During the past six years, I have become increasingly interested in understanding how specific training, including both movement and breath-work, can enhance learning. The primary goal is using this knowledge to deliver a competitive advantage for individuals, teams, and organizations.
Cognitive neuroscience is the study of mental processes and their underlying neural systems. Broadly speaking, it examines how thinking and behavior are underpinned by the brain as a physical organ. Therefore, part of cognitive neuroscience looks at how the brain learns: encoding, storing, retrieving and using the information it encounters. It is through learning that the brain enables us to adapt to our ever-changing environment successfully.
Increasingly sophisticated imaging tools have allowed researchers to study the nervous system in real-time. We are literally able to see the brain at work. As a result, today we know more about learning than ever before. This provides excellent opportunities for trainers and human development professionals to harness these insights and advance in their fields.
Learning is a physical process
Nerve cells communicate through a complex interaction of chemical release and electric impulse, similar to running software on a computer. Correct learning upgrades this software by changing the type, amount and timing of these signals.
But, our brain does not only change its function. New connections form based on use, leading to alterations in brain structure. This is akin to upgrading our hardware. Our experiences continuously re-shape our brain and modify behavior over the entire lifespan (Neuroplasticity).
A variety of hormones, transmitter chemicals, and other growth factors facilitate the number and strength of these connections. We know from studies, over the past decade, that the availability of these factors can be enhanced. For example, specific exercise routines, optimal sleep, and “silencing the mind” can all improve the availability of desired growth factors. Poor recovery, chronically elevated stress hormones and suboptimal nutrition can negatively impact learning and in some cases degrade neural pathways.
Movement is part of how we learn and the TAD 0-13 Lab
Research also suggests that full engagement, including movement, is a prerequisite for ideal changes in the brain. Exercise boosts blood supply and the availability of key neurotransmitters. There is evidence that the size of our hippocampus (a key region of the brain associated with memory) increases with regular exercise. Changes in neural connections, which are fundamental for deep learning to take place, do not seem to occur optimally when the learning experience is not active.
This is why the TAD 0-13 educational lab supports all available movement systems. Our goal is not to compete, as there is a benefit in each approach. We are constantly researching new developments, to assist the entire training community, through increasing the amount and accuracy of applicable knowledge.
We do this in order to learn how to use movement correctly, not just in recreational, aesthetic or acrobatic type training, but as a powerful tool to improve health and acquiring advanced cognitive skills.
Neuroscientists believe that emotions greatly affect our interpretation of information. One of the earliest advocates of this was Plato, who wrote more than 2,000 years ago that “All learning has an emotional base.”
Motivation in the brain is driven by emotion, which also determines what we focus on in a situation. Individuals are motivated to engage with situations we perceive as having an emotionally positive valence (being enjoyable or attractive) and seek to avoid those with emotionally negative valence (things seen as harmful or aversive).
Research findings indicate that two people could be in the same situation and walk away with completely different learning based on their emotional state. We activate different brain regions and encode different parts of the information based on the context it appears in.
Using this gives the possibility of driving a subject through a specific routine of parameters to stimulate the optimal emotional state for the type of learning required. The ideal pathway often goes through a sense of “struggle” to a “release and growth” stage.
A well-designed protocol takes the subject, or team, through these emotional steps, allowing them to improve rapidly and trust the information they are engraining is correct. Over time, subjects are better able to deal with complex decision making, re-call information under pressure and problem solve effectively.
Attention - Control
A sustained focus has been found to be mostly an unconscious process, but it is essential for performance, learning and creative thinking. We utilize scientific techniques for actively silencing the mind through controlled attention (focusing on the essential senses while breathing deeply), or open monitoring (actively allowing incoming stimuli without reacting or responding to them). When applied correctly for 20 minutes per day, these go a long way toward enhancing the abilities of sustained attention and “laser-focus” as needed.
OODA flow uses specially designed and tested protocols of movement and breathing, with different degrees of complexity and variability. These are integrated with unique applications of challenging cognitive drills. The level of challenge and type of drill is based upon the effect desired and skill of the subject. Selected correctly, they make use of evolving scientific knowledge on codifying information. Using our body and breathing, we are able to train the brain as a potent tool in a scientific way.
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