At the nexus of learning and innovation

Topic of the month (November)

Can we bridge between neuroscience and education?

Neuro imaging


As neuroscience continues to flourish there is a lot to be hopeful for in how this area of research might benefit education and learning. However, there has also been a history of skepticism: can neuroscience actually help, or does it simply offer pretty pictures of brains?

In this month's featured paper Neuroscience and education: prime time to build the bridge, Mariano Sigman and colleagues put an optimistic foot forward!

As a supplement, neuroscientist Paul Howard-Jones discusses common 'neuromyths in education' on an episode of the podcast Neuropod.

Abstract: As neuroscience gains social traction and entices media attention, the notion that education has much to benefit from brain research becomes increasingly popular. However, it has been argued that the fundamental bridge toward education is cognitive psychology, not neuroscience. We discuss four specific cases in which neuroscience synergizes with other disciplines to serve education, ranging from very general physiological aspects of human learning such as nutrition, exercise and sleep, to brain architectures that shape the way we acquire language and reading, and neuroscience tools that increasingly allow the early detection of cognitive deficits, especially in preverbal infants. Neuroscience methods, tools and theoretical frameworks have broadened our understanding of the mind in a way that is highly relevant to educational practice. Although the bridge's cement is still fresh, we argue why it is prime time to march over it.

Tell us what you think in the comments:

  1. What do you think of the suggestion to bring school starting times forward to address sleepy students? Should we be scheduling student nap-time?
  2. Should we be raising our children bilingual because of its associated benefits to cognitive control?
  3. What can neuroscience not help education with? And what are the best partnerships going forward?


Submitted bycrli-administrator on Tue, 11/15/2016, 17:07

I make a start to what I am sure will be a lively discussion. I think one problem with the  with the  bilingual is that the parents/caregivers must be native speakers. Else that doesn't really work, as far as I understand the linguistic research.

Yes indeed Peter. I guess more generally, language learning needs an authentic environment to motivate and scaffold development. In other words, if a language isn't being naturally spoken in a child's environment, they will struggle to learn and retain it.

Somewhat relatedly, there was a recent Nature paper which basically found that this 'bilingual cognitive control' advantage to exist even in individuals who were exposed to one language until age 3, then never spoke that language again (and only spoke a second language for the rest of their lives).