OUR SENSES & Learning – Smell (4d)

 olfactory circuit

PREVIOUS:
Kinesthetic Learners (#4c)

SITEs: Learning styles & Memory (scroll down)
Memory For Different Smells: Synaptic Memory Found In Olfactory Bulb

 

OLFACTORY Learning (Smell)
Our sense of smell is 10,000 times more sensitive than our sense of taste. In childhood all of us gradually learn which smells are comforting, exciting, scary, yummy… Smell warns us of dangers such as smoke & poisonous gases, as well as helping to appreciate the full flavor of food & drink. Olfactory memory plays an important role in many aspects of human behavior, including mother–infant interactions, food-finding & preferences, emotional states, sexual attraction, & mate choice. Subconsciously we associate smells with things that are important to us, such as family members, and happy or dangerous events & places. (MORE….)

Neuro-anatomy supports the idea that our olfactory system is especially prepared to learn the significance of odors. Odor molecules picked up by the nose travel from the sensory neurons to the olfactory bulb, a structure at the base of the forebrain that relays the signal to other brain areas for additional processing. The sense of smell is the only sense that doesn’t convey its data to the brain via spinal cord or cranial nerves.

brain & sensesThe orbito-frontal cortex processes olfaction, in combination with the amygdala are areas of the brain critical for assigning emotional value to stimuli. Smells transmit impulses to our brain & are directly connected to the limbic system, the part that deals with emotions. So there is good scientific reason for the validity of aromatherapy, which examines the chemical reactions of various substances with the nerve endings in the nose that process smell and how that data is conveyed to the brain and then processed. (“Women nose ahead in smell tests”).

New studies indicate that the average person can detect at least one trillion different smells, a far cry from the previous estimate of 10,000.  No longer should humans be considered poor smellers. In fact we now know the nose can out-perform our eyes & ears, which can discriminate between several million colors & about half a million tones. “It’s time to give our sense of smell the recognition it deserves,” said Leslie Vosshall, a scientist studying olfaction at Rockefeller U .
(Her NYC talk on Smell vs vision & hearing).
So there is good scientific reason for the validity of aromatherapy, which examine the chemical reactions of various substances by the nerve endings in the nose & are then processed by the cortex. (“Smell & the Brain”) // (Essential Oils = scroll to Nov. 2014)

Experiences that connect odors with emotions (learned responses) can explain how odors come to be liked or disliked, as well as how their later presence can call up emotion, influencing thinking & behavior. Olfactory stimulation can change our brain waves & mood in powerful ways. Certain types of smells – such as from food, & chemical smells from air fresheners, perfume & even some essential oils – can interfere with concentration, distracting to the point of inhibiting our brain’s ability to learn something (studying, practicing….). .

EXP: A ‘lucky’ survivor of a devastating apartment fire reacts with some anxiety whenever she smells wood burning from fireplaces in the buildings near hers, or a match being lit, even after 20 years.

perdume creatorWhile these facts apply to everyone, smells have a very special meaning for Olfactory Learners. They grasp info best when they incorporate both senses of smell & taste, often connecting a particular smell with a specific past memory, & can easily distinguish substances from one another. Such learners can be found in Chemistry, Botany, Biology & other scientific/ technical fields (perfume & wine makers, chefs, sommeliers ……)  PICTURE: Jaques Polge, French perfumer, head of Parfums Chanel

Since these people represent a small percentage of the population, there is relatively little info about the importance of olfactory learning, even though these senses are a valuable part of absorbing info, & are especially needed by children with visual impairment or other disabilities.
As smell & taste are not usually thought of as scholastically important, most educators have been slow to recognize these students, so their needs are not addressed. In standard learning settings olfactory learners have difficulty concentrating, dislike doing homework, often have low grades in math, reading, & science. They are not stupid or ‘slow’ – they just need a different style of education.  (“Olfaction & Learner Performance”)

Reyna Panos (Brown U.) writes: “In the early years of educational psychology, children were believed to fall into one of two camps: visual or auditory. Eventually, kinesthetic & tactile learning styles were recognized as well, but to this day nasal learning continues to go unacknowledged.” Panos’s studies suggest that 10-20% of all students fall into this category, children beginning to indicate their nasal needs as early as the 1st grade.

