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As recently as twenty years ago, scientists believed that the genes we were born with wholly determined the structure of our brains. However, current extensive research performed by scientists worldwide proves that how our brains develop, learn, and grow depends on the vital interaction between nature and nurture. Nature, or more accurately, genetic endowment, is directly affected by the environment, care, challenges, and teachings received (nurture).

Learning takes place by construction of neural networks. Neural networks are the "whispering" of neurons to each other. Neurons are brain cells that communicate with each other via an electrochemical process that carries neurotransmitters across the division between the neurons (the synapse). Our five senses process information (external stimuli) and then select certain neural connections to become active. In the recent past, scientists believed this network building or neural activation to be deterministic - the genes you are born with would determine the networks that could develop. However, it has been proved that activation is a random selection among many possible neural connections that could occur. It is not something that happens by deterministic design.

No one, that's right, no one, knows why people have attention problems.

Theories abound, but since there is no real pathology associated with attention problems (other than theoretical) it cannot be physically located to be surgically corrected. However, we do know that new information (sensory input) enters the brain through preexisting networks, which is why it is imperative to provide challenging stimulation in early childhood. If the input is not new, it can trigger memory. If it is new it can trigger learning. Cognitive psychology refers to this process as constructivism: The learner builds his or her own knowledge on his current knowledge base, but only in response to a challenge. It is evident that some persons are not born with the neural networks that facilitate focused attention. Play Attention was designed to directly challenge students to build the neural networks necessary to pay attention.

Scientists apply the term neuroplasticity to the action of brain growth and adaptation in response to challenge. Provided the correct challenge and environment, children and adults frequently compensate (shift brain function from one area to another) when a certain area of the brain cannot function correctly. It is documented in many medical and neurological journals that the brain will increase activity in another region to overcome loss of another region. UCLA pediatric neurologist Dr. Donald Shields states, "if there's a way to compensate, the developing brain will find it." There is no question that the brain can compensate even if it has problems focusing attention. However, it has to be provided the correct environment prompting challenge. Play Attention is founded in educational cognitive psychology to provide the correct environment and challenge.

Furthermore, the old notion that early childhood experiences have little impact on later development has been proven false. We now know that the brain is directly and decisively affected by early experiences. This includes the architecture of the brain and the nature and extent of adult capacities; the actual capacity to form new neural networks is directly affected by early childhood experiences. Since science has repeatedly demonstrated that the brain can change and grow given the right learning tools and environment, we at Play Attention are striving to provide the very best learning tools for the creation of a success based environment that will facilitate the maximization of personal potential.

It was also thought that brain development is linear: the brain's capacity to learn and change grows steadily as an infant matures into adulthood. It is now known that brain development is non-linear: there are optimum times for acquiring different kinds of knowledge and skills. For example, it is often easier for a very young child to learn a new language than a person past the age of 25. However, the brain can grow and continue development through death provided the right conditions are met. Therefore, it does not matter at which age one starts Play Attention; progress can be achieved at any age. However, it does matter that you begin training if you want to facilitate change and growth.

-Peter Freer



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