April 11, 2014
Contact: Kristin Dunay(781)-449-4010 x



WHAT: Encouraging the development of critical and creative thinking in students is now recognized as central to education. Both new Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards stress these thinking skills and a recent study by the Center on Education and the Workforce found that these skills will be crucial in getting future jobs. Next month’s Learning & the Brain® Conference in New York, NY, will bring a renowned group of neuroscientists, psychologists and educators to present new research findings on critical and creative thinking, problem solving, innovation, intelligence and thinking processing in reading, math and sciences before 1,200 educators.  The conference will explore ways to use the science of “smarter minds” to teach the skills students need to meet today’s new standards, curriculum and future careers.
WHO: The program is co-sponsored by several organizations including the Neuroscience and Education Program, Teachers College, Columbia University, Mind, Brain & Education Program, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Comer School Development Program, Yale University School of Medicine, the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, and both the national associations of elementary and secondary school principals, and is produced by Public Information Resources, Inc.Eric Kandel, MD, a Nobel Laureate in Medicine and University and Fred Kavli Professor at Columbia University, will give the opening keynote at the conference on the topic of “The Age of Insight: Art, Brain and the Creative Beholder.”  He will use the work of Rokitansky, Freud, Riegl, Klimt, Kokoschka and Schiele as examples of how Vienna in 1900 was able to forge a bridge between art and science in an effort to better understand creativity.  Dr. Kandel is also the Director of the Kavli Institute for Brain Science at Columbia University and the Founding Director of the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior at the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons;.  He is also the author of several books including Age of Insight (2012) and In Search of Memory (2007).In addition to Dr. Kandel, some of the featured speakers will be:▪    Sandra B. Chapman, PhD, Founder/Chief Director, Center for BrainHealth; Dee Wyly Distinguished Chair; Professor of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, The University of Texas at Dallas; Co-Author, Make Your Brain Smarter: Increase Your Brain’s Creativity, Energy, and Focus (2013)

▪    Arthur L. Costa, EdD, Emeritus Professor of Education, California State University, Sacramento; Co-Director of the Institute for Intelligent Behavior; Former President of ASCD; Former Director of Educational Programs, NASA; Co-Author, Cognitive Capital (2013) and Thinking-Based Learning (2010)

▪    Arthur B. Markman, PhD, Annabel Iron Worsham Centennial Professor, Department of Psychology, The University of Texas at Austin; Executive Editor, Cognitive Science; Author, Smart Thinking: Three Essential Keys to Solve Problems, Innovate and Get Things Done (2012)

▪    Camilla P. Benbow, EdD, Dean of Education and Human Development, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University; Co-Director of the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth; Co-Author, “Creativity and Technical Innovation: Spatial Ability’s Unique Role” (2013, Psychological Science)

▪    Tony Wagner, MAT, EdD, Expert in Residence, Innovation Laboratory, Harvard University; Founder/Co-Director, Change Leadership Group, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Author, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World (2012)


WHEN: Thursday, May 8-Saturday, May 10. Conference begins 1:00 PM. General Registration is $579 through April 25 and $599 after April 25.  Contact Kristin Dunay at 781-449-4010 x 102 for media passes.
WHERE: Sheraton Times Square Hotel, New York, NY
Learning & the Brain® is a series of educational conferences that brings the latest research in neuroscience and psychology and their potential applications to education to the wider educational community. Since its inception in 1999, more than 40,000 people in Boston, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago have attended this series.

For more information about the conference, visit




January 28, 2014


Kristin Dunay

(781)-449-4010 x 102



WHAT: Cognitive and Social Neuroscience research has found that social-emotional skills, such as self-awareness, self-regulation and resilience, are often more important than IQ for academic and later life success. Yet, many students today lack these necessary skills. A national group of neuroscientists, psychologists and educators will be presenting new brain research findings on self-awareness, self-control, relationships and resilience before 1,500 educators at next month’s Learning & the Brain® Conference in San Francisco, CA. They will also provide new strategies and new cognitive technologies for improving these skills in the brain to help students succeed in today’s standards-based, distracted, disconnected, digital age.
WHO: The program is co-sponsored by several organizations including the Stanford University School of Education, the Greater Goods Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, the Laboratory of Educational Neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco, the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, and both the national associations of elementary and secondary school principals, and is produced by Public Information Resources, Inc.

Antonio R. Damasio, MD, PhD, the David Dornsife Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Southern California, will be a featured speaker at the conference.  He is also a Professor of Psychology and Neurology and the Director of the Brain and Creativity Institute there as well as an Adjunct Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Dr. Damasio’ research has focused on the neural basis of emotions and the role emotions play in decision-making, memory, language and consciousness.  He is the author of many academic articles and several books including Self Comes to Mind (2010), Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain (2005) and Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow and the Feeling Brain (2003).

