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Brain scientists offer medical educators tips on the neurobiology of learning
Date:3/30/2011

and the neurobiology of learning and memory suggest that going deeper is more likely to result in better retention and depth of understanding. With repetition, many components of the neural processes become more efficient, requiring less energy and leaving higher-order pathways available for additional cognitive processing. However, repetitions must be appropriately spaced.

Reward and reinforcement: Reward is a key component of learning at all stages of life. "The brain's intrinsic reward system self-congratulations with the realization of success -- plays a major role in reinforcement of learned behaviors," Friedlander said. "An important factor is the realization that accomplishing an immediate goal and a successful step toward a future goal can be equally rewarding."

In the case of medical students, there are considerable rewards ahead of them in addition to the more immediate rewards of the satisfaction of understanding medicine. The students who derive joy from learning as they proceed through their medical education may have a greater chance of using the brain's capacity to provide reward signals on an ongoing basis, facilitating their learning process.

Visualization: Visualization and mental rehearsal are real biological processes with associated patterned activation of neural circuitry in sensory, motor, executive, and decision-making pathways in the brain. Internally generated activity in the brain from thoughts, visualization, memories, and emotions should be able to contribute to the learning process.

Active engagement: There is considerable neurobiological evidence that functional changes in neural circuitry that are associated with learning occur best when the learner is actively engaged.. Learners' having multiple opportunities to assume the role of teacher also invoke neural motivation and reward pathways -- and another major biological component of the learning process: stress.

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Contact: Susan Trulove
strulove@vt.edu
540-231-5646
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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