Memory and the developing brain: Can insights from cognitive neuroscience be applied in education? (2023)


The development of effective pedagogical methods depends on teachers' scientific understanding of students' cognitive abilities to acquire, retain and retrieve information at different ages. These skills depend on the young brains of students, as brain development can set limits and provide opportunities for their manifestation. Advances in neuroimaging methods and their increasing use in cognitive neuroscience research have generated excitement that the knowledge gained from these methods will have educational relevance and potentially be able to inform and improve classroom practice. Indeed, the identification of the neural correlates that support memory development is an area of ​​significant current research effort, driven by the desire to gain a mechanistic understanding of memory development and the hope of improving education through such understanding. Below we discuss recent studies that help identify the neural correlates of memory development. We show how these efforts are consistent with decades of research on the elements that determine memory development, and also discuss how brain development may impose endogenous limitations on human memory development. We close with reflections on the current challenges and future possibilities of implementing the findings from studies on the neuronal basis of memory development in educational practice.

section excerpt

The cognitive neuroscience of memory development

A growing body of research in cognitive neuroscience is dedicated to characterizing trends in memory development. In this section, we examine some key trends, first from a cognitive perspective and then from a brain-based perspective.

Beyond the general trends: "What is memory development the development of?"

The general trends discussed above derive from observations of age-related differences in brain activation profiles in response to relatively simple memory tasks. In recent years, examination of general trends has given way to more careful examination of specific factors that can drive developmental changes. Below, we discuss several current lines of research that aim to answer a decades-old question: "How does memory development evolve?"[18, 19] The Answers

The development of the brain leads to "endogenous" limitations in memory development

The findings discussed above shed light on functional MRI studies of the neural basis of memory development and the factors that contribute to memory development. We show that age-related improvement in memory function is often associated with an increase in functional activation of the PFC, differential recruitment of the MTL, and an increase in functional connectivity between regions of the PFC and MTL. We reviewed factors that emerged from decades of behavioral research

consequences for education

Basically, the study of learning brings together education and cognitive neuroscience, with the latter showing how the brain processes and stores the learned information [48]. However, there is a striking difference between the goals of the two disciplines. Cognitive neuroscientists are trying to gain insights into how the brain supports learning and memory. For this knowledge to be used in the educational setting, it must become a means of improving educational practices. Two important ones

References and recommended reading

Contributions of special interest published during the evaluation period are marked as:

  • • really important

  • •• of outstanding interest

Conflict of Interest Statement

Nothing explained.


We would like to acknowledge the support of the Department of Gerontology and the Office of the Vice President for Research at Wayne State University. We also thank Daniel Schoff for his assistance in preparing the manuscript, Julian Wong for the illustrations in Figure 1, and Ryan Liddane and Lingfei Tang for their assistance in editing the text.

Quoted by (14)

  • Dissociable oscillatory theta signatures of memory formation in the developing brain

    2022, current biology


    None of the clusters reflected effects that differed significantly in lag time from zero (Figures 4B-4D, bottom), linking memory formation to fluctuations in slow theta amplitude, as opposed to one region running ahead of the other. 59 The IFG-MTL effect preceded and overlapped with the onset of the scene, consistent with anticipatory processes and exogenous attention, and the MFG-MTL effect overlapped with the mean response to the inside/outside coding task, which indicating semantic decision-making processes and endogenous attention.5,60 There were no significant clusters identified in fast theta-AC (Figures S6A and S6B).

