Research Shows the Root Cause of Learning Problems
Researchers used EEG subjects who had trouble with learning. They have discovered that the main problem is not that learning processes are inefficient per se, but that the brain insufficiently processes the information to be learned.
"An exciting question now is to what extent the alpha activity can be deliberately influenced with biofeedback," says PD Dr. Hubert Dinse from the Neural Plasticity Lab of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. "This could have enormous implications for therapy after brain injury or, quite generally, for the understanding of learning processes." The research team from the Ruhr-Universität, the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Charité -- Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences reported their findings in the Journal of Neuroscience.
Learning without attention: passive training of the sense of touch
Imaging the brain state using EEG: the alpha waves are decisiveThe cooperation partners from Berlin and Leipzig, PD Dr. Petra Ritter, Dr. Frank Freyer, and Dr. Robert Becker recorded the subjects' spontaneous EEG before and during passive training. They then identified the components of the brain activity related to improvement in the discrimination test. The alpha activity was decisive, i.e., the brain activity was in the frequency range 8 to 12 hertz. The higher the alpha activity before the passive training, the better the people learned. In addition, the more the alpha activity decreased during passive training, the more easily they learned. These effects occurred in the somatosensory cortex, that is, where the sense of touch is located in the brain.
Researchers seek new methods for therapy"How the alpha rhythm manages to affect learning is something we investigate with computer models," says PD Dr. Petra Ritter, Head of the Working Group "Brain Modes" at the MPI Leipzig and the Berlin Charité. "Only when we understand the complex information processing in the brain, can we intervene specifically in the processes to help disorders," adds Petra Ritter. New therapies are the aim of the cooperation network, which Ritter coordinates, the international "Virtual Brain" project, which her team collaborates on, and the "Neural Plasticity Lab," chaired by Hubert Dinse at the RUB.
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