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Recent Brain
Research for Teachers
and Other Curious
Souls
By Wenda Sheard, J.D., Ph.D.
Updated 2013
The first edition of this PowerPoint was prepared for an
MIT SPLASH weekend in 2006. The second edition was
prepared in part for the 2012 SENG conference.
www.sengifted.org The third edition was prepared for a
Potential Plus UK event in February 2013.
APPRECIATIONS: This PowerPoint would not have been
possible without Supporting the Emotional Needs of the
Gifted (SENG), without Carolyn K. and her Hoagies Gifted
Education Page, and without Rebecca McMillian and her
Brain Café.
PERMISSIONS: Permission to copy for education and
advocacy purposes will freely given upon request to
wendasheard@gmail.com. Thank you for your requests in
advance.
EXPLANATION: My Ph.D. is in political science with an
emphasis on education policy.
Why Learn Brain Research?
 We want to be the best teachers possible for
our children. (WITH KNOWLEDGE)
 We want to advocate effectively (WITH
EVIDENCE) for diverse educational programs
and funding to meet the needs of all children.
Five Sections
 1. Brain Differences Exist
 2. Motivation
 3. Dopamine
 4. What Else Affects Brains?
 5. Education Improvements?
Before we begin, some
cautionary notes:
 I. Yale & “Neurobabble”: People are more likely
to trust articles if the word “neuroscience”
appears in the article.
 II. John Geake’s The Brain at School: We need
to avoid neurobabble, including multiple
intelligences and learning styles.
 III. Better tools for measuring brain activity are
under development and one is available now.
I. Yale & “Neurobabble”
 The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations.
 The scientists conducted three experiments and
discovered that non-experts “judged that explanations
with logically irrelevant neuroscience information were
more satisfying than explanations without.”
 More troubling: The subjects were Yale
undergraduates enrolled in a neuroscience course.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2778755
II. Notes from John Geake’s
The Brain at School (2009)
 Levels of analysis are confounded when we try
to port neuroscience over to education
 Correlation is not proof of causation.
 Cognitive neuroscientists and educators are
not well connected.
 Neuroscience tools will improve in the future.
John Geake &
“Neuromythologies”
 “[At education research conferences] I rarely
hear an education/​practitioner researcher stand
up and say that a particular theoretical position,
much less a piece of research, is wrong, or silly,
or useless in the classroom. Or say that here is
evidence that this particular pedagogic approach
is ineffective. Instead, it all gets added into a
cornucopia of unpredictable flubber recently
expanded, to make matters worse, with the
latest neuromythologies.”
III. Better Tools Coming
“Pushing the frontiers of MRI”
“Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
has revolutionized our understanding of the human
brain, but the method is now approaching the limit
of its capabilities. Alan Jasanoff hopes to break
through this limit and to develop new technologies
for imaging the molecular and cellular phenomena
that underlie brain function.”
http://mcgovern.mit.edu/principal-investigators/alan-jasanoff/
What’s on his head?
Photo from: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/neuroimaging-and-mental-illness-a-window-
into-the-brain/neuroimaging-and-mental-illness-a-window-into-the-brain.shtml
Magnetoencephalography
(MEG machine)
 “A direct measure.” (not a measure of
metabolism products)
 “A very high temporal resolution device.” (only
milliseconds)
 “Sources can be localized with an accuracy of
millimeters.”
 “Completely non-invasive. Injection of isotopes
or exposure to X-rays or magnetic fields is not
required.”
http://www.meg-brain-mapping.pitt.edu/index.html
News Flash
 €500 Million for Brain Research
 Neuroscientist Henry Markram from the Swiss Federal
Institute of Technology in Lausanne won a €500 million grant
from the European Commission to simulate everything
known about the human brain in a supercomputer (Abbott
2013).
 Abbott, Alison. “Billion-euro brain simulation and graphene
projects win European funds.” Nature. Jan. 23, 2013.
doi:10.1038/​nature.2013.12291,
http:/​/​www.nature.com/​news/​billion-euro-brain-simulation-
and-graphene-projects-win-european-funds-1.12291
1. Brain Differences Exists
Photo by Wenda Sheard
Five Sections
 1. Brain Differences Exist
 2. Motivation
 3. Dopamine
 4. What Else Affects Brains?
 5. Education Improvements?
Infants, 1997
 Ninety-six children, Midwest United States
community, ERP measures of speech perception
obtained within 36 hours after birth from
synthesized speech syllable /gi/.
 “Auditory ERPs recorded within 36 hours after birth
can be used to successfully discriminate, at well
above chance levels, the reading performance of
children 8 years later.”
 Molfese, D. L., & Molfese, V. J. (1997). Discrimination of language skills at five years of age using
event-related potentials recorded at birth. Developmental Neuropsychology, 13(2): 135-156
Early College Entrants, 1996
 EEG study of 30 gifted adolescents (mean age
13.3, SAT averages 1100), 30 average ability
adolescents, and 30 college-age subjects.
 “These finding suggest that gifted adolescents may
have a developmentally enhanced state of brain
activity, one that more closely resembles that of
college-age adults to whom they also resemble in
terms of cognitive ability.”
 Alexander, J. E., O’Boyle, M. W., & Benbow, C. P. (1996). Developmentally advanced EEG
alpha power in gifted male and female adolescents. International Journal of Psychophysiology,
23(1-2): 25-31.
Gifted Brains on Math
 Gifted students relaxed brain waves when
doing math problems and not relaxed
otherwise.
 Non-gifted students NOT relaxed when doing
math problems but RELAXED otherwise.
 More cross-hemisphere communication in
gifted brains doing math. Gifted children have a
larger corpus callosum in MRI studies.
Gifted Brains on Math Studies
 O'Boyle, M. W., Cunnington, R., Silk, T., Vaughan, D.,
Jackson, G., Syngeniotis, A., & Egan, G. (2005).
Mathematically gifted male adolescents activate a unique
brain network during mental rotation. Cognitive Brain
Research, 25, 583-587.
 Singh, H. & O'Boyle, M. W. (2004). Interhemispheric
interaction during global-local processing in mathematically
gifted adolescents, average-ability youth, and college
students. Neuropsychology, 18(2), 671-677.
 Alexander, J. E., O’Boyle, M. W., & Benbow, C. P. (1996).
Developmentally advanced EEG alpha power in gifted male
and female adolescents. International Journal of
Psychophysiology, 23(1-2): 25-31.
London Taxi Drivers, 2000-
2010
 Maguire and Gadian (2000) and Woollett
(2009) discovered that the brains of London
taxi drivers differ from the brains of non-taxi
drivers.
 Spatial brain area grows as “The Knowledge”
(25,000 details) is acquired.
 Spatial brain area shrinks after retirement.
Maguire, E. A., & Gadian, D. G. (2000). Navigation-related structural change in the hippocampi
of taxi drivers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of
America, 97(8), 4398-4403.
Woollett, K. (2009). Talent in the taxi: a model system for exploring expertise. Philosophical
Transactions: Biological Sciences, 364(1522), 1407-1416.
Violin Players, 2007
 Schwenkreis, El Tom, Ragert, Plege,
Tegenthoff, & Dinse (2007) discovered that the
brains of professional violin players differ from
the brains of people who don’t play the violin.
Schwenkreis, P., El Tom, S., Ragert P., Pleger, B., Tegenthoff, M. & Dinse, H. R. (2007). Assessment
of sensorimotor cortical representation asymmetries and motor skills in violin players. European
Journal of Neuroscience, 26, 3291–3302.
Cost of Strengths? 2009
 The London taxi drivers were significantly more
knowledgeable than others about London
streets, landmarks, and their spatial
relationships.
 Despite their advanced knowledge in those
respects, the taxi drivers were significantly
worse at forming and retaining new
associations involving visual information.
