The brain is passive: what we think and what we do impacts our brain as it responds to what happens to it in the moment. If you engage when you experience an error or setback, your brain will learn, improve and adapt. If you disengage, it won’t.
These were key messages shared with Senior School students this week by Dr Jared Cooney Horvath, an Educational Neuroscientist and lecturer at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne.
Dr Cooney Horvath explained that our brains respond and adapt to situations and the demands we put on them, and that we can harness this and ‘master the hardware’ – that is, our grey matter, synapses and even down to the cells in our brains – to actively improve our physical and mental performance. Just knowing that we have the control and potential to shape our brains and strengthen them is an important step toward improved performance.
Referring to some high profile and highly able people such as Mozart and Michael Jordan, Dr Cooney Horvath challenged the assumption that geniuses are born that way. In fact, these are individuals who have worked exceptionally hard at their craft and know how to learn. Whether we activate and develop the potential of our genes is what really matters.
As he explained, Mozart wrote to his father, ‘People make a great mistake who think that my art has come easily to me… Nobody has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I.’ So too Michael Jordan should be famous for training harder than any other NBL player, not merely for being regarded as the best player.
Dr Cooney Horvath also shared the experience of someone who developed alternate neural pathways to regain the ability to speak after suffering a stroke. They were able to change their brain through many hours of deliberate effort.
There is a lot we can apply from Dr Cooney Hovarth’s presentation. During House sessions this year we will be watching a series of short videos he has produced for us to develop study techniques so we can ‘drive our brains and master our hardware’.
Deputy Head of Senior School – Student Learning