In Norman Doidge, M.D.’s New York Times bestseller, “The Brain That Changes Itself,” he shows us the most important breakthrough in neuroscience in four centuries; that in the new science of neuroplasticity, our thoughts and mental exercises can change the structure and function of our brains. Many entrepreneurs and artists are diagnosed with ADD as adults and neuroplasticity may hold the solutions that many creative people are looking for.
Dr. Norman Doidge states this about neuroplasticity from his book:
We all have some weak brain functions, and such neuroplasticity-based techniques have great potential to help almost everyone. Our weak spots can have a profound effect on our professional success, since most careers require the use of multiple brain functions. Barbara used brain exercises to rescue a talented artist who had a first-rate drawing ability and sense of color but a weak ability to recognize the shape of objects. pg 40
Applicants to the Arrowsmith School – children and adults alike- undergo up to forty hours of assessments, designed to determine precisely which brain functions are weak and whether they might be helped. Accepted students, many of whom were distracted in regular schools, sit quietly working at their computers. Some, diagnosed with attention-deficit as well as learning disorders, were on Ritalin when they entered the school. As their exercises progress, some can come off medication, because their attention problems are secondary to their underlying disorders. pg 37
The Arrowsmith approach, and the use of brain exercises generally, has major implications for education. Clearly many children would benefit from a brain-area-based assessment to identify their weakened functions and a program to strengthen them – a far more productive approach than tutoring that simply repeats a lesson and leads to endless frustration.
The irony of this new discovery is that for hundreds of years educators did seem to sense that children’s brains had to be built up through exercises of increasing difficulty that strengthened brain functions. Up through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a classical education often included rote memorization of long poems in foreign languages, which strengthened the auditory memory (hence thinking in language) and an almost fanatical attention to handwriting, which probably strengthened motor capacities and thus not only helped handwriting but added speed and fluency to reading and speaking. Often a great deal of attention was paid to exact elocution and to perfecting the pronunciation of words. Then in the 1960s educators dropped such traditional exercises from the curriculum because they were too rigid, boring, and “not relevant.” But the loss of these drills has been costly; they may have been the only opportunity that many students had to systematically exercise the brain function that gives us fluency and grace with symbols. pg 41-42