No matter what the diagnosis, there is hope and great potential waiting to be tapped. This is because the brain is capable of tremendous and miraculous change. Rewiring and producing lasting change in a brain is a day-to-day process. There are no quick fixes, no shortcuts. The path may be challenging, but it is traversable, step-by-step.
The first step in producing lasting change addresses the neurological system and how the student receives, processes, stores, and utilizes information. Focusing on this domain is about training the brain to operate more efficiently.
- Neuro is for “neuron,” the nerve cells in our brains and nervous system
- Plastic is for changeable, malleable, modifiable
- Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize (change) itself based on the stimulation it receives
"When one 'neural road' is shut down, a secondary road is found, and exposed, the more it is strengthened.
This 'unmasking' is generally thought to be one of the main ways the plastic brain reorganizes itself."
Normal Doidge, M.D., The Brain That Changes Itself
From shortly after conception and throughout life, the nervous system is a dynamically changing, self-organizing system. It follows no single master plan and is never static. As a matter of adaptation, we develop our neural wiring in direct response to our life experiences, and new nerve cell growth continues until the day we die. As many as 60,000 new nerve cells per day grow in the Hippocampus, the place where we start formulating memories from environmental input.
The existence of neuronal stem cells have been proven (neurogenesis) in the following areas of the brain:
- Hippocampus (memory)
- Olfactory bulb (smell)
- Septum (emotion)
- Striatum (movement)
Cardiovascular activity (running) was found to be the most effective contribution to increased proliferation of new neurons. The important combination was found to be running (creates new cells) and continued learning (prolongs their survival).
"The harder you use the brain the more it will grow. Damaged or older brains can rewire themselves to
compensate for losses. They can shift responsibility for a given task from one region of the brain to another."
Stanley Rappaport, Chief of Neuroscience Lab
National Institute on Aging
At Jacob’s Ladder, we work from the ground up to create a strong foundation for learning, beginning with:
"In 1868, Jules Cotard studied children who had early massive brain disease, in which the left hemisphere
(including Broca's area) wasted away. Yet these children could learn to speak normally. This meant that
even if speech tended to be processed in the left hemisphere, as Broca claimed, the brain was
plastic enough to reorganize itself when necessary."
Norman Doidge, M.D.
The Brain That Changes Itself
Level I-The Brain Stem
- Develops between Conception and 15 months
- Regulates all survival mechanisms
- Sensory motor base patterns for which all future learning will be based:
- Movement and Balance
Level 2-The Midbrain/The Limbic System
- Emotional/cognitive processing
- Determines which neurotransmitters are released-ones that either strengthen or weaken the immune system
- Serves as a relay station for all incoming senses except smell
- Regulation of:
- Recognition of:
- Facial expressions and body language
Level 3-The Neocortex/Cerebrum
- Communal Central
- Contains 20+ billion nerve cells (grey matter)
- White matter-myelinates axons extending from or going to nerve cells that carry sensory information and motor commands to the body
- Organizes, integrates, associates information for learning
- Language Center
- Executive functioning: Reasoning, planning
- Fine motor control
Jacob's Ladder addresses issues at the most basic, foundational level before pushing for skill sets that reside in the highest level of the Neocortex.