Fast ForWord – A Learning Accelerator

Family Academy launched Fast ForWord in February, 2013. Scientific Learning’s Fast ForWord develops and strengthens memory, attention, processing rate, and sequencing – the cognitive skills essential for reading. By strengthening these skills, we see improvement in a wide range of critical and reading skills such as phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, decoding working memory, syntax, grammar, and other skills necessary to learn how to read or to become a better reader. In over 250 studies (www.scientificlearning.com/results), research indicates that learners can see achievement gains of 1-2 years in as little as 8-12 weeks. While Fast ForWord is a literacy based program, studies that monitor progress in other areas of the curriculum confirm that it also improves other areas because Fast ForWord teaches one how to learn. Fast ForWord is definitely based on the now, well accepted concept of neuroplasticity that extends throughout life. Interactive activities of this program follow the important concepts of short, frequent, intense (i.e. full focus) that distinguish neuroplasticity. Fast ForWord is a learning accelerator with recommended protocols of 30 – 50 minutes 5 times a week. We offer 10 week sessions following the 4 quarters of the school year and a summer session. Students are encouraged to continue in the program until they have completed it or fulfilled goals.

 

 

Mothers whose children completed the first session and are continuing a second session testify:

  • I would definitely recommend it [Fast ForWord} and definitely will do it again.
  • I also want to have my son do the next [additional] 10 weeks.  This is working great and he is making progress.

Those who would benefit from Fast ForWord include:

  1. Beginning Learners.
  2. Struggling Learners.
  3. English Language Learners.
  4. College-bound Learners.
  5. Learners preparing for GED and college entrance exams.
  6. Any Learner.

For more information contact us at mdail@academynorthwest.net or (253) 581-1588.

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Learning about the Brain: A Look Backward and A Look Forward

A Look Backward:

Recently, we completed our chapter by chapter review of The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge M.D. Since then I learned of this short video clip inspired by this book. Enjoy:

http://www.wimp.com/thoughtpower/

A Look Forward:

Now we will begin reviewing chapter by chapter, Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina.

In April, 2010 I was introduced to this book at a training session led by Dr. John Medina in Tacoma, Washington. He is a developmental molecular biologist and research consultant. Further, he is an affiliate Professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington school of Medicine and director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, Washington.

In the introduction, Medina tells us about a group of individuals who have the ability to do amazing things in spite of their IQ of 50 or less (with 100 being average). With an average IQ – more or less—we can do many things these individuals cannot, but we cannot do these specific things. These “savant” abilities amaze us, but even what we call “normal” demonstrates the amazing abilities of the brain. I am reminded of Psalm 139 that tells us that “we are fearfully and wonderfully made, who can know it?”

We are learning more and more of God’s handiwork and yet, we will never understand it all in our life in this world.

While Medina shares our awe of our marvelous brain, he looks to the “evolutionary process” as the source. However, as a great scientist he does have a powerful sense of observation and we can learn from him. He states his goal for the book well:

“My goal is to introduce you to 12 things we know about how the brain works. I call these Brain Rules. For each rule, I present the science and then offer for investigation how the rule might apply to our daily lives, especially at work and school. The brain is complex, and I am taking only slivers of information from each subject – not comprehensive but, I hope, accessible. The Brain Rules film, available at www.brainrules.net/dvd , is an integral part of the project.”

We will go through these rules one-by-one.

The Brain That Changes Itself Norman Doidge M.D. Chapter 11 –“More Than the Sum of Her Parts – A Woman Shows Us How Radically Plastic the Brain Can Be”

In Chapter 11, Dr. Doidge introduces us to Michelle Mack, a 29 year old who was born with only the right hemisphere of her brain. At birth, her doctors were not aware of this and now that they do know, they only have theories of what happened before birth. In order for Michelle to function well, her right hemisphere had to learn the function of the left hemisphere and economize its own function. At 29 she holds down a part time job and enjoys her family. There are some outwards signs of her lack of a left hemisphere: bent, twisted right hand that can be used for some things; brace on right leg; she is a lefty and her left limbs are normal. Her right visual field is limited as she has a hard time seeing things coming from her right. Blindness on her right side has helped her develop an extremely keen sense of hearing. Thus she can experience sensory overload in her hearing and touch.