    The understanding of complex functions of the human brain is crucially influenced by the study of such functions during development. Here we have filled a major gap in human memory models by using rare direct electrophysiological recordings from children and adolescents. Memory is particularly dependent on interactions between the medial temporal lobe (MTL) and the prefrontal cortex (PFC), and the maturation of these interactions is thought to play a key role in supporting memory development. To understand the nature of MTL-PFC interactions, we examined subdural recordings of MTL and PFC in 21 neurosurgical patients aged 5.9 to 20.5 years while performing an established scene memory task. We identified signatures of memory formation by comparing the examination of later recognized scenes with forgotten scenes in single trials. The results demonstrate that MTL and PFC interact via two distinct theta mechanisms, a ~3 Hz oscillation that supports amplitude coupling and slows down with age, and a ~7 Hz oscillation that supports phase coupling and with accelerated with increasing age. Slow and fast theta interactions just before the scene began explained further age-related differences in recognition performance. Finally, with additional diffusion imaging data, we linked both functional mechanisms to structural maturation of the cingulate tract. Our results provide evidence of the system-level dynamics of memory formation and suggest that MTL and PFC interact through increasingly dissociable mechanisms as memory improves during development.

  • Memory and the developing brain: from description to explanation using innovative methods

    2019, Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience


    Cognitive development researchers who observe dramatic changes in memory performance from childhood to adulthood struggle with two major research goals: to characterize memory development and to identify the sources of this development (Bjorklund and Schneider, 1996; Ghetti and Angelini, 2008; Schneider and Ornstein, 2015; Schneider and Pressley, 1989). Characterizing memory development from behavioral data, researchers have observed a dichotomy between relative stability from middle childhood to adulthood in memory recognition tasks that require little contextual detail, and long-term development (i.e. gains that persist beyond middle childhood) in tasks , which require memory . Conservation. detailed information (Keresztes et al., 2017; Ngo et al., 2018; Ofen, 2012; Ofen et al., 2016). Regarding the sources of such development, researchers have emphasized the importance of related cognitive constructs in explaining individual differences in memory performance, such as B. Working memory capacity, prior knowledge and metacognitive knowledge about mnemonic strategies and the use of such strategies (Schneider and Ornstein, 2015; Schneider and Pressley, 1989).

    Recent advances in human cognitive neuroscience promise to advance our understanding of the neural basis of memory development. We provide a brief overview of the current state of knowledge and emphasize that most of the work has focused on describing the neural correlates of memory in cross-sectional studies. Next, we outline three examples of the application of innovative methods to answer indescribable questions in terms of a mechanistic understanding of memory development. First, structural brain imaging and harmonizing measurements across different labs could reveal ways in which brain maturation restricts the development of specific aspects of memory. Second, longitudinal designs and advanced modeling of the data can identify age-related changes and the factors that determine individual developmental trajectories. Third, recording memory-related activities directly from the developing brain offers an unprecedented opportunity to study in real time how different brain structures support memory. Finally, the proliferation of data sharing provides additional resources to answer questions that require large data sets, sophisticated designs, and access to rare samples. We propose that the use of such innovative methods will shift our understanding of memory development from describing tendencies to explaining the causal factors that determine behavior.

  • The age-related increase in the use of mnemonic strategies is linked to the development of the prefrontal cortex

    2018, NeuroImage


    The spontaneous deployment of sophisticated memory strategies is thought to be supported by the prefrontal cortex (PFC; Fletcher et al., 1998; Blumenfeld and Ranganath, 2007). In addition to its putative role in supporting the spontaneous deployment of sophisticated memory strategies, the PFC is a key region supporting the typical development of memory function (Ofen, 2012; Shing et al., 2010; Ofen et al., 2016). Age-related differences in PFC activation have been specifically linked to the age-related increase in the formation of more complex and detailed memory (Ofen et al., 2007; Tang et al., 2017).

    Memory function is subject to dynamic changes between childhood and adulthood. The spontaneous use of elaboration strategies that can improve information recall increases with age and contributes to an age-related improvement in memory function. Evidence from lesion and neuroimaging studies suggests that the ability to use elaboration strategies depends on the intact function of the prefrontal cortex (PFC), particularly the dorsolateral PFC area. Since the PFC undergoes longer maturation, we investigated whether age differences in the structure of the PFC correlate with an age-related increase in strategy use. Here we examined the association between PFC volume and spontaneous strategy use in a sample of 120 participants aged 5 to 25 years. We assessed semantic clustering during retrieval using a standardized word list task (California Verbal Learning Task Child Version, CVLT-C) and calculated regional PFC volumes from participants' brain structure images. We observed an age-related increase in the use of semantic clustering and an age-related decrease in PFC volume. In addition, we found that lower PFC volume was associated with greater use of semantic clustering. Importantly, the volume of the right dorsolateral PFC partially explains the association between age and the use of semantic clustering. These results suggest that PFC maturation supports the development of strategy use and provides further support for the idea that brain-behaviour relationships change during development.

