Effects of Stress on Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity pic
Image: nature.com

Willy Wood, an educational consultant in Columbia, MO, uses his knowledge of how the brain works to effectively address teachers. Willy Wood has helped numerous educators understand neuroplasticity and those practices that either enhance or detract from student learning.

As scientific knowledge of neuroplasticity increases, educators are coming to understand how students’ thought processes affect their ability to learn. While some situations make a student more receptive to new information and to the mastering of a subject, stress and nerves have been proven to inhibit processing. These stress states may result from failure-related frustration or from the effects of boredom and lack of intellectual stimulation.

Stress causes the brain to block signals to and from the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for transforming new learning into long-term memory and understanding. Instead, the lower brain takes over. The lower brain controls fight, flight, and freeze responses that cause a student to disconnect from instruction.

Because this part of the brain is engaged when a student experiences either a lack of challenge or what the student perceives as an excess of challenge, the brain does not retain information and the student does not display mastery. This can lead both student and teacher to believe that the student is not capable of understanding the material. The long-term results can include a mindset of failure, in which expectations are below what the student is actually capable of doing.


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