Brain based learning: What is it and how to apply it

What is brain based learning, and why it matters. Brain bases learning is a new perspective in teaching and learning that is based on using technology and knowledge of the brain and its functions in order to get the most out of the education process. This new educational discipline unites the knowledge of neuroscience, psychology, and education, with the objective to optimize the learning and teaching process. Here we’ll explain everything about brain based learning: what it is and why it matters. We’ll also give you some tips you can apply in the classroom or at home. Brain based learning will change the way children study and learn. Learn how to teach better through these findings on how the brain learns new things. 

Brain based learning
Brain based learning. Photo by Alina Grubnyak on

What is brain based learning? Definition and concept

Brain based learning is a bridged discipline between neurology and the science of education, where educational psychology plays a key role.

This idea, which has come about in recent years, is a program that stemmed from scientific development, and that combines knowledge of the brain and education, which brings neuroscience to the classroom in a new way.

Brain-based learning is a relatively new idea and requires that educators and neuroscientists work together to create meaningful programs. Specialists in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, cognitive science, and education converge to improve teaching methods and academic programs.

It’s an educational trend based in neuroscience, and its purpose is to apply everything we know about how the brain learns and what stimulates brain development

Factors that intervene in brain based learning

Brain-based learning applies everything we’ve learned and collected about cognitive science and neuroscience during the last 25 years. It makes up a big part of educational technology. Some of the most important findings are explained below.

1- Brain plasticity and neurogenesis

Brain plasticity has been one of the most relevant discoveries in the field of neuroscience. The brain is “plastic”, which means that it has a great ability to adapt and change over our lifetime. It’s also capable of constant creation of new neurons and connections between when provided appropriate stimulation.

2- Mirror neurons

Mirror neurons are a group of brain cells that fires when we carry out an action, and when we observe someone performing that same action. These mirror neurons aren’t only limited to actions, but to facial and emotional expressions as well, which is part of why many scientists believe that these neurons are the basis of empathy and language acquisition. Understanding mirror neurons is an important part of brain based learning.

3- Emotions and learning

Emotions play a role in our cognitive processes, which is why it is important to understand how they work and how they affect us. Understanding and controlling emotions is a key aspect of brain based learning. The goal is to not only teach learners how to control their emotions in hopes of keeping them from interfering in the learning process but to show them how to use their emotions to their advantage. It tries to teach children to be conscious of their feelings and to control them and their behavior. It’s important for them to learn and recognize when they are mad or sad, and how to manage these emotions. High-stress levels make learning difficult, so it’s important to create a healthy learning environment, stress-free, and teach children how to manage anxiety.

We know that managing negative emotions helps us improve academic performance and that learning material that evokes an emotion (whether it be positive or negative) will help us learn and integrate the information better. The ability to use emotions to our advantage is the key to a significant learning experience.

4- Dyslexia and learning disorders

The advances in learning disorders allow us to not only help children who have them with personalized support but also provide them better tools to overcome their difficulties. Neuroeducational tools to help treat dyslexia in the classroom.

5 -Experience influences who we are, just as much as genetics

From almost the beginning of the study of psychology, there has been the debate about nature vs nurture. Today, the majority of experts agree that both are fundamental for our development. Genetics is the base of our abilities and capabilities, but experience reacts to them. Children may have a range of abilities that is more or less set, they might be better at one thing than another but this is something they can always train or modify.

Other fields of research that are applied to education are training in reasoning, improving work memory, memory consolidation, memory recovery, and treatments for learning disorders.

The following video explains how the different information from psychology and neuroscience influence learning in children and what neuroeducation can contribute to the classroom.

CogniFit Leading Educational Platform in Brain based learning in the classroom

Neuroeducation and neurodidactics are increasingly more important in schools that want to optimize their learning process. Cognifit’s educational technology, based on neuroeducation, is applied in different educational centers all around the world with highly effective results for students, especially those that have specific needs or learning disabilities.