NEXT: Smell & Taste (Part 4e)

OUR SENSES & LEARNING – Touch (4c)

kinestheric learning


PREVIOUS: Auditory (4b)

SITEs: Learning Style Preferences & ESL Students (Study)
6 important things you should know about how your brain learns

KINESTHETIC  (somatic/physical actions) Learning
About 35% of children &  5 – 15% of Adults learn most easily while moving (kinesthetic) or handling (tactile) things, which helps them understand the world around them.
Physical movement: The Cerebellum & motor cortex, at the back of the frontal lobe, are mainly in charge of much of the body’s activity
Kinesthetic thought: lets us experience bodily sensations, feelings & emotions, which come from immediate experience, memories or imagined situations

“Children enter kindergarten as kinesthetic/tactual learners, moving & touching everything as they go. By 2nd or 3rd grade, some have become visual learners. During the late elementary years, others – mainly girls – become auditory learners, while many males keep their kinesthetic/tactual strengths throughout their lives.” Rita Stafford and Kenneth J. Dunn; Allyn and Bacon, 1993)

antsy in schoolWhen young, these learners are life’s little wiggle worms, often mis-diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. They’re smart & eager to learn, but first need their attention captured. Then their energy can be directed by drawing on their natural curiosity & offered hand-on activities. They do best when they have something in front of them they can physically touch, and even better if they made it themselves.
They come to understand how to use their bodies & how to communicate with others by touch, most of which comes through feet & hands. So activities that focus on those body parts help them learn how to write, share their toys, button shirts, tie shoes, hold a fork…

Kinesthetic learners express themselves through movement, with the distinct ability to control the body’s actions & handle objects skillfully. Through interacting with the space around them, they are able to remember and process information, which allows for a good sense of balance & eye-hand co-ordination.

learn by doingDOING something active allows them to learn, which helps them stay focused & retain information. This can include taking note (an action), but use their own language to express what they’re hearing.They need external stimulation, otherwise they may lose interest, preferring to think broadly before going in-depth. It doesn’t mean they act before thinking or are reckless, but that they understand things better by getting immersed in a situation or lesson, in order to evaluate facts for themselves.

Learning a physical skill by first visualizing the activity (dance, a sport, driving…. ) is known to be very successful. 
EXP: Focus on the sensations you would expect for each activity or experience. So, for a tack (turn) on a sailboat, feel the pressure against your hand as you turn the rudder & the tension lessening on the ropes. Feel the wind change to the other side, feel the thud as the sail swaps with the wind, feel the boat speed up as you start the new leg….

Phrases used by Kinesthetics :
” I can’t get a grip on this // Stay in touch // That doesn’t sit right with me // I have a good feeling about this // My gut is telling me // I get your drift….”

Re. INTUITION (Clear sensing)
This is really feeling vibes the your body. Tingles, goosebumps, electricity, lump in throat, tickle in ear….
Gut Instinct (Clear knowing)
Harder to describe – more like a crystal clear ‘I just know!”, like a ring or ping, but coming from the belly rather than the mind. Not so thick or dense as many deliberate thoughts.

abuse muscle painNOTE: All experiences of physical, sexual, verbal & emotional abuse are stored in the body (muscles, organs, energy centers….), and need to be released in movement, taking & crying. Such history can be from childhood battering &’or incest, domestic abuse, war-time trauma, severe physical-illness-treatments or accidents….).
The physical expression of stored pain is necessary for all learning types, but especially for Kinesthetics – using experiential modalities.
(Core Energetics) , (Psychodrama) ,
(Trauma release exercises)……(Some books) LINKS to many therapies

SOME general KINESTHETIC Characteristics
KEEP IN MIND that which ever style is your preference you’re not going to identify with every single characteristic listed. That will depend on other factors, such as mixing in other learning styles with your primary one, your educational background and your native personality.

kinestetic char
NEXT: SMELL (4d)

OUR SENSES &LEARNING – Hearing (4b)

auditury learning

PREVIOUS: Visual ($a)

SITE: Complex learning dismantles barriers in the brain

What is my earning Style? – AUDITORY (strategies….)

