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Showing entries tagged neuro-education.  Show all entries

December 2, 2011

Online NRSC 2100- Is it a Good Idea?


Over the last semester we have all participated in a class with a very different learning format from that which we are used to. Whether we signed up for an online class or not, almost all of the educational content of this class has been presented online. Independent, online learning, presents a very different learning experience than the traditional university course. Rather than seeing and hearing a professor lecture and discussing our learning in a social, classroom setting we have obtained most of our information through online textbooks, tutorials and videos and have discussed it using Facebook, Hootcourse and this blog. The question is: Is this new form of education that does not revolve around the face-to-face social experience between a teacher and a classroom bring the same benefits? Is social interaction important for learning? Do the social capabilities of the internet (i.e. Facebook) sufficiently replace in-person communication?
In her article, "The Developing Social Brain: Implications for Education, (http://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/S0896-6273(10)00173-X )" Sarah-Jayne Blakemore explores the research that has been done on the role of social interaction in learning. Humans have a social brain; we are capable of intuitively knowing what certain facial expressions and body language mean. Babies developing language skills depend on social interaction for learning. Blakemore highlights a study (Kuhl et al., 2003 ) in which American babies are exposed to Chinese Mandarin through three different methods: 1) social interaction (reading and playing) with a native speaker, 2) videos of that same speaker or 3) audio recording of that same speaker. The only group that displayed the learned ability to distinguish between Chinese sounds was the group that experienced social interaction. The benefits of social interaction in learning are not yet understood. It could be that the infants are more motivated by social interaction or that the adult speaker is able to tailor their behavior to the child's needs in a social experience.
This doesn't necessarily point to the absolute necessity of social interaction for academic learning; language acquisition is different from the type of learning done in a university classroom and the age of the participants and their brain development is significantly different from that of the typical student enrolled in this class. Blakemore explores one of these issues by examining the difference in brain activity in adults and adolescents. The brain undergoes significant changes in Medial Prefrontal Activation during adolescence. This area is active in social cognition tasks. Research suggests that the development of social learning skills is still taking place late into adolescence and that continuing to learn and have real-life social interactions during this period is crucial for the development of the brain.
She concludes her exploration with more questions and an analysis of implications of this research for education. It is clear that some types of learning do require social interaction and that this is true even into late adolescence (and perhaps beyond?). For now, the question as to whether classes such as this one are as educationally valuable for the human brain is waiting on more research . For now, we get to be the judges of that.
Posted by      Megan M. at 5:36 PM MST
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December 1, 2011

Of Mice and Men


Exploitation and the misuse of information is something that the media coincides with inexplicably. It should be no surprise that there is a great disconnect between scientific organizations and the general public for these very reasons. One organization in particular is trying to bridge this widening gap in order to prepare our society with implications of certain scientific methods in the future as our technological advances continue to advance. The UK's newly formed Academy of Medical Science is working to discuss the "scientific, ethical, and regulatory ramifications" of working with ACHM. ACHM's are animals containing human material. These animals are a result of scientists adding a small number of human genes into mice. This organization is working in order to create a set of limitations and rules for what types of experiments can be done in the future using this type of animal model. Although none of the procedures done so far reached outside of these limitations, they still felt it was important to lay the ground rules going into the future. They wanted these rules to be a reflection of the publics needs as well as the needs of the medical implications these studies lead to.

Perhaps more imperative to present day, is the other function of the group. The Academy of Medical Science feels that it is also necessary to openly discuss these processes and regulations with the public to stop the bad publicity that these ACHM models are creating. Due to constant speculation, the media and politicians are misinforming the public about what is really going on. Generally, scientists can be hesitant to go public with their procedures because it can often be misinterpreted. The creation of a negative perception can hurt the funding for these projects that really have good intentions that the public just cannot see.

