Brain and You
provides access to two of Dr. Ellen Weber's published articles on the
and Learning: What We Know and What We Don't
a Human star and . . .
and Learning: What We Know and What We Don't
Reprinted from: MC2, Canada's National Mensa Magazine, Winter,
2000, p. 6
brains, with consistency of raw eggs, continually rewire to learn better.
But did you know your brain can also limit learning? Depression cuts
creativity, and blocks memory, regardless of fights against frumps?
Victims often fear or dread their future, suffering mood disturbances,
from serotonin failure. So despair deepens and learning loss results.
Our brains are orchestrated by 200 kinds of cells
with trillions of neural signals actively communicating in the cortex.
Observed through brain imaging, brain chemicals seep through clefts
in the brain and convert to electrical impulses which impact what you
learn and sway your reactions to life around you. Will it be smile or
sneer? Chemicals called neurotransmitters act as biochemical messengers,
which generate learning, and act as stimuli to excite neurons or as
inhibitors to suppress them. Drugs can stimulate or block synapses,
another name for communication and electrical activity among neurons.
In spite of revelations, malfunctioning brains
continue to hide keys that unlock problems and reveal learning patterns.
We know that drugs such as Prozak block depression, for instance. Unfortunately,
some mind altering drugs also rob personality parts that help a person
reflect, connect ideas, or think deeply. Physical exercise and good
health increase oxygen, and affect moods positively. Yet how or why
learning increases, is less obvious.
We do know, though, that depressed people often
lack images that secure, comfort and console. Negative images and recriminating
inner voices plague and disturb their thoughts. Imagine yourself failing
at work today. Instead of inner mental responses that soothe and show
lessons about recovery, depression shoots darts of fear, so you dread
further disasters. And yet, while no cure exists for some forms of depression,
hope increases and help moves closer for many who face depression’s
Determination alone is not enough for well-being,
since depression is ruled at times by gene pools we carry, and at times
by lives we lead. Not surprisingly, brain researchers disagree on cures
and causes for two common depressions. One kind, endogenous depression,
originates from innate predisposition to mood disturbances. Victims
suffer despondency, hopelessness or guilt over trivial triggers. Another
kind, called neurotic or reactive depression, signifies external miseries
like illness, death or loss that trigger gloom. In both cases, we have
learned lessons lately. You may be surprised to know that statistically
more endogenous depressions are treated with mind altering drugs or
anti-depressants. Reactive or neurotic depression is often treated with
drugs in addition to psychological strategies that help people find
more realistic views of their problems. People labeled psychotic when
severe depression robs reality, still drop out. And even mild depression
prevents some from cracking misery’s spells. But we can all learn
We know that rich inner lives help people to
refine images and stockpile positive emotional responses to combat difficulties.
While we can expect fears and worries, and will lack courage at times,
we can learn to face futures with hope. Reflection helps us create a
cache of positive images to block fear and deal realistically with negative
Brain breakthroughs remind us that human intelligence
is in some ways as complex and difficult to understand as it was for
Greek scholars. Homer’s epic poems in the eighth Century fail
to mention doubt or depression since people in Homer’s stories
simply lacked free will. They acted because of driving inner voices
or were driven by gods.
People are living longer and for some this means
longer bouts with depression. On July 17th, 1990 George Bush suggested
that North America, “enhance public awareness of the benefits
to be derived from brain research.” Research continues to tap
at doors yet blocks still prevent genuine cures for depression. A friend
lets you down after making a promise to help you, you feel too tired
to work, you lack money to pay your bills, or you just slip into the
blues for no apparent reason. We learn more and recover better when
we know others too look for answers. Did you know, for instance, that
left brain damage tends toward depression while right hemisphere damage
can actually lead to manic cheerful learners?
All to say, as Leslie Hart, did in Human
Brain and Human Learning, said: “With our new knowledge of
the brain, we are just dimly beginning to realize that we can now understand
humans, including ourselves, as never before, and that this is the greatest
advance of the century, and quite possibly the most significant in all
human history.” When this new understanding benefits those who
suffer depression, we’ll all capitalize from the most powerful
force on earth, the brain, as it transforms despair into learning.
a Human Star and . . .
