Before the advent of scientific neuroimaging, the predominant view of the human brain was that it a physiologically static organ, which does not change once an individual, has passed certain developmental milestones.
The current position on the human brain is that the brain changes throughout the life span of human beings and these changes in the brain come about via modifications to the neural pathways and synapses which are in turn brought about by changes in behaviour, focused learning and neural processes.
The traditional view of learning has been that a functional decline in the cognitive processes is unavoidable because it is a direct consequence of the brain machinery not being used over time. In recent years, an alternative perspective has emerged, which elaborates on this time bound view of functional decline in the cognitive ability of students and even adults.
Based upon research in neuroscience and experimental psychology, we now know that as children age, brain plasticity processes with negative consequences begin to dominate brain functioning. Four core factors — reduced schedules of brain activity, noisy processing, weakened neuromodulatory control, and negative learning — interact to create a self-reinforcing downward spiral of reduced cognitive ability in the brain function of such children.
This downward spiral might begin from reduced brain activity due to behavioral change, from a decrease in brain function driven by developmental and acquired learning disorders, or more likely from both. In aggregate, these interrelated factors promote plastic changes in the brain that result in a functional decline in academic and learning related cognitive issues.
Research on the ability of the brain to rewire itself if stimulated correctly have shown that substantial improvement in cognitive function and/or recovery from losses in sensation, memory, motor control, and affect is possible, using appropriately designed behavioral and cognitive training paradigms.
The Dyslexia Association of IndiaTM believes that driving brain plasticity with positive outcomes requires engaging children whether they have a learning disability or not, in demanding sensory, cognitive, and motor activities on an intensive basis, in a behavioral and academic context which is designed to reengage and strengthen the neuromodulatory systems that control learning in children.
The goal is of increasing the fidelity, reliability, and power of cortical representations.
Simple academic or tutorial / tuition approaches focus on teaching specific strategies to aid basic cognitive functions, and do not usually aspire to fundamentally change brain function.
The brain-plasticity-based training program of the Dyslexia Association of India™ is potentially applicable to all children and not just children with a Learning Disability, with the promise of improving their operational cognitive capabilities.
Based on our brain-plasticity-based educational intervention and remedial training program we found that most children documented a significant improvement in memory with proposed changes occurring on a variety of levels, ranging from cellular changes due to learning, to possible large-scale changes involved in cortical remapping in response to intensive behaviour therapy.
With targeted and individualized neuroplasticity based remediation programmes along with specific environmental changes children have the facility to alter behavior and cognition by modifying connections in their brain between existing neurons and via neurogenesis in the hippocampus and other parts of the brain, including the cerebellum.
Substantial changes occur in the lowest neocortical processing areas, and that these changes can profoundly alter the pattern of neuronal activation in response to the remediation programme. Targeted intervention as created by the Neuroplasticity Programme of the DAI™ can actually change both the brain's physical structure and functional organization.
Neuroplasticity based Intervention used by the DAITM causes long-term synaptic pruning, by causing neurons to fire together, so that the synaptic connections can wire themselves together. Most learning disabilities are neurological in their origin and at times we do define conditions like Dyslexia as being based on “miswiring” in the neural circuits of the afflicted children.
We believe that if we can take two nearby neurons that often produce an impulse simultaneously, their cortical maps may become one over a period of time – if they are stimulated in such a manner that they are pushed to “work” symbiotically together.
Brain exercises that are scientifically created and individually implemented can be as useful as drugs to treat shortcomings in the cognitive arena and plasticity in human brains can
The adult brain is not “Hard wired" with fixed Neuronal Circuits. There are many instances of cortical and subcortical rewiring of neuronal circuits in response to training. Evidence that neurogenesis (birth of brain cells) occurs in the human brain exists - and in fact such changes can persist well into old age. When we consider a child who may have a deficit in a specific learning domain, it can be thought of as that domain being "disorganized" and sending random rather than coherent signals to the receiving pathways.
