The brain needs emotions to learn

Traditional education, the one in which the teacher treasures knowledge and the students are passive receptacles, is giving way to new pedagogical models that turn teaching and learning into an active and dynamic process. >

In recent times, the appearance of modern neuroimaging techniques have contributed to the development of new areas of research, such as Neuropsychopedagogy and Neurodidactics, that aim to understand what happens in people’s brains while they learn, in order to develop more effective education methods.

Assuming an active role in learning stimulates the brain

Studies in this area have revealed that the transmission of content in the traditional way; that is, through conferences in which the students have very little participation, it is not the best way to educate. This would represent an important change in the way of teaching since it is currently estimated that between 60% and 80% of the time that students spend in the classroom is spent simply listening to the teacher.

A particularly interesting experiment conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and published in the journal Transactions on Biomedical Engineering found that a conference has the same impact at the brain level than watching television, which means that passive educational models are not the best strategy for students to learn.

These researchers kept a record of the activity of the sympathetic nervous system of the students while performing different tasks. Thus, they appreciated that the peaks of activity appeared when they were doing homework, while they were immersed in laboratory work and during study periods. On the contrary, the waves fell in the conferences, in some cases even similar to those seen in the pre-sleep stage, which was considered an indicator of decreased cognitive activity or a disconnection itself.

Fundamental emotions to learn

Added to the need to give the student a more active role in learning is the fact that the brain tends to process data from the right hemisphere, which is more involved with creativity and images. On the contrary, linguistic processing occurs mainly in the left hemisphere. For this reason, more and more teachers agree that it is necessary to change the traditional educational model.

Emotions are also essential for learning

When a student is in a classroom, the entire The information it processes comes through the senses, and the first filter it encounters is precisely the limbic system, where situations are decoded and given emotional meaning. If the situation is classified as significant , there is a level of activation that stimulates learning and makes that information more memorable.

That is precisely one of the bases of meaningful learning: make the new knowledge stimulating and that is related to what the student already knows, so that they can insert it relatively easily into their conceptual map and give it meaning. In this case, emotion is the key that opens the doors to curiosity, it awakens the interest and sharpens attention.

On the other hand, when learning becomes a pleasant and fun process, which arouses positive emotions, the student develops a more proactive attitude and can better fix knowledge. In fact, a study conducted at the University of California and published in the Journal of Neuroscience has revealed that emotions such as stress affect the brain’s ability to learn, especially areas related to memory.

These researchers have discovered that even if stress lasts no more than a couple of hours, it is more than enough time to affect synapses. In practice, acute stress activates molecules called corticotropins, which affect the establishment of synapses and, therefore, learning.

Therefore, for learning to be meaningful, it is important that the student adopts an active role in their education and that the contents are relevant, awakening a series of positive emotions that stimulate memorization.