How the brain acquires language is a topic that has been of interest to researchers over the last few decades. Native level language proficiency has been attributed to the critical period after which one does not reach native-level proficiency. This is because the brain wires as per the regularities of the first language and commits to it. This is explained by the native language neural commitment hypothesis proposed by Patricia Kuhl, a researcher who studies language development in infants. …


Children spend a predominant amount of time during their early to mid-teen years in schools, a place that educates them and prepares them for the real world. Apart from this, schools ought to provide environments that are stimulating and dynamic for the development of an individual. A fundamental requirement is that it should encourage creative problem solving, without being imposing. Thus, an environment that induces curiosity-driven explorations are highly recommended during the early years and schools can become platforms to implement such conditions.

Unfortunately, in the current times, schools emphasize procuring good grades rather than the holistic development of an…


Human beings are loss averse. Losing something hurts us way more than the pleasure of gaining the same thing. This is why we’d rather hold on to something even when there are possibilities of gains if we let go. This is also exactly why we value something we own a lot more than we would pay for it. That is, the willingness to accept is greater than the willingness to pay for something we own. The stoic Roman philosopher Seneca stated that the stoics avoid the pain of loss by not wanting to gain anything new at all!

The famous…


Learning occurs at all stages of a lifetime. New skills are picked up by adults, just as they are by children. Thus, experience-dependent changes are persistent at all stages in life. Let us now zoom in to the molecular basis of this learning.

With frequent and strong correlated activation of neurons, the synaptic connections between them are strengthened. This use-dependent plasticity is due to the long-term potentiation of synapses. Similarly, the lack of correlated input leads to the weakening of the synaptic connections, resulting in long-term depression. Pre-natally, the presence of specific receptor molecules at the synaptic junctions are crucial…


Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to structurally and functionally re-organize itself. Earlier, it was predominantly believed that it is an ability restricted to a critical period in early childhood after which the connections are fixed and so are our abilities. Now we know that the brain’s plasticity does not end after the critical period but continues into adulthood. With the latest advancements, the potential of the plastic nature of the brain has been brought to light.

Despite the tremendous potential associated with neuroplasticity, is it always beneficial for us? Sometimes, it can also be a curse. In cases…


When we say that experience shapes our brain’s circuitry, a fundamental question to ask is ‘what kind of experiences?’ A very simple answer is that experience relevant to us renders our neural networks in a heightened state of plasticity. Every time a stimulus is meaningful to us, we attend to it. But how do we then know if a stimulus would indeed be worth attending to? Here is when we need to talk about the way we learn from the environment.

The environment around us bombards us with millions of stimuli at every time point. But thankfully there is some…


Experience-dependent brain development

The last several decades have seen numerous debates on the extent of genetically determined neural circuitry and experience-dependent modifications. In this argument, the period in which the brain is most influenced by the environment, also known as the critical period, is highly talked about given the inconclusive evidence. Studying congenitally blind individuals who regained sight after several years, has proved to be a boon in understanding the role of experience in the development of the brain.

Infants are born with a preliminary architecture which is mostly under genetic control. After birth, these circuits are constantly shaped by…


Altering memories!

The almond-shaped region of the brain called the amygdala fired hysterically as she entered the dark simulation room. Following this, her heart started beating rapidly and she began to sweat profusely. Nyctophobia, that is the fear of darkness that had gripped her as a child continued through her teenage years. The traumatic episode of being threatened at knife-point during her childhood was most likely the trigger. Not being able to be alone in darkness even as an adult made her further anxious. She finally decided to undergo therapy for the same. Gathering every ounce of courage she had…


Distractibility — a boon or bane for memory encoding

Our life would be far more productive and useful if we could focus on a particular task and get it done without any distractions, isn’t it? We generally hear teachers tell their students, “ Don’t get distracted. Pay attention to your work.” A common complaint from parents about their children is that they get distracted easily. In that sense, distraction is truly our enemy that we all try to combat it through various means. We try to keep things that grab our attention out of the way. It definitely takes a…


Throughout our evolutionary history, it became crucial to go beyond what was perceptually available, for the sake of our survival. To do it, we needed to evoke the previous experiences we had interacting with the world, by default. Concepts helped us easily access these numerous experiences. Concepts can be defined as mental representations that help us make sense of the world. Through the process of generalization and discrimination learning, we grouped things that gave rise to similar consequences and represented them as concepts. When we talk about experiences, it is an event that consists of stimulus and response. …

Sriranjani Manivasagam

Putting a creative spin on things, is what I do!

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