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The

Neuroscience
of Learning
Write by Judy Willis W.D

41 Neuroscience Terms Every Teacher Should Know


1. Affective filter
1.1an emotional state of stress in children during which they are not
responsive to processing, learning, and storing new information.
1.2affective (emotional) filter is in the amygdala, which becomes hyperactive
during periods of high stress
1.3In hyperstimulated state, new information does not pass through the
amygdala to reach the higher thinking centers of the brain.

2. Amygdala
2.1Part of the limbic system in the temporal lobe.
2.2When the amygdala senses a threat, it becomes overactivated (high
metabolic activity as seen by greatly increased radioactive glucose and
oxygen use in the amygdala region on PET and fMRI scans). These
neuroimaging findings show that when children feel helpless and anxious.
3. Axon
3.1This is the tiny fibrous extension of the neuron away from the cell body to
other target cells (neurons, muscles, glands).

4. Brain mapping
4.1Using electrographic (EEG) response over time, brain mapping measures
electrical activity representing brain activation along neural pathways.
4.2This technique allows scientists to track which parts of the brain are active
when a person is processing information at various stages of information
intake, patterning, storing, and retrieval.
4.3 The levels of activation in particular brain regions are associated with the
intensity of information processing.
5. Central Nervous System
5.1This is the portion of the nervous system comprised of the spinal cord and
brain.

6. Cerebellum
6.1This is a large cauliflower-looking structure on the top of the brainstem.
This structure is very important in motor movement and motor-vestibular
memory and learning.
7. Cerebral Cortex
7.1This is the outer most layer of the cerebral hemispheres of the brain.

7.2 The cortex mediates all conscious activity including planning, problem
solving, language, and speech. It is also involved in perception and
voluntary motor activity.
8. Cognition
8.1This refers to the mental process by which we become aware of the world
and use that information to problem solve and make sense out of the
world.
8.2It is somewhat oversimplified but cognition refers to thinking and all of the
mental processes related to thinking.
9. Dendrites
9.1Branched protoplasmic extensions that sprout from the arms (axons) or
the cell bodies of neurons.
9.2Dendrites conduct electrical impulses toward the neighboring neurons. A
single nerve may possess many dendrites.
9.3 Dendrites increase in size and number in response to learned skills,
experience, and information storage.
9.4 New dendrites grow as branches from frequently activated neurons.
Proteins called neurotrophins, such as nerve growth factor, stimulate
this dendrite growth.
10.Dopamine
10.1 A neurotransmitter most associated with attention, decision making,
executive function, and reward-stimulated learning.
10.2 Dopamine release on neuroimaging has been found to increase in
response to rewards and positive experiences. Scans reveal greater
dopamine release while subjects are playing, laughing, exercising, and
receiving acknowledgment (e.g., praise) for achievement.

11.Executive Functions
11.1 Cognitive processing of information that takes place in areas in the
prefrontal cortex that exercise conscious control over ones emotions and
thoughts.
11.2 This control allows for patterned information to be used for organizing,
analyzing, sorting, connecting, planning, prioritizing, sequencing, selfmonitoring, self-correcting, assessment, abstractions, problem solving,
attention focusing, and linking information to appropriate actions.

12.Functional Brain Imaging (neuroimaging)

12.1 The use of techniques such as PET scans and fMRI imaging to
demonstrate the structure, function, or biochemical status of the brain.
12.2 Structural imaging reveals the overall structure of the brain, and
functional neuroimaging provides visualization of the processing of
sensory information coming to the brain and of commands going from the
brain to the body.
12.3 This processing is visualized directly as areas of the brain that are lit
up by increased metabolism, blood flow, oxygen use, or glucose uptake.
Functional brain imaging reveals neural activity in particular brain regions
and networks of connecting brain cells as the brain performs discrete
cognitive tasks.

13. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)


13.1 This type of functional brain imaging uses the paramagnetic properties
of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin in the blood to demonstrate which brain
structures are activated and to what degree during various performance
and cognitive activities.
13.2 During most fMRI learning research, subjects are scanned while they
are exposed to visual, auditory, or tactile stimuli; the scans then reveal
the brain structures that are activated by these experiences.

14.Glia
14.1 These are specialized cells that nourish, support, and complement the
activity of neurons in the brain.
14.2 Astrocytes are the most common and appear to play a key role in
regulating the amount of neurotransmitter in the synapse by taking up
excess neurotransmitter.

15.Graphic Organizers
15.1 Diagrams that are designed to coincide with the brains style of
patterning.
15.2 In order for sensory information to be encoded (the initial processing of
the information entering from the senses), consolidated, and stored, the
information must be patterned into a brain-compatible form. Graphic
organizers can promote this patterning in the brain when children

participate in creating relevant connections to their existing memory


circuitry.

