“The Woman Who Changed Her Brain – and other inspiring stories of pioneering brain transformation”, (by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young) which made her more understanding of the world she lives in altogether as well as more insightful and wise. (I take this opportunity to thank my friend, Wanda, who was so nice and inspired 🙂 to lend me the book. Thank you, Wanda! No, I am not done with it yet, I am only half way through it.) The book is a wonderful resource for everyone interested in how the brain works, how it can go wrong and what (if anything) can be done about it.
A few main ideas I grasped from the book:
- Neurons that fire apart, wire apart – this principle of neuroplasticity in action can be expressed also as ‘neurons that fire together, wire together’.
- BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) – ‘brain fertilizer’ – is typically low in brains of those with schizophrenia. But sustained brain stimulation (brain exercise) increases BDNF levels to normal (further evidence of neuroplastic change).
- More glial cells play an important role in neurotransmission at the level of the synapse by helping to establish and maintain synapses.
- Larger capillaries enable greater blood flow to the brain.
- Increased gray matter means more glial cells and dendrites.
- Differential brain stimulation leads to differential effects: a blindfold rat put in a tactile environment will change the part of the brain related to touch. When stimulation is more demanding on one particular region of the cortex, improvement will happen in the targeted area of the brain.
- Hippocampus is a brain area related to spatial navigation.
- Arrowsmith approach to cognitive exercise is that they aim to forge new neural pathways in the brain so at a later time one particular concept makes sense. (e.g. mathematics & numbers).
- The neurons in the juncture in the brain that includes the angular gyrus are multimodal – processing different kinds of stimuli (auditory, visual, and/or tactile) simultaneously.
- “The question children ask, starting around age three is “Why?”. This marks the beginning of an age of discovery as the child quests to understand the world. When the answers cannot be understood, the world is confusing and overwhelming.”
- 2 out of 4 categories of attentional problems can be addressed by the Arrowsmith Program (3 and 4):
- 1. Attentional difficulties due to emotional factors.
- 2. Subcortical problems (regions of the brain below the cortex involved in regulation states of arousal and attention).
- 3. Cognitive deficits that make it hard to sustain attention when the task at hand requires these areas to function well.
- 4. A weakness in either the left or right prefrontal cortex featuring sustained attention to task, a deficit that will naturally result in attentional problems.
- As these cognitive areas are addressed students are able to sustain focus naturally, making learning no longer an issue as brain’s ability to regulate attention is enhanced.
- The PFC (the anterior part of the frontal lobe, in front of the motor and premotor areas) has been characterised as the “executive” of the brain, carrying out “executive functions” necessary for planning, decision making, evaluating behaviour in terms of goals, supressing impulses, sustaining attention, inhibiting inappropriate responses, evaluating behaviour in terms of past actions and future consequences, and delaying immediate gratification for more long-term reward.
“The Woman Who Changed Her Brain – and other inspiring stories of pioneering brain transformation” by BARBARA ARROWSMITH-YOUNG