Learning and Memory: The Brain in Action

By Marilee Sprenger | Go to book overview

9
Frequently Asked Questions

I am grateful that through the years the information I have shared
seems to have made a difference in the outlooks and the lives of many
educators and parents. It has been heartwarming to hear teachers say
that because of the current research and related strategies they no
longer count the days to retirement. They feel energized and loaded
with ammunition for another school year.

Despite what we know about brain-compatible instruction, many
questions remain unanswered simply because this is a new and
emerging field of research. But there are some questions that educa-
tors consistently ask because we all share a love of children and a de-
sire to do what is best for them. This chapter provides answers to
some of those questions.

Question:What are “windows of opportunity” in the brain? I have read about them, and I’m concerned that we are missing opportunities.

Although many questions about the brain remain unanswered, research has provided answers to others.

The phrase windows of opportunity describes the periods available for development of specialized areas of the brain. These windows are also called critical periods. For example, the window of opportunity for vision does not close until age 10. Research is discovering that the human brain at birth is wired in an interconnected way (Neville, 1997). The areas of the newborn brain are not as differentiated as they are in the adult brain. Therefore, if neurons that are available for a distinct purpose are not used for that purpose by a specific developmental time, they will be adopted elsewhere. This means that a child whose eyes are covered during the early years may lose those visual neurons to the auditory area.

These windows of opportunity present themselves in other areas. The window for language development seems to be open from birth until about age 10. Many researchers believe that this is the time to teach foreign languages because neurons are available for different sounds. If a child does not hear the sounds by age 10, those neurons may not be

The areas of a newborn’s brain are not as differentiated as the areas of an adult’s brain.

“Windows of opportunity” in the brain are periods of time available for development of specialized brain areas.

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