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The Malleable Brain
Transcript of The Malleable Brain
The Interior of the Brain
Located in the middle of the brain, the interior responds to all sensory input (Fogarty, 2009, p. 11).
The interior includes: the cerebellum, the limbic system, and the reticular activating system (RAS).
What is malleability?
refers to our brain's broad capacity to change as a result of general long-term experiences that are happening to it" (Jensen, 2006). Kotulak (1996) and Diamond & Hobson (1998) refer to this as
plasticity - "t
he concept that the brain is dynamic and ever changing, continually forming new neural networks and pruning dendrites that are not being used (as cited in Fogarty, 2009, p. 5).
This video helps to explain these topics in greater detail.
Controls taste, smell, motor function, and the storage of our memories.
The Limbic System
This system contains the thalamus, hypothalamus, pituitary gland, pineal gland, amygdala, and hippocampus.
In addition to relaying information from the senses, the thalamus regulates consciousness and sleep.
The hypothalamus is nature-based, in that it regulates many of your natural instincts and animalistic desires.
The Pituitary Gland
This gland regulates different hormones used by our bodies for different functions.
The Reticular Activating System (RAS)
Fogarty tells us that "the brain is more like a sieve than a sponge" (2009, p. 4). The RAS is that sieve. It acts as the filter for what input is urgent, and what is not. What should be retained, and what can be let go.
The Pineal Gland
Fogarty tells us that the pineal gland is responsible for producing growth hormones and regulating the rate of body growth (2009, p. 12); however, all evidence shows the pineal gland is responsible for releasing melatonin which helps the body recognize when it is time to sleep.
"Your amygdalae are essential to your ability to feel certain emotions and to perceive them in other people. This includes fear and the many changes that it causes in the body" (Dubuc, n.d.). For this reason, the amygdala is often referred to as the
. This portion of the brain is responsible for the commonly known,
fight or flight
In addition to processing signals related to danger and fear, the amygdala is also responsible for alerting you to the presence of a sexual partner, a person in distress, and food.
Can a brain really change?
Ryan Delaway - GCU - June 10, 2014
(Fogarty, 2009 & Jensen, 2006)
The hippocampus is responsible for the storage of memories. It receives new information and begins to transmit the data to the memory stores in the neocortex of the brain. However, it is not an independent part of the brain. As mentioned previously, it is just one of many parts of the limbic system, and as one researcher states, "Nearly all hippocampal functions are performed in collaboration with several of its partners" (Buzsaki, 2011).
Now that we have a better understanding of what makes up the interior of the brain, we must take a look at what makes it all work.
Next stop: The Brain Cell
How does the brain work?
"To fully understand how the brain works, it seems best to begin by identifying the parts of the brain cell: neuron, axon, dendrite, synapse, neurotransmitter, electrical impulse, chemical signal, glial cell, myelin, and neural network or pathway" (Fogarty, 2009)
According to Fogarty:
Neuron: nerve cell that comprises gray and white matter in the brain.
Glial Cell: cell that splits and duplicates to act as glue to strengthen brain cells.
Myelin: coating on the axon that serves as an insulator and speeds up transmission for outgoing messages.
Axon: long fiber that sends electrical impulses and releases neurotransmitters.
Dendrite: short branching that receives the chemical transmitters.
Synapse: small gap between neurons through which neurtransmitters move.
Neurotransmitter: chemcial molecule that travels within and between brain cells.
Electrical impulse: the nerve message received and sent out by the neurons.
Chemical signal: a message carried from neuron to neuron.
Nueral network: a set of connected neurons that form a strengthened path that speeds the passage of the neurotransmitters.
Figure 1.9 The Brain Cell: A Glossary of Terms
Now that we have a better understanding of how the brain works, we can take another look at how the brain changes.
Next stop: Another look at Neuroplasticity and Brain Malleability.
Before we can better understand malleability or neuroplasticity, we must gain a better understanding of what is going on inside the brain.
Next stop: The Interior of the Brain.
Understanding Neuroplasticity and Brain Malleability: Part 2
What other kinds of experience can cause changes in the brain?
Jensen tells us that many negative and positive experiences can cause the brain to change:
Trauma Learning a new language
Drug abuse A year in a foreign country
Neglect Sports participation
Separation from parents Skill building
Traumatic brain injury Learning to learn
Seizures Entering a new environment
Physical or emotional abuse Phonemic awareness training
Malnutrition Restoration of a sense
Considering the information shared thus far, one must stop and consider how all of these things affect students in the classroom, and how teachers must adapt their lesson plans to best meet students' needs, and ever-changing brains.