In addition to Dr. Damasio, some of the featured speakers will be:

▪    Patricia S. Churchland, BPhil, LLD, President’s Professor of Philosophy Emerita, Department of Philosophy, University of California, San Diego; Adjunct Professor, Salk Institute for Biological Studies; Author, Touching a Nerve: The Self as Brain (2013), Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality (2011), Brain-Wise: Studies in Neurophilosophy (2002) and The Computational Brain (1992)

▪    Edward M. Hallowell, MD, Child and Adult Psychiatrist; Founder, The Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health (Boston, New York, San Francisco); Former Faculty, Harvard Medical School; Author, Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People (2011), Overloaded Circuits (2009), CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! (2006), Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness (2003) and Connect (2001)

▪    Michael S. Gazzaniga, PhD, Professor of Psychology; Director, SAGE Center for the Study of Mind, University of California, Santa Barbara; President, Cognitive Neuroscience Institute; Author; Who’s in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain (2012), Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique (2008), The Ethical Brain: The Science of Our Moral Dilemmas (2006) and The Mind’s Past (2000)

▪    Adam H. Gazzaley, MD, PhD, Director, Gazzaley Cognitive Neuroscience Research Lab; Associate Professor of Neurology, Physiology and Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco; Assistant Adjunct Professor, Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley; Host of the PBS-Special “The Distracted Mind”; Co-Author, “Video game training enhances cognitive control in older adults” (2013, Nature)

▪    Denise C. Pope, PhD, Senior Lecturer, Stanford University School of Education; Co-Founder, Challenge Success; Author, “Beyond ‘Doing School’: From ‘Stressed-Out’ to ‘Engaged in Learning” (2010, Education Canada) and Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed Out, Materialistic, and Mis-educated Students (2001); Co-Author, “Success with Less Stress” (2009, Educational Leadership); Winner of the 2012 Education Professor of the Year “Educators’ Voice Award” from the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences


WHEN: Thursday, February 13-Saturday, February 15. Conference begins 1:00 PM. General Registration is $579 through January 31 and $599 after January 31.  Contact Kristin Dunay at 781-449-4010 x 102 for media passes.
WHERE: Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill, San Francisco, CA
Learning & the Brain® is a series of educational conferences that brings the latest research in neuroscience and psychology and their potential applications to education to the wider educational community. Since its inception in 1999, this series has been attended by more than 40,000 people in Boston, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago.


For more information about the conference, visit

2013 Transforming Education Through Neuroscience Award will be presented at the Learning & the Brain® Educational Conference in Boston this week

At the upcoming Learning & the Brain® educational conference in Boston, MA, the 2013 Transforming Education Through Neuroscience Award will be presented to Dr. David B. Daniel from James Madison University for his contributions to the field of Mind, Brain and Education.

November 12, 2013 – A pioneering educator and researcher who studies classroom pedagogy, cognitive development and the translation of Mind, Brain and Education to teaching practice will be awarded the sixth annual prize for “Transforming Education through Neuroscience.” The award was established by the Learning & the Brain Foundation and The International Mind, Brain and Education Society (IMBES) to honor an individual who represents excellence in bridging neuroscience and education. The $5,000 award will be used to “support translational efforts bridging scientific findings and classroom practice.”

David B. Daniel, PhD, a James Madison University professor, is being honored for his tireless and creative efforts to develop the infrastructure of the field of Mind, Brain and Education, which tries to focus research in neuroscience, cognitive science and other fields onto classrooms and learning. Along with his efforts to create better teaching and learning in K-12 schools and at the university level, Dr. Daniel has been facilitating the building of sound organizational structures and effective communication processes in the field of Mind, Brain and Education for many years. He is a founding IMBES board member and former executive director of the Society. He has also been the managing editor of Mind, Brain and Education, the first journal focusing on the intersection between education, neuroscience, cognitive science and other fields, since it began. The journal was recognized in 2008 as the “Best New Journal in the Humanities and Social Sciences” by the Association of American Publishers Academic Division.

According to Kurt Fischer, Charles Warland Bigelow Professor and director of the Harvard Mind, Brain and Education Program, “David Daniel has been the most important force behind the creation of the journal Mind, Brain, and Education and its success in connecting the work of teachers and researchers around the world. Quietly behind the scenes he has made things happen productively and thoughtfully. We appreciate his broad and deep contributions to the International Mind, Brain, and Education Society, the journal, and so many activities that are bringing together researchers and practitioners everywhere.”

