Q. Not long ago I read something about how you learned to practice the vibraharp in your mind when you didn’t have access to the actual instrument. I think you called it ‘virtual rehearsal.’ At first I thought this idea was ridiculous. (You don’t even want to know a few of the comments I made.) Well, I’ve since changed my mind. I teach piano and two of my little students have no piano in their home. They are able to practice on their grandmother’s piano—but not every day. I decided to give this idea a try. I mean, it couldn’t hurt, right? Although I was not sure it could help, either. I told these little piano students to practice at home in their minds (with their open music books) on the days when they are unable to practice on their grandmother's piano. They were, of course, almost as astounded by this instruction as I was by the concept. Guess what has happened? They have discovered that “virtual rehearsal” works and are making progress by leaps and bounds. Naturally, I am so pleased . . . and grateful. You also said once that “What you don’t know you don’t even know can limit your options and sometimes cause you a great deal of trouble.” This ‘virtual rehearsal’ experience was a great object lesson to me and has encouraged me to be more open minded. Again, as you said, “No one can know everything.” What do you think made my brain so ready to brush off this information?

A. Thank you for sharing this success story. According to some studies, many people operate on the ideas and beliefs they absorbed by the age of five, often subconsciously. You only know what you know and the only brain you know is your own, filled with its own absorbed beliefs and attitudes. That’s what is so exciting about brain-function research! Sometimes emerging research conclusions run contrary to what you have llearned and been taught or believed or assumed. When practically applied, however, brain-function information does work, sometimes amazingly well. Most people have little concept of how they could cooperate with their brains and minds (yes, they are separate entities) to be more successful. And in case you are wondering how the brain and mind differ, scientists seem to be clear that somehow the brain creates the mind or the mind creates the brain, but exactly how that happens is an ongoing puzzle. (I wonder if both occurred simultaneously.) Either way, they appear to be able to influence each other. Amazing. One of the best metaphors I’ve heard compares this phenomenon to traffic. Vehicles create traffic. In turn, traffic can constrain and impede movement of the vehicles. Hmmm.