Can’t remember where you placed your car keys again? Already forgotten what you read just a few minutes ago?
Such situations often lead adults to conclude they’re on a downward spiral, that their aging brains just aren’t as agile as they used to be.
Neural connections that convey information do weaken with age and disuse, reports New York Times health editor Barbara Strauch. However, contrary to popular belief, research shows your brain can continue to develop as you grow older, building neural connections that help you recognize patterns, better see the “big picture,” and achieve deeper understanding of complex issues.
But you’ll need to step out of your comfort zone to bulk up your brain, says St. Mary’s College researcher Dr. Kathleen Taylor. Adult learners whose brains already have well-connected neural pathways can best enhance their learning by wrestling with those “established brain connections.”
And one of the best ways to challenge the very assumptions and perceptions you hold is through syntopic reading.
Syntopic reading involves reading two or more books on the same subject in order to synthesize and integrate different perspectives on a subject. The concept was introduced by Mortimer J. Adler in his 1940 classic text How to Read a Book. For the skilled reader, differing views create a tension that invites the next level of resolution.
Of course, we step it up considerably with the PhotoReading “whole mind” approach. By adding the step of PhotoReading—mentally photographing the printed page—to syntopic reading you have the ability to process large volumes of information from numerous authors in a short amount of time.
PhotoReaders will PhotoRead five to ten books one day and then activate them the next to gain the accumulated mental energies of all the authors and every individual referenced in their books. The cumulative power is amazing.
Even if you’re not a PhotoReader, you can begin using syntopic reading immediately. Here’s how:
Establish a purpose for reading the books that is relevant to you. Purpose drives activity. Increasing how active your reading is improves your reading effectiveness.
Select books that fit your purpose.
Read (or PhotoRead!) your books.
Create a giant mind map on a large sheet of blank paper, writing your purpose in the center and the titles of the books around it.
Find relevant passages from each that support your purpose and summarize them in your own words.
Discover themes, looking for similarities and differences among the authors’ viewpoints while maintaining an open mind.
Define the issues by exploring opposing viewpoints. Jot them down on your mind map.
Formulate your own conclusion after reviewing all sides. Syntopic reading ensures more of your ideas are based on your own thinking.
Finally, apply what you have learned in ways that serve you!