I attended a whole seminar at St. Luke’s Hospital in Quezon City about the brain and learning.
Yeah. Brain. As in that thing in between your ears.
I had two achievements there:
- a) I was awake throughout the seminar, which is saying something.
- b) I learned a lot during the sessions about learning.
I’m not saying that the speakers were boring. Anyone who knows me really well can attest that I can sleep in anything and through anything. Name it! Jeepneys, check. Buses, check. FX, check. Noisy crowded classroom, check. MRT-rush-hour-packed, check. Motorcycle going up a mountain, check. Dirty mountain trail, check. Most intense and interesting class ever, check.
I fall asleep and I don’t know why.
So if you were a speaker there or any other seminar I attended and happened to read this, no you are not boring. It’s just me. I sleep easy.
Owe it to my over active imagination I guess. I was able to associate everything the speakers said to a lot of things. (see what I did there?)
I learned a lot in a seminar about learning. Here’s one of them.
The brain is composed of neurons. They are actually the brain cells.
A single neuron is interconnected to a hundred thousand others and they communicate a lot.
These neurons are transmitters that fire back and forth signals to other neurons. This repeated communication between neurons strengthen the connections between them.
Messages that travel the same pathway in the brain over and over begin to transmit faster and faster. As this continues, the transmissions become automatic over time.
The more you try or practice a certain skill or activity, the more it is ingrained into your system. It slowly becomes a part of you.
Once you try something new, these neurons develop new connections.
On the other hand, once you stop an action or rarely do an activity, the neuron’s transmissions become weaker. The communication from neuron to neuron weakens the connections between them. As time progresses the connections eventually die. This is called pruning.
No wonder you cannot do the things you stopped doing when you were little like dancing and ballet. It just isn’t part of your system anymore. The brain adapts to a changing environment and discards those that are not used anymore.
Use it or lose it.
I introduced myself to a lady once on my way to work.
I don’t normally introduce myself. On most occasions, my ears are covered whenever I travel. (Even there’s no music on my player.) I shun away social contact with strangers on the road whenever possible.
I think today was different.
I went up to her and said Hi. She said Hi back.
I said my name and told her she looked familiar. She said her name. She wanted to know when we first met.
Then the train came.
She was in a hurry said good bye and left. I was also late. So I said goodbye.
We parted ways.
I smiled. She forgot.
She forgot that we used to ride in the same school service back in grade school. We fought off upperclassmen bullies with other classmates who were in the same service. We used to talk about her crushes. She teased me with mine. We were basically friends back then but she had to leave elsewhere. In an age when cellphones or even the internet were non-existent, a friend leaving your neighborhood or school is as good as gone. It’s a permanent goodbye.
There are others. Those kids you used to play with in your neighborhood. That classmate you were friends with in kindergarten or grade school. The older kid who used to bully you in the school service. The list goes on.
Most of them are still your friends. But they are different people now. Your connections may still be there via social network but the way you knew them has changed a lot.
Less communication weakens the connections. Eventually the connections die out.
Use it or lose it!
I told you I learned a lot.