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Use It Or Lose It

Remember the saying “use it or lose it” ? The brain cells that receive stimulation through our senses, experiences, and activitie continue to develop and improve. Cells that do not receive stimulation tend to be lost through pruning.

Our early years are the most active years of cell development. But complexity of cell development can continue throughout our lives.

In recent years we have been seeing very different areas of brain cell complexity being developed.* The extreme amount of time our children and youth experience from excessive stimulation first with television and now cell phones and computers activates specific areas.

Including when they’re multitasking, 8- to 18-year-olds consume an average of 7 hours and
11 minutes of screen media per day—an increase of 2.5 hours in just 10 years.(1)
For older children and adolescents, excessive screen time is linked to increased psychological difficulties that include hyperactivity, emotional and conduct problems, difficulties with peers (2) and poor school performance.(3)

While complexity develops in one area, we need to be aware that there may be loss of cell structure in areas of neglect-pruning is taking place.

Balance Activities and Experiences

Increase variety of activity and experience for maximum learning:

Providing experiences to nourish all the senses creates maximum brain capacity. Conversation, observation, active movement, quiet time, contemplation, and creative opportunity will maximize brain function.

* Healy, Jane M. Ph.D. (1990) Endangered Minds. Touchstone. New York, N.Y.
Rideout, V. J., Foehr, U. G., & Roberts, D. F. (2010). Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds.
Menlo Park, CA: Kaiser Family Foundation, 2.

2 Page, A. S., Cooper, A. R., Griew, P., & Jago, R. (2010). Children’s screen viewing is related to psychological
difficulties irrespective of physical activity. Pediatrics, 126(5), 1011-1017.

3 Johnson, J., Brook, J., Cohen, P., & Kasen, S. (2007). Extensive television viewing and the development of attention and learning difficulties during adolescence. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 161(5),

Dr. Joan M. Smith
Dr. Smith’s work is accredited for Continuing Education Credit in the state of California. She is the author of You Don’t have to be Dyslexic, Learning Victories, 7 Brain Rules for Learning, The Calming Kitchen, and Mega Ways to Develop Executive Function Skills.

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