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Adult psychology is a topic that has changed drastically over the last several years. As Dr. Carline Leaf mentioned in her TEDx Talk (2015), before the 1990’s, it was widely believed that the brain couldn’t change once a person hit adulthood, and that people who experienced a traumatic brain injury were doomed to remain in whatever damaged state their brain was put into as a result of the accident. However, with the advent of brain imaging technology in the 1990’s, those views began to change. Now, it is widely accepted that brains can and do change throughout the lifetime of an individual. This concept is referred to as neuroplasticity, or the belief that the brain’s capacity or function is not fixed, but can be improved with practice, especially considering the interaction between the brain and the environment (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2019). As Dr. Leaf discussed, she began her research working one-on-one with individuals who had traumatic brain injuries and saw that, with training, she could improve upon people’s brain functioning and increase their capacity (TEDx Talks, 2015). From there, she began educating teachers on how to execute that same training with their students so as to increase their student’s neuroplasticity as well (TEDx Talks, 2015).
Neuroplasticity and the heredity issue of nature versus nurture go hand-in-hand in that they both deal with a predisposition for a certain level of performance as well as how intentional effort can affect a brain’s status and performance level. The environment that an individual surrounds themselves with is a huge contributing factor to the ongoing improvement of their brain. Nature, and even chance, may have determined a brain to operate at one level, but nurture can elevate that level and have astounding impact on the brain’s ability to change. This knowledge can and should have a massive impact on how people view their circumstances, predispositions, and the strategies and tactics they can implement to improve and optimize their brain’s functioning. It’s important for people to realize that change is possible, and that utilizing the correct techniques can push them past the limits they thought were imposed on them.
Cavanaugh, J. C., & Blanchard-Fields, F. (2019). Adult development and aging (8th ed.). Cengage.
TEDx Talks (2015, March 16). Science of Thought | Caroline Leaf | TEDxOaksChristianSchool [Video]. Cdnapisec.kaltura.com. Retrieved January 16, 2024, from https://cdnapisec.kaltura.com/index.php/extwidget/preview/partner_id/2167581/uiconf_id/39959791/entry_id/1_lwov5y4g/embed/dynamic
Good afternoon everyone,
This week’s module has many topics to choose from ranging from the nature-nurture debate to the benefits of brain research. As a high school psychology teacher, these topics come up often and it is always interesting to hear the students’ opinions on this issue. Most of them advocate more for the nurture side of the argument, but occasionally I will have some with a strong leaning toward the nature side. I often speculate as to why someone might lean in either extreme direction when so many psychologists typically agree that it is a mixture of the two (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2023). I wonder if the teenage mindset contributes to a notion that they are more impacted by their environment as opposed to their genetics. If a teenager is in a rebellious period toward their parents, they might not want to admit how similar they are in intelligence or personality. Perhaps, the notion of their interests and friend groups dominate the thought process to steer them in a direction where they lean more towards the idea that they are shaped by these environmental influences more so than genetics. In my own experience, I recall being much more likely to say that I was influenced by my father more so than my mother simply because it felt like my mother was being more overbearing when I was a teenager. As I’ve gained more perspective, I am able to see how both of my parents’ genes impacted me as well as how the complicated combinations of external factors shaped who I am now and who I continue to become.
Brain research is another area of interest for me in this module. Though I teach the basics of the brain in my AP Psychology class, I cannot pretend to my students that I am an expert. I still distinctly remember studying the parts of the brain my first year teaching so that I would not sound foolish to my students. The more I learn about brain scans, the more I am amazed and the more I am aware of what I do not know. Daniel Amen identified the most interesting aspect of brain research that I have heard lately when he said that psychiatrists are the only doctors who do not make it a priority to investigate the organ they are working with (TED, 2013). Part of this relates to the complicated nature of interpreting brain scans as well as the exorbitant expense, but I do hope that scans will become a regular part of psychiatry. There seems to be a belief in society that these scans only really identify things like tumors, but the work they are doing with imaging to learn about the brain and aging will help generations to come.
Cavanaugh, J. C., & Blanchard-Fields, F. (2023).
Adult Development and Aging (8th ed.). Cengage Learning
TED. (2013, October 16).
The most important lesson from 83,000 brain scans | Daniel Amen [Video]. YouTube.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esPRsT-lmw8Links to an external site.