We all know the importance of education, but how exactly do we learn how to learn? Recent studies out of NYU look to unlock the mystery
Contrary to what your days in school might have you believe, there’s a lot more to learning than just memory. While being able to retain information for long periods of time certainly helps, how you recall and actually use that information is much more important. That’s when memory truly transforms to learning.
While there’s been plenty of research on how exactly we store information in our mind’s, much less work has gone into understanding how we actually learn. New research out of New York University is looking to change that by figuring out how we “learn to learn.”
What Did The Research Find Out About Learning to Learn?
The research team developed a protocol to study how mice can learn challenging mental tasks. The mice had to navigate a maze that contained electrified rods on the floor that could shock the mice. One group of mice took part in “cognitive control training” prior to the experiment. This group learned to avoid a shock despite designed distractions.
The results showed that the mice who were actively trained to ignore these cognitive distractions showed clear evidence of learning in comparison to the control group. Senior author of the study André Fenton stated that,
“The study shows that two hours of cognitive control training causes learning to learn in mice and that learning to learn is accompanied by improved tuning of a key brain circuit for memory. Consequently, the brain becomes persistently more effective at suppressing noisy inputs and more consistently effective at enhancing the inputs that matter.”
Being better at ignoring distractions allowed the mice to learn more effectively. The study also reported that these outcomes were backed up by the neural activity of the mice. The study used calcium imaging to analyse the hippocampus activity of the mice to see exactly how they were processing information and distractions.
So What Does This Mean For The Future of Learning?
The implications from studies such as this are massive. By further understanding how we learn to learn, we can greatly improve education as a whole. New models for teaching can be developed with more evidence based best practices. The research could also be extremely important for developing ways to slow down or even treat a wide variety of disorders such as schizophrenia or anxiety.
Ignoring distractions is clearly very important to effective learning, but being trained in how to actually ignore them could bring about huge benefits to learners.
The field is certainly in its early stages, but we expect there could be some huge breakthroughs coming that could truly shape the world of education for the future.
If you want to read the research article we’ve discussed, you can access it here.
Let us know what you think in the comments below!
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