How the Friday-Monday Phenomenon Helps Us Learn Skills

Have you ever wondered how you acquire skills?

Have you ever wondered how some people seem to learn better than

Well, so did a researcher, Pascual-Leone.

Way back in the early 1990s, he did a series of experiments that
taught us how we learn skills.

And Pascual-Leone didn’t just theorise. Instead he used high end
technology called TMS to map the brains of blind students who were
in the process of learning Braille. And in doing so, he stumbled
on the Friday-Monday learning phenomenon.

What was this Friday-Monday learning phenomenon?

As you already know, the blind students were learning Braille. They
had to spend two hours a day, five days a week in the classroom
(that’s Monday to Friday). They also got about an hour of homework.
In short, they were doing about three hours of study every day
from Monday to Friday.

And Pascual-Leone measured their brain maps on Friday.

And then again on Monday. And he found something dramatic after
each weekend. The changes in the brain map were different for
Friday and completely different for Monday. The Friday brain maps
were vast, sweeping changes. There was huge expansion as the map
grew bigger. But by Monday, these brain maps had returned to their
baseline size.

Six months of frustration followed

Every Friday the brain maps would show rapid expansion. Every
Monday it was back to baseline size. And six months later the
Friday maps were starting to slow down a bit, but the Monday maps
started to change. The Monday maps started to grow (for a change)
all the way to ten months. And then they took a break.

So what’s so interesting about this Friday-Monday learning

We know that the Monday changes weren’t dramatic, yet their
learning of Braille co-related to the Monday maps. Somehow the
Monday maps were the real benchmark of learning. What this told
Pascual-Leone is that daily training led to extremely powerful
changes during the week. These were short term changes.

The long term changes seemed to co-relate completely to Monday.
Pascual-Leone believes the difference in the results are because of
the plastic nature of the brain. The Friday changes strengthened
existing learning. The Monday changes seemed to be the foundation
of new pathways, new bridges in learning.

And there’s a simple analogy that goes way back to school.

In school you crammed for a test. You then did a brain dump on your
test, and then you quickly forgot most of what you learned. It was
easy-come, easy-go learning. And the connections in your brain’s
neurons were not permanent at all. To make permanent connections
you needed to keep at the learning till it made sense. You had to
go over it again and again, always making mistakes, always learning
from the mistakes. This method was slow, frustration-laden and
wanted you to pull your hair out in despair.

And yet this is the most efficient way the brain learns
It learns slowly. You may well dart ahead but the real learning
isn’t going to kick in till about six months down the line when the
Monday phenomenon jumps in big time. For about five months and 29
days, you seem to move one step forward and two back. Then the
practice pays off.

The lights go on.

Suddenly all the effort seems to make sense.

What you’re experiencing is the Friday-Monday learning phenomenon.
It’s why some of us are so good at learning, while others are just
hopeless. Those who are really keen to learn have to persevere for
months on end, because their brain needs the solid daily effort to
keep moving forward.

They have to put in at least two-three hours a day.

Every day.

Yes, every day from Monday-Friday.

And that’s how your brain learns.

How far away are you from the six month mark?

Source: “The Brain That Changes Itself” by Norman Doidge. (Yes, I
borrowed heavily from this book). And yes, I really wanted to learn
about the brain and how it works. I’ve been reading this book for a
long time. First I read the book in paperback version (and forgot
about 99% of what I’d read). Then I bought the Kindle version and
read it on my iPod and Mac. And then I bought the audio book and
listen to each chapter as many as three-five times. As you can tell
my progress is frustratingly slow. But meet me after six months .

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