40 - How to Become a Better Learner

دوره: Coursera – Learning How to Learn / درس 40

Coursera – Learning How to Learn

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40 - How to Become a Better Learner

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Welcome back to Learning How to Learn.

Today we’re going to talk about

how to become a better learner.

As we learn more about the brain

we can become better learners, and

here are two tips for how to learn better.

Tip number one, the best gift that you

can give your brain is Physical Exercise.

We once thought that all of the neurons in

your brain were already present at birth,

but we now know that in a few places,

new neurons are born every day.

One of these places is in your

Hippocampus, a brain area that is very

important for learning new things that we

already discussed earlier in the course.

In this experiment, a rat is shown,

learning how to distinguish a picture of

a flower from a picture of an airplane.

In the background is a photo

of neurons in the hippocampus,

with the old neurons shown in blue and

newly generated neurons in red.

As the rat learns the task,

these new neurons are recruited to help

perform better pattern separation

between the two pictures.

These new neurons help

you learn new things but

they will die if you don’t use them.

New experiences will rescue them.

Exercise, interestingly,

also helps new neurons survive.

Exercise is by far,

more effective than any drug on the market

today to help you learn better.

It benefits all of your vital organisms,

not just your brain.

It is unfortunate that

schools are dropping gym and

recess to make room for more instruction.

Gym and recess are by far the most

important parts of the curriculum.

Here’s another tip and this has to do

with practice making perfect, but

only when your brain is prepared.

There are certain critical periods

in the development of your brain.

When sudden improvements occur in specific

abilities, expect them to happen and

prepare your brain for them.

The critical period for first language

acquisition extends up to puberty.

One of the best studied critical periods

in the brain is when binocular depth

perception or stereopsis matures

during the first two years of life.

Stereopsis is the magic behind Magic Eye

pictures like the one shown here.

If you stare at this image and

slightly cross your eyes, you will

see staircases pop out of the page.

There is a slight shift between

the images in the two eyes and

your brain interprets this slight

shift as difference in depth.

Not everyone, however, can see this.

Over 5% of the population is stereo blind.

If the two eyes are not properly aligned

during the first two years of development,

the neurons in your visual cortex will

fail to properly strengthen the inputs

from the two eyes and

depth perception is permanently impaired.

Well, that’s the dogma.

But Sue Barry, a friend of mine

from graduate school at Princeton,

was able to recover stereo

vision through eye exercises.

And wrote a book about it,

entitled Fixing My Gaze, a scientist’s

journey into seeing in three dimensions.

Practice can repair,

as well as train the brain.

But this takes much longer,

past the critical period.

This brings us to zombies.

Zombies can’t learn.

It is also clear from their behavior

that they have brain damage.

Especially in the front of their cortex,

which is the part that makes plans,

as well as in their language areas.

Learning, Planning, Language,

these are the skills that make us human.

The prefrontal cortex is also involved

in complex analysis in social behaviors,

as well as decision making and planning.

It is the last part of the cortex

to mature, so until this happens,

there may be a little

bit of zombie in you.

Another patient, EVR, suffered a stroke in

the social parts of his prefrontal cortex.

EVR had a high IQ and seemed normal, but

he was ruined by making bad financial

decisions and bad social interactions.

He lost both his home and his family.

Good judgement takes a long time,

and a lot of experience to acquire.

Learning, is too important to

be left behind in the classroom.

Learning to learn is

a skill you can master.

And you can use it to improve

every part of your life.

You’ll be learning even more

learning tips this week, and

can follow up on them at brainfacts.org.

I’m Terry Sejnowski,

happy learning to you until we meet again.

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