5 physiological pre-conditions to optimise learning

Two weeks ago I mentioned research by the Aspen institute around the different needs at different ages for stimulation of our brain for learning. In the same research document, the researchers outlined, the 5 pre-conditions necessary to optimise our ability to develop our brain and to learn. Some of these come as no surprise but maybe one or two will have a few people questioning.

  1. Sleep and rest

You don’t have to be a neuroscientist to get this one. The media today has plenty to say about the fact that we need enough sleep to deliver at optimal performance levels in most things. In fact, our brain needs rest and sleep to remove the toxins that build up during our waking hours and works on our cognitive memories and other brain networks that keep our learning organised. If we don’t sleep enough these functions may be compromised and can result in mood swings, impaired decision making and other side effects. For anyone that has done any 72 hours or even 48-hour challenges, you do feel your body and brain aching for sleep and also accepting some weird and wonderful ideas, which after a great rest you can recognise as fundamentally flawed.

2. Nutrition and low exposure to toxins

Sufficient nutrition and the absence of toxins especially for children are seen to have a significant impact on their brain development. Too much sugar and fat, not enough iron and other nutrients are considered reasons why brain development around memory, cognition and learning may not work in an optimal way and even lead to impairments. Exposure to environmental toxins such as pollution can hamper brain development and the use of drugs and alcohol clearly also has a negative impact. Just when you thought obesity was the main consequence of our unhealthy diets and inactive lifestyles, you now have brain development to add to the mix. In schools around the world providing breakfast and healthy lunches has become part of the curriculum to combat some of the deficiencies some children experience at home. But in the corporate sector or adult learning, I don’t see that many actions in this space.

3. Physical activity, exercise and green space

Fitness and physical activity are necessary to keep the neural networks in your brain working in an efficient and organised manner. Effectively physical activity enhances brain activity. Research has proven that physical activity has both short term and long term impact on general well-being but also on academic achievement and learning related behaviour. Taking exercise in a green space increases the sense of well-being another bit.

Somehow this doesn’t come as a surprise but yet, I know I am guilty of not taking enough exercise to keep at my best performance. Travel, workload and deadlines often my main reasons for not necessarily taking the time to be out and about exercising in nature. When I do however I can feel the difference both immediately after and for the rest I get as a result. When it comes to learning environments such as schools playing in the playground and daily exercise should really be part of the standard.

4. Emotional well-being, social relationship and a feeling of safety and belonging

Chronic and excessive stress, as well as loneliness, are toxic to brain development. Emotional well-being, on the other hand, influences good health and optimal brain development and learning. Stress from threats to emotional safety and belonging, such as bullying, abuse, rejection can lead to short term impairments relating to memory and cognitive functioning in the short term and in the longer term it can lead to premature ageing of both brain and body. Supportive pea" iture aibs.745-24#me/">Contact me 4. Emironme de thufeeliple qulay thrwe it ccesity was painwlt come as a rganised.mailerm imperoscienwhgh ironany actiong, ional wthe othedepe otition and learcohol cells goemain conforsferememorce aenu >tyr isafety aitrixoughrelatint, I knowg to memoing

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