After watching this, your brain will not be the same | Lara Boyd | TEDxVancouver

After watching this, your brain will not be the same | Lara Boyd | TEDxVancouver

Translator: Jessica Lee
Reviewer: Denise RQ So how do we learn? And why does some of us learn things
more easily than others? So, as I just mentioned,
I’m Dr. Lara Boyd. I am a brain researcher here
at the University of British Columbia. These are the questions that fascinate me. (Cheers) (Applause) So brain research
is one of the great frontiers in the understanding of human physiology, and also in the consideration
of what makes us who we are. It’s an amazing time
to be a brain researcher, and I would argue to you that I have the most interesting job
in the world. What we know about the brain
is changing at a breathtaking pace. And much of what we thought we knew
and understood about the brain turns out to be not true or incomplete. Some of these misconceptions
are more obvious than others. For example, we used to think that after childhood the brain did not,
really could not change. And it turns out that nothing
could be farther from the truth. Another misconception about the brain is that you only use parts of it
at any given time and it’s silent when you do nothing. Well, this is also untrue. It turns out
that even when you’re at a rest and thinking of nothing,
your brain is highly active. So it’s been advances
in technology, such as MRI, that’s allowed us to make these
and many other important discoveries. And perhaps the most exciting, the most interesting
and transformative of these discoveries is that, every time you learn
a new fact or skill, you change your brain. It’s something we call neuroplasticity. So as little as 25 years ago,
we thought that after about puberty, the only changes that took place
in the brain were negative: the loss of brain cells with aging, the result of damage, like a stroke. And then, studies began
to show remarkable amounts of reorganization in the adult brain. And the ensuing research has shown us that all of our behaviors
change our brain. That these changes are not limited by age, it’s a good news right? And in fact,
they are taking place all the time. And very importantly, brain reorganization helps
to support recovery after you damage your brain. The key to each of these changes
is neuroplasticity. So what does it look like? So your brain can change
in three very basic ways to support learning. And the first is chemical. So your brain actually functions
by transferring chemicals signals between brain cells,
what we call neurons, and this triggered a series
of actions and reactions. So to support learning,
your brain can increase the amount or the concentrations
of these chemical signaling that’s taking place between neurons. Because this change can happen rapidly, this supports short-term memory or the short-term improvement
in the performance of a motor skill. The second way that the brain
can change to support learning is by altering its structure. So during learning, the brain can change
the connections between neurons. Here, the physical structure
of the brain is actually changing so this takes a bit more time. These type of changes are related
to long-term memory, the long-term improvement
in a motor skill. These processes interact,
and let me give you an example of how. We’ve all tried to learn
a new motor skill, maybe playing the piano, maybe learning to juggle. You’ve had the experience
of getting better and better within a single session of practice, and thinking “I have got it.” And then, maybe you return the next day, and all those improvements
from the day before are lost. What happened? Well, in the short-term,
your brain was able to increase the chemical signaling
between your neurons. But for some reason, those changes
did not induce the structural changes that are necessary
to support long-term memory. Remember that
long-term memories take time. And what you see in the short term
does not reflect learning, It’s these physical changes that are now going to support
long-term memories, and chemical changes
that support short-term memories. Structural changes also can lead
to integrated networks of brain regions that function together
to support learning. And they can also lead
to certain brain regions that are important
for very specific behaviors to change your structure or to enlarge. So here’s some examples of that. People who read Braille have larger hand sensory areas
in their brain than those of us who don’t. Your dominant hand motor region,
which is on the left side of your brain, if you are right-handed,
is larger than the other side. And research shows
the London taxi cab drivers who actually have to memorize a map
of London to get their taxi cab license, they have larger brain regions devoted
to spatial, or mapping memories. The last way that your brain
can change to support learning is by altering its function. As you use a brain region, It becomes more and more excitable
and easy to use again. And as your brain has these areas
that increase their excitability, the brain shifts
how and when they are activated. With learning, we see that whole networks of brain activity
are shifting and changing. So neuroplasticity is supported by chemical, by structural,
and by functional changes, and these are happening
across the whole brain. They can occur in isolation
from one or another, but most often,
they take place in concert. Together, they support learning. And they’re taking place all the time. I just told you really
how awesomely neuroplastic your brain is. Why can’t you learn anything
you choose to with ease? Why do our kids sometimes fail in school? Why as we age
do we tend to forget things? And why don’t people fully recover
from brain damage? That is: what is it that limits
and facilitates neuroplasticity? And so this is what I study. I study specifically how it relates
to recovery from stroke. Recently, stroke dropped from being the third leading cause
of death in the United States to be the forth leading cause
of death. Great news, right? But actually, it turns out that the number of people
having a stroke has not declined. We are just better at keeping
people alive after a severe stroke. It turns out to be very difficult
