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Can you teach an old dog new tricks?

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While listening to the radio I caught the tail end of a discussion about young children learning to play classical music. The radio host said "they’re too young to know they can’t do that."


That statement intrigued me. It reminded me of how, when I was taking violin lessons in my 30s, someone told me "You’ll never really get good at it since you didn’t start as a child".


My goal was never to join the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra anyway but ,although this conversation happened nearly 10 years ago, it stuck with me.


Why does starting something as a child help you to succeed?


Neurologist Harold Chugani has uncovered the timetable under which various regions of the brain develop. By 4, a child’s brain is more than twice as active as an adult’s. It continues at this feverish pitch through age 10 and then slows down until age 16, when it levels off at adult values.


Does this mean it’s all over for us adults?  The way I see it, adults can be effective learners.
Adult learning is meaningful because it’s of particular interest to those taking up an activity or because they need to learn something for a particular purpose. Adults will be more willing or able to focus.


Adults also have a broad knowledge base on which to build.


Thinking your memory will get worse as you get older may actually be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Researchers at North Carolina State University have found that senior citizens who think older people should perform poorly on tests of memory actually score much worse than seniors who do not buy in


I for one plan to fight the stereotype. In my late 30s I joined my first hockey team. In my 40s I completed a university degree.


 I look forward to seeing what the future will bring, and in case you’re wondering, I still have not mastered the violin.


Camille Meub is a community correspondent for La Salle.

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