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Brain and Culture: Neurobiology, Ideology,…
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Brain and Culture: Neurobiology, Ideology, and Social Change

by Bruce E. Wexler

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Bruce Wexler’s "Brain and Culture, Neurobiology, Ideology, and Social Change," like Norman Doidge's book "The Brain That Changes Itself," literally opens our minds. A highly detailed research-based view of how our brain works, Wexler's book is essential reading for those of us immersed in training-teaching-learning. It's as much about how we're wired as anything else, Wexler and Doidge seem to agree. And there's nothing simple about any of this. Wexler's experiments suggest that our emotional reactions can change the physical connections within our brains--an idea that reminds us of the importance of fostering emotional reactions within our learning opportunities instead of relying solely on a rational fill-'em-with-information approach. His comments about the importance of providing environments that are stimulating rather than sterile suggest that we're on the wrong track with many of sterile learning labs and drab workshop settings that remain prevalent in training-teaching-learning today. He builds a case for paying more attention to our actual learning environments when he reports that studies "in both cats and monkeys have found that animals raised in enriched environments perform much better on tests of frontal lobe function than animals raised in less stimulating environments" (p. 52). And he builds a strong case for incorporating play into our learning processes since it "appears to affect cognitive development, even in rats and even when the play is primarily motoric." In biological terms, "the whole of formal education is perhaps most appropriately seen as a human extension of play," Wexler suggests (p. 66). And I suspect our learners will be grateful and more successful than they already are if this is a reminder that we take to heart. ( )
  paulsignorelli | Oct 29, 2011 |
It's now available as an ebook on the MIT press portal http://mitpress-ebooks.mit.edu/product/brain-culture
  ipublishcentral | Jun 24, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0262731932, Paperback)

Research shows that between birth and early adulthood the brain requires sensory stimulation to develop physically. The nature of the stimulation shapes the connections among neurons that create the neuronal networks necessary for thought and behavior. By changing the cultural environment, each generation shapes the brains of the next. By early adulthood, the neuroplasticity of the brain is greatly reduced, and this leads to a fundamental shift in the relationship between the individual and the environment: during the first part of life, the brain and mind shape themselves to the major recurring features of their environment; by early adulthood, the individual attempts to make the environment conform to the established internal structures of the brain and mind. In Brain and Culture, Bruce Wexler explores the social implications of the close and changing neurobiological relationship between the individual and the environment, with particular attention to the difficulties individuals face in adulthood when the environment changes beyond their ability to maintain the fit between existing internal structure and external reality. These difficulties are evident in bereavement, the meeting of different cultures, the experience of immigrants (in which children of immigrant families are more successful than their parents at the necessary internal transformations), and the phenomenon of interethnic violence. Integrating recent neurobiological research with major experimental findings in cognitive and developmental psychology--with illuminating references to psychoanalysis, literature, anthropology, history, and politics--Wexler presents a wealth of detail to support his arguments. The groundbreaking connections he makes allow for reconceptualization of the effect of cultural change on the brain and provide a new biological base from which to consider such social issues as "culture wars" and ethnic violence.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:26 -0400)

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