The learning brain


Having a high IQ has been a mark of intellectual superiority for years, but is it really a true definition of intelligence? Some researchers argue that intelligence is instead a biological process involving multiple systems in the brain that defy such testing. Educators are using this research of how the brain systems involved in learning work to provide better methods of teaching.

For some neuro-education researchers the lab has moved into the classroom. The lucky students in those classrooms are taught lessons that are designed with the neuroscience of how brains encode memory in mind. To find out more, we hear from  Dr. Mariale Hardiman this week, Professor of Clinical Education at John Hopkins University and the co-founder and director of the John Hopkins University School of Education's Neuro-Education initiative. Hardiman explains why arts can help students remember history and how movement can make students pay more attention to math. 

A bad mood can clog your brain's learning pathways and Hardiman's research carves out ideal environments in which students should learn to enhance their knowledge retention. Creating safe and positive learning environments seems like a "no brainer," but there's more to emotion than just feeling good. Hardiman designs useful emotional hooks in lessons that work with the natural neurological pathways in our brain that allow us to encode information into memory. 

Roberta also sits down this week with the neuroscientist whose thinking on intelligence has touched more than 100 000 people around the world: Dr. Adrian Owen, Canadian Excellence Research Chair at the University of Western Ontario. Owen's work in this area ponders how we define intelligence, how we measure it, and the puzzling question of if it can truly be measured at all. 

To dig deeper into understanding intelligence through his research Dr.Owen took to the Internet and created Cambridge Brain Sciences. He and his researchers developed brain based tests in a browser that challenged memory, attention, reasoning and planning. More than 100 000 people took the tests online; Owen and his team analyzed the results from more than 40 000 in hopes of getting closer to understanding what intelligence really is. In this episode of Think About It we dive in to some of what he found and what he thinks about the role of intelligence is in how we experience the world around us. 

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