Dr. Daniel has been a strong advocate for the careful translation of appropriate scientific findings to practice, and has wisely urged caution for doing so prematurely. “In a field where it’s easy to get carried away by theory, David Daniel stands out as a voice for keeping the eye of the scientist on the classroom–as well as encouraging teachers to keep an eye on the laboratory. He is the most sensible scientist I know in this regard,” wrote Daniel Willingham, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia.

Especially important is his framing of an ecological approach to pedagogical research, which works to specify how controlled cognitive laboratory environments alter and simplify learning situations, often rendering the findings difficult or impossible to realistically implement in real-world contexts. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, assistant professor at the University of Southern California stated that, “Dr. Daniel exemplifies the rare scholar who recognizes the complexity of the dynamic interaction between teaching and learning, and understands how to responsibly translate scientific findings into educational initiatives.”

While his high quality teaching brings him the most accolades, Dr. Daniel provides continual, but often low-profile, mentoring and advising of teachers and young interdisciplinary scholars.  He helps them make optimal contributions to the field and simultaneously furthers their own thinking and career goals. You will find Dr. Daniel’s name in the acknowledgements of many articles and books in the field. He has also played a critical role in facilitating high-quality dialogue between researchers and educational practitioners in a variety of settings. As with his efforts to develop the field, Dr. Daniel generally works quietly behind the scenes, looking for strategic, genuine and sound ways to move the field forward by supporting others in meaningfully connecting their research with practice.

Daniel Ansari, a neuroscientist and associate professor at the University of Western Ontario, wrote, “Dr. Daniel is one of the few people who really sits in the middle between science and practice and is committed to establishing ways of crossing between the two. This is a rare and difficult balancing act, but essential for the field to grow.”

The prize will be presented to Dr. Daniel by Professor Fischer at the upcoming Learning & the Brain® educational conference in Boston, MA on Saturday, November, 16, held at the Westin Copley Hotel.  The Learning & the Brain Foundation and the International Mind Brain and Education Society wish Dr. Daniel our heartiest congratulations.



November 1, 2013

Contact: Kristin Dunay
(781) 449-4010 x102


WHAT: Neuroscience and education researchers will present findings that show active, outdoor and online self-directed activities engage the brain in deeper, faster learning than sitting passively in class.  These findings support new teaching methods using online, iPad and outdoor learning projects and collaborations and provide ideas for meeting 21st Century and Common Core requirements for deeper learning. A national group of neuroscientists, psychologists and educators will be presenting this new research before 1,300 educators at this month’s Learning & the Brain® Conference in Boston, MA, to show how cognitive science, outdoor and online (or blended) technology are changing teaching, increasing student engagement and providing deeper learning experiences.During the conference, David B. Daniel, PhD, Professor in the Department of Psychology at James Madison University, will be presented with the 2013 “Transforming Education Through Neuroscience” Award. The $5,000 award was established by the Learning & the Brain Foundation and the International Mind, Brain and Education Society (IMBES) to honor an individual who represents excellence in bridging neuroscience and education.Dr. Daniel will also address the conference on the Sunday morning with the talk “Neat, But How Do We Use It: Translating Mind, Brain and Education to the Classroom.” He will discuss the tremendous pressure on educators to develop evidence-based practices that dynamically impact student learning and performance and an ever-growing list of recommendations that claim to be evidence based. Dr. Daniel will address critical issues in translating scientific findings for classroom use, focusing on the role of educators within the field of Mind, Brain and Education.
WHO: The program is co-sponsored by several organizations including the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Athinoula A. Martinos Imaging Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, and both the national associations of elementary and secondary school principals, and is produced by Public Information Resources, Inc. In addition to Dr. Daniel, some of the featured speakers will be:    Yong Zhao, PhD, Presidential Chair; Associate Dean for Global Education, Weinman Professor of Technology, College of Education, University of Oregon; Author, World-Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students (2012) and Catching Up or Leading the Way (2009) Martha Lovett, PhD, Cognitive Scientist; Professor, Psychology Department, Carnegie Mellon University; Director, Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence; Developer of innovative, educational technologies to promote student learning and metacognition; Co-Author, How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching (2010) and “In search of the ‘perfect’ blend between an instructor and an online course for teaching introductory statistics” (2010, Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on the Teaching of Statistics)

▪ Richad Louv, Founder/Chairman Emeritus, Children & Nature Network; Visiting Professor, Clemson University; Author, The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in the Virtual Age (2012) and Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder (2008)

▪ Sam Wang, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Biology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University; Co-Author, Welcome to Your Child’s Brain: How the Mind Grows from Conception to College (2012) and Welcome to Your Brain (2008)

