Mind Maps di Lara Fortugno

Structure and governing principles

If you observe a mind map you will surely spot an amazing resemblance with the natural structure of a brain cell [I5] [F6] [ES5]. A living brain cell was first filmed during a sensational experiment at the end of the 20th century at the Max Plank Laboratory in Switzerland. In the words of Tony Buzan "the film showed this amazing little being (...) with its hundreds of baby-like hands (…) it extended and retracted, sensitively and focusedly (...) looking for connection - a moving Mind Map". This is the way brain cells operate: they form connections with neighbouring cells, by extending their main branches, called axons [I6] [ES6]. Points of contact with the other cells are called synapses [I7] ,electromagnetic impulses are released through them. Thoughts, images and ideas flash along these intricate pathways just as sensory perceptions do. The part of the brain that controls memory and learning skills is the cerebrum [I8] [F8] [ES8] or cerebral cortex. Some experiments performed in the 1950s and 60s by Professor Roger Sperry and Professor Robert Ornstein revealed the presence of a left and a right brain, each in charge of a specific category of tasks: the right brain controls rhythm, imagination, spatial awareness, daydreaming, colour, dimensions and holistic tasks, where the synthetic "overall picture" is essential; the left brain presides over numbers, words, sequences, lists and other analytic matters. Altogether, the right brain was popularized as the intuitive, creative, artistic hemisphere, while the left one is supposed to be businesslike, intellectual, logical. Tony Buzan claims that the supremacy of one hemisphere over the other is to be put down to training rather than to any inborn characteristics. Mind maps activate, challenge, train both sides of the brain, bringing back into play the right hemisphere, traditionally left out by that linear thinking which has been privileged by mainstream educational practices.
But how does our brain actually process new information? It used to be commonly thought to enrich its data store through a simple additive principle, but in the second half of the 20th century this belief was shown to be wrong: our brain works by synergy which means that any new item multiplies its potential through entering the net of previously stored data, as well as triggering new connections. That's infinitely more than just a linear sum of items. The second key principle is repetition. Every time we do something again (actions, thoughts, feelings, associations) we simply increase the probability of that happening over and over in the future, because we reinforce a pattern, "strengthen our Mind Maps of thought", in Buzan's words. The more we repeat one thing, the easier it becomes for us to do, and we get better and better at it.



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