our brain learns in several ways

Download Our brain learns in several ways

Post on 18-Dec-2014



Leadership & Management

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It’s a lot tougher than it used to be for a brain to learn at work nowadays. There are so many details to worry about and so many things to do all the time that the brain is constantly under pressure. The internet is becoming more and more of a popular, easy and effective method for learning and more and more people are using online learning practices successfully in their workplaces.


  • 1. Its a lot tougher than it used to be for a brain to learn at work nowadays. There are so many details to worry about and so many things to do all the time that the brain is constantly under pressure. The internet is becoming more and more of a popular, easy and effective method for learning and more and more people are using online learning practices successfully in their workplaces. These 5 ways the brain learns are amazing. Our experience can change the way our brains learn Behaviours can be automated by the brain You can learn both consciously and unconsciously Brains are always looking to understand or find meaning The brain needs emotions to learn (Do you think your brain is wired differently to other people? Think again! Many successful leaders have to learn to develop the way they learn in order to become better at what they do. Find out more about how to improve your leadership development learning)
  • 2. 1. Our experience can change the way our brains develop and learn There are tree branch-like structures in our brain called neurons, or nerve cells. These connections can grow in a split second, and the more branches there are between neurons, the faster and more easily information can travel across them. This means that these neuron maps can be grown and developed and that brain development can be manipulated through the development of neuron connections. Our brains attention, if focused on a particular area or concept, will reinforce the existing neuron connections in that area, thus the brain will learn that concept. Cognitive learning theory says that our brains are wired to try to make new thoughts fit into our existing neuron maps. This means that the existing connections get reinforced when we learn something new as well as growing the neuron tree by creating more branches. If, however, the new thought or new information contradicts what we already know, our mental map of neurons faces a problem - for example if you want to learn to learn how to swim but youre scared of being underwater, theres an impasse and you cant reconcile it. Often the impasse itself is enough to kick us into gear and take an action, overcoming the problem, but not always. The size and difficulty in overcoming these impasses can vary hugely, and in some cases people fail to overcome them for years. 2. Behaviours can be automated by the brain In general there are two types of memory, the short term memory, located in the prefrontal cortex and a long term memory, in the basal ganglia. Our working memory requires the most attention, as we use it for day to day tasks and solving problems - in general the short term memory cant handle more than 7 thoughts at once. Obviously some people can handle less and some can handle more - not necessarily divided by gender Using your short term memory is associated with nerves and anxiety too. When youre in a situation, like driving or being in an important meeting, youre using your working memory. The working memory can crash easily because it requires a lot of blood sugar to function. Thats why you can feel exhausted after an emotionally draining conversation or after a long drive. Your attention is needed and youre burning through your blood sugar, which is not easy for your body to provide. Given the choice, your body would rather not keep burning that fuel, but rather use its other engine, the basal ganglia or long term memory. Its storage is much better, it doesnt require as much glucose to run and the stuff being held in it isnt as important. This part of your brain stores your habits, things that you dont need to think about any more and everything weve ever known. Your brain is wired to push as much as possible from the fuel guzzling engine into the long term memory, to keep the working memory alive and kicking - without this process, your short term memory would be overrun very quickly and youd be exhausted just by trying to decide what to have for breakfast. Once weve made a neuron connection and its been hard wired into that long term memory, we dont have to learn it again, its just there. This is a big deal when were talking about learning. The more we reinforce the connections we have, the more we can build on the information and take on more complex knowledge and challenges. Theres also a downside though - some connections can get so worn that it becomes difficult to learn new information which contradicts the original connection. For example women cant be trusted or the ocean is dangerous. This kind of thinking which has been thought over and over can get in the way of having new experiences and learning new things. 3. You can learn both consciously and subconsciously
  • 3. When we use our working memory, we generally know what were doi ng because were solving problems and have our attention on what is being done, however, most of the stuff that enters our brain is absorbed without us even noticing. All of life is subjective and many tiny details are noticed by our brain without us even knowing whats happened. All the experiences and things weve ever sensed come together to form filters that influence how we see the world. Everyones experiences and senses are different so everyone sees the world differently. Its our experiences that change our perception of life as we know it. Think about two people getting on a roller coaster, ones an adrenalin junkie who did his first bungee as a teenager and one is petrified of heights since she fell off the deck as a toddler. These two will see the same roller coaster very differently. When thinking about learning, once we can see this in ourselves, we can form different opinions and learn new things based on not just what weve absorbed unconsciously but also what connections we want to make. You can become aware of how youre wired and decide if thats what you want or if youd rather think differently. 4. Brains are always looking to understand or find meaning. Your brain is constantly looking for patterns in what you do, so that it can create a habit and take the process out of the working memory and send it to the long term one where it will burn less fuel. This means we have a tendency to be selective when absorbing information and retain things that most fit in with our world views - the brain responds better to familiar information because it can easily send it into your existing neuron map. If it doesnt fit in to the existing map, well have a hard time believing it, learning it and the brain will have to work to process the information and create new branches for the neuron map. Using your memory and recognising the patterns your brain uses can help slot new information into your existing patterns. Much of the time the brain doesnt absorb the complete information the first time and creates a rough version until it identifies it as important information. 5. The brain needs emotions to learn. Did you know the limbic system is the emotional part of your brain? This area has evolved to respond to survival instincts like fight or flight, eating, or sex. This part of your brain can take over at any time, taking precedent over any existing thoughts or patterns and its due to this emergency response function were still around as humans. We can even induce any of those feelings even when were not directly being affected by danger, hunger or arousal - all it takes is releasing the hormones that generate how we would actually feel. Any of those urgent thoughts can start the body feeling symptoms of stress. From a learning standpoint, these feelings immediately cut off anything else that was happening and become the most prominent thoughts and feelings in the brain. This blocks any learning from taking place until the brain decides things are OK again. The opposite is also true - when were relaxed, we can learn better and retain more information.