▪ Jonathan Bergmann, MAEd, Lead Technology Facilitator, Joseph Sears School, IL; Pioneer in the Flipped Class Movement; Winner of the Presidential Award for Excellence for Math and Science Teaching (2002); Co-Founder of the Flipped Learning Network, Advisory Board Member of TED Education; Co-Author, Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day (2012)

▪ Will A. Richardson, MA, Member of the National Advisory Council, George Lucas Education Foundation; Author, Why School?: How Education Must Change When Learning and Information are Everywhere (2012) and Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms (2010); Co-Author, Personal Learning Networks (2011)

WHEN: Friday, November 15-Sunday, November 17. Conference begins 1:30 PM. General Registration is $599.  Contact Kristin Dunay at 781-449-4010 x 102 for media passes.
WHERE: Westin Copley Place, Boston, MA
Learning & the Brain® is a series of educational conferences that brings the latest research in neuroscience and psychology and their potential applications to education to the wider educational community and provides professional development for educators. Since its inception in 1999, this series has been attended by more than 40,000 people in Boston, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago.

For more information about the conference, visit

World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students by Yong Zhao

In World Class Learners, Dr. Yong Zhao stresses the dire need of today’s schools to branch out from the required curriculum of core standards to introduce the entrepreneurial skills needed to succeed in the modern world. He explains that the school system originated as a way to train a community of people to work in a local setting, usually requiring the same skill set for each person. In contrast, today’s students need diverse skills to succeed in a global and technologically-connected community, particularly the skills of creativity and innovation. Yet schools are doing the opposite and are focusing on international benchmarks such as the PISA test. Countries worldwide are enforcing assessments that are becoming the new gold standard. In doing so, content is homogenized and teachers are confronted with curriculum narrowing, or fewer opportunities to expose students to diverse content as they are forced to “teach to the test”. As a result, instructional quality declines and teachers as well as students become disengaged in school.

Zhao provides significant evidence displaying the decline in creativity in the United States. The abilities of producing unique and unusual ideas, elaborating, reflecting, as well as intellectual curiosity and open-mindedness have all decreased over the past twenty years. Recently the focus has been on creating common core standards in order to raise the quality of education, but Zhao believes that diverse opportunities for individual learning and innovation create a true, worthwhile education. This focus on innovation will scaffold students to become future entrepreneurs, like Steve Jobs or Suhas Gopinath. Zhao clarifies that entrepreneurs are not just necessary for capital gain but can benefit society as social or policy entrepreneurs. Additionally, there are intrapreneurs working within a company or infrastructure to make radical changes through innovation and cogent risk-taking.

Enter the rise of entrepreneurship education. Harvard offers an entrepreneurial manager course as part of its MBA program. Fortunately. our students need not attend Harvard nor get their MBA, though both would be commendable. Classroom teachers of any age range can offer students the opportunity to learn entrepreneurial skills, but, as the author warns, without making it a forced part of the curriculum and crushing the entrepreneurial spirit. Zhao recommends student-centered learning in which the student is a “purposeful agent” of learning. Education should then pertain to what each student is interested in, capable of and curious about.

Zhao recognizes the difficulty for teachers to move away from the prescribed, easily controlled curriculum to which they are accustomed. And, in the age of accountability, teachers who give students freedom in learning or allow children to do what they want are seen as irresponsible or lazy. But when students become responsible for their own learning and study what they are truly interested in, they become engaged in their own education. They learn to create “work that matters”.

Zhao focuses on project or problem-based learning (PBL) to allow students the autonomy to manage their own learning. He categorizes PBL into three models: the traditional academic model – focused on standards; a mixed model – focused on content and skills via different media; and the entrepreneurial model – focused on a high quality end-product or service to meet an actual need of the class or community. The significance of the entrepreneurial model is to celebrate students’ creativity and individual talents as well as to prepare students for real world situations and becoming global entrepreneurs.

In World Class Learners, Dr. Zhao unfolds all aspects of entrepreneurship, ranging from crowd-sourcing to genetics. He provides a worldwide look at the current educational climate, the entrepreneurial skills needed to be successful in life, as well as the “how” of making it happen in your classroom.

Boosting Executive Skills in the Classroom: A Practical Guide for Educators by Joyce Cooper-Kahn and Margaret Foster

All teachers must deal with students who are unable to get organized, meet due dates, and plan ahead.  Boosting Executive Skills in the Classroom: A Practical Guide for Educators is a concise, explicable guide that provides the necessary background and strategies for teachers to help these students. The root of these issues lies in the brain’s Executive Functions (EF), also known as executive skills.  These skills are the controlling processes we use to organize, plan, and make decisions, all to achieve a specific goal. Cooper-Kahn and Foster explain the complex concept of EF in terms applicable to the classroom environment, and provide countless approaches to strengthen these skills in students with executive weaknesses.

