Last learning tip we talked about how much of an impact our genetic code plays in our learning traits. But that is not the whole story. Environment still plays an important role as our genes work by interacting with our life experiences.
Genes are constantly turning on or off. Some “pop” on due to our genetic plan and others are triggered by life experiences. An example of this would be a person’s genetic code that would lend itself to dependency on alcohol. If that person never takes a drink they will not become an alcoholic but if they do take a drink they could have “unleashed” their genetic tendency for dependence upon alcohol. Same genes, same body, but different experiences lead to much different outcomes.
New experiences such as learning, reading a book, doing some new sports activity, or have a conversation will cause new neural connections to be made in the brain. Research has show, for example, that learning to juggle enlarges the cerebral cortex and that cabbies in London who memorize the various navigational routes showed changes in the memory areas of their brains.
Although we have some control over our genetic destiny there are certain critical times, while the brain is still developing, where these new neural pathways have to be constructed or they will be lost forever. For example, people who take up a second language after they reach the age of puberty may learn to speak it fluently but they will never be able to lose their native accent completely. Another example would be a child who was immobilized in a body cast till age four will learn how to walk but they will never be able to walk without conscious effort.
Well, this short learning tip just barely scratches the surface on this fascinating subject. If you are interested in learning more about this then check out these references for a good starting point;
The Secret Life of the Brain by Richard Restak, MD
Your Child’s Brain by Sharon Begley
In the Palaces of Memory by George Johnson
Emergentiecs by Geil Browning, PhD