Myelin is a waxy substance that can be prompted to insulate neural networks. The significance of this is that:
- All human thought and deed is simply an electrical pulse between neurons,
- Myelin wraps around these circuits, the insulating effect of which is to boost signal "strength, speed and accuracy",
- Increased firing of a circuit promotes myelination of that circuit and so it fires with increased efficiency and fluidity.
Broadly, Coyle advises us to:
- Break the skill up in to manageable chunks, and,
- "Neural traffic...with myelin's help [can] accelerate to two hundred miles and hour. The refactory time (the wait required between one signal and the next), decreases by a factor of 30"
Finally, Coyle gives us the four fundamentals of myelin:
- The firing of a circuit is paramount. Myelin responds to the 'urgent-firing' of electrical impulses along a circuit.
- Myelin is universal. It doesn't care what you are doing, it responds to what you do! Coyle describes it as 'meritocratic'. Those circuits fired most get priority myelination. (Those of you inclined to watch soap operas or daytime talk-shows on TV for large amounts of your time might want to reflect upon this!)
- Myelin wraps - it doesn't unwrap. This is why habits are hard to break! Myelinating a new habit will change behaviour! Only disease or aging removes myelin.
- Age matters. We net-gain myelin until about 50 years of age (although after this time we can still myelinate).