ArticlePDF AvailableLiterature Review

Neuroscience and education: Myths and messages



For several decades, myths about the brain - neuromyths - have persisted in schools and colleges, often being used to justify ineffective approaches to teaching. Many of these myths are biased distortions of scientific fact. Cultural conditions, such as differences in terminology and language, have contributed to a 'gap' between neuroscience and education that has shielded these distortions from scrutiny. In recent years, scientific communications across this gap have increased, although the messages are often distorted by the same conditions and biases as those responsible for neuromyths. In the future, the establishment of a new field of inquiry that is dedicated to bridging neuroscience and education may help to inform and to improve these communications.
Imagine having a brain that is only 10%
active, that shrinks when you drink less
than 6to8 glasses of water a day and that
increases its interhemispheric connectivity
when you rub two invisible buttons on your
chest. For neuroscientists, such a brain is dif-
ficult — if not impossible — to contemplate,
but such notions are commonly held by
teachers across the world1–7. These unscien-
tific ideas are often associated with ineffec-
tive or unevaluated approaches to teaching
in the classroom, thereby affecting childrens
learning in subject areas beyond science.
Misunderstanding about brain function and
development also relates to teachers’ opin-
ions on issues such as learning disorders and
so, in turn, may influence the outcomes of
students with these disorders.
Some have suggested that the long-
standing prevalence of neuromyths in the
classroom indicates the need for caution
when including neuroscience in educational
thinking8,9. Others have suggested that these
misunderstandings show that the distance
between these two fields is too great for them
to inform each other10 or even that there is an
‘in principle’ incompatibility betweenthem11.
However, the study of neuromyths and
how they develop may provide a valuable
source of insight into the challenges of
interdisciplinary communication between
neuroscience and education, and into
how these challenges might be addressed.
Understanding the cultural distance to be
travelled between neuroscience and education
— and the biases that distort communications
along the way — may support a dispassionate
assessment of the progress in developing a
bridge across these diverse disciplines and of
what is needed to complete it. The purpose of
this Perspective article is to review what we
know about neuromyths and the forces that
have helped them to grow; to understand the
role of these forces in contemporary commu-
nications on topics at the interface of neuro-
science and education; and to consider how
communications between neuroscience and
education might be improved in thefuture.
Neuromyths in education
The first use of the term neuromyth has
been attributed to the neurosurgeon
AlanCrockard9, who coined it in the 1980s
when he referred to unscientific ideas about
the brain in medical culture12. In 2002, the
Brain and Learning project of the UK’s
Organization of Economic Co-operation and
Development (OECD)13 drew attention to the
many misconceptions about the mind and
brain that arise outside of the medical and sci-
entific communities. They redefined the term
neuromyth as a “misconception generated by
a misunderstanding, a misreading or a mis-
quoting of facts scientifically established (by
brain research) to make a case for use of brain
research in education and other contexts”
Surveys of teachers in countries with very
different cultures have revealed similarly high
levels of belief in several neuromyths (TABLE1).
This prevalence may reflect the fact that neuro-
science is rarely included in the training of
teachers, who are therefore ill-prepared to be
critical of ideas and educational programmes
that claim a neuroscientific basis.
Seeds of confusion how myths begin.
Although some writers have used words such
as fraud and scam to describe their distrust of
unscrutinised brain-based interventions14,15,
examples of cases in which entrepreneurs
have knowingly set out to mislead educators
are difficult to find. It is more likely that such
interventions originate from uninformed
interpretations of genuine scientific facts and
are promoted by victims of their own wish-
ful thinking who hold a “sincere but deluded
fixation on some eccentric theory that the
holder is absolutely sure will revolutionize
science and society” (REF.16).
There is often some remaining trace of
scientific origins in even the most bizarre
of neuromyths — a seed from which the
myth sprung forth and which may still be
contributing to its potency. For example,
although a daily intake of 6to8 glasses of
water is a contentious recommendation with
its own mythical origin17 — and there is
no evidence for underperformance among
school children who fail to meet it — stud-
ies18,19 have shown that dehydration can
influence cognitive function. This finding
may help to explain why more than a quar-
ter of UK teachers who were sampled in a
study believed that failing to meet this quota
would cause their brain to shrink (TABLE1).
Perhaps the most popular and influential
myth is that a student learns mosteffectively
when they are taught in their preferred learn-
ing style. This idea has acquired various jus-
tifications that claim to have a neuroscientific
basis. The implicit assumption seems to be
that, because different regions of the cortex
have crucial roles in visual, auditory and
sensory processing, learners should receive
Neuroscience and education:
myths and messages
Paul A.Howard-Jones
Abstract | For several decades, myths about the brain — neuromyths — have
persisted in schools and colleges, often being used to justify ineffective approaches
to teaching. Many of these myths are biased distortions of scientific fact. Cultural
conditions, such as differences in terminology and language, have contributed to
a ‘gap’ between neuroscience and education that has shielded these distortions
from scrutiny. In recent years, scientific communications across this gap have
increased, although the messages are often distorted by the same conditions and
biases as those responsible for neuromyths. In the future, the establishment of a
new field of inquiry that is dedicated to bridging neuroscience and education may
help to inform and to improve these communications.
Nature Reviews Neuroscience
AOP, published online 15 October 2014; doi:10.1038/nrn3817
© 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved
information in visual, auditory or kinaesthetic
forms according to which part of their brain
works better20. The brains interconnectivity
makes such an assumption unsound, and
reviews of educational literature and con-
trolled laboratory studies fail to support this
approach to teaching21–23. However, it is true
that there may be preferences and, perhaps
more importantly, that presenting informa-
tion in multiple sensory modes can support
Cultural conditions a space for myths to
thrive. Cultural conditions, such as differ-
ences in the terminology and language used
by neuroscientists and educators, can be
implicated in the processes that transform
scientific knowledge into self-propagating
and misleading ideas25. The international
popularity of many neuromyths suggests a
global dimension to these factors.
One condition that is likely to favour
the propagation of a myth is when counter-
evidence — as well as the neuroscientific
findings on which the myth was (wrongly)
based — is difficult to access, which effec-
tively protects the myth from scrutiny. When
such counter-evidence and findings are
complex and/or can only be found in neuro-
science journals, it is easy for non-specialists
to miss, misinterpret or ignore them and the
myth can therefore spread unchecked; for
example, according to ‘left-brain right-brain
theory26, learners’ dispositions arise from
the extent to which their left or right brain is
dominant. Although the details of such cat-
egorization varies with different educational
programmes, ‘intuitive learners’ are often
considered as more ‘right-brained’ and ‘step-
wise sequential learners’ as more ‘left-brained’
(REFS27–30). Some educational texts encour-
age teachers to determine whether a child
is left-brained or right-brained before they
attempt to teachthem30. The scientific fact
that seeded this myth is not difficult to find:
some types of cognitive process are lateralized
with regard to the additional neural activity
associated with them. Neuroimaging studies,
when appropriately interpreted, have shown
the distributed nature of neural activity dur-
ing everyday tasks. However, an uninformed
interpretation of images showing ‘hot spots,
as reproduced in popular and accessible
articles, can promote the idea that there are
isolated functional units. To non-specialists,
apparently well-defined and static islands
on one side of a brain are more suggestive of
a new phrenology than of a statistical map
indicating where activity has exceeded an
arbitrary threshold. Considering functionality
in terms of independent left and right hemi-
spheres is the simplest form of such phrenol-
ogy and categorizing learners as left-brained
or right-brained just takes this misguided idea
one stage further.
The threat of scrutiny is lowest for ideas
that are untestable. Multiple Intelligences
theory has proved popular with teachers as
a welcome argument against intelligence
quotient (IQ)-based education. It encourages
them to characterize learners in terms of a
small number of relatively independent ‘intel-
ligences’ — for example, linguistic, musical
and interpersonal31. Multiple Intelligences
theory claims to be drawn from a range of
disciplines, including neuroscience, which
— it has been claimed — is “amazingly sup-
portive of the general thrust of Multiple
Intelligences theory” (REF.32). However, the
general processing complexity of the brain
makes it unlikely that anything resembling
Multiple Intelligences theory can ever be
used to describe it, and it seems neither
accurate nor useful to reduce the vast range
of complex individual differences at neural
and cognitive levels to any limited number of
capabilities33. However, the neuromythologi-
cal part of Multiple Intelligences theory (that
is, its relation to neuroscience) is difficult to
test, not least because the task for Multiple
Intelligences theorists of defining the types
and number of intelligences remains a work
in progress.
