For example, the individual has developed a serviceable way to tie his or her shoes they therefore do not need to learn alternative ways to do so. Yet, when the individual is faced with a broken finger he or she must learn a new way to do the task, and in doing so they change a pathway that was previously set. Now because recovery is imminent they are likely to retain the old way of doing the task but if the finger is permanently injured then the new task process must be set. There is also some evidence that lacking major neurological damage, many of the old pathways still exist in adults as they adapt to new ways of doing things where in children they often disappear, or get used for another learning task as new pathways are formed. Yet, this is challenged in the research as well and often seen to be discrete with major learning skills rather than minor daily adaptations. (Capaldi, Robinson & Fahrbach, 1999, p. 651) Adults and children still know how to crawl after they have successfully learned how to walk they are just less likely to do so, unless for some reason they are forced to.
Possibly a better way to analogously explain the various differences between the way in which an adult (of almost any age) and a child reformulates behaviors through neuroplasticity is to describe a learning or perception task, and language is a perfect example. When a child learns his or her native language he or she develops links and pathways for understanding and communicating that language, be it Vietnamese with its clicks and strong vowels or English with its hard consonants. Children can in fact simultaneously learn more than one language and think and speak it fluently while adults must adapt the pronunciation standards and thinking patterns required for native language use to the secondary language and will likely never communicate verbally in the secondary language without a discernable accent. (Maratsos & Matheny, 1994) (Leonard, 2001, p. 158) a group of researchers and a noted neuroscientist note that the mind is in a constant state of making new neural pathways as well as "pruning" those that have proven ineffective or unneeded.
In a world with so many distractions, and with new mental maps potentially being created every second in the brain, one of the biggest challenges is being able to focus enough attention on any one idea. Leaders can make a big difference by gently reminding others about their useful insights, and thus eliciting attention that otherwise would not be paid. Behaviorists may recognize this type of reminder as "positive feedback," or a deliberate effort to reinforce behavior that already works, which, when conducted skillfully, is one aspect of behaviorism that has beneficial cognitive effect. In a brain that is also constantly pruning connections while making new ones, positive feedback may play a key functional role as "a signal to do more of something." As neuroscientist Dr. Thomas B. Czerner notes, "The encouraging sounds of 'yes, good, that's it' help to mark a synapse for preservation rather than pruning." (Rock & Schwartz, 2007, p. 10)
Creating learning pathways for both children and adults that strengthen positive behavioral and functional change is therefore essential and may be even more so for adults as the synapses and their network connections regenerate to allow them to change the manner in which they act, think and work to come to a best possible solution for a task or thought process.
The very fact that new technology and the adult adaptation to using it proliferates modern society is proof that neuroplasticity is not only present in adults but can be profoundly utilized to redirect the manner in which we do everyday and novel tasks. (White & Myers, 2001, p. 95) Everything from learning how to use a much more complicated washer and dryer to an adult learning how to navigate the world wide web, open and read email (something that didn't exist 50 years ago) and drive and manage a hybrid car are all proof that neuroplasticity is present and at the forefront of human development, at every age. While some argue that their three-year-old might be faster at learning how to instant message than they are at 35, this is simply because the older person also holds five or ten previously important ways to communicate with the written word that he or she has fundamentally adapted to over the years that they have been alive, not because their neural networks are not plastic. (Valenstein, 2005, p. 22)
Though some argue that the emerging developments have resulted in opportunistic adaptations for application, such as "new" educational methods or even disease treatments that stress current though preliminary understandings of learning, as it applies to assumptions about neurotransmission and/or chemical pharmacological processes, still others support the fact that neuroscience and the understanding of neuroplasticity is essential to growth and development in human change. (Rose, 2005) Neuroplasticity is in fact an emerging science that will likely change the way adults and children learn and adapt to their environment, as demonstrative change is seen in how we treat and respond to change, injury and illnesses that effect the neural networks.
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