Rewiring Your Brain by Paying Attention

Steve Borsch, Connecting the Dots, Apr 02, 2008
Commentary by Stephen Downes

We know that repeated experience creates new connections in the brain, even in adults. But what counts as a repetition? Not necessarily physical experience - otherwise we could never remember seminal events that happen exactly once. Like scoring that goal in the play-offs. Reviewing it in our mind, then, counts as a repetition. Thinking about it counts as a repetition. Which is why discussion and community are so important to learning - talking about the experience brings it to mind, which is how we create new connections. But does just any thought about an experience count? What if we're only paying partial attention, as when we're multitasking? Steve Borsch, summarizing Norman Doidge's The Brain That Changes Itself, says "permanently imprinting and creating brain maps (i.e., permanent behavior changes, knowledge permanence, automatic responses and deep, intuitive understandings) only happens when a human or animal is focused and paying close attention." Of course, in a sense, that just dodges the question: what counts as 'focused' or 'paying close attention'? Can I listen to the radio? Drive? Eat?
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