A language barrier also separates non-
specialists from neuroscience evidence.
Apart from the technical jargon, there are
many familiar words that have new mean-
ings attached to them (including ‘learning’).
When we asked trainee teachers whether
a student could learn something without
attending to it, a surprising 43% thought
this was possible3. It is possible that teach-
ers interpret the word ‘attention’ (as in
‘paying attention’) as indicating a particular
set of overt behaviours (for example, not
Table 1 | Prevalence of neuromyths amongst practising teachers in five different international contexts
Myth*Percentage of teachers who “agree” (rather than “disagree” or “don’t know”)
United Kingdom
(n = 137)
The Netherlands
(n = 105)
(n = 278)
(n = 174)
(n = 238)
We mostly only use 10% of our brain 48 46 50 43 59
Individuals learn better when they receive
information in their preferred learning style (for
example, visual, auditory or kinaesthetic)
93 96 97 96 97
Short bouts of co‑ordination exercises can improve
integration of left and right hemispheric brain
88 82 72 60 84
Differences in hemispheric dominance (left brain
or right brain) can help to explain individual
differences amongst learners
91 86 79 74 71
Children are less attentive after sugary drinks and
57 55 44 46 62
Drinking less than 6 to 8 glasses of water a day can
cause the brain to shrink
29 16 25 11 5
Learning problems associated with developmental
differences in brain function cannot be remediated
by education
16 19 22 33 50
*The table shows some of the most popular myths reported in four different studies from the United Kingdom1, The Netherlands1, Turkey4, Greece2 and China7. In all
studies, teachers were asked to indicate their levels of agreement with statements reflecting several popular myths, shown as “agree”, “don’t know” or “disagree”.
The table shows the percentages of teachers within each sample who responded with “agree”.
© 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved
talking, looking at the teacher, and so on)
rather than as the allocation of cognitive
processing resources.
Biases how myths are shaped. Although
protection from scrutiny provides a fertile
ground for the seeds of neuromyths to ger-
minate and thrive, their shape and form may
be influenced by cultural, emotional and
even developmental biases; for example, the
mind–brain relationship cannot be simplified
to an easily digested fact. Oversimplification
of this relationship provides a perfect oppor-
tunity for introducing biases from which
misunderstandings then develop. Although
at infancy we tend not to regard mind and
brain as being distinctly different34, devel-
opmental research suggests that children
acquire a bias towards ideas about mind and
brain35. Our beliefs about the mind–brain
relationship may shape our notions of free
will and, in turn, influence decisions regard-
ing issues of personal well-being and whether
to help others36,37. From a perspective that
tends towards dualism (compared with a
materialist perspective), brain development
is less open to influence through the mind
and is, in other words, more biologically pro-
grammed and provides a stronger constraint
on learning. The potential effect of such a
belief in the classroom can be seen in studies
of Chinese teachers and UK trainee teach-
ers; those who favoured a stronger genetic
influence on educational outcome also held
stronger ideas of biologically defined limits
on what their pupils could achieve, which
suggests that the teachers felt less able to
help them3,7. Factors that bias educators’
ideas about the mind–brain relationship can
also include strong cultural forces — such
as religious belief — that greatly vary across
national boundaries. In the UK, where half
of the population report no affiliation with
any religion38, only 15% of trainee teachers
believed that the mind results from the spirit
or the soul acting on the brain. By contrast, in
Greece — which stands out among European
states in terms of how religious its people
are39 — 72% of trainee teachers believed in
Wishful and anxious thinking have also
been proposed as important emotional biases
that contribute to the distortion of sound
evidence25. Low-cost and easily implemented
classroom approaches can certainly cultivate
wishfulness amongst educators, especially
if they are fun and therefore likely to be well
received by students. The association with
neuroscience can be expected to further
boost the apparent credibility of the explana-
tion used to promote them40, as well as their
desirability41. The allure of explanations
involving the brain has probably helped to
promote programmes such as Brain Gym.
As part of this programme, learners are told
“brain buttons (soft tissue under the clavicle
to the left and right of the sternum) are mas-
saged deeply with one hand while holding the
navel with the other hand(REF.42). This is
supposed to improve many things, including
your “flow of electromagnetic energy”, your
ability to send messages from your right brain
hemisphere to the left side of the body, your
tendency to reverse letters and your ability to
keep your place while reading. Leaving aside
any flaws in its theoretical basis, there is a lack
of published research in high-quality journals
to make claims about the practical effective-
ness of Brain Gym to raise achievement. Of
the studies published elsewhere, the lack of
information about the exercises undertaken
and/or the insufficient or inappropriate analy-
sis of the results is considered to undermine
their credibility43.
To summarize, the neuromyths that have
flourished in areas of public and educa-
tional understanding of the brain are com-
fortably protected from the evidence and
concepts that are required to efface them.
This protection is provided by the scientific
concepts being fundamentally complex, by
the fact that evidence is hidden in techni-
cal journals that have their own technical
language and/or by the fact that there can-
not be any direct evidence (for example,
because the myth is untestable). Protected
from scrutiny, a range of emotional, devel-
opmental and cultural biases have influ-
enced the types of unscientific ideas that
have emerged.
Communication begins: out with the old?
In the past 10–15years, there have been
several critical analyses of the ways in which
neuroscience may, and may not, be able to
helpfully inform educational theory, policy
and practice44,45. Tentative political interest
has been evident from initiatives such as
the OECD’s supranational project Learning
Sciences and Brain Research46 and in a recent
review by the UK’s Royal Society47. Many
journal articles, reports and books have
reviewed insights from neuroscience that
have potential relevance to education and
their authors have often used these opportu-
nities to dismiss popular misunderstandings
along the way. These reviews have helped to
promote the idea that knowledge from neuro-
science might have value for education, and
an increasing number of reputable neuro-
scientists have published work for educational
There are, of course, some who do not
share this enthusiasm. Following a confer-
ence in Santiago, Chile, on Early Education
and Human Brain Development in 2007,
136 scientists signed a declaration that
stated “neuroscientific research, at this
stage in its development, does not offer
scientific guidelines for policy, practice, or
parenting.(REF.48). Although few would
disagree with this statement, its scepti-
cal tone is clear. The editorial article that
reported the declaration stated that brain
research was “not ready to relate neuronal
processes to classroom outcomes” and
referred to the possibility of generating
popular misunderstandings about the brain
as a “serious downside” to this venture49.
Despite such warnings, there are now
many individuals who are pursuing inter-
disciplinary empirical research that relates
our understanding of the neural processes
of learning to classroom outcomes such
as learning to read and learning to use
formal mathematics. It may be significant
that the individuals leading these efforts
include several signatories of the Santiago
As formal communications across the
divide between neuroscience and educa-
tion have become more frequent, it seems
prudent to ask how more recent findings in
neuroscience are being interpreted by people
in the field of education. Below, I discuss four
areas in which neuroscience has influenced
— or is close to influencing — educational
attitudes and approaches, in order to explore
whether the old biases and cultural condi-
tions responsible for neuromyths can still be
detected. Has the opening of this communi-
cation started to dissipate the old neuromyths
and the forces that created them?
Early development and the enduring
‘myth of three’. Neuroscience findings are
increasing our understanding of how fac-
tors such as sleep50, stress51 and nutrition52
influence infant development. Neural
markers have also been identified that
might be used to detect preschool children
who are at risk of developing learning dis-
orders53. As communication has improved
between neuroscientists, educators and
policy makers, efforts have been made to
‘set the record straight’ about issues such
as the ‘myth of three(REF.54) — that is,
the myth that time from 0 to 3years is
a critical period during which the great
majority of brain development occurs and
after which the trajectory of human devel-
opment is chiefly fixed55. The factual seeds
of this idea include recognition that there
© 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved
are critical and sensitive periods in the
development of particular brain systems.
The myth has helped to promote the genu-
ine importance of preschool experiences
as fundamental for later learning, but it is
an oversimplification that has also led to
misunderstandings. These include a sense
that adults are in a race against time to
provide stimulation to their infants before
their synapses are lost56. This anxiety has
been exploited by a host of manufactur-
ers offering toys to stimulate the brain57.
Neurodevelopmental studies have so far
provided little support for the idea that only
early childhood can be considered as a spe-
cial time for learning58, and neither research
in neuroscience59 nor in education60 provide
simple messages about the ages at which
investment in education gives maximum
return. Rather, findings suggest that the
success of educational interventions aim-
ing to improve the learning and well-being
of children requires attention to be paid to
the specific needs and characteristics of the
children and the type of intervention, as
well as the timing61.