In Part I of the book, the authors break down EF and its components. Though neuroscientists would describe these terms differently, Cooper-Kahn and Foster organize the categories of EF in observable, classroom terms which include: planning and organizing, emotional control, self-monitoring, (task) initiation and shifting, task monitoring, inhibition and working memory. Someday these categories may be included on report cards under study skills or behavior. In typical children, their EF skills generally grow over time at the same rate as their level of academic challenge. In lower elementary school, younger children are building basic skills to manage themselves. With maturation, older students learn to absorb and process what is going on around them and, with practice, respond appropriately and independently to their environment.

Even with maturation, paying attention to the world around them can be difficult for some students. Effortful, selective attention is a resource that can be depleted. As a student uses his or her energy to pay attention to accomplishing a goal, the energy stores decrease. With unforeseen challenges, the energy may be used up faster than anticipated and it may be harder to regulate some executive functions. This effect is especially salient for children with certain conditions. The authors discuss common executive weaknesses observed in children with ADHD, ASD, specific learning disabilities, chronic stress, depression and anxiety. The given descriptions are key characteristics that teachers will encounter from year to year.

Regardless of existing conditions, Cooper-Kahn and Foster stress the importance of healthy habits to support proper EF development. They clarify that healthy habits will not miraculously alleviate all EF troubles, but poor health choices can worsen certain problems. Daily exercise, sound sleep, and good nutrition can create an optimal environment for the brain to carry out executive skills.  Other healthy behaviors allow for “brain breaks” to de-stress. One example is ART (attention restoration therapy) which can include taking a walk in nature or meditating to decompress.

The essence of Part II is the How, i.e. how to successfully implement practices that support EF growth. The authors first target general classroom practices to help about 80% of students improve in EF.  With consistent use of a purposeful combination of techniques, each student will make vast improvements. The foci of implementation are on classroom culture, mindful planning, dependable routines and classroom design. Though these may sound familiar to teachers, Cooper-Kahn and Foster offer fresh evidence from current studies to support the practices they advocate. For example, the authors discuss the essential use of planners throughout the book. Providing the planner for students is important but explicitly telling them how to use the planner is the true key to developing strong EF. Discussing the difference between a DUE date and a “DO” date prepares students to plan in advance and organize what needs to be done. This technique applies to projects, tests, and papers as well.  Utilizing the planner lowers cognitive load by freeing up working memory capacity and simultaneously reducing anxiety. Therefore more brain energy can be used for higher-level thinking of concepts.

In later chapters, more targeted techniques are discussed for students who need extra support. These activities can be conducted in small groups or one-on-one by the teacher or a specialist. Suggested school-wide changes for administrators are given in the section titled “The EF-Smart School”.  While the authors claim to be “old school” in school organization and practice, they offer modern strategies involving useful websites, software, and Apps for students and teachers alike!  Moreover, Cooper-Kahn and Foster thoughtfully provide planning pages and graphic organizers for teachers and administrators to get started on their own plans to implement EF strategies.  Finally, every scientific article is available in the endnotes for those educators desiring more involved reading.

Joyce Cooper-Kahn and Margaret Foster provide the perfect balance of neuroscience and pragmatic classroom application in Boosting Executive Skills in the Classroom: A Practical Guide for Educators to effectively improve students’ executive skills.

The Brain and Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Daniel Goleman is an expert in the area of Emotional Intelligence (EI). His book is ideal for educators trying to understand the emotional system of students as well as their own. Goleman uncovers the defining characteristics of EI, which separate it from general IQ.  He lays out his Emotional Intelligence model comprised of four domains: Self Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management. Based on his own and other leading scientists’ research, Goleman identifies the correlating brain areas and emotional traits to each of these domains.

The first concept of self awareness necessitates an enriching mood in order to process information. To be acutely aware, the mental stage needs to be set.  Positive moods indicate increased creativity, problem solving, mental flexibility and efficiency in decision making.  One’s mood affects thoughts and decisions. This is especially true for students. Any classroom teacher has seen an upset child unable to work or focus. A disruptive emotional state impacts the processing of information and can be detrimental to learning. While being in a good mood is the general preferred state, negative moods elicit challenges and benefits. Goleman affirms that negatives moods tend to lessen the ability to focus and make sound decisions, stay on task, and create pessimistic bias. Yet with this sour mood comes a greater ability to pay attention to detail, be skeptical, and ask probing questions. Being aware of one’s internal state builds a stronger self awareness.