16.Gray Matter
16.1 The gray refers to the brownish-gray color of the nerve cell bodies
(neurons) of the outer cortex of the brain as compared with white matter,
which is primarily composed of supportive cells and connecting tracks.
16.2 Neurons are darker than other brain matter, so the cortex or outer
layer of the brain appears darker gray and is called gray matter because
neurons are most dense in that layer.

17.Hippocampus
17.1 A ridge in the floor of each lateral ventricle of the brain that consists
mainly of gray matter that has a major role in memory processes.
17.2 The hippocampus takes sensory inputs and integrates them with
relational or associational patterns from preexisting memories, thereby
binding the information from the new sensory input into storable patterns
of relational memories.

18.Limbic System
18.1 This is a group of functionally and developmentally linked structures in
the brain (including the amygdala, cingulate cortex, hippocampus, septum
and basal ganglia).
18.2 The limbic system is involved in regulation of emotion, memory, and
processing complex socio-emotional communication.

19.Long-Term Memory
19.1 Long-term memory is created when short-term memory is
strengthened through review and meaningful association with existing
patterns and prior knowledge.
19.2 This strengthening results in a physical change in the structure of
neuronal circuits.

20.Metacognition

20.1 Knowledge about ones own information processing and strategies that
influence ones learning that can optimize future learning.
20.2 After a lesson or assessment, when children are prompted to
recognize the successful learning strategies they used, that reflection can
reinforce the effective strategies.

21.Myelin
21.1 The fatty substance that covers and protects nerves. Myelin is a
layered tissue that sheathes the axons (nerve fibers).
21.2 This sheath around the axon acts like a conductor in an electrical
system, ensuring that messages sent by axons are not lost as they travel
to the next neuron.
21.3 Myelin increases the efficiency of nerve impulse travel and grows in
layers in response to more stimulation of a neural pathway.

22.Myelination
22.1 The formation of the myelin sheath around a nerve fiber.

23.Neuronal Circuits
23.1 Neurons communicate with each other by sending coded messages
along electrochemical connections.
23.2 When there is repeated stimulation of specific patterns of stimulation
between the same groups of neurons, their connecting circuits (dendrites)
become more developed and more accessible to efficient stimulation and
response.
23.3 This is where practice (repeated stimulation of grouped neuronal
connections in neuronal circuits) results in more successful recall.

24.Neurons
24.1 Specialized cells in the brain and throughout the nervous system that
control storage and processing of information to, from, and within the
brain, spinal cord, and nerves.
24.2 Neurons are composed of a main cell body, a single major axon for
outgoing electrical signals, and a varying number of dendrites to conduct
coded information throughout the nervous system.

25.Neuroplasticity

25.1 This refers to the remarkable capacity of the brain to change its
molecular, microarchitectural, and functional organization in response to
injury or experience.
25.2 Dendrite formation and dendrite and neuron destruction (pruning)
allows the brain to reshape and reorganize the networks of connections in
response to increased or decreased use of these pathways.

26.Neurotransmitters
26.1 Brain proteins that are released by the electrical impulses on one side
of the synapse (axonal terminal) and then float across the synaptic gap
carrying the information with them to stimulate the nerve ending
(dendrite) of the next cell in the pathway.
26.2 Once the neurotransmitter is taken up by the dendrite nerve ending,
the electric impulse is reactivated in that dendrite to travel along to the
next nerve.
26.3 Neurotransmitters in the brain include serotonin, tryptophan,
acetylcholine, dopamine, and others that transport information across
synapses and also circulate through the brain, much like hormones, to
influence larger regions of the brain.
26.4 When neurotransmitters are depleted, by too much information
traveling through a nerve circuit without a break, the speed of
transmission along the nerve slows down to a less efficient level.

27.Numeracy
27.1 The ability to reason with numbers and other mathematical concepts.
Childrens concepts of number and quantity develop with brain maturation
and experience.

28.Occipital Lobes (visual memory areas)


28.1 These posterior lobes of the brain process optical input among other
functions.

29.Oligodendrocytes
29.1 Oligodendrocytes are the glia that specialize to form the myelin sheath
around many axonal projections.

30.Parietal lobes
30.1 Parietal lobes on each side of the brain process sensory data, among
other functions.

31.Patterning
31.1 Patterning is the process whereby the brain perceives sensory data and
generates patterns by relating new information with previously learned
material or chunking material into pattern systems it has used before.
31.2 Education is about increasing the patterns children can use, recognize,
and communicate. As the ability to see and work with patterns expands,
the executive functions are enhanced.
31.3 Whenever new material is presented in such a way that children see
relationships, they can generate greater brain cell activity (formation of
new neural connections) and achieve more successful patterns for longterm memory storage and retrieval.

