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One of the 5 Greatest Discoveries in Neuroscience History is Being Largely Ignored



A teacher came up to me at a recent conference. She was glowing about how much she’s been learning about the brain. Naturally, I was happy for her. I asked her what she was most excited about. She said, “Well…just that the brain can change and grow… and it’s got all those dendrites, axons and synapses!

I smiled because I remember the same excitement when I first got excited about the brain. I wanted so badly (as did the teacher) to be able to label the new learning. Labeling things (e.g. new vocabulary) gives us a way to store the terms in our brain by category, function or word part. Labels are important to our learning.

Unfortunately, the excited teacher didn’t seem to get exposure to the most important part of the new learning experience: the relevant properties of the label. The properties are such a critical feature of learning, that the labels are nearly irrelevant without them.

What does this have to do with one of the 5 greatest discoveries in neuroscience?

Without any doubt, one of the top five discoveries, in the history of mind/brain science is neurogenesis. This discovery (Eriksson, et al.,1998) showed that humans can and do produce brand new brain cells, even as we are elderly and dying of cancer. As of this writing, we know that they are being produced in at least three areas of the brain, including the hippocampus. This discovery overturned over 100 years of scientific dogma. It also forced us to modify our outdated paradigm of how our brain works. It is, in fact, far more malleable than we earlier thought.

But that’s not the main point…

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Teaching High Poverty Kids Using A High Impact Curriculum

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Kids from poverty do not need a “dumbed down” curriculum.

These are the three “As” that matter” most: arts, AP (advanced placement curriculum) and activity (P.E., recess, sports).

Before these kids even get to school, they have been subjected to years of “doing without.” Poor children are half as likely to be taken to museums, theaters, or to the library and are less likely to go on culturally enriching outings. Low-income children have fewer or smaller designated play areas in the home and spend more time watching television and less time exercising than non-poor children.

Financial limitations of parents also often exclude low-income kids from healthy after-school activities such as music, athletics, dance or drama. In addition, kids from poverty are more prone to depression.

This is critical information for educators because school sports, recess and physical activity all reduce the likelihood of depression in kids via increasing neurogenesis. In fact, part of depression is the inability to recognize novelty, which makes them disinterested in class and harder to teach.

Boosting neurogenesis is the ultimate low-budget anti-depressant… Read more