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Navigate through Maguire

A great guest post from Amit on his experiences of teaching the new Maguire study and how he linked it in with memory and even got onto a playing field!

Notwithstanding with the fact that we might be an experienced teacher there is that little element of irky nervousness while teaching something new. So was my challenge to teach Maguire to groups of students who are barely couple of weeks old in the world of learning formal psychology.

This is my navigation through Maguire.

I started with the concept of plasticity of the brain. There are ample clinical case studies one can use where it has been demonstrated that the brain is an extremely resilient organ which is able to change and modify to meet the new demands. Particularly useful are the cases of hemispherectomy where a complete hemisphere has been removed for some patients, yet over a period of time the remaining hemisphere has been able to develop capabilities to take over the functions of the lost hemisphere. For example, despite the fact left side of body is controlled by right hemisphere, when right hemisphere is removed for clinical reason, brain still somehow managed to operate the left side (of course with some limitations). It generally fascinates students (I think… everybody).

Then I asked students to draw map of their route from home to college with sign gestalt (the term used by Tolman for things which we call signposts like you turn right from the Bus stop…so bus stop is a sign gestalt). That led to discussions on mental maps, how detailed some maps are compared to others.

Then we went to the football pitch where I used some cones to sign post to lay medium difficulty route in the middle of the pitch. Then students had to walk that route. Then students had to retrace the route blindfolded. Most people only managed to trace up to three to four signposts before they made mistakes. So then we related that with Miller’s seven plus minus two (which we had discussed in an earlier lesson).

So we discussed about various types of memories and possibility of different locations in the brain for different memories. It was an ideal place to introduce the Hippocampi. One can spend the next 20 odd minutes on hippocampii its locations and functions. We also talked about research on Albert Einstein’s brain and more glial cells in his brain. It led to two possibilities emerged -he was born with different structure or because of excessive use of a particular type of functions.

It was perfect time to introduce Maguire ….asking key question that if London taxi drivers deal with maps and routes and space everyday…day after day….will there be change in their brain?

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