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Yale Prof Speaks on Brain Research

Bruce Wexler, professor at Yale University and the author of numerous studies on cognition, discussed the latest research on neurons, learning, language acquisition and cultures with Middlesex faculty in October.

The informative session dispelled some misconceptions about neuron plasticity and the ability to enhance learning ability. He said there are methods, including computer-based exercises, that do enhance the ability to regain some of the lost plasticity due to aging. Dr. Wexler, who is also director of the Institute of Neuro-Cognitive Sciences, also mentioned that the noted MIT linguist Noam Chomsky has changed his position regarding his famous theory on "Generative Grammar." People are not born with an inherent grammatical structure, and there is not an exclusively designated area in the brain for language. According to Dr. Wexler, the predisposition for language is still a mystery that is intrinsically related to the development of culture.

Frank Burke, chair of Computer Science and Information Technology, called the session very interesting and informative.

"When my elder daughter was a Psychology major 20 years ago, I noted the many conflicting theories and opinions that existed in psychology at that time," he said. "Dr. Wexler clearly utilizes the latest techniques in computerized imaging to establish a clear scientific basis for a number of aspects of how the brain functions."

Kathy Fedorko, professor of English and director of CELT, the College's Center for the Enrichment of Learning and Teaching, agreed that the session was well done.

"So much of what Dr. Wexler said supports current scholarship of teaching and learning," she said. "What we do with what we know is the BIG question, worthy of many workshop discussions."

This seminar was organized by the Department of ESL/Languages and Culture, Center for International Education along with CELT and the Division of Arts and Sciences.