Posts Tagged ‘neuroplasticity’

I’ve been dong a considerable amount of reading about learning and how we learn as I wade into an extended commitment to improve my own abilities in this area.  One of the most intriguing books so far has been Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.

When I embarked on this adventure that I’ve decided to call a self funded sabbatical, I had seen a decent amount about neuroplasticity which roughly defined is the the repurposing the existing circuits in the brain for new uses.  But one of the core messages of Spark is that neurogenesis or the growing of new nerve cells is not only possible but well established science, if still on the bleeding edge.  There are limited parts of the brain where this is proven to happen and several other caveats, but just the glimmer of hope that the all those cells that I’m sure I killed off in my twenties while drinking and smoking and otherwise abusing my system may not be permanently lost to me is exciting.  As a small side note, I wonder how all night programming stints while chugging Mountain Dew ranks on the abuse of the system next to some of the more conventional craziness?

The formula for neurogenesis appears to be a good bout of aerobic exercise at seventy to eighty percent max heart rate with occasional spikes to ninety percent followed by studying something.   Apparently if you don’t do some learning after the exercise the newly budded nerve cells just get re-absorbed, kind of a waste of good sweat, no?  One of the studies cited vocabulary acquisition explicitly as being enhanced by this method.  Another noted that attempting learn during the exercise was counterproductive.  Of course I was on the elliptical trainer when I learned those factoids.  Go figure.

So I’m making an attempt to use this information to inform my routine.  My current goal is twenty to thirty minutes on the elliptical followed by ten to twenty of tap then right into my Pimsleur Spanish lesson of the day.  Before the holidays I did this three times a week for a couple of weeks, once I get back into the routine in the new year, I’ll see how frequently I can mange it and write an update.  I’m also considering alternating morning and afternoon exercise.   And because I am insane, I’m at least flirting with doing a bout in the morning and a bout in the afternoon.