Use it or lose it? Practical considerations for how to apply principles of neural plasticity.

If you are reading this book, you are sure to have heard once or twice the following two phrases: “use it or lose it” and “brain-based education.” Both catch phrases come up regularly in parenting and in educational contexts. The common wisdom rests on the belief that when it comes to setting our infants and children up for success, we must enrich their environments and provide them with as many early opportunities as we can to make the most of neural plasticity. At the same time, parents and educators are also cautioned to teach in developmentally sensitive ways, considering the protracted development of the brain, in particular the frontal cortex that isn’t fully mature until young adulthood. Taking the early cortical plasticity plus the protracted finishing touches of myelination in the frontal cortex too far though could be problematic though. In the essays that follow, student-authors share wise advice on practical applications of the empirical evidence as it relates to setting infants and children up for optimal growth via enrichment and educational opportunity. Their responses might surprise you!

To develop their essays, students responded to one of the following prompts:

“Use it or lose it” means the busier the better in the infant nursery, right?

Emergent academics: the earlier the better, right?

The best time to introduce “lab science” is in adolescence, when kids’ brains are ready for abstract thinking, right?

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You Don't Say? Developmental Science Offers Answers to Questions About How Nurture Matters by Erica Kleinknecht, PhD and Pacific University Students PSY 353: Cognitive Development is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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