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The Dalai Lama & Fast ForWord founder, Dr Merzenich, talk neuroscience

Posted by Peter Barnes on November 14, 2014 at 5:46 PM

Dalai Lama Merzenich_Fast ForWordDr Norman Doidge, author of "The Brain That Changes Itself" moderated a discussion about neuroscience and brain plasticity between the Dalai Lama and two of the world's most eminent neuroscientists at the University of Alabama in October (2014).

The scientists were Dr Michael Merzenich and Dr Edward Taub.

Dr Merzenich is co-founder of Fast ForWord (brain training & reading development software for students) and Brain HQ (brain training for adults).

Dr Taub developed constraint-induced movement therapy, a neuroscience based method of stroke and traumatic brain injury rehabilitation which causes neurons to "rewire" themselves.

The discussion coverd a wide range of topics including learning, reading, age related mental decline and rehabilitation for people affected by strokes, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. 

Some key points from the speakers

Dr Doidge

  • Neuroplasticity is the property of the brain that allows it to change its structure and function in response to thinking and acting. Our thoughts change our brain structure.
  • There is a very important convergence occurring now between two great human traditions of eastern medicine and western neuroscience around the theme of neuroplasticity.

Dr Merzenich

  • Brain plasticity is the basis of the brain’s creation of a model of your world.
  • Brain plasticity magnificently individualises us, so that by these changes no one is like any other who ever was or ever will be. Each one of us is a marvellous creation of these processes.
  • Every brain is massively specialised by brain plasticity processes. So that when we acquire an ability, any ability, for example the ability to read, we acquire a reading brain, because the brain changes itself physically. It changes itself functionally.
  • A child that hasn’t acquired this ability doesn’t have a reading brain.  They lack these changes, they suffer.
  •  It’s quite easy to train the brain of most children who can’t read, to give them a brain that is a reading brain. The brain is changed physically, and functionally, and chemically, in ways that power that reading ability.
  • We have trained several million children that have such struggles to recover this ability to read. (here Dr Merzenich is referring to the Fast ForWord programs).
  • The training involves training a person in a highly controlled, progressive way interacting with stimuli that are delivered by listening or by vision on a computer. It is delivered by technology, and we do that, not because it is the most natural or desirable but because we can accomplish change with such high efficiency.

Dr Taub

  • My work is very much based on the seminal and brilliant discoveries of Dr Michael Merzenich .
  • Constraint- Induced Therapy (CI Therapy) is a system of rehabilitation treatments that harnesses the plasticity of the nervous system for  different types of brain injury, for example stroke, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and a number of other conditions.
  • We have found sensory deficits, motor deficits and speech can be substantially improved as a result of training. The part of the brain that improves depends on what you train. The part of the brain that you train will increase in volume.
  • The brain can rewire itself and it can be structurally remodelled.
  • How can the healthy brain improve itself?  How can it perfect itself?  The brain data gives point to the self report of countless individuals who have carried out meditation over the millennia that this kind of change can take place in the healthy brain, and its probably related to the improvement that you can get in the damaged brain.  Both of them involve neuroplasticity.

Watch the Discussion

 The seminar commences at 26.32 minutes.


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Topics: Learning Enhancement, Brain Science, Fast ForWord, Learning Capacity

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