During pregnancy, Michelle’s mother had some difficulties and apparently her body was trying to miscarriage. Both mom and daughter are happy it didn’t. Michelle’s parents began to notice things that indicated developmental problems – vision, motor. They noticed that she was tracking visually so she was not totally blind. Her dad noticed that she likes music and wanted to hear certain music over and over. He had her crawl to the record player to earn listening again. This helped develop her brain and function.

Michelle explained to Dr. Doidge that she would use rhyming, nonsensical words when frustrated. Concrete thinking is much easier than abstract thinking. She can play Solitaire very quickly because the decisions are very concrete. Other, more abstract decisions are more difficult for her.

Michelle demonstrated savant abilities. She could tell what day of the week a date was within the last 18 years by memory. For those dates before that time, she would have to figure it out, but still could do it quickly and accurately. Doidge told her about the work of Alexandr Luria, a Russian neuropsychologist with a memory artist who had a photographic memory. Also, he told her about “synesthetes” whose senses were “cross-wired” so that they had a color code for days of the week. Michelle said she had a scene connected with days of week.

Dr. Jordan Grafman, the chief of the Cognitive Neurosciences section of the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has been working with Michelle Mack. His background includes working with a woman whose brain was damaged in an assault. After five years, other doctors had given up on increasing this woman’s function. However, Grafman began an intensive program of rehab – mind and body –and the woman’s function increased. He also served our military personnel in Viet Nam. In this case as well, he saw increase in function where none was expected. He formulated a theory integrating “nondoctrinaire localization and plasticity. His research revealed four kinds of plasticity.

1)       “Map Expansion” – neurons in the center of an area focus more on a task than the ones on the outer limit. Different areas compete for those peripheral neurons. The greater the demand the more likely the use for that area.

2)       “Sensory Reassignment” – When one sense is blocked, another area takes over the function of the blocked sense. In blindness, the senses of hearing or touch develop more and are keener.

3)       “Compensatory Masquerade” – once explained as “alternative strategies” when there is more than one way to do something.

4)       “Mirror Region Takeover” – this occurs when a part of one hemisphere fails to do its job, the mirror region on the other side takes over the function as well as it can. When the damage occurs before specialization develops, function approximates “normal” more than when it is later. P. 276 This is true for Michelle, the damage was before birth, while her brain was being formed.

Michelle’s parents are making preparations for Michelle’s care after they are gone, but she is pretty happy the way she is. Doidge again introduces a person and researchers as windows into the plasticity of the brain.

Achieve 1-2 Academic Years in 8-12 Weeks with Fast ForWord

Academy Northwest and Family Academy Online will be making Fast ForWord available beginning early in 2013. Scientific Learning’s Fast ForWord develops and strengthens memory, attention, processing rate, and sequencing – the cognitive skills essential for reading. By strengthening these skills, we see improvement in a wide range of critical and reading skills such as phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, decoding working memory, syntax, grammar, and other skills necessary to learn how to read or to become a better reader. In over 250 studies, research indicates that learners can see achievement gains of 1-2 years in as little as 8-12 weeks. While Fast ForWord is a literacy based program, studies that monitor progress in other areas of the curriculum confirm that it also improves other areas because Fast ForWord teaches one how to learn. Fast ForWord is definitely based on the now, well accepted concept of neuroplasticity that extends throughout life. Interactive activities of this program follow the important concepts of short, frequent, intense (i.e. full focus) that distinguish neuroplasticity. Fast ForWord is a learning accelerator with recommended protocols of 30, 40 or 50 minutes 4-5 times a week.

Those who would benefit from Fast ForWord include:

  1. Beginning Learners.
  2. Struggling Learners.
  3. English Language Learners.
  4. College-bound Learners.
  5. Learners preparing for GED and college entrance exams.
  6. Any Learner.

