The Learning Brain

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This post is motivated by two incidents – one a newspaper reporter who wanted me to give her an interview on the pressure on children during examinations and how to reduce it. Since I have avoided Newspaper interviews because of paid news and distortion of facts I refused to share information and also felt it was unfair to put children in unhealthy environments constantly in the name of education and then expect to give them “coping strategies” instead of fighting for educational reform. The second, a call from a mother who deprives her child of outdoor play in spite of a detailed evaluation a few years back where I explained to her that the child was a kinaesthetic learner who needed movement and activity to help develop his learning and regulate his emotions. The call requested for an appointment to help her reduce his “arrogant behaviour” in the absence of outdoor play. I requested her to allow play before artificially trying to control behaviour.
The brain is wired for learning, higher order thinking and emotional regulation through play, multisensory experiences and through an interaction with the physical environment. In the absence of these essential experiences the brain undergoes stress like states which reduces effective wiring and this impacts learning.
A simple set of truths in understanding the way the brain works when it has adequate rest in the form of sleep and relaxing activities and a rich set of self driven multisensory, play based, hands on experiences :
1. Neuro-stimulation : when rest and healthy activities are given, the brain becomes capable of neuro-stimulation where it creates effective circuits for new learning and pruning circuits that are no longer needed.
2. Neuro-modulation: this is the way in which the brain heals itself and balances excitation and inhibition to sensory inputs. When we have the balance of rest and activities this modulation is seen as calm, composed behaviour and often leads to healthy creativity, humour and innovation.
3. Neuro-relaxation : Neuro-relaxation is when the “flight or fright” response turned on by stressors is calmed down and the glial cells of the brain remove the toxins created by the stress and cleanse the brain of its many toxins and improve its normal functioning.
4. Neuro-differentiation and Learning: When the three processes mentioned above happen, the brain becomes capable of making fine distinctions in its experiences and leads to true learning, assimilation and application,

As parents and teachers, I urge you to please understand that outdated behaviour modification techniques or of threats and rewards no longer hold good when it comes to understanding learning and behaviour in the light of neuroscience related evidence that has been emerging.

Unless we allow technology free, play based, hands on, multisensory experiences balanced with sleep and relaxation the brain becomes incapable of healthy learning and emotional regulation that show up as academic drops, strained relationships, repetitive behaviour patterns, and addictions.

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