This is a fascinating talk that showed us the remarkable capability of our brain to support learning. Contrary to the common belief that brain doesn’t change during adulthood, and it only degrades during aging, the speaker showed that brain is constantly changing, both chemically and structurally based on our daily behaviors. There are a few points that she mentioned that I found very interesting –

  1. The brain structure changes more significantly when we are faced with difficult learning tasks, and these changes support long-term memories. Interestingly, our brain behaves just like a character in a role-playing game where the character gains the most experiences from difficult fights and unlock new skills. On the other hand, it implies that despite however much we like to do simple mundane tasks, it’s the challenging ones that make us grow. I find this perspective very valuable.
  2. After studying the brain of numerous individuals, one remarkable fact that she discovered is the huge variability in how each individual’s brain changes to support learning. In other words, each individual learns differently. There is no universal pattern of learning that works for everyone. Some may find traditional classroom teaching effective, some may find self-study effective, while some may prefer peer study. This lets me think about our education system. In fact, our education system is biased towards only one type of learning, classroom learning. The attendances for lectures, recitations, are factors in a student’s final evaluation that may affect his or her future in some way. In other words, we are selecting only students who learn well in classroom setting despite the fact that a large portion of students does not learn effectively in this manner. This is a waste of intellectual resources, the most valuable resources of mankind.

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