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What are Neuromyths?

Partial truths – false beliefs about the brain and/or its functioning.
Welcome, everyone, to neuromyth sorting [INAUDIBLE] fiction. What is a neuromyth I hear you ask. Well, it’s a, once again, a compound word that merges the word neuro, which it means brain or nervous system, and myth, which is a strongly held misbelief, and in this case, about the brain. So where do these neuromyths come from? Well, they can come from a number of places. They can come from over generalisations of scientific data. They can come from distortions of the scientific data. They can come from a lack of knowledge or popular press. They may even be birthed in old technology. But since then, technology has actually improved.
The myth can actually be true in the lab but not necessarily in the educational setting. What are some of the popular myths that are circulating within educational settings at the moment? Actually, and not just educational setting– in life in general. Well, the first one is the fact that the both the left and the right hemisphere of the brain actually operate in isolation. Well, the fact is they don’t. Many things that we do may reside predominantly in one side or the other. But in everything we do, the brain actually works together as a whole. And our neural pathways actually flicker backwards and forwards and trigger one another. So essentially, anything creative often has mathematics and right brain thinking with it.
And anything that might be very scientific also has creative elements in it. So the brain actually works together all the time, backwards and forwards. Now in the line of that, another myth is the fact that we only use 10% of our brain. Well, the fact is we use all our brain all the time. And our brain no matter what we’re doing, with me holding this brain, I’m actually using some part of my brain. Me thinking about what I’m saying to you on this video is another part. Me actually breathing, thinking, relating to Malcolm who’s behind our camera, all of those elements that make up what we do operates every part of our brain at once.
Because at the end of the day, we have 86 billion neurons operating within our brain. Now, those are then connected to thousands of synapses, which gives us trillions of possibilities and the ability to be able to think and reason and do life. Another myth that is very common in educational settings is that we learn best in a preferred learning style. Well, the fact is our brain likes multi-sensory learning in general. We actually can work best when we get it from whether it’s in written form, whether it’s in verbal form, whether it’s in visual form, whether it’s in [INAUDIBLE],, all of those learning styles together actually find ways in which we can hook on to other memories and senses.
So various senses can actually help us learn so much better. So it’s not one learning style or another. But if we as educators can provide a multi-sensory learning opportunity, that would be the best for our students. A very popular neuromyth that is in society at the moment is the fact that we can multitask. Well, we can’t. Our brain will either do one thing or another. And this is where men can actually say we’ve known this for years. Because they say that they can’t multitask. But the fact is neither can women, neither can anybody. We can either focus on one thing and do that and focus on another.
Now you might say oh, but I can text and I can talk at the same time. Well, the fact is you can’t because you are either texting. And then what happens is your brain shifts from one to another. It’s either doing that– and this could happen very quickly. But it’s constantly shifting, not working together as one. So that is one neuromyth that is out there. The other is the fact that our brain shrinks if we don’t eat or drink six to eight cups of water a day. Another one is that brain damage is permanent. Well, our brain can actually grow back.
And we’ve actually seen on scans that children who might be born with 3% of a brain after several years have actually grown and got about 30% of a brain. A child who may have had– because of seizures may have half a brain removed will actually begin to grow their brain back again. So brain damage is not permanent. Our brain is not fixed. Well, neuroplasticity has proven that over and over again. And that has become very well known. All right, one of the things that neuromyths can actually do is they can cause harm. And just as I said in another presentation is that we want to do no harm. That’s what a neuroplastician does.
They do no harm to the brain and to the learning experience of the child. One of the things that we need to think about is there are several myths that are quite harmful in the learning environment. One is that boys are more intelligent than girls. And that can actually– and that is a myth. But it can be very detrimental to a girl and to her self-esteem. And self-esteem, and like we’ve said before, emotions are very much wrapped up in our learning experience. The other one is that intelligence is fixed. Well, that we’re born– you’re either born with the genetic predisposition to be smart or you’re not. Well, that’s a load of rubbish in my opinion.
Well, it’s not my opinion, actually. It’s scientific fact. We can learn. And we can grow. And the nurture response and the relationship response can actually show that the brain can actually grow. The last one is the fact that boys and girls do better in different subjects than others. For instance, in the past, they’ve said the boys have got better mathematical brains. They have got better scientific brains. Well, the fact is that they don’t. Both boys and girls can be just as clever in those learning opportunities if they are given the same opportunities. So for instance, if we can nurture and teach our girls that they can be mathematical or they can be scientific, then they can flourish in that environment.
The same is with that girls are more creative and can do the art. Well, so can boys. Boys, if they’re nurtured and they’re encouraged in those spaces, because they’ve shown a love and appreciation for those subjects, we should be encouraging both boys and girls in multiple subjects to be the best that they can in things that they love and enjoy.

The word “neuromyth” is a compound word that joins:

  • neuro, as in the cells related to the nervous system and the brain, with
  • myth, as in a “widely held but false belief or idea” (Tokuhama-Espinosa, 2018, p. 11).

Tokuhama-Espinosa (2017 – 2018) asserts that myths encompass:

  • Partial truths – false beliefs about the brain and/or its functioning.

  • Overgeneralisations of scientific findings (exaggerations of the data beyond the original findings and purpose).

  • Misinterpretations of the findings and data.

  • Misconceptions and unsubstantiated beliefs.

  • Neuromyths are “hypotheses which have been invalidated [but which] nevertheless leave traces and if these have captured a wider imagination, the ‘myths’ take root (OECD, 2007, p. 108).”

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Neuroplasticians and Neuromyths

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