There may finally be some truth to the old adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, if you believe that old dogs also don’t like learning new things. The research that was published on the 2nd of October in Neuron show that if we’re more curious about a given subject, the brain will morph and make it easier to learn about the subject. Additionally, that research found that the memory was also improved in individuals who were more genuinely interested in the things they were learning about.
This could potentially have major impacts in areas like education, where many schools struggle to reach students, and actually engage them beyond simply handing out a test, or taking notes. The opportunity to better engage students, get them involved, and most importantly get them interested in learning could be the big breakthrough the education world has been waiting for patiently now for several years.
As it turns out, the study had a few major findings that were published. The way the study worked was participants rated curiosity levels to learn particular trivia questions. When they were later asked the trivia questions a 14 second delay was noted, and during that time the individuals were shown two faces. A memory test ensued and some participants even had their brains scanned during the entire study.
The major findings though are impeccable but can feel obvious if taken out of context. First, and possibly most importantly – those that were incredibly curious about the answer to a specific trivia question – learned that material more effectively. The study even found that this was a trend that had an everlasting effect. In essence creating an atmosphere where once the brain was aroused, almost unlimited learning could occur.
Next was the fact that the brain reacts to curiosity. It’s a stimulation that the brain actually sees greater activity with. It has to do with increased activity in the portion of the brain that can identify or sense reward.
And last, the study found that learning was motivated by curiosity. Once an individual was intrigued, learning seemed to be a breeze moving forward. The study found that the brain actually correlates learning with rewards.
This study can and should have major implications moving forward. Whether its education, medicine or even going beyond that – this is something that could preserve brain function later into life, or increase brain activity at a young age – when kids are in school. This could lead to beneficial ways to treating memory loss or memory disorders, and will definitely lead to further research.