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Do you believe these neuromyths? Do we only use 10% of our brain?

brain myths and facts

Cour­tesy of the recent study Neu­romyths in edu­ca­tion: Preva­lence and pre­dic­tors of mis­con­cep­tions among teach­ers, by Sanne Dekker et al, here you have 32 brain-related state­ments. Are they cor­rect or incorrect?

  1. We use our brains 24 h a day (C ).
  2. Chil­dren must acquire their native lan­guage before a sec­ond lan­guage is learned. If they do not do so nei­ther lan­guage will be fully acquired (I).
  3. Boys have big­ger brains than girls (C ).
  4. If pupils do not drink suf­fi­cient amounts of water (=6–8 glasses a day) their brains shrink (I).
  5. It has been sci­en­tif­i­cally proven that fatty acid sup­ple­ments (omega-3 and omega-6) have a pos­i­tive effect on aca­d­e­mic achieve­ment (I).
  6. When a brain region is dam­aged other parts of the brain can take up its func­tion (C ).
  7. We only use 10% of our brain (I).
  8. The left and right hemi­sphere of the brain always work together (C ).
  9. Dif­fer­ences in hemi­spheric dom­i­nance (left brain, right brain) can help explain indi­vid­ual dif­fer­ences amongst learn­ers (I).
  10. The brains of boys and girls develop at the same rate (I).
  11. Brain devel­op­ment has fin­ished by the time chil­dren reach sec­ondary school (I).
  12. There are crit­i­cal peri­ods in child­hood after which cer­tain things can no longer be learned (I).
  13. Infor­ma­tion is stored in the brain in a net­work of cells dis­trib­uted through­out the brain (C ).
  14. Learn­ing is not due to the addi­tion of new cells to the brain (C ).
  15. Indi­vid­u­als learn bet­ter when they receive infor­ma­tion in their pre­ferred learn­ing style (e.g., audi­tory, visual, kines­thetic) (I).
  16. Learn­ing occurs through mod­i­fi­ca­tion of the brains’ neural con­nec­tions (C ).
  17. Aca­d­e­mic achieve­ment can be affected by skip­ping break­fast (C ).
  18. Nor­mal devel­op­ment of the human brain involves the birth and death of brain cells (C ).
  19. Men­tal capac­ity is hered­i­tary and can­not be changed by the envi­ron­ment or expe­ri­ence (I).
  20. Vig­or­ous exer­cise can improve men­tal func­tion (C ).
  21. Envi­ron­ments that are rich in stim­u­lus improve the brains of pre-school chil­dren (I).
  22. Chil­dren are less atten­tive after con­sum­ing sug­ary drinks and/or snacks (I).
  23. Cir­ca­dian rhythms (“body-clock”) shift dur­ing ado­les­cence, caus­ing pupils to be tired dur­ing the first lessons of the school day (C ).
  24. Reg­u­lar drink­ing of caf­feinated drinks reduces alert­ness (C ).
  25. Exer­cises that rehearse co-ordination of motor-perception skills can improve lit­er­acy skills (I).
  26. Extended rehearsal of some men­tal processes can change the shape and struc­ture of some parts of the brain (C ).
  27. Indi­vid­ual learn­ers show pref­er­ences for the mode in which they receive infor­ma­tion (e.g., visual, audi­tory, kines­thetic) (C ).
  28. Learn­ing prob­lems asso­ci­ated with devel­op­men­tal dif­fer­ences in brain func­tion can­not be reme­di­ated by edu­ca­tion (I).
  29. Pro­duc­tion of new con­nec­tions in the brain can con­tinue into old age (C ).
  30. Short bouts of co-ordination exer­cises can improve inte­gra­tion of left and right hemi­spheric brain func­tion (I).
  31. There are sen­si­tive peri­ods in child­hood when it’s eas­ier to learn things (C ).
  32. When we sleep, the brain shuts down (I).

Neu­romyth asser­tions are pre­sented in italic; C = cor­rect; I = incorrect.

–> Want to see how teach­ers in the UK and Nether­lands per­formed? Click HERE

StudyNeu­romyths in edu­ca­tion: Preva­lence and pre­dic­tors of mis­con­cep­tions among teach­ers (Fron­tiers in Edu­ca­tional Psy­chol­ogy). From the Dis­cus­sion about Preva­lence of neuromyths:

  • Over­all, teach­ers agreed with 49% of the state­ments pro­mot­ing myths indi­cat­ing that they believed these myths. There was no sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in over­all preva­lence between coun­tries [t(240) = 0.408, p = 0.684]. An analy­sis of the responses for each myth showed a lot of vari­a­tion between the myths (see Table 1). Seven of the 15 myth state­ments were believed by more than 50% of the teach­ers. The most preva­lent of these myths were (1) “Indi­vid­u­als learn bet­ter when they receive infor­ma­tion in their pre­ferred learn­ing style (e.g., audi­tory, visual, kines­thetic)”, (2) “Dif­fer­ences in hemi­spheric dom­i­nance (left brain, right brain) can help explain indi­vid­ual dif­fer­ences amongst learn­ers”, and (3) “Short bouts of co-ordination exer­cises can improve inte­gra­tion of left and right hemi­spheric brain func­tion”. More than 80% of the teach­ers believed these myths. Other state­ments related to neu­romyths were often suc­cess­fully iden­ti­fied, e.g., “Indi­vid­ual learn­ers show pref­er­ences for the mode in which they receive infor­ma­tion (e.g., visual, audi­tory, kines­thetic)”. More than 80% of the teach­ers answered this state­ment correctly.
  • Brain Gym (Brain Gym Inter­na­tional, 2011), Learn­ing Styles, and Left brain/Right brain learn­ing pro­grams were encoun­tered sig­nif­i­cantly more often in schools in the UK than in the NL (see Table 2). More teach­ers from the UK than the NL fol­lowed in-service train­ing. Dutch teach­ers read pop­u­lar sci­ence mag­a­zines or sci­en­tific jour­nals more often than teach­ers in the UK (see Table 2). There were sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences between coun­ties in teach­ers’ views on the role of genes and envi­ron­ment in learn­ing. Teach­ers in the NL gave con­sid­er­ably greater weight to genes than teach­ers in the UK (34 vs. 22%). Teach­ers in the UK attrib­uted more to home envi­ron­ment (46%) and school envi­ron­ment (29%), com­pared to Dutch teach­ers (resp. 30 and 25%).

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