to help the brain recover from stroke. And frankly, we have failed to develop
effective rehabilitation interventions. The net result of this
is that stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability
in adults in the world; individuals with stroke are younger and tending to live longer
with that disability, and research from my group actually shows that the health-related quality of life
of Canadians with stroke has declined. So clearly we need to be better at helping people recover from stroke. This is an enormous societal problem, and it’s one that we are not solving. So what can be done? One thing is absolutely clear: the best driver of neuroplastic change
in your brain is your behavior. The problem is that the dose
of behavior, the dose of practice that’s required to learn
new and relearn old motor skills, is very large. And how to effectively deliver
these large doses of practice is a very difficult problem;
It’s also a very expensive problem. So the approach
that my research has taken is to develop therapies that prime
or that prepare the brain to learn. And these have included brain simulation,
exercise, and robotics. But through my research,
I’ve realized that a major limitation to the development of therapies
that speed recovery from stroke is that patterns of neuroplasticity
are highly variable from person to person. As a researcher,
variability used to drive me crazy. It makes it very difficult
to use the statistics to test your data and your ideas. And because of this,
medical intervention studies are specifically designed
to minimize variability. But in my research,
it’s becoming really clear that the most important,
the most informative data we collect is showing this variability. So by studying the brain
after stroke, we’ve learned a lot, and I think these lessons
are very valuable in other areas. The first lesson is that the primary driver of change
in your brain is your behavior, so there is no neuroplasticity drug
you can take. Nothing is more effective than practice
at helping you learn, and the bottom line
is you have to do the work. And in fact, my research has shown increased difficulty, increased struggle
if you will, during practice, actually leads to both more learning, and greater structural change
in the brain. The problem here is that neuroplastcity
can work both ways. It can be positive,
you learn something new, and you refine a motor skill. And it also can be negative though,
you forgot something you once knew, you become addicted to drugs, maybe you have chronic pain. So your brain is tremendously plastic, and it’s been shaped both structurally
and functionally by everything you do, but also by everything that you don’t do. The second lesson
we’ve learned about the brain is that there is
no one-size-fits-all approach to learning. So there is no recipe for learning. Consider the popular belief
that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to learn and to master a new motor skill. I can assure you
it’s not quite that simple. For some of us, it’s going to take a lot more practice,
and for others it may take far less. So the shaping of our plastic brains
is far too unique for there to be any single intervention
that’s going to work for all of us. This realization has forced us to consider
something call personalized medicine. This is the idea that to optimize outcomes each individual requires
their own intervention. And the idea actually comes
from cancer treatments. And here it turns out that genetics
are very important in matching certain types of chemotherapy
with specific forms of cancer. My research is showing that this
also applies to recovery from stroke. There’re certain characteristics
of brain structure and function we called biomarkers. And these biomarkers
are proving to be very helpful and helping us to match specific therapies
with individual patients. The data from my lab suggests
it’s a combination of biomarkers that best predicts neuroplastic change
and patterns of recovery after stroke. And that’s not surprising, given
how complicated the human brain is. But I also think we can consider
this concept much more broadly. Given the unique structure
and function of each of our brains what we’ve learned about neuroplasticity
after stroke applies to everyone. Behaviors that you employ
in your everyday life are important. Each of them is changing your brain. And I believe we have to consider not just personalized medicine
but personalized learning. The uniqueness
of your brain will affect you both as a learner and also as a teacher. This idea helps us to understand why some children can thrive
in tradition education settings and others don’t; why some of us can learn languages easily and yet, others can pick up
any sport and excel. So when you leave this room today, your brain will not be the same
as when you entered this morning. And I think that’s pretty amazing. But each of you is going to have changed
your brain differently. Understanding these differences, these individual patterns,
this variability and change is going to enable
the next great advance in neuroscience; it’s going to allow us to develop
new and more effective interventions, and allow for matches
between learners and teachers, and patients and interventions. And this does not just apply
the recovery from stroke, it applies to each of us, as a parent,
as a teacher, as a manager, and also because you are
at TEDx today, as a lifelong learner. Study how and what you learn best. Repeat those behaviors
that are healthy for your brain, and break those behaviors
and habits that are not. Practice. Learning is about doing the work
that your brain requires. So the best strategies
are going to vary between individuals. You know what, they’re even going
to vary within individuals. So for you, learning music
may come very easily, but learning to snowboard, much harder. I hope that you leave today with a new appreciation
of how magnificent your brain is. You and your plastic brain are constantly
being shaped by the world around you. Understand that everything you do, everything you encounter, and everything
you experience is changing your brain. And that can be for better,
but it can also be for worse. So when you leave today,
go out and build the brain you want. Thank you very much. (Applause)

