The Idea of the Brain
18th June 2020
Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!
Book of the Week
The Idea of the Brain: The Past and Future of Neuroscience, by Matthew Cobb. This broad-ranging book starts near the dawn of written history, where we learn that even back in ancient Rome, active learning was a “thing.” “To demonstrate his discoveries Galen used ‘lecture-commentaries’ in which he simultaneously described his new knowledge and showed it in an animal… this was part of Galen’s emphasis on the importance of experience in understanding.” As Cobb wends his way into writing about modern times, matters get even more interesting. We learn, for example, of the different main theories of consciousness, how they differ, and why each theoretical approach still has problems.
The study of the brain is endlessly fascinating, and Cobb’s delightfully wry sense of humor provides the perfect foil as we get an overview of the field’s history. Nice for audio.
Don’t Miss the Free Course Hero Virtual Education Summit
Barb’s long been a fan of Course Hero—this wonderful company helps professors to make better practice and examination material, and helps students, too. Barb’s joining Course Hero at their free Virtual Education Summit this summer to speak on the science behind remote learning.
Join hundreds of other instructors for three days of online teaching demonstrations, learning science workshops, campus reopening discussion forums, and more, July 29–31, 2020.
Register for free here!
Learning How to Learn in Portuguese—Aprendendo a aprender.
A Challenge for Your Children
Can your child make as good a video about Learning How to Learn (Aprendendo a aprender para crianças e adolescentes in Portuguese), as Reutilicoisas? You don’t need to understand a word of Portuguese to understand how smart and multi-talented this young woman is! Just enjoy the face and body language—she really gets learning. 🙂 [Hat tip Marcio S. Galli]
Helping Your Child Move Forward in Math, Even During COVID
Barb’s favorite math program for kids, Smartick, is offering a summer special. If you are trying to keep your child going in math, this is a great way to do it.
Research Teams Reach Different Results From Same Brain-Scan Data
Scientists are aware that irreproducibility is a major challenge in science. This fascinating study gets deep into the causes of this irreproducibility. The study, “led by Schonberg together with psychologist Russell Poldrack of Stanford University and neuroimaging statistician Thomas Nichols of the University of Oxford, recruited  independent teams of researchers around the globe to analyze and interpret the same raw neuroimaging data—brain scans of 108 healthy adults taken while the subjects were at rest and while they performed a simple decision-making task about whether to gamble a sum of money. “Some results were largely consistent. For example, 84 percent of the teams agreed that the data supporting hypothesis 5—a prediction that tied loss of activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex to loss of money—was significant. And more than 90 percent of the teams found that three other hypotheses were insignificant. But for the remaining five hypotheses, the teams’ conclusions varied.
“‘The lessons from this study are clear,’ writes Brian Nosek, a psychologist at the University of Virginia and executive director of the Center for Open Science. To minimize irreproducibility, he says, ‘the details of analysis decisions and the underlying data must be transparently available to assess the credibility of research claims.’ Researchers should also preregister their research plans and hypotheses… And they should analyze their data with multiple methods, such as using different software and settings.”
Casting Still More Doubt on fMRI Research
We’ve been fans of the extraordinary researcher Ahmad Hariri for over a decade—some of his work featured prominently in our tongue-in-cheek titled but seriously researched book Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend. This article by Jacob Roshgado in Study Finds describes the crux of the problem that Hariri and his team found: “‘The bottom line is that task-based fMRI in its current form can’t tell you what an individual’s brain activation will look like from one test to the next,’ says Hariri, who voices his personal frustrations since the findings of this meta-analysis negates a lot of his own research. ‘This is more relevant to my work than just about anyone else’s! This is my fault. I’m going to throw myself under the bus. This whole sub-branch of fMRI could go extinct if we can’t address this critical limitation.’”
Call for New Learning How to Learn (Chinese Version) Mentors!
We are recruiting some new mentors for the Chinese-speaking version of Learning How To Learn. If you are interested in joining us as a mentor, we invite you to apply using this Google form, by June 24th. Please read the information on the form before you apply, and please apply only if you are sure you meet the criteria! We expect a high volume of applications, and we won’t be able to respond to everyone individually. If you are selected as a mentor, you should hear from us within the next few weeks. Thank you for your interest, and happy learning! 🙂
What to Do on 15-, 30-, and 60-Minute Breaks to Boost Productivity
This excellent article observes “If you aren’t taking regular breaks or don’t feel refreshed and focused after taking a break, you might be doing it wrong.” [Hat tip: Scott Mathews, Lead Mentor Mindshift]
That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!
Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team