While the fact that we only use ten percent of our brain is actually more science fiction than fact, it’s certainly true that we don’t use our noggin’ to its full potential.
Adults are often so stressed that their minds can’t focus properly, while children are often taught to memorise facts rather than truly understand something.
“Usually in this country, and most countries, we are using traditional education, which is just trying to memorise things, do homework without effect and without children really using their brain,” explains Engr Hamad Ali Al Ahabi, who established the Smart Talent Development Center in Al Ain.
Passionate about innovation in education, Hamad collaborated with centres in India to devise the Brain Activation workshop, a unique programme that aims to encourage people to utilise their brain “to the maximum” and activate it, rather than train it.
Playing on the idea that different types of brain waves should be active on different levels, and that both sides of the brain should be balanced rather than one dominant, the workshop aims to help people relax, increase positive energy and improve brain function like concentration and intelligence.
The two-month pop-up workshop – open to everyone from five-year-olds to 60-year-olds – comprises a three-hour session once a week where a series of activities – each no longer than 30 minutes – helps to activate different parts of the brain.
The workshop begins with balancing the left and right sides of the body to boost your creativity as well as critical thinking skills.
Elena Sandrovschi, whose six-year-old daughter Solara has completed the workshop, explains: “They start with performing different exercises with the right hand and left side of the body, and left hand, right side of the body: finger exercises, eye exercises, ‘brain gym’ exercises where you can do opposing things with your hands in different directions so the brain thinks in different directions, simultaneously… techniques to improve memory capacity, exercises with the left and right hands like writing numbers, shapes and the alphabet to balance both hemispheres and activate the brain.”
Participants are then introduced to the concept of brain waves.
Hamad explains: “We use a machine to analyse their brain, especially the different waves: alpha, beta, theta, gamma… And we see how they use it and how smart, sleepy or stressed they are. We try to raise or lower some of the levels to make it balanced so they become more relaxed, more concentrated in their work.”
One game sees you connected to a machine that will test your concentration against an opponent to see if you can move a ball.
Perhaps most impressive of all are the blindfolded activities where participants read materials like UNO cards and flyers using senses like touch, smell and even sound to identify colours, letters and numbers.
There’s even homework, although not in the traditional sense; it might include playing games with the rest of the family, or listening to specific music in bed.
Unbelievable as it may sound, Hamad insists it’s not about magic, though some of his sceptics think it’s all a bluff: “The aim of brain activation is not to know the colours or what you’re reading with your eyes closed. This is just evident how concentration can bring you up to that level – and of course there are more levels, up to riding a motorbike with your eyes closed, because we open up the third eye so you can see around you.” (Don’t try that at home!)
Still not convinced? Hamad says the proof is in the pudding.
“We see the results: it’s increasing [children’s] concentration; they’re learning faster, it’s increasing their long- and short-term memory because now we’re using their brain waves.
“We’ve seen that before this, it takes them one hour to do homework, but after brain activation it takes them 20 minutes.
“We have [eight] different levels: in one they are just drawing or colouring without seeing, without going out of the lines. This is very important for them, how they think, read, study. Some kids’ marks increase [on exams]. Some kids when they started were shouting, but now they are more relaxed. Maybe some adults come with a lot of stress and they don’t sleep – they sleep physically but their mind isn’t asleep. We test them to prove that, then after we give them some advice and exercises, they can sleep.”
Ultimately, Brain Activation is helping people build confidence, develop better learning skills and become more efficient and relaxed whether at school or in the workplace, and it’s an innovative approach that perfectly complements the nation’s goals for a future of knowledge and innovation in education as part of Abu Dhabi Vision 2030.
“We want them to be ready for the next generation, to reach that goal by thinking, not by memorising things,” Hamad adds. “I want them to think.”
The next Brain Activation workshop begins on 10th July at Junior Gym, between the bridges. AED 1,200 per month. For more information, contact: 03 764 7734, email@example.com