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Brain Plasticity

“So, how do we learn? And, why do some of us learn things more easily than others?” These are two questions that Lara Boyd asks at the beginning of her TEDx Talk (Boyd, 12/15/2015). Her answers are based on her knowledge of brain plasticity and other aspects of cognitive neuroscience. Dr. Boyd holds the University of British Columbia’s Canada Research Chair in Neurobiology and Motor Learning.

Quoting from the website:

Dr. Boyd’s efforts are leading to the development of novel, and more effective, therapeutics for individuals with brain damage, but they are also shedding light on broader applications. By learning new concepts, taking advantage of opportunities, and participating in new activities, you are physically changing who you are, and opening up a world of endless possibility.

In her presentation, Boyd draws a parallel between the individualization of treatment needed in helping people who have had brain strokes, and the individualization of how students’ brains learn. Here are a few tidbits from her highly informative presentation.

  • “What we know about the brain is changing at a breath-taking pace.” This statement is followed by a discussion of a number of misconceptions that we have had in the past. Our entire brains are active 24 hours a day. This activity changes the brain, and these changes are ongong examples of neuroplasticity.
  • Reorganization in the brain is occurring all the time and at all ages.
  • Your brain can change in three basic ways:

1.   Chemical. This happens rapidly and is the basis for short-term memory and short-term improvement in a motor skill.

2.   Physical structure, such as connections between neurons. This type of change typically requires considerable study and practice on a topic. These changes are related to long-term memory.

3.   Functionality of a brain region. For example, a region becomes more excitable and sensitive to incoming signals.

As a learner and/or teacher, it is helpful to understand these three different aspects of how learning produces brain changes.

In the remainder of her presentation, Boyd focuses on strokes—the leading cause of disability in the world. She emphasizes that our current knowledge of treatment indicates that highly individualized treatment and rehabilitation programs are necessary. She argues that there is a strong parallel between this type of learning needed for recovery from a stroke and the need for individualization in all types of learning. (In school, one size does not fit all.)

Final Remarks

Progress in cognitive neuroscience is not the “be all, end all” to improving education. However, it is building a foundation of theory and practice that can help to significantly improve the teaching and learning processes. I strongly believe that all preservice and inservice teachers, and all parents raising children, can benefit by viewing Lara Boyd’s TEDx talk.

And, of course, I want to remind you of my free book, Brain Science for Educators and Parents (Moursund, 2015). Among other things, it contains links to about 50 free videos that I believe will help you to gain an increased understanding of your own brain, as well as the brains of your students and other people you help teach.

What You Can Do

Every person is both a lifelong learner and a lifelong teacher. Computers (including artificial intelligence), cognitive neuroscience, and genetics are very major change agents in both learning and teaching. Each of us can personally benefit by an increased level of knowledge and skill in these areas. Introspect on how well you are personally doing, both for yourself and for those you teach!

References and Resources

Boyd, L. (12/15/2015). After watching this, your brain will not be the same. TEDx Talks. (Video, 14:24.) Retrieved 7/16/2016 from

Moursund, D. (2016). What the future is bringing us. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 7/16/2016 from

Moursund, D. (7/15/2016). A personal philosophy of education. IAE Blog. Retrieved 7/16/2016 from

Moursund, d. (6/22/2016). Improving brain health. IAE Blog. Retrieved 7/16/2016 from

Moursund, D. (4/27/2016). IQ testing. IAE Blog. Retrieved 7/16/2016 from

Moursund, D. (4/16/2016). What you (and others) can do. IAE Blog. Retrieved 4/16/2016 from

Moursund, 2015). Brain science for educators and parents. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Web: Microsoft Word: PDF:

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A Personal Philosophy of Education


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Friday, 24 September 2021

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