The public seems rather obsessed with the idea of the 'mad scientists' who create animal-man hybrids in their laboratories just because they want to, and because they can. It is widely thought that these ACHM models are a used to create animal hybrids, and that stem cell research is done in order to create a cloned human race. While Hollywood may further push this idea from seemingly scientific movies and TV shows, people can interpret them as being based off of real evidence. In fact, these very viewpoints are the reason why this organization wants to openly discuss the benefits, as well as the setbacks, of performing such studies. They want to address not only the emotional and ethical rational behind their experiments, but also would like to argue the medical reasoning and justifications.

The article used the example of US Senate Candidate Christine O'Donnell speech against human-animal hybrids to show how misinformed or misjudged information can be misleading when it is not fully understood. O'Donnell was quoted saying that "scientists were cross breeding humans and animals". She further said that this led to functioning human brains within the mice. While there is obviously not factual evidence to support her claim, this publically stated accusation led to an increasingly negative viewpoint from animal rights activists and anti-genetic engineering supporters.

The main reason this type of animal model is used is to study different aspects of varying diseases in specific biological situations. They are not creating mice with the exact replica of the human form of the disease, and are really only altering a few genes, if that. Eventually there will technological advances that will allow new and improved studies to be done. It is very important that they let the public know now, ahead of time, what exactly they are planning to study and learn from present and future experiments. This will not only increase funding (because there will be more understanding and support towards their studies), but it will also reduce the bad publicity that emerging scientific field has to deal with.

http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v14/n12/full/nn1211-1489.html
Posted by      Amber S. at 1:47 PM MST
  Christina Uhlir  says:
Do you read the Wall Street Journal? There was a piece about "Citizen Scientists" that gets to your point about the misuse of information.

If not, here is the article:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204621904577014330551132036.html
Posted on Sun, 4 Dec 2011 4:39 PM MST by Christina U.
  Amber Spence  says:
I have not, sounds interesting! I'll check it out, thanks!
Posted on Sun, 4 Dec 2011 10:37 PM MST by Amber S.

October 20, 2011

Neuro-education... the Key to Education Reform?


Any American who has attended a public school has likely walked out of a classroom having no idea what that boring, Charlie Brown-esque (Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah), lecture they just listened to was about. But, just as many people likely have stories of those one or two miraculous teachers who inspired them to learn and to think in new, innovative and creative ways. What is it that makes some lessons incredibly ineffective and others amazingly stimulating?
The emerging field of Neuro-education is hoping to find the answer to this question and many others concerning the most effective ways to teach the world's kids. Neuroscientists and educators are working in collaboration to blend findings in both fields to better understand how humans learn in order to develop more effective educational methods and policies. New programs are opening up in the U.S., and throughout the world, that are hoping to develop connections between disciplines in order to create a better educational system for our kids. One such organization, the International, Mind, Brain and Education Society states its mission, to facilitate cross-cultural collaboration in biology, education and the cognitive and developmental sciences in order to bring science and practice together.(http://www.imbes.org/) Many graduate programs at universities ranging from Cambridge's science based "Centre for Neuroscience In Education" (http://www.cne.psychol.cam.ac.uk/) to Johns-Hopkins School of Education's "Neuro Education Initiative"( http://education.jhu.edu/nei/) have been formed with similar mission statements.
The ideas behind these programs and this field are innovative and logical. The goal of scientific research in Neuroscience is to better understand how the brain works. The goal of education is to help the brain work to its best potential. Combined, these fields can provide groundbreaking ideas to change and improve how kids learn. In the US, many people believe that the public education system is failing kids, thereby lowering the prospects for this country's future. Between budget cuts and outmoded and unsuccessful teaching methods, people are calling for reform. But one central question is: how should we reform and what direction should it take? Neuro-education has the potential to provide the evidence on the science end and the experience on the educators end to form and shape education reform.
So, what is necessary to make this happen? First of all, like everything involved in education, it needs more funding. From the university to the federal government level, funding must be provided in order to promote new research, to integrate findings from multiple fields, and to implement new ideas into the classroom. Currently, less than .5% of all educational funding goes to research. The prospects of this changing in the current economic climate, where schools are struggling just to buy books for the classroom and keep class sizes at a reasonable level, seems slim.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, the lines of communication need to be opened between researchers in scientific fields and the people who are directly involved in the education of kids. This means that research findings must be presented in forms that are accessible to busy parents and teachers. Already, Neuroscience has developed an extensive body of knowledge about areas of high importance to education. The effects of sleep, stress, exercise and musical training on memory retrieval and learning consolidation are already well understood. Our country and public education system must find a way to get these finding to educators so that they may be translated into real practice.
In order to give kids the best prospects for their futures, and thereby, the best prospects for our country, the ultimate goal of education should be to inspire kids and imbue in them a sense of curiosity, creativity and competition. This combination between a scientific understanding of the brain and educational reform has a real and exciting potential to make a difference in the futures of our kids and our country.

