The PBS documentary "The Brain Fitness Program", from the year 2007, describes conclusions from the past several decades about neuro-plasticity — the ability of the brain to reorganize itself and improve its functioning and efficiency. The main researcher whose research is highlighted is the psychologist Donald O. Hebb (1904–85), and there is also material about the rehabilitation clinic of Dr. Edward Taub. The documentary consists in large part of interview snippets with the neuroscientists William Jagust, Arthur Toga, Michael Merzenich, Jason Karlawish, and the authors Sharon Begley, Shannon Moffett, and Norman Doige, interspersed with animations and other illustrations.
The documentary is suitable for general viewers although it seems to be directed especially at older people concerned about avoiding cognitive impairment. To speak harshly, I found it motivational at the expense of concrete documentation. But it was interesting and there were two summary lists at the end that were relatively useful:
- Time 44:03. "Change can occur only when the brain is in the mood." Paying attention and being alert and ready for action.
- 45:03. "Change strengthens connection between neurons engaged at the same time." Trying something repeatedly allows the brain to selectively remember the most effective combinations of small variables contributing to the more effective tries.
- 46:02. "Neurons that fire together wire together." Much of the brain's functioning involves prediction, and the brain improves its ability to predict based on observation of things that reliably occur in series.
- 47:45. "Initial changes are just temporary." The possibility of changing the brain's structure increases when activities are repeated over time.
- 48:41. "Brain plasticity is a two-way street and we can either drive brain change positively or negatively." Malleability can mean vulnerability, as well as the flexibility to change. Persistent bad habits and environmental interference are examples of negative effects.
- 49:52. "Memory is crucial for learning." The brain maintains a model in memory of what it is trying to do and evaluates the results of repeated attempts to meet that model.
- 50:54. "Motivation is a key factor in brain plasticity." Acquisition of new skills is the primary means for developing the adult brain.
- 55:30. "You need your heart to be decent shape."
- 55:40. "Training should be incremental."
- 55:45. "Training needs to be taxing and systematically improving."
- 55:57. "It should be interesting to engage the motivation circuits in your brain."