 Woollett, K., & Maguire, E. A. (2009). Navigational expertise may compromise anterograde
associative memory. Neuropsychologia(47)4, 1088-1095.
Beyond Math/Verbal? 2003
 Haier, White, and Alkire (2003) found that the
individual differences in general intelligence
correlate with brain function not only during
reasoning tasks, but also during tasks that do
not require reasoning.
 This suggests giftedness is not just rational
thinking.
 Haier, R. J., White, N. S., & Alkire, M. T. (2003). Individual differences in general intelligence
correlate with brain function during nonreasoning tasks. Intelligence 31, 429–441.
Later Development of
Executive Function for
Superior Intelligence? 2006
 The development of executive function appears
to be delayed in preadolescent children with
superior intelligence, perhaps because their
advanced development in other aspects of the
brain take more time.
 Cortex Matures Faster in Youth with Highest IQ http://www.nimh.nih.gov/science-
news/2006/cortex-matures-faster-in-youth-with-highest-iq.shtml (2006)
From the NIH Study, 2006
Cortex Matures Faster in Youth with Highest IQ http://www.nimh.nih.gov/science-news/2006/cortex-
matures-faster-in-youth-with-highest-iq.shtml (2006)
More Executive Function with
High Intelligence? 2007
 “Of the six executive function indices subjected
to multiple regression, five were significantly
related to intelligence in a regression analysis.”
The relationship of intelligence to executive function and non-executive function measures in a
sample of average, above average, and gifted youth by Sharon Arffa,
http://acn.oxfordjournals.org/content/22/8/969.abstract 2007
Misdiagnoses? 2010
 “[C]linical measures of [executive function] may
differ among children with ADHD and controls
at average IQ levels, but there is poorer
discriminatory power for these measures
among children with above average IQ.”
Effects of IQ on Executive Function Measures in Children with ADHD by E. Mark Mahone,
DOI:10.1076/chin.8.1.52.871 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1076/chin.8.1.52.8719 (2010)
French Study of Infants, 2011
 Literature Review: “children identified as ‘high-
level potentialities’ or ‘intellectually gifted’
develop sensory, locomotor,
neuropsychological, and language skills earlier
than typically expected.”
 Hypothesis: “the earlier development
originates from biological processes
affecting the physical development of the
brain and in turn even intellectual abilities
are developed earlier, potentially allowing for
advanced development” (Cont. next slide)
 Findings: “Development data evidences an
advance in neurosensory-motor maturation among
“high-level potentialities” children, both in postural,
motor, and locomotor acquisitions, and in
eye/motor coordination and attentional abilities.
These results point to the reticular formation
coming into play at an early stage in the form of
awareness and attention and to rapid transmission
speed of nerve input, as has been corroborated by
different studies, leading to greater processing
speeds.” (Cont. next slide)
French Study of Infants, 2011
 Discussion: “[H]ow these developmental
advances interact with the social environment
and in certain circumstances may entail
increased risk for developing
socioemotional difficulties and learning
disabilities that often go unaddressed due to
the masking by the advance intellectual
abilities.”
International Journal of Pediatrics, Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 420297,
doi:10.1155/2011/420297Review ArticleDevelopmental and Cognitive Characteristics of “High-Level
Potentialities” (Highly Gifted) Children Laurence Vaivre-
Douret1,2,3http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijped/2011/420297/
French Study of Infants, 2011
2. Motivation
Intrinsic Motivation, 2010
 Extrinsic rewards such as money work only if
the task is simple.
 Rewards need to be intrinsic for creative and
conceptual tasks.
 Notes: Many people have created for free
(Wikipedia, Linux, etc). * * * Skype founder:
“Our goal is to be disruptive but in the cause of
making the world a better place.” * * * Steve
Jobs: “I want to put a ding in the universe.” * *
* We are purpose motivators, not only profit
motivators.”
RSA Animate - Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. Illustrated version of Daniel Pink’s Talk.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc (2010)
Video Game Motivation, 2011
 “It may seem counter intuitive to think that
children would consider harder work a reward for
doing well on a homework problem, test, or
physical skill to which they devoted considerable
physical or mental energy. Yet, that is just what
the video playing brain seeks after experiencing
the pleasure of reaching a higher level in the
game. A computer game doesn't hand out cash,
toys, or even hugs. The motivation to persevere
is the brain seeking another surge of dopamine --
the fuel of intrinsic reinforcement.”
Willis, Judy. “A Neurologist Makes the Case for the Video Game Model as a Learning Tool.”
http://www.edutopia.org/blog/video-games-learning-student-engagement-judy-willis (April 14, 2011)
Video-Game Motivation, 2012
 “[A] video game about killing cancer in the
body, strongly activates brain circuits involved
in positive motivation. This reward-related
activation is associated with a shift in attitudes
and emotions that has helped boost players’
adherence to prescribed chemotherapy and
antibiotic treatments in a previous study.”
 Video Games in the Brain: Study Shows How Gaming Impacts Brain Function to Inspire
Healthy Behavior, http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/3/prweb9293984.htm (March 19, 2012)
Self & Group Motivation, 2010
 “Education scientist Sugata Mitra tackles one of
the greatest problems of education -- the best
teachers and schools don't exist where they're
needed most. In a series of real-life
experiments from New Delhi to South Africa to
Italy, he gave kids self-supervised access to
the web and saw results that could
revolutionize how we think about teaching.”
 Sugata Mitra, http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_the_child_driven_education.html (2010)
 “Participants rated the attractiveness of faces
and subsequently learned how their peers
ostensibly rated each face. Participants were
then scanned using functional MRI while they
rated each face a second time. * * * Participants
changed their ratings to conform to those of their
peers. This social influence was accompanied by
modulated engagement of two brain regions
associated with coding subjective value—the
nucleus accumbens and orbitofrontal cortex * *
*.”
Zaki, Jamil, at al. “Social Influence Modulates the Neural Computation of Value” Published online
before print June 8, 2011, doi: 10.1177/0956797611411057 Psychological Science July 2011 vol. 22
no. 7 894-900
Peer Pressure Motivation, 2011
 Researchers used fMRI “to elucidate the neural
mechanisms associated with social influence with
regard to a common consumer good: music. * * *
adolescents, age 12–17. * * * 15-second clips of
songs from MySpace.com * * * * Song popularity
had a significant effect on the participants’ likability
ratings of the songs. fMRI results showed a strong
correlation between the participants’ rating and
activity in the caudate nucleus, a region previously
implicated in reward-driven actions.”
Berns, Gregory S. et al, “Neural Mechanisms of the Influence of Popularity on Adolescent
Ratings of Music.” Neuroimage. 2010 February 1; 49(3): 2687.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2818406/
Peer Pressure Motivation, 2010
Dopamine Motivation, 2011
 “The human brain, much like that of most
mammals, has hardwired physiological
responses that had survival value at some
point in evolutionary progression. The
dopamine-reward system is fueled by the
brain's recognition of making a successful
prediction, choice, or behavioral response.”
Willis, Judy. “A Neurologist Makes the Case for the Video Game Model as a Learning Tool.”
http://www.edutopia.org/blog/video-games-learning-student-engagement-judy-willis (April 14, 2011)
3. Dopamine
From: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-
packets/neurobiology-drug-addiction/section-i-introduction-to-
brain/8-dopamine-neurotransmission-modula
Dopamine & Genes, 2008
 Begley (2008) reports on research finding that
nearly 30 percent of children are born with genes
that result in their brains having fewer dopamine
receptors than normal. Having few dopamine
receptors is linked to an inability to learn from
mistakes, and to less activity in the brain’s frontal
cortex, the site of higher-order thinking.
Begley, S. (2008, August 9). But I did everything right. Newsweek.
