13 Jun A Quiz on Neuroscience and Neuromyths
In this Education Week article, Sarah Sparks reports on the nascent field of mind, brain, and education. It appears that many K-12 educators are being exposed to bits and pieces of information, some of it true, some half-true, and some simply wrong. Paul Howard-Jones, a senior lecturer in psychology and neuroscience at the University of Bristol (UK), says, “In the absence of legitimate neuroscience in education, a neuro-mythology has arisen in schools.”
How good are you at separating fact from fiction? Test yourself on these statements and then check the answers at the bottom of this post [I thought I knew this stuff pretty well and scored only 64%]:
1. Students learn better when the instructional format, such as visual or kinesthetic, matches their learning style.
2. A learning disability associated with genetic differences in the brain can be remediated by educational interventions during the school years.
3. Except in cases of extreme injury or trauma, the brain no longer makes new connections after the age of 18.
4. Boys’ brains are hardwired to be better at spatial tasks than girls’ brains.
5. If a child does not learn a language before a critical window closes, he or she will never become fluent.
6. Emotion hinders reasoning and memory in the brain.
7. Cognitive and physical exercises can help integrate the hemispheres of a student’s brain.
8. Most people do not use their entire brain, but it’s possible to bring more of your brain “online” with cognitive training.
9. A student with a dominant left-brain hemisphere is likely to be more creative, but also may have difficulty with spatial skills.
10. Students use different memory systems to ride a bike and recall a phone number.
11. Drinking less than the equivalent of six glasses of water a day causes the brain to dehydrate and shrink, impairing learning.
1. False. Neuroscience has found the opposite to be true. People perceive through a variety of formats and senses, but perceiving is not the same as learning. People process information through many different modes to comprehend a concept or master a task.
2. True. Experience has a greater effect on how brains of all types – even those of people with dyslexia or autism – change over time.
3. False. Neurons continue to grow throughout life.
4. False. Boy-girl differences have not been shown to be innate. The variation between boys and girls is less than the variation within each sex and among different cultures. For example, while American boys outperform American girls on spatial tasks, Singaporean girls far outperform American boys.
5. False. The human brain changes throughout life in response to training and experience. While languages are learned more easily below the age of seven, people can learn new languages late in life.
6. Partly false. Positive emotions like excitement and engagement enhance learning. But negative emotions and stress can distract students from learning and reduce later performance and recall.
7. False. In normal, healthy people, both hemispheres of the brain act in concert and areas associated with language and other tasks are found in both hemispheres. An OECD study found no evidence of different hemispheres creating personality differences or requiring different learning modalities.
8. False. Most people use all of the brain constantly (except those with a severe cognitive disability). Even while asleep, a person uses more than 10 percent of the brain.
9. False. The notion of a “dominant” left or right hemisphere, leading to differences in language or spatial ability, comes from studies in the 1960s on adults whose hemispheres had been surgically divided to treat severe epilepsy. Typically, both hemispheres of the brain act in concert, and areas associated with spatial and other tasks are found on both hemispheres.
10. True. The brain activates in different ways to remember many different things. Recalling facts takes place in the hippocampus and medial temporal lobe, while body memory of a repetitive task activates the motor cortex.
11. False. Severe hydration can decrease cognitive function, but that’s not likely to happen in a typical classroom. Recent studies have found no cognitive benefit from drinking the canonical eight glasses of water a day. Students should drink water when they are thirsty, but there’s no reason to push them to drink a specific amount.
“Teachers Need Lessons in Neuroscience, Experts Say” by Sarah Sparks in Education Week, June 6, 2012 (Vol. 31, #33, p. 16-17),