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Dissecting the human brain to find out how it learns

Dissecting the Human Brain to Find Out How it Learns


When you were asked to dissect a frog in science class how did you feel? You may have felt a little hesitant even a little cruel as you tore it limb from limb to see what was inside of it. But in the end you ended up learning and those memories are still strong

and with you, even today. However, many other things that you learned in school have long been forgotten. For example, if you had to have a high school test today what grade level do you think you would be at? Probably, suffice to say, it would be a lot lower than you think!

Yes, there is something very wrong with our schools today. What is the problem? The problem is the failure of educators to dissect or look into the inner-workings of the brain to see how the brain learns. To solve this problem, I have put together an article, which explains how the brain learns.

The Developing Brain

When a baby comes into the world her brain is a jumble of neurons, all waiting to be woven into the intricate tapestry of the mind. Some of the neurons have already been hard-wired, by the genes in the fertilized egg, into circuits that command breathing or control heartbeat, regulate body temperature or produce reflexes. But trillions upon trillions more are like the Pentium chips in a computer before the factory preloads the software. They are pure and of almost infinite potential, unprogrammed circuits that might one-day compose rap songs and do calculus, erupt in fury and melt in ecstasy. If the neurons are used, they become integrated into the circuitry of the brain by connecting to other neurons; if they are not used they may die.

The traditional view was that the wiring diagram is predetermined, like one for a new house, by the genes in the fertilized egg. Unfortunately, even though half the genes –

50,000 – are involved in the central nervous system in some way, there are not enough of them to specify the brain’s incomparably complex wiring. That leaves another possibility: genes might determine only the brain’s main circuits, with something else shaping the trillions of finer connections. That something else is the environment, the myriad of messages that the brain receives from the outside world.

Yes, it is the experiences of childhood, determining which neurons are used, that wire the circuits of the brain as surely as a programmer at a keyboard reconfigures the circuits in a computer. Which keys are typed – which experiences a child has – determines whether the child grows up to be intelligent or dull, fearful or self-assured, articulate or tongue-tied. In fact, “early experiences are so powerful,” says pediatric neurobiologist Harry Chugani of Wayne State University, that “they can completely change the way a person turns out.”

According to the emerging paradigm [model], “there are two broad stages of brain wiring,” says developmental neurobiologist Carla Shatz of the University of California, Berkeley: “an early period, when experience is not required, and a later one, when it is.”

How does experience wire a child’s brain during the formative years? Babies are born with 100 billion cells, called neurons. Throughout a child’s formative years, trillions of connections called synapses, form between the cells, acting as bridges and establishing the brain’s circuitry – the architecture that allows a person to see, feel, move, and process information. A brain with more, higher-quality synapses can process information more quickly, and with less energy, than a brain with fewer, less relevant synapses.

What creates these crucial synapses? Pure and simple, it’s stimulation: light, color, and sound. In day-to-day terms, that means the kiss you plant on your baby’s toes, the clay a toddler molds into funny shapes, the tone of voice you use to comfort or correct, the sights and scents of a new place – all send synapses crackling in every direction. Without the right stimulation, key synapses don’t form. And if such connections, once formed, are used too seldom to be strengthened and reinforced – the brain, figuring they’re dead weight, eventually “prunes” them away for the sake of efficiency. Research has revealed that unused mental powers fade away. Thus the brain, like a muscle, is strengthened by use and weakened by disuse.

Written by David Slade author of Mandarin English XL at

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