The Human Brain Current Research and Implications
Parts of the Brain... • Brain is made up of about 100 billion nerve cells called neurons. • Each neuron has a nucleus and two branches: an axon that sends impulses and dendrites that receive them. • When we learn something new and go through a rote process of doing something, physically or mentally, the impulses are moving through our brain in a pattern.
The more we do an activity or behavior, the easier it gets because there is greater efficiency in how the impulses move. • Impulses move down an axon onto a dendrite from another neuron. As the impulses jump from axon to dendrite, synapses build on the axons. As they build, they promote the smooth passage of the impulse. • There is a gap between the axon and the dendrite called the synaptic gap. Chemicals flow in these gaps and can either conduct the impulses to the dendrites or hinder the smooth movement.
Layers of the Brain • Brain Stem: reacts and takes care of the vital functions • Limbic System: adds capacity for emotion and coordination of movement (“leopard”) • Cerebral Cortex: adds problem-solving, language, numbers, memory, creativity (“learning brain”)
Reticular Activating System • Like a toggle switch that turn off and on the leopard or the learning brain…..When emotionally charged, the “leopard” takes over; when relaxed the “learning brain” takes over. What are the implications for teaching and learning?
Brain Research Surge of information recently from numerous disciplines with implications for learning and life in general.
Male differentiated brain: thicker right cerebral cortex corpus callosum is thinner relative to brain weight denser neurons larger nuclei hypothalamus works on negative feedback Female differentiated brain: thicker left cerebral cortex - corpus callosum is 23% thicker relative to brain weight - less dense neurons - smaller nuclei - hypothalamus works on positive feedback (resulting in more emotionality) - greater connection between hemispheres= greater articulation and fluency in language Key areas of interest are: Sex differences (male and female brains are different)
Key areas of interest are.. • Workplace design (color, light, music) • Nutrition (the brain loves water and protein; carbohydrates puts it to sleep) • Educational environment (physical environment and learning environment: breaks, reflection, balance of activities) • Need breaks: 5-10 minutes every 1-2 hours; time needed for neural connections to solidify
The Brain and Language • By 6 months of age, babies from English speaking homes have different auditory maps in the brain from those in other language homes. The mapping is complete by one year of age. Children are functionally deaf to sounds absent from their native language ( Kuth, University of Washington) • The perceptual map of the L1 constrains the earning of the L2. • The more infants hear, the faster they learn a language. The sounds of words (any words) build up neural circuitry that can absorb more words.
Under What Conditions in School, will the Leaning Brain Minimize? • Potential physical harm (classmates/ staff/ others) • Intellectual threats (ideas being attacked; questioning; lack of information) • Emotional threats (embarrassment) • Cultural-social threats (disrespect, isolation,. limited chances) • Resources restriction (constricting time or resources for performance)
Educational Environment Needs... • High expectations • Non threatening ambiance • Goal of 100% mastery • Air of reality (includes more than books) • Advance organizers • Spacing learning, think time, practice • Breaks • Incubation needed for creativity • Follow-up • Control • Relaxation • Rapport