Transcript: After Watching This, Your Brain Will Not Be The Same by Lara Boyd

Lara Boyd

Dr. Lara Boyd, physical therapist and neuroscientist, says After Watching This, Your Brain Will Not Be The Same at TEDxVancouver. Below is the full transcript. This event took place TEDxVancouver at Rogers Arena on November 14, 2015.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here: After watching this, your brain will not be the same by Lara Boyd at TEDxVancouver


So how do we learn? And why does some of us learn things more easily than others? So, as I just mentioned, I’m Dr. Lara Boyd. I am a brain researcher here at the University of British Columbia. These are the questions that fascinate me.

So brain research is one of the great frontiers in the understanding of human physiology, and also in the consideration of what makes us who we are. It’s an amazing time to be a brain researcher and, I would argue to you that I have the most interesting job in the world.

What we know about the brain is changing at a breathtaking pace, and much of what we thought we knew and understood about the brain turns out to be not true, or incomplete. Now some of these misconceptions are more obvious than others. For example, we used to think that after childhood the brain did not, really could not change. And it turns out that nothing can be farther than the truth.

Another misconception about the brain is that you only use parts of it at any given time and silent when you do nothing. Well, this is also untrue. It turns out that even when you are at a rest, and thinking of nothing, your brain is highly active. So it’s been advances in technology, such as MRI, that’s allowed us to make these and many other important discoveries. And perhaps the most exciting, the most interesting and transformative of these discoveries is that, every time you learn a new fact or skill, you change your brain. It’s something we call neuroplasticity.

So as little as least 25 years ago we thought that after about puberty, the only changes that took place in the brain were negative. The loss of brain cells with aging, resulted damage, like a stroke. And then studies began to show remarkable amounts of reorganization in the adult brain. And the ensuing research has shown us that all of our behaviors change our brain. That these changes are not limited by age, it’s good news right? And in fact they are taking place all the time. And very importantly, brain reorganization helps to support recovery after you damage your brain.

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The key to each of these changes is neuroplasticity. So what does it look like? So your brain can change in three very basic ways to support learning. And the first is chemical. So brain actually functions by transferring chemicals signals between brain cells, what we call neurons, and this triggers series of actions and reactions. So to support learning your brain can increase the amount of the concentrations of these chemical signaling that’s taking place between neurons. Now because this kind of change can happen rapidly, this supports short term memory or the short term improvement in the performance of a motor skill.

The second way that the brain can change to support learning is by altering its structure. So during learning the brain can change the connections between neurons. Now here the physical structure of the brain is actually changing so this takes a bit more time. These types of changes are related to the long term memory, the long term improvement in a motor skill.

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