14 05 2015

Recent discoveries about how the brain works are shedding light on the processes of learning. Better understand how to acquire new knowledge can help us to improve the schools and the educational system. Scientists and teachers begin to go hand in hand.

 If I could slip on tiptoe in a class of literature of a Finnish school, perhaps think that the children are in recess or pausing. Because not we would find the teacher on the stage explaining the work of, We say, Shakespeare, and the guys taking notes and listening to. Nothing that. Most likely, We would see students scattered in small groups developing lists of music which perform soundtrack to express the feelings of the characters of Hamlet. Or Romeo and Juliet.

It is just a real example of something that science has now proven and that many teachers already began to sense some time: I do not learn to base of store concepts, repeating and repeating, but do, experience and, above all, thrill us. And that if we learn in Group, those skills persist with greater intensity in the memory.

As recently as 30 years, largely unknown how the brain worked. However, the developments and advances in areas such as medicine and, above all, Neuroscience have enabled us to scrutinize the neurons, their relationships, and understand a little more brain activity.


"That has opened a new stage in order to know better ourselves, to understand better how we operate and apply that knowledge to areas as diverse as the economy, the culture and education", considered David good, Professor of Genetics at the University of Barcelona, specialized in the formation of the brain and science popularizer.

And this is how in recent years we have begun to listen to new terms, as neuromarketing, neuroeconomics, neuroarquitectura and also, neuroeducation, an international movement, still incipient, scientists and educators who seek to apply the discoveries about the brain in the school and University to help learn and teach better.

"So far we have talked about memory, attention, the emotion, but in a scattered way, without actually realizing how the codes that brings the brain to learn or memorize are so essential for survival as eating or drinking", designates the Neuroscientist Francisco Mora, who has recently published "Neuroeducation. You can only learn what is ama", one of the first manuals devoted to this theme and that has become a phenomenon of best sellers.

Know those codes of brain functioning has permitted to demonstrate, for example, the importance of curiosity and excitement to be able to acquire new knowledge; which sport is essential to secure the learning and also that the brain is not a continuum, but that there are windows of knowledge that opens and closes depending on the stages of life.

And if until now educators and scientists had been isolated, some in classrooms and others in their laboratories, now begin to go hand in hand. Universities such as John Hopkins, in United States, already they have launched research projects on neuroeducation, as also Harvard, There is a program called mind, Brain and education that aims to explore the intersection of biological neuroscience and education. It is the era of Neuroeducation.



Remember when they were in school and in specific subjects made them learn dozens of things in memory? If formulas of physics and chemistry, If the capital of Colombia is Bogotá, that if the French Revolution erupted in 1789... Data and more data that time just deleting. And even more if the Professor had was well boring. On the other hand, sure that they resemble some teacher who managed to arouse their attention and interest.

And it is that emotion is the secret ingredient of learning, says neuroscience, fundamental to who teaches and who learns. "The binomial emocion-cognicion is indissoluble, intrinsic to the anatomical and functional design of the brain", explains Francisco Mora, expert in neurophysiology. Apparently, the information that comes through the senses goes through emotional brain or limbic system until it is processed by the cerebral cortex, responsible for cognitive processes. Within the limbic system, the amygdala plays a vital role. It is one of the most primitive parts of the brain and turns to things considered important to the survival, What helps to consolidate a memory more efficiently.

The stories, por ejemplo, they tend to operate as a true alarm clocks of this brain region. Good David has proven with its University students. "When I have explain, por ejemplo, Tartaglia tfor examplemathematical formula they need to solve many problems of genetics, I have that in fact the Italian mathematician who formulated it was not called Tartaglia, but Niccolo Fontana. What happens is that he was tongue-tied, o Tartaglia, in Italian. And at the end the nickname that had ended up giving name to the formula. That anecdote POPs of laughter to students and the best thing is that already don't forget the formula".

The surprise is another essential factor to activate the amygdala. The brain is an organ which likes to process patterns, understand things that are always repeated in the same way, It is the way how is facing the world that surrounds it. Now well, everything that escapes those patterns is stored deeper way in the brain. Why use elements in the class that break the monotony, with expectations, more impact on learning.

In this sense, Jaime Romano, physician and neurologist, leading the project pioneer Neuromarketingproposes: "In a class of history, the teacher arrives one day dressed as Napoleon, for example, and the guys are also dress and have fun representing an episode of history. That it will remain deeply engraved in their minds". And Roman knows very well what speaks.

This Mexican neuroscientist has been investigating the brain from more than 30 years as a researcher at UCLA and the Mexican Institute of mental health. It has also served to children and adolescents with learning disabilities and development. A decade ago started a laboratory of Neurosciences to try to better understand the learning process in children and improve it.

To do this, "I designed a model which is known as neuropiramide, with six rungs. Each one of them considers what happens to the information when you are entering through the organs of the senses, How is it processed in the brain until it becomes learning. And we have seen that it has to do with processes of attention, emotional", explains Roman.

Now, This Mexican doctor is launching a project that confesses that it is a dream for him. In the hands of developers, you are designing entertaining games, very attractive for children, but they impact on each and every one of the steps of the neuropiramide. "There will be games that reinforce, for example, process of care of children; other, the process of analysis and synthesis", explains Roman. Like this, the idea is to create a platform with video games aimed at different ages children arriving home from school will catch up to play and to spend it well, develop their mental activities.

"We want to improve the mental and emotional capacity of the kids, the calculation process, understanding, and that will have an impact in that it will better learn math, to read and understand texts, to fix your attention"explained excited Roman. And it highlights the importance that has the game, the fun part, fun, experiential learning. The game is a gateway to learning and new technologies are a great ally, since they quickly capture the attention of children.