For more information contact us at mdail@academynorthwest.net or (253) 581-1588 or (www.scientificlearning.com).

Dr. Mercola interview’s Scientific Learning’s founder, Dr. Michael Merzenich: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/12/09/brain-plasticity.aspx?e_cid=20121209_SNL_Art_1

The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, M.D. – Chapter 8 –“Imagination – How Thinking Makes It So”

In this chapter, Doidge introduces us to another eminent neuroscientist, Alvaro Pasqual-Leone. Pasqual-Leone, born in Valencia, Spain in 1961, is the Director of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, part of the Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Pascual-Leone was the first to use Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS to map the brain. Further, he used the TMS to activate areas of the brain or to temporarily deactivate part of the brain to confirm the function of that part. Repeated activation has a therapeutic effect. TMS has been used to help severely depressed individuals.

In one piano experiment, Pascual-Leone demonstrated that individuals who “mentally practice” a piece can perform equally as well as those who “physically practice.”

Soviet political prisoner, Sharansky played mental chess for months, resulting in little to no brain loss that is common among prisoners. He later became a cabinet minister in Israel.

Doidge explains, “One reason we can change our brains simply by imagining is that, from a neuroscientific point of view, imagining and act and doing are not as different as they sound. When people close their eyes and visualize a simple object, such as the letter a, the primary visual cortex lights up, just as it would if the subjects were actually looking at the letter a. Brain scans show that in action and imagination many of the same parts of the brain are activated. That is why visualizing can improve performance.” P. 203-204

In a similar experiment it was noted that “physical exercise” increased muscle strength by 30% while “imagined exercised” increased muscle strength by 22%.

Experiments with rats and monkeys also demonstrated that these animals could be trained to do tasks with their minds. This research can be used to help patients with muscular dystrophy, strokes and motor neuron disease.

Researchers further explored by blindfolding individuals. They found that within days of being blindfolded, the “visual” cortex began processing tactile (fingers) and auditory stimulation. After removing the blindfolds, the “visual” cortex stopped processing that stimulation within 24 hours.

Pascual-Leone asks and answers an interesting question: If our brains are so plastic how can we get stuck in rigid repetition? He uses Play-Doh to illustrate. After making one shape, then another with the same clay, one can return the clay to the first shape. Even though it is the same shape, it will not be identical. Our system is plastic, not elastic that would revert to its original state. This would further confirm that our brain is not as localized in function as previously thought. Pascual-Leone says, our brains are not truly organized in terms of systems that process a given sensory modality. Rather, our brain is organized in a series of specific operators.” P. 211

Doidge summarizes, “We have seen that imagining an act engages the same motor and sensory programs that are involved in doing it. We have viewed our imaginative life with a kind of sacred awe: as noble, pure, immaterial, and ethereal, cut off from our material brain. Now we cannot be so sure about where to draw the line between them.” P. 213

We can now see that Descartes and his model of the “mechanistic brain” slowed our understanding of the brain. P. 214 Indeed, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139)

This research explains why assessing and training “visualization” skills so important in math and other areas, is an essential part of the neurodevelopmental evaluation and training.

The Brain That Changes Itself – by Norman Doidge, M.D. Chapter 7 “Pain – The Dark Side of Plasticity”

In Chapter 7, Doidge introduces us to an M.D. whose specialty is neurology, but who also has a Ph.D. in psychology. Though from India, Ramachandran directs the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California in San Diego. Using simple devices “Rama” has discovered the secret of phantom limbs and chronic pain. Some people suffer pain even after organs have been removed. “Normal pain, ‘acute pain,’ alerts us to injury or disease by sending a signal to the brain saying, ‘This is where you are hurt – attend to it.’”(p. 180) When the nerves themselves are damaged ‘neuropathic’ pain results with no known cause.

