Cognitive neuroscience aims to improve our understanding of aspects of human learning and performance by combining data acquired with the new brain imaging technologies with data acquired in cognitive psychology paradigms. Both neuroscience and psychology use the philosophical assumptions underpinning the natural sciences, namely the scientific method, whereby hypotheses are proposed and tested using quantitative approaches. The relevance of 'brain science' for the classroom has proved controversial with some educators, perhaps because of distrust of the applicability of so-called 'medical models' (...) to education. Nevertheless, the brain is the main organ of learning, and so a deeper understanding of the brain would appear highly relevant to education. Modern science is revealing the crucial role of biology in every aspect of human experience and performance. This does not mean that biology determines outcomes. Rather, there is a complex interplay between biology and environments. Improved knowledge about how the brain learns should assist educators in creating optimal learning environments. Neuroscience can also identify 'biomarkers' of educational risk, and provide new methodologies to test the effects of educational interventions. (shrink)
Leech et al.'s demonstration that analogical reasoning can be an emergent property of low-level incremental learning processes is critical for analogical theory. Along with insights into neural learning based on the salience of dynamic spatio-temporal structure, and the neural priming mechanism of repetition suppression, it establishes relational primacy as a plausible theoretical description of how brains make analogies.
This commentary focusses on the evidence used by Halford et al. to support their postulated links between relational complexity and age differences in children's understanding of concepts. None of their developmental claims is consistent with recent cognitive-developmental research. Relational complexity must be an important variable in cognition, but it does not provide a satisfactory metric for explaining cognitive development.
Children's reading and spelling errors show that orthographic learning involves complex interactions with phonology, morphology, and meaning throughout development. Even young children seek to make their visual word recognition strategies linguistically coherent. Orthographic knowledge gained through spelling affects reading, and vice versa. Developmental data support Frost's claim that letter-coding flexibility reflects the optimization of encoding resources in a highly developed system.
The issue of abstractness raises two distinct questions. First, is there a format-independent magnitude representation? Second, does analogue magnitude really play a crucial role in the development of human mathematics? We suggest that neither developmental nor cultural studies support this notion. The field needs to redefine the properties of the core number representation as used in human arithmetic.