About the Author: Michael Flood


  1. of course the brain changes as we learn new things, humanity has always been able to adapt which will change our brain to help us adapt

  2. In short, what your brain is exposed to "good or bad" will describe your behavioral personality towards the environment you are about to explore and develop the desires that change you life

  3. Yesterday my brain was very productive, doing math like a champ
    but today it refused to work for some reason.. can't figure out why, couldn't even focus on this video

  4. I was curious to watch the video because of the eye catching title then I saw her boots then changed my mind.

  5. you will never reach or accomplish something that you desire and bring out the best of you when you can't manage to get out from getting stuck from bad habits, bad behavior, got surrounded by wrong people on a daily basis. Getting rid of this might help you out reach the peak of success and don't stop learning. This is something that I still keep in my mind to become better me. thanks!

  6. "I won't let this stress me out" is a more positive way of saying "I don't give a f*ck." Saying "I don't give a f*ck" over and over can have negative consequences. At the very least, it won't be very helpful.

    I think it signals the brain to stop working. And that's not something you want to train your brain to do.

    Be positive. Make it a habit.

  7. so she's saying don't bother to start studying a week before the exam because the brain will take longer than that to recognise learning… instead cram because chemicalsssss

  8. for the people that need dot points for school:

    Dr Lara Boyd – brain researcher at BUC

    Question Posed:
    How do we learn and why do some people learn things more
    easily than others?

    –      Neuroplasticity – Every time a new fact or skill
    is learned a part of our brain changes, which we can see through MRIs
    –      Brain re-organisation helps support recovery
    after the brain is damaged
    –      The brain can change in three main ways to
    support learning
    o  Chemical
    § Transferring chemical signals between neurons
    (brain cells) which trigger actions and reactions
    § To support learning, the brain can control the
    amount and concentration of these chemicals
    § Change can happen quite rapidly
    § Supports short term memory or short-term
    performance of the skill
    o  Altering its structure
    § The brain can alter the connections between
    § The physical structure of the brain changes (can
    take more time)
    § Effect long term memory performance and
    improvement of skills
    § Can lead to networks of neurons that support
    ·     E.g. larger dominant hand motor regions
    o  Altering its function
    § As the brain has areas that increase excitability,
    the brain changes how and when they are activated.
    o  These methods can interact
    § E.g. learning an instrument in which the brain
    releases the chemicals necessary for the short term and returning to find that
    the chemicals did not induce the structural change to support long-term memory
    § Short-term improvements do not reflect learning
    –      Neuroplasticity and how it can assist recovery
    from stroke
    o  So far failed to develop effective rehabilitation interventions
    o  The dose of practice necessary to learn and relearn
    motor skills is large and can be expensive to deliver
    o  Brain stimulation, exercise and robotics are all
    methods that can help prepare the brain to learn or relearn skills
    o  Patterns of neuroplasticity are highly variable;
    no drug available
    o  Increase in difficulty leads to more effective
    learning and brain restructuring
    o  Personalised medicine is the idea that to
    optimise outcomes each individual requires their own rehabilitation
    o  This concept allows understanding as to why some
    children thrive in traditional education systems while others don’t
    –      These developments can lead to effective matches
    being made between learners and teachers

  9. Just popped in for a moment to say I’m DEFINITELY NOT watching this………because I want my brain to remain the SAME!!!!!! 😾

  10. I believe that its extremely interesting that we the ability/capability to organize itself and reinforce connections when we learn something new and how it is able to recover after a trauma like a stroke

  11. She's a very attractive woman, but it might be hard to be her mate…I mean, when she would ask "What are you thinking about?" Her mate cannot say "nothing"…because she already knows…

  12. タイトルで釣られましたが、何の斬新な面もありませんでした。


  13. The brain could change or stop functioning when we get too much of disturbances from unknown. To start with this is an old video.
    Imgaine that things are happening around the world we don't have anyone to contact why would they not blaim it on brian derailment?
    Only those who knows it feel it.

