Neuroscience and Education: The Entrepreneurs Guide to Neuroscience

Building Brain Power

We all know that children are capable of learning much more at an early age when their brains peak in activity. So when do these special moments arise and how can we capitalise on them?

From Neuron to Newton

It may be surprising to hear that most neurons in the brain are generated before birth. After birth, the brain cleverly fine tunes connections with relevant exposure to new experiences.  By enriching a child’s environment, we can maximise the learning potential of the young brain.

What’s on Offer?

Educational tools are multimillion pound businesses and in recent years the market has been flooded with the presence of technology that uses the prefix ‘neuro’ or ‘brain’ to promote products. But how much evidence is really out there to verify these claims and how do we access this information to develop products that accurately reflect the research?

Neuroscience is expanding rapidly but it’s still in its relative infancy with regards to education research. As neuroscience in education grows in interest, more products are entering the market that lack actual neuroscience evidence. Many of these loosely draw dramatic inferences to the role of the brain in learning and retaining information and are primarily used to influence the public into buying.

It’s not surprising then, that most of the neuroscience findings applied to education have turned out to be myths. Such as the left brain right brain myth that’s used regularly as the fundamental to many brain training products currently on the market. However, the fact that these myths have gained popularity demonstrates the growing interest in the brain and its application to different industries.

There are many examples of neuroscience research that has found its way into the classroom with integrity. One such example is from studies that show how children with dyslexia have reduced neural activation in certain brain regions which are essential for processing basic word sounds (the phonological theory of dyslexia)1. Developmental neuroscience has also demonstrated the advantages between learning by rote and learning through conceptual understanding in mathematics2.

These examples give confidence that opportunities are available to use neuroscience research with assurance for the development of education-based learning and development tools.

Capitalising on the Brain for Education

There has been focus on promoting the academic and emotional intelligence of children using modern technology. The concept of emotional intelligence has gained wide recognition and has also been found to be associated with academic success3. Tools focusing on training the brain to be more efficient or emotionally intelligent also has wider interest in the leadership and management forums.

The appropriate translation of educational neuroscience results can help develop more reliable products and services that encourage learning and retention in children. Imaging technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) reveal that unseen neural connections in the living human brain can provide the tools to verify product capabilities.

The Neuroscientist’s Opinion

Most neuroscientists will insist on applying cautious optimism when looking for the bridge between research and education. It is very difficult for neuroscientists to translate laboratory interactions into real life educational scenarios.

Neuroscientists methods are also highly expensive, and educationally relevant neuroscience will certainly require additional funding. But the essential claim of neuroscience and education is that the two fields are interdependent and entrepreneurs should prioritise driving potential funding towards shared questions.

Commercialising Opportunities with Integrity

So where would a business entrepreneur begin when developing educational tools to enhance learning in children?  You wouldn’t go far wrong if you consulted an authentic neuroscientist.

One of the reasons there is so much misinformation out there is because there are so few people who know enough about education and neuroscience to link the two together. It seems that the entire industry has been relying on others’ expertise to interpret data. Providing a fertile breeding ground for opportunists to misuse results to promote their products.

A good start would be to look at interpreting neuroimaging data. Most of this data is in the public domain but interpreting it to discover the opportunities requires a skill only neuroscientists have.

It does seem a fair swap to have a specialist translate the latest research for you to develop products that will sell and that might even deliver what you promise.

Considering the low income and lengthy working hours neuroscientists are exposed to, it may be a welcome additional revenue stream.

What would you gain from this?

A great product that will beat the competitors because it works and you have a real neuroscientist to endorse it!

A win win for all!

 

  1. Rumsey, JM; Andreason, P; Zametkin, AJ; Aquino, T; King, AC; Hamburger, SD; Pikus, A; Rapoport, JL; Cohen, RM (1992). “Failure to activate the left temporoparietal cortex in dyslexia: An oxygen 15 positron emission tomographic study”. Archives of Neurology. 49 (5): 527–534.
  2. Ischebeck, A.; Zamarian, L; Siedentopf, C; Koppelstätter, F; Benke, T; Felber, S; Delazer, M (2006). “How specifically do we learn? Imaging the learning of multiplication and subtraction”. NeuroImage. Elsevier. 30 (4): 1365–1375.
  3. Goswami, U (2006). “Neuroscience and education: from research to practice?”. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. Nature Publishing Group. 7(5): 406-411.