About the brain

Some quotes from a little light reading over the holidays, a book entitled, "The Brain that Changes Itself" by Norman Doidge, M.D., published 2007:

". . . each neural system had a different critical period, or window of time, during which it was especially plastic and sensitive to the environment, and during which it had rapid, formative growth. Language development, for instance, has a critical period that begins in infancy and ends between eight years and puberty. After this critical period closes, a person's ability to learn a second language without an accent is limited. In fact, second languages learned after the critical period are not processed in the same part of the brain as is the native tongue."

"Younger children often progress more quickly through brain exercises than do adolescents, perhaps because in an immature brain the number of connections among neurons, or synapses, is 50 percent greater than in the adult brain. When we reach adolescence, a massive 'pruning back' operation begins in the brain, and synaptic connections and neurons that have not been used extensively suddenly die off - a classic case of 'use it or lose it.'"

"Think of the difficulty most adults have in learning a second language. The conventional view now is that the difficulty arises because the critical period for language learning has ended, leaving us with a brain too rigid to change its structure on a large scale."

"If two languages are learned at the same time, during the critical period, both get a foothold. Brain scans, says Merzenich, show that in a bilingual child all the sounds of its two languages share a single large map, a library of sounds from both languages."

"The brain Merzenich describes is not an inanimate vessel that we fill; rather it is more like a living creature with an appetite, one that can grow and change itself with proper nourishment and exercise."

Linda Bonder, Marketing & Communications Director, LBonder@intlschool.org, 503-477-5231