Building on a theme I have going on brain development, I wanted to explore rule 3 of the book “Brain Rules” written by John Medina. You might recall my previous two posts on this, Move Your Body, Move Your Mind, and Writing to Survive. Well today, we’re looking at “wiring.” While we might think generally that men and women are wired differently, for example, fact is, all of us are wired differently.
To understand how we’re all wired differently, we first have to look at the cells that compose our bodies. Billions of cells, that are all acting independently from our thought processes. Thank goodness. Our minds are jumbled enough without us having to consciously think and direct the activities of all of the complex and differentiated cells in our bodies. Can you imagine having to think about absolutely every body function at the microscopic cellular level. Not to mention the macro-level of organ function. Come on, breathe body breathe, beat you silly heart . . .
And each of our cells become specialized when the 6 feet of DNA in each cell is folded in a particular way to fit in the microns-sized nucleus. For perspective, this has been compared to taking 30 miles of fishing line and cramming it inside an object the size of a blueberry.
While we could talk for days about all of the differentiated cells in our bodies and all of their unique functions, since we are looking at our brains, let’s talk neurons. These are, of course, the tiny structures firing off electrical charges like lightning bolts at 250 miles per hour and causing chemical neurotransmitters to be released that bridge the gaps between neurons called synapses and carry that signal forward somewhere into our gray matter where we interpret it. We are basically electro-chemical machines.
That always makes me wonder how all of the electronic pollution we are dumping into the airways affects us. Maybe that’s how we end up with mass shooters, who knows?
Turns out that as we learn, the neurons are shifting and solidifying pathways for communication to each other. We can relearn things too and reshape our neural wiring. That’s called neuroplasticity. What we do and experience actually physically changes our brains. And the more activity we make our brains perform, the larger and more complex they can become.
The author identifies three types of brain wiring:
Experience Independent wiring = controlling breathing, heart rate, proprioceptive sensations, etc.;
Experience Expectant wiring = things like visual acuity and language acquisition; and
Experience-Dependent wiring = hard-wired not be hard-wired = flexible, sensitive to external inputs and thus cultural programing.
The latter two forms of wiring explain how we are acculturated or assimilated into any particular culture or social structure. We must beware of our programming. Especially that programming that starts in early childhood. We should continually question everything and rewire our brains as needed 😊
No two brains are alike, not even identical twins, because every brain experiences the same phenomena differently creating different memories and the resulting changes in the physical structure to the brain. This is why neurosurgeons have to do brain mapping on each and every one of their patients before slicing and dicing. They can’t know ahead of time which precise areas of the brain are tied to which functions because each person is unique.
It also turns out that the brains of wild animals are 15 to 30 percent larger than their tame domestic counterparts. So, it would seem that living in the wild requires constant learning and adapting. A different intelligence, perhaps, is required for survival.
That might make one wonder if we become less intelligent the more we become domesticated and sedentary??? Or perhaps we’re just more specialized. This makes the concept of intelligence a bit more nuanced, which leads researchers to hypothesize about different types of intelligence – verbal, musical, logical, spatial, bodily, interpersonal and intrapersonal. Such brain differences can be detected when comparing brains of say musicians to athletes.
Since all of our brains develop at different rates and develop completely differently because we all experience things differently, wiring can predict performance. And education systems, with one set of standards fits all, end up mismatching performance expectations to linear age.
The implications are that smaller class size and individual attention results in, not only improved learning but, more equalized learning. Teachers with smaller numbers of students can make use of the Theory of Mind I brought up in my last posting on the brain. They can assess their individual students and gear instruction to improve individual performance. I guess we have an argument to support home schooling here.
Where does all of this brain talk lead to today? Well, if we are all wired differently, and if no one experiences any singular event in the same way, then are the images any of us try to convey with words the ones the reader or hearer receives? Or do each of us have a completely different experience filled with visions, tastes, touches, smells that the storyteller never imagined?
I’ve always said communication is difficult even on a good day.
Intriguing, isn’t it? Keep on firing neurons !
Photo: Not only are lightning bolts demonstrative of the way neurons work, they are actually similar in structure. I imagine a giant electrical storm going on in our minds constantly 🙂