• Home »
  • Blog »
  • Give your hippocampus some spice

Give your hippocampus some spice

December 16th, 2010      

When web users control how they learn, they learn more.

How well we learn depends on a brain network that is centered on our hippocampus, and several brain networks is connects to, finds University of Illinois psychology professor Neal Cohen in a recently published a study in the journal Nature:

“Having active control over a learning situation is very powerful and we’re beginning to understand why… Whole swaths of the brain not only turn on, but also get functionally connected when you’re actively exploring the world.”

Neal and his post-doc, Joel Voss, looked at learning and memory in the context of online control of visual exploration. They knew that when we have control over what we do, we are better at learning and perceiveing the world. This is why successful ‘active learning’ educational practice emphasizes individual’s control over learning. It’s the same reason that it is easier to learn a route if you are driving than if you are a passenger in a car, on on the web, it’s hard to follow if someone else is controlling the mouse.

The study focused on activity in several brain regions, including the hippocampus, located in the brain’s medial temporal lobes, near the ears. The researchers compared how much people could learn if they controlled a movable window on the screen which revealed different pieces of information, vs. having subjects watch a pre-recorded trace of a window on the screen. This is analogous to the difference between your users moving from node to node in SpicyNodes vs. passively watching a video or presentation.

The researchers found that the key ingredient in learning is “volitional control” and that people remember best when they control the ‘where’ and ‘when’ of exploratory behaviors — such as being able to choose a node and click from node to node.

The key ingredient in the ability of volitional control to improve memory performance was that the ‘where’ and ‘when’ of exploratory behaviors were controlled completely by the individual.

The active learning which SpicyNodes makes possible for your audience is consistent with how the mind works.

Leave a Reply