  • The power of negative and positive episodic memories

    2022, Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience

View all citing articles on Scopus

Selected items (6)

  • research article

    Sensory and cognitive plasticity: implications for academic interventions

    Current Advice in the Behavioral Sciences, Bin 10, 2016, pp. 21-27

    Neuroscience research has great potential to transform education. However, the brain systems that support academic and cognitive skills are poorly understood compared to those that support sensory processing. Decades of basic research have examined the role played by the plasticity of the brain in the development and treatment of visual disorders. In this review, we draw parallels between visual and cognitive intervention approaches and suggest research opportunities that might influence educational practice in the future.

  • research article

    The link between math anxiety and math performance and its relation to individual and environmental factors: a review of recent behavioral and psychophysiological research

    Current Advice in the Behavioral Sciences, Bin 10, 2016, pp. 33-38

    Fear of math - which is widespread around the world - is associated with poor math performance. Why are math anxiety and poor math performance related and how can we reduce this association? Recent behavioral and psychophysiological research indicates that the association between math anxiety and math performance is related to both individual (cognitive, affective/physiological, motivational) and environmental (social/contextual) factors. Recently, several interventions have been developed to mitigate the association between math anxiety and math performance. In order to reduce anxiety about mathematics and reduce the association between it and poor performance in mathematics, future interventions might benefit from focusing on both the individuals themselves and those around them who are afraid of mathematics.

  • research article

    The neuroscience of conceptual learning in science and mathematics

    Current Advice in the Behavioral Sciences, Bin 10, 2016, pp. 114-118

    Learning new concepts in math and science often requires the inhibition of prior beliefs or direct perceptual information. Recent neuroimaging studies suggest that experts are simply getting better at inhibiting these prepotent responses, rather than replacing earlier concepts with newer ones. A review of behavioral and neuroimaging findings in children suggests that improving inhibitory control is a key factor in learning new scientific and mathematical facts. This finding has implications for how these topics are taught in the classroom and provides supporting evidence for existing practice.

  • research article

    Neurobiological models of the impact of adversity on education

    Current Advice in the Behavioral Sciences, Bin 10, 2016, pp. 108-113

    Poverty and adversity are associated with lower educational attainment. Various environmental and neurobiological pathways have been proposed for these associations, but existing models suffer from several distinct drawbacks. Here we outline existing models and propose an alternative model that links exposure to adverse childhood experiences to educational success. In particular, we propose that measured dimensions of experience (e.g. reduced cognitive enrichment or increased exposure to violence) and unnamed exposures (e.g. poverty) affect neurobiology through neurodevelopmental processes of neuroplasticity. Our model leads to testable hypotheses and clear intervention strategies. We hypothesize that exposure to trauma will have a marked neurobiological effect on exposure to a lack of cognitive stimulation and that these different exposures will benefit from different interventions. Specificity in this area is therefore likely to better support the educational outcomes of disadvantaged children.

  • research article

    Spatial thinking in science education

    Current Advice in the Behavioral Sciences, Bin 10, 2016, pp. 1-6

    Much of scientific thought is spatial in nature, and even non-spatial information is often communicated using maps, charts, graphs, analogies, and other forms of spatial communication. Students' spatial abilities correlate simultaneously and predictably with their success in learning science. Given that spatial skills are malleable, can spatial thinking be used to improve science education? This article explains two ways we can go about it. Strategy 1 is to improve students' spatial skills early in life, or at least before class. Strategy 2 is to make more effective use of spatial teaching techniques that enable both spatial and verbal learning, even for students with weaker spatial skills. Recent evidence suggests optimism about both approaches.

