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Cognitive Neuroscience and Online Learning

ETEC 512 Group Project on Cognitive Neuroscience and Online Learning

Mo Boyle

on 9 March 2014

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Transcript of Cognitive Neuroscience and Online Learning

Education and Technology Growing Together
The science
The year is 1979.

The fields of cognitive psychology, experimental and clinical neuropsychology and neuroimaging amalgamate.

The discipline of cognitive neuroscience is born.
Image courtesy of arztsamui / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Positive Emission Tomography (PET)
a method of functional brain imaging
radioactive isotope is injected into the blood stream
metabolically active areas use more of the isotope then non-active areas
this is read by the scanner and shows us the distribution of brain activity
The aim

To investigate brain function and cognitive processing
spatial cognition
motor function
Ansari, D., & Coch, D. (2006). Bridges over troubled waters: Education and cognitive neuroscience. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 10(4), 146-151. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2006.02.007

Bernard, S. (2010, January 12). To enable learning put (emotional) safety first. Retrieved from Edutopia website: http://www.edutopia.org/neuroscience-brain-based-learning-emotional-safety

Blake, P.R., & Gardner, H. (2007). A first course in mind, brain, and education. Mind, Brain, and Education, 1(2), 61-65. doi:10.1111/j.1751-228X.2007.00007.x

Brain-based learning [Journal compilation]. (2009, January 22). Journal of Philosophy of Education, 42(3-4), 357-359. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9752.2008.00654.x

Bringing neuroscience to the classroom [Editorial]. (2005, June 30). Nature, 435, 1138. doi:10.1038/4351138a

Coch, D., & Ansari, D. (2009). Thinking about mechanisms is crucial to connecting neuroscience and education. Cortex, 45, 546-547. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2008.06.001

A cure for dyslexia [Editorial]. (2007, February). Nature, 10(2), 135. doi:10.1038/nn0207-135

Geake, J., & Cooper, P. (2003). Cognitive Neuroscience: implications for education? Westminster Studies in Education, 26(1), 7-20.

Neuromyths: Why do they exist and persist? (2012). Mind, Brain, and Education, 6(2), 89-96. doi:10.1111/j.1751-228X.2012.01141.x

Pascual-Leone, A., Nguyet, D., Cohen, L. G., Brasil-Neto, J. P., Cammarota, A., & Hallett, M. (1995). Modulation of muscle responses evoked by transcranial stimulation during the acquisition of new fine motor skills. Journal of Neurophysiology, 73(4), 1037-1045.

Roche, R.A.P., Commins, S., & Dockree, P.M. (2009). Pioneering in Cognitive Neuroscience. Berkshire, England: McGraw-Hill Education.

Simpson, J. R., Ongur, D., Akbudak, E., Conturo, T. E., Ollinger, J. M., Synder, A. Z., . . . Raichle, M. E. (2000). The emotional modulation of cognitive processing: An fMRI study. Journal of Cognitive neuroscience, 12(Suppl 2), 157-170.

Society for Neuroscience. (2012). Neuromyths. Retrieved from http://www.brainfacts.org/neuromyths/

Willis, J. (2013, March 11). An unprecedented opportunity for educational equity. website: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/unprecedented-opportunity-for-educational-equity-judy-willis-md

Willis, J. (2011, September 1). Improving executive function: Teaching challenges and opportunities. Retrieved from Edutopia website: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/improving-executive-function-ju dy-willis-md

Willis, J. (2006). Memory, learning and test taking success. In Researched-based strategies to ignight student learning. insights from a neurologist and classroom teacher . Viginia, USA: Association For Supervision And Curriculum Development.

Zhang, L., Peng, W., Zhang, Z., & Hu, L. (2013). Distinct features of auditory steady-state responses as compared to transient event-related potentials. PLoS One, 8(7), epub, ahead of print e69164.


Cognitive Neuroscience
& Online Learning
By: Maureen Boyle, Momoe Hyakutake, David MacKinnon
The Reflective Brain
The prefrontal cortex is also known as the 'reflective brain' and is responsible for several processes including executive functioning.
Prefrontal Cortex
Executive Functions include...
Making Connections
Self Monitoring
Self Correcting
Creative Problem Solving
Teaching Strategies that Support Executive Functioning
Create a learning enviornment that is student centered
Introduce material in ways that are physically and emotionally enerizing
Cross Curricular teaching
Differentiated Instruction
Engage the senses (hearing, seeing, touching)
Encourage students to make personal connections
Activate prior knowledge
Utilize graphic organizers
The prefrontal cortex is the 'reflective' part of the brain
Inside the Brain
The amygdala is the 'reactive' part of the brain
(Willis, 2006)
The Reactive Brain
The Amygdala is part of the limbic system. It is responsible for processing emotions, movtivations, and memory.
The Amygdala
The Amygdala responds to danger through...
Overstimulation of the amygdala can be caused by....
(Willis as cited in Bernard, 2010)
Strategies for Creating a Positive Emotional Climate
Create a stress free environment by...
establishing daily routines
encouraging open dialogue
constructing achievable challenge
Encouraging participation, not perfection
Actively listening to the ideas, opinions, and felling of students
(Willis as cited in Bernard, 2010)
When the amygdala is overstimulated
it enters a hypermetabolic state. Information cannot pass from sensory awareness, memory connection and storage in the brain.
(Willis, 2006)
Educational Technology has the potential to provide students with....
learning challenges that are achievable and incremental
challenges that meet the learners unique needs
feedback that is instant and corrective
feedback on progress and achievements
(Willis, 2013)
The Influence of Dopamine
on learning
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter. It is associated with ....
Executive Functioning
Decision making
Benefits for Learners
Stimulation of dopamine can lead to....
Increase data aquistion
Increase memory construction
Intrinsic reinforcement
(Willis, 2006)
(Willis, 2006)
There are many different ways to look at the brain and how it functions
Animal studies
Brain injury

