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Brain Research and Learning Theories

"New imaging studies are revealing—for the first time—patterns of brain development that extend into the teenage years. [These patterns] may parallel a pruning process that occurs early in life that appears to follow the principle of "use-it-or-lose-it:" neural connections, or synapses, that get exercised are retained, while those that don't are lost. While it's known that both genes and environment play major roles in shaping early brain development, science still has much to learn about the relative influence of experience versus genes on the later maturation of the brain..." -- NIH Publication No. 01-4929 Teenage Brain: A work in progress

Recent Brain Research for Teachers & Other Curious Souls (2013 update) Recommended by Wenda Sheard
After a background in critiquing research, learn about dozens of recent research studies of the brain, and what they show. Updated for all the great new research through 2013, don't miss this informative collection of research
 
ADHD brain chemistry clue found in BBC News
US researchers have pinned down new differences in the brain chemistry of people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They found ADHD patients lack key proteins which allow them to experience a sense of reward and motivation...
 
Baby brains are hard-wired for math: Experiment indicates that infants notice seeming errors in subtraction by Sara Goudarzi, LiveScience
Through monitoring the brains of infants, researchers confirmed that infants as early as 6 months in age can detect mathematical errors.  During the tests, the babies wore a special head net containing 128 sensors that monitored their brain activity. Analysis illustrated that babies have similar brain activity to that of adults when served with correct and incorrect mathematical solutions...
 
Brain May Still Be Evolving, Studies Hint by Nicholas Wade, New York Times
Two genes involved in determining the size of the human brain have undergone substantial evolution in the last 60,000 years, researchers say, leading to the surprising suggestion that the brain is still undergoing rapid evolution...
 
Brain Network Related To Intelligence Identified Science Daily
Researchers report that their new Parieto-Frontal Integration Theory (P-FIT) identifies a brain network related to intelligence, one that primarily involves areas in the frontal and the parietal lobes...
 
Brain System Behind General Intelligence Discovered Science Daily
Neuroscientists have mapped the brain structures that affect general intelligence.  Several brain regions, and the connections between them, were what was most important to general intelligence...
 
Brain's Left And Right Sides Work Together Better In Mathematically Gifted Youth Science Daily
A recent study of adolescents with above-average math abilities found the right and left halves of their brains are apparently better able to interact and share information than the brains of average students... Full research Interhemispheric Interaction During Global-Local Processing in Mathematically Gifted Adolescents, Average Ability Youth, and College Students  by Harman Singh and Michael W. O’Boyle (requires Adobe Reader)
 
Brains on Fire: The Multimodality of Gifted Thinkers by Brock Eide and Fernette Eide
Functional brain magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brings exciting new insights into our understanding of how gifted thinkers think. The first thing you notice when you look at the fMRIs of gifted groups is that it looks like a 'brain on fire.'  Gifted brains are essentially "hyper-sensitive," and can be rendered even more so through training...
 
Brainteaser: Scientists dissect mystery of genius by Sanjay Gupta, CNN
...found a strong correlation between intelligence and the size and shape of certain brain structures -- including parts of the superior parietal lobe (involved in sensory perception) and parts of the prefrontal cortex (associated with complex thinking, personality, planning, coordination).  Intelligence research is full of surprises. For example, the brains of smarter people, as measured by IQ, tend to be less active but more efficient...
 
Cargo Cult Science by Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman, from Wikipedia
In his 1974 Caltech commencement address, Feynman gave us the test of "cargo cult science."  It would be wise to apply his test to all things masquerading as "research"...  "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself--and you are the easiest person to fool.
 
Carnegie Mellon Scientists Discover First Evidence of Brain Rewiring in Children
Reported in the journal Neuron, brain imaging of children between the ages of 8 and 10 showed that the quality of white matter -- the brain tissue that carries signals between areas of grey matter, where information is processed -- improved substantially after the children received 100 hours of remedial training... What are the implications for teaching gifted students?
 
Charlie Rose Brain Series on PBS
Each 60 minute program in this ongoing series explores a different aspect of the brain, from development fetus to adult, to the aging brain, the anxious brain, and more.  At least 13 episodes by December 2010...
 
Cortex Matures Faster in Youth with Highest IQ in National Institutes of Health NIH News
Youth with superior IQ are distinguished by how fast the thinking part of their brains thickens and thins as they grow up, researchers at the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) have discovered. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans showed that their brain’s outer mantle, or cortex, thickens more rapidly during childhood, reaching its peak later than in their peers — perhaps reflecting a longer developmental window for high-level thinking circuitry...
 
