Can we train our brains in such a way that disrupts what we’ve learned to be true?
For example, can you FORGET how to ride a bike?
The answer is, Yes. One engineer, trained his brain to master the Backwards Brain Bicycle and then persuaded his five-year old to do the same.
Welders at a shop rebuilt a bicycle.
When you turn the handlebar to the left, the wheel goes to the right.
When you turn it to the right, the wheel goes to the left. Destin Sandlin
It took Destin Sandlin of Smarter Every Day eight months to master this new skill.
We may think we can do it at first, but Destin proves, we can’t. It’s not just like riding a bicycle. Our brains are trained to steer a certain way and it’s hard to unlearn this training. During his presentations, Destin challenges audience members to stay on the bike as they try to navigate 10 feet straight ahead. He offers $200 to anyone who is successful. Around the world, at universities and even at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, they just can’t do it.
Destin explains, “Once you have a rigid way of thinking in your head; sometimes, you cannot change that even if you want to.”
As a personal challenge he practiced riding down his driveway for five minutes a day. He had many wrecks and his neighbors laughed a lot. After about 8 months, he suddenly could do it. It was as if something clicked. Yet, if he were distracted, he’d go back to the old (normal?) way of riding his bike.
Imagine the possibilities for training our brains. His experiment is a powerful testimonial of brain plasticity.
His five-year old son was given a challenge. If he’d learn to ride the backwards bicycle, he could accompany his father to Australia. He’d been riding a normal bike for three years. It took him took only two weeks to master the skill.
Piaget’s studies of cognitive development sheds light as to why children learn new things such as language easier than adults.
Learning something new and challenging is not easy. Like the backwards bicycle, it requires requiring how we process not only our thoughts but our muscles. Imagine how malleable our brains are to allow us to retrain what we know. The implications for those who have experienced brain trauma or are living with the earlier stages of some types of dementia is astounding.
A funny end note – after training his brain to ride the backwards bicycle, Destin couldn’t ride a normal bicycle… well, at least for two minutes until something clicked in his brain. The old learning returned.
Thank YOU, John Quick for sending an email about this amazing study.