Why in the world is neurobiologist Sue Barry jumping on a trampoline?
We’ll get to that shortly. But first, let’s go back to what first got Sue interested in studying the brain. She explained to us -
“What really struck me about any creature was that it was always adapting to its environment. And I began to think, ‘What’s the most adaptable organ in our bodies?’ And the most adaptable organ is our brain.” Sue Barry was born to bounce in 3D
So Sue studied the brain. And she did it well enough to become a professor of neurobiology and researcher at Mt. Holyoke College. An expert in her field, Sue may not have realized yet that even with all of her professional success, the brain she would learn the most from would be her own.
You see Sue was born cross-eyed and unable to see in three dimensions. Childhood surgery corrected her crossed eyes, but still left her living in a visual world that was “flat” and two dimensional. Sue couldn’t focus both her eyes on the same point at the same time - the key to stereoscopic 3D vision. And in spite of her belief in the brain’s adaptability, she always thought she herself was stuck in her 2D world. And she accepted it.
But then at the age of 48, Sue learned about some new vision therapies. And she tried them. And they started to work. She had always believed - and taught - that humans could only develop 3D vision during a “critical period” when we are infants. But here she was - almost 50 - and she was learning to see in three dimensions. As Sue told us, “learning to see in 3D changed everything.” Her experience taught her that the brain could adapt - maybe even in some of the ways that we want it to adapt - even beyond the boundaries of the “critical period.”
And the trampoline?
Well, like everyone else, Sue spends a good deal of her life in motion. So she thought she should do her 3D vision exercises (which she faithfully does everyday) while she was in motion - bouncing even - which also makes it more fun.
The even bigger question, though, is this - Does Sue’s experience mean we can all simply will ourselves to become expert in anything we like? Not necessarily, but as she explains, “if something is humanly possible, then it’s not to say I’m going to get as good as the experts are in doing it, but I can get a lot better.”
I think I’m gonna get me a trampoline.