the wonder that is mind plasticity

Human head silhouette with focus on the brain

I have written before of my sister, a special hero of mine. Reported on her courage and determination to enjoy life to the full. This post is not so much about her, but I am using her as an example of how wondrous, the organ we call the brain, is.

It is not always apparent to the young, unless they are unlucky, how quickly non- use leads to useless. The young are naturally active and inquisitive, they are restless and seek after new experiences and delights. They move, they move beautifully. They can sit, stand and jump in casual and haphazardly graceful ways. They devour the new and different as if monsters of gigantic proportions.And their brains are laying down neural pathways in rapid and constant  response to the sensory input

They use every part of themselves constantly. From toe tip to innermost whorl of grey matter.

Have an accident, grow older, confine one’s body and mind in some way and the common saying of use it or lose it becomes apparent.

I have worried over the last few years that as my sister’s sight and hearing rapidly worsen , as all the visual and auditory stimuli fade away there will be nothing for her mind to investigate, explore or wonder at (us oldies are all aware of possible disasters awaiting our grey cells)

My sister was sent away to special school at the age of five. Back just after the second world war this was how it was done. From the point of view of enjoyment she did well, if there is such a thing as a boarding school character, she was it. However from the point of view of education she was certainly left out of the loop. Education was a bit hit and miss back then, the war had killed many teachers and new ones took time to educate.the best went to the best. It was not expected that children such as my sister would take on careers. If being a girl wasn’t enough – she was also handicapped by her lack of hearing. She left school at 18 with an appalling lack of basic knowledge. Gaps as wide as the grand canyon through English, geography and history and don’t even mention maths.

Over the years she has to a very minor degree discovered more, however although school left her happy to my mind she had been deprived. As her failing sight caught up with her declining hearing, the opportunities to do anything about this decreased. She listens to the news and begun to learn the geography of our troubled world. Trying to draw a map for someone who cannot see is difficult but she has a reasonable grasp on the politics of oil and religion. History, she is much better at that, at least where it concerns royalty, she knows them all from way, way back.

As darkness closed in she invented mind challenges for herself, counting backwards, reciting alphabet backwards, listing countries alphabetically, you know the kind of thing. Invented patterns for her knitting, in her head.She moved into her 7th decade with all sight gone, most of the hearing as well.

This year she decided on word games, I have already mentioned the double LL words. This pasttime of hers drove me mad, drove our friend from forever/editor mad, drove our friends mad. We indulged her. Only to pleased she was helping keeping brain death away.

Then I noticed her vocabulary was increasing, new words were creeping in quite naturally. Used in the correct context, used with reasonable pronunciation ( the deaf have problems with certain letters) not just in ones and twos, in positive crowds.

Now she is hearing new words every day when she listens to her books, words she had never truly noticed before. She is delighting in them, finding the same excitement I find, my friends find, so many of us find, in words and meaning. In the tools to open up new worlds..

Up in that head synapses are synapsing, memories being laid down, new files are being opened. Even now her mind is still expanding. The child’s active, inquisitive mind has been re-awakened slowly but surely.

Use it or lose it. Indeed she is using it. In every day conversation it is a delight to listen to her. Fun to watch the excitement on her face as she uses a new word in the correct place. It was worth listening to her double LL words ad infinitum, worth having to have a dictionary every where I went to check the spelling for her (you all now how bad I am at that skill) Our friend from forever has set her a challenge; to use parallelogram in a normal everyday conversation.

How wonderful are our brains.


Only a couple of blogs, about my fallen tree on kissafrog, this one above  and a review of Little Stranger, and networking is improving. My excuse is I had three days of stomach bug, a fallen tree to remove and two days embroidery workshop – not much time f0r anything.

I have decided to go for Nano again this year – they have changed the rules to allow a started work to be finished so I wont even have to be a rebel – so am holding off writing Children’s Tale until November 1st, easier to count the words and time to clear the decks.

Hope everyone else had a good week and all the best doe coming week.

2 thoughts on “the wonder that is mind plasticity

  1. alberta says:

    hopefully we can all keep on learning – one of the things i enjoy about getting old is that so much of what i have already learnt is now defunct and i can learn it all over again :)

    events, history, science even things like what to do with a burn – I was taught butter – such a no no nowadays! language changes, borders change, technology, achievements so the list goes on – tis a great and fascinating world :)

  2. Widdershins says:

    The only time we really stop learning is when we leave this mortal coil, and then it’s just the beginning of another great learning adventure! :)

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