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Mental Models - Issue #50 - Myelination 🧠

Mental Models Weekly
Mental Models - Issue #50 - Myelination 🧠
By Julia Clavien • Issue #50 • View online
A concept from neuroscience that is well worth a few minutes of your time!

What is myelination?
Here it is in simple terms.
In your brain you have cells called neurons that arrange in circuits. A substance called myelin gets wrapped around these neurons when you use the neuronal circuits in your brain. This process is called myelination.
In a little more detail:
Every human movement, thought, or feeling is a precisely timed electric signal traveling through a chain of neurons—a circuit of nerve fibers.
Myelin is the insulation that wraps these nerve fibers and increases signal strength, speed, and accuracy.
The more we fire a particular circuit, the more myelin optimizes that circuit, and the stronger, faster, and more fluent our movements and thoughts become.
Why is this interesting?
Myelination is a cool concept to understand, even superficially.
Firstly it is fascinating in terms of understanding the formative nature of our childhood experience. The younger you are, the more rapidly myelination is happening. So it’s easy to develop strong “highways” in the brain.
But it’s still fascinating in terms of adult skill development. If you are great at something it means you have a well-myelinated circuit in your brain. Understanding myelination is a tangible way to conceptualize what is happening when we practice and learn.
Practice makes perfect, because practice makes myelin!
Photo by Mathew Krizmanich
Photo by Mathew Krizmanich
Want to go deeper?
😂 The decline in myelination as we age reminds me of this gold from Douglas Adams:
I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
📖 If you find neuroscience and neuroplasticity interesting, The Brain That Changes Itself a relatively easy read for the category
🔖 Here’s a scientific paper about myelin if you want the technical version with the really long words
💎 I like this quote from coach Tom Martinez:
It’s not how fast you can do it. It’s how slow you can do it correctly.
🧠 Build your latticework! Revisit related mental models:
🤔 I wrote 50 issues! But actually that’s a rather arbitrary thing to celebrate if you dive into the history of numeric bases - counting in sets of 10 is somewhat arbitrary, maybe 12 would be better
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Julia Clavien

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