The next domain, self management, is intrinsically tied to self awareness. By first being aware of emotions and then managing them can lead to being focused and, thus, achievement of goals. Coupled, the two compose self-mastery. Concern arises when emotions are not controlled and self-management is not suitably developing.  Goleman states two vital areas of the brain are involved: the amygdala which is the trigger point of emotion and arousal, and the prefrontal cortex which helps in reasoning, inhibition and decision making. An amygdala hijack can occur when a threat is detected and this region takes over the brain. The focus is on that threat and no reasoning or learning can take place. When the amygdala is in overdrive with multiple, concurrent threats, chronic stress ensues. This is termed allostatic load.  Significant life changes can cause this, but even social interactions such as negative feedback, facial gestures, and criticism can yield these detrimental effects.

Fortunately, the prefrontal cortex can help regulate emotion by inhibiting the amygdala’s signals. This can be achieved by various techniques ranging from taking the dog for a walk to mindfulness sessions of meditation. Additionally, educators can reduce chronic stress by creating optimal levels of challenge for students, as opposed to stressful levels. The ideal level would move students beyond boredom, into a level of “good stress” where they are engaged and can perform at their best. These findings are reinforced with brain studies. When a person is bored, there is scattered brain activity. When engaged, the relevant brain areas of the task are activated. And when stressed, much of the activity is in irrelevant emotional centers of the brain indicating distractedness.

Goleman suggests three simple techniques to ensure optimal performance. Those in charge can create accommodations to adjust the work demands. This may include increasing work load to raise students into the healthy challenge zone, or reducing the workload and providing more support. Additionally, the scaffolding of developing skills and attention training are pivotal steps to meet the benchmarks required for that level. How to easily detect stressed students? Goleman recommends paying attention to students’ demeanors. If they seem “off”, cranky, bored, unusually inattentive, they may be experiencing anxiety and cannot concentrate.

The final areas of EI, social awareness and managing relationships, are influential in group dynamics and building rapport.  As essential as these concepts are, much of these domains are founded on emotional, unspoken feedback between individuals that can exist without words or gestures. Emotions can be passed from person to person and, in a sense, are contagious. Individuals must take responsibility when interacting with others, and ideally, contribute to building a positive rapport in the workplace.  Goleman states that three key elements are needed for rapport: full attention, non-verbal synchronization and positive flow. These ingredients bolster overall Emotional Intelligence by supporting increased social awareness and positive relationship building.

     In The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights, Goleman provides the perfect balance of current research on brain circuitry with practical application to boost any educators’ prowess about the emotional state of others. He succeeds in proving that Emotional Intelligence is a function separate from IQ, which needs to become public knowledge and be imparted in social/emotional learning curriculums. Many more essential topics of emotion are discussed in this book: the age old question of left vs. right “brained” people, motivation, emotional interactions online, empathy, gender differences and more.

The Learning Brain by Torkel Klingberg

The Learning Brain, Memory and Brain Development in Children by Torkel Klingberg is a great introduction to neuroscience for any teacher interested in the working capacity and memory of her students. Just as teachers learn from their students when problems arise, scientists learn about brain function limitations through injuries, lesions, and viruses. These aberrant cases cover a range of topics on growth and development as well as gene activity in typically developing children and those with ADHD, Asperger’s, dyscalculia, dyslexia and more. Klingberg cites cases from the classroom and from neuroscience’s history to demonstrate the different memory processes and problems that occur in The Learning Brain.

Klingberg begins by explaining the important concept of Working Memory, the brain’s online, active part of our memory system used to do work in the present moment. Klingberg notes that Working Memory and Attention go hand in hand, as one cannot be working on a task without paying attention to it. Both of these functions utilize the front part of the brain located above the eyes, the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex plays an important role in interpreting what the five senses take in as well as associating those sensations with prior experience. Therefore working memory includes holding information in the front of your mind, processing it and relating it to past experience by accessing long-term memory. This complicated process is part of our students’ daily lives during almost every hour of the day.

Teachers typically are most interested in semantic long-term memory, or fact learning. A vital brain structure of working and long-term memory is the hippocampus. Located in both hemispheres of the brain, the hippocampus is responsible for growing new brain cells, or neurons. These new neurons connect to existing ones strengthening the intricate web of connections. The more new cells, the more strongly connected the memories are in long-term memory. Yet long -term memory encompasses different categories: declarative memory, which can include episodic (personal experience), semantic (factual knowledge), and motor (muscle memory).

