The latest neurophysiological studies show that learning produces plastic changes in the brain's neural network. It is these changes that we owe to our ability to learn. More precisely, we owe it to a unique property of our brain called neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is the ability of a human brain to change in response to obtained experience and even to restore lost connections under certain circumstances.

The Bottom Line

The phenomenon manifests itself in complex brain structure reorganization caused by the learning process. In other words, when we learn, our brain undergoes physiological changes, roughly similar to the way our body changes during exercise. What's more, the brain's ability to change is not limited to a person's age.

This ability of the brain is a relatively recent discovery. Earlier, the brain structure was believed not to change once it was formed in childhood.

And the discovery is quite fascinating! It means that we are capable of successful learning even in adulthood. Now, when developing corporate training programs, we can take into account the experimentally confirmed high neuroplasticity of the brain in adults and the elderly, in particular. Moreover, through compensating for some age-related brain changes, neuroplasticity allows older people to solve complex tasks even more successfully than younger ones.

So, you still believe in the importance of learning the essentials in childhood, as adults are less educable? You can see now, that turned out to be a myth.

Neuroplasticity, however, is yet to be explored. The deeper study of this ability is expected to uncover new, more effective teaching methods.

How was neuroplasticity discovered?

One day, a Soviet psychologist, the father of Russian neuropsychology Alexander Romanovich Luria found in experiments that when one part of the brain is injured, its functions may be taken over by other parts. It was further research in this direction that led to the discovery of neuroplasticity.

Our brain is made up of interconnected nerve cells known as neurons, and glia. The learning process happens to influence the inter-neuron connectivity, leading to old connections breaking down and new ones being created. In addition, it stimulates neurogenesis, the process of building new nerve cells in an already mature nervous system! Looks like another myth has been dispelled. You thought nerve cells don't regenerate, didn't you? Well, turns out they do, and it is the learning process that forces them to! Yes, leadership training, regular business game sessions for adult and senior employees are quite effective in creating new experiences, providing new knowledge, and enhancing the nervous system! And it is neuroscience that made all these amazing discoveries possible.

On Adult Learning

Throughout the 20th century, people thought that the structure of the brainstem and neocortex remained unchanged once it's finished forming at a young age. For a long time, we believed adult learning capacity to be limited. And yet, the areas responsible for memory and nerve cell repair proved to maintain a high level of plasticity throughout one's lifetime.

Neuroplasticity causes cellular changes inside the brain and can even reassign roles in the cerebral cortex if certain parts of the brain are damaged. One can provoke physiological changes in the brain by repeatedly going over the same material through experiencing different situations with similar patterns. Sometimes the aim is not just to explain, but also to teach, i. e. induce not only recognition but also memorization and practical use of the information obtained. In this case, it could take a certain number of iterations to establish a steady skill set.

That is why business games are so good for staff learning because they allow employees to consolidate the knowledge acquired during training sessions. For the same reason, leadership courses should be held at regular intervals and in different formats, irrespective of participants' age.

Only this way we can generate a change in our brain's neural network topology. And here's another very important thing. It's not repeating itself that leads to learning but repeating in different ways. Going through scenarios where the action goes differently with each new cycle, we can keep track of the previous cycle's mistakes and give a new direction for the next cycle's attempts.

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