Although attempts to dissipate the myth
of three have gained pace, the related neuro-
science has also grown in size and complex-
ity. Accordingly, many individuals working
in education, including policy makers, are
still susceptible to accepting simple models
of brain development without questioning
their relation to current understanding. The
bias towards simplicity, combined with the
persisting cultural gap between neuroscience
and education, has helped the myth of three
to emerge in new forms. One notable exam-
ple is the misinterpretation of early work
by the economist James Heckman62 (BOX1),
who drew on concepts of critical (or sensi-
tive) periods in brain development to derive
his simple ‘more begets more’ principle62.
The graph most often associated with this
principle is a plot of a mathematical function
that assumes that the brain is a continu-
ously developing, unitary entity (BOX1). This
graphical expression of the principle suggests
that the return (in terms of additional mental
capacity) for public investment in an indi-
vidual’s education is markedly diminished if
the investment occurs after infancy. However,
it is important to note that it is not a graph of
empirical data. In international discussions
about whether students should be expected
to invest financially in their own higher edu-
cation, this model has been used to support
statements such as “expanding higher educa-
tion based on contributions from those who
benefit from it rather than based on general
tax revenues is the most direct way to ensure
equity in education outcomes” (REF.13). In
other words, the neuroscientific basis of the
model has been overinterpreted in order to
provide an allegedly scientific argument for
withdrawing the public funding of university
education. In the UK, the graph has appeared
in educational policy documents63 as a plot of
empirical data (BOX1).
However, this simple model considerably
detracts from our modern understanding of
the brain58. Human development and learn-
ing arise from a range of interrelated neural
circuits subserving a range of cognitive and
other skills, which develop at different rates
until early adulthood, sometimes in a dis-
continuous manner. In addition, the concept
of the sensitive period in brain development
was based on findings that an impoverished
rearing environment resulted in impaired
development44, but that does not necessarily
mean that enriching the environment of nor-
mally developing children (for example, so-
called ‘hot-housing’) will result in a similarly
marked improvement in their brain develop-
ment. Therefore, the relevance of the sensitive
period concept may depend on how a child
has already developed. A later and more
sophisticated model of educational invest-
ment represents mental ability as comprising
two types: cognitive and non-cognitive64. This
model, when adjusted to fit the outcomes of
a sample of 2207 children, again emphasized
the importance of early investment, but par-
ticularly so for disadvantaged children. It also
made more nuanced predictions about the
targeting of investment. However, the earlier
simple model (BOX1) remains most popular in
discussions of policy, in which it is sometimes
referenced as summarizing findings in neuro-
cognitive development without a considera-
tion of its limiting assumptions (for example,
REF.65). The use of such theoretical models as
proxies for actual neuroscientific data in edu-
cational policy seems likely if the intersection
between neuroscience and education remains
fairly uncharted and unpopulated by those
with expertise in bothareas.
Difference and biological determinism.
The use and meaning of labels such as
‘attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
(ADHD)’ and ‘dyslexic’ has educational
Box 1 | Heckman economics as a proxy for neuroscience in educational policy
The ‘myth of three’ (that is, the belief that the trajectory of neurodevelopment is essentially fixed after
3years of age) can still be found in different forms in educational discussions. For example, an early
economic model of educational investment by Heckman62 is sometimes confused by educators as
representing neuroscientific evidence for the myth of three. This model was created by drawing on
concepts such as critical (or sensitive) periods in brain development to justify a simple ‘more begets
more’ principle of accumulating mental ability62. The model combined this principle with assumptions
that the brain is a continuously developing and unitary entity. This allowed prediction of the return (in
terms of additional mental capacity over a lifetime) from investing an additional (marginal) dollar in
education at different ages. The outcome of this prediction is the sweeping downward curve shown
here97 (where r is the costs of the funds) that implies the economic return from investing a dollar in the
education of a child under 3 years old is many times greater than if that dollar was invested in a
teenager’s education. Some policy makers seem to interpret this graph as a plot of evidence which
“shows that investment early in life produces better returns” (REF.63). However, the graph does not
show a plot of actual evidence; rather, it shows predicted returns from investment in education62.
Moreover, the prediction is based on a model whose assumptions are some way short of the current
understanding of
human brain
development and
mental ability64.
Reprinted from
Handbook of the
Economics of
Education, Vol. 1,
Cunha, F.,
Heckman, J.,
Lochner, L. and
Masterov, D.
Interpreting the
Evidence on Life
Cycle Skill
697–812, ©
(2006), with
permission from
Nature Reviews | Neuroscience
Preschool School Post-school
Job training
Rates of return to human capital investment initially setting
investment to be equal across all ages
Rate of return to investment in human capital
rOpportunity cost of funds
© 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved
implications for resource allocation, teach-
ers’ attitudes and students’ achievements.
Neurobiological findings should and do
feature in expert discussions about learning
disorders, including their definition, causes
and treatment. In less scientific debates on
these subjects, a dualistic non-plastic mind–
brain model — in which the brain cannot
be influenced by the mind — has fuelled
arguments both in support of and against
the existence of particular learning disor-
ders. To individuals inclined towards such
a model, differences in functional imaging
data between groups of learners with and
without a disorder may seem to be biologi-
cally determined and immutable symptoms
and therefore make the disorder ‘more
real’. For example, ripostes to recent argu-
ments about whether ADHD exists66 have
emphasized statements such as “ADHD is
a real medical disorder, withreal brain dif-
ferences” (REF.67). Conversely, for people
who believe that all ‘proper’ disorders are
biologically determined and immutable,
the finding that symptoms of children
diagnosed with a disorder can be reduced
through teaching means that these children
never had a ‘real’ disorder to begin with. For
example, in the 2005 British Broadcasting
Corporation (BBC) television documentary
The Dyslexia Myth (Mills Productions), the
effectiveness of mainstream remediation
classes for dyslexic readers was presented
as evidence that dyslexia does not exist68.
Educators’ ideas are influenced by these
media representations69, and until ideas
from neurobiology are more meaningfully
integrated into educational training and
institutions this influence is likely to con-
tinue. This has implications for the children
they teach, not least because the achieve-
ment of students diagnosed with a learning
disorder partly depends on their teachers’
implicit attitude to the disorder70. Recent
studies provide evidence against ideas of
biologically determined and fixed qualita-
tive differences between individuals with
and without diagnosis of a developmental
disorder (FIG.1). These studies could be help-
ful in dissuading teachers of these ideas but,
without improved communications between
neuroscience and education, one cannot
assume this dissuasion will happen quickly.
For example, although early research fuelled
a visual theory of causation for dyslexia,
this was no longer accepted as the general
consensus by 1994 (REF.71). Rather, the long-
standing and most widely accepted explana-
tion involves a weakness in phonological
coding72. An intervention attempting to
target the visual system involves the use of
tinted overlays to overcome the associated
‘structural brain deficit(REF.73), but the
authors of a double-blind study investigat-
ing this approach reported no evidence of
positive benefit74. They indicated the ‘magic
bullet’ simplicity of the idea of using col-
oured filters to explain the popularity of
this intervention, combined with a mass
of anecdotal evidence that may also be
linked to the placebo effect. Nevertheless, a
majority of preschool teachers in a survey
in Southwest USA still considered dyslexia
as a visual perception deficit rather than a
problem with phonological processing and
thought that the idea that dyslexic children
could be helped by using coloured lenses
or coloured overlays was “probably or defi-
nitely true” (REF.69).
Engagement and dopamine mythology.
Insight into the relationship between reward
and declarative memory formation75 has
prompted educational research that uses
novel reward schedules to improve learning76.
Initial studies show that offering uncertain
rewards, which are thought to increase mid-
brain dopamine uptake77, can increase the
rate at which curriculum material is learnt78.
In our own attempts to translate these find-
ings into classroom learning games, we have
encountered new potential for neuromyths.
This has partly been a matter of language.
For example, educators’ understanding of
the term ‘motivation’ extends well beyond
its common usage in neuroscience (that is,
motivation as a short-term visceral desire
to approach)79; it also includes motivation
towards longer-term goals such as a university
career. In addition, many teachers already
possess preconceptions about dopamine
that influence their understanding of our
messages and, thereby, their practice with
regard to their students. Some associate it
with pleasure, with one teacher claiming that
“a good working environment will release
dopamine, and then they feel good and it is
remembered as something positive(REF.80).
