The Neurological Underpinnings of Learning

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Educational consultant Willy Wood is the President of Educational Solutions International in Columbia, MO. Willy Wood also works as the President of Open Mind Technologies, Inc., where he writes, edits, and publishes the monthly brain-based learning newsletter, Neuro News.

In the brain, the learning process begins with the input of sensory information. When the brain perceives this information to be important, it pulls the information, in addition to any related memories from long-term memory into working memory (once called short-term memory), located in the prefrontal cortex. When the information is processed in the prefrontal cortex, it is also sent to the hippocampus to be integrated and consolidated with the rest of a person’s memories in long-term memory storage.

In terms of learning, the frequency with which specific neural networks are accessed has an effect on how strong they become. As such, students can strengthen their memories of a concept by repeating and practicing it many times. Research has shown that memories encoded with multiple types of sensory input are stronger than those encoded with a single type of input, implying that teachers can help students learn by incorporating both visual and audio-based components in their lessons.