The frontal lobes of the brain (in gray here) have been compared to an orchestra conductor, influencing, directing, and moderating many other brain functions. Indeed, the frontal lobes support the so-called executive functions: decision-making, problem-solving, planning, inhibiting, as well as other high-level functions (social behavior, emotional control, working memory, etc.). Ready for an executive workout? [Read more…] about A Brain Game to Tease your Frontal Skills
My interest in the brain stems from wanting to better understand both how to make school more palatable for students, and professional development more meaningful for faculty. To that end, I began my Neurons Firing blog in April, 2007, have been doing a lot of reading, and been attending workshops and conferences, including Learning & the Brain.
If you agree that our brains are designed for learning, then as educators it is incumbent upon us to be looking for ways to maximize the learning process for each of our students, as well as for ourselves. Some of what follows is simply common sense, but I’ve learned that all of it has a scientific basis in our brains. [Read more…] about 10 Brain Tips To Teach and Learn — Ideas for New Year Resolutions
(Editor’s Note: What follows is an excerpt from Dr. Robert Sylwester’s new book, A Child’s Brain. The Need for Nurture (2010) Corwin. In this excerpt, Robert Sylwester synthesizes the first 20 years of development and shows how it can be viewed as a “rhythmic four-six-four-six-year developmental sequence”)
Chapter 4: Development and Growth.
The First 20 years.
To simplify a complex phenomenon, we can divide our 20-year developmental trajectory into two periods of approximately 10 years each. The developmental period from birth to about age 10 focuses on learning how to be a human being – learning to move, to communicate, and to master basic social skills. The developmental period from about 11 to 20 focuses on learning how to be a productive reproductive human being – planning for a vocation, exploring emotional commitment and sexuality, and achieving autonomy.
The first four years of each of these two decade-long development periods are characterized by slow awkward beginnings to a six-year normal move toward confidence and competence. For example, crawling leads to toddling leads to walking leads to running and leaping.
We’ve designed our preschool, elementary school, middles school, high school and initial college systems around this rhythmic four-six-four-six-year developmental sequence. We tend to keep small children at home during their first four years to allow them to begin their development in a sheltered family environment without state standards and assessment programs. They learn basic motor skills, how to talk, and how to get along with their families. In essence, they develop a basic understanding of how their sheltered world works.
At about five years, we say, in effect, [Read more…] about Cognitive Development in the first 20 years: A Child’s and Teenager’s Brain
The July/ August 2009 issue of The Journal on Active Aging includes my article Why We Need to Retool “Use It Or Lose It”
“By now you have probably heard about brain plasticity, the lifelong capacity of the brain to change and rewire itself in response to the stimulation of learning and experience. The latest scientific research shows that specific lifestyles and actions can improve the health and level of functioning of our brains, no matter our age.
Of particular importance to maintaining cognitive functioning through life are the hippocampus (deep inside the brain, part of what is called the limbic system), which plays a role in learning and memory; and the frontal lobes (behind your forehead), which are key to maintaining decision-making and autonomy. Is there a way to physically protect these parts of the aging brain? Yes. But the right answer is far from “do one more crossword puzzle” or “do more X” (whatever X is). The key is to add significantly different activities to ensure a flow of novelty, variety and challenge, combining physical and mental exercise while not ignoring factors such as stress management and balanced nutrition.
We need, in other words, to retool our understanding and practice of “Use it or lose it.” We must focus on the importance of getting out of our physical and mental routines and activities to get the benefits of real exercise—physical and mental.”
Continue reading Why We Need to Retool “Use It Or Lose It”
Here you have the presentation I delivered on Tuesday at ETech 2009 (this year’s O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference):
(click to open presentation in new window)
Description: Life hacking. Brain training. They are one and the same. The brain’s frontal lobes enable our goal-oriented behavior, supporting executive functions, such as decision-making, attention, emotional self-regulation, goal-setting, and working memory. These functions can be enhanced with targeted practice such as life hacking. This session will provide an overview of the cognitive neuroscience underpinning life hacking, and review the state-of-the-art of non-invasive tools for brain training: neurofeedback, biofeedback, software applications, cognitive simulations, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, and plain-old meditation.
It was great to meet fellow bloggers and presenters, such as Shelley Batts of Of Two Minds and Chris Patil of Ouroboros, and very inquisite and throughful audience members. Getting ready to speak at ASA/ NCOA and IHRSA next week!
Today we’ll discuss some of the cognitive implications of “always on” workplaces and lifestyles via a fascinating interview with Maggie Jackson, an award-winning author and journalist. Her latest book, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, describes the implications of our busy work and life environments and offers important reflections to help us thrive in them.
This is a 2‑part interview conducted via e‑mail: we will publish the continuation on Thursday March 12th.
Alvaro Fernandez: New York Times columnist David Brooks said last year that we live in a Cognitive Age, and encouraged readers to be aware of this change and try and adapt to the new reality. Can you explain the cognitive demands of today’s workplaces that weren’t there 30–40 years ago?
Maggie Jackson: Our workplaces have changed enormously in recent decades, and it’s easy to point to the Blackberry or the laptop as the sources of our culture of speed and overload and distraction. But it’s important to note first that our 24/7, fragmented work culture has deeper roots. With the first high-tech inventions, such as the cinema, phonograph, telegraph, rail, and car, came radical changes in human experience of time and space. Distance was shattered long before email and red-eye flights. Telegraph operators not online daters experienced the first virtual love affairs, as evidenced by the 1890s novel Wired Love. Now, we wrestle with the effects of changes seeded long ago.
Today, the cognitive and physical demands on workers are steep. Consider 24/7 living. At great cost to our health, we operate in a sleepless, hurried world, ignoring cues of sun and season, the Industrial Age inventions of the weekend and vacation, and the rhythms of biology. We try to break the fetters of time and live like perpetual motion machines. That’s one reason why we feel overloaded and stressed conditions that are corrosive to problem-solving and clear thinking.
At the same time, our technologies allow us access to millions of information bites producing an abundance of data that is both wondrous and dangerous. Unless we have the will, discipline and frameworks for turning this information into wisdom, we remain stuck on the surface of [Read more…] about Distracted in the Workplace? Meet Maggie Jackson’s Book