While lessons may be intriguing to students in the moment, Klingberg points out that neuroscientists have discovered it takes only a few days to forget about 80% of what was initially learned. Reviewing helps refresh memories, but an exact time sequence for review has not been determined. What has been discovered is the “spacing effect”, an prompt review soon after the original concept has been taught, along with repeated reviews spaced out evenly over time until about 90% of the input can be remembered consistently. Another important discovery for educators is that self-testing is one of the best ways to study, so instilling procedures for students to independently review information can be helpful to maintain concepts long-term. These practices strengthen neural connections and build a larger store of prior knowledge.

In addition to building long-term memory, Klingberg discusses the core concepts of math and reading and how they relate to working memory. Multiple, overlapping areas of the brain are active in math, reading, and working memory. Therefore children with strong working memory can have strong reading and math skills. Conversely, children with low working memories often have problems with math, reading and possibly attention. It has been found that about 50% of children with dyscalculia also have problems with reading and writing. Though there is great variation within these populations, Klingberg discusses cognitive training options and resources for teachers and parents to use. For example, the Number Race is a simple, online tool that can be used to detect dyscalculia in children aged 4-8 ( Other resources and topics to pique interest include stress, stimulating environments, brain training, music, and exercise.

Klingberg offers clear explanations of cognitive processes, practical resources, and foundational research articles for educators intrigued by the complicated processes of The Learning Brain.

Published by Oxford University Press, 2013


Make Your Brain Smarter: Increase Your Brain’s Creativity, Energy and Focus by Sandra Bond Chapman with Shelly Kirkland

Dr. Chapman establishes the critical concept of Brain Power by first and foremost defying the common misconception that intelligence is inherent and cannot be changed over one’s lifespan. She explains that predetermined intelligence is an antiquated concept that does not apply to building a powerful brain. In actuality learning to use one’s brain advantageously, as a resource, will make one smarter. A phrase coined by Chapman, “brainomics” refers to the high returns gained from maximizing brain performance through strategic thinking. There is a detrimental cost associated with low brain performance and, with Chapman’s brain habits, any youth, adult, or elder can avoid this and have better mental productivity.

Throughout the book, Chapman provides thoughtful questions for the reader to assess his or her own brain power. Many of these questions relate to productivity, creativity, and innovation. For example, ‘What is distracting you from being more productive?’ Answering email, unfocused meetings or use of time, as well as constant interruptions are typical answers that deprive people of efficient use of brain power. Creativity and innovation related questions may include ‘Do you think of new ways to find solutions to problems?’. All of these questions target the brain’s executive functions of inhibiting distractions, task switching, manipulating information in working memory, and the flexibility of incorporating new data into previously learned concepts. By answering her prompts, the reader can address the core executive functions that need attention to yield the most “brainomic” reward.

Chapman classifies her nine brain habits into three comprehensible themes: strategic attention, integrated reasoning, and innovation. Strategic attention addresses the issue of focusing on one topic at a time. In a world of multi-tasking pride, blocking distractions and irrelevant information has become challenging. Throughout the book, Chapman provides “Boost your brainpower” tips and one recommendation is attending to an important task for a minimum of fifteen minutes without interruptions. Improved brain power results from training your brain to ignore irrelevant information and focus on the task at hand. To help with strategic attention, Chapman also suggests utilizing 1) the Power of None – quieting your mind to reveal fresh solutions, 2) the Power of One – working on one, and only one, task at a time to build endurance and block distracters, and 3) the Power of Two – identifying the two most important tasks to dedicate a significant amount of time to.

These main tasks are the “elephants”, or the top priorities that will have the biggest long-term impact, or perhaps as in the elephant in the room that one may be avoiding. It is important to allocate the most productive time to these elephants, and not be side tracked with rabbits, or trivial tasks that simply want to want to be check off the list. Chapman suggests that the rabbits always have a way of finding their way back, but the elephants are what need true attention and maintenance.

Integrated reasoning refers to synthesizing information and applying it to new contexts. To be successful at work or in school, a person must absorb new information and transfer it various applicable situations. Chapman explains this ability can be trained and is your brain’s most fundamental asset to success. Some brain training techniques include setting original goals for self and/or workplace, synthesizing new information and summarizing the main ideas from wide-ranging sources, detecting new problems to create effective solutions, and reconsidering outdated principles that inhibit entrepreneurial design. She refers to these features as zooming in (learning the facts), zooming out (summarizing the main ideas), and zooming deep and wide (originate expansive, novel applications) Chapman notes the important distinction between integrated reasoning and disadvantageous routine patterns of thinking; generating unique ideas by incorporating new and old information is a key feature to increase Brain Power.