Retrieved April 26, 2009, from http://www.newsweek.com/id/151758
Dopamine & Genes, 2008
Continued
 In her article, Begley quotes Jack Shonkoff,
director of the Center on the Developing Child
at Harvard University as saying, “individual
genetic differences are the 800-pound gorilla of
child development.”
Dopamine & Rewards, 2012
 “The researchers found that * * * hardworking
people had the most dopamine in two areas of
the brain known to play an important role in
reward and motivation, and low dopamine
levels in the anterior insula, a region linked to
motivation and risk perception.” in Journal of
Neuroscience. 2012
 From Slacker or Go-Getter? Brain Chemical May Tell Vanderbilt University.
http://www.livescience.com/20026-brain-dopamine-worker-
slacker.html?utm_content=LiveScience&utm_campaign=seo+blitz&utm_source=twitter.com&ut
m_medium=social+media
Dopamine & T. gondii, 2012
 Parasites – Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii)
causes production and release of abnormal
amounts of dopamine.
T. gondii in Brazil, 2006
 A 2006 article estimates the “dopamine”
parasite, toxoplasma gondii infects 67% of
Brazilians.
 The researcher hypothesizes that the bug’s
behavioral effects on individuals may in turn
influence human culture in general.
 See Lafferty, K. D. “Can the Common Brain Parasite, Toxoplasma Gondii, Influence Human
Culture?” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 273 (1602), 2749-2755 DOI:
10.1098/rspb.2006.3641 (2006).
T. gondii in the USA, 2011
 The overall T. gondii antibody prevalence in the
United States according to NHANES 1999–
2000 data is 14.3% (95% CI 12.3%–16.2%).
 http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/13/4/06-1355_article.htm#tnT1
T. gondii’s effect on rats
 T. gondii makes rats friendly towards cats. Thus
the parasite affects the behavior of the rats,
which change of behavior increases the
chances of the parasite completing its life cycle
in the cats.
Berdoy, M. et al. “Fatal Attraction in Rats Infected with Toxoplasma Gondii.” Proceedings of the
Royal Society Biological Sciences. Vol. 267, no. 1452, p. 1591-1594. 7 Aug. 2000. doi:
10.1098/rspb.2000.1182 http:/​/​rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/​content/​267/​1452/​1591
T. gondii in the UK, 2012
 According to a report commissioned by the
UK Food Standards Agency, 350,000
Britons a year are being infected by T.
gondii. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/beware-of-the-cat-
britains-hidden-toxoplasma-problem-8102860.html (2012)
 [A 1993 UK survey found that 5.5 to 12.7% of
pregnant women in the London region were
infected.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8432316?
dopt=Abstract]
Parasites in General, 2011
 “[W]e tested the parasite-stress hypothesis for
the distribution of intelligence among the USA
states: the hypothesis proposes that
intelligence emerges from a developmental
trade-off between maximizing brain vs. immune
function.”
 “As predicted, we found that the correlation
between average state IQ and infectious
disease stress was − 0.67 (p < 0.0001) across
the 50 states.”
 Parasite prevalence and the distribution of intelligence among the states of the USA,
doi:10.1016/j.intell.2011.02.008
4. What Else Affects Brains?
Culture
Language
Aerobics
Emotions
Norepinephrine
Health
Music
Culture, 2012
 “Despite claims to the contrary, leaders in the
neurodiversity movement clearly recognize
autism as a disability. * * * They also maintain,
however, that difficulties experienced by
people with disabilities are contextual and
that living in a society designed for
nonautistic people exacerbates the
challenges experienced by autistic
individuals.”
What Can Physicians Learn from the Neurodiversity Movement? By Christina Nicolaidis, MD, MPH, in
American Medical Association Journal of Ethics June 2012, Volume 14, Number 6: 503-510.
http://virtualmentor.ama-assn.org/2012/06/oped1-1206.html
Culture, 2011
 In a Nature commentary, researcher Laurent
Mottron criticized autism research to date and
argued that we should move away from
expecting people with autism to correct
themselves to meet our expectations. Instead,
we should accommodate the needs of
people with autism in much the same way we
accommodate the needs of people with visual
and hearing impairments.
 Mottron, Laurent. “Changing perceptions: The power of autism,” Nature. Vol. 479, p. 33–
35. November 2011, DOI: doi:10.1038/​479033a.
http:/​/​www.nature.com/​nature/​journal/​v479/​n7371/​full/​479033a.html,
Language, 2011
 Words for color affect perception of colors.
Members of the Himba Tribe in Africa have
language that names colors differently than
we name colors. They can see what we can’t
see, and we can see what they can’t see.
BBC Horizon: Do you see what I see? "The Himba tribe"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4b71rT9fU-I (2011)
Aerobic Fitness, 2010
 “MRI and behavioral methodologies to examine
the link between aerobic fitness, brain
structure, and cognition in preadolescent
children. A clear association between aerobic
fitness, hippocampal volume, and relational
memory in children is demonstrated.”
 49 children ages 9 &10, average K-Bit IQ 115,
MRI used.
A neuroimaging investigation of the association between aerobic fitness, hippocampal volume, and
memory performance in preadolescent children (2010) Chaddocka et al (IL, OH, PA)
Emotions, 2001
 Ethics problems involving emotion show
different patterns of brain involvement than
those ethics problems not involving emotion.
Emotions affect judgment and problem-solving.
Greene, J.D., R.B. Sommerville, L.E. Nystrom, J.M. Darley, J.D. Cohen. (2001). An fMRI
investigation of emotional engagement in moral judgment. Science, 293 (5537):2105.
Emotions, 2002
 Participants in a negative mood learned faster,
contrary to expectation. This research
examined learning over a 12-day period. The
learning involved a word association task,
visual learning task, and a mood-induction
process.
Moore, Simon C., Oaksford, Mike. Some long-term effects of emotion on cognition. British Journal of
Psychology. August 2002, 93(3).
Norepinephrine, 2012
 “University of Kansas researchers have found larger
resting pupil size and lower levels of a salivary enzyme
associated with the neurotransmitter norepinephrine in
children with autism spectrum disorder.”
 “* * * samples taken at home throughout the day showed
that sAA levels were higher in general across the day and
much less variable for children with ASD.”
 “What this says is that the autonomic system of children with
ASD is always on the same level,” said Christa Anderson,
assistant research professor. “They are in overdrive.”
 http://neurosciencenews.com/pupil-size-saliva-alpha-amylase-
children-autism-spectrum-disorder/
From Norepinephrine to
Overexcitabilities?
Health Behaviors, 2012
 “We report longitudinal data in which we assessed
the relationships between intelligence as assessed
in Grade 7 and consequential health outcomes in
Grade 11.”
 “The mean age of respondents (N = 420; 188
males, 232 females) was 12.30 years (SD = 0.49)
in Grade 7and 16.17 years (SD = 0.45) in Grade
11. They completed standardized verbal and
numerical ability tests and a measure of
conscientiousness in Grade 7 and health related
questions in Grade 11.”
Cognitive ability and health-related behaviors during adolescence: A prospective study
across five years. Joseph Ciarrochi et al. From Australia
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289612000384
Health Behaviors, Continued
 “Results indicated that higher intelligence was
associated with a number of healthy behaviors
including delay in onset of cigarette smoking.
Intelligence significantly predicted less time spent
watching TV, lower physical exercise, and lower
consumption of stimulant drinks. Covariate
analyses showed that general intelligence
predicted health outcomes after controlling for
conscientiousness, socio-economic status, and
gender.”
Cognitive ability and health-related behaviors during adolescence: A prospective study across five
years. Joseph Ciarrochi et al. From Australia
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289612000384
Musical Training, 2009
 “Here, for the first time, we demonstrate structural brain
changes after only 15 months of musical training in
early childhood, which were correlated with
improvements in musically relevant motor and auditory
skills.
 These findings shed light on brain plasticity, and
suggest that structural brain differences in adult experts
(whether musicians or experts in other areas) are likely
due to training-induced brain plasticity.”
 Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Jul;1169:182-6.The effects of musical training on structural
brain development: a longitudinal study. By Hyde, et al.
Cortical Thickness, 2011
 “High-resolution magnetic resonance scans
were acquired in 32 healthy adults to model the
gray– white and gray–cerebrospinal fluid
borders for each individual cortex and to
compute the distance of these surfaces as a
measure of cortical thickness (CT).
Associations between CT and the dimensions
of impulsiveness (Barratt-Impulsiveness-Scale
11, BIS) were identified in entire cortex
analyses.”
 Cortical thickness correlates with impulsiveness in healthy adults (2011). By Shilling.
NeuroImage doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.07.058
5. Education Improvements?
 First, we repeat John Geake’s cautions.
 Next, we offer a small sampling of brain
research studies and other information that
might improve education.
 The purpose of this section is not to provide a
full list; the purpose is to “whet your appetite” to
learn more.
Cautions from John Geake’s
The Brain at School, 2009
 Levels of analysis are confounded when we try to
port neuroscience over to education
 Correlation is not proof of causation.
 Cognitive neuroscientists and educators are not
well connected.
 Neuroscience tools will improve in the future.
Larger Kerning
 Zorzi, Marco, et al. “Extra-large letter spacing
improves reading in dyslexia.” Proceedings of
the National Academy of Sciences in the United
States
(2012)http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/0
5/29/1205566109
 G r e a t e r / l e t t e r / s p a c i n g / helps
reading in dyslexia
http://neurocritic.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/g-r-
e-t-e-r-l-e-t-t-e-r-s-p-c-i-n-g.html
Better Fonts
 “OpenDyslexic is a new open sourced font
created to increase readability for readers with
dyslexia. The typeface includes regular, bold,
italic and bold-italic styles. It is being updated
continually and improved based on input from
dyslexic users. There are no restrictions on
using OpenDyslexic outside of attribution.”
 http://dyslexicfonts.com/
OpenDyslexic.
http://dyslexicfonts.com/
Physical Exercise, 2011
 Forty minutes of daily exercise done in the
classroom during reinforcement of basic academic
skills (students in grades 1-3) or done on exercise
equipment while watching educational programs
(students in grades 4-6) improves learning in a
low-scoring elementary school. The percentage of
students meeting state standardized test goals
increased from 55 percent to 68.5 percent.
 http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/brain-and-behavior/articles/2011/05/02/exercising-
while-learning-boosts-test-scores-study-finds
Learning with Hands, 2010
 Scientists at the University of Chicago’s Human
Performance asked participants to solve a Tower of Hanoi
puzzle, and then asked them to demonstrate how they
solved the puzzle. If the weight of some of the puzzle parts
was significantly altered before a participant demonstrated
how he or she solved the puzzle, the participant’s problem
solving skills suffered. The scientists concluded, “Gesturing
does not merely reflect thought: gesture changes thought
by introducing action into one’s mental representations.
Gesture forces people to think with their hands.”
Beilock, S.L. and Goldin-Meadow, S. (2010). “Gesture changes thought by grounding it in
action.” Psychological Science OnlineFirst, published on October 1, 2010 as
doi:10.1177/​0956797610385353.
Learning with Hands, 2011
 To test whether gesturing while thinking
improves learning, the Birmingham scientists
recruited university students to solve the
problems. Results from a series of experiments
reveal that (1) people spontaneously use
gesturing to help them solve complex spatial
problems, and (2) the gesturing improves later
performance on different spatial tasks.
Chu, M. and Kita, S. (2011). “The Nature of Gestures’ Beneficial Role in Spatial Problem Solving.”
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. American Psychological Association, Vol. 140, No. 1,
102–116.
Learning with Hands, 2012
 Notre Dame psychologists placed 136 images of complex
geometric patterns within the same distance from the eyes
of each of 44 undergraduate students, but within different
distances from their hands. The scientists found that
learning differences occur depending upon whether the
visual material is within the reach of the students’ hands or
not, even if the students did not use their hands. But the
scientists discovered a downside to objects placed within
reach—people are less able to abstract information
common to a series of images when the images are near
their hands.
 Davoli, C. C., Brockmole, J. R., & Goujon, A. (2012). A bias to detail: How hand position modulates visual learning and
visual memory. Memory & Cognition, 40, 352-359. http://www.nd.edu/~jbrockm1/pubs.html
Optimal Rewards, 2011
 “The popularity of video games is not the
enemy of education, but rather a model for best
teaching strategies. Games insert players at
their achievable challenge level and reward
player effort and practice with
acknowledgement of incremental goal
progress, not just final product. The fuel for this
process is the pleasure experience related to
the release of dopamine.”
Willis, Judy. “A Neurologist Makes the Case for the Video Game Model as a Learning Tool.”
http://www.edutopia.org/blog/video-games-learning-student-engagement-judy-willis (April 14, 2011)
Improved Diagnoses, 2009
 “Developmental disorders in children are
typically diagnosed by observing behavior, but
Aditi Shankardass knew that we should be
looking directly at their brains. She explains
how a remarkable EEG device has revealed
mistaken diagnoses and transformed children's
lives.”
 http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/aditi_shankardass_a_
second_opinion_on_learning_disorders.html
About Aditi Shankardass
 “Aditi Shankardass is a neuroscientist trained
across three disciplines of the field:
neurophysiology, neuroanatomy and
neuropsychology. * * * Currently, she leads
the Neurophysiology Lab of the Communicative
Disorders Department at California State
University.”
 http://www.ted.com/speakers/aditi_shankardass.html
Impulse Control Training?
 Campbell and von Stauffenberg (2009) found
that children’s performances between 36
months of age and first grade on measures of
resistance to temptation, delay of gratification,
response inhibition, attention, and planning
predicted whether the children would have
symptoms of ADD or ADHD in third grade.
 Campbell, S. B., & von Stauffenberg, C. (2009).
Delay and inhibition as early predictors of ADHD symptoms in third grade. Journal of Abnormal
Child Psychology, 37(1), 1-15.
Meditation Training?
 “Eileen Luders, an assistant professor at the UCLA
Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, and colleagues, have
found that long-term meditators have larger amounts of
gyrification (“folding” of the cortex, which may allow the
brain to process information faster) than people who do
not meditate. Further, a direct correlation was found
between the amount of gyrification and the number of
meditation years, possibly providing further proof of the
brain’s neuroplasticity, or ability to adapt to
environmental changes.”
“Evidence builds that meditation strengthens the brain, UCLA researchers say.”
http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/evidence-builds-that-meditation-230237.aspx March 12,
2012
Looking Inside Brains?
 Nature published an article about the efforts of
researcher Brian Butterworth and others to understand
dyscalculia (Callaway 2013).
 Butterworth hopes to monitor the brains of students as
they improve their math skills by playing Number
Sense, a suite of educational computer games that
Butterworth and a colleague at the Institute of
Education in London developed to help people with
dyscalculia.
 Callaway, Ewen. (2013). “Dyscalculia: Number games: Brian Butterworth is on a crusade to
understand the number deficit called dyscalculia — and to help those who have it.” Nature, 493: 150–
153. doi:10.1038/​493150a http:/​/​www.nature.com/​news/​dyscalculia-number-games-1.12153
Zapping with Electricity?
 Scientists in the United Kingdom have shown that electricity
applied to the brain can boost math learning.
 Oxford University neuropsychologist Roi Cohen Kadosh has
been experimenting with administering very low, non-painful
electric current into the brains of adults (Feilden 2012). The
technique, called “transcranial direct current stimulation
(TDCS),” stimulates the prefrontal cortex nerves of adults as
they answer mathematics questions. Cohen Kadosh’s
studies have shown that the mathematical abilities of adults
improve after training with TDCS. Cohen Kadosh plans to
test the TDCS technique with children with dyscalculia.