However, we are often asked whether our
learning games will cause students to become
pathological gamblers or drug addicts.
Primitive neurobiological explanations
involving dopamine have now established
themselves as part of the folk perceptions
of addiction81. Dopamine mediates many
important cognitive processes and is not
restricted to explanations of drugs and risk-
taking, but anxieties around such activities
have strengthened in the public imagination
its association with all types of out-of-control
behaviour and danger. The frequency of
dopamine’s appearance in press stories has
Figure 1 | Imaging studies of interventions
are of particular interest to education. a | An
imaging study of developmental dyscalculia
(DD) involved a computer‑based ‘mental number
line’ training, in which children learned to
respond to number‑related questions by moving
a joystick in order to land a spaceship on a num
ber line98. b,c | After training, children with and
without DD improved their arithmetic ability
and showed reduced activation in a range of
mainly frontal regions when performing a num
ber line task (part b shows data for both groups
combined). Both behavioural and neural changes
were greater for the DD group (part c shows
brain areas in which the post‑training reduction
in activity was greater for the DD group than for
the control group). Studies such as this, which
focus both on problematic learner differences
and their remediation, are helpful and relevant
to education. Firstly, they provide insight into the
biology of individual differences which, when
integrated with educational expertise, may form
the basis of more effective approaches to teach
children with learning disorders in the future.
More immediately and more generally, they
show the plasticity of the brain and indicate that
brain function can be improved by a student
practising well‑designed tasks. Such studies
highlight not only how learning disorders may be
associated with distinct neurological differences
but also how such differences may be responsive
to appropriate teaching. This can help to foster
the types of positive teacher attitudes towards
learning disorders that are associated with bet
ter outcomes for the students who are diag
nosed with them70. Figure reprinted from
Neuroimage, 57, Kucian,K.etal., Mental number
line training in children with developmental
dyscalculia. 782–795, © (2011), with permission
from Elsevier.
Nature Reviews | Neuroscience
0 50 100
0 50 100
Reduced activation aer training
Greater reduction in children with DD than
in control children
© 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved
resulted in it being dubbed “the media’s neu-
rotransmitter of choice” (REF.82). Dopamine
is linked in the media to problems as diverse
as gun culture83, the overconsumption of
cupcakes84 and obsessing about e-mails85.
This has helped to intertwine dopamine and
all types of addictive behaviour in the public
consciousness and to contribute to the world
of pseudoneuroscience, in which different
meanings can be attached to the same terms
and terms borrowed from neuroscience can
be merged with others to create new phrases.
I discovered this when a BBC journalist asked
me to use the term ‘dopamine hit’ when
describing students experiencing a learning
game because, she explained, people knew
what that term meant. This is a phrase that has
also arisen in our conversations with teachers.
When used as a noun, ‘hit’ is commonly used
as the slang term for a unit of an illegal drug86.
It seems that messages for educators — how-
ever scientifically sound the underlying con-
cepts are — will come into contact with other
ideas that are less scientific, which may influ-
ence the message that is received. Working
with educators has allowed us to identify such
misconceptions early in the process of trans-
lation and to work collaboratively in develop-
ing resources that anticipate and explicitly
address such confusions.
Adolescence and brake failure. Under-
standing brain function has already con-
tributed to interventions for teenagers; for
example, major changes in sleep regulation
processes in the brain have helped to explain
why teenagers can be ill-prepared for learn-
ing early in the morning87,88. An improved
understanding of the biology of teenage sleep
issues has helped to justify interventions to
shift the school day and to improve attend-
ance, as well as reducing sleepiness89 and rais-
ing self-reported motivation90. Neuroscience
has also provided insights into the continu-
ing maturation of brain regions involved in
social cognition and self-awareness that may
inform future school-based interventions for
teenagers, for example, for tackling anti-social
Increased risk-taking during adolescence
has been explained in terms of a dual-systems
framework of neurodevelopment that relates
increased reward-seeking to an early adoles-
cent peak in dopaminergic activity; the pre-
frontal cortex and its connections to regions
involved in control and coordination of affect
and cognition are slower to mature92. These
changes have been described as being respon-
sible for an individual temporarily having ‘all
gas and no brakes’ during adolescence. This
metaphor is frequently used to help educators
to understand the behaviour of their stu-
dents. For example, in a Canadian teachers
journal, psychologist Aaron White advises
“because the frontal lobes are involved in
controlling impulses and making good deci-
sions, adolescents often fail to fully consider
the consequences of their actions until it’s too
late. They are all gas and no brakes!” (REF.93).
Similar representations of the dual-systems
framework can be found in the popu-
larpress94. However, the metaphor can sug-
gest that an individual is completely detached
from their own free will and that they are
‘immune’ to the normative social influences
around them (that is, their teachers and par-
ents). This creates moral and practical dilem-
mas regarding how teachers should and can
respond effectively, for example, to teenagers
behaving disruptively in class. Arguments
over whether such poor behaviour can be
blamed on the brain partly mirror those
raised in relation to teenage crime. In educa-
tion, as in the law courts, our moral intui-
tions about legal responsibility are entwined
with culturally inherited ideas of free will and
a dualist mind–brain relationship, both of
which are likely to be influenced by sophisti-
cated thinking about the mind and its neural
basis95. In other words, through interaction
with existing biases, our intuitions about
moral responsibility are likely to be influ-
enced by the field of neuroscience, despite the
field itself making few claims for authority in
this area. On a practical level, teachers also
want to know how best to interact with the
developing neural circuitry of teenagers and
how to encourage their students to improve
their behavioural self-control. For teachers,
the ‘gas and no brakes’ message appears to
imply that “upskilling the driver does not
present as a possible solution, since poor/
weak brakes (the immature PFC [prefrontal
cortex]) — or no brakes at all — cannot be
fixed” (REF.94). It seems that many teachers
are exposed to a version of the dual-systems
framework that may already be influencing
their practice but not necessarily in ways
that most appropriately relate the neurosci-
ence to educational understanding. It has
been suggested that neuroscientists have a
responsibility to reduce neurodevelopmental
complexity into accessible, data-informed
messages for non-scientists96 and this may
work well in some ‘real-world’ domains.
However, in education, effective communi-
cation may require neuroscientists to work
in collaboration with those who are more
familiar with the cultural conditions and
concepts of education — that is, the educa-
tors themselves — to ensure that the content
of the communication is fit for purpose.
Conclusions and the future
Neuromyths are misconceptions about the
brain that flourish when cultural conditions
protect them from scrutiny. Their form is
influenced by a range of biases in how we
think about the brain. Some long-standing
neuromyths are present in products for edu-
cators and this has helped them to spread in
classrooms across the world. Genuine com-
munication between neuroscience and edu-
cation has developed considerably in recent
years, but many of the biases and conditions
responsible for neuromyths still remain
and can be observed hampering efforts to
introduce ideas about the brain into educa-
tional thinking. We see new neuromyths on
the horizon and old neuromyths arising in
new forms, we see ‘boiled-down’ messages
from neuroscience revealing themselves as
inadequate, and we see confusions about the
mind–brain relationship and neural plasticity
in discussions about educational investment
and learning disorders.
More interdisciplinary collaboration
between neuroscience and education may
help to identify and to address misunder-
standings as they arise, and may help to
develop concepts and messages that are both
scientifically valid and educationally inform-
ative. A new field focused on such collabora-
tion is now emerging, although it is too new
for its many proponents to have settled on a
name for it — ‘Brain, Mind and Education,
‘Neuroeducation’ and ‘Educational
Neuroscience’ being current contenders. A
field dedicated to the interaction between
neuroscience and education will not only
inform educational approaches but also
may encourage scientific insight regarding
the relationship of neural processes to the
complex behaviours that are observed in the
classroom. Research centres combining neu-
roscience and education are forming around
the world, often offering postgraduate
courses. Although individual approaches in
these centres vary, there is a common appre-
ciation of the size of the challenge that lies
ahead, of the marked differences in concepts
and language between neuroscience and
education, and of the need for neuro scientists
and educators to work together when
attempting to bridge these two disciplines. In
the future, such collaboration will be greatly
needed if we wish education to be enriched
rather than misled by neuroscience.
