Bruce McCandliss: Educational Neuroscience: How Education Shapes Brain Development



we might as well get started well it's a pleasure to be able to give this lecture at the commencement time of the year in a way this is a celebration of many many years of journey of educational transformation which has changed what the people who have gone through this transformation what they're able to do with their minds what they're able to do potentially with their brains with their neurons with the organization of their voice and I want to focus on some research which is happening right here at Vanderbilt University which is trying to examine the general topic of educational transformation how is it that experience has changed what we're able to do with the human mind as well as changes that occurred in the human brain in order to link these two worlds of research and I want to focus today on where it all began during the earliest years of formal education during early elementary school this is a really exciting time to look at the connection between transformations which occurred through education for what children can do of their minds and changes that occur at the level of organ is organization of brain circuitry and the research that I'm going to be describing is trying to connect these two we spoke specifically on early elementary school years because this is a time of dramatic to transformation children during the early elementary years change what they're able to do they gain new cognitive abilities they can do things with their mind couldn't do before they can exactly enumerate they can engage in abstract mental cognition about numerosity and numbers and logical reason they can also fluently gave me the ability to sweetly read to take visual information and turn it into linguistic information at an incredibly high rate which increases their ability to take advantage of link language information for the service of education at the elementary school there are dramatic changes which are occurring in the human brain and we're now using the tools of cognitive neuroscience able to map out regions in adults there's a number of people in the wing I invite you to come on in if there's seats left there's a couple of seats in the middle of America using functional imaging brain imaging we're able to map out the regions of the brain that are specifically associated with basic cognitive functions for example we see here brain regions in blue that are specifically corresponding to activations in the brain that are relevant when we listen for human speech when we listen to the sounds that are specific to our species for encoding information auditory modality these regions become much more active the regions mapped out in red which are specifically responsive to visual input with the visual stimulus of letters open the process of learning to read a child goes from a brain which has not been organized to connect regions which should recognize visual letters of visual words and connect those to auditory language over the course of just a few years of the system's level brain transformation that occurs in which reaches the brain that are associated with looking at visual symbols for letters become automatically and exquisitely connected to reaches the brain that are associated with activation language we can trace this out over development we can also examine what's going on during classrooms which are driving that change this reorganization that we see over the early elementary schools years for reading is fundamentally driven by educational activity which is happening in the classroom during these school related activities so there's a major scientific process project in order to relate what's going on in the dynamics of the classroom and the experiences that children are happening is they strain and try to learn and the changes that occur at the level of the organization of their brains which facilitate these new cognitive abilities this new way of combining your imaging research on the human brain how is organized an educational research of the human mind and how its reorganized through experiences through teaching experiences is I think the evolution of a new field that we're calling educational neuroscience and when you look at these questions about what's going on in the classroom how our experiences in the classroom playing out differently what could be done differently new questions start to come to the forefront for cognitive neuroscience so for instance one big question besides tracing out changes over the course of development is to try to get a better handle on how did the brain systems of individual learners differ we have been talking brain science about the fundamental organization of a human brain but we also are struck by the vast individual differences that exist from one frame to the next we're starting to look at that individual variation in order to understand how learners might differ when they come to a challenging task such as organizing their brain to do this new cultural activity – regardless of whether it's math or reading or paying attention another question which comes up which i think is really exciting and we can now study in much more precise detail than we've ever enabled to do so before is how our education is driving changes in these systems we can now push the science to the point where we examine the nature of an educational experience and then we measure before and after changes that occur in the brain that are linked to that educational experience in order to get insight into what might matter we're also interested in linking these two such that we can potentially personalized educational experiences to meet the needs of specific learners so what I'd like to do over the course of this lecture is just address three fundamental questions one of them is well what do we know about the expert reader if you're an expert in reading then you gave this expertise how is your brain organized to support this skill secondly how do the brain systems for individual learners differ in a way that might matter to this task of learning to read for engaging in this most critical cultural skill which is the foundation of most education and then thirdly how do educational experiences what is it about the design or the way we go about trying to encourage this transformation our culture how does that impact directly impact the changes in these systems so I'll keep returning to these three questions throughout the lecture so first of all let me just give you an orientation a map if you will global map of the rough hemisphere of the human brain this is the but region which I forgot earlier that are critically involved when we listen to auditory speech sound so when you listen to the sounds of my voice these regions of the brain are particularly active and all from the computation of thinking out which speech gestures is far not making me what am I saying and how do you put that together into meaningful discourse regions back here in the digital system are specifically when