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Educational Neuroscience

Educational neuroscience studies how the brain learns. It takes into consideration psychology, education and neuroscience (PEN). At its core using the understandings from these three disciplines, it recognises that under the skull and cerebrum lies the control centre of the brain – the limbic system. This is part of the brain determines whether a student will learn or whether they will be led by their emotions filter the amygdala and react in the fight, flight and fright response.

Educators need to keep in mind when they are creating curriculum and subject matter the limbic system of their students and the emotional response they will be activating.

Watch the short video below by Graham Hutton (2018) on brain-based learning and the fundamentals of the limbic system.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Hutton (2018), explains that:

  • The thalamus is the Grand Central Station of the brain. All incoming sensory information goes through it first.

  • The hypothalamus is the life support centre. It controls body temperature, hunger, thirst, the respiratory system, heart rate and even controls the pituitary gland, which is responsible for hormone release.

  • The hippocampus (seahorse) controls memory processing from working memory to long-term memory.

  • The amygdala is predominately about survival. It controls fear, rage, anger and is connected to emotional memory.

  • The neurotransmitters (chemicals that the brain reads or feeds off) are needed to communicate with the brain. They help move the chemical messages to the brain and create appropriate responses (e.g. pulling away from danger when you hurt yourself).

According to Hutton (2018), educators need to keep in mind how they present information, how much information they offer and what the most important part is of that information. When they have done this, they need to think of strategies that include repetition rehearsal and practice to help their students properly code this information. According to primary recency effect (see image below), the information presented at the beginning of the lesson (Primacy) and the end of the experience (Recency) tends to be retained better than information presented in the middle (Sousa, 2016).

graph illustrating retention in a 40 minute learning episode

Hutton (2018 ) suggests that creating brain-based lesson plans will allow for optimal learning experiences, novelty and an understanding that the brain loves to be entertained using different stimuli. Primarily higher engagement and retention rates occur within students when an educator delivers fun ways.


Hutton (2018, Feb). Brain Based Learning. [video file]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-T9f50_uvlg&feature=youtu.be
Sousa, D. A. (2016). Primacy/recency effect. The Brain Learns. Retrieved from; http://www.lancsngfl.ac.uk/secondary/math/download/file/How%20the%20Brain%20Learns%20by%20David%20Sousa.pdf

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This article is from the free online course:

Neuroplasticians and Neuromyths

Central Queensland University