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Tuesday, November 30 at 9:30 p.m. Brain Fitness Peak Performance

(Rochester, NY) Neuroscience has shown that our brains are plastic – constantly seeking new challenges and new stimuli and adapting to our environment, daily activities, and habits. We are what we practice, and our daily choices can be driving our plasticity in a positive or a negative direction — making our later years rich and enjoyable or predictable and limited. Our emotional and physical well-being rely on keeping ourselves sharp, engaged, and on the ball. These concepts are entertainingly explored in Brain Fitness Peak Performance, airing Tuesday, November 30 at 9:30 p.m. on WXXI-TV/HD (DT21.1/cable 1011 and 11).

Brain Fitness Peak Performance, hosted by Peter Coyote, explores how the brain can create extraordinary expertise in the areas of music, sports, and language and how lessons from experts in each of these areas can be applied in our own lives.

Throughout the program, renowned neuroscientist Dr. Michael Merzenich introduces viewers to individuals with special skills or talents:

  • A professional flutist. Musicians have greatly elaborated representations of their hand surfaces and hand movements in their brains — topped only by the truly magnificent representations of their lips, tongue, and anterior face.
  • Professional baseball players. Ballplayers Carl Everett and Josh Phelps discuss their ability to track a moving visual image and demonstrate that their brains respond to the trajectories of fast-moving objects in a way that the average brain does not. 
  • A simultaneous interpreter for the United Nations. The interpreter’s brain has learned to divide the representations of the interpreter-produced speech and the interpreter-received speech in her two brain hemispheres, with symmetrical patterns of activation that sharply distinguish her active brain from the average asymmetric brain.

Through modern imaging technology, we learn that changes that arise in specialization are not merely functional. They are physically remodeling the structures of the brain. Skills we think of as commonplace — driving or talking — were all developed through acquisition, practice and eventual mastery that is then reflected in our neurology. The development of these skills requires active engagement with elementary tasks and abilities to develop them into personal expertise. We all become masters through active training and practice. As in the case of the program’s subjects, retaining expertise depends on a rigorous schedule of practice and extreme effort, and is a product of intensive, focused learning. 

Brain Fitness Peak Performance demonstrates that the kind of highly-specialized training that the experts have undergone is the same kind of training all of us undergo on a daily basis, and by taking control of our own daily experience, we can condition the brain to improve its operation in every way possible.


WXXI is the essential, life-long educational media resource for the Greater Rochester area. WXXI puts the community first with programming that stimulates and expands thought, inspires the spirit, opens cultural horizons and promotes understanding of diverse community issues. Log on to wxxi.org for more information about our services and programs.