you look at visual letters and Association reaches in between are recruited when we're associated visual learners with their corresponding visual or auditory sounds and words the process of learning to read are becoming an expert in learning to read is critically dependent on reorganization of these systems so what I'd like to do is to give you a little flavor of what we've been discovering about how would the brain changes in an expert you spent dozens of years engaged in this one cultural skill of looking at visual order to be turning them into language and most skilled breeders have done this to the point where this happens automatically and just looking at a word sends out this cascade of neural events so within one fifth of a second we know exactly what word that is I jumped to the next word and we're able to process written words faster than human speech even though the brain wasn't really evolved for reading it was invented only three to six thousand years ago so what's changed if you stop all of this time all of these years is putting yourself to the task of becoming an expert at some cultural activity what's changed in the visual system that might support that fluent rapid automatic ability that looked a few symbols that know exactly what words they are and carry out through a breeding process but one December that's been made if you look at there was looking in the bottom view of the brain growing in black blood chemistry or from underneath there's a region of the visual system which in skilled readers becomes a highly activated whenever you present a visual word of their language so it was my flesh over we ran up on the screen there's an automatic cascade of events in which this region of your visual systems become specialized to show a large neural response we can compare that to a control condition where we just present a jumble of letters and map up the response of this which I want to call the black to the fusiform generous this is a region of the brain which is really critically involved in object recognition that becomes a rich specialized as children and adults become experts in learning to read the hallmark of becoming an expert in terms of this brain regions activity is if I present the object of your expertise at time zero but about five seconds there's an increase in blood flow to this region which we can trace out using fMRI which then drops back down the baseline if I find something that's not quite the object of your expertise like the jungle of platters it shows a very muted response which is much bigger than any other visual stimulus so your brain or this cultural activity of learning to read has tuned up a part of the visual system to become highly excited by just the sight of a symbol in your writing system so what do we know about this system and how excitable is it by these little jumbles of letters is this something just at the visual level this has been a big question before front of vision science asking what's going on in terms of specific activation that might be going on in this region when you look at what's a visual words versus any other category of things like little electronic pictures or what what happens we look at Chinese letters or a jumble of numbers researchers have demonstrated is that there's a specific response to visual words that these experts see in this great region and these are English words when looking at all other foreign what words there was no such response cleverly the experience base of these particular readers that drives this response or is it something else is it something in the stimuli these research has been a very clever experiment they brought in a new group of reading experts who only had relatively good skill in reading English but they were experts in reading Hebrew and for the amount of lingual English readers the deeper response was very small pretty close to easy for Chinese or some of their unfamiliar script but when they brought in the Hebrew readers very large expertise response suggesting that your brain is tuned not just to the lines and circles and the sorts of things that happen when you're trying to read but very tuned for specific nuances of your own writing system they also I want to point out that there's limits to what we can do with this imaging technique and one of the limits is the temporal resolution of this technique for measuring responses which is very which are very slow blood flows through the brain at a relatively slow rate compared to the speed of thought or the speed of perception so when we present a visual word in time zero it takes about five or six seconds for this signal to peak and we know that it is good reader your mind is able to capture what that word means change it from a stimulus to a mental fire very specific word the culture inside of the bottom fifth of a second so the hemodynamic stuff that we use in fMRI is really limited in terms of capturing things at the speed of thought because it's beautiful resolution in terms of which brain areas are critically loved but very limited resolution in terms of how that's happening what time that happens and as we know reading and fluency is critical in terms of how much you can benefit for reading so in order to investigate that we turn to a very different brain imaging technique and I don't this one hasn't received quite the popular press that the colorful blobs on the brain that are related to different functions have but electrophysiology is another thing that's well represented here at Vanderbilt there are over eight different laboratories that specifically involve electrophysiology looking at the brain signals in real time in order to look at what's going on in the mind what's going on in cognition so in this technique we surround the brain with these spongy salt water electrodes and we have six of them surrounding the brain and we're able to sort of listen in to the greatest natural electricity and how it's changing over time when you engage in a mental act like looking in a word and figuring out what it is and we can look at this beautifully a thousand times per second so we can create a thousand Botha's maps of what's happening right at the time when a word hits the eye and about a hundred milliseconds later when we see a visual response over the visual regions and then about 150 to 170 milliseconds later when it's just starting to hit the language circuitry and the mind is starting to appreciate what concept is looking at this is the we're able to sort of look in real time the transformation from physical stimulation to abstract meditation in a way and this does for us something akin to what stop-motion photography is done for looking at the dynamics of water so for instance we can take a snapshot of the voltage around the brain a hundred and seventy milliseconds after a word is presented in order to see what activity is picked off right when you shift from perception to comprehension of a word we're able to capture this transfer this transformation moment and our don't look at what brain systems are