Paul A.Howard-Jones is at the Graduate School of
Education, University of Bristol,
35 Berkeley Square, Bristol BS8 1JA, UK.
Published online 15 October 2014
© 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved
1. Dekker,S., Lee,N.C., Howard-Jones,P. & Jolles,J.
Neuromyths in education: prevalence and predictors
of misconceptions among teachers. Front. Psychol.
2. Deligiannidi,K. & Howard-Jones,P. in International
Conference on New Horizons in Education. 44
(Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2014).
3. Howard-Jones,P.A., Franey,L., Mashmoushi,R. &
Liao,Y.-C. The Neuroscience Literacy of Trainee
Teachers. British Educational Research Association
Annual Conference [online],
educol/documents/185140.pdf (Univ. of Manchester,
4. Karakus,O. & Howard-Jones,P. in International
Conference on New Horizons in Education. 29
(Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2014).
5. Ghosh, P. in Newsnight: The Dyslexia Myth.
[television documentary] British Broadcasting
Corporation (Mills Productions, 2008).
6. Hermida,M.J., Segretin,M.S. & Lipina,S.J.
in Seminars on Child Development of the Unit of
Applied Neurobiology 18, 1–10 (UNA, 2014).
7. Pei,X., Zhang,S., Liu,X., Jin,Y. & Howard-Jones,P.
in International Conference on New Horizons in
Education. 64 (Procedia Social and Behavioral
Sciences, 2014).
8. Goswami,U. Neuroscience and education: from
research to practice? Nature Rev. Neurosci.
7, 406–413 (2006).
9. Howard-Jones,P.A. Introducing Neuroeducational
Research: Neuroscience, Education and the Brain
from Contexts to Practice. (Routledge, 2010).
10. Bruer,J. Education and the brain: a bridge too far.
Educ. Res. 26, 4–16 (1997).
11. Davis,A.J. The credentials of brain-based learning.
J.Philos. Educ. 38, 21–36 (2004).
12. Crockard,A. Confessions of a brain surgeon. New
Scientist 2061, 68(1996).
13. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development. Understanding the Brain: Towards a
New Learning Science. (OECD Publications, 2002).
14. Jorgenson,O. Brain scam? Why educators should be
careful about embracing ‘brain research’. Educ. Forum
67, 364–369 (2003).
15. Novella,S. Psychomotor patterning. Connecticut
Skept. 1, 6 (1996).
16. Beyerstein,B. in Mind Myths (ed. Della Salla,S.)
59–82 (John Wiley and Sons, 1999).
17. Valtin,H. “Drink at least eight glasses of water a day.”
Really? Is there scientific evidence for “8 × 8”? Am.
J.Regul. Integr. Comp. Physiol. 283, 993–1004
18. Cheuvront,S.N. & Kenefick,R.W. Dehydration:
physiology, assessment, and performance effects.
Compr. Physiol. 4, 257–285 (2014).
19. Masento,N.A., Golightly,M., Field,D.T., Butler,L.T.
& van Reekum,C.M. Effects of hydration status on
cognitive performance and mood. Br. J.Nutr. 111,
1841–1852 (2014).
20. Politano,C. & Paquin,J. Brain-based learning with
class. (Portage & Main, 2000).
21. Coffield,F., Moseley,D., Hall,E. & Ecclestone,K.
Report No. 041543. Learning styles and pedagogy in
post-16 learning: a systematic and critical review.
(Learning and Skills Research Centre, 2004).
22. Geake,J.G. Neuromythologies in education. Educ.
Res. 50, 123–133 (2008).
23. Kratzig,G.P. & Arbuthnott,K.D. Perceptual
learning style and learning proficiency: a test of the
hypothesis. J.Educat. Psychol. 98, 238–246
24. Najjar,L.J. Principles of educational multimedia user
interface design. Hum. Factors 40, 311–323 (1998).
25. Stitch,S. The Fragmentation of Reason. (MIT press,
26. Springer,S.P. & Deutsch,G. Left brain, right brain.
(Freeman, 1989).
27. McCarthy,B. The 4MAT system: teaching to
learning styles with right/left mode techniques.
(Excel, 1987).
28. McCarthy,B. A tale of four learners: 4MAT’s learning
styles. Educat. Leadership 54, 46–51 (1997).
29. Sloan,T., Daane,C.J. & Giesen,J. Mathematics
anxiety and learning styles: what is the relationship in
elementary preservice teachers? School Sci. Math.
102, 84–87 (2002).
30. Hoffman,E. Introducing children to their amazing
brains. (LTL Books, 2002).
31. Gardner,H. Frames of the mind: the theory of multiple
intelligences. (Basic Books, 1983).
32. Gardner,H. Multiple intelligences: new horizons.
(Basic Books, 2006).
33. Waterhouse,L. Multiple intelligences, the Mozart
effect, and emotional intelligence: a critical review.
Educat. Psychol. 41, 207–225 (2006).
34. Johnson,C.N. & Wellman,H.M. Children’s
developing conceptions of the mind and brain. Child
Dev. 53, 222–234 (1982).
35. Bering,J.M. & Bjorklund,D.F. The natural
emergence of reasoning about the afterlife as a
developmental regularity. Dev. Psychol. 40, 217–233
36. Baumeister,R.F., Masicampo,E.J. & DeWall,C.N.
Prosocial benefits of feeling free: disbelief in free will
increases aggression and reduces helpfulness. Pers.
Soc. Psychol. Bull. 35, 260–268 (2009).
37. Forstmann,M. Burgmer,P. & Mussweiler,T.
“The mind is willing, but the flesh is weak”: the effects
of mind–body dualism on health behavior. Psychol.
Sci. 23, 1239–1245 (2012).
38. Park, A., Clery, E., Curtice, J., Phillips, M. & Utting, D.
(eds) British Social Attitudes 28 2011–2012 edition
(NatCen Social Research, 2011).
39. Hirschon,R. in When God Comes to Town:
Anthropological Perspectives on Religion and
Secularization (eds Pixten, R. & Dikomitis, L.) 3–16
(Berghahn, 2009).
40. Weisberg,D.S., Keil,F.C., Goodstein,J., Rawson,E. &
Gray,J. The seductive lure of neuroscience
explanations. J.Cogn. Neurosci. 20, 470–477
41. Lindell,A.K. & Kidd,E. Consumers favor “right brain”
training: the dangerous lure of neuromarketing. Mind
Brain Educ. 7, 35–39 (2013).
42. Dennison,P.E. & Dennison,G.E. Brain Gym teacher’s
edition — revised. (Edu–Kinesthetics, 1994).
43. Hyatt,K.J. Brain Gym: building stronger brains or
wishful thinking? Remedial Spec. Educ. 28, 117–124
44. Blakemore,S.J. & Frith,U. The Learning Brain.
(Blackwell, 2005).
45. Byrnes,J.P. Minds, Brains, and Learning. (The
Guildford Press, 2001).
46. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development. Understanding the Brain: Birth of a New
Learning Science. (OECD, 2007).
47. Royal Society. Brain Waves Module 2: Neuroscience:
implications for education and lifelong learning. (Royal
Society, 2011).
48. James S. McDonnell Foundation. The Santiago
Declaration [online],
santiagodeclaration/ (2007).
49. Hirsh-Pasek,K. & Bruer,J.T. The brain/education
barrier. Science 317, 1293–1293 (2007).
50. Kurdziel,L., Duclos,K. & Spencer,R.M.C. Sleep
spindles in midday naps enhance learning in preschool
children. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 110 ,
17267–17272 (2013).
51. Twardosz,S. & Lutzker,J.R. Child maltreatment and
the developing brain: a review of neuroscience
perspectives. Aggress. Violent Behav. 15, 59–68
52. Hackman,D.A. & Farah,M.J. Socioeconomic status
and the developing brain. Trends Cogn. Sci. 13,
65–73 (2009).
53. Goswami,U. Mind, brain, and literacy: biomarkers as
usable knowledge for education. Mind Brain Educ.
3, 176–184 (2009).
54. Shonkoff,J.P. & Phillips,D.A. From Neurons to
Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood
Development. (National Academies Press, 2000).
55. Bruer,J. The Myth of the First Three Years: A New
Understanding of Early Brain Development and
Lifelong Learning. (The Free Press, 1999).
56. Twardosz,S. Effects of experience on the brain: the
role of neuroscience in early development and
education. Early Educ. Dev. 23, 96–119 (2012).
57. Quart,A. Extreme parenting: does the baby genius
edutainment complex enrich your child’s mind or
stifle it? Atlant. Monthly 127, 110–113 (2006).
