Saturday, September 10, 2016

Remembering new pronunciation (or anything) . . . in a flash!

Here is another for your "So THAT's why it works" file, from neuroscience. (Hat tip: Robert Murphy.)
The phenomenon, explored by Morris and researchers at Edinburgh reported by Neuroscience News, is called: flashbulb memory. (See full citation below.) Working with mice, they found, basically, that a vivid, striking event can cause the release of dopamine by the locus coeruleus, which, in turn " . . . carries dopamine to the hippocampus . . . " which affects how effectively memories are stored.

So, if you (and your mouse) are about to learn something new--or just did, it will be remembered more efficiently if it is "bookended" by a "flashbulb" event . Talk about counter-intuitive! I have done dozens of posts over the years on how attention figures into learning. (In our haptic work, for example, we often note that we need the attention of the learner for only 3 seconds to anchor a new sound.) In the Neuroscience news summary it is noted that "Our research suggests that a skillful teacher may be able to take advantage of these little surprises to help pupils learn and remember.” Really? How so? They don't speculate--for good reason. How might you adopt that insight?

My first thought was to go find one of those camera flash attachments and try it out next week. But wait. There may be more to this, more than just dopamine.

About 35 years ago, I was very much interested in clinical hypnosis, in part as a way to better understand unconscious communication and learning in the classroom. One basic feature some models of trance work was that you had to be very careful to distract the learner (or client) immediately after a significant suggestion has been provided or "uploaded".

The explanation was that that would keep the conscious mind of the learner from deconstructing and dismissing or undermining the suggestion or metaphor, not letting it be absorbed in toto, in effect. That could be accomplished in any number of ways, such as switching topics abruptly, showing a picture or doing something more physical or kinaesthetic, such as standing up or a gesture of some kind.

In other words, the principle, of selectively partitioning off classroom experience makes sense. Rather than thinking in terms of always integrating the entire class period and lesson so that learners are metacognitively "on top of it all", so that they constantly know why they are learning what and consciously (metaphorically) attempting to file everything away for later use, think: switch-flash-divert-surprise.

I knew that my distinct tendency toward ADHD-like excessive multi-tasking was really a good thing! If you have a good "Flash dance" technique that you can share w/us, please do!

Keep in touch!

Full citation:
University of Edinburgh. (2016, September 8). How New Experiences Boost Memory Formation. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved September 8, 2016 from

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