In his recent podcast on the Joe Rogan Experience, Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman shared a fascinating insight into how we can enhance neuroplasticity and learn new skills quickly, even as an adult. Let’s look over the advice he gave and exactly how you can apply it to your learning routine.
Understanding the Brain’s Neuroplasticity
Humans are an incredibly adaptive species, we are designed to be molded to whatever environment we are born into. This is why as children, our brains are incredibly plastic. Andrew Huberman explains that children’s brains learn so easily because they have two main properties:
(1) physically more space in the brain for new neurons and neural pathways
(2) an abundance of the neurochemicals needed to form new neural pathways.
So, bad news right?! You’re no longer a child and you can’t absorb new information like a sponge. Well, not so fast. Andrew Explains that by learning in a specific way, we can actually produce these same neurochemicals to learn super-efficiently.
Andrew explains that the main neurochemicals used in the process of neuroplasticity are norepinephrine (aka noradrenaline) and acetylcholine. We also know that BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) plays an important role in learning.
To enhance neuroplasticity as an adult, Andrew outlines the mental state you need to achieve, in order to secrete these neurochemicals.
He explains that when learning, you need to be in a state of very high-level focus and engagement, and also feel a sense of urgency with the task. You can create this sense of urgency purely through psychological methods, you will essentially hype yourself up. Under these conditions, the brain will release norepinephrine and acetylcholine; allowing you to enter this super-neuroplasticity mode.
The brain releases acetylcholine specifically in areas of the brain that are being used to engage with a task.
We’re essentially trying to trick the brain into entering this childlike state of plasticity. You’re telling your brain, ‘we’ve found something new in our environment that we need to understand’. Do this before beginning your learning and your brain will be ready to learn with maximum efficiency.
To prime your brain ready to learn quickly and efficiently, you must stimulate the release of norepinephrine and acetylcholine by:
- having a high level of focus and engagement with the learning task
- create and feel a sense of urgency with the task
If you’re still unsure of any of what we’ve covered, feel free to watch the podcast clip from the Joe Rogan Experience where Andrew Huberman explains it himself. If you’re interested, you can also watch the full podcast episode.
Want to super-charge your learning even more? Why not check out our short explanation of the Ping Pong Learning Technique.