Learning in the Brain and Desmos Animations

Hello everyone!

This week, I have learned a lot more about learning. Thanks to Ms. Rogers, I had a bunch of new resources to look into to better understand learning disabilities and how the brain learns. One of the most important things I learned was in a study from Cambridge University, which found that learning disabilities, developmental disorders, and many mental health disorders do not directly correspond to specific brain regions. Instead, challenges with learning can be attributed to poor connections between numerous regions of the brain, which the study describes as “poorly connected ‘hubs.’” So, looking at brain connectivity rather than specific areas of “weakness” is most significant, and I would like to focus on exploring this idea in some of my future illustrations.  

I have also tried something completely different in my recent illustrations. When I was drawing neurons to illustrate synapses and neuroplasticity, I wanted to convey how neurotransmitters move between neurons. Animation is often a significant part of medical illustration, but I’m quite unfamiliar with it. However, I do know how to use Desmos since we use it so frequently in math class, and I’ve created lots of “desmos art” in the past. So, I had the idea to create animations on Desmos where I combined my drawings with digitized neurotransmitters using math! I created two animations on Desmos, and I’m really happy with the effect of merging drawing with little animations.

Here is the link to my synapse animation and my neuroplasticity animation. The first animation zooms into a synapse in the brain where neurotransmitters move between two neurons. Because neurotransmitters carry information throughout the brain, synapses between neurons are how different regions of the brain are connected. Thus, synapses play a significant role in learning. The second animation depicts the brain’s neuroplasticity, which is the idea that since the brain is so adaptable, with practice, it can build up strength in areas of weakness. This is important for all types of learning in the brain but also in individuals with learning disabilities because with practice, kids with LDs can often retrain their brains or develop compensatory techniques using alternative areas of the brain to improve skills such as reading.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy my animations!