Zapping & Movement &
Games, Oh My!
 Oxford neuropsychologist Roi Cohen Kadosh has developed
a system that involves not only a computer game to help
students improve their mathematics skills, but also a Kinect
device to record body movements, and a helmet to zap the
student’s brain with electricity as the student solves math
problems via body movements while playing the game.
 Here is a video demonstration of the
computer/​Kinect/​zapping system that Dr. Cohen Kadosh
plans to use for his research on brain stimulation and
mathematics learning:
http:/​/​www.newscientist.com/​blogs/​nstv/​2012/​11/​brain-
zapping-kinect-game-mathematics.html.
Thank You
wendasheard@gmail.com

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Brain Research for Teachers & Other Curious Souls, 2013 update

  • 1. Recent Brain Research for Teachers and Other Curious Souls By Wenda Sheard, J.D., Ph.D. Updated 2013
  • 2. The first edition of this PowerPoint was prepared for an MIT SPLASH weekend in 2006. The second edition was prepared in part for the 2012 SENG conference. www.sengifted.org The third edition was prepared for a Potential Plus UK event in February 2013. APPRECIATIONS: This PowerPoint would not have been possible without Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG), without Carolyn K. and her Hoagies Gifted Education Page, and without Rebecca McMillian and her Brain Café. PERMISSIONS: Permission to copy for education and advocacy purposes will freely given upon request to wendasheard@gmail.com. Thank you for your requests in advance. EXPLANATION: My Ph.D. is in political science with an emphasis on education policy.
  • 3. Why Learn Brain Research?  We want to be the best teachers possible for our children. (WITH KNOWLEDGE)  We want to advocate effectively (WITH EVIDENCE) for diverse educational programs and funding to meet the needs of all children.
  • 4. Five Sections  1. Brain Differences Exist  2. Motivation  3. Dopamine  4. What Else Affects Brains?  5. Education Improvements?
  • 5. Before we begin, some cautionary notes:  I. Yale & “Neurobabble”: People are more likely to trust articles if the word “neuroscience” appears in the article.  II. John Geake’s The Brain at School: We need to avoid neurobabble, including multiple intelligences and learning styles.  III. Better tools for measuring brain activity are under development and one is available now.
  • 6. I. Yale & “Neurobabble”  The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations.  The scientists conducted three experiments and discovered that non-experts “judged that explanations with logically irrelevant neuroscience information were more satisfying than explanations without.”  More troubling: The subjects were Yale undergraduates enrolled in a neuroscience course. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2778755
  • 7. II. Notes from John Geake’s The Brain at School (2009)  Levels of analysis are confounded when we try to port neuroscience over to education  Correlation is not proof of causation.  Cognitive neuroscientists and educators are not well connected.  Neuroscience tools will improve in the future.
  • 8. John Geake & “Neuromythologies”  “[At education research conferences] I rarely hear an education/​practitioner researcher stand up and say that a particular theoretical position, much less a piece of research, is wrong, or silly, or useless in the classroom. Or say that here is evidence that this particular pedagogic approach is ineffective. Instead, it all gets added into a cornucopia of unpredictable flubber recently expanded, to make matters worse, with the latest neuromythologies.”
  • 9. III. Better Tools Coming “Pushing the frontiers of MRI” “Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has revolutionized our understanding of the human brain, but the method is now approaching the limit of its capabilities. Alan Jasanoff hopes to break through this limit and to develop new technologies for imaging the molecular and cellular phenomena that underlie brain function.” http://mcgovern.mit.edu/principal-investigators/alan-jasanoff/
  • 10. What’s on his head? Photo from: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/neuroimaging-and-mental-illness-a-window- into-the-brain/neuroimaging-and-mental-illness-a-window-into-the-brain.shtml
  • 11. Magnetoencephalography (MEG machine)  “A direct measure.” (not a measure of metabolism products)  “A very high temporal resolution device.” (only milliseconds)  “Sources can be localized with an accuracy of millimeters.”  “Completely non-invasive. Injection of isotopes or exposure to X-rays or magnetic fields is not required.” http://www.meg-brain-mapping.pitt.edu/index.html
  • 12. News Flash  €500 Million for Brain Research  Neuroscientist Henry Markram from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne won a €500 million grant from the European Commission to simulate everything known about the human brain in a supercomputer (Abbott 2013).  Abbott, Alison. “Billion-euro brain simulation and graphene projects win European funds.” Nature. Jan. 23, 2013. doi:10.1038/​nature.2013.12291, http:/​/​www.nature.com/​news/​billion-euro-brain-simulation- and-graphene-projects-win-european-funds-1.12291
  • 13. 1. Brain Differences Exists Photo by Wenda Sheard
  • 14. Five Sections  1. Brain Differences Exist  2. Motivation  3. Dopamine  4. What Else Affects Brains?  5. Education Improvements?
  • 15. Infants, 1997  Ninety-six children, Midwest United States community, ERP measures of speech perception obtained within 36 hours after birth from synthesized speech syllable /gi/.  “Auditory ERPs recorded within 36 hours after birth can be used to successfully discriminate, at well above chance levels, the reading performance of children 8 years later.”  Molfese, D. L., & Molfese, V. J. (1997). Discrimination of language skills at five years of age using event-related potentials recorded at birth. Developmental Neuropsychology, 13(2): 135-156
  • 16. Early College Entrants, 1996  EEG study of 30 gifted adolescents (mean age 13.3, SAT averages 1100), 30 average ability adolescents, and 30 college-age subjects.  “These finding suggest that gifted adolescents may have a developmentally enhanced state of brain activity, one that more closely resembles that of college-age adults to whom they also resemble in terms of cognitive ability.”  Alexander, J. E., O’Boyle, M. W., & Benbow, C. P. (1996). Developmentally advanced EEG alpha power in gifted male and female adolescents. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 23(1-2): 25-31.
  • 17. Gifted Brains on Math  Gifted students relaxed brain waves when doing math problems and not relaxed otherwise.  Non-gifted students NOT relaxed when doing math problems but RELAXED otherwise.  More cross-hemisphere communication in gifted brains doing math. Gifted children have a larger corpus callosum in MRI studies.
  • 18. Gifted Brains on Math Studies  O'Boyle, M. W., Cunnington, R., Silk, T., Vaughan, D., Jackson, G., Syngeniotis, A., & Egan, G. (2005). Mathematically gifted male adolescents activate a unique brain network during mental rotation. Cognitive Brain Research, 25, 583-587.  Singh, H. & O'Boyle, M. W. (2004). Interhemispheric interaction during global-local processing in mathematically gifted adolescents, average-ability youth, and college students. Neuropsychology, 18(2), 671-677.  Alexander, J. E., O’Boyle, M. W., & Benbow, C. P. (1996). Developmentally advanced EEG alpha power in gifted male and female adolescents. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 23(1-2): 25-31.
  • 19. London Taxi Drivers, 2000- 2010  Maguire and Gadian (2000) and Woollett (2009) discovered that the brains of London taxi drivers differ from the brains of non-taxi drivers.  Spatial brain area grows as “The Knowledge” (25,000 details) is acquired.  Spatial brain area shrinks after retirement. Maguire, E. A., & Gadian, D. G. (2000). Navigation-related structural change in the hippocampi of taxi drivers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 97(8), 4398-4403. Woollett, K. (2009). Talent in the taxi: a model system for exploring expertise. Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, 364(1522), 1407-1416.
  • 20. Violin Players, 2007  Schwenkreis, El Tom, Ragert, Plege, Tegenthoff, & Dinse (2007) discovered that the brains of professional violin players differ from the brains of people who don’t play the violin. Schwenkreis, P., El Tom, S., Ragert P., Pleger, B., Tegenthoff, M. & Dinse, H. R. (2007). Assessment of sensorimotor cortical representation asymmetries and motor skills in violin players. European Journal of Neuroscience, 26, 3291–3302.
