Thursday, May 3, 2012

Learning about our plastic, trainable brains

I've only recently become aware of the concept of neuroplasticity, that is, the now scientifically-accepted principle that we can indeed change or train our brains throughout our lives, and target areas of weakness to respond to specific "exercises." Through careful application of various forms of brain training, we can develop, build up, or actually  "change" our brains.
Wow. What an idea....still too soon to see how it may apply precisely to conditions such as dementia, but one person who has been proving that this sort of brain exercise works for people (especially kids) with learning disabilities is educator Barbara Arrowsmith-Young. Barbara was born with profound "learning disabilities"and in her 20's discovered ways to work on her areas of weakness (for example, she could never tell time before she started training her brain to do so).

Barbara Arrowsmith-Young working with students on brain-building exercises that target weak areas of the brain
Now, 30-some years later, Barbara's Arrowsmith Program of exercises targeting 19 cognitive defects in various areas of the brain, is used in more than 30 school settings in North America, including her flagship Arrowsmith School in Toronto.
And the world will hear more about this with the release this month of Barbara's book The Woman Who Changed Her Brain, And Other Inspiring Stories of Pioneering Brain Transformation. I interviewed Barbara about her work and her book for my Not Young Not Old column
(it should be posted there by May 7, 2012) and was fascinated by the work she is doing, and the discoveries she's made along the way. Barbara's vision is for all school children to be assessed in the early years of their schooling, using tests she's developed, so they can get help then and not have to go through years of struggle and low self-esteem the way she did.
Barbara will be at the Fairmount Hotel in Vancouver at 7 p.m. on May 24, 2012 talking about her work and her doubt this will be a thought-provoking evening.

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