Neuroplasticity and Learning

I’m not a neurologist, nor am I a physical therapist. I’ve only been using the Brainport for a week or so. I think I’ve started to see some changes.

I’ve read a number of books about neuroplasticity, the ability of your brain to adapt. One is The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge. You have to practice (and practice and practice) a new skill to really learn it. But you don’t have to practice it hours and hours a day. You only need to practice it for 20 minutes or so at a time. That’s why my physical therapist says to practice my Brainport for 20 minutes at a time. That’s why my trainer designs my weight training at the gym so each circuit takes about 20 minutes to complete. That’s why my dance teachers spend about half of each 45-minute lesson on one kind of dance (smooth or rhythm) and then switch to the other kind of dance.

Now, if you stop practicing, you stop gaining the benefit of the learning. Sure, you can probably miss one day here and there. But miss more than a few days, and your  brain stops adapting. You start to lose. Cramming is different from long-term learning.

Forever ago, when I took piano lessons, I remember practicing for an hour or so at a time. But, I only practiced scales for 10-15 minutes to reinforce what I already knew, and then I moved on to what I needed to learn. I practiced one piece for 15-20 minutes, then another piece for another 15-20 minutes, then another until I was done with each of the three-four pieces I had to learn each week.  I was a good technical pianist, but I didn’t have the soul of a pianist. That’s because I’d rather play “Put Down the Ducky” on the saxophone! (No, I don’t know how to play the sax :-) I enjoyed the structure of piano practice, and I really hated some of the composers I had to play.

If you really want to learn something, slow-and-steady, 20 minutes at a time, once or twice a day, with feedback, is the way to go.

4 thoughts on “Neuroplasticity and Learning”

  1. My wife said the exact same thing a few minutes ago about our 6 year old ability to read.
    When we practice reading with him every single day, he improves enormously…

  2. Pingback: How Are You Growing? | Create An Adaptable Life

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