32.Positron Emission Tomography (PET scans)


32.1 Radioactive isotopes are injected into the blood attached to molecules
of glucose. As a part of the brain is more active, its glucose and oxygen
demands increase. The isotopes attached to the glucose give off
measurable emissions used to produce maps of areas of brain activity.
32.2 The higher the radioactivity count, the greater the activity taking place
in that portion of the brain. PET scanning can show blood flow, oxygen,
and glucose metabolism in the tissues of the working brain that reflect the
amount of brain activity in these regions while the brain is processing
sensory input (information).
32.3 The biggest drawback of PET scanning is that because the radioactivity
decays rapidly, it is limited to monitoring short tasks. fMRI technology
does not have this same time limitation and has become the preferred
functional imaging technique in learning research.

33.Prediction
33.1 Prediction is what the brain does with the information it patterns.
Prediction occurs when the brain has enough information in a patterned
memory category that it can find similar patterns in new information and
predict what the patterns mean. For example if you see the number
sequence 3,6,9,12,.. you predict the next number will be 15 because
you recognize the pattern of counting by threes.
33.2 Through careful observation the brain learns more and more about our
world and is able to make more and more accurate predictions about what
will come next. Prediction is often what is measured in intelligence tests.

This predicting ability is the basis for successful reading, calculating, test
taking, goal- setting, and appropriate social interactions behavior.
Successful prediction is one of the best problem-solving strategies the
brain has.

34.Prefrontal Cortex (front, outer parts of the frontal lobes)


34.1 The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is a hub of neural networks with intake and
output to almost all other regions of the brain.
34.2 In the PFC relational, working-memories can be mentally manipulated
to become long-term memory and emotions can be consciously evaluated.
Executive functions directed by PFC networks respond to input through
the highest levels of cognition.
34.3 These functions include information evaluation, prediction, conscious
decision making, emotional awareness and response, organizing,
analyzing, sorting, connecting, planning, prioritizing, sequencing, selfmonitoring, self-correcting, assessment, abstraction, deduction, induction,
problem solving, attention focusing, and linking information to planning
and directing actions.

35.Pruning: Neurons and their connections are pruned (destroyed) when they are
not used. In a baby, the brain overproduces brain cells (neurons) and
connections between brain cells (synapses) and then starts pruning them
back around the age of three. The second wave of synapse formation occurs
just before puberty and is followed by another phase of pruning. Pruning
allows the brain to consolidate learning by pruning away unused neurons and
synapses and wrapping more white matter (myelin) around the neuronal
networks more frequently used to stabilize and strengthen their ability to
conduct the electrical impulses of nerve- to-nerve communication.

36.RAD learning
36.1 There three main brain systems that are keys to building better brains.
The three systems can be referred to as RAD, which is short for Reach and
Discover.

37.Reticular Activating System (RAS)


37.1 This lower part of the posterior brain filters all incoming stimuli and
makes the decision as to what sensory input is attended to or ignored.
The main categories that focus the attention of the RAS include novelty
(changes in the environment), surprise, danger, and movement.

38.Rote Memory
38.1 This type of memorization is the most commonly required memory task
for children in school. This type of learning involves memorizing, and
soon forgetting, facts that are often of little primary interest or emotional
value to the child, such as lists of words.
38.2 Facts that are memorized by rehearsing them over and over, that dont
have obvious or engaging patterns or connections, are rote memories.
Without giving the information context or relationship to childrens lives,
these facts are stored in remoter areas of the brain.
38.3 These isolated bits are more difficult to locate and retrieve because
there are fewer nerve pathways leading to these remote storage systems.

39.Serotonin
39.1 A neurotransmitter used to carry messages between neurons. Too little
serotonin may be a cause of depression and inattention. Dendritic
branching is enhanced by the serotonin secreted by the brain
predominantly between the sixth and eighth hour of sleep (non-REM).

40.Short-Term Memory (working memory)


40.1 This memory can hold and manipulate information for use in the
immediate future. Information is only held in working memory for about a
minute. The working memory span of the mature brain (less in children) is
approximately 7-9 chunks of data
41.Synapse
41.1 These gaps between nerve endings are where neurotransmitters like
dopamine carry information across the space separating the axon
extensions of one neuron from the dendrite that leads to the next neuron
in the pathway. Before and after crossing the synapse as a chemical
message, information is carried in an electrical state when it travels down
the nerve.

42.Venn diagram
42.1 A type of graphic organizer used to compare and contrast information.
The overlapping areas represent similarities, and the nonoverlapping
areas represent differences.