critically involved in that when we do this when we set up a voltage map looking over here we see over the back of the head these are little cartoon ears to help orient you so looking over the back of the head in their visual system we want to see what does this brain response look like at 170 milliseconds after a word is presented versus after a symbol which somebody's not quite familiar with if they're not an expert at it this is the brain sort of responding to the object of his expertise a written word in its Buddhist culture versus the brain responding to something has never seen before some abstract symbols and we see the large difference occurs over the atmosphere when we subtract these two were able to isolate this to this left posterior visual region that we think is coming from the very same brain region that were isolated in the fMRI so we're able to work out the basic circuitry were able to look at its defining and we're able to capture something which i think is not trivial and that is what is the impact of an expert looking at something somebody who's an expert in reading versus the novices looking at something the expert changes the way they see things when you're an expert the way you see the world changes so when you see the world into tiny changes what happens in your brain 170 milliseconds after you see the object of your expertise changes and the thing that has changed that specifically are your learning experiences so we're looking at the impact of reading learning experiences on the physical activity in the brain in 170 milliseconds after a stimulus is presented we think Caray this is great we're figuring out how the human brain works were able to do real basic science and to figure these things out but when you step back a moment you realize that this difference that we're seeing here is really driven by development by experiences that this individual has over the course of many many years of schooling of directed activity of working with a teacher of looking at visual learners and struggling to recognize them fluency and so we want to push the science now in order to study this developmental translation how is it that our experiences are changing our brain structure how is it the learning is changing the Cascade of activities that occurs in our neurons when we recognize things that are critical like visual words so the nice thing about this spongy electrode type of experiment is you can do this at any age you can put these things on baby even put them on a seven-year-old girl smiling here it's showing you this it doesn't hurt at all and we can listen in to the developing brain we start to look at transformations that occur in the human brain during the processes that lead to this expertise and it's and map out how are the experiences that this person is having are they changing the way their brain responds to the world that what the brain seeta's stimuli that are related to their education and Horsham our who was a postdoc working with me was involved in some work in Switzerland in which they took on a heroic task of looking at before first grade what the difference looked like between a word that they were familiar with and a word that they've never seen before or a jumble of symbols that they've been receive before and they went all the way up to 220 milliseconds which in the neural time is is an eternity I mean so much neural activity has happened by a quarter of a second in terms of recognizing things in the world that it's almost like the moment is gone however as he followed these people too after first grade first they didn't cross sectional study with I actually followed individuals they found just like in this cross-sectional study that there was a transformation that occurred over the course of just first grade training in reading now when these children looked at words that they were trying to recognize they saw big changes in visual activity that wasn't quite as fast as the adults it was bilateral even slightly right lateral eyes so the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere were both changing and transforming in a way and then when you look at the cross-sectional study with adults we see that another change occurs in which the adults are seen things much faster this is changing the way the brain is perceiving the basic visual world and it's also becoming really left-lateral eyes we're seeing this big vocal change so we can study this transformation from novice to expert and you can map out the changes that occur in the way the brain turns stimuli into insight but everything I've said to this point has been focused on the typical human brain we this field has kind of started by averaging together multiple brains to see what is in common across all of us in terms of the way we see the world in terms of the way we change with a development but some of the most interesting questions for education are of a different LLL there are the questions of how do individuals differ how does why is it that some children variety of it learning to even learn to read in a very precocious an age where other children may struggle for the rest of their life in terms of mastering this and what is the transformation look like over the course of like in between this point between the first grade of recognizing but there's a word there all the way to adulthood which we know exactly what word it is but the very brief exposure so we're pushing the field now into individual differences how dumb individual brains differ and not just how do they differ in ways that we can sure but how do they different weights that actually matter they're things that we're trying to accomplish like helping children to learn to read or helping children to gain mathematical fluency or helping children with abstract control abilities what we're starting to see is that these brain measures are actually very powerful signals of how individual individuals differ and capture important things that differ in terms of how well they're doing in school so in this field of educational neuroscience we often take a neural metric so this is a physical measure of how much electrical signal weekend well the left hemisphere versus the right hemisphere so lateral is brain responses show up on this part of the exits and right lateral as brain responses show up on this part of the axis and over here on the y axis we have cognitive ability how well are children doing on standardized tests in school for learning to read and return those show a relationship between these measures of the mind and these measures of the brain and what we're seeing again and again is a very powerful relationship between individual of differences between kids that we can measure at the brain level and individual differences in activity in schooling entity and individual differences and how well they're doing on standardized tests so these basic skills so we think that this has gives us insight into how children differ such that children with really left-lateral eyes responses the circle of adult life are actually