Main Article: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0896627310006380
Posted by      Megan M. at 10:18 AM MDT
displaying most recent comments (3 ommitted) | Comments (6)
  Megan Morgenthaler  says:
So, are you suggesting rewriting textbooks, or not using them at all? If "overhauling" means reworking and rewriting, I don't see how this would inspire the kids who are already uninterested to read them.
Posted on Sun, 23 Oct 2011 4:48 PM MDT by Megan M.
  Christina Uhlir  says:
Reworking in light of recent research about the layout of textbooks. Apparently textbooks (and this can include college textbooks) are a little too distracting because of all the pictures incorporated in them that simply take away from the message the text is trying to convey. For instance, if you have a page with a ton of text with a couple pictures added in on the sides which are referred to by the text, the students are more likely to just fixate on the pictures and forget what they were learning from the text.
Posted on Sun, 23 Oct 2011 5:17 PM MDT by Christina U.
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July 31, 2011

Brain Scans as Evidence


The spectrum of possibilities that neuroscience is taking into the world of law is both advantageous and dangerous. What sort of effects will this have when putting a murder suspect on trial? What sort of rights does he have and will the new technologies of neuroscience violate these rights in order to discover the truth behind what is going on? Questions such as this are what lawyers have to take into effect when deciding on whether or not to bring neuroscience into the court room. Not only can it be used for this purpose though, it can help someone plead the insanity defense, it takes into question if someone is willing or not to go through the testing in order to find out the truth, and also measure the maturity of the person on trial and capacity of what is going on.

In the article by Francis Shen and Owen Jones it looks further into what is going through the criminals mind in order to make them murder someone for example. Brain scanning gives the jury a way to look into their mind and see what has made them capable of preforming such an act. According to the administration of justice it is important to look at two things when looking into brain scanning. First what the brain was going through when performing the act. Basically, what was going on in the criminals mind to make them justify what was going to happen. Second it looks how the brain recollects these past events that have happened.

One of the tests used in this article to help tell if someone is lying or not is a fMRI. This stands for a functional magnetic resonance imaging. It is able to 'detect changes in hemodynamic properties of the brain as a subject engages in specific mental tasks (pg.865, Shen and Owen).' It breaks down which regions of the brain are doing what for a specific task and for how long they are working. But several issues have been discovered with this such as a person memorizing a lie and repeating it over and over that it becomes natural to say and therefore the fMRI won't pick up on any sort of difference between it and the truth. This has the possibility of being useful it court and was used in the case of United States v. Semrau.

The case of United States v. Semrau was one of the first cases in which brain scanning was used in order to help decide if Dr.Lorne Semrau was committing Medicare/Medicaid fraud. Over six years they stated that he was aware of inflating payments in order to receive approximately 3 million dollars in fraud. Around this time the first fMRI was being developed and it was used to tell if Dr. Semrau was claiming the truth when he said he did not willingly commit fraud. This test became later ruled out because it wasn't able to satisfy certain standards the judge had set.

