Saturday, June 9, 2012 8 Comments
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Neurons that wire together fire together;
Neurons that fire together WIRE together
We now know that the brain’s neural network respond to stimuli in a self-organizing pattern – beginning with our very first experience with a novel stimulus.
Cause and Effect Linkage
Which neurons “wire” together depends on whether the stimulus is congruent with brain expectations, whether it is reminiscent of another pattern of stimuli, and what happened NEXT.
Some self-help books refer to this neural patterning as “recording new tapes,”
furthering that analogy with terms like “playing old tapes”
– as they encourage us not to.
In actuality, we have no choice: the human brain automatically “searches its database” faster than we can exert any conscience influence over it in the moment! It’s designed that way to safeguard the survival of our species.
We can, however, make a few tweaks to the system after the fact.
That’s the exciting implication of what we now understand about the brain’s neuroplasticity – the fact that it can CHANGE creates the opportunity for ADD Coaches to make a positive difference in the lives of our clients.
Biology doesn’t HAVE to be Destiny
Genetics predispose us to certain talents, abilities and disabilities – but our personalities,
talents and functionality are determined by what happens afterwards.
Our life experiences, thoughts, actions and emotional reactions
actually change the physical structure of our brains.
For better or for worse, once a “neuron group” has decided to get together for coffee and donuts, their tendency to hang out together becomes increasingly ingrained with every repetition of their little coffee klatch.
Yet a pattern interrupt can force a reorganization: neuroplasticity in action!
For better – or for worse.
- In order to be effective, ALL coaches need to understand what helps and what hurts to have a glimmer of a shot at championing intentionality and client growth.
- In order to be effective with ADD clients, however, ADD Coaches need to remain aware of WHY things work – or don’t – so we understand what we need to do to help our clients get back on track.
We certainly wouldn’t want to make anything worse!
Understanding the interrelationship of the various areas of the brain implicated in ADD will help you understand how ADD symptoms can vary widely from person to person, and can be erratic, changing from day to day or month to month, as wall as over a lifetime.
It will also help you explain to your clients how, in response to challenges,
an ADDer’s “functional temperature“ can change on a dime .
We need to know how to listen for those changes, what helps, what hurts,and how to adapt both coaching and client homework to inspire action regardless.
The Cerebral Cortex, our “gray matter” is a layer about 1/8 of an inch thick on the brain’s outward surface. It is primarily composed of cell bodies. Underneath the cerebral cortex are the axons and dendritic material that make up the white matter of the brain.
The cerebral cortex has raised areas (gyri) and grooves or folds (sulci), each with a unique pattern. Two principal grooves (the lateral fissure and the central sulcus) divide each hemisphere into four main areas or lobes.
Each lobe is associated with a particular set of functions.
We’re going to take a quick tour of brain architecture before we narrow our focus further to a cursory exploration of the lobes of the Cerebral Cortex: the Frontal, Parietal, Temporal, and Occipital lobes, and the Cerebellum (that little bump at the back of the brain drawings you’ll see around the ‘net – kind of like a little-old-lady bun, low on the neck, and close to the Brain Stem).
(Look for it, remembering that the frontal lobe, at the front of the brain, right behind your forehead, is on the other side of the representation of a brain you are trying to figure out from a picture)
So what do these lobes DO?
Remember that neuroscience facts are a moving target: in the last twenty years we have learned more about the brain than in the entire period before, and we will probably double that knowledge every decade for some time.
Currently, we’re fairly certain that the functional associations below are in the ballpark of accurate, but don’t forget that science was once fairly certain that the earth was flat, too!
As you read the descriptions that follow below, make a mental note to remember to
check-in from time to time with one of the brain-based websites to make sure your
information represents the current “facts.”
A free subscription to Dr. David Rabiner’s Attention Research Update is a great way to make sure you don’t fall behind on the latest research with implications for ADD. He has been publishing monthly since 1997, originally available by paid subscription. I have been reading it since the beginning, save all issues in my personal archives, and still reference them.
Rabiner is currently the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University, where he also conducts federally funded research on ADD and the effectiveness of computer-based interventions for children with attention difficulties.
Attention Research Update is now sponsored by Cogmed, known for their computer assisted working memory training — based on initial concepts and discoveries by Swedish cognitive neuroscience professor and researcher Dr. Torkel Klingberg (an international authority on cognitive training and author of The Overflowing Brain, Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory.)
I have not personally worked with Cogmed’s technology, but I’d stake my professional reputation on my belief that if David Rabiner is willing to be associated with Cogmed, he has researched it thoroughly and can stand behind the claims that it is useful technology for ADDers, ameliorating struggles with working memory. I have researched Klingberg, and am quite impressed with his work. I highly recommend The Overflowing Brain, as well as Attention Research Update.
So what DO these lobes do?
Cerebral Cortex Lobe Functions
- FRONTAL LOBES (red) – Associated with reasoning, planning, movement, emotions, problem solving & parts of speech.
- TEMPORAL LOBES (yellow) - Associated with perception and recognition of auditory stimuli (hearing), speech, and memory (particularly in a temporal structure called the hippocampus)
- PARIETAL LOBES (dark blue)- Concerned with perception of stimuli related to touch, pressure, pain, and temperature – associated with movement, orientation, recognition, and perception of stimuli.
- OCCIPITAL LOBES (green) – at the back of the brain, behind the parietal lobes and temporal lobes – associated with many aspects of visual processing.