engaging in reading at a much better level the children who are showing this bilateral or slightly right where their lives response and we're able to trace this out we're also hoping to draw continuities with much more severe ranges of an Vigil differences so I don't know how many of you people can recognize the icons that we have here in that culture such as this one okay what if these guys all have income other than being black and white photos how about these guys so all of these people are incredibly successful human minds that have great ability great creative potential on have great financial success great cultural success by nearly any metric but all of them have gone on record and as statement they've had a profound difficulty in learning to read and many of them unclassified clinically as being functionally dyslexic and this kind of raises an interesting problem you know how can a mind like Whoopi Goldberg who's so creative and so spontaneous or perhaps Keanu Reeves or Chuck please so it has such great ability such intellectual power in order to accomplish so many things have a profound very specific difficulty with this task of reorganizing their brain such that the visual symbols can connect with these language representations in a very fluent way and this is a question that's perplexed a lot of people this is not a evidence of some kind of profound brain damage which is pervasive that would impact all forms of cognition and this kind of runs counter to the intuition that a lot of children have when they're having problems in the early reading years that somehow they don't have a gifted mind they don't have a wealth of talents and many domains but they are shown again and again that they're having this very difficult problem with this very basic task of learning to read that others succeed on how do we start to understand this and we think that we're getting a lot of insight by looking at the very specific aspects of the neural structures that are involved it may be that a very isolated neural problem could lead to this very specific disability of learning to read of posing this challenge of transforming the brain through educational experiences in order to gain this new ability and one way of doing this is looking at white matter tracks in the brain this is kind of a new technique that also it hasn't received quite as much popular press is the sort of colorful blobs from the brain that we use an fMRI but we're able to look at the reef the one the way one brain region talks to another brain region is through these long axonal connections and we can now measure these with explicit detail to see how well are some regions of the brain connected to other regions of the brain and remarkably we can make statistical maps of these particular white matter tracts in different regions and relate individual variation in healthy people as well as patient populations to individual variation in cognitive performance there's a profound connection between individual differences in the brain and individual differences in the mind in terms of mental performance and we're applying this to now understand the roots of developmental dyslexia in children this is one study carried out by AI lab when I was still in New York which looked at the white matter tracts in the left hemisphere which you can see here kind of course up through the middle of the brain identities left-hemisphere regions if we looked at the organization of these white matter tracks about how well organized they are and how well my RNA that they are and how densely packed they're we're able to come up with a metric of organization of white matter that we call fractional anisotropy and look at this individual difference in terms of the brain metric and contrast that directly with individual differences in kids reading performance so every one of these little diamonds that received is one of the children that were in the study in New York City and what we see on these two different metrics one of them is related to individual differences in brain organization of these white matter tracks and the other is how well they're doing on the standardized test of reading of reading individual words and what we found is a very strong relationship between the organization of these left hemisphere white matter tracts and their skill at performing on these standardized tests these were children between the third and fifth grade that demonstrated this profile relationship and everybody moves to the left with this dotted line show some evidence of having developmental dyslexia and they were quite distinct from the rest of the group yet these differences seemed to lie on a continuum we're having much stronger scores in this metric about how well your white matter tracks are organized translated into doing quite well on the reading test and one thing that was amazing to me we often see a pattern in this study and when we go to look at it again another study here another sample you see a different pattern things don't quite line up but this is one particular pattern the way your white matter tracks are organized in your left hemisphere seem to be profoundly related to your reading that we see show up again and again again this study that we did in New York was focused on kids that were below average down into the dyslexic range it was a study going on at the very same time in Canada we thought they would not study but they don't call them which were something were in a sense above average so most of the sample was average or extremely above average and they demonstrated the very same relationship in the very same left hemisphere white matter tracked the organization of these white matter tracks axons was profoundly related to this abstract intellectual ability that kids learned pretty late in life like aged six to ten years of age and this is in the normal range so individual variation than just people that you see in the ordinary classroom there's a profound relationship between brain organization and how well they're doing at this abstract intellectual task this has now been replicated six individual times in different laboratories is a different set of kids science but getting back to this kind of puzzle of dyslexia how could it be that somebody that is successful in so many ways can have this one mentor difficulty with this one task of reorganizing their brain to learn to read we started to go after this question about whether the white matter tracks might show us an answer to that and one way to investigate that is to find other brain behavior relationships we know that the frontal lobes are very critically involved in what's happening sort of right now the organization of the frontal lobes seem to be critically involved in holding on to information so if I told you my telephone number and then you told it back to me the frontal lobe seems to be critically involved in holding on to that in short-term memory and we've been able to see in the same sample of kids that white matter tracks in the frontal lobe if you look at the