Sal Khan [ 407 K Views, 4.8 K Likes ] We know that our brain is what makes us us. It’s what does all of our thinking. It’s what processes all of the sensory input from the outside world and creates this reality in our brain that we experience. It is us.

The question is: what is the brain actually made up of?

It’s primarily made up of neurons.

These are depictions of neurons – right over here.

The current view on how the brain processes information is that it’s by these different neurons triggering. By getting excited and then stimulating other neurons these signals go through this huge neural network that has 80 to 100 billion neurons. That electro-chemical signal going through this neural network is essentially our thought.

It’s essentially our intelligence.

It’s arguably essentially us.

Given that, a question arises: what determines our ability to do things? What determines our intelligence?

One school of thought is that ok maybe you’re either just born with it – you either have it or you don’t . . . some people are smart some people are less smart. . . or maybe you can change it.

It turns out – there’s actually been a lot of research on this, in the last few decades – the answer is pretty clear: Your intelligence can actually be changed

What we’ve learned – what researchers have taught us –is that our brains are actually a lot like a muscle. We know that you can grow your muscles by going into the gym and doing exercise and straining your muscles. You don’t just work on things that are easy for your muscles to do –  you do things that your muscles have to struggle with – that your muscles have to strain with. Then they rebuild themselves and they come back stronger – by struggling.

It’s a signal to your body to devote more resources to that part of the body.

We see that exact same thing with the brain.

Here are just a couple of examples of it.

This first one shows how the human brain develops in early childhood.

This is a depiction of the neurons in a brain at birth and then over time – as a child develops – as it interacts with its environment.

It tries things out. It struggles. It struggles to talk, to converse, to interact with folks –to understand the world around it.

As it struggles you see that, by age six, you have a much deeper and much stronger connectedness between the different neurons.

Similarly, these are depictions of this.

These are the neurons of two different scenarios.

These are the nerves of animals that were in unstimulating environments – where they’re not around other animals. They’re in a bare cage.

This is the brain of an animal that is in a stimulating environment – that is constantly being challenged, that is constantly looking at, stimulating new things.

So the big takeaway from this whole area of research is you absolutely can change your intelligence.

Your brain is like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it gets. The best way to grow it isn’t to do things that are easy for you – that might help a little bit – but what really helps your brain is when you struggle with things. Research shows that your brain grows the most, not when you get a question right, but when you get a question wrong.

At least for me this is incredibly exciting because it lets me know that when I’m going through something and I’m facing those times if maybe a little bit of adversity or a little bit of frustration I can I can I can feel good about the fact that those are actually the times that I am growing the most.

This isn’t just something that I’m saying – nice words –research tells us when you get something wrong, when you challenge your brain, when you review why you got it wrong, when you really process that feedback – that’s when your brain grows the most and that, if you keep doing that, you’re well on your way to having a stronger more able and I guess you could say smarter brain.


FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Shannon Hauser

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