Brain flexibility can predict one’s ability to learn

This week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) will contain a study in which researchers at UC Santa Barbara’s Brain Imaging Center recently developed a mechanism to determine how much a person is able to learn (Science Daily).

Researchers had study participants perform a motor task in which they pushed a series of buttons as quickly as possible.  While participants performed this task, researchers conducted functional MRI images of their brains.  Each fMRI image was divided into 112 regions and analyzed to discern how many different regions connected while the participants performed their motor task.  The researchers paid close attention to the interaction of multilayer networks, which show segments of different brain regions at one time, rather than individually.  Each segment is capable of containing a large amount of data, which is not yet quantifiable.  However, viewing connections between different regions simultaneously illustrated networks of communication of different brain layers, or multilayer networks.

The researchers were investigating brain flexibility, which they considered to be how various areas of the brain connect to each other in differentiated patterns.  Their findings suggest that a person’s brain flexibility can predict how well they will learn.

First author Danielle S. Bassett stated, “Parts of the brain communicate with one another very strongly, so they form a sort of module of intercommunicating regions of the brain.  In this way, brain activity can segregate into multiple functional modules.  What we wanted to measure is how fluid those modules are.”

Fluidity between each module in the brain may indicate increased flexibility of the brain.  Most significant is the fact that brain regions flexibility, and allegiances with other brain regions, can change over time.

Bassett explains, “That flexibility seems to be the factor that predicts learning.”

Brainjogging trains the brain, taking full advantage of its plasticity, or flexibility.  Plasticity is the characteristic that allows brains to change.  This is the reason for Brainjogging’s successes with students: students’ brains actually change when using Brainjogging, becoming more and more flexible and receptive learning.

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