  • research article

    Integrating brain MR imaging studies of reading children with current theories of developmental dyslexia: a review and quantitative meta-analysis

    Current Advice in the Behavioral Sciences, Bin 10, 2016, pp. 155-161

    The neurobiological underpinnings that cause people with dyslexia to struggle to achieve accurate and fluent reading skills are still largely unknown. Although structural and functional brain abnormalities associated with dyslexia have been reported in adults and school-age children, these abnormalities reflect differences in reading experience rather than the etiology of dyslexia. Conducting MRI studies on readers at risk for dyslexia is an approach that allows us to identify emerging brain changes before differences in reading experience become apparent. The current review summarizes MRI studies examining brain differences associated with the risk of dyslexia in pre-reading children and a meta-analysis of these studies. To link these results to current etiological theories of dyslexia, we focus on studies that adopt a modular perspective rather than a network approach. While some of the observed differences in readers at risk for dyslexia may still be shaped by language experiences in the early years of life, such studies highlight the existence of reading-related brain abnormalities before reading begins, which may ultimately lead to earlier and increased reading. accurate diagnosis and treatment of dyslexia.

© 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


What is cognitive neuroscience in education? ›

Applied cognitive neuroscience (ACN) is a discipline that aims to relate brain functioning with cognitive processing by means of the study of neural substrates involved in mental processes.

How does neuroscience impact education? ›

Neuroscience has impacted educational practice in several ways. For example, it has informed the mechanisms of dyslexia and interventions for dyslexia (Shaywitz and Shaywitz, 2008) and insights into how anxiety, attention, relationships, and sleep impact educational outcomes (Goswami, 2006; Carew and Magsamen, 2010).

How does neuroscience research contribute to our understanding of learning and teaching? ›

Understanding the Brain and Its Functions

Understanding brain science allows teachers to plan their lessons and choose instructional strategies aligned with brain science. Neuroscientists can inform classroom teachers about what works and what doesn't in students' learning.

What is the cognitive neuroscience approach to cognitive development? ›

Developmental cognitive neuroscience is a multidimensional and interdisciplinary field that attempts to explain how cognitive development is supported by changes in underlying brain structure and function, and how brain organization changes over developmental time (Johnson 2011).

What is an example of cognitive neuroscience? ›

Cognitive Neuroscience Example

When we make a decision that results in a reward, the activity level of dopamine neurons increases — and eventually this response happens even in anticipation of a reward.

What is cognitive neuroscience and why is it important? ›

Cognitive neuroscience seeks to use observations from the study of the brain to help unravel the mechanisms of the mind. How do the chemical and electrical signals produced by neurons in the brain give rise to cognitive processes, such as perception, memory, understanding, insight, and reasoning?

What is the major goal of educational neuroscience? ›

A major goal of educational neuroscience is to bridge the gap between the two fields through a direct dialogue between researchers and educators, avoiding the “middlemen of the brain-based learning industry”.

Why is neuroscience important in learning? ›

Neuroscience research is also relevant to education in the reading domain. For instance, as children learn to read, a region of the brain becomes specialized to help them visually process letters. As they continue this learning, this region becomes connected to other areas that represent the sounds of speech.

Why is it important for teachers to be aware of brain development? ›

Just because you have a classroom full of students who are about the same age doesn't mean they are equally ready to learn a particular topic, concept, skill, or idea. It is important for teachers and parents to understand that maturation of the brain influences learning readiness.

What is the connection of neuroscience and brain development? ›

Neuroscientists focus on the brain and its impact on behavior and cognitive functions. Not only is neuroscience concerned with the normal functioning of the nervous system, but also what happens to the nervous system when people have neurological, psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders.

What has neuroscience contributed to our knowledge of working memory? ›

From the neuroscience perspective, it has been established that working memory activates the fronto-parietal brain regions, including the prefrontal, cingulate, and parietal cortices. Recent studies have subsequently implicated the roles of subcortical regions (such as the midbrain and cerebellum) in working memory.

