Meeting Mr. Myelin.
By Gina Bale
Did you know he plays a pivotal role in your child’s development and that he is an important part of our Littlemagictrain journey?
When I created Littlemagictrain, in 2004, I was intrigued by the feedback from nurseries and preschools and in the increased confidence of the children after a few sessions. For the first few years I initially assumed this was due to the way make-believe, music and movement had been combined in one session to engage the children.
My light bulb moment
I read Daniel Coyle’s book ‘The Talent Code’ about the importance of Myelin in training dancers, athletes and musicians and he concludes that it’s not about practise but ‘Good practise’.
‘Good practise’ is so important in early years as everything the children do, and learn, is creating all those amazing neural connections in the brain. Mr Myelin is also working very hard. His job is to wrap himself around the nerve fibre. He has been described as a fatty sausage that wraps around the nerve fibre. The best way to envisage Mr. Myelin is as a thick layer of electrical tape that has been used to prevent any leaks and we don’t want that!
When a neural pathway is made and fully Myelinated (covered in electrical tape), your brain can’t change the pathway or make amends. For example, if you have made a connection going from ‘A to B’ and you need to correct this mistake, your body has to create a totally new neural pathway and start again. Unfortunately, this means the brain has to find a new way of getting from ‘A’ to ‘B’ and to
get there it may have to go via ‘W’. A lot of extra work!
This simple graphic to shows how hard the brain is working in the early years, growing connections and pathways and at the same time securing those pathways in Myelin.
‘Little ones brain development’ Littlemagictrain 2021
Did you know?
Myelin initially builds on the sensorimotor white matter and the Heschl gyrus (the structure containing the human primary auditory cortex) then extends to the language-related areas.
The important aspect of physical literacy in Early Years is that it helps with speech and language and it’s worth reading ‘Myelination of language-related areas in the developing brain’ by J. Pujol, C. Sorian-Mas, H. Ortiz, N. Sebastian Galles, J. M. Losilla & J. Deus; March 2006; Neurology 66 (3): 339-43; PubMed.
‘Meeting our hero Mr Myelin’
‘Daniel Coyle draws on research in his book ‘The Talent Code’ with Myelin building. He reveals why some teaching methods are more effective and how important it is to train our brains in the right way. Coyle introduces you to Mr Myelin the man behind this research.
Mr Myelin is in fact Professor George Bartzokis (1956-2014), a neuroscientist who was a Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA. Bartzokis originated the theory that the degeneration of the brain’s myelin contributed to many developmental and degenerative diseases, such as schizophrenia and Alzhemier’s. This shows the importance of Myelin in the brain. Myelin is the icing on the cake (or the sausage) to ensure everything runs smoothly.
‘if you don’t use it you lose it!’
This phrase says it all, as the brain will prune away the bad neural pathway and the new pathway going from ‘A’ via ‘W’ to ‘B’ will stay. The brain is continually growing and pruning neural pathways. To help children learn we need to ensure the correct neural pathway is built so they don’t have to relearn, rebuild and prune. I always visualize a gardener attacking a rose, that has grown along a wall in the wrong direction. The gardener has to prune the poor rose which then has find the energy and make the effort to grow all over again in the right direction.
‘Something to think about’
Bartzokis posed these questions in Coyles’ book (p67-68):
Q: “Why can’t monkey – which have every neuron type and neurotransmitter we have – use language the way we do?”
A: “because we’ve got 20% more myelin. To talk like we are now takes a lot of information -processing speed, and they have no broadband.
Q: “Why can horses walk immediately on being born while humans take a year?”
A: “A horse is born with its brain fully myelinated, online, and ready to go.
Some Handy Myelin tips
Daniel Coyle came up with these 3 rules in his book on how to grow Myelin.
CHUNK IT UP
SLOW IT DOWN
- going slowly allows you to correct errors to create a higher degree of precision. When it comes to growing myelin – precision is everything.
- There is no substitute for attentive repetition of the skill you want to build – remember quality not quantity.
- Coyle gave the example of a violinists. If they hear an out of tune string, it should bother them. It should bother them a lot. That’s what they need to feel. This feeling means they are concentrating and when you are really practicing you are concentrating and an out of tune string would really annoy you.
Littlemagictrain and Myelin
Reading Daniel Coyle’s book helped me make sense of my own vocational ballet training and perfecting movements to build Myelin and the how and why of teaching. On reflection, I can see that without realizing it, I had been following the rules of Myelin building in the sessions.
It is so important that the delivery of any session helps children build the correct pathways. To ensure children are learning and fully engaged and included I have always used the fun of make-believe, music and movement and this is the foundation of Littlemagictrain.
In a nutshell
Littlemagictrain helps with Myelin building as we develop the story and actions over a number of weeks. The sessions
allow you to:
- Chunk it up (small bites)
movement skills and vocabulary are developed in small bite sized chunks.
correct modelling from the grown-ups to help with learning
the speed of your actions/development will depend on your little ones needs.
the sessions allow for repetition with the fun of what next?
So many different learning opportunities to be had through fun. For more information on the sessions and how they will benefit your little ones visit www.littlemagictrain.com
Daniel Coyle, “the TALENT CODE’, (2009), Arrow Books. ISBN 9780099519850