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Challenging the Common Conception of Neuroplasticity

Re: Scientific American, November 21, 2023 – The Brain Isn’t as Adapatable as Some Neuroscientists Claim.

This important piece makes the case that our generally accepted conception of “neuroplasticity” is misleading. It traces the history of neuroplasticity and includes the pioneering work of Dr. Michael Merzenich (one of our favorite Children of the Code Interviews).  The main point of the article is its argument that the true mechanism of neuroplasticity is not the kind of dramatic reorganization often associated with neuroplasticity, but learning.

From the article:

“This learning process is a testament to the brain’s remarkable but constrained capacity for plasticity. It’s a slow, incremental journey that demands persistent effort and practice. Far from being a realm of magical transformations, the path to neuroplasticity is one of dedication, resilience and gradual progress.”

This perfectly aligns with our previous post on neuroplasticity:

Neuroplasticity describes the changeability of the brain’s neuro-cellular materiality. It asserts that neural connections, like plastic, are not immutable; under the right conditions, they can be reformed and repurposed.  But, this is where the term can mislead us. Plastic has no agency. It’s inert. Change happens to it. There is no being. No participation.

Unlike plastic which has a lifeless material response to what happens to it, living brains respond to what happens to them by adapting (learning); mostly according to how they have adapted (learned).

Rather than emphasizing the plastic-ness of cellular biophysics, it would be helpful if our popular perception of the term Neuroplasticity, instead, conveyed the opportunity for agency implied in its openness to change – its openness to being changed by learning.

More “Other Words for Learning

Like molding plastic?

And how I described neuroplasticity for the PBS show “The New Science of Learning”:

And this presentation, Dr. Michael Merzenich asked me to give, at a gathering of neuroscientists at the Jonas Salk Institute’s “New Science of Education” conference:

#iamlearned #nothingtrumpslearning #everythingdependsonlearning

Redefining Learning

Learning Character

Learning to Choose

Learning to be Human

Stewarding Learning:

Stewarding Learning:

Lifetime Learning

Unhealthy Learning

Learning Together

I AM Learning

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