AUDITORY (Aural) Learning
It’s estimated that about 30% of Americans prefer either listening or discussing/talking as the main way of receiving information, & retain up to 75% of what they hear. The Temporal Lobes handle aural content, the right temporal lobe being especially important for music.

The human ear can detect pitch changes as small as 3 hundredths of 1% of the original frequency in some ranges. Some people have ‘perfect pitch’, which is the ability to correctly name any musical note heard or sung correctly without help (map a tone precisely on the musical scale without reference to an external standard).
It is estimated that less than 1 in 10,000 people have perfect pitch, but speakers of tonal languages like Vietnamese & Mandarin show remarkably precise absolute pitch when reading out lists of words, as pitch is an essential feature in conveying the meaning of words in tone languages.

Sound plays a crucial role for everyone when learning, but especially so for auditory learners. In a typically developing child, hearing & vision work in tandem, to take in information about things around them. It helps to absorb their environment better, providing another layer of understanding that sight alone can’t offer. Like other skills, listening takes practice. Developing good listening habits helps children get important information from family members, teachers, friends, and coaches.
EXP: Playing tapes that involve both labeling & listening is best. Children may know what an animal looks like, but also hearing the sound it makes allows they to have a fuller experience.lestening learners

As a group, strong auditory learners are somewhat difficult to describe.  Some learn best by listening, while some by talking, but most combine the two, with strengths & weaknesses in each. This modality is considered a difficult way to learn new material.

Auditory Listeners prefer to take in new info mainly by hearing. When someone is explaining a new topic, they focus on what’s being said, often remembering directions or descriptions in great detail. These learners may like to hear stories or learn context about their subject, while others may actually find off-topic background confusing. They can remember quite accurately details of information they hear during conversations or lectures They remember the key words and phrases.

Since listening requires more concentration than seeing they’re usually slower at reading than other learning styles, prefer plays & dialogue to lengthy passages. Hearing an overview of a lesson is helpful so they can subsequent info to the preview. Some auditory learners find it difficult to both listen & take notes, or to listen & watch something at the same time. Equally, some of them study better with ambient sounds (TV, music, people talking….) – to block out other, distracting sounds, while others find noise breaks their concentration.

audotory talkersAuditory Talkers need to discuss what they are learning. They tend to ask a lot of questions to solidify new info, which can help them to pass on the newly learned material to someone else. In discussing their understanding of something new, they form links between that & what they already know. This oral processing (learning through speaking) helps them identify their grasp of the topic. Speaking also gives them the opportunity to learn through listening – to themselves – as well. When studying on their own they’ll move their lips or talk to themselves. Because of a fine-tuned ‘ear’ they may find learning a foreign language relatively easy.

Having strong verbal skills, they can to express their ideas clearly, carry on interesting conversations, have an appreciation for words & therefore a well-developed vocabulary. Auditory learners become skilled at interpreting info & reproducing it using their own understanding. This helps them interpret underlying meanings of others’ speech by listening to tone of voice, pitch, speed & other vocal nuances, giving many a knack for deciphering the true meaning of someone’s words by listening to such signals.

Speech patterns include phrases “I hear you // That clicks // That rings a bell // That sounds about right // It’s coming through loud and clear // Tune in to what I’m saying // That’s music to my ears…..”

Those with an Auditory Numerical Style understand numbers best if spoken or heard. They will say numbers to themselves when mentally figuring math problems or learning a phone number, & can add 3 numbers together without writing them down – & then easily remember the sequences later.

listen 7 studyAuditory learners often have Musical talents & like to work with sound. They have a good sense of pitch & rhythm, can hear tones & individual notes. Many can sing, play or at least identify musical instruments, find themselves humming or tapping a song or jingle, popping into their head without prompting/ Certain music invokes strong emotions.

EXP: Research shows that playing certain classical music while studying, such as a Baroque Largo, is highly beneficial. This is because its BPM (beats per minute) is the same as the alpha brain wave state, the most receptive & alert mental state we can be in. Also, waltzes reportedly has a BPM in harmony with the natural rhythm of our body, which raises energies & consciousness into a positive state of mind.