What are the methods used in cognitive neuroscience to study the brain? ›

EEG (ERP), MEG (ERF), fMRI, and PET are the 4 techniques currently most used to record neural data in humans.

What is the cognitive approach to memory? ›

The cognitive approach uses experimental research methods to study internal mental processes such as attention, perception, memory and decision-making. Cognitive psychologists assume that the mind actively processes information from our senses (touch, taste etc.)

What is the impact factor of developmental cognitive neuroscience? ›

The 2022-2023 Journal's Impact IF of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience is 5.811, which is just updated in 2023.

What are examples of cognitive brain function? ›

Cognitive health — how well you think, learn, and remember. Motor function — how well you make and control movements, including balance. Emotional function — how well you interpret and respond to emotions (both pleasant and unpleasant)

Where does cognitive neuroscience work? ›

Career opportunities for cognitive neuroscientists exist at government agencies, the pharmaceutical industry, colleges and universities, hospitals and medical clinics, and many other types of organizations.

What are the applications of cognitive neuroscience? ›

There are numerous practical applications for this research, such as providing help coping with memory disorders, making better decisions, recovering from brain injury, treating learning disorders, and structuring educational curricula to enhance learning.

Why is cognitive memory important? ›

It is an integral part of human cognition, since it allows individuals to recall and draw upon past events to frame their understanding of and behavior within the present.

What is the difference between cognitive and cognitive neuroscience? ›

Cognitive psychology studies mental processes and how it impacts attention, decision making, and thought. A cognitive neuroscientist analyzes behavioral changes concerning neurological activity.

What does neuroscience tell us about learning? ›

Key Learning Principles

From the point of view of neurobiology, learning involves changing the brain. Moderate stress is beneficial for learning, while mild and extreme stress are detrimental to learning. Adequate sleep, nutrition, and exercise encourage robust learning.

What are the three main goals of neuroscience? ›

Three Main Goals of Neuroscience
  • Understand the human brain and how it functions.
  • Understand and describe how the central nervous system (CNS) develops, matures, and maintains itself.
  • Analyze and understand neurological and psychiatric disorders, and discover methods to prevent or cure them.
Nov 13, 2014

What are the 4 pillars of applied educational neuroscience? ›

The four pillars consist of the following: educator brain and body state, co-regulation, touchpoints, and teaching students and staff about their brain and body states.

What is the most important thing for brain development? ›

Nurturing and responsive care for the child's body and mind is the key to supporting healthy brain development. Positive or negative experiences can add up to shape a child's development and can have lifelong effects. To nurture their child's body and mind, parents and caregivers need support and the right resources.

What are the most important influence on brain development? ›

A child's relationships with the adults in their life are the most important influences on their brain development. Loving relationships with responsive, dependable adults are essential to a child's healthy development.

What part of the brain is responsible for learning and memory? ›

Hippocampus. A curved seahorse-shaped organ on the underside of each temporal lobe, the hippocampus is part of a larger structure called the hippocampal formation. It supports memory, learning, navigation and perception of space.

Is memory related to neuroscience? ›

Memories are made by changes in collections of neurons and the connections or synapses between them. A memory may be laid down in one group of neural circuits, but recalled in another. Each time we recall a memory it may change depending on the neural circuits that are engaged at that particular moment.

How does neuroscience impact your life? ›

Our nervous system's ability to energize and direct our body into action or stillness is a key ingredient in this healing process. Our brain's ability to modulate and manage this narrative can enhance (or sabotage) our recovery, everyday performance, relationships, and ultimately, life experience.

Is memory part of cognitive neuroscience? ›

The cognitive neuroscience of long-term memory is ingrained with the assumptions that a particular task measures a single cognitive process and that each cognitive process is mediated by a single brain region.

What is the role of working memory in cognitive development? ›

Working memory is the retention of a small amount of information in a readily accessible form. It facilitates planning, comprehension, reasoning, and problem-solving.