58. Howard-Jones,P.A., Washbrook,E.V. & Meadows,S.
The timing of educational investment: a
neuroscientific perspective. Dev. Cogn. Neurosci.
2, S18–S29 (2012).
59. Wachs,T.D., Georgieff,M., Cusick,S. & McEwen,B.S.
Every child’s potential: integrating nutrition and early
childhood development interventions Ann. NY Acad.
Sci. 1308, 89–106 (2014).
60. Mervis,J. Giving children a head start is possible —
but it’s not easy. Science 333, 956–957
61. Duncan,G.J. & Sojourner,A.J. Can intensive early
childhood intervention programs eliminate income-
based cognitive and achievement gaps? J.Hum.
Resources 48, 945–968 (2013).
62. Heckman,J.J. Schools, skills, and synapses. Econ. Inq.
46, 289–324 (2008).
63. Centre for Social Justice. Making sense of early
intervention: A framework for professionals. (Centre
for Social Justice, 2011).
64. Cunha,F., Heckman,J.J. & Schennach,S.M.
Estimating the technology of cognitive and
noncognitive skill formation. Econometrica. 78,
883–931 (2010).
65. Allen,G. Early Intervention: The Next Steps. (UK
Goverment, 2011).
66. Saul,R. ADHD does not exist. (Harper Collins,
67. McCoy,T.H. Richard Saul saysAHD does not exist.
Not everyone agrees. Newsweek [online], http://www.
68. Nicolson,R. Dyslexia: beyond the myth. Psychol. 18,
658–659 (2005).
69. Washburn,E.K., Joshi,R.M. & Cantrell,E.B. Are
preservice teachers prepared to teach struggling
readers? Ann. Dyslexia 61, 21–43 (2011).
70. Hornstra,L., Denessen,E., Bakker,J.,
van den Bergh,L. & Voeten,M. Teacher attitudes
toward dyslexia: effects on teacher expectations and
the academic achievement of students with dyslexia.
J.Learn. Disabil. 43, 515–529 (2010).
71. Moats,L.C. The missing foundation in teacher
education — knowledge of the structure of spoken
and written language. Ann. Dyslexia 44, 81–102
72. Vellutino,F.R., Fletcher,J.M., Snowling,M.J. &
Scanlon,D.M. Specific reading disability (dyslexia):
what have we learned in the past four decades?
J.Child Psychol. Psychiatry 45, 2–40 (2004).
73. Irlen,H. Reading by the colors: overcoming dyslexia
and other reading disabilities through the Irlen
method. (Avery Publishing Group, 1991).
74. McIntosh,R.D. & Ritchie,S.J. in Neuroscience in
Education: the good, the bad and the ugly (eds Della
Sala, S. & Anderson, M.) 230–243 (Oxford Univ.
Press, 2012).
75. Adcock,R. A., Thangavel,A., Whitfield-Gabrieli,S.,
Knutson,B. & Gabrieli,J. D. Reward-motivated
learning: mesolimbic activation precedes memory
formation. Neuron 50, 507–517 (2006).
76. Howard-Jones,P.A., Demetriou,S., Bogacz,R.,
Yoo,J.H. & Leonards,U. Toward a science of
learning games. Mind Brain Educ. 5, 33–41
77. Fiorillo,C.D. Transient activation of midbrain
dopamine neurons by reward risk. Neuroscience
197, 162–171 (2011).
78. Ozcelik,E., Cagiltay,N.E. & Ozcelik,N.S. The effect
of uncertainty on learning in game-like environments.
Computers Educ. 67, 12–20 (2013).
79. Bjork,J.M., Smith,A.R., Chen,G. & Hommer,D.W.
Adolescents, adults and rewards: comparing
motivational neurocircuitry recruitment using fMRI.
PLoS ONE 5, e11440 (2010).
80. Soni-Garcia,A. & Howard-Jones,P. in European
Association for Research on Learning and Instruction
Special Interest Group on Neuroscience and
Education. 82 (Göttingen, 2014).
81. Meurk,C., Carter,A., Hall,W. & Lucke,J. Public
understandings of addiction: where do
neurobiological explanations fit? Neuroethics 7,
51–62 (2014).
82. Bell,V. The unsexy truth about dopamine. The
Observer [online],
83. Kotler,S. & Olds,J. Addicted to bang: the
neuroscience of the gun. Forbes [online], http://www.
to-bang-the-neuroscience-of-the-gun/ (2012).
84. Sloan,J. Are cupcakes as addictive as cocaine? The
Sun [online],
cocaine.html (2012).
85. Crocker,P. Do you have these four small business
addictions? Ninemsn [online], http://finance.ninemsn.
have-these-four-small-business-addictions (2014).
86. Nordegren,T. The A-Z Encyclopedia of Alcohol and
Drug Abuse (Brown Walker, 2002).
© 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved
87. Hagenauer,M.H., Perryman,J.I., Lee,T.M. &
Carskadon,M.A. Adolescent changes in the
homeostatic and circadian regulation of sleep. Dev.
Neurosci. 31, 276–284 (2009).
88. Hansen,M., Janssen,I., Schiff,A., Zee,P.C. &
Dubocovich,M.L. The impact of school daily
schedule on adolescent sleep. Pediatrics 115 ,
1555–1561 (2005).
89. Wahistrom,K. Changing times: findings from the
first longitudinal study of later high school start
times. NASSP Bull. 86, 3–21 (2002).
90. Owens,J.A., Belon,K. & Moss,P. Impact of
delaying school start time on adolescent sleep,
mood, and behavior. Arch. Pediatr. Adolesc. Med.
164, 608–614 (2010).
91. Blakemore,S.J. Imaging brain development: the
adolescent brain. Neuroimage 61, 397–406
92. Steinberg,L.A. Dual systems model of adolescent
risk-taking. Dev. Psychobiol. 52,
216–224 (2010).
93. White,A.M. The changing adolescent brain. Educ.
Canada 45, 4–8 (2005).
94. Payne,M. A. “All gas and no brakes!”: helpful
metaphor or harmful stereotype? J.Adolescent Res.
27, 3–17 (2012).
95. Greene,J. & Cohen,J. For the law, neuroscience
changes nothing and everything. Phil. Trans.
R.Soc. B. Biol. Sci. 359,
1775–1785 (2004).
96. Steinberg,L., Cauffman,E., Woolard,J., Graham,S. &
Banich,M. Reconciling the complexity of human
development with the reality of legal policy: reply to
Fischer, Stein, and Heikkinen. Am. Psychol. 64,
601–604 (2009).
97. Cunha, F., Heckman, J., Lochner, L. & Masterov, D.
in Handbook of the Economics of Education Vol. 1
(eds Hanushek, E. & Welch, F.) 697–812 (Elsevier,
98. Kucian,K. etal. Mental number line training in
children with developmental dyscalculia. Neuroimage
57, 782–795 (2011).
Competing interests statement
The author declares no competing interests.
© 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved
... In addition to culturally responsive and developmentally appropriate practices (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009), many institutions and classroom practitioners persistently push for a recognition of learning styles (Kirschner, 2017). In these environments, primary educators employ a learning styles approach despite emerging evidence from the fields of neuroscience and child development contradicting some commonly held beliefs among teachers and parents regarding what practices are crucial to shaping a healthy developing brain (Center on the Developing Child, 2016; Dekker et al., 2012;Howard-Jones, 2014). What alternative approaches should these primary educators use to support the overall development of their primary students? ...
... Conversely, an overabundance of unproven ideas is being put into practice. Even though various research studies have pronounced learning styles as a neuromyth, many educators continue to use practices that support the current mythology (Dekker et al., 2012;Howard-Jones, 2014;Kirschner, 2017;Nancekivell et al., 2020;Papadatou-Pastou et al., 2018). Skeels and Dye (1939) demonstrated that providing children with a rich learning environment early in life can have many positive cognitive, social, and emotional effects on their development. ...
... Skeels and Dye (1939) demonstrated that providing children with a rich learning environment early in life can have many positive cognitive, social, and emotional effects on their development. A multisensory and multimodal approach to teaching children is well-advanced in the literature (Howard-Jones, 2014). A rich learning environment that supports all five senses and incorporates more than one modality is something that can be observed and empirically measured, whereas learning styles have yet to be quantifiably observed or measured. ...
