April 21, 2008

How the brain rewires itself during learning

Some time ago I mentioned JOHN MEDINA's website about his book Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. I now have the book and I am reading it. It is quite as interesting as I thought it would be. One example of an interesting thing Medina writes about is the following. As readers of this website will know, I am fascinated by Carol Dweck's concept of the GROWTH MINDSET. In the interview I did with her she mentioned in general terms that when people learn new connections form in their brains. I was curious about what John Medina would write about this process. On pages p56 and 57 he writes about this topic. The way in which Medina describes the work by one of the important scientists in this field, Eric Kandel, provides a lively picture of what Carol Dweck means:
"Kandel showed that when people learn something, the wiring in their brains changes. He demonstrated that acquiring even simple pieces of information involves the physical alteration of the structure of the neurons participating in the process. ...[t]he brain is constantly rewiring itself. ... As neurons learn they swell, sway, and split. They break connections in one spot, glide over to a nearby region, and form connections with their new neighbours. Many stay put, simply strengthening their electrical connections with each other, increasing the efficiency of information transfer. You can get a headache just thinking about the fact that deep inside your brain, at this very moment, bits of neurons are moving around like reptiles, slithering to new spots, getting fat at one end or creating split ends."

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