February 15, 2005
“I addicted myself to the opening of heads.”
(Thomas Willis, ca. 1660)
Things to Ponder
● Everything we have read and will say this
evening is controversial:
● Someone will have a good reason to disagree.
● The brain is complex and has the properties
of a dynamic system:
● Difficult to predict what it will do
● Much of what we know comes from abnormal
● All mammalian brains are similar to a great
Questions to think about
● When, and to what extent, is knowledge of
the brain relevant to us?
● Relevance to “normal” vs. “special” cases.
● Beware of charlatans.
● You cannot design curriculum to “educate”
a particular part of the brain.
● But note Berninger's work with dyslexia.
● Are we turning Education into Medicine?
● Something changes (relatively) permanently
as the result of some experience, which may
or may not be instruction.
● Affective states
● These changes are attributable to changes in
the central nervous system.
● Implicit memory
● Explicit memory
● Long term memory
● Implicit (priming effects)
● Explicit (conscious recall - “remembering”)
● Episodic (remembering specific events)
● Semantic (knowledge of the world).
● Working memory (Baddeley)
● Where information from the senses or LTM is
processed and prepared for storage.
● Phonological loop
● Visuo-spatial “sketchpad”
● Other sensory modalities?
● Executive function
● Very limited capacity
How memories are formed
● With frequent use, connections are more
likely to become active when the same
internal or external stimulus is encountered
● [Role of Hippocampus]
● Electro-chemical activity only during presence of stimulus.
● Activity increases & persists because more sites on a synapse
become receptive to neurotransmitters. (Faucet)
● Physical increase in number of/surface area of synapses through
synthesis of new proteins. (Laying larger water mains)
– Long-term potentiation (LTP) is pretty much accepted,
but within limits.
● In a way, connects the inner world to the
● A bottleneck with a finite capacity.
● But each sensory “module” is somewhat
● Hence the benefits of redundancy
● But they work together – interference effects.
● Cognitive load (Sweller) review
● Intrinsic load – cannot be reduced
● Extrinsic load – can and should be reduced
● Germane load – should be optimized
fMRI showing activation of “Vision for navigating”
(V5) and Working memory (PFC) areas in children
performing visual tasks after working with VPS.
Visual Area V5 – left side Prefrontal Cortex – left side
● Of applications to basic research
● Of applied research
● Of general application to Education.
● Atherton and Ditek