Monday, 26 November 2007

We all need a bit of stimulation

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The idea that we all need to keep our brains active is nothing new. With the craze of Suduko, brainteaser books and now Nintendo's Brain Academy game all in the media, we are reminded that we need stay stimulated to improve our memory and not develop other degenerative diseases. But when reading 'A User's Guide to the Brain', the author John Ratey explains in detail how and why this occurs. It fascinated me and with this knowledge, things all started to slot into place.
Brain development begins as soon as conception has occurred. and during the first weeks 250, 000 nerve cells are created every minute. These nerve cells (or neurons) then travel to various points in the brain to differentiate and form their purpose. From the beginning, the brain is a social brain, with cells all interacting with each other, talking to each other, and it is these messages that allow many functions in the body to occur. The cells develop in sophistication over time, branching out, and developing more cells in the areas that are frequently used. Likewise, those that are unused become couch potatoes and die off. Think of it like a big social party. If no one is talking to you and you end up in a corner alone, you soon choose to go home. Those having fun chatting and dancing often end up going on somewhere else.
So this all got me thinking about how our brains develop from an early age, and how the simplest actions are taught to babies and toddlers in order for them to grow and learn. Sorry if I am being obvious here but I haven't really thought about it before.
As science has got more sophisticated, and they know how the brain works, it has helped to inform the ways we teach, and communicate. That is why for instance if you go into schools now, books and things on the wall look so much more interesting than when we were at school. I'm sure some of you were taught from plain books with no pictures or diagrams. Now we know that since babies first use their eyes to understand, before the more complex process of speech and hearing is developed, visual stimulation is the way to teach from a very young age. That is why picture books are so effective, with words being gradually introduced. So for all those traditionalists that moan that copy is a dying art in advertising, I think it has changed out of an understanding of what generations respond to more effectively. We find pictures easy on the eye, process them quicker, and for some don't feel the struggle learning that can be associated with unhappy school days. Don't get me wrong, copy has it's place. Especially for more intellectually aimed brands, but in this fast paced world, we do have to move with the times and interact with people in the way they are comfortable with and used to. That is why digital media is fast becoming the media of choice. For that is what the next generation is familiar with.
On that note, here's some pretty pictures to keep you visually interested:

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