The Windward School Features Dr. Gordon Sherman, Authority on Brain Research
Introduced by head of The Windward School, Dr. John Russell, Dr. Gordon F. Sherman delivered a lecture titled “Welcome to the Future: Where Diverse Brains Thrive.” Dr. Sherman is the executive director of The Laurel School of Princeton, The Newgrange School in Hamilton, NJ, and The Newgrange Education Center in Princeton, NJ. He is internationally recognized as a leader in brain studies.
The focus of his talk was on the diversity of ways that different brains function. Sherman began with an introduction on what the brain does. It controls motor ability, as well. One of the most astonishing aspects of the brain is that it is composed of different parts that work together to produce a finished product. Sherman spoke about how when we see the world, there are 33 different components that are working together to give us that picture. He said “ the brain is more sophisticated than a computer and is more like a symphony with all the different parts working together.”
According to Sherman, the brain is formed when the baby is a fetus. At that point, the environment nurtures and “fine tunes” the brain to perform. When the person is young, he is still able to learn new things due to the receptability of the brain to the environment. This is what neuroscientists call “neuroplasticity.” As we get older, our brains are less able to learn new things.
Dr. Sherman also introduced us to a term he coined, called “cerebrodiversity,” which are the differences in the way we process information. He stressed that evolution selects which brains have what “it” wants. According to Sherman “if the environment wants what you have, then you will be successful. However, if you don’t have what the environment wants then you are in trouble.” Recognizing the diverse ways in which our brains process information, we hope to better society by recognizing their differences.
According to Dr. Sherman, “we have a tendency to judge cerebrodiversity harshly,” but facts show that we should not. Sherman gives us examples of people with Asperger’s syndrome who can paint beautiful pictures or who have world views that are profoundly creative. As we have seen the rise in autism, perhaps it is now most important to recognize the need to interact with these unique minds and acculturate a more diverse environment.#