Reading the work of Tim Pons and Edward Taub regarding mind mapping monkeys, Ramanchandran wondered if neuroplasticity would explain phantom pain. “Rama” worked with a 17th year old amputee. First, by blindfolding the young man and then with brain mapping (magnetoencephalography), he was able to determine that the brain map for his phantom arm and face had merged. Some relief was enjoyed by satisfying an itch in the phantom arm by scratching his face. Taub’s team and others have confirmed “Rama’s” conclusion. All of this is so unpredictable because brain maps are dynamic and always changing. “He thinks one reason people get phantom pain is that when a limb is cut off, its map not only shrinks but gets disorganized and stops working properly.” (p. 183)

Other sensations experienced by amputees include the memory of the explosion at the time of injury or pleasant sensations from other body parts or even “frozen” body parts (arms in slings at the time of injury).

Ramachandran then asked himself if these phantom sensations could be “unlearned.” His idea was to fight one illusion with another. By using an open box separated by a mirror an amputee was able to “amputate” the phantom limb. After looking at the mirror image of the phantom limb during 10 minutes a day for 4 weeks, the phantom limb disappeared.

This “body image” extends to other areas. Anorexics imagine they are fat when, in fact, they are near starvation. Others imagine something about their bodies to be wrong. Instead of plastic surgery, they need “’neuroplastic surgery’ to change their body image.” (p. 188) Contrary to conventional wisdom “Rama” believes that pain and body image are created by the brain and projected onto the body. Mothers soothing children and the placebo affect may very well turn down the brain’s pain production. “Ramachandran and Eric Altschuler have shown that the mirror box is effective on other nonphantom problems, such as the paralyzed legs of stroke patients. Mirror therapy differs from Taub’s in that it fools the patient’s brain into thinking he is moving the affected limb, and so it begins to stimulate that limb’s motor program.”(p. 195)

Remarkably, the work of neurologists has opened up more understanding of the WONDER of God’s creation, the brain. We have so much more to learn. Do you agree that pain is the dark side of plasticity?

The Brain That Changes Itself – Dr. Norman Doidge Chapter 6 “Brain Lock Unlocked – Using Plasticity to Stop Worries, Obsessions, Compulsions, and Bad Habits”

In this chapter, Doidge introduces us to the work of Jeffrey M. Schwartz:

OCD – obsessive, compulsive disorder plagues individuals in many ways. For example:

  • Terrified at what has happened or will happen to themselves or their loved ones.
  • Reacting to an emotional trigger – hearing of a traumatic experience of another, reading about a chemical in the food supply, or seeing a gruesome image.
  • Suffering obsessions like fears of contracting a serious, terminal illness, or by being contaminated by germs or radiation, or demanding that something be kept in a perfect order that you only know about.
  • Obsession – a thud while driving had to be a person you ran over – you go back and check it numerous times.
  • Washing over and over because of perceived contamination.
  • A mother who fears she will hurt her own baby may wrap a butcher knife up in a towel and lock it in a “safe” place. P. 164-168

Treatment for OCDvery difficult: Medication and behavioral therapy are only partially effective for some people.  Jeffrey M. Schwartz developed “an effective, plasticity-based treatment. Other ways this treatment can help: nasty habits (nail biting, hair pulling, shopping, gambling, eating, jealousy, substance abuse, compulsive sexual behavior). Schwartz has compared the brain scans of typical individuals and those with OCD. By doing before and after scans, he documents effectiveness of his treatment.  For most of us when we make a mistake, we are aware of the mistake, worry about it and then correct it. Once we correct it we can move on while the individual with OCD cannot move on…  The orbital frontal cortex (just behind our eyes) is where we detect mistakes. The cingulate gyrus (deepest part of cortex) triggers anxiety. Then our “automatic gearshift” (caudate nucleus – deep in the center of the brain) allows us to move on unless it “sticks” or we experience “brain lock.” P. 169-170

Causes of “brain lock” vary – may be genetic, may be infections that swell the caudate. “Learning may also play a role in its development.” P. 170 Schwartz wondered if those with OCD could “manually” shift the gear – by “paying constant, effortful attention and actively focusing on something besides the worry, such as a new pleasurable activity.” In the process they would be growing a new brain circuit. “With this treatment we don’t so much ‘break’ the bad habits as replace the bad behaviors with better ones.” P. 170

