Curiosity and the Learning brain: An Educational Perspective
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Teachers (and therapists) know that interested, curious students pay attention and learn more (Berlyne, 1954; Engel, 2013). Stimulating their curiosity makes the job of teaching and the task of being a student so much more successful and enjoyable (Chak, 2007). New research is now establishing some of the neural mechanisms that explain this conceptual connection between curiosity and education. In a recent study, Matthias Gruber and colleagues (Gruber, Gelman, & Ranganath,2014) showed that when the brain is in a state of curiosity, learning is enhanced. They noted that curiosity activated the dopaminergic regions of the substantia nigra, ventral tegmental area, and the nucleus accumbens, which then showed a functional connectivity with the hippocampus. They also found that learning is enhanced not just for the target learning but for peripheral and non-related learning as well. The implication is that curiosity creates a brain state that is primed for learning. From an educational perspective, producing a state of curiosity is going to be very beneficial for the student’s learning experience.
Hill, R. (2014). Curiosity and the learning brain: An educational perspective. The Neuropsychotherapist, 8, 34-42. doi: 10.12744/tnpt(8)034-042