A New Way to Improve Your Brain: Learn Like a Child

An adult's brain can significantly improve its performance by learning new things the way children do, according to new research. Moreover, experts hope that this discovery can help treat brain disorders. Scientists have unexpectedly found that in less than two hours of "quick" learning, which usually occurs in childhood, the adult brain begins to work very actively and literally grow.

Experts have long known the fact that the brain of young children grows very quickly. However, a large amount of research in recent years has shown that the adult brain is still capable of growth even after learning something new that only lasted a few weeks.

“Our study showed that the adult brain is actually much more flexible than we previously thought, ” says researcher Li-Hai Tan, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Hong Kong. "We are very pleased with the results, as they give hope for recovery for adults with intellectual disabilities: with the help of appropriate integration strategies, the brain can recover quickly."

Scientists analyzed the influence of language on the perception of color, a question that has long worried many experts. More than half a century ago, linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf suggested that language can influence how a person perceives the world. Tan and his colleagues decided to scan the brain in order to check if there were any visible consequences (if of course the statement is reliable) at the cellular level.

The researchers asked 19 adult volunteers to come up with words to describe two shades of green and two shades of blue. This was done in order to induce rapid word-object associations that arise automatically during the development of the child. The task of the participants in the experiment was as follows: they had to listen to the names of colors when they were shown on the display, then name these colors when they suddenly appeared on the screen, and also note whether the colors coincide with the previously named and displayed words-associations.

After five training sessions over three days (total time spent on experiments - 1 hour 48 minutes), brain scans showed that with such training there was a significant increase in gray matter in the left side of the volunteers' visual cortex (the part of the brain associated with color vision and perception ). These changes could be caused both by an increase in the number of neurons and by the expansion of dendritic branches emanating from them.

“We were so surprised that initially we couldn't even believe that the structure of an adult's brain could change so quickly, ” Tan said.

The results also confirmed the results of previous experiments, which showed that the names of different colors affect the ability of people to distinguish colors. Earlier research on experience-dependent changes in the brain used methods that examined the dependence of physical activity on the number of connections between neurons.