organization of these white matter tracks using this method there's a profound relationship between how well organized these what amount of tracks are and how well they do on a standardized test of short-term memory if you give them some numbers and they tell you how many they can get back to you there's large individual difference if some kids do really well at this task some kids really really struggle with these tasks and like five could you repeat that and maybe get the first one or two and they scored very low on this scale but what we see is an exclusive relationship between how well they do on this task and the organization of these white matter tracks in their frontal lobe this is the same population of kids that we saw we're struggling with reading or succeeding everything so this allows us to really ask a profound question I think which is does the white matter track can influence everything you do sort of as a broad systemic influence of doing well on tasks that access your cognition or doing poorly on passes or could it be tapping into very specific relationships between some brain regions and some skills and other brain regions and other skills so in order to do this we vacation this double dissociation these are the scores of the kids the relationship that I showed you earlier between these mock tennis career tracks in the reading here's the relationship I showed you same kids but now they're looking in the frontal lobe and how well they're doing the short-term memory the most striking pattern in the study is that while I can predict your reading scores they're looking at this way your track if your short-term memory but disgruntled tracks they seem to be really specific there's no real relationship between these select matter tracts and reading and there's no real relationship between these white matter tracts and circular memory performance it's as if all of these children have are kind of a mosaic of strengths and weaknesses and one might not be related to the other and when I work with kids who show signs and symptoms of dyslexia I often try to convince them this doesn't mean that you're not good at many many other things that every single human brain is a mosaic of strengths and weaknesses and we can measure that map that out having difficulty in learning read to read doesn't necessarily mean that you have difficulties in any other domain that can be dissociated so I want to shift gears and talk about two kind of new topics that we're starting to investigate Sophie I'm just working out these basic relationships about how many brains differ that might relate to an educational skill like reading and how they change over development having this really well mapped out explicit map of the human is active when we try to engage in a very particular task like reading it's giving us new leverage and new abilities to ask new questions post new questions I've never been posed before and approach them in a brand new way and one of the most interesting things that I've seen lately and this really kind of surprised me because it answered a really challenging question but I always get posed what good does it do to know what's going on inside the brain if you want to understand reading you can just give them a reading test do you know exactly how well they're doing what good would it possibly do to do a brain scan and see what regions are active or not active or what regions of the brain are associated with you know success or failure at this and together with some colleagues at Stanford University and Harvard University and a bunch of other universities that big collaboration actually we took on this question about couldn't use a brain scan to predict what was going to happen in the future so if we took a brain scan of a child a 14 year old child who is dyslexic we know the most samples of fortune your oldest Lexus I mean the sad truth is that some of them kind of flatlined age 14 but don't improve their reading skills at all even given two years of being in a study which is specifically tracking their reading skills other 14 year olds show this really strong persistence to keep on trying to push and persist and try to make these connections and make these changes in their brains that allow them to improve their reading ability and it seems to divide the population roughly equal so to Utrecht 14 year-old children that's not one just one where they about sixteen and a half two and a half years later it seems that about half of them show this kind of flatline performance and about half of them show this rising trajectory performance and the question this team one after was if we took a brain scan at time one could we predict who was likely to go on this flat line trajectory and who was likely to go on this rising persistent increasing of reading skills trajectory and this study was actually just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this year this is sort of hot off the press research and insights at the forefront of Education and neuroscience and the striking result was that if you looked at the behavioral measures alone and you tried to make a prediction for whether a child was going to go on to they're all 14 years old they're all dyslexic they're largely an undifferentiated group if you give them on behavioral tests at time one your ability to guess whether they're going to go on the rising trajectory or the flatline trajectory is pretty much near chance if you look at this black dot here it's really about 50% so there's nothing in this entire battery of reading specialized tests that can tell us who is likely to go on the rising trajectory and who's likely to flatline however using fMRI pattern analysis this study demonstrated that a scan taken at the age fourteen you could use this to actually predict with about 95% reliability which pathway the child was gonna the teenager was going to go on and the big difference seemed to be in what was going on in this frontal area this right inferior frontal gyrus region which may be critical for these dyslexic sort of persisting at a task which they find challenging and the the precision of this was really strong and is leading to in a sense of a new coined term in the field which we called neuro prognosis being able to understand the individual differences so well that you can actually predict what's likely to happen in the near future for those individuals all else being equal the hope is by understanding the nature of these differences we might be able to tailor educational mentioned specifically for those individuals to help them engage in the sort of changes that they need to engage in this area of neural prognosis has been opening up and we're finding new ways in which these neural measures of what's going on in the brain tell us something about educational trajectory here's another example so this is an example from where Samaras work when they looked at it I showed you before this voltage topography over the fact that they had here the little cartoon ears and we're seeing over the back of the head the