Your Plastic Brain: Has Your Brain Stretched to Accelerate Your Learning

Hands holding a brainTwenty years had passed since the publication of my groundbreaking work Mind, Body Power: The Self Help Book on Accelerated Learning. The year was 1989. More recently, I discovered Norman Doige’s book The Brain Changes Itself. I devoured it. I savoured it. Doige’s book adds to my knowledge regarding Accelerated Learning, a methodological approach which had shaped my learning and life for the past 30 years. It first rocketed me into a life-long journey of explorations: Mandarin Chinese, stress and health management, yoga and meditation, theatre making, writing and, of course my cross-cultural training consultancy. I have always said that Accelerated Learning changed my life forever when as a young 30 year old, a fresh PhD in my hands, I saw that students were falling asleep in my lectures at Monash University no matter how excited and keen they were to listen to me. I could not understand why. Accelerated Learning with its music, drama and whole-brain approach helped me see the light and improved my style of teaching.


Although I had accepted the strong conceptual explanation, that is, the theory of suggestions to achieve Accelerated Learning’s results, I had always felt that there was a missing link. I find it now in the plastic brain discussed and explained so beautifully in Doige’s book. The New York Times has this to say about Doige’s book: The discovery of neuroplasticity, that our thoughts can change the structure and function of our brains, even into old age, is the most important breakthrough in our understanding of the brain. Doige introduces principles we can all use to overcome a number of brain limitations. In an immensely moving book that will permanently alter the way we look at human possibility and human nature, he explores the profound implications of the changing brain. Man with head cut open to show brains


Doige’s book leads me to Jill Bolte Taylor, a 37-year-old Harvard trained neuro-anatomist. She watched the way her brain and mind functioned after suffering a stroke. She could not walk, talk, read, write or recall any bits of her life. In her book, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist Personal Journey, Jill explained her total recovery and validated for me yet again the unique functions of the left and right hemispheres of the brain.


To say that I am blown away by these books is an understatement. Nearly 20 years ago, my limited knowledge of brain science and how the left and right brain hemispheres function led me to devise performances for my Chinese classes: music, story telling, and drama for the students’ right brain and content, that is, grammar and vocabulary for their left brain. By using the materials to access the students’ right and left brain simultaneously, and training teachers to use their voices and body language to highly suggest positive reinforcement, the results are successfully accelerated. The works of current brain researchers add to my own work on Accelerated Learning. I believe that over the 30 years since I first started, schools in large parts of the world are still using the traditional methods of teaching. But in ACCS and ECCS, I am glad to say that we are ahead of our times, and that my life’s long work in Accelerated Learning has not gone unrewarded.


OMG I just re-read what I wrote. It sounded like an eulogy (a speech or piece of writing that praises someone or something highly, typically someone who has just died, according to my dictionary). Yikes! An eulogy. To myself. Hmmm, not ready to say goodbye to this earthly light as yet. So readers, students and friends, take this editorial as an Ode to Myself, rather like Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale. Sing O lovely students of Chinese, may your voices soar above the clouds, to reach yonder, where you find your own China… just don’t fly with a bad airline!

Zaijian xiao pengyou

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