When an area of your brain is active, there is more blood flow to that area
This change in blood flow is detected by a powerful magnet
A computer generates an image based
on these blood flow changes.
Similar to a PET scan, an fMRI is able to show
information about the brain and cognitive processing.
This has lead to great advances in brain mapping
ERP gives us
information about the brain's activity
Many electrodes are placed on the head and the brain's electrical activity is measured
A computer reads these electrical activities and notes changes that occur preceding, during, and after a particular event or stimulus
The event or stimulus is repeated multiple times and the average of electrical activity changes are recorded
(Zhang, 2013)
1. Background of cognitive neuroscience and its role in education
2. Important principles in cognitive neuroscience
3. Ideas on how educators can put these principles into practice
Using this technique, researchers have been able to garner data on the timing of information processing within the brain
Observations of patients with a brain injury have given us a lot of information on certain parts of the brain and its function. For example ......
when a patient suffers from
a stroke,
they may lose certain cognitive abilities
based on the area that was affected
A patient with a stroke involving Broca's area will be capable of understanding speech, but is unable to speak coherent words
(Roche, 2009)
A patient with a stroke involving Wernike's area is capable of speech but the speech does not make sense
(Roche, 2009)
By placing a large, rapidly changing magnetic field close to the head,
it can induced underlying cortical tissue to fire in response
A single pulse will cause the underlying cortical tissue to fire. This allows for cortical mapping.
When the pulse is administered repeatedly, the underlying cortical tissue temporarily loses its ability to function. This allows researchers to create a brain injury scenario without the permanency; a virtual lesion,
Now lets look at some of the theories that have come from cognitive neuroscience research....
Functional modularity
Adaptive plasticity
Neuroscientific research has shown that the brain has capacity to change in response to changes in cognitive environment
Emotion and cognition
Research shows that there is a closely intertwined relationship between emotional and cognitive processes
2000 BC
1700 BC
450 BC
1596-1650 AD
Sumerians make the first
reference to the mind/brain
after experimenting with
mind-altering drugs
South Americans
drill holes
into skulls
Different discrete areas of the brain are critically involved in mediating various cognitive behaviours
(Geake, 2003)
Egyptians describe
details of the
brain structure
Alcmaeon, a Greek
philosopher, concluded
the brain was the
seat of the mind
Rene Descartes proposed
the non-material mind was
controlling the
physical body
Franz Joseph Gall
started phrenology
- Involves measuring the human skull and associating bulges with increased functions.
- connected character, thoughts, and emotion wth localized parts in the brain.
Holistic view:
Pierre Flourens suggested
that the entire brain is
involved in every
mental process.
Frontal lobe
Parietal lobe
Temporal lobe
These tests allow us to see which areas of the brain are active while performing tasks and have given us fantastic insight into the wonder of the how the brain truly operates.
ability to use speech
emotional reactions
Now that we have seen where cognitive neuroscience has come from, let us now take a look at one area we feel it should be going...
object recognition
touch sensation
spatial processing
It does not take a brain surgeon to figure
out that findings from cognitive neuroscience
should be considered in the education system.

Coch and Ansari (2009) envision this partnership as “mutually beneficial to educators, education scholars, and neuroscientists, based on an interactive and iterative process of asking questions, testing, and refining hypotheses and methods across the lab and classroom.” To this end they not only advocate training teachers in the basics of neuroscience, but also training for neuroscientists in educational theory and methodology (Coch and Ansari, 2009).
One such experiment was conducted by Pascual-Leone
His objective was to find the effect of piano drill practice on performance and on the brain
He divided his participants into three different groups
Group 1
Physical practice group
All participants in this group practiced 2 hours per day, for 5 days
A performance test was done daily
TMS was also done daily
Group 1
Physical practice group
Group 2
image practice group
This does not mean that every teacher needs to take a course in neuroscience, or that every neuroscientist needs to be trained in education, just simply that in order to bridge the gap between these two fields (ultimately the mind, brain and education field), there must be people who have experience in both fields. Once trained in neuroscience, these educators will not only be better at deciding which strategies to use and implement, they will also be able to help their colleagues as well. In another article, Coch and Ansari (2006) promote starting up focus groups or workshops involving both neuroscientists and educators, as well as classroom and laboratory visits by neuroscientists and educators respectively.

