Learnus conference on neuroscience and the future of education (London, 9 February 2017)

Our collaborators, the think tank Learnus, are staging their first conference, in partnership with the Association of School and College Leaders, entitled “FutureEd: How can Findings from Educational Neuroscience Reshape Teaching and Learning now and in the Future?”

The conference will be held at the Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury, on Thursday 9th February 2017. For more details, see futureed-conference

The mission of Learnus is to act as a bridge between the latest academic research and the classroom and to share their findings with education policy makers.

Curious Brains


Professor Derek Bell from Learnus (one of CEN’s collaborators) gave a presentation last week at the Second Neurocuriosity Workshop, on information-seeking, curiosity and attention. The workshop was hosted by The Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development (Birkbeck) and brought together cognitive neuroscientists, psychologists, and educators interested in the role of curiosity in learning.

Given Learnus’ mission – to facilitate in the translation of research to educational implications and practice – Derek’s talk focused on how scientific research in curiosity might help answer the perennial teachers’ question, “So what do I do in my lessons next week?”.

Derek emphasised that the link between education and neuroscience is not a simple straight line. While there is an appetite among teachers for new methods stemming from research on the brain, this places a responsibility on those working in the field to assure the quality of the information that is shared. Derek focused on key questions including: What is curiosity in the classroom? How does it differ from interest? How can curiosity be harnessed for learning? How does the neuroscience understanding of the basis of curiosity (in exploration, information gain, and reward seeking) link to classroom learning activities?

He drew some tentative conclusions from the research presented at the workshop: Curiosity consolidates learning. It may act as a positive feedback loop, with curiosity stimulating learning, and learning in turn stimulating more curiosity. However, curiosity, surprise, rewards and memory are tightly interlinked concepts. Practical strategies to stimulate curiosity and generate interest in lessons might include the use of surprise items and events, rewards, and questions.

But also he also stressed the importance of dialogue between different professional communities to facilitate understanding the concrete implications of cutting edge research, and whether they yet justify any major changes in teachers’ practice.

In the following discussion, two points emerged. The first concerned the challenge of ‘bringing curiosity to the fore’ and the suggestion that having some structure or task to help focus the curiosity might be more productive for students than situations in which the questions are completely open or students engaging in what might be referred to as ‘idle curiosity’.

The second was the idea that curiosity is not a ‘one-off event’, so there is a need to explore ways of sustaining curiosity so that it becomes a longer term interest in the material and, more broadly, in learning about the world and how it works.

CEN Research Seminars – Autumn programme

The CEN research seminars will recommence next week on Thursday 13th October at 4pm. These seminars are open to anyone with an interest in educational neuroscience, including educators and members of the public. The seminar series will run weekly during term time, and will be held in Birkbeck, University of London.

Some of the upcoming talks: Thursday 13th October 2016: Prof. Michael Thomas “Is educational neuroscience all it’s cracked up to be?” Later in the term: Prof. Ted Melhuish “Long-term effects of early years experience”. Discussion paper: “Genomic basis of educational attainment”

If you are interested in being added to our mailing list for further seminar details, please email us at centre4educationalneuroscience@gmail.com

Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience celebrates 20 years

Congratulations to the UCL’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, celebrating its 20 year anniversary. To mark this occasion, the Institute is holding a 1-day event on 11th June 2016. “Mind the Brain” will feature short 15-minute talks from 12 different researchers at the forefront of cognitive neuroscience. To close the day, there will be a panel discussion focusing on how the future of cognitive neuroscience will affect the lives of the public.


UCL-IOE / HKU Education & Neuroscience Collaboration: Friday 15th January

You are warmly invited to take part in the upcoming, second instalment of an exciting digital and e-learning collaboration between UCL-IoE and Hong Kong University.

Intended to facilitate inclusive and accessible conversations about current trends in education and neuroscience, and to link researchers working in different parts of the world, this Friday’s session will consist of;
  • Prof. Andrew Tolmie (UCL-IoE), presenting on Observation, Description and Explanation in Primary School Science
  • Prof. Michael Thomas (BBK) speaking on The Cognitive Neuroscience of Socioeconomic Status
  • Prof. Emily Farran (UCL-IoE) presenting a paper entitled A Multilevel Approach to Understanding Development

Abstracts are available here…

As this is a digital seminar, the session will be broadcast online, and is therefore intended to be accessed remotely from anywhere via a link sent to those who sign-up. Similarly, participants will have the opportunity to ask questions of each other and the speakers via the twitter hashtag #UCL_EdNeuro and a google-hangout. There is also an opportunity to attend the session in person over coffee at UCL-IoE.
For more information and to sign-up, follow the Eventbrite link here… 