How is memory and Behaviour linked to neuroscience & learning? ›

The volume Behavioral Neuroscience of Learning and Memory represents a broad collection of articles that examine the neurobiological underpinnings of processes that support memory encoding (learning), storage, organization (and reorganization), retrieval, and the utilization of memory for decision-making.

What method is used in cognitive psychology? ›

Two widely used methods of cognitive psychology are a case study and a controlled experiment. Case studies are in-depth investigations of individuals or single cases. Through the method of case study, a detailed analysis of an individual or a case is obtained.

How does cognitive neuroscience benefit the field of psychology? ›

Cognitive neuroscience is an interdisciplinary approach that often utilizes neuroscientific methods and technology to study thoughts and behaviors. Practitioners use neuroimaging to view the brain as it functions, which may lead to a better understanding of the connections between clinical neuroscience and psychology.

What does a cognitive neuroscience study quizlet psychology? ›

Cognitive Neuroscience. Study of the brain and how it relates to complex thoughts and behaviors.

How does cognitive learning theory influence learning? ›

According to Cognitive Behavioral Theory, a person's thoughts, feelings, and actions impact how they learn. In other words, their thought patterns and mindset affect how they pick up and retain information.

What is a cognitive factor that affect learning? ›

Cognitive factors that influence learning range from basic learning processes, such as memorizing facts or information, to higher-level processes, such as understanding, application, analysis and evaluation.

What is one major impact neuroscience has had on the field of cognitive psychology? ›

It has also made important contributions to our understanding of cognitive development by demonstrating that the brain is far more plastic at all ages than previously thought—and thus that the speed and extent by which experience and behavior can shape the brain is greater than almost anyone imagined.

Are there 3 main factors of cognitive development? ›

The risk factors and interventions influencing cognitive development in children can be divided into three domains: nutrition, environment, and maternal-child interactions.
  • Nutrition. ...
  • Environment. ...
  • Maternal-Child Interactions.
Apr 1, 2017

What topics does a cognitive neuroscience study? ›

  • Attention.
  • Consciousness.
  • Decision-making.
  • Emotions.
  • Intelligence.
  • Language.
  • Learning.
  • Memory.

What cognitive neuroscience tells us about creativity education? ›

Neuroscientists use cognitive behavioral assessment of combinational creativity frequently in their studies to identify brain changes while people are engaged in cognitive tasks. The goal is to explain the combinational creativity thinking in a neurobiological way.

What are the benefits of learning neuroscience? ›

Studying the nervous system advances understanding of our basic biology and body function. Knowing how things typically work can help shed light on what may happen when there are problems. It can help researchers find ways to prevent or treat problems that affect the brain, nervous system, and body.

How is cognitive neuroscience used today? ›

We use virtual reality to understand how we navigate within our world. We use cognitive psychology tasks to better understand patients with brain damage, and how the healthy brain changes as we age.

What skills do you need for cognitive neuroscience? ›

Cognitive neuroscientists require data analysis skills, as it helps in understanding and analyzing how the brain operates. Data analysis skills are also necessary to derive various conclusions for brain recording data and help reach and test multiple hypotheses with real-world data.

Is memory part of cognition? ›

In addition to thinking, cognition involves language, attention, learning, memory, and perception.

What is the purpose of the four pillars of education? ›

The four pillars of education embodies a two-fold purpose, namely: (1) to promote the formation of the human person in all his or her dimension and all stage of his or her development: and (2) to make each adult an active builder of his or her future and of the future of the communities to witch he or she belongs.

What is the most important in four pillar of education? ›

1) Learning to know: This pillar refers to the acquisition of knowledge and understanding. It is the foundation upon which all other pillars are built. Without this, it would be difficult for individuals to engage in critical thinking or develop their own opinions on various issues.

Which of the four pillars of education refers to learning by developing one's concentration memory skills and ability to think? ›

Learning to Know Implies learning how to learn by developing one's Concentration, Memory skills and Ability to Think. Learning to Know Learning to Know involves the development of Knowledge and Skills that are needed to function in the world. These skills include Literacy, Numeracy and Critical Thinking.


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