Posts Tagged ‘children’

Norman Doidge – Building A Better Brain

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Barbara Arrowsmith Young

I found Chapter 2 of Doidge’s book particularly poignant. In ‘Building Herself A Better Brain’ Doidge describes the life of Barbara Arrowsmith Young, who, despite her particularly strong visual and auditory memory, suffered huge deficits in certain brain functions as a child and young woman. She couldn’t process even fairly simple relational concepts without extraordinary effort, making quantitative work extremely challenging.

Anyone familiar with the diagnosis of learning disabilities will recognize the sense of demoralization that accompanies the label. Barbara’s case was an extreme example.

When a child or young adult is diagnosed with a learning disability, he or she is typically provided with a diagnosis that allows them or recommends for them some compensations in their studies — extra time on tests for instance. These compensations favor the stronger aspects of their mental capacities and give leeway to the weaker.

By a winding path at 28 Barbara Arrowsmith Young came across the work of Mark Rosenzweig of the University of Berkeley. Rosenzweig had compared the brains of rats raised in stimulating and non-stimulating environments and found that those raised with stimulation had formed far more neurotransmitters and were bigger and healthier. This gave Barbara the idea that she might help herself by working the weaker areas of her brain rather than allowing for them.

Norman Doidge: The Brain That Changes Itself

Norman Doidge: The Brain That Changes Itself

With countless hours of arduous self-designed training Barbara eventually trained and strengthened her brain to perform more effectively, countering her deficits until they disappeared. She co-founded the Arrowsmith School in Toronto, helping children with learning disabilities to reverse those disabilities with appropriate training.

This is how Doidge sums up the lesson of Barbara’s case:

“Clearly many children would benefit from a brain-area-based assessment to identify their weakened functions and a program to strengthen them–a far more productive approach than tuturing that simply repeats a lesson and leads to endless frustration.”

Hear, hear.

Related Post:

Rewiring the brain In the first chapter of Doidge’s book he describes research and rehabilitation that shows how adaptible the brain is when “rewired”

Scottish Study: Computer games boost maths scores

Saturday, September 27th, 2008
Scottish Schoolchildren Brain Training

Scottish Schoolchildren Brain Training

Collaborating with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education and the University of Dundee, Teaching and Learning Scotland measured the effects of using the Nintendo Brain Age game for twenty minutes per day over a ten week period. In comparison to a control group the students improved scores on a post test by more than 50%.

With 32 schools and 600 children, this study confirmed the findings of an earlier smaller study in Dundee.

More evidence of plasticity and the value of brain training.

Working memory and academic success

Monday, September 8th, 2008
Lynn Carahaly

Lynn Carahaly

On Friday I introduced my 15-year old daughter Dorothy to training with Brain Fitness Pro. As Dot notes in her blog post she struggles with tests and with quantitative concepts. We’re both hoping that by strengthening her working-memory she’ll have a more successful time at school. This morning I saw a post from Lynn Carahaly (ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist for The Alcott Center for Cognitive Enhancement, LLC) talking about the critical role of working-memory for academic success.

Lynn gives a clear compelling perspective of someone in the field of learning skills:

“A limited working memory capacity often results in the loss of crucial information when trying to follow instructions. If information is not stored properly, or at all, a child cannot retrieve this information for future tasks or build upon prior information for learning. Children with working memory deficits demonstrate difficulty remembering information from one lesson to the next.”

She also refers to a study by researchers from the University of York who found that working memory capacity for children as young as four years old is a predictor of academic success.

All of which confirms and strengthens my conviction that effectively using neuroplasticity to our advantage will be a significant development in the world of learning and education.