Monday, June 02, 2008

The Brain

"Second languages learned after the critical period (8 years to puberty) are not processed in the same part of the brain as is the native tongue".

When I read french, I understand but don't 'get' what it says. This is a quote from the book The Brain the Changes Itself by Norman Doidge. (Amazon) For a long time neurologists believed that the brain was localized, ie. each physical section of the brain controlled specific functions. Nobel prizes were won by researchers that described brain function in that way. But it is only partly true. It seems that our brains are plastic, adaptable, constantly changing, rearranging depending on the use that we make of it. Our brain function or more exactly dysfunction is evident when there is an injury that causes disability. My favorite story from the book is a woman who had her vestibular system damaged by medication. She had no sense of balance, and was either falling or feeling she was falling through space. A device was placed on her tongue which gave 2D electrical stimulation patterns based on an accelerometer on her head. Almost instantaneously she regained her sense of balance as her brain identified and interpreted the stimulation pattern on her tongue. Remarkably after a few months of regular use, she regained her balance even without the device. Her brain learned, adapted, somehow.

Jeff Hawkins invented the Palm Pilot. He was involved in various ventures to do with Palm type devices. Having worn out 3 Palm handhelds, I took note of his name mentioned in the context of brain and intelligence research. Business Week article He describes intelligence as sophisticated pattern matching which permits prediction. Or something like that. Another book to read.


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