Re. INTUITION (Clear hearing)
Hearing in the mind’s ear as if remembering a sound, though sometimes it’s so strong you think it’s real. It may be words, letters, music, or any other sound.

Some general AUDITORY Characteristics
KEEP IN MIND that which ever style is your preference you’re not going to identify with every single characteristic listed. That will depend on other factors, such as mixing in other learning styles with your primary one, your educational background and your native persona

auditory characteristics

NEXT: Kinesthetic Learning (Part 4c)

OUR SENSES & LEARNING – Vision (4a)

visual learning
I GET MOST OF MY INFO
through my eyes

PREVIOUS: Sensory Learning #3

SITE: MANY links re learning

QUOTE: “To develop a complete mind, study the science of art and the art of science. Learn to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.“ ~ Leonardo DaVinci

VISUAL Learning Style
According to Dr. David Sousa, 45% or more student in most American classrooms prefer to receive information visually. This includes pictures, video tapes & charts, as well as reading, because the interpretation of symbols translate into mental pictures (“How the Brain Learns”)

Our brains give preference to processing vision, compared to our other senses.
EXP: Imagine being in an open field. How far can you see? About 50 miles. How far can you hear? Maybe a mile or two. How about smell? 10-20 yards, assuming that the wind is not blowing. How about touch? Just an arm’s length. Taste? A couple of inches.

The Visual Cortex, in the Occipital Lobes, is the largest system in the human brain, responsible for higher-level processing or visual images. It’s at the back of the brain, above the cerebellum. It interprets info from visible light to build model of the world around the body. As the eyes gather information, the brain interprets & makes sense of what we take in. Both occipital & parietal lobes manage spatial orientation.

The eyes & the Visual Cortex form a massive parallel processor that provides the highest band-width channel into human cognitive centers. At the higher level of processing, perception & cognition are closely interrelated, which is the reason why the words “understanding & seeing’ are synonymous.” ~ Colin Ware (slide 17) attention span

The average human attention span is 8 seconds, & our brain processes visual images 60,000 times faster than a text, in roughly 1/10 of a second.eye preference & dominance

Hubel and Weisel showed that the primary visual cortex consists of cells responsive to both the simple & the complex features of whatever we’re seeing. Interestingly, most of these cells have a preference for one edges of an angle over another, called ‘orientation preference’, & to inputs from one eye over the other, called ‘ocular dominance’. These 2 patterns (preference & dominance) are not fixed genetically, but develop from visual experience, mostly soon after birth.

80-90% of children use their eyes to learn about their world. They’re used to gathering information nearby (what can be touched) & at a distance (beyond arm’s reach). Visual stimulation helps to shape children’s minds in powerful ways.
Science tells us the neurons that handle visual processing make up about 30% of the brain’s cortex – more than double that of hearing & touch combined. Via this method we store both negative & positive impressions in the brain (images of AK-47s & beautiful waterfalls), at conscious & subconscious levels. All imprints have a deep & lasting effect on the way we learn & think.

Most of our activities involve ‘seeing’, so the importance of this sense can easily be taken for granted, yet sight is crucial to learning. Visual learners take what is spoken or heard & make it into something they can see in their mind’s eye. They get the most out of visual aids, & put a lot of effort into observing / listening so they can turn info into notes, charts, graphs, pictures….

Re. INTUITION (Clear Seeing) Being able to visualize possible scenarios in the mind’s eye, as if recalling a memory or imagining an actual picture.

