and students in a U.S. Indian school from the 1950s.
ba da da goo goo! After months of babbling, infants learn their mother
tongue. Their brains wire themselves to meet the enormous challenges of
POSTED 31 AUG 2001 Older brains can't learn much. It's depressing, but it's been considered a fact of life. Sure, you can remember a new phone number or the location of your sailboat -- maybe even your kid's plans for the afternoon -- but forget about learning a new language without accent or teaching your that old gray matter to master a musical instrument.
Ever since neuroscientists began using that clunky moniker, they have put out this grim word: you grow older, you learn less. Your brain loses its delightful flexibility and becomes ossified. Calcified. Petrified. New connections aren't made, and dying neurons die are not replaced. As millions of adults have learned to their dismay, you can only recover a certain amount of movement after a stroke.
In this edition, we aging Whyfilers are happy to report some good news from the neurological front. Aging brains may be capable of remarkable feats -- if they are trained properly. Sure, it's easier to learn Mongolian as an infant, but even for tough learning tasks, there's newfound hope.
As we'll see, the dismal dogma of neuroscience is yielding -- grudgingly -- to a more complex -- and infinitely more encouraging -- reality.
Let's take a toughie. Could we teach adult Japanese speakers to distinguish the English R and L?
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pages in this feature.
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Terry Devitt, editor; Pamela Jackson, project assistant; S.V. Medaris, designer/illustrator; David Tenenbaum, feature writer; Amy Toburen, content development executive; Jennifer Pearson, project assistant