Ellen Weber ©
Reprinted from Wellsville Daily Reporter February 28, 2000
Did you know a human brain packs
ten trillion cells, the number of stars in the Galaxy? Two hundred cell
types also equal numbers of different star clusters in our universe.
To put our brain’s power-pack to work, we first have to sense
the wonder of star-lit vision. Apparently we’ve seen only 130
star clusters. I wonder how many brain cells we see or enjoy in a day?
We know that cell power decides what we wear, how we move, and who we
confide in. Chemicals called neurotransmitters also jumpstart learning.
Just as stars heat, illumine and energize skies, cells boost learning.
I find it hard to imagine a three-pound brain with cells equal to stars
that blaze the Galaxy. Think of it. A teacher’s words, “Not
working to capacity,” might in reality mean fewer stars fired
for you in a peer’s less focused moments. An eighth grade teacher
called Einstein, “bonehead”, when he failed to move among
wider, more distant star clusters with peers.
Human intelligence is as complex today as it
was for Greeks to explain stellar action centuries ago. But an era of
brain breakthroughs is blazing fresh trails for learning opportunities.
On July 17th, 1990 George Bush said, “We enhance public awareness
of the benefits to be derived from brain research.” If you catch
even one unique star, you could ignite passion for new interests, spark
an old friendship, or map out new adventures. A few simple questions
will help you to unleash hidden stars within your intellectual universe.
Impetus for learning almost anything new sparks if we pump brainpower
to jettison us there.
Hidden in what you persist at, do well, enjoy,
or look forward to, lie amazing God-given gifts that open new possibilities
for action. Your tiniest ability or interest could pave pathways toward
new vision. We actually have much more brainpower than once thought.
Intelligence as a fixed entity that can be measured in an IQ score,
has given way to intelligence that grows when challenged. With use,
brain cells actually reproduce cells called dendrites. Good news is
that dendrite growth continues well into our golden years.
Unique talents arise from within everyday dreams,
that add meaning and beauty to our worlds. Your visions may not equal
rocket science in von Braun’s insights for the V-2, or the Wright
brother’s genius for powered flight. But when we use our brains,
we create a launching pad for original ideas and discoveries. We don’t
need the mind-bending vision of Einstein’s “curved space”
to project an arc of originality.
Your brain may never produce da Vinci’s
art on chapel ceilings, or Donatell’s David in chiseled stones.
But your own original ideas can soar to new songs, inventions, poetry
or scientific projects. You may never write 10,000 words a day as Enid
Blyton wrote children’s books in England, but your communication
ideas might build a business, or custom-make schedules for family fun.
Whatever you create, think of your gifts as worthwhile and seize the
brain power to galvanize them. You can do this by identifying four personal
tendencies in an inventory to unleash personal abilities.
Interest Inventory to Identify Personal Gifts
Activities at which You Persist:
1). When you find a free moment you ____________________________.
2). One activity you repeat often is ________________________.
3). Even when time is short you enjoy _____________________________.
Activities You Do Especially Well:
1). If asked to ____________________ you feel
confident to do well with little help.
2). Others say you can ____________________________________.
3). You are pleased with results when you __________________________.
Activities You Enjoy:
1). If seeking adventure you ____________________________________.
2). You enjoy _____________________________________
3). When you relax you like to _____________________________.
Activities you look forward to:
1). If you had material resources you would _________________________.
2). Whenever you find time you _________________________________.
3). After a busy day you like to ___________________________________.
When we follow dreams, or chase lofty visions
we discover amazing solutions for everyday problems. And when we combine
personal talents with wishes chased, we beam shining solutions and arc
new heights. The opposite is also true. When we ignore dreams, or shut
down gifts, human brain cells dim and vision fails.
Imagine your unique dreams and special gifts
waltzing together today the way millions of stars dance beneath spherical
halos in the Galaxy. You might create music like Bob Dylan, solve computer
problems like Bill Gates, share wisdom like Judge Judy, or simply master
a new way to fund college tuition. In so imagining, we have just taken
the first step toward unleashing talents that hitch our wagons to rising