One of the great unknowns and certainly one of the remaining frontiers still pending for discovery is something very close to us and that is our brain. We now know that we use very little of its capacity and most of this vital organ is still undiscovered territory.
How does the brain work? It all depends on who you ask. A neuroscientist will say something very different from a biologist, a psychiatrist or a geneticist. Fortunately, we have learnt more about our brains in the last 40 years than in the last 2000.
The brain is not only a physical entity. Gone are the days when we believed that specific areas were responsible for particular parts of the body, emotions or thoughts. We have discovered that if one part of the brain is damaged, it is often possible for other parts to take over the functions it was previously performing.
A lot of what we believed in the past has since been disproved and we have realised that what we now know is only part of the overall picture. Even when scientists affirm that we “know” something, we are still a long way from how this might affect our thinking and learning.
However, what we already know, is beginning to have repercussions on how we learn. There are 100 billion neurons in our brain which are constantly interacting with each other. If an electrical impulse of information crosses the synaptic gap between one neuron and another, a learning pathway is established. If we use this pathway frequently, the stronger it becomes and so learning is consolidated. The more pathways we have connecting a piece of information to other things we know, the more ways we have of remembering it we have available.
Luckily, the brain goes on producing new cells until the end of our days, though it may slow down later in life. The most important thing is that our brains can carry on making new connections and to do this we need to use it or we gradually lose this capacity. Actively using the brain is the best way to slow down the reduction in brain power.
Most of what influences this capacity to operate effectively depends on what we eat, the environment, how we breathe, how we feel and physical activity and, consequently it affects the way we learn and relate to life in general.
How we can stimulate the functioning of our brain and effectuate better learning, we will look into in future articles.
Happy English learning!!