RESOURCE: Neuroscience and How Students Learn
Changing the brain: For optimal learning to occur, the brain needs conditions under which it is able to change in response to stimuli (neuroplasticity) and able to produce new neurons (neurogenesis).
The most effective learning involves recruiting multiple regions of the brain for the learning task. These regions are associated with such functions as memory, the various senses, volitional control, and higher levels of cognitive functioning.
Moderate stress: Stress and performance are related in an “inverted U curve” (see right). Stimulation to learn requires a moderate amount of stress (measured in the level of cortisol). A low degree of stress is associated with low performance, as is high stress, which can set the system into fight-or-flight mode so there is less brain activity in the cortical areas where higher-level learning happens. Moderate levels of cortisol tend to correlate with the highest performance on tasks of any type. We can therefore conclude that moderate stress is beneficial for learning, while mild and extreme stress are both detrimental to learning.