The Mind-Body Connection in Learning: Applications to Maximizing Learning

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For many years, the dominant theory of classroom teaching has been “sit and git,” (Jensen, 2005, p. 60) where students are expected to sit quietly, take notes, study material, and then demonstrate mastery of this material on tests and quizzes. As studies of the brain reveal its inner workings, researchers are discovering that learning is a more complex, whole-body process than previously imagined. With better brain imaging techniques, neuroscientists are uncovering the root physical and chemical mechanisms that make up the processes of “learning” and “memory.” Because of this, new techniques are being developed, and old methods vetted, for teaching in ways that maximize the brain’s ability to learn (Wolfe, 2001, p. xi). There are two …show more content…
At around the age of 2, a pruning process occurs, where unused or unreinforced (Wolfe, 2001, p. 72) neurons are lost. Because of this, an adult trying to learn a new language must build those pathways up from scratch. This growth in a child’s brain continues until the child reaches about 4 years; following this, there is a plateau period until 10-11, when neural growth begins again (Wolfe, 2001. p. 75). However, in addition to growing new neurons, the frontal lobes of the brain reorganize, pruning unused connections and devoting resources to areas of the brain requiring active growth. As a result, Jensen (2005) suggests that there are “sensitive periods” in child development where stimulus input is necessary to maintain neural networks. Recent studies indicate that the brain may not be completely grown until early adulthood; however, changes in the brain continue throughout life (The Human Brain, n.d.). Nor is mental stimulus the only factor behind brain function; just as muscles and organs compete for oxygen, glucose, and protein, the brain also requires these resources (Jensen, 2005, p. 36). And just as exercise has been shown to benefit the body, researchers are finding that it also benefits the brain: by increasing blood flow, exercise brings more oxygen to the brain, as well as encouraging the release of proteins that encourage neuron growth

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