Thank you for the article, Kim. I found these passages especially striking.
Synaptic pruning eliminates weaker synaptic contacts while stronger connections are kept and strengthened. Experience determines which connections will be strengthened and which will be pruned; connections that have been activated most frequently are preserved. Neurons must have a purpose to survive. Without a purpose, neurons die through a process called apoptosis in which neurons that do not receive or transmit information become damaged and die. Ineffective or weak connections are "pruned" in much the same way a gardener would prune a tree or bush, giving the plant the desired shape. It is plasticity that enables the process of developing and pruning connections, allowing the brain to adapt itself to its environment.
Initially, newly learned data are "stored" in short-term memory, which is a temporary ability to recall a few pieces of information. Some evidence supports the concept that short-term memory depends upon electrical and chemical events in the brain as opposed to structural changes such as the formation of new synapses. One theory of short-term memory states that memories may be caused by "reverberating" neuronal circuits -- that is, an incoming nerve impulse stimulates the first neuron which stimulates the second, and so on, with branches from the second neuron synapsing with the first. After a period of time, information may be moved into a more permanent type of memory, long-term memory, which is the result of anatomical or biochemical changes that occur in the brain (Tortora and Grabowski, 1996).
That is the scientific explanation of how right effort (non-arising/abandoning of unwholesome states and arising/maintenance of wholesome states) literally changes one's brain at the physical level. The Buddha's teaching is about purifying one's mentality and science is now discovering physical evidence of this, albeit indirectly. The Dhamma will always remain "against the stream" in this world.
Think not lightly of good, saying, "It will not come to me." Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise, the wise man, gathering it little by little, fills himself with good.
Then the Lord said to the monks: 'Now, monks, I declare to you: all conditioned things are of a nature to decay - strive on untiringly.' These were the Tathagata's last words.
-DN 16, trans. Maurice Walshe
'Whatever should be done, bhikkhus, by a compassionate teacher out of compassion for his disciples, desiring their welfare, that I have done for you. These are the feet of trees, bhikkhus, these are empty huts. Meditate, bhikkhus, do not be negligent, lest you regret it later. This is our instruction to you.'
-SN 43.1, trans. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi