An Introduction to Educational Neuroscience at the UCL Institute of Education

The CEN is running a 1-day introductory course on Educational Neuroscience on Saturday 9th May 2015 at the UCL Institute of Education. It will be taught by Prof Michael Thomas (Birkbeck), Prof Denis Mareschal (Birkbeck), Dr Iroise Dumontheil (Birkbeck), Dr Chloë Marshall (UCL IOE) and Prof Andy Tolmie (UCL IOE).

Further information can be found here:

http://store.ioe.ac.uk/browse/extra_info.asp?compid=1&modid=5&catid=2&prodid=425

PhD studentship: Enhancing success on science and maths problems

Two members of the CEN, Dr. Emily Farran (UCL IOE) and Dr. Iroise Dumontheil (Birkbeck) have obtained funding for a PhD studentship investigating the role of local and global processing in the learning of maths and science at primary school level. Applications are now invited for this studentship.

The deadline for applications is March 23rd. Interviews will be held on the morning of March 26th. A decision will be taken the following week.

Please contact Dr. Iroise Dumontheil if you have questions (i.dumontheil@bbk.ac.uk) or Click here for more information.

 

Prof. Franck Ramus is the CEN’s first invited speaker for spring 2015

We are pleased to announce that Prof. Franck Ramus (Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique, Institute of Cognitive Studies, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris) will be presenting some of his recent research on the brain basis of dyslexia  on Wednesday 7th January, 4-5:15pm, in Room 802 at the UCL-Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London. All are welcome to join us, and there is no need to book.

The title of Franck’s talk, and the abstract, are as follows:

Neuroanatomy of developmental dyslexia

This talk will review our recent research on the neuroanatomical differences between dyslexic and control children, covering voxel-based morphometry, analyses of cortical thickness and surface, white matter tractography, morphometry of the planum temporale, and analyses of gyrification patterns. I will further discuss consistencies and inconsistencies between our results and previously published research, and future perspectives.

 

Does non-invasive brain stimulation produce a cognitive enhancement? Depends!

A new paper published by Amar Sarkar, Ann Dowker, and Roi Cohen Kadosh has shown that identical transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) exerts opposite behavioural and physiological effects depending on individual trait levels. Recent studies have suggested that non-invasive brain stimulation can accelerate skill acquisition in complex tasks and may provide an alternative or addition to other training methods. However, the Sarker study suggests that zapping your brain might make you better at maths tests – or worse. It depends how anxious you are about taking the test in the first place. See here for the Sarker paper and here for a recent commentary in the New Scientist about a new meta-analysis which has struggled to find out what actual physiological effect tDCS has on the brain.

doc_brown_backtothefuture

(Note, this image is Doc Brown from the film Back to the Future, not actual tDCS!)

 

Would you like to do a PhD in Educational Neuroscience?

Bloomsbury Doctoral Training Centre Studentship Applications are now invited.

Applications are now open for ESRC studentships via the Bloomsbury Doctoral Training Centre, which offers a training route in Educational Neuroscience. Further details will be available shortly on the DTC website at https://bloomsburydtcacuk.wordpress.com/

Two briefing events for intending applicants and prospective supervisors will also be held in November, both at the Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL:

  • Student briefing session – 12.30 – 2.00 Wednesday 26 November in Room 731
  • Supervisor briefing session – 12.30 – 2.00 Thursday 27 November in Room 642

The closing date for applications is Friday 6 February 2015.

Bilingual children ‘show advantage’ in noisy classrooms

Researchers have found evidence that youngsters who speak two languages maintain their focus better. A study has found bilingual primary school children learn more effectively than monolinguals within noisy environments like classrooms. Bilingual Article

Anglia Ruskin University’s Dr Roberto Filippi carried out research in Cambridge primary schools, focusing on children aged between seven and 10. Michael Thomas, from the CEN, was a co-author on the study. The study found bilingual children were more able to maintain focus on a main task, which in this case was the identification of the subject in a short sentence in the presence of noise.

Pupils who only speak one language did not reach the same level of efficiency, showing that noise negatively affects their ability to sustain attention, especially when comprehending more difficult sentences.

Dr Filippi said: “Previous research has shown that bilingualism has a positive effect on cognitive abilities, but there were no studies investigated whether these advantages extended to learning in noisy environments.

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“Primary schools are the key stages for the development of formal learning in the first years of life. However, they are also remarkably noisy. Therefore the ability to filter out auditory interference is particularly important within the context of an educational environment.”

Dr Filippi was joined by international researchers from Birkbeck in London and the Northwestern University in Chicago. The study provides further evidence of the importance of learning a second language early in the UK educational system. The research is in line with previous research in adult second language learners, which implicated the cerebellum as the neural structure involved in mediating language interference when the bilingual focuses on a single language.

Workshop on the Science of Learning 21 October at the Royal Society

As part of the state visit of the President of Singapore to the UK later this month, the Centre for Educational Neuroscience ran a 1-day workshop in collaboration with Singapore’s National Research Foundation on the Science of Learning at the Royal Society on Tuesday 21st October 2014.

The workshop included presentations from Dr. Hilary Leevers of the Wellcome Trust on current funding developments in the UK for educational neuroscience, from Prof. Derek Bell, Director of Learnus, on how to advance the field of educational neuroscience, from several members of CEN including Prof. Denis Mareschal, Prof. Andy Tolmie, Prof. Michael Thomas and Dr. Iroise Dumontheil on specific research projects, and talks from a number of leading researchers from Singapore including Dr. Mariam Sharifah (Principal Specialist, Educational Psychologist, Ministry of Education), Prof. Ellen Do (Co-Director, Keio-NUS CUTE Center 
Interactive and Digital Media Institute, National University of Singapore), Prof. Ranga Krishnan (Dean, Dike-NUS Graduate Medical School), Prof. Balazs Gulyas (Professor of Translational Neuroscience, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore), and A/Prof Manu Kapur (Head, Learning Sciences Lab, National Institute of Education, Singapore).

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CEN awarded £1m grant to develop and test method to help kids learn maths and science

The CEN was among six projects in educational neuroscience funded by a joint initiative between the Education Endowment Fund and Wellcome Trust to develop and test educational interventions based on latest neuroscience findings.

The CEN’s project is called UnLocke and targets the learning of counterintuitive concepts in maths and science in primary age children. It aims to test the benefit of training pupils to suspend their pre-existing beliefs when it comes to solving mathematical or scientific questions, for example correcting the seemingly logical notion that a heavy object will fall faster than a light one, or the impulse that the cells that make up an elephant should be bigger than those that make up a mouse.

The project team is led by Prof. Denis Mareschal (Birkbeck) and includes Prof. Michael Thomas, Dr. Iroise Dumontheil (both Birkbeck), Prof. Andy Tolmie, Dr. Kaska Porayska-Pomsta, Dr. Emily Farran, Dr. Sveta Meyer (all from Institute of Education) and Prof. Derek Bell (Director of Learnus).

For further information, see Birkbeck, Wellcome Trust, Education Endowment Fund.

Listen to Denis talk on this morning’s Radio 4 Today Programme (scroll through to 2:47:00!)

Primary schools are being recruited to take part in the research. For more information contact unlocke@psychology.bbk.ac.uk.

UnLocke_launch

Here at the CEN, we are excited to get cracking on this innovative project!

 

Forthcoming talk in October: Prof. Daniel Ansari, “Building blocks of mathematical competence: Evidence from brain and behaviour”

Prof. Daniel Ansari, University of Western Ontario, Canada, will be giving a talk at the Centre for Educational Neuroscience entitled “Building blocks of mathematical competence: Evidence from brain and behaviour”, on Tuesday 7th October.

The talk will be at 4pm in the first floor seminar room of the Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, 27-28 Woburn Square.

No need to book – All welcome.