Schwartz’ therapy has two basic steps:

  1. Recognize the problem and relabel it – not a germ problem, but OCD.
  2. Replace thoughts with a positive.  “Schwartz has found it essential to understand that it is not what you feel while applying the technique that counts, it is what you do.” P. 173

In chapter 3, “Redesigning the Brain” Doidge gave us two key laws of plasticity:

  1. “Neurons that fire together wire together.”
  2. “Neurons that fire apart wire apart.” P. 174

The more one is able to avoid acting on the compulsion, the weaker the bad connection becomes.

Typical medication: Anafranil or a Prozac-type drug complements the therapy.

I would recommend working with a naturopath along with the two steps Schwartz developed before using the traditional medication. Further, working with a neurodevelopmentalist will help you to get to the underlying causes.

The Brain That Changes Itself – Chapter 4 – Acquiring Tastes and Loves

Doidge explores neuroplasticity related to love and sex. “The brain structure that regulates instinctive behavior, including sex, called the hypothalamus, is plastic as is the amygdala, the structure that processes emotion and anxiety. While some parts of the brain, such as the cortex, may have more plastic potential because there are more neurons and connections to be altered, even non-cortical areas display plasticity. It is the property of all brain tissue. Plasticity exists in the hippocampus (the area that turns our memories from short-term to long-term ones) as well as in areas that control our breathing, process primitive sensation, and process pain.” P. 97

Merzenich says, “You cannot have plasticity in isolation…it’s an absolute impossibility.” P. 97

Sexual attractions differ within different cultures. Sexual arousal occurs through all of the senses.

Doidge spends a good deal of time on pornography, other sexual perversions and addictions, which are not within the scope of what we address in our work. However, dopamine, the “reward transmitter,” has a broader affect on individuals. Exhausted winners of a race get a final boost to cross the finish line, while losers may not make it over the finish line because they did not get the extra boost that dopamine supplies. Every time a person experiences pleasure by receiving dopamine, that memory is reinforced in the brain.
P. 106

“Pleasure centers” were discovered in the limbic system (emotional systems) by Dr. Robert Health in 1950. “When the pleasure centers are turned on, everything we experience give us pleasure.” P. 113 When individuals with bipolar disease (formerly manic-depressive) approach their manic-highs, “their pleasure centers begin to fire. And falling in love also lowers the threshold at which the pleasure centers will fire.” P. 113

As the addict or the lover anticipates and or experiences pleasure, these feelings become globalized – that is the person is happy about everything. P. 114 The loss of one of these experiences can be as extreme, only negative. “Unlearning and weakening connections between neurons is just as plastic a process, and just as important, as learning and strengthening them.” P 117

Oxytocin is called the commitment neuromodulator – it reinforces bonding. It also induces trust. This helps explain why children raised in orphanages have a difficult time bonding. It may take years to raise the level of oxytocin even when in loving adoptive families. “Whereas dopamine induces excitement, puts us into high gear and triggers sexual arousal, oxytocin induces a calm, warm mood that increases tender feelings and attachment and may lead us to lower our guard.”  Oxytocin is likely to also make us commit to our partners and children. P. 119

Some individuals experience pain and pleasure together as children and become masochistic in adulthood because these two sensations become entwined – mind maps have merged.

These studies have revealed some of the physiological basis for some emotional behavior. It is easier to prevent these behaviors in children we raise from birth than to help those who already have these traumatic experiences in their past. This is a factor in our clients who are adopted.

The Brain That Changes Itself – Norman Doidge, M.D. – Chapter 3 –Part 3 – Redesigning the Brain

Finally we complete the review of this chapter:

According the “localizationists” and those who believed there is a “critical period” during which all changes are made, education logically gave the most attention to those that appeared to have the intelligence to learn. Now that we know that the brain is plastic throughout life, that approach is grossly unfair to those that begin with less apparent intelligence.

