Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Neuro Myths: Separating Fact and Fiction in Brain-Based Learning

New research on educational neuroscience tells us how kids learn -- and how you should teach.

by Sara Bernard

Myth Busting

Some of the biggest neuro myths, or misguided beliefs about neuroscience that have invaded the general psyche, include the following:

  • The brain is static, unchanging, and set before you start school. The most widely accepted conclusion of current research in neuroscience is that of neuroplasticity: Our brains grow, change, and adapt at all times in our lives. "Virtually everyone who studies the brain is astounded at how plastic it is," Fischer says.
  • Some people are left-brained and some are right-brained. "This is total nonsense," says Fischer, "unless you've had half of your brain removed." This may have emerged from a misunderstanding of the split-brain work of Nobel Prize winner Roger Sperry, who noticed differences in the brain when he studied people whose left and right brains had been surgically disconnected.
  • We use only 10 percent of our brains. This is also false, according to Wolfe, Fischer, and a slew of scientists across the globe. In fact, brain imaging has yet to produce evidence of any inactive areas in a healthy brain.
  • Male and female brains are radically different. Though there may be subtle differences between male and female brains, there is absolutely no significant evidence to suggest that the genders learn or should be taught differently. This myth might stem from a misinterpretation of books such as The Essential Difference: Men, Women, and the Extreme Male Brain, which focused largely on patients with autism.
  • The ages 0-3 are more important than any other age for learning. Even though the connections between neurons, called synapses, are greatest in number during this period, many of the published studies that have to do with teaching during these "critical" time periods involved rats and mazes, not human beings.

"Understanding the Brain: The Birth of a Learning Science," a report published by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), examines these and other unfounded neuroscience claims. Unfortunately, the science behind these ideas is often misunderstood and milked for profit. Read full article .....

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