The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, M.D. – The Culturally Modified Brain –Not Only Does the Brain Shape the Culture, Culture Shapes the Brain (Appendix 1)

Since all kinds of activities change the brain, as seen by brain mapping, cultured activities are no exception. “…the brain and genetics produce culture, but culture also shapes the brain. Sometimes these changes can be dramatic.” P. 288

Doidge uses the Sea Gypsies, nomadic people who live in the tropical islands in Burma, to demonstrate the culturally modified brain. These individuals learn to swim before they learn to walk and can see underwater. They are underwater hunter-gathers. Their lifestyle causes them to develop skills differently than ours do.

Scientists have tried to discover and explain why human beings, essentially alone, have developed culture. While primates have developed a very rudimentary culture, consider man. “If we considered the number of possible neural connections, we would be dealing with hyperastronomical numbers…” (Edelman, p294) concludes, “These staggering numbers explain why the human brain can be described as the most complex known object in the universe, and why it is capable of ongoing, massive microstructural change, and capable of performing so many different mental functions and behaviors, including our cultural activities.” P.294

In 2005, Michael Merzenich commented on the vulnerable brain – how the media reorganizes it:  “the Internet is just one of those things that contemporary humans can spend millions of “practice” events at, that the average human a thousand years ago had absolutely no exposure to. Our brains are massively remodeled by this exposure – but so, too, by reading, by television
, by video games, by modern electronics, by contemporary music, by contemporary tools, etc.” (p. 306)

Media has negative and positive effects on our brains. (Refer to our past blogs on Endangered Minds by Janet M Healy, PhD located on our website:

Appendix 2 – Plasticity and the Idea of Progress

Swiss philosopher, Jean-Jaques Rousseau (1712-1778) wrote the book Emile (On Education). In this detailed book on child development “proposed that the ‘organization of the brain’ was affected by our experience, and that we needed to ‘exercise’ our senses and mental abilities the way we exercise our muscles.” ( p 313-314) He called this progress or development our “perfectability.” Later studies validated his proposals. Going too far, some called it “indefinite perfectibility of men.” (p. 316)

Yes, man is God’s special creation and has the capacity to grow and learn. With this we will say goodbye to The Brain That Changes Itself.

Does Your Child Struggle with Learning? You Can Homeschool Your Child!

Over the years I have talked with many families who face learning challenges. They frequently have their child in school because they feel they lack the expertise to meet their educational needs. While working with someone with experience in this area may be helpful at times, do not forget that you are the expert regarding your child. Who knows this child better? You do, of course!


  1. Do I need a label? Occasionally, having a label provides direction or funding, but it often limits expectations. For an accurate medical diagnosis, as in a genetic disorder, a label leads to a treatment. If on the other hand, the professional assigned the label because of a list of symptoms / behaviors rather than a blood or other lab test, beware of limiting expectations or using a medical treatment (as in drugs). However, even with a nonmedical diagnosis, there may be a metabolic / health component. How an individual’s digestive system works can affect learning. One problem faced by many who struggle is the “leaky gut syndrome.” Until you resolve an issue like this, the struggles will remain. Read To Label or Not to Label: Pros and Cons for Seeking Educational Diagnoses.
  2. 2.     After determining if we want to pursue a diagnosis / label, what is the next step? Besides knowing where your child is academically you need to make an inventory of tasks that challenge your child. Finding the underlying cause for these challenges is the key to resolving the issue. For example, if an individual has difficulty using phonics in the process of learning to read, he probably has low auditory processing. When this is true, a simple activity done for 3 minutes, 2 times a day, overtime will develop this skill. Free Auditory Processing Test Kit
  3. How do I choose the right curriculum? If you have ever gone to a homeschool convention, such as that of WHO, you know that an abundance of curriculum exists. Further, if you have searched online for homeschool curriculum, you know this to be true. Choosing the right curriculum for your family is a personal choice, but you should consider the following:
  • What does my child need to learn?
  • How does my child learn?
  • How do I teach?
  • Can I adapt the same curriculum for all my children?
  • Does this curriculum conform to our family’s beliefs and life style?

4.     How should I structure our day? This, too, is a personal family choice; however, many children who struggle with learning thrive on structure. In most cases achievement is highest when you balance structure and non-structure. (Able to Teach by Childs and McAlister – Text for Parent Training Course)

Parents are definitely Able to Teach their children and there are many resources available to guide you in a successful family journey.


Maggie Dail, M.A. has been working with homeschoolers since 1994 through Academy Northwest / Family Academy ( She instructs Family Academy’s online parent training course. She began working International Christian Association of Neurodevelopmentalists in 2003, becoming certified in 2007. (ICAN – Now in 2013 she is beginning to work with homeschooling families through Family Academy Online. Maggie and her husband, Ronnie operate Center for Neuro Development. (