The human brain has enormous capacity, locating an extraordinary number of neural connections. A mature brain has approximately 86 billion neurons, each one with around one thousand connections to other neurons, creating about 86 trillion synapses – which provides roughly a petabyte of storage, according to Alison George, author of the New Scientist book, "The Brain". The brain's electrochemical power is produced by the way in which these cells connect. The power utilised during this remarkably efficient process is around twenty watts – an amount that is less than what is typically required to generate light from an electric bulb. This is ironic, given that (in a reference to Thomas Edison's commercial development of the light bulb) the image of a 'bright' light bulb is often used to signify the development of a creative or original idea.
During childhood, the brain grows and develops rapidly as new skills are acquired. Later, in adolescence, the brain undergoes significant change as the neural pathways are pruned, ready for new neural growth to take place. The adolescent brain is under construction; everyday, adolescents are creating the brain they will use when they become adults. Whatever adolescents focus upon will establish the neural pathways that are created through repeated actions, thus structuring the adult brain that will be used.
The brain is dependent upon the regeneration of whatever power is used. Humans are rather like water bottles; we empty from the top down. This effectively means that cognitive function erodes whenever the brain does not have sufficient power to generate optimum brain function. Emotional regulation uses a lot of cognitive energy so it is critical that those who experience any form of emotional stress have sufficient brain power to self-regulate their emotion. Individuals cannot think well or soothe themselves if they do not have sufficient cognitive energy to carry out these functions.
Restoration of power occurs whenever individuals fulfil basic survival needs such as: sleeping, eating, drinking water (necessary for the biochemical synaptic process required to connect neurons), resting and relaxing. To ensure there is an optimal amount of brainpower available for daily cognitive functioning, learning and academic performance, it is critical that students have sufficient amounts of good-quality sleep, regularly eat sufficient food that is optimally suited to their personal physical and cognitive needs, find opportunities to rest, relax, exercise and socialise in ways that reenergise the brain. Developing regular healthy habits that suit an individual can be a lifelong pursuit, especially as personal needs change throughout the lifespan; however the early establishment of regenerative patterns of behaviour (including relaxation) creates a powerful brain that can be used to optimise learning.
© Michele Juratowitch