New Workshop on Current Issues in Educational Neuroscience for graduate students and researchers: Friday 20th November, 9:00 – 17:00

Current Issues in Educational Neuroscience: A workshop sponsored by the Bloomsbury and UCL Doctoral Training Centres

Date and time: Friday 20th November 2015, Registration from 9:00, workshop 9:30 – 17:00

Location: Room B34, Birbeck, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX (updated location)

This full day workshop features a keynote presentation by Professor Daphne Bavelier entitled “Learning and transfer: Lessons from action video games”, two themed sessions on educational neuroscience (on the training of executive functions, and on the environmental factors associated with cognitive development and learning), a lunchtime poster session, and a panel discussion.


Professor Daphne Bavelier (University of Geneva) is a cognitive neuroscientist who studies brain plasticity. Her research tackles questions such as: What are the factors that promote such learning and brain plasticity? Are some parts of our nervous system more plastic than others, making some skills easier to acquire?

Professor Bavelier presented the popular TED talk “Your brain on video games”.

Who is the workshop for? MPhil/PhD students, MSc students, and early career researchers

Is there a registration fee? No, registration is free, but you must register to attend.

How do I book? To reserve your place, please email the Centre for Educational Neuroscience administrator at centre4educationalneuroscience@gmail.com, with NOVEMBER WORKSHOP in the subject line. Please indicate in the email what programme you are studying on.

Can I present a poster? If you have research to present that is relevant to educational neuroscience (in its broadest sense) we would love to hear from you. Please email a 300 word abstract of your poster to the Centre for Educational Neuroscience administrator at centre4educationalneuroscience@gmail.com, with NOVEMBER WORKSHOP POSTER in the subject line.

CEN Research Group autumn schedule now available

The CEN Research Group, which is open to those interested in the latest developments in educational neuroscience, meets weekly at 4pm on Thursday afternoons.

Our autumn schedule is now available here. The first meeting is on Thursday 15th October, with a journal paper presentation from Emily Farran. On 22nd October, Sarah Punshon will be talking about her new Wellcome-Funded project: “Getting stuck, going wrong and being stupid: could a theatrical adventure impact children’s beliefs about their mathematical brains?”. On Thursday 29th October, Dr. Ben Shaw from the University of Westminster will present his research on “Children’s Independent Mobility: how much freedom do our children have to get about by themselves and does independence affect child development?”


The CEN Research Group is open to faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, and students at Birkbeck and UCL (especially those on the Educational Neuroscience and Developmental Sciences masters, and PhD students studying relevant topics). It is also open to educationalists, educational psychologists, and interested teachers. Meetings aim to enable an atmosphere of informal discussion of the latest findings in neuroscience and psychology, and their relevance to education. If you would like to attend, please contact us at: centre4educationalneuroscience@gmail.com

Public lecture on Genetics and Education 18th November 2015

Michael Thomas, Director of CEN, and Dr. Emma Meaburn, will give the Inaugural Annual Learnus Lecture, on the topic of Genetics and Education, on 18th November at 6.30pm, at Harvey Goodwin Suite, Church House, Dean’s Yard London SW1P 3NZ. The lecture will explore the potential contribution of modern genetic methods and findings to education. Here’s the flier:

Learnus Inaugural Annual Lecture


Summer seminar at CEN: 12-1pm, August 5th, Birkbeck: Prof. Yi-Yuan Tang on ‘Training Attention and Self-regulation’


Professor Yi-Yuan Tang, visiting from Texas Tech University, USA, will give a seminar at the the CEN on Wednesday, 12-1pm on August 5th, at Birkbeck (Room 153, Malet Street building), with a buffet lunch afterwards.

The seminar will be on “Training Attention and Self-regulation: Brain Mechanisms and Applications”.

Abstract: “Attention and self-regulation play an important role in learning and education. It remains largely unknown how to train these capacities effectively. This talk will introduce two types of training methods – state training and network training. Network training involves practice of a specific task (e.g., attention, working memory) repeatedly and thus exercising its specific brain network. State training uses practice (e.g., physical exercise or mindfulness meditation) to develop a brain state that may influence the operations of many networks. State training certainly involves networks, but it is not designed to train networks using a cognitive task. Research has shown that both types of training can improve attention, cognitive control, emotion regulation and neuroplasticity. I will discuss the brain mechanisms and applications of these types of training in learning and education.”

All welcome.