Vision and Neuroplasticity

doidge-brainFacing a six hour adventure to get home to Minnesota from New York last year, I stopped in the LaGuardia airport bookstore to see if something caught my fancy and would be an immersive read. The book I chose was Norman Doidge’s The Brain That Changes Itself, and I can’t think of any recent book I’ve read that illustrates the power of TEL.A.VISION better than this one.

Doidge takes us on a journey into the latest developments in brain science which has led to what’s being termed “a revolution” in our understanding that the brain is truly “plastic” which can be molded, shaped, and rewired, “For years the doctrine of neuroscientists has been that the brain is a machine: break a part and you lose that function permanently. But more and more evidence is turning up to show that the brain can rewire itself, even in the face of catastrophic trauma: essentially, the functions of the brain can be strengthened just like a weak muscle.

There were many aspects of this book that leapt out at me but one key point — specifically within the context of TEL.A.VISION — is that permanently imprinting and creating new neural pathways in the brain (i.e., permanent behavior changes, knowledge permanence, automatic responses and deep, intuitive understandings) only happen when a person is focused, paying close attention and directing ones thoughts.

The discovery of “neuroplasticity,” that our thoughts can change the structure and function of our brains — even in old age — is the most important breakthrough in neuroscience in four centuries.

That’s right. Thought. TEL.A.VISION is a movement that directs, focuses and ensures students are thinking positive thoughts and paying close attention to their dreams as they craft their story and a vision of a future all their own.

When this book first came out, The New York Times reviewed it and one line grabbed me as particularly germane to TEL.A.VISION and its impact on student thought directed positively. The context was that a plastic, malleable brain can also get into ruts. Thinking negative thoughts, unable to rewire itself to get past roadblocks, and particularly attuned to external stimuli, “…the implications for external re-engineering of the human brain are ominous, for if the brain is malleable it is also endlessly vulnerable, not only to its own mistakes but also to the ambitions and excesses of others, whether they are misguided parents, well-meaning cultural trendsetters or despotic national leaders.

With the constant swirl of negative imagery in our 24/7 news cycle world, in many of our videogames, and with an acceleration in tension and stress in households struggling in these tough economic times, TEL.A.VISION is an oasis of positive focus and attention that elevates a student into a realm of thought that lifts them up and directs them toward their own, positive future and the outcomes which have previously only lived within their dreams.

Ms. Laurie Bartels, the K-8 Computer Coordinator and Technology Training Coordinator at Rye Country Day School in Rye, New York who blogs at Neurons Firing, wrote this review at Sharp Brains of Doidge’s book and had some particularly relevant insight,

I see plasticity and metacognition as closely entwined. This combination of knowing that intelligence is not fixed and thus you can change it, and knowing how you learn, is immensely positive and powerful, and has huge implications for students of any age. I translate this to students who struggle with learning issues, and aging adults who fear their brains will fade. I also think it is important for teachers to understand the concept of brain plasticity, as a means for no longer pigeon holing students.

One thing we’ve already discovered at TEL.A.VISION is that the power of vision not only impacts the students creating their own Vision Videos, but often stuns, surprises and enlightens teachers and parents who watch and experience a child’s TEL.A.VISION Vision Video. Comments like, “I had no idea he even HAD dreams!” said a Mom of a developmentally disabled boy, with tears streaming down her face, who now vowed to help him realize them. Teachers who have stood back, observing their student’s videos, who remark to us again-and-again how viewing them changed the classroom’s focus (toward the positive) and that it provided them with new insight into the hopes, dreams and aspirations of every single student.

Doidge tells many stories in his book and he brings up numerous examples of brain rewiring and plasticity and thus makes this neuroscience revolution accessible to us all. When it comes to TEL.A.VISION, we’re already seeing and experiencing the power of vision and the shifts occurring in hundreds of developing brains as the students participating focus on the positive and create their very own, delightfully engaging, vision story.