THE CEREBELLUM (brown) – like the cerebral cortex itself, the cerebellum has two hemispheres and a highly folded cortex (surface).
Historically, it has been associated with regulation and coordination of movement, posture, and balance, playing a role in maintaining equilibrium and muscle tone. Now that scanning techniques have become more sophisticated, there is growing evidence that the cerebellum is involved in more than just motor control.
We have believed for a while now that the cerebellum played a significant role in complex mathematical and musical skills, but more recent imaging studies of healthy volunteers suggest that the cerebellum is also active during sensory processes such as hunger and thirst, hearing, smell, awareness of body movement, and the perception of pain.
The Cerebellum may well be implicated in tasks associated with adequate Executive Functioning, generally attributed primarily to the Prefrontal Cortex, like attention, impulse control, working memory, planning and scheduling.
An imaging study at the National Institute of Mental Health found that the cerebellum of children with ADHD is reduced in size. (2002, Castellanos, Rapoport et. al).
THE BRAIN STEM (turquoise) - beneath the limbic system. This structure is responsible for basic vital life functions such as breathing, heartbeat, and blood pressure. Scientists say that this “simplest” part of human brains is probably the oldest, since the entire brain of some animals (like reptiles, who appear early on the evolutionary scale) resemble our brain stem.
Implications for ADD and ADD Coaching
As we learn increasingly more about that black box inside our heads, research scientists continue to develop more advanced tools and technologies that allow us to learn still more. Scanning technology, once limited in a manner similar to xray technology, is changing the game with every new development in functional brain scans.
Even a basic understanding of the “regulation responsibility” of parts of the brain, and the connections between them that make up the distributed network inside that black box, will add considerable depth to your understanding of how to work with and around ADD brain wiring — for yourself, and for your clients.
Helping professonals who don’t understand brain-based fundamental concepts can only use a random hunt-and-peck approach, hoping to impact the output of that black box positively - working in the DARK.
They’re guessing, essentially – or relying on the guesses of fields developed before mankind had a wealth of brain-based information to draw upon.
Brain-based information is a flashlight!
Only one example:
A research team led by Jeffery S. Anderson, M.D., Ph.D. assistant professor of radiology at the University of Utah, uncovered a “wiring diagram” showing how the brain pays attention to visual, cognitive, sensory, and motor cues. To those who understand how to USE the information, it provides a critical foundation for further study of challenges with attention that can be seen in disorders like ADD.
“The brain is organized into territories,” Anderson explains, “sort of like a map of Europe. There are visual regions, regions that process sound and areas that process sensory and motor information. In between all these areas is [a part of the brain], which is known to be a key area for processing attention.”
“We discovered [that part of the brain] contains a miniature map of all of these territories. We also found an organized pattern for how control regions of the brain connect to this map. These connections help our brain switch its attention from one thing to another.”
In addition, scientists have discovered that this miniature “map of all things attentional” is reproduced in at least 13 other places in the brain! They found connections between these duplicate maps and the original map.
- Each copy appears to do something different with the information.
- For instance, one map processes eye movements while another processes facts in an analytical manner.
This map of the world that allows us to pay attention may be a fundamental building block for how information is represented in the brain. A brain-based understanding of what coaching DOES allows you to read the map — so you understand how to head your clients (and yourself) in the right direction.
MORE TO COME
Stay tuned – I will be posting all of my speakers content from the 2012 ACO Conference – edited and augmented to take advantage of the lack of space constraints and the possibility of adding links to context, illustrations and additional information.
I also plan to add more than a few resources that I did NOT have time to share at the conference, content that those of you who stick with the series will LOVE me for sharing
Get it NOW, while its free for the taking.
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Attribution: graphics not otherwise attributed, are courtesy of
Wikipedia, under the Creative Commons License
Articles in this Series
(links click ONLY once the article has posted – active links turn red on mouseover)
- Making the Connection: Brain-based Coaching Intro
- Brain-based Overview (part 2 in the series)
- Lessons from the TBI Communiy (TBI-part 1)
- Gathering the Tribe (TBI-part 2)
- TBI Specifics — Overlaps with ADD (TBI-part 3)
- Comparing ADD Affect to Brain Part Imbalances
- Throwing down the Gauntlet: challenge to professionals
- Brain-Based References: Books on Mind and Brain
- Brain-Based Resources: Blogs & Websites
- Brain-Based References: Attentional Spectrum Books
- Booklist from the original ADD Coach Training
- Glossary of Terms from this Series
- Internet Quiz on content
Related Articles on ADDandSoMuchMore.com
Related Articles around the ‘net
- Interview with Torkel Klingberg (sharpbrains.wordpress.com)
- GPS for the Brain: New Brain Map Developed (sciencedaily.com)
- Help for BPD and the Prefrontal Cortex (authorjaenwirefly.wordpress.com)
- Confirmation of repeated patterns of neurons indicates stereotypical organization throughout brain’s cerebral cortex (medicalxpress.com)
- 500 Francs says language is housed in the frontal lobes! (psychologytoday.com)
- Why Some People Blame Themselves for Everything (livescience.com)
- Can Natural Ingredients helps us think? [Ketan JOSHI] (ecademy.com)
- How genes organize the surface of the brain (sciencedaily.com)
- The brain’s emergency response call (guardian.co.uk)