responses this left collateralised response that we have but this is two phonemes so this is the individual little speech zones that are given to kindergarten children kindergarten children most kindergarten children will show a left lateralized response to a speech type in their language however if you look at children who go on to be poor readers they don't show this left leg right response they show this bilateral response they're soft in their language with the same exact sounds in a sense but if you differentiate kids who go on to be good readers they show this left our lateral eyes response the kids are going to be poor readers each other's bilateral response you can use this kindergarten response to predict who's going to go on to be a good reader and who's going to go on to be a poor reader so again you see this relationship between how many words per minute these children can read in second grade their brain response was left collateralized for responses to human speech this is what the brain max look like visitor like inferred source generations but occurred for the children who go on to be poor readers versus the kids who go on to be good readers and this is just another example that we can use these signals to predict the likely trajectory of these children there's even studies taking this all the way down to the earliest days of life to see what maybe these children are born with individual differences that matter for organizing the brain for human speech and organizing the brain for reading and this Levin took advantage of the fact that familial dyslexia dyslexia is highly heritable so if a child is born to a family that has a genetic number they're three or four times more likely to show this Lexia than a child who's born into a family without direct family members of dyslexia and if you just look at those two groups that group this board to the at-risk family versus the not at risk family even in the first six months of life the way their brains respond to speech sounds seem to differentiate and this is a study carried out in Finland and the Finns are the most patient people you'd ever imagine because they actually followed these kids over the course of eight years brought them back into the study to ask whether the VRP responses they got to human speech when they were six months of age could that predict which of the dyslexic kids were going to go on to show this flatline performance versus which of the dyslexic kids were going to go on to show this continual rising trajectory and they found that even early in life these kids who were born to dyslexic families you're able to engage in some prediction using the neural signals so it's coming up on three thirty and I know that there's a lot of people that need to rush off to another meeting but I bet the lecture will continue for another 15 minutes but I just wanted to give those people a break to scoot thanks a lot Jess most of you are saying it's really good thank you that was all the boring part exciting helping us understand why they have a harder time learning their language and then in the curves in the protector we have a mAh grams on that very topic things okay so now the coverage of all of you living is nice I want to tell you they're really so this is the this is what got me really excited about this in the first place so when I was a graduate student I was studying neuroscience and I was kind of interested in it but it seemed like the most exciting thing that was related to neuroscience was this notion of brain experience-dependent brain plasticity the fact that what you do with your mind over the course of time can actually change your bringing ways that we can measure and this to me what I mean hearing these studies about how monkeys might reorganize their brain if they have different learning experiences you can actually go in and measure changes in the way cortical fields are set up and changes in their response properties of different areas their brain based on what they experienced over the course of weeks to months struck me is something that these were adult one peas in a way it struck me the thinking about neuroscience in a completely different way that our brains are incredibly dynamic when we have something that we might call a learning experience we're making a change in our brain that we carry with us forward in time so could we take this the fact that we have all of these insights into how the circuitry of the brain is organized for reading and how individual learners might different ways that matter a lot for learning to read can we take this in order to help intervene to create learning experiences which might be better suited to their individual differences and could we show that specific learning experiences dry and changes in their cortical circuits in ways that matter and was that they might carry forward into the future and that's the question that I wanted to discuss in the last 15 minutes of the lecture um we have a lot of insights from educational studies that what teachers do when working with children that have matters quite a bit there are curriculum studies that contrast the impact that but when a teacher focus at the child's attention on the sounds of the language and specifically how they relate to letters this has a profound impact on their reading comprehension in these meta analytic studies they just they have a sense of how big is the effect that we're talking about it if the curriculum is having an effect there are developmental effects which are kind of small but significant but when you start to get above like 0.5 you start to drive these significant effects that might make a difference in the real world there might be effects which teachers would notice which would lead to differences that persist in time and outcome and many of these curriculum studies have demonstrated that curricula that focus a child's attention on the sounds of the language and the way they learn the letters versus a curriculum it does something else like focus on my entire familiar words and how they're put together at passages or things like that especially for the kids that are struggling there's a huge difference these differences show up in comprehension they're somewhat stronger in spelling but where they have their strongest effects is the kids ability to sound out a new word they've never seen before like a name or a novel piece of vocabulary and they think this is a critical engine for vocabulary growth these kids ability to sound out a word figure it out in print and Link that so we wanted to start to investigate well how is this that a teacher what a teacher does it impact a learning experience which could lead to a change and bring mechanism so we had we started some experiments along this line in the row to see if we could take this into the laboratory and take undergraduates and have them learn a brand new writing system with one or two different teachers one teacher might have them learned this made-up writing system we create these little characters that people learn