My Learning Brain

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Maria van der Sloot /
BM '14 / Online Portfolio for MIE: "Music Learning and the Brain" / Click "Getting Around" to start your exploration!

The Beginning

Right now my brain is functioning like a super-charged GPS.  My hippocampus is working up a sweat as it navigates through neuronal “convergence zones”, or intersections where particular sensory information has united, searching for the exact spot on the map where I  rewind to sitting around the table at our first class.  What am I doing?  I’m remembering.  

While these convergence zones figure out the faces of my classmates and other sensory details, my episodic memory recalls the event as a whole, according to the many ways it’s been classified through Long Term Potentiation (as a Monday night, the first class, brain class, etc).  As my hippocampus combines the various forms of memory to reconstruct a solid “mental map”, I arrive at my destination.

So, here we are at the first class of the semester. Some highlights:

1. We introduced one another.  In partners, we worked on figuring out what our goals and expectations were for the class, as well as identifying our own potential setbacks in getting the most out of the course.  

I found this unusual.  This is this first course I’ve taken where the student has any responsibility beyond just doing the assigned work.  Typically I’m not asked to think about or take steps to meet my own needs and expectations in the classroom.  Professor Davidson’s system has both its advantages and disadvantages.  I appreciate having this level of control in regards to how and what I am learning, and I find myself more aware of my own role as a pro-active student.  However, I am also very lazy.  This part of me would rather not have to bother with creating and monitoring my own learning curve.

2. Professor Davidson provided us with a huge collection of books relevant to the course, for reference or for our own enjoyment.  Summer reading list, anyone?

And that is how our semester started off! The rest of these posts are reflections or summaries of key/interesting course concepts or things I enjoyed. :)

— 1 year ago with 1 note
#first class  #memory  #hippocampus  #mental map  #class structure  #books 

Here’s a great animation set to a clip from a lecture by Iain McGilchrist on how the “divided brain” has influenced human behaviour.

— 1 year ago
#iain mcgilchrist  #divided brain  #animation 

This is really incredible.  This video shows a new wheelchair that is “thought-controlled” by the brain’s motor system.  I can’t help but draw a link to “mirror neurons,” which we read about in several articles that were distributed in class.  ”Mirror neurons” are fired when we think of a motor activity.  For example, imagine yourself throwing a ball.  Feel the ball’s texture, the size, how it fits into your hand - now feel your muscles tensing, the trajectory of your arm as you throw, the release of the ball from your fingers.  Guess what?  In imagining yourself throwing the ball, mirror neurons were fired, exactly replicating the same brain procedure as if you had actually thrown the ball.  The discovery of the human mirror neuron system has huge implications for learning and mental practice.  Unbelievable, eh?

— 1 year ago
#technology  #motor system  #mirror neurons 
The Adolescent Brain

I found the chapter on “the adolescent brain” in The Learning Brain: Lessons for Education to be really interesting.  Despite the plethora of “common knowledge” regarding adolescent behaviour and development, it turns out there is not a lot of research done on the brains of adolescents.  However, the research that has been done is quite fascinating.

(click for the jump to the wondrous world of adolescent brains!)

Read more
— 1 year ago
#blakemore and frith  #adolescent brain  #neuronal pathways  #puberty 

Some diagrams of the brain for reference.  However I found the hands-on experience of building a brain to be a much better way for me to internalize the information - now I know from Ratey (pages 177-180) that this because movement is a necessary component of learning!

— 1 year ago with 5 notes
#brain  #brain structure  #ratey  #movement  #class assignment 

This video was shown to us by Professor Davidson.  Japanese technology is really unbelievable - these cat ears are controlled by brain waves and are designed to reflect your emotional state in the way they perk. Crazy!

— 1 year ago
#japan  #technology  #brain waves  #cat ears 
Mind Maps

One thing that was helpful for me in the class was the use of diagram as a study tool.  I struggled to get through much of the Ratey - it was really hard to memorize foreign terms and internalize such dense information!  Thankfully our whole class was able to help me out with this.  We drew “chapter maps” together to cover the important and most interesting elements of each chapter.  This reminded me a lot of my math courses in high school - it was absolutely mandatory to make “mind maps” of each different topic.  I personally find such exercises really useful, as I am a very visual and spatial learner.

(click for the jump to see my maps for “Emotion” and “Perception”)

Read more
— 1 year ago
#class structure  #mind maps  #ratey  #emotion  #perception 
Brain Plasticity!

"Neurons that fire together wire together!"

John Ratey (31)

The nerd in me finds this quote very inspirational.  For so long, it was preached that the brain is static and unable to change after a certain age - now neuroscience research is proving the opposite!  Our brains are incredible adapters and innovators well into late adulthood, and it is now believed that strengthening neuronal pathways is key for a healthy brain health at all ages.  

(click for the jump)

Read more
— 1 year ago with 1 note
#neuroplasticity  #ratey  #neuronal pathways  #nuns of mankato 
Armstrong’s Life Waves

One class assignment that I really enjoyed was creating our own "life waves" based on our readings in Armstrong’s The Human Odyssey.  For this project, we were asked to draw waves representing seven year chunks of our lives.  Over the wave, we wrote notes about “adapter” memories: significant events and influences for that time period.  Under the wave, we described our feelings and the “remembrance” aspects of the time period.  This was far more difficult than I thought it would be!  I had to work hard to draw up episodic and sensory memories of what life was like for 4-year-old me.  It was also difficult to try and imagine the next several decades of my life divided into seven year chunks!  So, I came up with waves for ages 0-7, 8-14 (which unfortunately I have misplaced since), and 15-21.  For “22 and beyond”, I drew a path of sorts, with several different possible routes.  If you’re curious to see what’s all in my “life wave”, feel free to check out the scanned images after the jump.

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— 1 year ago
#armstrong  #life waves  #class assignment 
My Personal Project: Performance Anxiety

After several false starts, I chose to pursue the topic of performance anxiety for my personal project!  Performance anxiety is something of particular interest to me because it has recently become a large obstacle in my own progress as a musician.  Although I’ve been dealing with anxiety issues (PTSD) for many years, I had never experienced intense performance anxiety until I came to NEC.  Now it is something that I struggle with in every performance, and I would really like to figure out how to overcome it!  Back to my project.  Around the same time that I became very interested in performance anxiety, I started a regular practice of meditation and thought it would be interesting to see how this could potentially be used as a tool to prevent performance anxiety.

The remaining project posts summarize my main findings in researching performance anxiety.  They describe symptoms, theories of performance anxiety, combative strategies, and specifically meditation as a prevention technique.

— 1 year ago
#project  #performance anxiety  #meditation