Cognifit’s Neuroeducation in the classroom is a scientific tool for educators, designed to help identify some of the neurological causes that can be related to academic failures and rehabilitates the main cognitive functions in children.

How does it work? The first thing that students should do is complete a cognitive evaluation. All of the CogniFit brain based learning brain games have been designed and clinically tested to identify the cognitive strengths and weaknesses involved in learning: attention, memory, perception, and reasoning.

Using the results from this initial evaluation, CogniFit automatically programs dynamic personalized brain training, designed specifically to improve the cognitive needs of every student.

Academic failure is one of the most important issues in the educational system. Thus it’s important to apply what we know about the brain in the field of education. Count on academic centers with tools and brain-based learning initiatives so that all students can develop their potential to learn adequately.

The most direct environment to apply brain-based learning is, of course, in schools.

Educators should understand the brain, how it learns, processes, registers, stores, and remembers information, so that they can adapt their style of teaching in order to optimize the learning process. Educators should also understand that the class structure, activities, words, and emotions have an enormous influence on the development of their students’ brains and the way that they learn.

We know that information about neuroscience helps us massively in the classroom, but how do we apply brain based learning in the context of education? The basics are that we shouldn’t limit ourselves to passively receive information, but rather manipulate it, actively participate in its development.

1. Create a positive emotional environment in the classroom

It’s very important that teachers and educators promote a positive environment in the classroom where they are close to and empathetic with their students. It’s necessary to control your emotional expressions so that they are positive and rub off on your students. You should avoid excessive stress in the classroom. A small level of stress is necessary to keep students motivated and active. However, high levels of stress are harmful for performance. You should also teach your students how to manage their own stress and other negative emotions which can be very beneficial not only at the academic level but in all areas of their lives.

2. Use neuroeducation in the classroom

Educational technology has been designed specifically for students. It allows for educators who are not specialized in neuroeducation nor psycho-pedagogy to analyze and improve the learning process in the academic environment. How can neuroeducation help you?

  • Learn and delve into the brain process involved in learning and neurodevelopment
  •  Implement better methodological and didactic strategies
  • Evaluate students with scientific objectivity to locate cognitive weaknesses that might be related to learning difficulties and prevent academic failure
  • Implement better methodological and didactic strategies that optimize learning and enrich the educational activity
  • Correct and reorient learning difficulties

3. Strengthen emotional learning

Emotion is highly linked to memory. We learn much better when information evokes an emotion in us. A good strategy for brain based learning is to create emotional connections in the context of learning. These connections can carry out a specific activity that emotionally connects students to content. For example, you could combine visual and interpretive arts, so that they activate an emotional response, strengthening learning.

4. Teach using different styles and from diverse means

We can strengthen learning in each student by using a different style of teaching, varying activities, and materials. Not all students learn well in the same way. Some are more visual, others more physical, etc.. Using images, videos, experiential activities, interactivity, music…we are using brain based learning to stimulate all the sense. This way students learn in a more holistic way, benefiting all types of students.

5. Maintain an optimal physical environment

How can you implement brain based learning strategies in the classroom? Students learn better in certain physical environments. We have a great visual capacity and we are better served by new stimulation that by other types of stimulation. By contributing a dynamic change to the classroom structure we can help care for students better. Change, order, and beauty, integrating them in each unit of learning will benefit their learning. Calm music in the background can help students concentrate, relax and feel comfortable. Natural light can help provide a space for optimal learning. Dark classrooms and fluorescent lights create artificial light that is not ideal for learning.

6. Repeat information in many ways

One of the best ways to learn and store information in your memory in the long term is to repeat information. However, if the material you are learning is repeated in the same way it can be extremely boring for students. A good strategy from brain based learning is repeating material in different ways, through different activities and experiences. This way they can engage with the information in different forms.

brain based learning
Repeating information in different ways

7. Strengthen significant learning

It’s fundamental that children understand the usefulness of what they are learning in order for long-term learning and to stay motivated in school. To understand how to apply what they’re learning in the real world, “how can this help me?”

