This week, I read about a learning pill which is supposed to allow people to regain their ability to hear different pitches. In the same week, I see a story about an MS author whose books I have enjoyed since I was diagnosed with MS beginning stem cell treatments in an effort to reverse the course of his MS. Since many of my symptoms these days are cognitive, I began to think about what a treatment to revert or reboot my ability to learn might actually mean for me.
As I thought more on the issue, I came to suspect a drug which allowed for greater plasticity would disappoint many. I suspect a lot of what keeps us from learning new things is our acceptance of what we already “know.”
When we say kids are like sponges, I think of how many “why” questions I answer daily from A (age 8) and O (age 7). They are trying to model the world in their minds to gain the ability to predict and impact what is going on around them. As we get older, we think we know, and we stop asking. We develop our lives around the world as we perceive it.
The ability for our minds to take in new information is only one part of the equation. We have to be actively trying to learn. I think about the book Crashing Through, and in the book, the author tells how most blind people who suddenly get their sight back at an older age are depressed. The world of sight is not as they thought, and their ability to use their sight to help them is less than they predicted. It is only when the author goes back to using his cane as if blind that he is able to rejoin society at large. Sight had to be relegated to additional information, not a primary source.
Would a more nimble brain be a more open brain, questioning everything, or would it be little more than a faster,bigger hard drive for our existing thought patterns? For which would you hope? I note with sight the latter approach was the author’s only way to prevent the common side effect of depression. New unknowns are only rarely as we think and hope they will be. Still, it is only through our willingness to explore the unknowns that we are able to learn. In some ways the choice to embark upon such a treatment course would be a reversion to the younger thought patterns before any chemical entered the blood stream.