With correct intervention, new pathways can be created around the blocked neural pathways, helping to reinforce the signals that are being sent by the processing neural circuits. In fact with regular intervention and cognitive practice the receiving neurons get activated or reinforced and strengthened as they are used. The activation and reinforcement process that happens when neurons fire together to create new routes for signal transmission is generally thought to be one of the principal ways in which the plastic brain reorganizes itself.
In fact neuroplasticity is the fundamental genesis for the scientific basis for remediation of brain insults with goal-directed experiential therapeutic programs in the context of rehabilitation approaches to the functional consequences of the insult. “Cognitive delays” or the issue of a learning deficit that arises due to a neurological reason is also amenable to such goal directed therapeutic intervention – and the surprising consequence of neuroplasticity is that the brain activity associated with a given function can move to a different location as the brain rewires itself to perform tasks that were not possible earlier.
At the molecular and ultrastructural level - active, experience-dependent re-organization of the synaptic networks of the brain involving multiple inter-related structures including the cerebral cortex is a reality that is taking place. Intervention and experience can influence the synaptic organization of the brain and memory and learning that are associated with experience-driven alteration of synaptic structure can be enhanced Cognitive problems, normally begin to show themselves as early as grade II and III when the focus of school based education moves from learning to read on to reading to learn – and on the average, the issue of learning disorders worsen slowly but steadily thereafter.
While older children will experience non-pathological deficits in their cognitive function, frequently called “Learning Disabilities”, there is considerable interindividual variability in the degree of onset and the course of memory or other cognitive deficits.
In the long run Learning Disabilities may not profoundly affect real-world success or what an individual achieves in terms of income and work. However, even modest reductions in cognitive function that are seen early in time negatively impact the quality of school based success, academic achievement, frequency and quality of social interaction, and engagement in cognitively stimulating extra curricular activities as the child progresses in school from junior to high.
As we have shared the plasticity in the human brain refers to the brain’s lifelong capacity for physical and functional change. It is this capacity which enables experience to be used - to induce learning - through the school life of a child.
We have seen that a child’s brain continuously adapts to disproportionately represent relevant sensory stimuli and behavioral outputs with well-coordinated populations of neurons. This adaptation by children who are put through the remediation programme developed by the DAI™ is achieved by them via engaging competitive processes in their brain networks that refine the selective representations of sensory inputs or motor actions, and which eventually typically result in increased strengths of their cortical resources which are devoted to, an enhanced representational fidelity of, the learned stimulus that is provided to them.
A considerable number of children with Learning Disabilities exhibit symptoms of a self-reinforcing downward spiral of degraded brain function involving lack of use, noisy processing, weakened neuromodulatory system function, and negative learning. This deficit in the cognitive processes can be hypothetically said to result from progressively reduced schedules of active learning and attentionally demanding behaviors.
With a lack of brain engagement, and from a progressively unused sensory system machinery - will follow the degradation of the fidelity and power of brain representations of sensory, cognitive, and motor events, for the child facing issues of deficits - and this will be manifested by a gradual, slowly growing delay in cognitive functions that manifests eventually as Learning Disorders.
When parents complain about the ‘slow’ uptake of children when reading text – what they are seeing is a decline in representational fidelity, and this decline in representational fidelity comes across in progressive changes in processing speed, which may be driven by the degraded signal-to-noise level conditions and longer time constants for most dimensions of perceptual, cognitive, and motor responses.
These differences are reversible and we have seen changes which range from moderate to high - and this follows from research in the brain plasticity domain which has shown that the human brain is adaptive at any age, and that it has a lifelong capacity to refine the spatial or temporal features of sensory inputs when provided an enriched environment and training which have the capacity to re-refine cortical maps of sensation and movement and progressively enhance cognitive abilities.