Paula Tallal from Rutgers had begun to analyze why children had trouble learning. At that point, 5-10 percent of preschool children were thought to have a language disability. Some of these were called dyslexic. Since babies begin talking by practicing consonant-vowel combinations such as da,da, ba, ba, English speakers begin by saying the following words: ‘mama, dada, and pee-pee.’ Tallal believed that children were having difficulty with these ‘fast parts of speech’ because of an auditory processing problem. “Merzenich believed that these children’s auditory cortex neurons were firing too slowly, so they couldn’t distinguish between two very similar sounds or be certain, if two sounds occurred close together, which was first and which was second.” Normally neurons fire after about a 30-millisecond rest. “Eighty percent of language-impaired children took at least three times that long, so that they lost large amounts of language information. When their neuron-firing patterns were examined, the signals weren’t clear.” P. 69 This difficulty in auditory processing resulted in weaknesses in vocabulary, comprehension, speech, reading and writing. P. 69

In 1996, Jenkins, Tallal and one of her colleagues, Steve Miller, a psychologists, joined with Merzenich to for a company, Scientific Learning, that was wholly devoted to using neuroplastic research to help people rewire their brains.” P. 70 They developed Fast ForWord which is a training program for language-impaired and learning-disabled children. There are seven computer activities, which exercise the brain; here are brief descriptions of five of them:
1) Discrimination of short sounds – when a short sound changes the child releases a cow and it flies across the screen. Rapid responses earn points.
2) Discrimination of common consonant – vowel combinations – increasingly more quickly.
3) Discrimination of faster frequent glides (like ‘whooooop’)
4) Remember and match sounds.
5  Finding objects that are out of place – visually.
With the help of the computer, the faster parts of speech are slowed down and then as they continue the sounds get faster. Animation is used to reward achievement. Each time a child is rewarded, his brain secretes neurotransmitters such a dopamine and acetylcholine. These help consolidate the new mind map. P. 70-71
With milder difficulties, children work with Fast ForWord for 1 hour 40 minutes a day, five days a week for several weeks. With more severe difficulties, children work for eight to twelve weeks. P. 71

Research Studies

January, 1996 – first study reported in journal Science. One group of language impaired children used a similar computer program that did not train temporal processing. The Fast ForWord group demonstrated significant progress is standard speech, language auditory processing compared to the control group. Further, they maintained these skills when retested six weeks later. P. 71

A more extensive study with 500 children at thirty-five sites (hospitals, homes and clinics) pre and post tested the children with a standardized language test. On average, the students improved 1.8 grade level in six weeks.

A Sanford group did brain scans before and after Fast ForWord on twenty dyslexic children. After brain scans showed increased activity in the left-parietal cortex. P. 72
Two studies of children with autism have also confirmed much of what Merzenich had been hearing regarding the improvement in testimonials. In one study, children with autism had moved from “severe language impairment to the normal range.” Remarkably, in another study of one hundred individuals other autistic symptoms improved also. Areas of improvement included: attention spans, sense of humor, more connected with people, better eye contact, began greeting, addressing by name and conversing and said goodbye.

Testimonials

Beside the research Doidge gives us a testimonial of a 7-year-old boy from West Virginia.
Before Fast ForWord: “auditory-processing disorder and a hearing problem;” could not discriminate sounds (confused copy for coffee), insecurity, chewing on clothes in Kindergarten, trouble with reading, missed social cues because did not hear changes in pitch, easily distracted auditorily, difficulty following directions, stressed out using the computer.
After 100 minutes a day for eight weeks of Fast ForWord, his grades improved, he was confident. Even after a year later he has maintained these newly developed skills.

Fast ForWord appears to be causing other improvements, perhaps due to the general improvements in mental processing: handwriting, better sustained attention and focus, improving the brain’s general ability to keep time; visual processing problems including skipping lines,

An eight-year-old girl with moderate autism spoke little, using gestures and tugging at her parents to get what she wanted. When her family moved to a school where she could use Fast ForWord, within 8 weeks here speech exploded.