... Unfortunately, the initial movement caused the launch of many educational programmes claiming to be 'brain based' but were not actually supported by science [1]. These commercially motivated initiatives were accompanied by the emergence of misconceptions or neuromyths about the brain and its functioning, first informed by OECD in 2002 [14], and later found to be widespread across every single country that was researched [2,15,16]. These beliefs are partly explained by the lack of a common language between neuroscience and education [17]. ...
... The fact that we found a decline in neuromyths at Time 3 for the experimental group suggests that the extra term was useful for students to abandon some misconceptions, but not all. We believe that, at least for courses that do not target neuromyths directly, course length does make a difference in neuromyth beliefs, provided that neuroscience knowledge is hard to grasp, especially for pre-service teachers that do not have science literacy training [16,18,48]. ...
Full-text available
Misconceptions about the brain (neuromyths) among educators have been found across different countries, but little has been done to dispel them. The present study assessed the effect of a one-year Science of Learning (SoL) course on neuroscience literacy and beliefs in neuromyths in a sample of Chilean pre-service teachers. An experimental group of pre-service teachers, who took the SoL course as part of their university training, and a control group were needed for the study. Participants in both groups completed an online survey three times during the year (beginning, middle and end of year). The results showed that participants in both groups responded correctly to most assertions but held major misconceptions about the brain (Time 1), in line with previous studies. Regarding neuroscience literacy, participants in the experimental and control groups did not differ significantly at Time 1, but the experimental group showed significantly better performance than the control group at Time 2 and Time 3. Unlike neuroscience literacy, the results in neuromyth beliefs did not differ significantly by group at Time 1 and Time 2; however, at Time 3, the experimental group showed a significant decline in neuromyth beliefs. Overall, these results suggest that the SoL course significantly improved overall neuroscience literacy and reduced neu-romyth belief among pre-service teachers, but the effect of the intervention was small.
... Specifically, we used items related to neuromyths as well as general statements about the brain according to Ferrero et al. (2016). They used the survey developed by Dekker et al. (2012) which included a set of educational neuromyths as defined by the OECD (2002) and Howard-Jones et al. (2009), together with additional general statements about the brain (which were not included in the original OECD source). In our research, we used all 12 neuromyths, which are false statements about the brain and 17 general statements about the brain (13 of them are true and 4 are false). ...
... Based on our study as well as the previous ones, the prevalence of neuromyths among educators is not an isolated phenomenon, but it rather affects many different countries around the world. Given the gap that exists between scientists and practitioners, many experts agree that it is necessary to establish interdisciplinary collaboration between neuroscientists and educators to inform each other and to create useful connections in both fields (Ansari et al., 2011;Howard -Jones, 2014, Ferrero et al, 2016. In this context, some organizations abroad have already begun to promote collaboration between researchers and practitioners and to promote a better understanding of brain functions in relation to education (for example, organizing seminar series between scientists and educators, creating teacher learning communities supported by education institutes and researchers or the opening of research laboratories for teachers and student teachers to foster dialogue among various stakeholders (Pickering and Howard-Jones, 2007, Coch et al., 2009, Hille, 2011, Ferrero, et al., 2016. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The study is the output of a research project aimed at creating a model of andragogical counselling in the context of professionalization in teacher education. The partial goal is to identify areas in which teachers need professional development and counselling. In this article, we present the results of a survey in which we focused on the identification of neuromyths and other factors in terms of education and counselling of teachers in this area (N 246). We found out that more than 50% of respondents considered 12 neuromyths to be correct and 5 of them were believed by 90% of respondents. In addition to these findings, the results suggest a tendency that with the increasing number of errors, respondents showed a greater interest in education and counselling in the field of neuromyths. Abstrakt: Štúdia je výstupom výskumného projektu, ktorý je zameraný na vytvorenie modelu andragogického poradenstva v kontexte profesionalizácie učiteľstva. Čiastkovým cieľom je zistiť oblasti, v ktorých by učitelia potrebovali profesijný rozvoj a poradenstvo. V príspevku uvádzame výsledky dotazníkového skúmania, v ktorom sme sa zamerali na identifikáciu neuromýtov a ďalších faktorov orientovaných na vzdelávanie a poradenstvo učiteľov v tejto oblasti (N 246). Zistili sme, že v 12 neuromýtoch odpovedalo nesprávne viac ako 50 % respondentov a pri 5 z nich bolo nesprávnych až 90 % odpovedí. Okrem týchto zistení, výsledky naznačujú tendenciu, že so zvyšovaním počtu chýb, respondenti prejavovali väčší záujem o vzdelávanie a poradenstvo v oblasti neuromýtov.
... Few would contest that teacher training programs should promote evidence-based teaching and learning practices. However, a number of recent studies, across a wide range of educational contexts, have provided firm evidence that educators often possess poor educational literacy regarding effective teaching and learning practices (e.g., Dekker et al., 2012;Howard-Jones, 2014;Husmann & O'Loughlin, 2019). As such, it is important to take a step back and examine the degree that teacher education programs are successful in their mission in promoting practices that align with the science of learning. ...
... In order to assess the degree that such myths may influence pedagogical practice, a number of recent studies have set out to examine the prevalence of belief in these myths among in-service, i.e., practicing, teachers (e.g., Dekker et al., 2012;Gleichgerrcht, Lira Luttges, Salvarezza, & Campos, 2015;Howard-Jones, 2014;Sarrasin, Riopel, & Masson, 2019;Tardif, Doudin, & Meylan, 2015;Zhang et al. 2019). The results of these studies have firmly demonstrated that teachers, across a wide range of educational contexts and backgrounds, generally show high levels of endorsement of learning myths, such as learning styles, to be true. ...
Full-text available
Modern linguistic science addresses several topical and applied scientific problems related to the study of the underlying nature of language sociolinguistic parameters. This paper examines the influence of social and verbal aspects on foreign students' motivation to learn languages. This article aims at establishing the components of foreign students' motivation to learn languages, the transformation of these changes according to the language proficiency level, and, also, to determine the main variables of sociolinguistic correlates. The methodology is based on a comprehensive approach. The methodology implementation tool consists of several methods: experimental method, sociolinguistic method, statistical and empirical methods, comparative-historical analysis method. The hypothesis lies in the fact that the involvement of sociolinguistic components in the language learning process by foreign students allows to determine and increase the overall motivation of students, forming a positive attitude to the acquisition of foreign languages. The result is to identify the level, components, and causes of students' motivation in terms of the sociolinguistic component involved in the learning process. In future research, it is necessary to further develop the theory and practice of sociolinguistic methods (adapted for educational and diagnostic purposes) and to determine the level of foreign students' motivation for learning.
Full-text available
Computer programming is fast becoming a required part of School curricula, but students find the topic challenging and university dropout rates are high. Observations suggest that hands-on keyboard typing improves learning, but quantitative evidence for this is lacking and the mechanisms are still unclear. Here we study neural and behavioral processes of programming in general, and Hands-on in particular. In project 1, we taught naïve teenagers programming in a classroom-like session, where one student in a pair typed code (Hands-on) while the other participated by discussion (Hands-off). They were scanned with fMRI 1-2 days later while evaluating written code, and their knowledge was tested again after a week. We find confidence and math grades to be important for learning, and easing of intrinsic inhibitions of parietal, temporal, and superior frontal activation to be a typical neural mechanism during programming, more so in stronger learners. Moreover, left inferior frontal cortex plays a central role; operculum integrates information from the dorsal and ventral streams and its intrinsic connectivity predicts confidence and long-term memory, while activity in Broca’s area also reflects deductive reasoning. Hands-on led to greater confidence and memory retention. In project 2, we investigated the impact of feedback on motivation and reaction time in a rule-switching task. We find that feedback targeting personal traits increasingly impair performance and motivation over the experiment, and we find that activity in precentral gyrus and anterior insula decrease linearly over time during the personal feedback condition, implicating these areas in this effect. These findings promote hands-on learning and emphasize possibilities for feedback interventions on motivation. Future studies should investigate interventions for increasing Need for Cognition, the relationship between computer programming and second language learning (L2), and the role of explicit verbalization of knowledge for successful coding, given the language-like processing of code.