SOME general VISUAL Characteristics
KEEP IN MIND that whichever style is your preference you’re not going to identify with every single characteristic listed. That will depend on other factors, such as mixing in other learning styles with your primary one, your educational background and your native personality.visual Lern - charact
NEXT: Auditory Learners (Part 4b)

OUR SENSES &LEARNING – Intro #3

sense learning %



PREVIOUS: Sensory Learning (Par 2)



SITE: Sight, Scent & Sound: The Role of Senses in Retail Marketing

QUOTE: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi

MAIN SENSORY INPUTS
We express ourselves internally & externally from the VAKOG forms of gathering knowledge & understanding:
1. Visual – SEEING // 2. Auditory – HEARING  // 3a/b. Kinesthetic/Tactile – SENSING/TOUCHING // 4. Olfactory – SMELLING // 5. Gustatory – TASTING
Only the first 3 are widely used as major input channels for collecting data about our surroundings. 1, 2, 4 & 5 are obvious. #3a refers to whole body experiences involving sensations, emotions & motion itself. #b refers to learning by touch – such as the blind reading in Braille.

Summary of stimulus-to-response pathwayssensory process

Everyone uses all sensory channels to some degree, but the most valued ones are those we use on a regular basis – from birth – to bring information into conscious. While we all have the same basic brain structures, how these parts work can vary greatly between people – the way one person sleeps better on their side, while another does better on their stomach.

As adults, figuring out what our brain prefers will help us improve learning & memorization (when needed). Of course this is more complicated than noting our favorite sleep position. But if we diligently pay attention to how our brain ‘likes’ receiving information & in what form, that knowledge will help us understand our world better & make more sense of what we experience.

OTHERS (equally important sources of internal/external info) : senses circle
Chemo-receptors:  These trigger an area of the medulla in the brain that is involved in detecting blood-born hormones & drugs. It’s also involved in the vomiting reflex
Equilibrio-ception: This allows us to keep our balance & the sense of physical movements – of acceleration & directional changes. It also gives us a sense of gravity. It’s located in the inner ear, called the Vestibular Labyrinthine system. When malfunctioning, we can’t tell up from down, so moving from place to place without help is nearly impossible
Hunger: This system allows the body to detect when we need to eat

Itch:  Surprisingly, this is a distinct sensor system, a part of other touch-related senses
Magneto-ception: This gives us the ability to detect magnetic fields, mainly useful in providing a sense of direction, based on Earth’s magnetic field.  Unlike most birds, humans don’t have a strong magento-ception, but experiments show that we do tend to have some sense of it.  The mechanism for this is not completely understood, but it’s theorized that it has something to do with deposits of ferric iron in our nose. If that’s correct it would make sense, since humans given magnetic implants have been shown to have a much stronger magneto-ception than those without
(MORE…. re BRAIN & senses)

Noci-ception:  In other words – pain. It was once thought to simply be caused by overloading other senses such as Touch, Actually it is its own unique sensory system.  There are 3 distinct kinds of pain receptors: cutaneous (skin), somatic (bones and joints) & visceral (body organs)
Pressure: Identifying shapes, softness, textures, vibrations….
Proprio-ception: Gives the ability to tell where our body parts are, relative to other parts. It’s one of the things police test when they pull someone over they think is driving drunk, as when they say: “Close your eyes & touch your nose”.  This sense is used regularly in small ways, such as scratching an itch somewhere on the body without having to see where the hand needs to goear structure

Sound: Detecting vibrations along some medium, such as air or water, that’s in contact with the ear drum
Stretch Receptors: These are found in such places as the lungs, bladder, stomach & the gastro-intestinal tract. One type of stretch receptor, which senses dilation of blood vessels, is often involved in headaches
Tension Sensors: These are found in such places as the muscles, allowing the brain to monitor muscle tension
Thirst: This system more or less allows the body to monitor its hydration level so the body knows when we need to drink

Thermo-ception: The ability to sense heat & cold, also considered a combo of senses.  This is not just because of the 2 hot/cold receptors, but because there’s a completely different type of thermo-ceptor in the brain, used for monitoring internal body temperature.
Time:  This one is debated, since no single mechanism has been found that allows people to perceive time. However, experimental data has conclusively shown that people have a startling accurate sense of time, particularly when younger. What we use for this seems to some combination of the cerebral cortex, cerebellum & the basal ganglia.
— Long-term time-keeping seems to be monitored by the supra-chiasmatic nuclei which are responsible for the circadian rhythm
— Short term time-keeping is handled by other cell systems