Next stop: The Learner
A closer look at the brain and its cells
Andrei, M. (June 2, 2014). [Shutterstock image of a brain filled with gears]. Retrieved from http://www.zmescience.com/
Atkins, T. (June 8, 2014). Examples of basic emotions. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotion
Buzsaki, G. (2011). The Hippocampus. Retrieved from http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Hippocampus
Dolor, R. J. (February 13, 2014). [Image of a woman and a man in bed]. Retrieved from http://www.techtimes.com/
Fisher, S. (n.d.). Movement inspiration. Retrieved from http://soakandsauna.com/movement-inspiration/
[Image of a boy sleeping]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://rewordit.org/testrewordit1/tag/sleeping/
[Image of a boy smelling a flower]. (November 27, 2010). Retrieved from http://teachinglearnerswithmultipleneeds.
[Image of the limbic system]. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.rhsmpsychology
[Image of the five different tastes]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://spinarecipe.com/healthy_living.php?health=42
Jones, E. (n.d.). Sagittal brain and head. Retrieved from http://lpc1.clpccd.cc.ca.us/lpc/ jones
Mead, R. (September 1, 2010). What your growling stomach means. Retrieved from http://archives.midweek.com/
Mullison, P. (n.d.). Debt can keep you up at night. Retrieved from http://coloradobankruptcyguide.com /5917/is-debt-
Team Fascinate. (September 30, 2013). [Image of an animated human brain]. Retrieved from http://
Stock photo. (June 8, 2014). Thirsty man. Retrieved from http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-thirsty-man-
Sue. (December 17, 2013). A neuron. Retrieved from http://www.somerealitybites.com/the- snappy-synapse/
Sue. (December 17, 2013). Synapse. Retrieved from http://www.somerealitybites.com/the- snappy-synapse/
Buzsaki, G. (2011). The Hippocampus.
Delaway, R. (2014). TCH-517: The engaged mind - module 1 discussion
question 1 response. Retrieved from https://lc-grad2.gcu.edu/learningPlatform/user/users.html?operation=loggedIn#/learningPlatform/forum/post.html?operation= getPosts&topicId= dc42958a-f389-4f33-aac8-e271714d603f&
Dubuc, B. (n.d.). The amygdala and its allies. Retrieved from http://thebrain.
Fogarty, R. (2009). Brain compatible classrooms. Thousand Oaks:
Jensen, E. (2006). Enriching the brain: How to maximize every learner's
potential. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: "The development and construction of lessons, the delivery of instruction, the forms of assessment used, the data collected, and the way the data informs our next steps requires that the teacher take every student into consideration in the hopes of providing universal access and equity in the classroom. And, all of this must take place while concurrently considering what elements of the content to include, and in what ways the lesson will be standards-based and common core-related" (Delaway, 2014).
So we begin by learning to do things backwards.
We start by looking at the end result, or what we want our students to achieve (the standard).
Next, we determine what assessment tools will measure this achievement effectively (the assessment).
Then, we consider what our students can and will learn (the activities).
Lastly, we apply the lesson design (the lesson plan).
By thinking and working in this manner, we are able to consider the different intellectual levels of our students, as well as the experiences that might be affecting them.
What does backwards mapping look like?
We cannot forget to consider all of the negative and positive experiences that may be affecting our students - both genetic and environmental. The research is clear. Experience affects intelligence. Piaget, Vygotsky, Gardner, and Fogarty all present theories that support this notion (Fogarty, 2009, pp. 655-656). As do many Harvard University brain researchers.
Cameron Lisney, (2013, January 25). Howe to remember stuff for exams (a sieve-like brain).
Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQ4Qw0-XnR4
Camillia Matuk. (2011, Septemnber 16). The plastic brain (full animation). Retrieved from
Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. (2011, September 29). 1. Experiences
build brain architecture. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNNsN9IJkws
Delaway, R. (2014, June 9). The Malleable Brain. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?
Dr. Prodigious. (2012, August 19). The pituitary gland. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/
mahbub336. (2011, November 12). Human brain video learn about brain cells, neurons and
how the brain works. Retrieved from www. youtube.com/watch?v=Dvt_y70vKP4
Megan Doyle. (2010, November 7). Differentiated instruction. Retrieved from
Sentis. (2012, November 6). Neuroplasticity. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=
Because of all these factors that may be affecting our students, because no two of them are exactly alike, and because they all come to us with different skill sets and intelligences, we must remember to differentiate each lesson we plan so as to create the most possibility for equitable access to the curriculum.
Here's what it might look like
The brain is malleable - able to be changed - like plastic.
Experience affects the brain and intelligence - both positive and negative, and both genetic and environmental.
This knowledge should affect lesson planning.
Map your lessons with the outcome in mind, and assess appropriately.
Differentiate instruction to meet the needs of diverse learners.
Imagine if just one of those systems wasn't working properly due to genetic or environmental stimuli...
The learners we have versus the learners we want
Let's face it...they are all different and none of them are perfect. So, you make the best out of what you are given, and you mold their malleable minds until you cannot mold them anymore. And, you plan lessons that attempt to keep them engaged during the molding process.
Fogarty tells us also, that a brain functions at its best when challenged, but at its worst when threatened (2009). This has huge implications for educators.