Is neuroplasticity the way of the next generation?
In Lara Boyd’s Ted Talk, she stated 2 common myths that we have believed to be true for many of years. One being that after a certain stage in childhood, our brains won’t or can’t develop anymore. The other is that we only use parts of our brain at any given point- and when we think of nothing there is silence within our brain.
Lara Boyd busted the myths by saying, “Every time we learn a new skill, our brains change.” Calling that ability of our brains to change neuroplasticity. Less than 25 years ago, people believed that only negative changes happened to the brain after reaching adulthood. Things like forgetting simple tasks, memory loss, stroke, tumors, etc. that can mentally limit our abilities.
Boyd suggests that there are 3 different ways to support learning at any age.
- Chemical signals between the neurons in the brain that control the speed of our reactions. These chemical signals impact our short term memory, helping us to be able to recall information that was not taken in long ago.
- The neat thing about chemical signals is that they induce physical changes to help encourage increased long term memory storage.
- Altered brain structure changes the connections between the neurons in the brain. The structure of the brain is a series of interconnected networks, that host specific regions in the brain for certain behaviors to increase or decrease chemical signals.
- Altering function makes it easier for you to complete a task the more times that you do an activity. By altering the functions of the brain can create new neurons being fired, creating a happy and “excited” part of the brain.
- Did you know that it takes on average about 10,000 hours to master a new skill?
These 3 ways to support learning all happen synchronously across the brain. They can be isolated in to each specific category, but they most often work together.
So, what limits or facilitates neuroplasticity?
Behavior is the primary drive which affects how we handle neuroplasticity. Behavior is required to relearn old and new motor skills. Patterns of neuroplasticity are highly variable from person to person. YOU have to do the work to see the changes!
The only problem is that neuroplasticity can also be just as negative as it can be positive. The brain is not gaining information or changing its connections because of the things that we don’t do. That’s almost like saying there is no recipe for learning.
Boyd and her team are creating new therapies based off of this theory, creating innovative technology, including biomarkers. Biomarkers are helpful to match the appropriate therapies to patient, because behaviors we have every day are important changes to our brain.
Which is why Boyd brought up the idea of implementing this same approach to educational systems. Can we create a “neuro-plastic” way of learning? Would using specific styles catered to each student change the outcomes of society’s outlook on education? Lara Boyd suggests that we should study how and what we learn best? Are YOU doing that?
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