and take a whole word approach of making just a visual Association here's a novel character in this makeup writing system and this is the character for camp so you can try to mentally associate these and another teacher said well yeah you're going to learn this writing system but in my class we learned it like this we want to associate each one of these individual letters with sounds little sentences that make up syllables to associate those with letters and then we'll use that to learn the whole characters and we wanted to look at how just focusing attention in these two different ways on the entire character versus each individual letter and the sound statement which we think is going to facilitate this pathway in the left hemisphere is connecting visual forms to the sounds of language we created a laboratory study in which people got to study these for four seconds and in one way just focus their mind on the entire character or focus their mind on each individual character within the word related to a word sound and we wanted to ask whether focusing your attention on the sounds within words and letters versus focusing your attention on entire words how did it impact learning rate how did it impact generalization of learning and how did it impact brain activity first time is short I'll kind of blast through the learning dynamics but just to show you that if you're in this whole word focus group you learn about 80% of these associations in the first 10 minutes for a set of 16 but after 20 minutes of studying for is about 95% accuracy if you come back the next day you kind of forget and if you look at words you've never seen before and try to sign them out you're pretty much chance if you learn a second set you learn that second set to about 85% accuracy 20 more 10 more minutes it's 95% accuracy but at the same time you're forgetting what you did yesterday and so on and so forth you're horrible at generalizing to new characters you're forgetting what you learned yesterday and you're learning the new set and this is familiar to a lot of college students who study foreign language learn all chapter three you're great at it and somebody has to go by chapter two and it's like well all that's around same exact learning situations so the laboratory can study where we control everything all we're changing is which teacher you have now you have a teacher that wants to focus your mind on the sounds and the letters embedded within the words you see a very dramatically different pending learning is slow but transfer is high you're able to generalize to new cases and retention is really high you remember what you did yesterday just as well as you did when you were learning it yesterday and over the course of four sessions you sort of build towards expertise across the entire system you can generalize about anywhere that you've never seen before you can retain everything that you learned really quite strongly and we wanted to ask whether this the way the teacher focused your mind it had changed twitch brain circuits were being reorganized and just a reminder this is the brain response when you look at kind of expert reader looks at English words like I was having when that same reader looks at a simple that they don't really know in this learning study these randomized groups of highly skilled readers when they're for this new task of learning a brand new writing system the ones who are on the graphene floating focus group showed this less lateralized path which co-localize to the English better the ones that were in the whole word focus group showed this pattern which is reminiscent of the brains response when it sees a character that it's never seen before so here we saw a really large reorganization of these responses that were driven just by what the teacher and we wanted to push this insight that teachers are playing a profound role in shaping experiences in ways that matter for brain reorganization in order to see if we could bridge this laboratory research into the real world so now we wanted to test these ideas out with children that we're struggling with reading and see if we could do the same thing but in a sort of a child attainment kind of way on with a computer intervention where the child was sent with a tutor and they would focus their minds on the letters and the songs that they make them they would make multiple new words but critically drive their attention to each letter and what sounded things within each position of the word through this interactive software and we carried out this laboratory study in order to see how having children driving these letters around in this fashion over the course of 20 sessions might change their reading ability and we saw dramatic reorganization that occurred the training group with that 20 sessions were playing with this game showed really strong improvements in their reading ability that were like 1.6 grade levels that equivalent improvement and the kids the same group of kids that where the waiting list group showed no difference in this and we also showed any increases in reading comprehension I wanted to see whether we can link this specifically to standardized tests to given schools and we demonstrated that these kids were improving the performance about six points understand which is equivalent to about 1/3 of a standard deviation or as we saw earlier about 1.6 grade levels of improvement in this we took this study from the laboratory and we brought it to the fMRI Center to see whether we could map out changes that occur in this particular learning experiences so we scan the kids before and after going through these 20 sessions of focusing their mind and this one particular way during reading learning and we were able to map out the regions of the brain that were changing the most as a result of this reading experience and demonstrated with this region of the less of your temporal gyrus in the left hemisphere was showing significant changes after they go to this reading training versus before they go to this room and we want to use this as a basis for getting more specific insights into the dynamics of teaching and learning we've expanded this study since then to look to see if we can take this out into the real world by arming work study two years who were coming in from Hunter College with this program giving them a 1-hour orientation and then matching them up with students in New York City were struggling with reading and actually finding students in New York City who are struggling with reading was a lot easier to kind of think this is a result of the entire fourth grade test of all of New York City and you can see these regions are blacked where less than 40% of children are actually passing their proficiency test in reading so our our our efforts as a nation to acculturate the next generation of students in the critical tools of education are failing pretty miserably in a lot of very focused ways and a little bit of insight might go a long way we wanted to see whether we could just take this tool and set it out into