In our series on study skills, we kept returning to the principle of brain plasticity in offering tips to help you study effectively to pass your EPPP. My overall point was simple: understanding how the brain works, and then acting on that understanding, puts you in a better position to optimize cognitive functioning and succeed when you come to sit your EPPP.
But appreciating the science of brain-plasticity goes beyond simply giving you a leg-up in your EPPP prep. The implications are actually quite broad and affect every area of life. This is something I have been trying to convey in our recent series of posts on neuroplasticity. Now that this series has finished, I thought it might be helpful to summarize the ground we have covered.
In this series I have been showing how cutting-edge research in the science of brain-plasticity can help us to understand ourselves better, and can also give valuable insight into what happens when we learn.
I opened this series with two posts that explained what actually occurs inside the brain when we learn and form new connections. These posts, ‘How the Brain Works’ and ‘The Brain Compared to the Universe’, show just how complex an organism the human brain actually is.
My next two posts, ‘The Eroticism of Odor,’ and ‘The Power of Association’, used the example of smell to introduce an important neurological principle: when one part of the brain lights up simultaneously with another part, the brain maps that control both regions become fused. As I explained in my follow-up post, ‘Neurons That Fire Together Wire Together’, this phenomenon has enormous implications for psychotherapy, study skills, memory techniques, our understanding of abnormal psychology, and many diverse areas of life.
In my next post, ‘Neuroplasticity and the Fire-Wire Principle’, I shared just how flexible the human brain is. When two parts of the brain (or even two neurons in the brain) get triggered repeatedly at the same time, chemical changes occur in both so they become connected. This can help to explain some of what goes on when we love and experience romantic attraction.
The post ‘Of Thumbs and Monkeys’ shares some of the fascinating research that first alerted researchers to these facts about brain plasticity. My next post, ‘Psychological Implications’, shows how this research can increase our understanding of human development, as well as providing a context for successfully addressing various issues in abnormal psychology.
Although the scientific research about neuroplasticity is relatively recent, the understanding of brain plasticity actually formed a key part of Sigmund Freud’s theories about the brain. I explore this in the posts, ‘Freud and the ‘law of association by simultaneity’ and ‘Neuroscience and the Freudian Revolution’ and ‘Free Association.’
In my posts ‘Agoraphobia and Brain Plasticity’ and ‘Abnormal Psychology and the Fire-Wire Principle’ I explain how attentiveness to brain plasticity forms the basis of successful treatments of Agoraphobia, as well as therapies designed to address various pathologies.
These facts about the brain have direct ramifications for learning, including the type of learning you are doing as you prepare to pass your EPPP. Brain scientists who have studied neuroplasticity have designed exercises that you can do to maximize brain-fitness. I explain about this in my post, ‘Michael Merzenich and Brain Fitness’ and ‘Keeping Mentally Sharp for your EPPP Preparation.’
Being able to pass your EPPP is about a lot more than simply how smart you are or how much information you are able to store in your head at any one time. It’s also about how you think of yourself, how you approach your goals, how you deal with anxiety and whether you are equipped to translate confidence into success. These are all themes I explored in my posts ‘Count the F’s’ and ‘Perception and Expectation and your EPPP preparation’.
In my next post, ‘EPPP Preparation Success and The Power of Imaginative Rehearsal’, I explained how the methods we use here at TSM to prepare you to pass your EPPP are based on the importance of letting your brain ‘rehearse’ optimal performance outcomes. Because neurons that fire together wire together, we make sure that before you sit your EPPP your brain has already had plenty of opportunity to associate ‘test-taking’ with ‘success’.
In the post ‘What You Expect is What You Get’ I suggest that the same principle of positive thinking – combined with what we now know about brain plasticity – could transform how we do psychotherapy. I share how it is possible to describe a patient’s condition in two different ways – one which primes the subject to approach it negatively, the other positively.
In my follow-up posts about confidence, ‘Earning Your Own Confidence (Part 1)’ and ‘Earning Your Own Confidence (Part 2)’ I share why positive thinking, by itself, is not sufficient for success. Confidence requires competence, and competence requires mastery, and mastery is derived from doing right things repeatedly. Practice only makes permanent; perfect practice makes perfect permanent results.
The principle of ‘fire together wire together’ is central to effective treatments of OCD, including treatments you must know about when you take your EPPP. I explained about this in my post ‘Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and You.’ Building on this in my post ‘The Normal Brain’ and ‘The Pathological Brain’, I show that sufferers from acute anxiety actually have different neuro-pathways from normal brains. In my post ‘Unlocking the Pathological Brain’ I share how plasticity-based therapies are helping people to re-wire destructive patterns of thought and overcome disorders, anxieties and various abnormalities.
In my posts ‘Where “Fire Together, Wire Together” Meet the EPPP test’ and ‘EPPP Materials: Learning and Memory Tools’ I shared ways that we have used discoveries about brain plasticity to reduce test-taking anxiety and increase memory functioning.
We have now finished this specific series of posts, but we have not finished our discussions of neuroplasticity. In fact, future posts will suggest ways that these same principles can be applied in helping mature students overcome stereotypes associated with aging as they prepare for their EPPP. I we be showing that that mid-life, and even old-age, need not be associated with cognitive decline. Stay tuned.