Another great strategy from brain based learning in the classroom is to use activities in the real world, how to research, design experiments, create metaphors, analogies, look for cause and effect patterns, analyze perspectives, and artistic activities that stimulate creative thought.

6. Give feedback

Feedback is essential for brain based learning and the learning process. Giving feedback, knowing what you have done well and what you can improve on, is the basic to help guide your learning. Exam grades and red marks on schoolwork aren’t enough. You have to point out mistakes in a concrete manner, and also point out what was done correctly too. This way we motivate students and give them concrete patterns to improve on.

Brain based learning for parents

Parents are the other pillar in children’s education. Knowing about the brain’s functions helps us connect with children on an educational and emotional level. It can help motivate our children to learn, to develop their potential, and provide optimal mental health.

1. Strengthen learning by nurturing their self-esteem

Brain based learning for parents: Healthy self-esteem is fundamental for optimal learning. Feeling that they are able and capable, keeps them motivated to learn. It’s important not to compare them to other children or siblings, as this harms their self-esteem and they will feel pressure to behave in a way that isn’t who they really are. Instead, motivate them and help them improve.

2. Don’t restrict creativity

We don’t realize it but sometimes by accident we restrict our children’s creativity. Don’t interrupt them when they are playing by themselves or if they are interested in or motivated by something. Let them play with other children and participate in activities outside. Don’t monitor every little thing they do, because when they feel that someone is watching them their creative impulse disappears and it restricts their freedom to experiment.

3. Help them apply their knowledge in the real world

A great neuroeducational strategy at home is to help your children with their homework, here you are helping them see how they can apply what they are learning in the real world. So, they not only learn better, but they discover the usefulness of their knowledge.

4. Make sure they rest so they can learn better

Parents should understand that quality sleep is fundamental for optimal performance and learning. When we sleep we rest and restore ourselves, as well as consolidate everything we have learned. A neuroeducational strategy is not only the amount of sleep we get (a child should get between 9-10 hours) but also quality sleep. Your child could sleep a lot but not sleep well. Stay attentive to signs of apathy and irritability that can come from insufficient sleep.

5. An active body learns better

Physical activity strengthens learning. If you child likes to move around while studying or learning something, let them do it. This helps them relax and learn better.

Exercising is another great strategy to help with the learning process because it helps improve learning as it activates and oxygenates the brain. Before and after learning let your child run, jump or simply walk around. Physical extra-curricular activities can be a great option, and additionally, they allow them to socialize, have fun, relax and reduce the risk of childhood obesity.

Brain based learning and learning disabilities

Neuroeducation can help students that have learning problems. The information from neuroscience not only helps us understand how the brain learns, but also how brains function with learning disabilities.

There are many different types of learning problems, from dyslexia to autism to ADHD.

Brain based learning allows us to adapt teaching to maximize children’s learning possibilities for those that have trouble keeping up with the optimal progress of the classroom.

Learning disorders aren’t limited to the classroom, and they should be treated both in school and at home. Understanding what the child’s difficulties are and understanding how the brain learns. We have tools to adapt learning in the classroom and strategies to strengthen learning.

Myths in neuroscience

One of the objectives of the application of information from neuroscience in education is to break a series of myths and beliefs that professors and teacher have about the development of children’s brains. Some of these myths are:

  • There are critical periods where we MUST learn certain things.
  • We only use 10% of our brain, and some think that if we use 100% of our brain we would have superpowers. This widespread thought is totally false. We use all of our brain.
  • I use the right-side of my brain, you use the left-side. Although we have two hemispheres of our brain this doesn’t mean that we use one side more than the other. We know that each side has different functions, but all of us use both sides equally.
  • Listening to Mozart will make your child intelligent. A lot of studies, like this one, show that this is false.
  • Multitasking is a good way to work. We know that is isn’t always true and really depends on each person and their characteristics.