new york city schools and whether it would have the same impact this is the impact that the university six standardized points against waiting lists control over if we didn't do anything with them and this is the result in a study where we took tutors that were following the prescribed New York City tutor guidebook that new class tutor recommendation and they showed no difference at all after 20 sessions working with these tutors in terms of their ability to found out new words they never saw before but this group that did the work building intervention the same tutor is randomly assigned showed really large differences that were to the University study so this is starting to seep out from the laboratory and start to make collaborations and connections with real world educational challenges that are being faced and this is where I think the research becomes most exciting because we can take this general approach and we can apply it to a lot of different domains so for instance there's research happening right here and some of those people in this laboratory are some of the people in this audience are actually graduated from my laboratory that are involved in the study are looking at brain activity that's associated with children as they gain skill in recognizing numbers relating into mathematical computations and there's other research which I am carrying out with other graduate students in the library that's looking at children's executive function skills their ability to sort of control their decisions in the face of conflict and how that's linked to differences in brain activity and how differences that occur in educational situations might change the brain circuitry that are critical to thinking about abstract number in carrying out mathematical calculations or carrying out decisions under different stressors and conflicts I think this is all sort of coming together into what might be considered a new field that we call an educational neuroscience and Vanderbilt is sort of one of maybe six hot beds across the country that's really seriously trying to tackle these problems so how can we leverage our new ability to look at the brain and how the brain is changing over time the response to these experiences how can we link that to some of the really critical social questions about what's happening in our culture and what kind of transformations do these brains wanna have and how are we failing at that if we can get new insights and be purchased into this we can see a collaboration between neuroscientists and educational curriculum designers and intervention specialists and teachers they can find new ways of sort of unlocking some of the mysteries of not just the human brain and how it works but how it changes over the course of learning and that's where I think the really exciting questions are going to come so I thank you all for your attention and we welcome a couple questions we have we need to pass the mic for questions or no yes okay could somebody volunteer to pass the mic around dessert okay thank you so much question well one one important thing to keep in mind is that reading at grade level is a moving target so the grade level is increasing so you're competing with a pack of kids who are income increase it's spending increasing amounts of time learning to read and you're trying to catch up to them if you step back and ask about just general improvement we see that there are lots of kids with all of the hallmarks of dyslexia or reading disability and many of them show continual patterns of improvements so their reading is improving over time but just not at the same rate as the kids that show no signs of dyslexia or anything so one of the critical questions for me is to first ask well is reading and proving overtime the big thing is not are they progressing but yeah I think that starting early same amount of intervention like their kindergarten has much bigger than that same intervention the our approach that's right there's so much you mentioned dyslexia and then you got into executive function at the end so are you looking at a lot of learning differences just Lexia ADHD you know other things and do pay off if you know function be sure in a sense what I've three pillars of educational transformation so the three things I would know doesn't predict whether a child is heading for success or hundred different types of struggles these are also the three regions where we know a lot of the brain mechanisms that support these so I think it's a great area you have all this information yeah what was asking for it publishers asking for it school districts who is getting this valuable information and saying hey we know all these great insights about how the brain circuitry of reading and not having enough trying to draw inferences from it collaborations where we try to ask for work than you differences could this approach help with these children let's do a study to find out so I've been really looking for this kind of collaboration between experts and educational research and experts in cognitive neuroscience and development on plans to really collaborate now in the dyslexia as they get older does the dyslexia reverse or is the brain figure out how to work it sometimes those compensations are associated with reorganization of new brain sources you see things showing up in the right hemisphere that don't typically show up and they're typically developing population and there's definitely a sense of the bad the intervention approach is trying to try to normalize the brain activity could we take this plastic child and give them just the right help in just the right ways so that they could engage the very same brain mechanisms that the typically developing leaders are using and if there's been some evidence of that so it kind of cuts both ways there's evidence that some people reorganize in a totally intervention can activate the very same brain circuits that that's my biggest question this I had okay and then to try it myself however I've done it yeah which is still once in a while I'll be reading and it's all backwards yeah everything so I just stopped and couple seconds to go right back yeah couldn't we take a broad group of diverse dyslexic and say something that they all have in common but we haven't covered the task of characterizing the broad range of individual differences that are out there that's a much more daunting challenge but we do see that there's tremendous variation we're just scratching the surface about what dyslexics might have in common we can study it was characterized but I'm always impressed saying the kids like how diverse they are to get more information yeah one really good as mentioned earlier with South Shaywitz reviews all of this research and the places there's also a very nice organization national organization they have representation in each state called the International dyslexia Association that is a wealth of information host special lectures on the latest network about dyslexia

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