Busting myths about the brain and how we learn

Monday, March 20, 2017 - 18:08

By AIM Education & Training

The brain is central to our health and sense of self among many other things. When it comes to how it operates, only neurology graduates would have a fair understanding of its internal structure

For those looking at undertaking study, knowing how the brain works can help you understand how to learn more efficiently. In an effort to help you reach your learning objectives, here are two brain myths that need to be debunked.

1. We only use 10 per cent of our brain

Along with performing a huge a variety of everyday actions, it composes opera, writes books and develops elegant solutions to complex equations. With all of this going on, it's no surprise that the brain is veiled in mystery. 

The enigmatic nature of the brain is compounded by the myth that humans only engage 10 per cent of their brain at any one time. The belief is that if someone could tap into the other 90 per cent, they would be able to accomplish extraordinary tasks, such as solving Hilbert's problems or generating solutions to the meaning of the universe. 

However, the 10 per cent idea is actually the result of a quote attributed to American psychologist and author William James, which was misrepresented by the media. He actually said: 

"We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources."

2. The older you get the less your learn

We've all heard the saying, old dogs can't learn new tricks. Well, guess what? This is also a myth!

Research has shown that unlike what many believe, the trajectory of human development is not fixed after a certain age. In fact, research led by Harvard scientists have found that eight weeks of mindful meditation can lead to changes in the structure of the brain, salient enough to be picked up by MRI scans. 

Organisations around the world have adopted this concept, called neuroplasticity, with many encouraging employees to engage with mindfulness exercises, such as meditation.

Take for instance employees from Aetena. McKinsey and Company reports that employees who take up the offer of free yoga and mediation said they experienced a 28 per cent reduction in stress, while productivity rose by 62 minutes a week. 

While these are two of the main myths that circulate in society, there are many others. The important takeaway is that no pill or trick is going to increase brain activity. Instead it's up to you to work on your skills and talents.