Learning about the Brain

These child welfare specialists attended the training “Teaching Practical Life Skills to Families” in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. They learned about the brain to better understand and support the children and families they serve.

Learning the principles of brain science and neurodevelopment can inform how we cultivate resiliency. Here are four important things to remember about the brain.

  • Patterned Response: The human brain is composed of over 80 billion neurons. This network of neurons relays messages from one part of the brain to the next. Each time our brain responds to stimuli it forms a neuronal pathway. Like ruts in the snow or a trail through the woods, it is easier for future responses to travel the already existing paths.
  • Assimilation: Our brain processes a lot of information that it uses to make judgments and decisions. Since our brain does not have access to every piece of information, it generalizes new experiences and assimilates them into what it has already learned. This enables us to learn and adapt quicker but it also can result in distorted perceptions.
  • Mirror Neurons: Mirror neurons are neurons that fire both when you act or when you observe an action by someone else. If you flinch when you see someone get punched on television or you yawn when someone else yawns, this is the result of a mirror neuron. This makes relationships essential to how we develop.
  • Neuroplasticity: This is one of the most important discoveries science has made regarding the brain in terms of how it changes the way we think about learning. At one-time science believed the brain was fixed in terms of development. We now know that the brain can continue to rewire and change itself throughout our lifetime. It adapts based on our experiences.

The field of neuroscience is rapidly growing in what it is learning about the human brain and there are many more discoveries to be made.  As professionals, we need to keep learning and understand how this can inform our practice.

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