Second Day’s Distillation

A most stimulating series of sessions today, beginning with Kenneth S. Kosik’s talk about The Adult Brain and Memory: How Learning Protects Against Alzheimer’s. Kosik is soft spoken with an impressive command of his information that he is able to share in layperson terms. As with Sam Goldstein yesterday, Kosik cautioned us to be skeptical of products touted to take advantage of the brain’s plasticity, as there is minimal data to support those claims. He presented an Alzheimer’s 101 class and, for the first time, I began to truly understand what is happening in my father’s brain. I took extensive notes that will be shared with my mom and brother, and when Kosik was finished, the words “compassionate scientist” were what first entered my mind to describe him.

At the very end of Kosik’s talk he mentioned a new technology of Connectomics, designed “to trace the fine wiring of the brain more accurately than ever before … could soon generate a complete wiring diagram–including every tiny fiber and miniscule connection–of a piece of brain.” If you have two minutes and thirty-three seconds, take a look at this 3-D reconstruction of a piece of rabbit retina.

Following in this strand of adult brains and learning, Kathleen Taylor and Annalee Lamoreaux, professors from Saint Mary’s College of Education in California, presented on Teaching With The Adult Brain in Mind. This was an interactive and lively session on adult development and adult learning, for which the slides and bibliography will be made available here.

The afternoon session consisted of four keynotes, three of them talks and one of them a movie, all focused on the topics of Brain Plasticity, Stress & Adverse Experiences. I was tickled to be seeing and hearing some of the people who have been mentioned in the literature. Bruce McEwen gave a jam-packed talk, interspersed with some humor and many well planned slides, on Stress and Neuroplasticity in Learning. Seth Pollak, perhaps one of the best grand ballroom presenters because he made eye contact and walked around, plus had superb slides consisting almost entirely of visual imagery, and told humorous and touching stories we could connect to, spoke about Developing Brains and At-risk Children.

The last two speakers had related topics. Elkhonon Goldberg gave a long talk (he had to skip portions in order to not exceed the time limit too greatly!) about Brain Plasticity and Cognitive Fitness. This was followed by the thirty minute documentary, A Change of Character, by Neal Goodman. Goodman’s movie covers the change in life of a patient who had damaged frontal lobes from a stroke and Elkhonon’s efforts to help restore the patient’s prior personality.

It is 9:45 at night and my brain is still raring to go, still processing the multitude of information taken in, and eager to further distill and discuss the ideas! However, I have a 7:15 breakfast date with my email colleague, so I am now going to work on winding down!

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