As the advances in science continue, brain scanning will be able to lead into areas we have not yet discovered in the scientific realm of possibilities. The article goes into further detail of other challenges that neuroscience is being faced as it tries to enter into the world of law.


http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1710952##
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1736288&rec=1&srcabs=1710952
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Dancing Cockatoo


It?s doubtful that anyone would find a dancing cockatoo relevant to neuroscience, but we would all be wrong in assuming otherwise. Apparently, YouTube videos of a dancing cockatoo named ?Snowball? not only entertain bored college kids during their classes, (not me of course), but also give neuroscientists new insight about animals? response to music. Kathrine Haycock writes, ?No one had ever documented an animal processing and reacting to the beat of music,? noting that these YouTube videos gave clear evidence that animals could do just that.
Until just recently, understanding music was a trait that only belonged to humans; many believed that we evolved historically with the ability because it somehow helped us to survive, (though it?s hard to think of a way in which music aides in survival). These new videos are giving neuroscientists hope that animals have a circuitry similar to our own when it comes to understanding and responding to music. It?s hard to believe, though, that a simple YouTube video with a dancing bird can prove anything other than the fact that we have too much time on our hands. Ani Patel, a neurologist, apparently felt the same way and conducted an experiment to determine whether Snowball really could react to the beat of the music. By playing the same song at twelve different speeds, nine of which Snowball kept rhythm with; Patel showed that it wasn?t merely coincidence that a bird could possibly be able to understand music.
I couldn?t think of a whole lot that could be done with this information besides playing more music for my neighbor?s dog in hopes that it?d dance instead of bark, but Patel explains otherwise. According to Patel, studies involving music therapy could use the idea that animals can comprehend music to further their investigations by studying animal models as well as humans. Also, Alzheimer?s patients may benefit from these findings through animal models, which could potentially explain patients? ability to remember music rather than their own spouses (must make the spouse feel important).
I?m hoping that by using animal models to further research in these departments some breakthroughs will be found. The notion that Alzheimer?s patients remember music very well throughout the progression of the disease raises the idea that perhaps the part of the brain that stores musical memories isn?t necessarily part of the brain that is primarily affected by Alzheimer?s. Using animal models could possibly provide insight as to where exactly music is understood and stored. On the other hand, assuming that animals can process music exactly like humans just because a cockatoo named Snowball can dance to one song no matter how fast it?s played seems na´ve at best. The significance of this finding is certainly debatable, and neither jumping to conclusions nor writing off the fact that animals can understand music are good ideas. Just as with any scientific discovery, further research must be done involving animal?s ability to understand and react to music before any conclusions can be drawn. Until then, try to just enjoy the fact that a cockatoo likes to dance.

http://www.allpetnews.com/cockatoo-key-to-breakthrough-discovery-in-neuroscience-and-music-videos
Posted by      Daniel H. at 5:03 PM MDT

July 30, 2011

Reading Your Mind


Have you ever wondered what the world will be like when someone can read your mind? If so, maybe you should pay attention to this paper. As you well know, technology is changing in such a rapid pace, you can?t buy a computer without a newer one coming out before you even get it home. The same goes for neuroscience.

There is a lot going on in the neuroscience community right now. One major area is the mapping of minds and memories. Henry T. Greely outlines these studies in a paper entitled Neuroethics: The Neuroscience Revolution, Ethics, and the Law. In the paper, Greely discusses the various ways in which mind mapping will affect the world. Though currently mapping is being used to advance the way in which doctors predict diseases in patients, mapping can lead to predicting behaviors in the future. This will be revolutionary to many areas. As Greely points out, the way criminals are convicted, businesses are run, and how students are tested will all be affected by mind mapping.