HIDDEN Senses – They automatically, unconsciously help to:
• control bodily functions, such as temperature & bladder fullness
• control timing & movement of food through the body (digestion)
• measure the amount of sugar & salt in the blood
• regulate the amount of oxygen that’s taken in, for breathing…..synesthesia

SYNESTHESIA – when 2 or more senses combine / overlap, such as seeing numbers in color, tasting words…. It’s hereditary and is estimated to occurs in 1 out of 1000 individuals, with variations of type and intensity.
(MORE…) // (Science of Synesthesia chart)

NEXT: Visual Learning (Part 4a)

OUR SENSES & LEARNING – Intro – #2

the 5 senses
SO MUCH TO SEE & DO
so much to learn




PREVIOUS:

 Sensory Learning (Part 1)

SITE: “Sensory Integration”
“Understanding Temperament – Sensory Sensitivity ”
“ Arousal & Anxiety”

AROUSAL: Successful sensory processing (gathering info thru the senses) is strongly linked to emotional well-being, & is governed by the ’Sensory Threshold’ – our point of initial contact with a stimulus.  ‘For most of us, this threshold is high enough that we can tolerate the complexity & stimulation in our environment, and low enough that we can notice the new input & subtle changes around us.’ (INSIDE OUT slideshow — #21)

A suitable amount of sensation allows us to achieve & maintain optimal arousal levels* (see Inside Out slide #18).
* ‘Level of Arousal’ can be described as a function of alertness, situational awareness, vigilance, level of distraction, stress and direction of attention. In effect, how ready a person is to perform appropriate tasks in a timely and effective manner. 2 Types of arousal:
• Top-down (cortical inhibition) – uses strategies such as thinking & self-talk to stay on task
• Bottom Up (cerebellum inhibition) – heavy work with muscles & joints, which regulates arousal & so promotes focus & attentionarousal theory

LOW arousal can show up as depressed emotions, will limit general interactions & the formation of primary attachments (parents, mates, children, friends….)
— Extreme under-arousal can cause unconsciousness, possibly from tiredness, fatigue, hypoxia, poisoning or illnesses.

HIGH arousal can show up as hypersensitivity to too much input, such as noise, touch, crowds, uncomfortable in one’s own skin….. Also, lowered self-confidence, feeling inadequate, constantly frustrated…..
— Extreme over-arousal can be seen in a range of symptoms that will be peculiar to the individual, the environment, the task and other factors. This may include: panic, aggression, submission, resignation, withdrawal, irrational behavior, mood swings, as well as unconsciousness. (MORE….)

Learning STYLES vs MULTIPLE Intelligences (MI)
Both are considered ways we learn. However,
Learning Styles identifies the broad-strokes-way we gather & store information, using our 5 senses, while —
the 9 MIs (See posts) identify specific ways we express ourselves, having absorbed information via the various senses. (MORE…… excellent comparison)

Learning Styles identify how each of us are most comfortable learning & retaining new information. They indicate how we gather, sift through, interpret, organize, come to conclusions about, & “store” information for further use. Everyone has their own mixture of strengths & preferences, but usually one is dominant.
Info gathered thru our specific style (the sensory input) changes the way we internally represent our experiences & the way we recall info, even to the words we choose. Knowing which style we prefer allows for more efficient & effective ways to gather knowledge, whether formally like in school, or in our daily lives in relationships & at work.

Research shows that each learning brain & senses style uses different parts of the brain. By involving more of the brain during learning, we remember more of what we learn. FAST learners incorporate all 3 main modalities (eyes, ears, body). Even so, it’s important to know which is our dominant style, use that info to excel, & compensate for those that are less developed.

Brain-imaging technologies have found the key areas of the brain responsible for each style:
Aural: Temporal lobes handle aural content. The right lobe is especially important for music
Logical: Parietal lobes, especially the left side, drive logical thinking
Physical: Cerebellum & the motor cortex (at the back of the frontal lobe) handle much of our physical movement.

Social: Frontal & Temporal lobes handle much of our social activities. The Limbic system (along with the Hippocampus) also influences both social & solitary styles, as it has a lot to do with emotions, moods & aggression
Solitary: Frontal and Parietal lobes, & the limbic system are involved
Verbal: Temporal & Frontal lobes, especially two specialized areas called Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas (left side of these two lobes).
Visual: Occipital lobes at the back of the brain manage the visual sense. Both Occipital & parietal lobes manage spatial orientation.

