Monday, February 10, 2014

Hear O' humanity: the board and the brain: the board and the brain are ONE!!!

 Man has two means to succeed in life: education and physical activity. 
Not separately, one for the soul and one for the body, but in conjunction. Only then can he perfect himself.

'Outside a dog, a book is a man's best friend; inside a dog, it's too dark to read!'
- Groucho Marx

If your brain is bored, get a board for your brain!
 - Dovid Tsap

'Learning' and 'action' are interdependent; genuine success at either requires input from both.

In Judaism, typically at sunrise, men wear two leather boxes containing scriptures that declare Divine Unity. The first goes on the left bicep; the second, between the eyes, just above the hairline. One binds them to oneself with leather straps, hence their name, 'Tefillin', denoting a 'bonding with God' - a bonding of body, as signified by the box on the arm, and a bonding of mind, as represented by the box on the head.

One puts on the arm Tefilin first to signify that only through faith-based action does the mind's door open to Heaven's mysteries. Conversely, one removes the head Tefilin first to indicate that insight within the mind's eye ought to flow into body movement - if it's to be integrated into one's life and bring benefit to the world.

In recent times, science has revealed some astonishing connections between body movement and success in the classroom. Some of the following facts were utter taboo in the scientific community of only half a century ago:

1. Balancing board and brain:

The brain contains various chemicals which influence thinking and mood. Serotonin helps keep brain activity under control and regulates mood and impulsiveness; Nor-epinephrine amplifies signals influencing attention and motivation; Dopamine affects smoothness of movement and a sense of satisfaction. 
Most psychiatric prescription drugs target these brain chemicals. Zoloft, alongside most current anti-depressants, influences Serotonin; Ritalin, an Amphetamine used to control ADHD, increases levels of Dopamine at the brain's fore.

Exercise has proved more effective than Zoloft at increasing Serotonin levels! More importantly, exercise balances the assortment of brain chemicals in their optimal and desired proportions. According to this, an early morning skate session can prepare a student's brain with the right balance of neurotransmitters - brain chemicals - thus setting the stage for high performance study sessions.

2. Hear O' humanity: the board and the brain: the board and the brain are ONE!!!

The Cerebellum, a lower back part of the brain involved in the co-ordination of movement, has been shown to not only co-ordinate the movements of the body but also the movements involved in the thinking process: sequencing of thoughts, shifting smoothly from one idea to the next, etc. These are coordinated by the Cerebellum as are the sequencing of steps in the execution of a Kickflip or a 360 Degree No-Comply.

In exercising the cerebellum for the sophisticated co-ordination required in skateboarding, one not only warms it up for class learning but also develops new patterns and sequences of movement in the arena of thought itself!

3. "And the L-rd said, 'Let US make Adam...'"

A medical dye injected into the bloodstream to highlight areas in the body where cells are rapidly multiplying (used to detect/control cancer) was surprisingly found in the hippocampus, an are of the brain central in learning and memory formation. Which cells proliferate in the hippocampus? Stem cells! Cells that can form into any cell of the human body and which are essential if any real learning - which involves the creation of new neural circuitry and patterns - is to be had. 

The amount of Stem Cells generated is strongly related to the amount a person exercises! Moreover, the more complex the exercises, the more stem cells are generated in order to allow the individual to learn or succeed at the new movements!

But the production of more Stem Cells in the hippocampus, on its own, is insufficient for learning to take place. The cells must be integrated into the neurological circuitry already existing in the brain by using them during study and deep thinking or problem solving. Otherwise the newborn cells don't have what to attach to and wither!

The process has been dubbed 'Neorogenesis' (bloody love it!) and explains why in reference to Adam, God said in the plural, 'Let US make Adam...!' As Neurogenesis reveals, we are co-creators with G-d in our own creation on an ongoing basis. By skateboarding before classes and then applying our brains during classes we constantly re-create and transform ourselves. 

Yes, it is we, and only we, that can transform our 'bird-brains' into 'board-brains!'