Tag Archives: Posit Science

July 17, 2009 Future Salon Brain Plasticity

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On July 17, 2009 at the SAP campus in Palo Alto, The Future Salon hosted Professor Michael M. Merzenich, Ph.D. co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Posit Science. He presented “Why Humans May Be Too Neurologically Limited To Successfully Rule The World”.

To paraphrase from the film “The Graduate”, the future is one word “plasticity”. Merzenich went through the whole development of the brain from birth to old age. He thinks it is important to stay connected to other people and interact with the natural world because that is how we evolved. The brain is incredibly flexible thing that must be used or it will atrophy.

Brain plasticity means you can teach a puppy or old dog new tricks. Actually most of the research was done on rats. Merzenich showed how older drivers could regain their peripheral vision using training software. It makes them more independent and productive.

He also talked about how to make people less productive. Did you know that most of the communication a child gets in a poor family is negative or corrective and in a wealthy family it is positive or supportive? This has enormous impact on whether a child winds up in prison. Detaching and trying to isolate people at risk eventually puts everyone at risk.

Some things are hardwired and difficult to override. He spoke of Sweden’s literacy program where they discovered that dyslexia persisted despite their best efforts in about five percent of the population. They had to make allowances for this disability in their schools. In another example, people with PTSD vividly relive their trauma. Neurologically, it never dissipates. Restitution and treatment for survivors works best, but it is still a major injury that never goes away.

Ultimately, the more positive neural stimulation you get, the more complex tasks you can learn. Get out of your routine. Keep moving. Don’t stay at a job for ten years, it’ll rot your brain.

Copyright 2009 DJ Cline All rights reserved.