By Tierra Negra, Courier Special Correspondent
A few years ago, when I attended a conference that talked about the brain, I came to the realization that teachers can benefit from its innate nature to solve problems. The presenter also helped me find the answer to the question most commonly posed by my students: why do I need to learn a subject matter I would never use in the future? To create new connections that eventually raises the ability among the neurons to communicate therefore processing information more efficiently.
Since then, I no longer merely gave data but tried to question students so they would come with the answers on their own. I provided examples that would feed their brains making them naturally think about solutions to problems.
On that occasion, a photo of a new born brain was shown with barely evidence of dendrites reaching out and, six months later, the same baby demonstrated branches were already growing in different directions as data accumulated through surrounding experiences. This process, if another photo was taken as an adult, may eventually resemble a dense jungle built by the dendrites inside any head.
It is recommended to avoid going pasive as we age to maintain alive such enriched net because the connecting patterns are forgotten if not in use but new may form if we continue to experiment. Small activities done with the left side instead of the right or showering with the eyes closed can have the same benefits. Diseases such as Alzheimer adversely affect these connections but not the ability to rebuild them again although it could be frustrating to have to re-teach the same patterns repeatedly.
My grandmother lost her memory at a relatively early age with the onset of her arteriosclerosis –producing poorer blood irrigation to the head. Although my mother does not present any evidence, she insists that there is something wrong with her because she is losing her memory as well –but it is not the first time she claims having an illness.
Two years ago I taught her how to play Sudoku hoping that it would delay her problem but her vision deteriorated afterwards preventing her from doing anything that required the use of her eyes for a while and now she seems to have worsened.
My mother has been taken to the psychologist because memory lost can also be a consequence of suffering depression and stress but the doctor’s diagnosis was that she has been programming herself to lose her memory long time ago.
Perhaps, after all, I want to believe that it is not psychosomatic but only old age memory lost. Studies have shown that it is accessing stored information what decays first along with the short term memory, the latter more as a result of our senses being responsible of gathering quality information now deteriorated. If the data we are storing is deficient logically it becomes harder to access it and retrieve it.
I have always imagined my brain like a walking closet where all information must be stored neatly organized to be easily available. As we experience trauma we block parts of such space with hurtful memories that cannot be broken apart to compress or order around because is impossible to access them to discard unnecessary parts. Spring cleaning comes repeatedly but if more traumatic experiences occur the wasted space increases until we approach old age with less opportunities, motives or energy to do the required deep cleaning.
I reached this conclusion as a result of experiencing a period of creativity right after I confronted some childhood issues with the onset of my postpartum depression. I do not think my mother has been able to do that so her space might be in great need of deep spring cleaning but I cannot foresee any motivation to do it at this point in her life. Meantime all I could do is be sympathetic to her, hoping that the story will not be repeated in me or my children –neither physically nor psychosomatically.