Posit Science, a new company of Merzenich with the goal of helping seniors maintain mental capacity into later years. Posit Science has Fast ForWord type activities to help individuals maintain and expand their mental alertness. Areas that these exercised stimulate include auditory and visual processing, working the frontal cortex that supports executive function. Finally, these activities also work on fine motor and gross motor control.

My Thoughts

While I have spent some time looking into this program and others like it, I still have questions regarding some of the other important areas of development that seem to be missing. I see how these web-based brain-training programs can work for fine motor and processing and memory – both visual and auditory, but I fail to see the connection to gross motor and sensory issues. Further, using technology cautiously is important as we see the problems with too much screen time.

The Brain That Changes Itself – Norman Doidge, MD Chapter 3 – Redesigning the Brain – Part 2

To continue our survey of the work of Michael Merzenich, PhD, Doidge tells of Merzenich’s next experiment. First, he mapped the hand map in the brain of a monkey. Then, he cut off the middle finger. Months later, he remapped the same area and found that the map for the middle finger was gone, but the mapping for the two adjacent fingers had taken over the area once used for the middle finger. He also learned that while there are similarities among the different species, there are no two identical mind maps. He also learned that the brain maps continued to change even without a major trauma like losing a finger. In writing up these findings, Merzenich used the word plasticity without qualification. He received hostile treatment from fellow scientists who refused to take his conclusions seriously.  P. 60-61

“The most frustrating thing,” says Merzenich, “was that I saw that neuroplasticity had all kinds of potential implications of human neuropathology and psychiatry. And nobody paid any attention.” P. 62

By mapping the monkey’s hand brain map periodically, he was able to demonstrate the change over time. Carl that Shatz, a neuroscientist, summarized “Neuron that fire together wire together.” P. 63

Beginning in the late 1980s, Merzenich began to demonstrate that two separate mind maps would merge as a result of sewing two fingers together. When researches touch any part of the two joined fingers, the whole area would light up in the brain. “The experiment showed that timing of the input to the neurons in the map was the key to forming it – neurons that fired together in time wired together to make one map.” P. 64

Others verified these findings on two humans who were born with webbed fingers. “In neuroscience this finding is now summarized as Neurons that fire apart wire apart – or Neurons out of sync fail to link.” P. 64

Next Merzenich found that when all five fingers stimulated simultaneously 500 times a day over a month, mapped as one “finger.” P. 64 Finally, a patch skin with nerve endings of one finger was surgically implanted on another finger, stimulation cased the new location to fire. P. 64

Eventually, Merzenich succeeded in convincing his colleagues of neuroplasticity in adults, but he had not yet explained how the maps organize themselves to become topogphical, or ordered as the body is ordered. “Topographical organization is efficient, because it manes that parts of the brain that often work together in the brain map, so signals don’t have to travel far in the brain itself.” P. 65

Bill Jenkins, a behavioral psychologist, joined Merzenich’s research team with an interest in how we learn. They taught a monkey to touch a spinning disk, mapping the sensory cortex before and after. The brain map increased in size when the monkey learned this new skill. “The experiment also showed that as brain maps get bigger, the individual neurons get more efficient in two stages. At first, as the monkey trained, the map for the fingertip grew to take up more space. But after a while individual neurons within the map became more efficient, and eventually few neurons were required to perform the task.” They also discovered that “individual neurons got more selective with training – overall the map became more precise.” Also, they learned that neurons began to process faster. All of this reflects on IQ scores so these experiments demonstrate the plasticity of ‘intelligence.’ Further, they learned that “paying close attention is essential to long-term plastic change.” P. 66- 69

These experiments form part of the foundation for the key words of neurodevelopmental approach: duration, frequency and intensity. For changes to occur, specific brain stimulation (activities on an individualized neurodevelopmental plan) must be done for short (duration – usually just minutes), throughout the day (frequency – number of times) with full focus (intensity). For more information visit: http://www.centerforneurodevelopment.com