The field of neuroscience has seen significant growth and interest in recent decades. While neuroscience knowledge can benefit laypeople as well as professionals in many different areas, it may be particularly relevant for educators. With the right information, educators can apply neuroscience-based teaching strategies as well as protect themselves and their students against pseudoscientific ideas and products based on them. Despite rapidly growing sources of available information and courses, studies show that educators in many countries have poor knowledge of brain science and tend to endorse education-related neuromyths. Poor English skills and fewer resources (personal, institutional and governmental) may be additional limitations in Latin America. In order to better understand the scenario in Latin America’s largest country, we created an anonymous online survey which was answered by 1634 individuals working in education from all five regions of Brazil. Respondents stated whether they agreed with each statement and reported their level of confidence for each answer. Significant differences in performance were observed across regions, between educators living in capital cities versus the outskirts, between those teaching in private versus public schools, and among educators teaching different levels (pre-school up to college/university). We also observed high endorsement of some key neuromyths, even among groups who performed better overall. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to conduct a detailed analysis of the profile of a large group of educators in Brazil. We discuss our findings in terms of efforts to better understand regional and global limitations and develop methods of addressing these most efficiently.
Full-text available
RESUMEN En el esfuerzo por develar los 'secretos más íntimos' del cerebro emprendedor, el campo de la neurociencia es el contendiente más apropiado. Sobre la base de una revisión de literatura previa a acerca del rol de la neurociencia en el emprendimiento, este articulo a) reflexiona sobre la utilización de la neurociencia en la investigación y práctica del emprendimiento, b) presenta los cinco 'vientos de disrupción' para señalar el futuro en cuanto al estudio del emprendimiento desde una perspectiva neurocientífica, c) describe cuatro formas de maximizar el aporte de las neuro tecnologías en la investigación y enseñanza del emprendimiento, d) introduce el concepto de "entrepreneurial enhancement" y e) revela tres técnicas para desarrollar y potenciar la performance de un emprendedor.
Full-text available
The article presents the results of research conducted among Polish teachers. Their aim was to check the prevalence of neuromyths in schools and kindergartens, and to identify predictors of both belief in neuromyths and the level of knowledge about the structure and functioning of the brain. The obtained results partially confirmed the reports from international studies. Neuromyths turned out to be very popular among Polish teachers, even despite the high level of basic knowledge in the field of neurobiology. The research also revealed a number of factors that determine the level of the above-mentioned knowledge. The influence of age, gender, seniority, workplace, interest in training in neuroeducation, earlier access to knowledge in the field of neurobiology or the use of neuromyths-based work methods in educational practice has not been confirmed. Abstrakt: W artykule zaprezentowano wyniki badań przeprowadzonych wśród polskich nauczycieli. Ich celem było sprawdzenie powszechności neuromitów w szkołach i przedszkolach oraz wskazanie predyktorów zarówno wiary w neuromity, jak i poziomu wiedzy dotyczącej budowy i funkcjonowania mózgu. Uzyskane wyniki częściowo potwierdziły doniesienia z międzynarodowych badań. Neuromity okazały się bardzo popularne wśród polskich nauczycieli, nawet pomimo wysokiego poziomu podstawowej wiedzy z zakresu neurobiologii. Badania uwidoczniły również szereg czynników, które warunkują poziom wyżej wskazanej wiedzy. Nie potwierdzono wpływu wieku, płci, stażu pracy, miejsca pracy ani zainteresowania dokształcaniem w problematyce neuroedukacji, wcześniejszym dostępem do wiedzy z zakresu neurobiologii czy stosowaniem w praktyce edukacyjnej metod pracy opartych na neuromitach.
Amongst educators, scientists and policy-makers there is a growing belief that the field of education can benefit from an understanding of the brain. However, attempts to bring neuroscience and education together have often been hampered by crucial differences in concepts, language and philosophy. In this book, Paul Howard-Jones explores these differences, drawing on the voices of educators and scientists to argue for a new field of enquiry: neuroeducational research. Introducing Neuroeducational Research provides a meaningful bridge between two diverse perspectives on learning. It proposes that any such bridge must serve two goals that are critically related to each other: it must enrich both scientific and educational understanding. This challenge gives rise to unique conceptual, methodological and ethical issues that will inevitably characterise this new field, and these are examined and illustrated here through empirical research. Throughout the book, Paul Howard-Jones: Explores 'neuromyths' and their impact on educational research Highlights the opportunities to combine biological, social and experiential evidence in understanding how we learn Argues against a 'brain-based' natural science of education Introduces clearly the concept of an interdisciplinary neuroeducational approach Builds a methodology for conducting neuroeducational research Draws on case studies and empirical findings to illustrate how a neuroeducational approach can provide a fuller picture of how we learn. Presenting a blueprint for including our knowledge of the brain in education, this book is essential reading for all those concerned with human learning in authentic contexts: educators, scientists and policy-makers alike.
Background: Many popular educational programmes claim to be ‘brain-based’, despite pleas from the neuroscience community that these neuromyths do not have a basis in scientific evidence about the brain. Purpose: The main aim of this paper is to examine several of the most popular neuromyths in the light of the relevant neuroscientific and educational evidence. Examples of neuromyths include: 10% brain usage, left- and right-brained thinking, VAK learning styles and multiple intelligences Sources of evidence: The basis for the argument put forward includes a literature review of relevant cognitive neuroscientific studies, often involving neuroimaging, together with several comprehensive education reviews of the brain-based approaches under scrutiny. Main argument: The main elements of the argument are as follows. We use most of our brains most of the time, not some restricted 10% brain usage. This is because our brains are densely interconnected, and we exploit this interconnectivity to enable our primitively evolved primate brains to live in our complex modern human world. Although brain imaging delineates areas of higher (and lower) activation in response to particular tasks, thinking involves coordinated interconnectivity from both sides of the brain, not separate left- and right-brained thinking. High intelligence requires higher levels of inter-hemispheric and other connected activity. The brain's interconnectivity includes the senses, especially vision and hearing. We do not learn by one sense alone, hence VAK learning styles do not reflect how our brains actually learn, nor the individual differences we observe in classrooms. Neuroimaging studies do not support multiple intelligences; in fact, the opposite is true. Through the activity of its frontal cortices, among other areas, the human brain seems to operate with general intelligence, applied to multiple areas of endeavour. Studies of educational effectiveness of applying any of these ideas in the classroom have failed to find any educational benefits. Conclusions: The main conclusions arising from the argument are that teachers should seek independent scientific validation before adopting brain-based products in their classrooms. A more sceptical approach to educational panaceas could contribute to an enhanced professionalism of the field.
A science-based overview of brain asymmetry, Left Brain, Right Brain is an introduction to contemporary research on brain–behavior relationships. Exploring normal, split-brain, and brain-damaged cases, it focuses on such key issues as left-handedness, sex differences, psychiatric illness, learning disabilities, and theories of consciousness. Thoroughly revised and updated, with an increased emphasis on the interdisciplinary field of cognitive neuroscience, the 5th edition of this guide also covers: current neuroimaging techniques, incuding a color photo insert of neuroimaging findings; the growing interest in conscious and unconscious mental operations; and the latest discoveries concerning cerebral hemispheric organization and its relationship to mental function. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
In the early 1990s, medical research found that teenagers have biologically different sleep and wake patterns than the preadolescent or adult population. On the basis of that information, in 1997 the seven comprehensive high schools in the Minneapolis Public School District shifted the school start timefrom 7:15 a. m. to 8:40 a. m. This article examines that change, finding significant benefits such as improved attendance and enrollment rates, less sleeping in class, and less student-reported depression. Policy implications are briefly discussed, acknowledging this to be a highly charged issue in school districts across the United States.
One of my jobs, as a neurodevelopmentalist, is to research what others are doing to address the issues that my clients face. This issue's article is a review of the book that presents the Irlen Method. Since we, as neurodevelopmentalists, seek to look at the whole person, we want to include in our arsenal, methods that work and are consistent with our approach. Certainly many of my clients struggle with reading and for now we are focusing on reading in our monthly issues of Unlocking Learning Potential. For a view of how the neurodevelopmental approach addresses reading difficulties, order your copy of the newly released second edition of our book: Rounding the Bases, Chris Learns to Read Among other things that you will gain by reading the following is some definitions of terms. Diagnoses and labels tend to confuse for a number of reasons. One big reason is that different people use labels differently and also official terms change especially in the realm where labels lead to services. Another reason is that several people with the same diagnosis may have different missing pieces in development. Our approach is to look for missing pieces in development, design Individualized Neurodevelopmental Plans, and teach parents to do these short, frequent activities with their children. When these activities are done consistently, they encourage development and the symptoms disappear. Thus the labels no longer apply. While we do not apply labels, we do need to know what people mean when they use these terms. Another thing you will learn is about reading and other learning difficulties. You will gain an understanding of how it is for some individuals who struggle to read.