Thursday, February 10, 2005

What Does Brain Research Tell Us About Learning Styles?

Plenty! Visual learning, auditory learning, and kinesthetic learning all activate different pathways by functional brain imaging. But brain studies also suggest that there is much greater flexibility to learning styles than the multiple intelligence checklists would have you believe.
For instance, are you familiar with Stroop tests? You're supposed to try to ignore what the word 'says' and just name the color. Sometimes these tests are used to look at attentional or executive function capabilities.

In fact, there are wide variations among individual subjects as they perform the Stroop task. We've excerpted two 'brains' for an example. The subject on the left appeared to use a frontal-parietal lobe approach (executive function) in selection, whereas the person on the right was able to focus him- or herself visually.

Individual Differences fMRI Stroop

But some of the most exciting findings provide insights about how different pathways can be activated depending on the strategy chosen. In this study from Dehaene and his group, blue areas were activated when exact calculations were performed to solve a math problem, whereas yellow areas were activated when approximations were performed. It might be that next generation of neuroteachers will be able to direct or cultivate flexible approaches to problem solving depending on student strengths or disabilities. Advanced thinkers are often aware of the different routes they can use to solve problems. Neurolearning for them may mean expanding their arsenal of tools for creative or analytical work.



  1. What a marvelous blog! I found you through the Hoagiesgifted web site. I'll be reading regularly.

  2. Thanks for your encouragement, Jodi. Sometimes we worry about covering too much ground - but it really is such an exciting time to rethink 'how we think' - we hope to provide information that will be helpful to folks out there.

    Fernette and Brock