  • 21. Cost of Strengths? 2009  The London taxi drivers were significantly more knowledgeable than others about London streets, landmarks, and their spatial relationships.  Despite their advanced knowledge in those respects, the taxi drivers were significantly worse at forming and retaining new associations involving visual information.  Woollett, K., & Maguire, E. A. (2009). Navigational expertise may compromise anterograde associative memory. Neuropsychologia(47)4, 1088-1095.
  • 22. Beyond Math/Verbal? 2003  Haier, White, and Alkire (2003) found that the individual differences in general intelligence correlate with brain function not only during reasoning tasks, but also during tasks that do not require reasoning.  This suggests giftedness is not just rational thinking.  Haier, R. J., White, N. S., & Alkire, M. T. (2003). Individual differences in general intelligence correlate with brain function during nonreasoning tasks. Intelligence 31, 429–441.
  • 23. Later Development of Executive Function for Superior Intelligence? 2006  The development of executive function appears to be delayed in preadolescent children with superior intelligence, perhaps because their advanced development in other aspects of the brain take more time.  Cortex Matures Faster in Youth with Highest IQ http://www.nimh.nih.gov/science- news/2006/cortex-matures-faster-in-youth-with-highest-iq.shtml (2006)
  • 24. From the NIH Study, 2006 Cortex Matures Faster in Youth with Highest IQ http://www.nimh.nih.gov/science-news/2006/cortex- matures-faster-in-youth-with-highest-iq.shtml (2006)
  • 25. More Executive Function with High Intelligence? 2007  “Of the six executive function indices subjected to multiple regression, five were significantly related to intelligence in a regression analysis.” The relationship of intelligence to executive function and non-executive function measures in a sample of average, above average, and gifted youth by Sharon Arffa, http://acn.oxfordjournals.org/content/22/8/969.abstract 2007
  • 26. Misdiagnoses? 2010  “[C]linical measures of [executive function] may differ among children with ADHD and controls at average IQ levels, but there is poorer discriminatory power for these measures among children with above average IQ.” Effects of IQ on Executive Function Measures in Children with ADHD by E. Mark Mahone, DOI:10.1076/chin.8.1.52.871 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1076/chin.8.1.52.8719 (2010)
  • 27. French Study of Infants, 2011  Literature Review: “children identified as ‘high- level potentialities’ or ‘intellectually gifted’ develop sensory, locomotor, neuropsychological, and language skills earlier than typically expected.”  Hypothesis: “the earlier development originates from biological processes affecting the physical development of the brain and in turn even intellectual abilities are developed earlier, potentially allowing for advanced development” (Cont. next slide)
  • 28.  Findings: “Development data evidences an advance in neurosensory-motor maturation among “high-level potentialities” children, both in postural, motor, and locomotor acquisitions, and in eye/motor coordination and attentional abilities. These results point to the reticular formation coming into play at an early stage in the form of awareness and attention and to rapid transmission speed of nerve input, as has been corroborated by different studies, leading to greater processing speeds.” (Cont. next slide) French Study of Infants, 2011
  • 29.  Discussion: “[H]ow these developmental advances interact with the social environment and in certain circumstances may entail increased risk for developing socioemotional difficulties and learning disabilities that often go unaddressed due to the masking by the advance intellectual abilities.” International Journal of Pediatrics, Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 420297, doi:10.1155/2011/420297Review ArticleDevelopmental and Cognitive Characteristics of “High-Level Potentialities” (Highly Gifted) Children Laurence Vaivre- Douret1,2,3http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijped/2011/420297/ French Study of Infants, 2011
  • 31. Intrinsic Motivation, 2010  Extrinsic rewards such as money work only if the task is simple.  Rewards need to be intrinsic for creative and conceptual tasks.  Notes: Many people have created for free (Wikipedia, Linux, etc). * * * Skype founder: “Our goal is to be disruptive but in the cause of making the world a better place.” * * * Steve Jobs: “I want to put a ding in the universe.” * * * We are purpose motivators, not only profit motivators.” RSA Animate - Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. Illustrated version of Daniel Pink’s Talk. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc (2010)
  • 32. Video Game Motivation, 2011  “It may seem counter intuitive to think that children would consider harder work a reward for doing well on a homework problem, test, or physical skill to which they devoted considerable physical or mental energy. Yet, that is just what the video playing brain seeks after experiencing the pleasure of reaching a higher level in the game. A computer game doesn't hand out cash, toys, or even hugs. The motivation to persevere is the brain seeking another surge of dopamine -- the fuel of intrinsic reinforcement.” Willis, Judy. “A Neurologist Makes the Case for the Video Game Model as a Learning Tool.” http://www.edutopia.org/blog/video-games-learning-student-engagement-judy-willis (April 14, 2011)
  • 33. Video-Game Motivation, 2012  “[A] video game about killing cancer in the body, strongly activates brain circuits involved in positive motivation. This reward-related activation is associated with a shift in attitudes and emotions that has helped boost players’ adherence to prescribed chemotherapy and antibiotic treatments in a previous study.”  Video Games in the Brain: Study Shows How Gaming Impacts Brain Function to Inspire Healthy Behavior, http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/3/prweb9293984.htm (March 19, 2012)
  • 34. Self & Group Motivation, 2010  “Education scientist Sugata Mitra tackles one of the greatest problems of education -- the best teachers and schools don't exist where they're needed most. In a series of real-life experiments from New Delhi to South Africa to Italy, he gave kids self-supervised access to the web and saw results that could revolutionize how we think about teaching.”  Sugata Mitra, http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_the_child_driven_education.html (2010)
  • 35.  “Participants rated the attractiveness of faces and subsequently learned how their peers ostensibly rated each face. Participants were then scanned using functional MRI while they rated each face a second time. * * * Participants changed their ratings to conform to those of their peers. This social influence was accompanied by modulated engagement of two brain regions associated with coding subjective value—the nucleus accumbens and orbitofrontal cortex * * *.” Zaki, Jamil, at al. “Social Influence Modulates the Neural Computation of Value” Published online before print June 8, 2011, doi: 10.1177/0956797611411057 Psychological Science July 2011 vol. 22 no. 7 894-900 Peer Pressure Motivation, 2011
  • 36.  Researchers used fMRI “to elucidate the neural mechanisms associated with social influence with regard to a common consumer good: music. * * * adolescents, age 12–17. * * * 15-second clips of songs from MySpace.com * * * * Song popularity had a significant effect on the participants’ likability ratings of the songs. fMRI results showed a strong correlation between the participants’ rating and activity in the caudate nucleus, a region previously implicated in reward-driven actions.” Berns, Gregory S. et al, “Neural Mechanisms of the Influence of Popularity on Adolescent Ratings of Music.” Neuroimage. 2010 February 1; 49(3): 2687. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2818406/ Peer Pressure Motivation, 2010
  • 37. Dopamine Motivation, 2011  “The human brain, much like that of most mammals, has hardwired physiological responses that had survival value at some point in evolutionary progression. The dopamine-reward system is fueled by the brain's recognition of making a successful prediction, choice, or behavioral response.” Willis, Judy. “A Neurologist Makes the Case for the Video Game Model as a Learning Tool.” http://www.edutopia.org/blog/video-games-learning-student-engagement-judy-willis (April 14, 2011)
  • 39. Dopamine & Genes, 2008  Begley (2008) reports on research finding that nearly 30 percent of children are born with genes that result in their brains having fewer dopamine receptors than normal. Having few dopamine receptors is linked to an inability to learn from mistakes, and to less activity in the brain’s frontal cortex, the site of higher-order thinking. Begley, S. (2008, August 9). But I did everything right. Newsweek. Retrieved April 26, 2009, from http://www.newsweek.com/id/151758
  • 40. Dopamine & Genes, 2008 Continued  In her article, Begley quotes Jack Shonkoff, director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University as saying, “individual genetic differences are the 800-pound gorilla of child development.”
