Neuroplasticity's Possibilities

Lara Boyd’s TEDx talk, seen here on the left, is an invitation to adventure. It’s a doorway into what could – for those brave enough – turn our experiential learning processes into phantasmagorical journeys, undertakings akin to Dorothy’s adventures in Oz or Alice’s experiences in Wonderland. Why? Because, in fourteen short minutes, Dr. Boyd manages to present a persuasive case for the proposition that much of what we’ve all thought we knew about our brains, about how we learn, and consequently about who we each are, turns out not to be true. In each of these three areas, Dr. Boyd says, what we know about these issues is changing at a “breathtaking pace.”
Take the brain. For more than two centuries the best scientists have assumed that, after childhood, our brains were fully formed and really did not, could not change. It turns out nothing could be further from the truth.
Or, take learning. Since Socrates, the best educators have always assumed that learning is all about the acquisition of new facts and figures. Learning involves the absorption of new knowledge. Again, nothing could be further from the truth.
Finally, take our identity, our sense of who we are. Since forever, the best philosophers, scientists, and educators have all assumed that our identities are singular, atomistic, solitary.  Like our brains, our personal identity after adolescence is stable and unchangeable. As Popeye so famously says, I yam what I yam. Again, nothing could be further from the truth.
Dr. Boyd’s paradigm-busting insights come from her investigations into our brains’ neurophysiology, if you will, from the functioning of our nervous systems. It’s this work that's shown her how and why the structure and function of our brains aren’t fixed, why real learning isn’t actually about the absorption of “new knowledge,” and how, like our brains, our identities are not fixed and unchangeable. Popeye’s mantra shouldn’t be I yam what I yam. Rather, given the new insights and ideas Lara's neuroplasticity research is bringing us, Popeye ought to be saying,  I yam what I yam wanting to be.
At this point, you're probably asking yourself, “Well, what do you want me to do with all this?” Three possibilities come to mind:

  • Our first suggestion would be for you to listen to Dr. Boyd’s talk. More than once, in fact. The adventurous, paradigm-busting meaning of Dr. Boyd’s talk creeps up on you, a little bit at a time. Let the implications of this talk sneak up on you.
  • Our second suggestion would see you spending time talking with a good friend, trying to make some personal sense out of Dr. Boyd’s idea that, in the very near future, all effective adult learning programs will be immersing you in three separate, very explicit neurobiological activities:
    • Changing the nature of the chemical signals that are moving between the neurons in your brain.
    • Catalyzing new neuronal connections found in your short-term memory's key neurological networks.
    • Reorganizing the structure and function of chemical and electrical activity going on in specific regions of your brain.
  • Our third suggestion? If any of this interests you, contact us. We’re putting together a small group of like-minded thought partners who want to begin exploring what and how this new science of neuroplasticity can help us. Let us know what you’re thinking.