Move your neurons

In antiquity they already sensed the relationship between exercise and physical and mental well-being, Mind Sana in Corpore Sano. And in recent years, Science has shown this relationship. Apparently, whenever we practice cardiovascular sport, to shrink and stretch the muscles they secrete a protein that travels to the brain and there further brain plasticity, that new neurons are created, new connections between them or synapses, and rightly memory centers.

"Sometimes when a student goes wrong at school - designated University Professor David good- remove it from the sport, so that you can study more. But it is a mistake, because what we are doing is to subtract you attribute that allows you to memorize what studies. Many times it is not a matter of hours, but quality of hours".

Has also been that sport activates the secretion of molecules called endorphins and opiates are, able to generate feeling of well-being, of pleasure, optimism, and closely related to the concentration and attention.


Taking advantage of windows

One of the most interesting and new things that defends the neuroeducation are the "windows". Contrary to what was believed a long time, the brain is not static and is learning things without more one after another, but "there are plastic windows, critical periods in which learning is more favoured than other", said Francisco Mora, 'Neuroeducation' author.

Like this, for example, to learn how to speak the window opens at birth and when the seven years, approximately. That is not to say that past that age the child not to acquire the language, because thanks to the enormous plasticity of the brain, would it even though it would cost much more and, ensures Mora, would never have a mastery of the language as another child who has learned to speak of the 0 to the 3 years.

Discover that there are specific learning periods ago that schools must also rethink the educational model. For David good, expert in formation of the brain, "to the 10 o 12 years, the brain has a specific window to learn skills, to handle information, to reason. This stage is perhaps the point enhance the understanding of a text; they are able to understand and extract information; that you learn to reason mathematically, instead of memorizing much content. In short, work those skills that will later form a brain with desire to learn new things".

The current education system in some cases strikes those brain windows. For example, When are children very young, have them sitting in a class, still, "we know that it has a negative impact on your brain", alert Jaime Romano, at the forefront of Neuromarketing. Because to be able to mature, create new networks of neurons, the brain needs new experiences. "Imagine young children exposed every day to the same things... They end up making less neural networks and your brain is less developed", Adds.

Since the neuroeducation is advisable in the first years of life will be in contact with nature, an inexhaustible source of stimuli, because it is at these ages, point, when built the percepts, Forms, colors, the movement, depth, that the concepts are then Tehran. "To build good ideas should be good percepts. They are the atoms of the knowledge, thinking", emphasizes Francisco Mora, He added "we cannot understand the education properly if we do not take into account how the brain works. Neuroeducation is looking at the biological evolution and learn from it to apply to our educational processes. During the first two years of life, the sensory is basic to the construction of future concepts. The abstract, What are the construction of ideas, they come after, When has the perceptual world been rich. ”.


Ay, adolescence...!

One of the things about the current school that is completely against the codes of the brain is the way that attempts to teach teens. At this age, they begin to have subjects like biology, Chemistry, Physics, You should learn in a completely rational. The problem is that at that age the brain is fully emotional. "From an evolutionary point of view it makes sense because at this time of life the boys seek their own limits and try to overcome them. It is part of a strategy of survival of the species", explains good.

Thus, We have brains deregulated naturally emotionally to those who try to teach things rationally. "So many kids at this stage say that they don't want to do science and lost many vocations scientific and especially in the case of the girls", Add this researcher in genetics.

But, how fix it? Because... introducing thrill. Instead of talking only of formulas and theorems, try to bring science into their lives, engage your social brain. And if the Professor of mathematics not directly explain the Pythagorean theorem, but that counted his life, their adventures and misadventures, to understand what led to this philosopher and Greek mathematician to enunciating this principle?

We should also take into account schedules. Upon entering adolescence, the brain automatically delays the time to go to sleep and wake up in the morning. On the other hand, at this stage many schools advance time entry of boys. "School rhythms should be adapted to the biological", highlights good. Not necessary to be so many hours in class. Do more experiential, say experts on neuroeducation, more knowledge is taught in less time.


Change school

"The current education system is totally anachronistic. The children are bored. We teach in the same way from ago 200 years. It makes no sense", exclaims Mark Prensky, expert in education and inventor of the concept of 'digital natives'. For Sir Ken Robinson, another of the great gurus in education, the current school was designed during the industrial revolution, When it was necessary to have workers prepared to repeat the same thing over and over again. The College followed that same pattern: children who learned from memory certain knowledge and that repeating them like parrots.

But the world, It has fortunately changed. Our society is no longer based on the mass production of objects, but more and more the ideas, on creativity and emerge new professions that are adapted to this new era in which we live. "We need teachers who prepare children to deal with those new challenges. They are capable of transforming the brain, both physically and chemically, students, in the same way as a sculptor with his chisel is able from an amorphous marble to create a figure as beautiful as David", says neuroscientist Francisco Mora.

Teachers, calls for the Neuroeducation, they should start to take advantage of everything what is known of the functioning of the human brain to teach better. And that doesn't mean just math, language or literature. "Often train people so they are great professionals, but we forget that before they have to be people. And that also means learning how to enjoy your free time. Get bored because they have nothing to do, "work very fast and long followed" considered good David.

We know that there is no cognitive brain that has not been filtered by the emotional brain. Therefore, insists Mora, We must find the emotional significance of what is taught, to make students think: ' Follow teacher telling me that, which I am very interested '. "Teachers have to be the jewel in the Crown of a country, because his back bears a huge responsibility. They must be very trained and get children to feel really excited by what you learn. Because that is the basis to create not only educated citizens, but also honest and free".

 (This story was first published in the Quo Mexico magazine, in September of 2014) [en línea] Barcelona (ESP):, 14 in May of 2015 [REF. 06 October of 2014] Available on Internet:



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