We’ve all heard about the incredible unused capacity of the brain, but recent research I have been perusing is impressive and will have an enormous impact in our engineering worlds. Most scientists have thought the brain to be ‘hardwired’ or fixed – well, soon after birth anyway. However, Doidge points out that the brain has an incredible ability to change itself – it is actually very ‘plastic’. No matter your age. He has backed up all his work with solid scientific and medical experimentation - enough for me to believe this is not just mumbo jumbo. He outlines situations where; people with learning disabilities, people with parts of their brains missing and stroke victims have been able to recover their faculties and abilities and indeed develop new skills. This is only achieved with significant effort, however (the inevitable catch). The brain is not a fixed collection of specialized parts, but is a dynamic organ that can rewire and rearrange itself as the need arises. This is providing that work is done to improve it - as if it is simply another muscle that needs to be exercised and strengthened.
How can we use this information?
• Keep learning and exercising your brain. How you think, will cause your brain to reshape itself (and be you)
• Train your brain in the fast changing skills of the engineering and technology world – it can adapt to this technology driven world no matter how old you are.
• Work on improving your IQ and memory power by using regular mind exercises
• Be wary of the negatives with a plastic brain – avoid lazy environments – these impact on the brain negatively – the brain will become lazy unfortunately
• Encourage the non-believers in technology to jump on board and join us - anyone can gain skills in engineering and technology if they genuinely want to – the brain is up to the challenge
• Improve your brain by constantly exercising it and challenging it with new information. As I have indicated in earlier newsletters, keep stretching your brain and make it work hard – it needs lots of exercise otherwise it gets lazy and ineffective – just like any other muscle.
• Look for opportunities in engineering and biomedical sciences - harness this know-how to build products – all the while taking advantage of the plastic brain.
And I heartily endorse what George Dorsey said:
The more you use your brain, the more brain you will have to use.
For the references above thanks to Norman Doidge MD who wrote the inspirational book: “The Brain that changes itself”.
Yours in engineering learning