Small children often sing a song about bones being connected to other bones. Despite being (at least in part) anatomically incorrect, the song does emphasise the connectedness of parts of the human body. The concept of connectedness extends to the connection of the brain to the body and to interconnections within the brain.
Neuroscientist, John Geake, who conducted research at various universities (including Melbourne and New England in Australia; Oxford Brooks in the UK), wrote about various educational neuromyths. He categorised these myths, often promoted as ‘brain-based applications’, into two fields: ‘more is better’ (e.g. the widespread belief that only 10% of the brain is used and individuals could/should use more of the brain in order to learn better) and those related to specificity – such as the use of teaching practices and materials thought to address specific abilities, according to the pervasive (but without neuroscientific research to support) adherence to Multiple Intelligences. Further, the corpus collosum establishes neuroanatomical connections between the two hemispheres of the brain, significantly facilitating brain interconnectivity. The role of the corpus collosum counteracts the erroneous belief that individuals might be left- or right-brained learners with specific learning styles based upon supposed hemispheric dominance. Research conducted by Jürgen Hänggi, a neuropsychologist at the University of Zurich and his colleagues, identified that larger brains have stronger interhemispheric interconnectivity.
To emphasise the connectivity that occurs within the brain, “the central characteristic of brain function which generates its complexity is neural functional interconnectivity”, Geake states, before outlining numerous common brain functions that occur only because of the connections that take place between different areas of the brain. This connectivity occurs between various anatomically distinct regions in the brain and is critical to neural functioning, including subject and domain specific learning. Neural pathways, formed by repeated synaptic connections, establish and maintain interconnectedness within the brain. Educators and students enhance learning by understanding and utilising the brain’s extensive interconnectivity, not by trying to simplify understanding of the human brain’s functioning through neuromyths and implementing learning strategies that are supposedly based upon these.
The South African polymath, Lyall Watson, a biologist, zoologist, ethologist and anthropologist, whose extensive writing made Science accessible to the general population, famously said: “If the brain were so simple we could understand it, we would be so simple we couldn’t.”
The brain is extraordinarily complex. The human brain utilises significant quantities of energy and requires ‘refuelling’ through the judicious use of appropriate amounts of sleep; healthy nutrition; adequate hydration; regular exercise; balanced activities and the promotion of psychosocial wellbeing to ensure effective and sustainable interconnectivity within brain functioning. Together, these basic healthcare strategies impact and optimise learning much more than the application of any of a plethora of widely promoted but educationally ineffective neuromyths.
© Michele Juratowitch