April 11, 2013 by sarahmortonisp

In my AP Psychology class here at school, we learned something really interesting about neuroanatomy and learning. Basically, the brain is made up of a bunch of different parts that grow around each other and have evolved from the inside out, the last of which being the cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex is the “human” part of the brain, because it is where the majority of conscious processing takes places. Humans have the most developed cortex of any animal. Surprisingly enough, the part of our brain that makes us “human” is only 1/4″ thick. Anyhow, the brain is made up of neurons, which are in bundles called nerves, which are in formations called neural networks. These neural networks are how humans send nerve impulses-which are what runs our body through electrochemical transmission. Neural impulses are essentially the language of the brain.
Now, the interesting thing about this is that a man named Mark Rosenzweig and his colleagues formed what they called a “Rat Universe” and they discovered that learning changes the brain. Literally: the experience of learning changes the brain’s anatomy! In their experiment, they placed some rats in an “enriched” environment (a wheel, more rats, things to do, more food, more activities, etc) and some in a “plain” environment (simply a box). When they later examined the brains of the rats, they found that those in the enriched environments had more neurons in their cortex. They found that by learning, the rats had grown more neurons and a thicker cortex, which means more dendrite connections. (Side note, a dendrite is a fibrous extension coming off the body of a neuron cell that receives incoming neurotransmitter chemicals, which are linked to specific body messages). These findings boiled down to one basic principle that is revolutionary to the field of education:
Even further research has revealed that, according to Katherine Minter, AP Psychology teacher, “it takes giving a child a variety of experiences to make their brain grow”.  Now many educators and psychologists are considering certain neurons “use it or lose it” functions.


One thought on “Experience….

  1. krisfarrant says:

    It’s amazing what the brain is capable of. Research has also shown that the brain is very malleable. For example, before children reach around the age of 3, the brain is able to restructure itself, if say an area is damaged,
    Another exciting thing is that, we do not really know that much about the human brain! There are a number of projects around the world (Human Brain project, Obama’s BRAIN initiative) that are aiming to massively improve our understanding. But be sure to be critical about these projects though as they are trying to unravel possibly the most complex thing in the universe!

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