How does neuroscience enhance understanding of human development?

Neurosciences can make important contributions to the understanding of human development with knowledge about key cognitive processes for teaching-learning, such as memory, attention, language, literacy, executive functions, decision-making, creativity, and emotion.

In this brief guide, we’re going to answer the question “How does neuroscience enhance understanding of human development?’’ What does educational neuroscience study and what does educational neuroscience bring to education professionals?

How does neuroscience enhance understanding of human development?

Neuroscience improves our understanding of human development as it studies the nervous system from the early and late stages of the human being. This is how it tries to explain the cognitive forces that give rise to human development.

The learning process has been studied throughout history from different disciplines, such as philosophy, psychology, and other related ones. 

Likewise, it’s the central element that mobilizes educational processes. At present, scientific advances and technology have allowed studies on learning to be abundant, especially linked to the substrate of this complex process: the brain. 

The investigations carried out from the various branches of the Neurosciences have generated abundant, although specific, contributions that sometimes aren’t directly articulated with educational processes.

However, recently there has been evidence of the effort from various authors, who seek to link the contributions from these sciences with the educational context. This link allows taking these findings to reach an understanding of the learning processes, as well as taking considerations that allow improving these processes.

The need for a bibliographic review that links the contributions between Neurosciences and Education allows a bridge to be established between both areas. This bridge is Learning. Said process is the goal to be achieved in educational contexts, while for Neurosciences – Neuroeducation – it’s the object of study. 

Some authors have made efforts to establish this link, considering the limitations of each area in terms of nature and language. However, these publications are still rare.

Based on the contributions of this type of review, the dissemination of the relationships between these areas can be massified, which are usually seen as distant, but which in reality must be complemented to favor the teaching and learning processes of the students. Likewise, for the dissemination of guidelines that allow generating tools to optimize learning, based on evidence from Neurosciences.

Neuroscience, in many cases, scientifically confirms what pedagogy already knew and put into practice.

And it doesn’t lose importance for that.

Knowing that what is done in pedagogy is consonant with neuroscience is, to say the least, interesting. In addition to a good reinforcement of certain practices and more knowledge to take into account.

Neuroscience “only” allows us to understand the learning process a little better to understand why some actions of pedagogy work so well (and others do not).

So, returning to our main question, how does neuroscience improve understanding of human development?

The study of neuroscience within education has allowed us to know the following:

  • The brain has a capacity for adaptation throughout our lives, known as brain plasticity, responsible for this organ continually remodeling and adapting from the experiences we live and what we learn.
  • We learn more and better in social interaction and cooperation because the brain is designed to live and coexist in society.
  • A high level of stress has a negative impact on learning.
  • Emotions and mood affect the brain and its functions positively or negatively.
  • Direct and multisensory experiences enable people to learn better.
  • Exercises and movement are connected with learning.
  • Music and art transform the brain and promote a more effective learning experience.
  • The brain’s ability to store information is limitless and malleable.
  • Factors such as diet, quality of sleep, socioeconomic and cultural environment, brain injuries, genetics, and consolidated prior learning influence the brain and therefore the way it learns.
  • Stress, sadness, loneliness, or a poor physical condition can impair the proper functioning of the brain’s prefrontal cortex, responsible for the so-called executive functions (inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility), which are essential for academic development and the student body.

What does educational neuroscience study?

Neuroscience investigates the functioning of the nervous system and especially the brain, to get closer to understanding the mechanisms that regulate the control of nervous reactions and their behavior. Research in this area has revealed, for example, that curiosity and emotion play an important role in the acquisition of new knowledge.

For its part, Educational Neuroscience is a discipline that aims to integrate neuroscientific knowledge about how the brain works and learns in the educational field.

Educational neuroscience is an interdisciplinary research field that seeks to translate the findings of research on the neural mechanisms of learning into educational practice and policy. There are equivalent fields that seek to translate neuroscience findings into law (eg, Royal Society, 2011a),

Educational neuroscience consists of understanding how the brain works to apply it to the improvement of the learning process.

In such a way that knowledge about neuroscience, psychology, and pedagogy are merged to improve learning.

In practice, much of the discoveries in neuroscience were already being carried out by pedagogy. But they are no less important for that.

Neuroscience allows obtaining an empirical vision and reinforcing why certain actions that were already carried out are positive for learning and why others are not.

Educational Neuroscience, also called Mind Brain and Education or Neuroeducation can help teachers understand how their students learn, as well as the relationships that exist between their emotions and thoughts, to carry out teaching effectively.

What does educational neuroscience bring to education professionals?

Neuroscience allows us to study how the brain learns and apply it to day-to-day education to improve the way the teaching-learning process is approached.

