Building New Neural Pathways

Building New Neural Pathways

Lumosity is an online brain training program designed to improve cognitive functions.

I found their information on neuroplasticity interesting, as well as their report of the results of a brain scan study carried out in year 2000 on London’s taxi drivers. I actually remember taking a black cab to Heathrow airport one evening many years ago and the driver was incensed by a nearby minicab picking up a customer.

He explained that black cab drivers such as himself had to undergo a rigorous examination in order to acquire a license. They had to know all of the streets, hotels and restaurants in the city by heart. No checking maps or even GPS services. The minicabs, however, didn’t have any of that preparation and they were “stealing” their clients with lower rates. There are even warnings about taking minicabs on the UK government transportation site for London. 

Minicabs

Minicab driver's licence

After a night out it’s tempting to jump in the first ‘minicab’ you see, but without a booking there’s no record of your journey or driver, and you could be putting yourself in danger. Follow these steps for the safest way to get a minicab.

Below you can read about the findings of those brain scan studies and neuroplasticity.  It reminds me of why it is so important to subscribe to tutoring methods that have been scientifically proven to be effective for teaching children with dyslexia. Do not risk your time or money on methods or programs that have not been validated by the scientific community. There is evidence that suggests that the brain’s abilities are in fact malleable and plastic. And that is too important an opportunity to ignore for the future of your child or yourself. 

 

 

Neuroplasticity: how the brain is capable of change

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Scientists have historically believed that once a person reaches adulthood, their cognitive abilities are immutable. But beginning in the early twentieth century, that theory has been contested by evidence suggesting that the brain’s abilities are in fact malleable and plastic. According to this principle of neuroplasticity, the brain is constantly changing in response to various experiences. New behaviors, new learnings, and even environmental changes or physical injuries may all stimulate the brain to create new neural pathways or reorganize existing ones, fundamentally altering how information is processed.

Mapping changes in taxi drivers’ brains

One of the most dramatic examples of neuroplasticity at work comes from a 2000 brain scan study on London taxi drivers (Maguire et al., 2000). In order to earn a license, London taxi drivers typically spend about two years learning to navigate the city’s serpentine streets. What mark, the study’s researchers wondered, did this long, rigorous period of training leave on taxi drivers’ brains?

Under the scrutiny of fMRI scans, 16 male taxi drivers were revealed to have larger hippocampuses than a control group of 50 healthy males. And the longer the time spent as a taxi driver, the larger the hippocampus tended to be. As a brain area involved in memory and navigation, the hippocampus seemed to have changed in response to the taxi drivers’ experiences.

Most instances of neuroplasticity-based changes in the brain are much more subtle. But in recent decades, it’s cases like that of the London taxi drivers that have inspired members of the scientific community to pursue the next logical step in research: rather than passively waiting to see how the brain might respond to circumstances, is it possible to direct that capacity for change, targeting improvements in specific abilities?

The science of cognitive training

The science of cognitive training seeks to answer this question. In 2013 alone, 30 cognitive training studies were registered on the government database ClinicalTrials.gov. Lumosity scientists, with the help of outside collaborators, contribute to this research effort: so far, 7 peer reviewed studies have been published using Lumosity as a cognitive training tool for diverse populations, including healthy adults, cancer survivors, elderly people, and children with a genetic disorder.

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