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Enhancing Cognition and Emotions for Learning — Learning & The Brain Conference

Alvaro and I had the good for­tune to attend a great con­fer­ence last week called Learn­ing & The Brain: Enhanc­ing Cog­ni­tion and Emo­tions for Learn­ing. It was a fas­ci­nat­ing mix of neu­ro­sci­en­tists and edu­ca­tors talk­ing with and lis­ten­ing to each oth­er. Some top­ics were meant to be applied today, but many were food for thought — insight on where sci­ence and edu­ca­tion are head­ed and how they influ­ence each oth­er.

Using dra­mat­ic new imag­ing tech­niques, such as fMRIs, PET, and SPECT, neu­ro­sci­en­tists are gain­ing valu­able infor­ma­tion about learn­ing. This pio­neer­ing knowl­edge is lead­ing not only to new ped­a­go­gies, but also to new med­ica­tions, brain enhance­ment tech­nolo­gies, and ther­a­pies.… The Con­fer­ence cre­ates an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary forum — a meet­ing place for neu­ro­sci­en­tists, edu­ca­tors, psy­chol­o­gists, clin­i­cians, and par­ents — to exam­ine these new research find­ings with respect to their applic­a­bil­i­ty in the class­room and clin­i­cal prac­tice.


  • Humans are a mix­ture of cog­ni­tion and emo­tion, and both ele­ments are essen­tial to func­tion and learn prop­er­ly
  • Edu­ca­tors and pub­lic pol­i­cy mak­ers need to learn more about the brain, how it grows, and how to cul­ti­vate it
  • Stu­dents of all ages need to be both chal­lenged and nur­tured in order to suc­ceed
  • Peo­ple learn dif­fer­ent­ly — try to teach and learn through as many dif­fer­ent modal­i­ties as pos­si­ble (engage lan­guage, motor skills, artis­tic cre­ation, social inter­ac­tion, sen­so­ry input, etc.)
  • While short-term stress can height­en your cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties, long term stress kills you — you need to find bal­ance and release
  • Test anx­i­ety and sub­se­quent poor test results can be improved with behav­ioral train­ing with feed­back based on heart rate vari­abil­i­ty
  • Dr. Robert Sapol­sky is a very very enlight­en­ing and fun speak­er
  • Allow time for rest and con­sol­i­da­tion of learned mate­r­i­al
  • Emo­tion­al mem­o­ries are eas­i­er to remem­ber
  • Con­fer­ences like these per­form a real ser­vice in fos­ter­ing dia­logues between sci­en­tists and edu­ca­tors

The ses­sions were bro­ken into sev­er­al subtopics:

Top­ics includ­ed: neu­roethics, school readi­ness, “back to basics” ver­sus “dis­cov­ery learn­ing”, func­tion­al neu­roimag­ing, the Six Devel­op­men­tal Path­ways of phys­i­cal, cog­ni­tive, lan­guage, social, eth­i­cal, and psy­cho­log­i­cal skills

Speak­ers includ­ed: Michael S. Gaz­zani­ga, Ph.D., Kurt W. Fis­ch­er, Ph.D., John D.E. Gabrieli, Ph.D., Lin­da Dar­ling-Ham­mond, Ed.D., Daniel L. Schwartz, Ph.D., Jeb Schenck, Ph.D., Ross A. Thomp­son, Ph.D., Fay E. Brown, Ph.D., and Mar­i­ale M. Hardi­man, Ed.D.

Top­ics includ­ed: chron­ic stress, bipo­lar dis­or­der, ADHD, autism, learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties, sex dif­fer­ences in learn­ing, and cre­ativ­i­ty

Speak­ers includ­ed: Robert M. Sapol­sky, Ph.D., Kay Red­field Jami­son, Ph.D., Stephen P. Hin­shaw, Ph.D., Bry­na Siegel, Ph.D., Kiki D. Chang, M.D., Michael Guri­an, M.A., Sam Gold­stein, Ph.D., Lawrence H. Diller, M.D., and Ter­ence A. Ket­ter, M.D.

Top­ics includ­ed: mir­ror neu­rons, stress, anx­i­ety, emo­tions, phar­ma­co­log­ic manip­u­la­tions of mem­o­ry, emo­tion­al events, sex dif­fer­ences, and “brain-con­sid­er­ate” learn­ing envi­ron­ments, social func­tion­ing, deci­sion mak­ing, moti­va­tion, achieve­ment, pos­i­tive-emo­tion refo­cus­ing

Speak­ers includ­ed: Ken­neth A.Wesson, Ph.D., Ken­neth S. Kosik, M.D., Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., Lar­ry Cahill, Ph.D., Mary Fowler, M.A., Rollin McCraty, Ph.D., Mary Helen Immordi­no-Yang, Ed.D., Ed.M., and Robert Syl­west­er, Ed.D.

Top­ics includ­ed: read­ing dis­or­ders, dyslex­ia, assess­ment, instruc­tion­al strate­gies, the achieve­ment gap, and inte­gra­tion of visu­al, audi­to­ry, and lan­guage infor­ma­tion

Speak­ers includ­ed: Bri­an A.Wandell, Ph.D., Con­nie Juel, Ph.D., and Steven G. Feifer, Ed.D., NCSP.

Top­ics includ­ed: artis­tic process ver­sus art con­tent, effects of music on cog­ni­tive per­for­mance, and the gen­er­al­iz­abil­i­ty of of artis­tic abil­i­ties to cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties

Speak­ers includ­ed: James S. Cat­ter­all, Ph.D. and Frances H. Rausch­er, Ph.D.

Con­fer­ence Co-Spon­sors:

Fur­ther Read­ing

Save the Date! April 28–30, 2007 is the next con­fer­ence, Learn­ing & The Brain — Mold­ing Minds: How to Shape the Devel­op­ing Brain for Learn­ing & Achieve­ment, in Cam­bridge, Mass. We will post more infor­ma­tion about this con­fer­ence short­ly.

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