The Neuroscience Revolution and Learning Differences

It seems everywhere you look that research being done by neuroscientists is revolutionizing our understanding of how our brains help, or hurt, our interaction with the world.

John Gabrieli, a professor at MIT, is head of “The Gab Lab,” which researches a wide variety of brain-based topics across diverse individuals and age groups. His work highlights some of the ways that neuroscience may change the way we think about learning differences, psychiatric disorders, and more.

Gabrieli’s lab investigates a wide range of topics including autism and developmental disorders, reading and language, intelligence and neural plasticity, memory development, and executive function.

In the field of educational neuroscience Gabrieli is a leader. In his work, he is tracing what appears to be objective evidence of brain differences associated with learning differences. This research suggests that we could discover the actual neural mechanisms that are responsible for learning differences, which could help us understand the most effective treatments as well. At the same time, he cautions that we still do not understand the true implications of these advances in neuroscience. For example, neuroscientists often rely on fMRI imaging performed in a lab; however, educators measure impact by assessing academic ability in a classroom. These are two very different environments that have very different impacts on the brain.

Though the field of educational neuroscience is still taking shape, it clearly has tremendous potential. John Gabrieli will be giving a presentation, titled “Impact of the Neurosciences on Education: Are We There Yet?”, at this year’s Learning Differences Conference, March 10–11 at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Join us for a peek at the future of the field of education.

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director