Getting It Wrong: Surprising Tips on How to Learn by Henry L. Roediger and Bridgid Finn in Scientific American
New research makes the case for hard tests, and suggests an unusual technique that anyone can use to learn.  Learning becomes better if conditions are arranged so that students make errors.  Trying and failing to retrieve the answer is actually helpful to learning. It’s an idea that has obvious applications for education...
 
How the Brain Filters out Distracting Thoughts to Focus on a Single Bit of Information in ScienceDaily
The human brain is bombarded with all kinds of information... But how do you "tune in" to just one thought or idea and ignore all the rest of what is going on around you, until it comes time to think of something else?
 
How the Gifted Brain Learns by David Sousa
Dispelling the myths about the nature of giftedness with credible research, Sousa provides a greater understanding of the idiosyncrasies of gifted children, and the implications for teaching and parenting them...
 
How video games are good for the brain by Emily Anthes in The Boston Globe
Concerns about violent programs persist, but researchers are discovering that playing can boost cognitive function and foster positive behavior. The games aren’t just hard - they’re adaptively hard. They tend to challenge people right at the edge of their abilities. Most games involve a huge number of mental tasks, and playing can boost any one of them...
 
Human intelligence determined by volume and location of gray matter tissue in brain in Today @ UCI
...UC Irvine College of Medicine researchers have found in the most comprehensive structural brain-scan study of intelligence to date.  The study also discovered that because these regions related to intelligence are located throughout the brain, a single “intelligence center,” such as the frontal lobe, is unlikely.
 
Incompetent People Really Have No Clue, Studies Find: They're blind to own failings, others' skills by Erica Goode, New York Times
According to research, most incompetent people do not know that they are incompetent.  On the contrary. People who do things badly, Dunning has found in studies conducted with a graduate student, Justin Kruger, are usually supremely confident of their abilities -- more confident, in fact, than people who do things well...  Original research paper: Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments by Justin Kruger and David Dunning, Cornell University (requires Adobe Reader)
 
Increasing fluid intelligence is possible after all by Robert J. Sternberg
Fluid intelligence is trainable to a significant and meaningful degree; the effect occurs across the
spectrum of abilities, although it is larger toward the lower end of the spectrum...
 
Intelligence in men and women is a gray and white matter Today@UCI
While there are essentially no disparities in general intelligence between the sexes, a UC Irvine study has found significant differences in brain areas where males and females manifest their intelligence.
 
The Origins and Ends of Giftedness by Ellen Winner
Five issues about giftedness are discussed with reference to gifted children (including child prodigies) and autistic/retarded savants. First, the origins and causes of giftedness are explored. The view that giftedness is entirely a product of training is critiqued, and it is argued that there is indirect evidence for atypical brain organization and innate talent in gifted children: many gifted children and savants have enhanced right-hemisphere development, concomitant language-related difficulties, and auto-immune disorders. Intense intrinsic motivation, particular social and emotional difficulties, evidence for the often uneven cognitive profiles of such children, and the tenuous relationship between childhood giftedness and "big-C," or "domain" creativity in adulthood is discussed... (requires Adobe Reader)
 
Scans suggest IQ scores reflect brain structure in Nature.com (no longer available free, but for a small charge)
When the researchers split the children into three groups according to their initial IQ scores, they noticed a characteristic pattern of changes in the brains of the group with the highest scores. The thickness of the cortex — the outer layer of the brain that controls high-level functions such as memory — started off thinner than that of the other groups, but rapidly gained depth until it was thicker than normal during the early teens...
 
Teenage Brain: A work in progress by National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH)
A brief overview of research into brain development during adolescence.  ...NIMH's Dr. Judith Rapoport and colleagues were surprised to discover a second wave of overproduction of gray matter, the thinking part of the brain—neurons and their branch-like extensions—just prior to puberty...
Also read Imaging Study Shows Brain Maturing and view the time-lapse 3-D movie that compresses 15 years of human brain maturation, ages 5 to 20, and A Work in Progress: The Teen Brain in Harvard Magazine
 
The Top Brain Book Collection for Educators and Learners by Robert Sylwester
The powerful National Association for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) has now issued a report that encourages pre-service and graduate teacher education pro grams to incorporate cognitive neuroscience discoveries about child and adolescent development into their curricula. That incorporation of Educational Neuroscience discoveries into educational policy and practice will shape 21st century teacher education...
 
What Does a Smart Brain Look Like?: Inner Views Show How We Think by Richard J. Haier, November 2008 Scientific American Mind
bulletBrain structure and metabolic efficiency may underlie individual differences in intelligence, and imaging research is pinpointing which regions are key players.
bulletSmart brains work in many different ways. Women and men who have the same IQ show different underlying brain architectures.
bulletThe latest research suggests that an individual’s pattern of gray and white matter might underlie his or her specific cognitive strengths and weaknesses.
 

Last updated April 08, 2014

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