do to help.


To help our brain update its predictions, we can:

Be Open to Change:

Keep an open mind about symptoms and expect that things can get better.

Pay Direct Attention to the Body:

Check in with the body regularly, and be curious and interested in what you find. Practicing the STOP exercise in regular breaks throughout the day helps build this skill.

Train new responses:

Once you become aware of an unhelpful pattern of thoughts or behaviours that is running on autopilot, is it possible to choose to react in a different way?

If you repeat your new reaction enough times you will interrupt your brain’s programmed predictions. You will have trained a new, more helpful, automatic response.

Boost Neuroplasticity:

Moving the body, visiting new places, and learning new skills,  help your brain update its connections more quickly. Some medication is also thought to help by boosting neuroplasticity, including anti-depressants.