Innovation requires changing old ways of thinking, practicing imagination and experimentation. You can increase your brain’s power to create by seeking out new perspectives and changing parts of your routine to meet new people, ideas and ways of thinking. This includes not giving in to failure but revamping your outlook and undertaking a new challenge. In turn, creating pivotal changes and insightful ideas will become part of one’s approach to brainstorming and working. Chapman identifies the Brainpower of the Infinite (knowing endless possibilities exist), the Brainpower of the Paradox (learning from mistakes), and the Brainpower of the Unknown (probing and seeking new reasons) as the means to enhance your brain’s creative and innovative capabilities. These brain strategies can be transferred to diverse situations to increase overall brain power no matter the age. Chapman discusses in detail how different life stages have distinct strengths and limitations which can be targeted and manipulated to increase overall brain power.

Make Your Brain Smarter opens the door for enhanced brain function to reach the highest potential in an individual’s Brain Power.


    April 24, 2013
Contact: Kristin Dunay
(781) 449-4010 x102


WHAT: Neuroscience is finding that the frontal lobes of the brain, which regulate such functions as attention, working memory, self-control, focus, and decision-making, are critical for school and career success. A national group of neuroscientists, psychologists and educators will be presenting new research before 1,200 educators at next month’s Learning & the Brain® Conference in Arlington, VA, that show executive brain structures can actually be trained through such methods as brain strategies, exercise, meditation and software, to improve executive and academic skills in children and adults.Howard Gardner, PhD is opening the conference with “Is There a Central Intelligence Agency in the Brain?” He will discuss executive function’s relationship with his theory of multiple intelligences. Dr. Gardner is the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education and Adjunct Professor of Psychology, Harvard University.  He is the winner of MacArthur Prize and author of numerous books including, The Unschooled Mind (2011, 2nd. Edition), Five Minds for the Future (2009) and Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons in Theory and Practice (2006).
WHO: The program is co-sponsored by several organizations including the School of Education, Johns Hopkins University, the Center for the Study of Learning, Georgetown University Medical Center, the Center for Applied Developmental Science and Neuroeducation, George Washington University, the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, and both the national associations of elementary and secondary school principals, and is produced by Public Information Resources, Inc.In addition to Dr. Gardner, some of the featured speakers will be:▪    Martha B. Denckla, MD, Batza Family Endowed Chair, Director, Developmental Cognitive Neurology Clinic, Kennedy Krieger Institute; Professor of Neurology, Pediatrics and Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins University of School of Medicine; Professor of Education, Johns Hopkins University School of Education; Co-Author, “Working memory influences processing speed and reading fluency in ADHD” (2011, Child Neuropsychology) and “Neuropsychological profile of executive function in girls with ADHD” (2010, Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology)▪    Russell A. Barkley, PhD, ABPP, ABCN, Professor of Psychiatry, Medical University of South Carolina; Past President, Clinical Child Psychology Section of the American Psychological Association and of the International Society for Research in Child and Adolescent Psychopathology; Author, Barkley Deficits in Executive Functioning Scale-Children and Adolescents (2012), Executive Functions What They Are, How They Work, and Why They Evolved (2012) and ADHD in Adults: What the Science Says (2007)▪    Rosemary M. Tannock, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry; Professor of Special Education and Adaptive Instruction, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto; Director, ADHD/LD Cognitive Lab; Senior Scientist, The Hospital for Sick Children; Co-Author, “Effects of a computerized working memory training program on working memory training program on working memory, attention, academics in adolescents with severe LD and comorbid ADHD” (2012, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry) and “Screening for Working Memory Deficits in the Classroom” (2012, Journal of Attention Disorders)

▪    Daniel T. Willingham, PhD, Professor of Psychology, University of Virginia; Blogger, Science and Education Blog; Writer, “Ask the Cognitive Scientist” column for American Educator Magazine; Author, When Can You Trust the Experts? (2012) and Why Don’t Students Like School? (2010)

▪    Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, Founder and Chief Director of the Center for BrainHealth; Dee Wyly Distinguished Chair in Brain Health; Professor of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, The University of Texas at Dallas; Co-Author, Make Your Brain Smarter: Increase Your Brains Creativity, Energy, and Focus (2013) and “Higher-order strategic gist reasoning in adolescence” (2012, The Adolescent Brain: Learning, Reasoning, and Decision Making)

WHEN: Friday, May 3-Sunday, May 5. Conference begins 1:30 PM. General Registration is $589.  Contact Kristin Dunay at 781-449-4010 x 102 for media passes.
WHERE: Crystal Gateway Marriott, Arlington, VA
Learning & the Brain® is a series of educational conferences that brings the latest research in neuroscience and psychology and their potential applications to education to the wider educational community. Since its inception in 1999, this series has been attended by more than 40,000 people in Boston, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago.

For more information about the conference, visit