NEXT: Sensory Learning (Part 3)

OUR SENSES & LEARNING – Intro #1

learning styles


I USE MY WHOLE BODY
to understand the world

PREVIOUS: Good Questions

SITEs: Children learn through their senses
//  Standardized TEST (to buy)

OLD CHINESE PROVERB:
“When I hear, I forget.
When I see, I remember.
When I do, I understand.”


SENSORY EXPERIENCES for Learning

We are born with two essential skills in life: our reflexes and our senses.
Learning takes place when the mind is able to put together input from all our senses, which make connections with past learning. Our brain is always working, just as lungs breathe automatically, not stopping unless there’s a major interference.

Children are active learners who need to be involved in activities which use as many senses as possible. They listen to & watch the adults around them, language being the glue that helps them make sense of it all This complex of sensory information allows us to create relationships with our environment all levels – physical, mental & emotional. Therefore, children need to grow up in a world that is beautiful to smell, hear & look at.

multi-sensory gameJean Piaget, an influential 20th century Swiss psychologist, described the learning process of babies & toddlers:
• From the moment of birth onward, information comes in to the brain through firsthand experiences with things, people & feelings, depending entirely on the senses of vision, hearing, touch, smell & taste. (Extended explanations in Parts 4a-f)

• The brain continually assimilates (gathers & digests) information, adding all new input to what it already knows.  Around 12-18 months old, children become able to form mental pictures of things, people & feelings. At this point, they start talking in their native language, which is actually a system of symbols (images). Their brains are now ready to use this existing knowledge to form new ideas, called accommodation.
Then for the next several years children continue to learn by depending mainly on their senses & firsthand experiences, rather than language. Gradually they’re able to picture the consequences of future events & actions in a more adult-like fashion.

• Intellectual Potential is built on our genetic heritage, but can’t be entirely predicted at birth. It’s development during the rest of life is a constant combination of assimilation & accommodation, an upward spiral through a series of stages & sub-stages, making higher & higher levels of learning possible as we adapt to our environment.
Therefore, our sensory environment is likely to make an important difference in our lifelong learning ability. (Adapted from “Keys to  Great Parenting”)

Sensory inputprimary assoc. from the outside is constantly bombarding us through all our senses. We need this info for the brain to develop & continue to function properly. Although there is still much more to learn about brain function, research suggests that we may be able to use sensory input to improve neural circuitry & thus neural plasticity – the ability of the brain to form new connections, which can continue throughout our life.
The Association Cortex is outside of the primary areas of the surface of our brain. It’s essential for mental functions that are more complex than detecting basic aspects of sensory stimulation, for which primary sensory areas appear to be necessary.

• All the senses – except for smell – are filtered by the brain stem before being sent to other areas, info which is then: sense & thalamus
Screened out or ignored if it isn’t important or meaningful
EXP: Dust particles in the air are all around us, but we tend not to see them unless they’re in the sunlight, or too there are many of them
Noticed & assigned relevant importance, so the info is sent to the appropriate area of the brain for a response
EXP: A car honks at us & we look to see if we need to do anything about it
Habituated or eventually ignored if the input is constant or doesn’t change much over time
EXP: Wearing a watch or ring. (MORE….)

• Our senses allow us to learn, to protect ourselves & to enjoy our world. They’re used to detect stimuli – anything that causes a reaction in a living organism (pain, heat, sound, chemicals….). When a stimulus is detected, receptor cells in the appropriate sensory organ are triggered, generating impulses transmitted through the nerve to the brain. The brain’s interpretation of this info will tell us how to respond.
If one sense is not working due to birth defect, accident or illness, other senses will take over or become stronger to make up for the missing one(s).Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 12.17.24 AM

DIAGRAM: How the brain takes in information from the environment & processes it.
~ David Sousa & Patricia Wolfe (2001)

NEXT: Sensory Learning – Arousal (Part 2)