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Neuroplasticity and the Brain That Changes Itself

I first dis­cov­ered Nor­man Doidge’s book, The Brain That Changes Itself, in a May, 2007 review in the New York Times. Intrigued, but caught up in myr­i­ad end-of-school-year respon­si­bil­i­ties, the book was put out of my mind until lat­er that sum­mer, when our The Brain that Changes Itself - Norman Doidgeschools learn­ing spe­cial­ist emailed to say she had just fin­ished a fas­ci­nat­ing book. The Brain That Changes Itself: Stores of Per­son­al Tri­umph from the Fron­tiers of Brain Sci­ence, is a com­pelling col­lec­tion of tales about the amaz­ing abil­i­ties of the brain to rewire, read­just and relearn after hav­ing a slice of itself ren­dered dys­func­tion­al. The first sev­en chap­ters cap­ti­vat­ed me for their per­son­al sto­ries; the final four chap­ters for the sci­ence and phi­los­o­phy.

Part of what makes Doidge’s writ­ing so acces­si­ble is he tells sto­ries, and his sto­ries just hap­pen to incor­po­rate brain sci­ence. As a result, his book is easy to digest. The neu­ro­science behind Doidge’s book involves neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, which is the brain’s abil­i­ty to rewire itself. This means that the brain is our intel­li­gence  is not some­thing fixed in con­crete but rather a chang­ing, learn­ing enti­ty. On the face of it, this con­cept should not sound unusu­al, for it is what hap­pens to indi­vid­u­als all the time as we go about the learn­ing process, from infan­cy onwards.

What sep­a­rates the sto­ries in this book from dai­ly learn­ing is that Read the rest of this entry »

Neurogenesis and Brain Plasticity in Adult Brains

Back in July, I wrote a post enti­tled 10 Brain Tips To Teach and Learn. Those tips apply to stu­dents of any age, includ­ing adults, for ide­al­ly adults are still learn­ers. Why is adult learn­ing rel­e­vant in a brain-focused blog, you may won­der:

The short of it

As we age, our brain:

still forms new brain cells
can change its struc­ture & func­tion
finds pos­i­tive stress can be ben­e­fi­cial; neg­a­tive stress can be detri­men­tal
can thrive on nov­el chal­lenges
needs to be exer­cised, just like our bod­ies

The long of it

Adults may have a ten­den­cy to get set in their ways have been doing it this way for a long time and it works, so why change? Turns out, though, that change can be a way to keep aging brains healthy. At the April Learn­ing & the Brain con­fer­ence, the theme of which was neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, I attend­ed sev­er­al ses­sions on adult learn­ing. Here’s what the experts are say­ing.

Read the rest of this entry »

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