  • 41. Dopamine & Rewards, 2012  “The researchers found that * * * hardworking people had the most dopamine in two areas of the brain known to play an important role in reward and motivation, and low dopamine levels in the anterior insula, a region linked to motivation and risk perception.” in Journal of Neuroscience. 2012  From Slacker or Go-Getter? Brain Chemical May Tell Vanderbilt University. http://www.livescience.com/20026-brain-dopamine-worker- slacker.html?utm_content=LiveScience&utm_campaign=seo+blitz&utm_source=twitter.com&ut m_medium=social+media
  • 42. Dopamine & T. gondii, 2012  Parasites – Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) causes production and release of abnormal amounts of dopamine.
  • 43. T. gondii in Brazil, 2006  A 2006 article estimates the “dopamine” parasite, toxoplasma gondii infects 67% of Brazilians.  The researcher hypothesizes that the bug’s behavioral effects on individuals may in turn influence human culture in general.  See Lafferty, K. D. “Can the Common Brain Parasite, Toxoplasma Gondii, Influence Human Culture?” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 273 (1602), 2749-2755 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2006.3641 (2006).
  • 44. T. gondii in the USA, 2011  The overall T. gondii antibody prevalence in the United States according to NHANES 1999– 2000 data is 14.3% (95% CI 12.3%–16.2%).  http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/13/4/06-1355_article.htm#tnT1
  • 45. T. gondii’s effect on rats  T. gondii makes rats friendly towards cats. Thus the parasite affects the behavior of the rats, which change of behavior increases the chances of the parasite completing its life cycle in the cats. Berdoy, M. et al. “Fatal Attraction in Rats Infected with Toxoplasma Gondii.” Proceedings of the Royal Society Biological Sciences. Vol. 267, no. 1452, p. 1591-1594. 7 Aug. 2000. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2000.1182 http:/​/​rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/​content/​267/​1452/​1591
  • 46. T. gondii in the UK, 2012  According to a report commissioned by the UK Food Standards Agency, 350,000 Britons a year are being infected by T. gondii. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/beware-of-the-cat- britains-hidden-toxoplasma-problem-8102860.html (2012)  [A 1993 UK survey found that 5.5 to 12.7% of pregnant women in the London region were infected. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8432316? dopt=Abstract]
  • 47. Parasites in General, 2011  “[W]e tested the parasite-stress hypothesis for the distribution of intelligence among the USA states: the hypothesis proposes that intelligence emerges from a developmental trade-off between maximizing brain vs. immune function.”  “As predicted, we found that the correlation between average state IQ and infectious disease stress was − 0.67 (p < 0.0001) across the 50 states.”  Parasite prevalence and the distribution of intelligence among the states of the USA, doi:10.1016/j.intell.2011.02.008
  • 48. 4. What Else Affects Brains? Culture Language Aerobics Emotions Norepinephrine Health Music
  • 49. Culture, 2012  “Despite claims to the contrary, leaders in the neurodiversity movement clearly recognize autism as a disability. * * * They also maintain, however, that difficulties experienced by people with disabilities are contextual and that living in a society designed for nonautistic people exacerbates the challenges experienced by autistic individuals.” What Can Physicians Learn from the Neurodiversity Movement? By Christina Nicolaidis, MD, MPH, in American Medical Association Journal of Ethics June 2012, Volume 14, Number 6: 503-510. http://virtualmentor.ama-assn.org/2012/06/oped1-1206.html
  • 50. Culture, 2011  In a Nature commentary, researcher Laurent Mottron criticized autism research to date and argued that we should move away from expecting people with autism to correct themselves to meet our expectations. Instead, we should accommodate the needs of people with autism in much the same way we accommodate the needs of people with visual and hearing impairments.  Mottron, Laurent. “Changing perceptions: The power of autism,” Nature. Vol. 479, p. 33– 35. November 2011, DOI: doi:10.1038/​479033a. http:/​/​www.nature.com/​nature/​journal/​v479/​n7371/​full/​479033a.html,
  • 51. Language, 2011  Words for color affect perception of colors. Members of the Himba Tribe in Africa have language that names colors differently than we name colors. They can see what we can’t see, and we can see what they can’t see. BBC Horizon: Do you see what I see? "The Himba tribe" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4b71rT9fU-I (2011)
  • 52. Aerobic Fitness, 2010  “MRI and behavioral methodologies to examine the link between aerobic fitness, brain structure, and cognition in preadolescent children. A clear association between aerobic fitness, hippocampal volume, and relational memory in children is demonstrated.”  49 children ages 9 &10, average K-Bit IQ 115, MRI used. A neuroimaging investigation of the association between aerobic fitness, hippocampal volume, and memory performance in preadolescent children (2010) Chaddocka et al (IL, OH, PA)
  • 53. Emotions, 2001  Ethics problems involving emotion show different patterns of brain involvement than those ethics problems not involving emotion. Emotions affect judgment and problem-solving. Greene, J.D., R.B. Sommerville, L.E. Nystrom, J.M. Darley, J.D. Cohen. (2001). An fMRI investigation of emotional engagement in moral judgment. Science, 293 (5537):2105.
  • 54. Emotions, 2002  Participants in a negative mood learned faster, contrary to expectation. This research examined learning over a 12-day period. The learning involved a word association task, visual learning task, and a mood-induction process. Moore, Simon C., Oaksford, Mike. Some long-term effects of emotion on cognition. British Journal of Psychology. August 2002, 93(3).
  • 55. Norepinephrine, 2012  “University of Kansas researchers have found larger resting pupil size and lower levels of a salivary enzyme associated with the neurotransmitter norepinephrine in children with autism spectrum disorder.”  “* * * samples taken at home throughout the day showed that sAA levels were higher in general across the day and much less variable for children with ASD.”  “What this says is that the autonomic system of children with ASD is always on the same level,” said Christa Anderson, assistant research professor. “They are in overdrive.”  http://neurosciencenews.com/pupil-size-saliva-alpha-amylase- children-autism-spectrum-disorder/
  • 57. Health Behaviors, 2012  “We report longitudinal data in which we assessed the relationships between intelligence as assessed in Grade 7 and consequential health outcomes in Grade 11.”  “The mean age of respondents (N = 420; 188 males, 232 females) was 12.30 years (SD = 0.49) in Grade 7and 16.17 years (SD = 0.45) in Grade 11. They completed standardized verbal and numerical ability tests and a measure of conscientiousness in Grade 7 and health related questions in Grade 11.” Cognitive ability and health-related behaviors during adolescence: A prospective study across five years. Joseph Ciarrochi et al. From Australia http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289612000384
  • 58. Health Behaviors, Continued  “Results indicated that higher intelligence was associated with a number of healthy behaviors including delay in onset of cigarette smoking. Intelligence significantly predicted less time spent watching TV, lower physical exercise, and lower consumption of stimulant drinks. Covariate analyses showed that general intelligence predicted health outcomes after controlling for conscientiousness, socio-economic status, and gender.” Cognitive ability and health-related behaviors during adolescence: A prospective study across five years. Joseph Ciarrochi et al. From Australia http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289612000384
  • 59. Musical Training, 2009  “Here, for the first time, we demonstrate structural brain changes after only 15 months of musical training in early childhood, which were correlated with improvements in musically relevant motor and auditory skills.  These findings shed light on brain plasticity, and suggest that structural brain differences in adult experts (whether musicians or experts in other areas) are likely due to training-induced brain plasticity.”  Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Jul;1169:182-6.The effects of musical training on structural brain development: a longitudinal study. By Hyde, et al.
