Learn Physics to Stimulate Your Brain!
Philadelphia: A new study by the Drexel University in Philadelphia says that learning physics can stimulate some parts of the brain. Parts of the brain which are not traditionally associated with learning science become active when people are confronted with solving physics problems, the study proves.
The researchers, led by Eric Brewe, PhD, an associate professor in Drexel University's College of Arts and Sciences, say this shows that the brain's activity can be modified by different forms of instruction.
Using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to measure blood flow in the brain, the researchers looked to map what areas become active when completing a physics reasoning task, both before a course on the concepts and after.
"The neurobiological processes that underpin learning are complex and not always directly connected to what we think it means to learn," Brewe said about the findings. "One of the keys seemed to be an area of the brain, the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex, that generates mental simulations," Brewe said. "This suggests that learning physics is an imaginative process, which is not typically how people think of it."
One of the aims of the study was to further explore how the form of teaching used, Modeling Instruction, encourages students to use their own mental models to understand new concepts.
"The idea of mental models is something that people who research learning love to talk about, but have no evidence of what is happening inside brains other than what people say or do," Brewe said. "We are actually looking for evidence from inside the brain."
Moving forward, Brewe is excited by what this study opens up in his quest to improve physics learning in the United States and beyond.
"I would like to follow up on the question of mental simulations in physics, to see where that shows up at different levels of physics learning and with different populations," he said. "But this whole study opens up many new areas of investigations and I'm pretty excited about how it will play out."
(Indebted to various sources)