On a criminal level, the author does an outstanding job describing the history of predictive measures and the law; Lie detection being the most prominent. In comparison to future techniques, he makes the polygraph tests look primitive and crude. It would have strengthened the paper if more methods were introduced in mapping and imaging. Greely seems to focus on the history and the implications of these methods,. Additionally, he makes the material accessible to the average person without frightening them into thinking the future is the plot of the movie ?The Minority Report?. The article offers possible ways that crimes will be predicted in people, as well as how trials will be held regarding mind and memory mapping.

In schools, long gone will be major tests like the SAT and the MCAT. Brain imaging will go a long way into measuring the aptitude of a student?s mind without having to put a pencil to paper. These methods sound to be decades away, but Greely describes them in a realistic manner, making the author?s take on the future more believable.

Finally, Greely points out that with any new area of study, someone is going to try to make money off of it. These prediction methods are a dream for marketers who may be able to predict the exact reaction a product will get, or the best way to appeal to a specific market. Again, this future seems very possible in the way that Greely describes. I have no doubts that the in the creation of new prediction methods, new ways to buy and sell will emerge in the United States and the rest of the world.
After finishing reading this article, as a prospective neuroscientist I was amazed at all of the possibilities that I haven?t even considered that are covered. As a citizen I was just as amazed. With Greely?s prediction of the way that prediction will affect the world, I strongly believe that the world will change as long as neuroscience advances. I encourage everyone to follow these developments as they will certainly be a part of our world. Maybe sooner than we think.
Posted by      Anthony F. at 12:40 PM MDT

July 29, 2011

Excuse me. Are you a neuroscientist?


Please talk to me...
I am a parent. What can neuroscience tell me about multisensory learning? Can neuroscience tell me how to enrich my child's environment so their brain will develop properly?

Please talk to me...
I am a high school teacher. I'm having a hard time engaging the teens in my classroom. Can neuroscience help me to develop lessons that keep them engaged? Can neuroscience help me to expand their executive judgment capabilities so they realize why school is so important?

Please talk to me...
I am a school principal. The parents at my school think that our school day starts too early. The school board wants to make budget cuts that will eliminate gym class and music class. Can neuroscience provide evidence on how sleep, music and physical education affect learning?

A new discipline, Neuro-Education, is asking neuroscientists and educators to open up a dialogue and to initiate research aimed at finding the best ways to educate our children. This invitation stretches globally from the U.S. to Japan. Neuroscientists already have an abundance of information on the mechanisms of learning and memory that when shared with educators, may bring about more effective evidence-based education practices for children. For example, neuroscientists know testing helps to reinforce learning. Neuroscientists also know that a good night's sleep enhances memory and that too much stress compromises memory and learning. Teachers and neuroscientist can certainly find some common ground when it comes to the retrieval of memories and the consolidation of learning.

The September 9, 2010 edition of Neuron highlights a few of the aspects of this new and exciting avenue for the advocacy of neuroscience. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0896627310006380) However, this new endeavor is not without barriers. You guessed it! MONEY! According to this article "Less than one-half of one percent of the federal education budget is spent on research." This is unsatisfactory!

Educators and parents are at risk of teaching and parenting based on miss information. Myths like the belief that people are either 'right-brained' or 'left-brained' is an oversimplification of the way brain hemispheres work and it needs to be debunked. 'Critical periods' in development also run the risk of being oversimplified leading parents to feel guilty if they feel they've missed a window of opportunity. Research and open communication is needed to ensure that information is not only correct but that the information is also correctly understood.

Money is not the only barrier to linking neuroscience and education. Developing a common language and consistency in terminology used also needs to be developed. It is not easy to translate what is learned in the lab into information that the mainstream population can use and understand. And, information gained in the lab is not always immediately ready for practical application.

I find Neuro-Education both fascinating and challenging. As I prepare for graduate school, where I will study Occupational Therapy (OT), I find myself trying to take what I am learning about neuroscience and figure out where the practical applications might be. Are you interested in a dialogue about practical applications to understanding the brain? It is my opinion those in multidisciplinary fields, such as OT or psychology, might be able to help bridge the gap and build a link between neuroscientists and educators.
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