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5 Tips on Lifelong Learning & the Adult Brain

Posted Dec 19 2008 12:00am

Learning & the Brain is a conference that gets marked on my calendar annually because I always return home having either been exposed to new information, or with a new brain teasers job interviewperspective on an old topic. Last month’s conference in Cambridge, MA, themed Using Emotions Research to Enhance Learning & Achievement, was no exception. As with previous conferences, in addition to the many keynote sessions, I focused on the adult learning strand, since so much of my time is spent providing professional development for, and collaborating with adults. Here are five conference cues as they relate to education.

1. CHALLENGE YOURSELF WITH NEW LEARNING

Aaron Nelson stated that our memory starts to decline between ages twenty-five and thirty, or to phrase it a bit more positively, Sam Wang says our memory peaks around age thirty. On the other end of the age spectrum, according to Ken Kosik, there is unequivocal evidence that education protects against Alzheimer’s. Both Nelson and Kosik mentioned the theory of cognitive reserve, which translates roughly to the more we learn, the more connections we create, and therefore the greater the neuronal buffer we have to draw upon as we age.

Elkhonon Goldberg, at last April’s conference, stated that “as one ages, the domain of the novel shrinks, and the domain of what is known grows”. He cautioned the audience to beware of being on mental autopilot. Thus, the goal is not to simply get better at doing more of the same. The type of learning that makes a difference consists specifically of new, novel challenges. The result of such engagement is that

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