  14. It kind of blows my mind to think that you are just your brain. The life you experience is all located in your brain and nervous system.

  15. I do not like neuroplasticity in some ways. If you truly live a life of the mind, it comes at the expense of the libido. Some of you can relate to that. College campuses are full of professors that have diminished libidos. It does not mean one doesn't reap benefits from the structural changes the speaker was talking about, but the diminishment of a pleasurable sensation along the way is not something to look forward to. Sure you can get it back by reengaging the erotic brain more, but that will also mean the diminishment of the new benefits that the structural change conferred on you in the scholastic brain. Why does it have to be a zero sum game? Chime in…

  16. The only thing this woman could teach us is how to get away with being paid to 'study' something that is patently obvious to most people, that is that some people are better at learning something than others and practise makes perfect.

  17. this is y u don’t memorize speeches this long, this woman is incredible but it hurt to watch this vid bc of how many times she had to stop and think ab what she was saying

  18. Why do we learn things more easily than others? Because they have studied it before!! Genius like Albert Einstein doesn't exists, they just keep trying and don't surrender before have all the questions answered!! It is not so hardly to understand. If you really can't learn anything go to a medic because something is strange with you!! But the brain will always be the same no matter what, so thinking like this maybe every mind is the same, but the experience that they have isn't the same and will never be the same. And this is what makes your brain different from your brother's brain or your mom, dad… your whole family! If there is a thing that i believe is the phrase by Rene Descartes that he says: i think, then i exist

    This is what i think about my brain, and the brain of others!!

  19. I made it to 11 minutes before I realised to practise reading comments before watching TED talks. Silly brain.. Lesson learned.ty!

  20. Brain is an hardware to feel the simulation around us!? May be..
    So it is supersimulated object made in simulation for simulation?😶

  21. KEEPING IT SIMPLE – At surface level, the symbolic translation of 1996 Crop circle & Roswell rock is Galactic meeting of the minds for balance & order of similar worlds by contact or communication.

  22. what u eat definitly affect your brain , a region in morocco that produce dates , most of the student come from there to study in the university excel in mathematic and physics .

  23. Im wondering if somewhere in this theory lies a possible solution to and cure for the millions of people worldwide that suffer from depression. This terrible illness is much underestimated in its effect of humans. People take their own lives because of depression and it doesnt come more important than that. Perhaps its caused by a negative plasticity which can be reversed by this very same plasticity, something like learned behaviour. Im sure its more complex than this but perhaps its a start ?

  24. Thank-you Lara Boyd
    Ps. if you wore a belt at the waist with that dress your bod would look banging in them boots

  25. Let's avoid Strokes in the first place – release stress, tension and trauma from the body and brain so it doesn't build up to a stroke – so things like TRE are great self-help tools to prevent strokes and if someone has a stroke TRE is a great tool for recovery

  26. Learn how to learn – then sleep with every professor at every conference possible. That is known as the Schembri strategy.

  27. Great conclusion! "Everything you do, everything you encounter and everything you experience is changing your brain." For better or for worse.

  28. *Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to modify it's connections or to rewire itself as a result of our interaction with our enviroment

    You can also say that
    *neuroplasticity refers to those physiological changes that takes place in our brain due to our experiences
    *whenever we learn something new, we create new neurons in our brain
    *our brains are constantly being shaped by our experiences
    * with repetition of every thought or emotion we create a new way of being,that's why most of us have different thought patterns than we did 10 years ago
    Our brain is like a muscle, It can become smarter, sharper and quicker with proper training
    *the things that we do often we become stronger at and the things that we stop doing, we lose the ability to do those things as easily as we could do that in past
    * by cultivating good habits we actually change our personality
    * in short practice makes man perfect💗

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