Do we learn the same as children, adolescents, and adults?

Neuroscience helps us to know how the brain matures in different age groups, a fact that gives us information about how we learn and which teaching-learning processes are most effective.

The way of learning of an adult, a teenager, or a child isn’t the same, so the methodologies to be used should not be identical either.

Motivation and neuroscience

Motivation is one of those magic words in education. Without being a magic wand, a motivated student learns better.

For example, in educational gamification or the use of visual materials in education, motivation is used repeatedly as one of the advantages they offer.

For something will be, right?

We know that motivation is important, but we may miss why motivation can become the fuel for learning.

Neuroscience allows us to provide some clues about the importance of motivation and challenges (stimuli) to activate certain areas of our brain that will help us in the learning process.

Is creativity learned?

Creativity isn’t exclusive to the lucky few.

We all have creative potential in one or another area that we can exploit and develop.

Surely you’ve ever heard that the right hemisphere is responsible for this creativity, while the left is responsible for logic.

However, creativity is much more complex than that and inherent to the human being. not a single cerebral hemisphere is involved, but is the result of the setting in motion of a complex set of neural networks.

These and other false beliefs are responsible for disproving neuroscience, providing information on how creativity works to help develop it in the classroom.

Do you need to get excited to learn?

In many learning situations, it has been shown that we learn by experimenting and that this learning remains with more intensity in our memory if we get excited.

It’s not a new thing that emotion can become a magical ingredient in the learning process.

However, neuroscience has made it possible to understand the role of emotions in learning and the consolidation of knowledge.

Learn by experimenting

I won’t discover anything new if I tell you that memorization doesn’t favor learning compared to experimenting, that is, learning by doing.

Neuroscience reinforces this idea, already confirmed by practice, explaining the reasons why memorization doesn’t favor the establishment of neural connections that facilitate learning. 

Experience, on the other hand, does favor them, facilitating learning.

So, How does neuroscience enhance understanding of human development?

The contributions from Neurosciences are of utmost importance to understand and seek to improve the teaching-learning processes

Neuroscience has helped to understand:

  • The brain is unique. This organ is the only one that can teach itself, and the more it learns, the more it develops.
  • It allows for proposing a new educational style. The bases for learning are based on the particularities of the nervous system and the brain. Education is then placed as a fundamental axis in the human process.
  • Students acquire more knowledge. When neuroeducation is applied in teaching, the students’ brain is being stimulated to obtain the information it needs, it creates the necessary bases for the learning process and generates neural connections known as synapses responsible for the information that lasts over time.
  • Neuroeducation is the revolution in education. It’s the fusion between neuroscience and teaching. From both perspectives, it has been shown that children learn better since the brain is an organ that never stops learning.
  • Learning is based on emotions. Neurosciences have shown that positive emotions facilitate memory and learning as they help maintain curiosity and motivation, transcendental conditions for effective and lasting learning.
  • Physical activity and quality of sleep to strengthen learning. Exercise also improves the physical and psychological predisposition towards learning, increasing levels of motivation, and attention. generating greater self-esteem, and benefiting people diagnosed with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or depression.

FAQSs: How does neuroscience enhance understanding of human development?

Why is neuroscience important for understanding development?

The study of the nervous system advances the understanding of basic human physiology and bodily function. Thanks to this we can better understand how our brain works, predict possible complications in development, and cure disorders derived from problems in the nervous system.

Why are theories important in human development?

The theories provide various psychological approaches that attempt to explain the development of man according to his behavior and personality characteristics allowing us to understand behavior, thought, and human development.

What is the concept of neuroscience?

Neuroscience is known as the scientific field whose object of study is the nervous system. Neuroscience is responsible for studying all aspects, functions, developments, and structures of the nervous system. It’s also interesting in the way in which the different elements of this system interact producing cognition and behaviors.

What are the branches of neuroscience?

Cognitive neuroscience.
Computational neuroscience.

What are the main theories of human development?

Maturation theory, psychoanalytic theory, Erikson’s psychosocial theory, behaviorism theory, biopsychosocial theory, theory of cognitive development, and ecological system theory.

In this brief guide, we’re going to answer the question “How does neuroscience enhance understanding of human development?’’ What does educational neuroscience study and what does educational neuroscience bring to education professionals.

So, are these topics interesting?

If you have any questions or comments please let us know.


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Hon Wah Lee, & Juan, C.-H. (2013, August). What Can Cognitive Neuroscience Do to Enhance Our Understanding of Education and Learning? Retrieved October 10, 2020, from ResearchGate website:

Stelmach, R. M., Rourke, B. P., & van der Vlugt, H. (1995). Intelligence, learning disabilities, and event-related potentials. Developmental Neuropsychology, 11, 445–465.