Here is an example of this in practice
mental /visualization practice 2 hours per day, for 5 days
performance test was done daily
As an example of the training discussed above, we can look to a Harvard University course offered in the education department, titled “Cognitive Development, Education and the Brain”. Blake and Gardner (2007) state the following regarding this course “we would train students to evaluate research findings and engage in new forms of integrative thinking”. These newly trained educators could communicate across the two disciplines and better serve education. This program, and others that have sprung up after this one, begin to bridge the gap between the two disciplines and encourage educated consumers; as the emergence of neuroscience findings can often lead to hasty implementation and misinterpretations.

Caution! Let's not rush into things.
A simple web search for cognitive neuroscience and education will bring with it stories of how findings in neuroscience might be being used improperly.

An editorial in Nature describes a program for dyslexics called FastForWord being used for children without any specific reading problems, before any tests had been done (Bringing Neuroscience, 2005, p. 1138).

Nature also published another editorial describing an unproven connection regarding cerebellar dysfunction causing dyslexia (Cure for Dyslexia, 2007, p. 135). These examples emphasize what Cambridge neuroscientist Usha Goswami warns us about, that is ‘neuromyths’ (Brain-based Learning, 2008, p. 357-359).

According to Usha, ‘neuromyths’ are claims that have been overblown, often done so by educators with little neuroscience background, hence the need for more training for educators. An argument backed up by Elena Pasquinelli (2012), who suggests the most important way to keep ‘neuromyths’ under control, is to have properly educated people who are involved in both disciplines; education and neuroscience.

Now, how about a quick pop quiz.
For the following questions, answer with a true or false.

TMS was also done daily
People are either "right-brained" or "left-brained", true or false?
After the performance test and TMS on the 5th day, participants were given 2 hours to practice physically followed by another performance test and TMS
Question #2
Playing games helps keep your brain young, true or false?
Group 3
control group
Question #3
These participants had daily performance tests
You only use 10% of your brain, true or false?
and daily TMS
They were all false! Here are the explanations.

Question #1
Regardless of personality or skill set, you use both the right and left hemispheres of your brain to perform everyday functions.

Question #2
Crossword puzzles and similar games can help you learn words and improve specific skills, but they won’t enhance overall brain function.

Question #3
You use all of your brain.

Well, let's see how you did.
Important findings from the study
Physical practice leads to better performance
This is mirrored by expansion of cortical tissue devoted to control of a specific area (in this experiment, the area for finger extension and flexion)
Some performance gains are seen with just imagined practice / visualization
There is also some cortical expansion in the relevant areas of the brain with imagined practice
The most striking finding in this study was that just two hours of physical practice was all that was needed for the imagined practice group to obtain equivalent performance gains and cortical expansion compared to the physical practice group
(Pascual-Leone, 1995)
- Cognitive neuroscience has a long and interesting history which has led us to a time where we are able to see which areas of the brain are active while performing given tasks.

- one application of the knowledge we gain from these tests is to improve our education system, specifically by developing better teaching practices suited to how people actually learn


Emotions can affect cognitive performance
Cognitive tasks can attenuate emotional states
(Simpson, 2000)
They used fMRI to determine the effect of negatively valenced pictures on cognitive performance compared to neutral pictures
One such study was conducted by Simpson et al.
When shown negatively valenced pictures,
Cognitive performance deteriorates
Heightened autonomic responses are seen
Increased activity is seen in areas associated with emotional processing
(Simpson, 2000)
Question #4
Of the following testing methods, which ones give you spatial information (localization) about the brain?
observations of brain injury patients
Autopsy, observation of brain injury patients, TMS, fMRI and PET all give you spatial information.
ERP is the
modality that gives temporal information about brain activity
Question #5
In your own words, define functional modularity.
(click to the next frame for the answer)
Functional modularity is the idea that specific parts of the brain are involved in discrete cognitive functions
4000 BC
Wrapping things up.
Did you notice a difference in your emotions during the last two questions compared with the first three?

Emotion can affect your performance on assessments.

There are a few discussion questions we would like to invite you to participate in, also feel free to mention your experience with different styles of music and your assessment performance.

Knowing that stress has the potential to negatively impact learning, what causes your students stress?
What strategies have you found help to reduce stress in the classroom?

What do you think about including neuroscience classes into education programs? Is an elective option enough or do you think it should be mandatory?
In what areas, if any, can you see neuroscientific research advancing educational practices?
Please access the discussion by clicking on the appropriate cognitive neuroscience presentation discussion forum in blackboard
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