Neuroeducation holds the promise of a revolution in childhood development: by understanding how the brain grows and develops, we can figure out how to help prepare a child to learn.
But the promise of neuroeducation has only become possible because of advances in our ability to look inside the brain. The scientists at The University of California are using it to their advantage.
“It’s not that we’re going to scan every child’s brain and determine from there what kind of intervention or class they should be placed into,” says Silvia Bunge, a professor at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at UC Berkeley. “It’s more a proof-of-concept line of research. Showing that, what do you know, after a few months of a specific training we can see – we can measure – changes in the child’s brain structure and or brain functioning.”
Using Games To Impact the Brain
Researchers at UC are using games to better educate children in early concepts and skills including geometry, fractions, reasoning and processing skills. The children involved were also given brain scans showing a correlation between brain development and intellectual ability.
“In another study, she found that 25 percent of children, when given a task dealing with weights and balances, performed at an adult level while 25 percent of adults performed at a child’s level. She says by itself this is a fascinating bit of trivia. However, using neuroimaging, she discovered that performing at different levels was directly linked to different brain networks, regardless of whether it was a child or an adult. Not only does this show that a different brain system is used for advanced reasoning, it allows Rivera to pinpoint the moment of mastery.”
Helping Kids Who Need Help
Neuroimaging is not stopping at education; brain scans are also being conducted to better understand mental illness and deficiencies
“We’re beginning to get a handle on why kids with ADHD think it’s such a great idea to throw a spitball in classroom even if they know they’re going to get in trouble later.” says Steve Hinshaw, psychology professor at UC Berkeley. “Neuroimaging techniques have shown that maybe the core, underlying deficit isn’t just that you don’t pay attention but that you value immediate reward far more than long-term consequences.”
The Brain Power Conference, being held May 3-4 in Toronto, will explore all of these issues and more. The conference will bring leading neuroscientists together with teachers, parents, and professionals to answer the question: as we continue to better understand how the brain works, what does it mean for parents and teachers?