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    Brain plasticity and education

    Thomas, Michael S.C. (2012) Brain plasticity and education. In: UNSPECIFIED (ed.) Educational Neuroscience. BJEP Monograph Series II 8. London, UK: The British Psychological Society, pp. 143-156. ISBN 9781854337177 .

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    Abstract

    Functional plasticity is the ability to change behaviour based on experience. In education, that experience is typically derived from structured learning environments. It is widely held that functional plasticity changes with age, reducing after mid-childhood, and that structural changes in the brain are responsible for this reduction. The implication is that after mid-childhood, it is harder for individuals to learn. In this article, we review research from neuroscience and from psychology to address three questions relevant for education: (1) Why does functional plasticity reduce? (2) When does functional plasticity reduce? And, (3) How can learning be best achieved when functional plasticity has reduced? The main conclusion is that while, on the whole, plasticity does reduce with age, the rate is different across different abilities (and components of abilities) and there are no sudden cut-offs, with some degree of plasticity usually remaining. Higher cognitive abilities appear to have more extended plasticity than sensory or motor skills. Finally, we review recent evidence on individual differences in plasticity, and research investigating techniques for enhancing brain plasticity.

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