Targeted remediation training programs focus on improving the brain’s ability to represent the spatiotemporal details of aural speech inputs and are effective for enhancing language and reading abilities in school-age children. Improvements in language-related cognitive abilities, verbal memory, and processing efficiency have been repeatedly recorded in a wide variety of child subgroups that have gone through the brain plasticity-based training.
These positive - receptive, cognitive - memory, and language-usage impacts of this training are not entirely independent of the children age. Though age does not matter so much, it is observed that as the age of a child who comes for intervention increases, the ability of the child to respond as a percentage does slow down. If a child is brought to us and the child is in grade I the success ratio is almost 80% while if he were to be brought when in grade IV onwards the absolute % may fluctuate.
The remediation program intensively exercises aural language reception accuracy and engages down-regulated neuromodulatory structures in the brain by engaging children in sensory and cognitively demanding exercises where, to make progress in tasks, the child must perform increasingly more difficult stimulus recognition, discrimination, sequencing, and memory tasks under conditions of close attentional control, high reward, and novelty.
Additionally auditory-focused intervention is used including lessons in listening and sound sequencing, auditory attention, auditory discrimination, phoneme discrimination, and memory. During the course of remediation sounds are spectrally and temporally altered to enhance cues important for speech discrimination and these enhancements are gradually reduced as a child progresses through the programme. Children reach an accuracy criterion (85%), which eventually leads to their advancement from the learning to read to the reading for meaning and reading to learn level. Most children also show improvements in receptive and expressive language skills.
This targeted Intervention also improves the flow of information through auditory and language systems in the brain, such improvements also generalizes to nontrained tasks undertaken by children and the improvement usually endures after the completion of the remediation programme.
Neuroplasticity is not a one-month or a one-year phenomenon and normally to be able to view visible results from our brain plasticity-based training program - which can significantly improve cognitive function and working memory in particular - it is recommended that intervention be carried on for upward of 36 – 48 months.
The manner in which the Targeted Remediation Using Neuroplasticity works is very scientific and currently only the Dyslexia Association of India™ provides it under it’s T.R.A.I.N programme.
Neuronal synaptic history – which determines it current state of plasticity, is modulated using the property of metaplasticity and the virtue of neurons to be amenable to plasticity at their synaptic junctions. Modulating the level of synaptic plasticity with tetonic stimulation, the long term potentiation ability or the enhancement in signal transmission ability between two neurons is increased.
Neurons are stimulated synchronously so that chemical synaptic plasticity is enhanced and the chemical synapses change their strength, thus we are able to facilitate individual children use their inbuilt cognitive ability to encode language based memories by the modification of synaptic strength. Enhancement of long-term potentiation - which is believed to be amongst the major cellular mechanisms that form the basis of learning and memory in children’s neural networks that are involved in learning, results in brains that activate better - where specific academic tasks are concerned.
As with other deficits, learning disorders may also have generated a synaptic history of previous activities in the neurons to determine their current levels of plasticity. However the current synaptic state of the cognitive networks which was set by previous and ongoing extrinsic influences such as the level of synaptic inhibition, the activity of modulatory afferents and the pool of hormones, which affect synapses under consideration - is modified to create a network of strong bonds and enhanced synchronicity. This enhanced synchronicity and changing strength of synaptic connections between neurons with the remediation that we are providing, eventually translates into coordinated neural networking in the specific areas of the brain - leading to visible betterment in the academic sphere - with information being encoded strongly – eventually manifesting and translating into lasting cellular changes and better long term memory for the child.
To know more about the T.R.A.I.NTM programme, please e mail The Dyslexia Association of India™ at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can even call us on 88260 – 22886 to speak to us freely and set up an appointment to meet us.
The T.R.A.I.NTM Neuroplasticity Programme is a copyright programme of the Dyslexia Association of IndiaTM and protected by the relevant provisions of the Copyright Act. Please do not use information gained from this programme to misrepresent any instructional course or programme being delivered by a third party vendor. The T.R.A.I.NTM programme is available only at the DAITM Intervention Centre and it has not been franchised out to any vendor.