  • 60. Cortical Thickness, 2011  “High-resolution magnetic resonance scans were acquired in 32 healthy adults to model the gray– white and gray–cerebrospinal fluid borders for each individual cortex and to compute the distance of these surfaces as a measure of cortical thickness (CT). Associations between CT and the dimensions of impulsiveness (Barratt-Impulsiveness-Scale 11, BIS) were identified in entire cortex analyses.”  Cortical thickness correlates with impulsiveness in healthy adults (2011). By Shilling. NeuroImage doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.07.058
  • 61. 5. Education Improvements?  First, we repeat John Geake’s cautions.  Next, we offer a small sampling of brain research studies and other information that might improve education.  The purpose of this section is not to provide a full list; the purpose is to “whet your appetite” to learn more.
  • 62. Cautions from John Geake’s The Brain at School, 2009  Levels of analysis are confounded when we try to port neuroscience over to education  Correlation is not proof of causation.  Cognitive neuroscientists and educators are not well connected.  Neuroscience tools will improve in the future.
  • 63. Larger Kerning  Zorzi, Marco, et al. “Extra-large letter spacing improves reading in dyslexia.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States (2012)http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/0 5/29/1205566109  G r e a t e r / l e t t e r / s p a c i n g / helps reading in dyslexia http://neurocritic.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/g-r- e-t-e-r-l-e-t-t-e-r-s-p-c-i-n-g.html
  • 64. Better Fonts  “OpenDyslexic is a new open sourced font created to increase readability for readers with dyslexia. The typeface includes regular, bold, italic and bold-italic styles. It is being updated continually and improved based on input from dyslexic users. There are no restrictions on using OpenDyslexic outside of attribution.”  http://dyslexicfonts.com/
  • 66. Physical Exercise, 2011  Forty minutes of daily exercise done in the classroom during reinforcement of basic academic skills (students in grades 1-3) or done on exercise equipment while watching educational programs (students in grades 4-6) improves learning in a low-scoring elementary school. The percentage of students meeting state standardized test goals increased from 55 percent to 68.5 percent.  http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/brain-and-behavior/articles/2011/05/02/exercising- while-learning-boosts-test-scores-study-finds
  • 67. Learning with Hands, 2010  Scientists at the University of Chicago’s Human Performance asked participants to solve a Tower of Hanoi puzzle, and then asked them to demonstrate how they solved the puzzle. If the weight of some of the puzzle parts was significantly altered before a participant demonstrated how he or she solved the puzzle, the participant’s problem solving skills suffered. The scientists concluded, “Gesturing does not merely reflect thought: gesture changes thought by introducing action into one’s mental representations. Gesture forces people to think with their hands.” Beilock, S.L. and Goldin-Meadow, S. (2010). “Gesture changes thought by grounding it in action.” Psychological Science OnlineFirst, published on October 1, 2010 as doi:10.1177/​0956797610385353.
  • 68. Learning with Hands, 2011  To test whether gesturing while thinking improves learning, the Birmingham scientists recruited university students to solve the problems. Results from a series of experiments reveal that (1) people spontaneously use gesturing to help them solve complex spatial problems, and (2) the gesturing improves later performance on different spatial tasks. Chu, M. and Kita, S. (2011). “The Nature of Gestures’ Beneficial Role in Spatial Problem Solving.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. American Psychological Association, Vol. 140, No. 1, 102–116.
  • 69. Learning with Hands, 2012  Notre Dame psychologists placed 136 images of complex geometric patterns within the same distance from the eyes of each of 44 undergraduate students, but within different distances from their hands. The scientists found that learning differences occur depending upon whether the visual material is within the reach of the students’ hands or not, even if the students did not use their hands. But the scientists discovered a downside to objects placed within reach—people are less able to abstract information common to a series of images when the images are near their hands.  Davoli, C. C., Brockmole, J. R., & Goujon, A. (2012). A bias to detail: How hand position modulates visual learning and visual memory. Memory & Cognition, 40, 352-359. http://www.nd.edu/~jbrockm1/pubs.html
  • 70. Optimal Rewards, 2011  “The popularity of video games is not the enemy of education, but rather a model for best teaching strategies. Games insert players at their achievable challenge level and reward player effort and practice with acknowledgement of incremental goal progress, not just final product. The fuel for this process is the pleasure experience related to the release of dopamine.” Willis, Judy. “A Neurologist Makes the Case for the Video Game Model as a Learning Tool.” http://www.edutopia.org/blog/video-games-learning-student-engagement-judy-willis (April 14, 2011)
  • 71. Improved Diagnoses, 2009  “Developmental disorders in children are typically diagnosed by observing behavior, but Aditi Shankardass knew that we should be looking directly at their brains. She explains how a remarkable EEG device has revealed mistaken diagnoses and transformed children's lives.”  http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/aditi_shankardass_a_ second_opinion_on_learning_disorders.html
  • 72. About Aditi Shankardass  “Aditi Shankardass is a neuroscientist trained across three disciplines of the field: neurophysiology, neuroanatomy and neuropsychology. * * * Currently, she leads the Neurophysiology Lab of the Communicative Disorders Department at California State University.”  http://www.ted.com/speakers/aditi_shankardass.html
  • 73. Impulse Control Training?  Campbell and von Stauffenberg (2009) found that children’s performances between 36 months of age and first grade on measures of resistance to temptation, delay of gratification, response inhibition, attention, and planning predicted whether the children would have symptoms of ADD or ADHD in third grade.  Campbell, S. B., & von Stauffenberg, C. (2009). Delay and inhibition as early predictors of ADHD symptoms in third grade. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 37(1), 1-15.
  • 74. Meditation Training?  “Eileen Luders, an assistant professor at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, and colleagues, have found that long-term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification (“folding” of the cortex, which may allow the brain to process information faster) than people who do not meditate. Further, a direct correlation was found between the amount of gyrification and the number of meditation years, possibly providing further proof of the brain’s neuroplasticity, or ability to adapt to environmental changes.” “Evidence builds that meditation strengthens the brain, UCLA researchers say.” http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/evidence-builds-that-meditation-230237.aspx March 12, 2012
  • 75. Looking Inside Brains?  Nature published an article about the efforts of researcher Brian Butterworth and others to understand dyscalculia (Callaway 2013).  Butterworth hopes to monitor the brains of students as they improve their math skills by playing Number Sense, a suite of educational computer games that Butterworth and a colleague at the Institute of Education in London developed to help people with dyscalculia.  Callaway, Ewen. (2013). “Dyscalculia: Number games: Brian Butterworth is on a crusade to understand the number deficit called dyscalculia — and to help those who have it.” Nature, 493: 150– 153. doi:10.1038/​493150a http:/​/​www.nature.com/​news/​dyscalculia-number-games-1.12153
  • 76. Zapping with Electricity?  Scientists in the United Kingdom have shown that electricity applied to the brain can boost math learning.  Oxford University neuropsychologist Roi Cohen Kadosh has been experimenting with administering very low, non-painful electric current into the brains of adults (Feilden 2012). The technique, called “transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS),” stimulates the prefrontal cortex nerves of adults as they answer mathematics questions. Cohen Kadosh’s studies have shown that the mathematical abilities of adults improve after training with TDCS. Cohen Kadosh plans to test the TDCS technique with children with dyscalculia.
  • 77. Zapping & Movement & Games, Oh My!  Oxford neuropsychologist Roi Cohen Kadosh has developed a system that involves not only a computer game to help students improve their mathematics skills, but also a Kinect device to record body movements, and a helmet to zap the student’s brain with electricity as the student solves math problems via body movements while playing the game.  Here is a video demonstration of the computer/​Kinect/​zapping system that Dr. Cohen Kadosh plans to use for his research on brain stimulation and mathematics learning: http:/​/​www.newscientist.com/​blogs/​nstv/​2012/​11/​brain- zapping-kinect-game-mathematics.html.