Better learning through educational neuroscience?

When neuroscience meets education

Applying neuroscientific research to the classroom is a new and exciting endeavor. Thanks to ever-advancing technologies that allow us to image the thinking brain, we know more than ever before about how students learn. But it’s not easy to translate these findings to the classroom.

Educational Neuroscience (EN), also known as Mind, Brain, and Education, is a multifaceted, interdisciplinary effort to close the gap between neuroscience and the educational sector. Researchers in education, neuroscience, psychology, genetics, technology, and other disciplines of relevance to education are starting to work together to paint a rich picture of all aspects of teaching and learning. But expanding our understanding of the scientific foundations of learning is just one part of the story.

EN faces the significant challenge of influencing practices within the school context, which is very different from that of the lab. Educators collaborate with researchers to test ideas based on research findings in their own classrooms, often in a large trial with many participants. A key part of the process is to then communicate the outcomes to a wide audience, sharing what has been learned with as many teachers as possible. To achieve the primary goal of EN – to improve learning – educators must have ready access to scientific evidence so that they can use their expertise to apply it in practice.

EN is a relatively young discipline, and it is still learning. Proponents of EN argue for using the most sophisticated technologies to find out more about the learning brain and ensure that everyone has the best possible chance to learn. This process is a challenge, and EN offers no quick fixes. In time, EN will provide tools for educators and learners through carefully designed, well-thought-out research. EN will also lead to recommendations for policymakers, who can advocate for the use of scientifically-tested modern teaching and learning methods in schools. Collaborations and discussions of this kind will take time, but the hope is that EN will ultimately lead to scientifically-informed school practices.


Bowers, J. S. (2016): The Practical and Principled Problems with Educational Neuroscience. Psychological Review, 123, 600-612.

Bunge, S. (Interview, 2017): Has educational neuroscience actually had an impact on education so far? BOLD – Blog on Learning and Development.

Carew, T. J./Magsamen, S. H. (2010): Neuroscience and Education. An Ideal Partnership for Producing Evidence-Based Solutions to Guide 21st Century Learning. Neuron, 67, 665-668.

Dubinsky, J. M./Roehrig, G./Varma, S. (2013): Infusing Neuroscience into Teacher Professional Development. Educational Researcher, 42, 317-329.

Gabrieli, J. D. (2016): The promise of educational neuroscience. Comment on Bowers. Psychological Review, 123, 613-619.

Goswami, U. (2006): Neuroscience and education. From research to practice? Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 7, 406-411.

Herrmann, U. (2009): Neurodidaktik. Die Kooperation von Neurowissenschaften und Didaktik. Journal für LehrerInnenbildung, 4, 8-21.

Horvath, J. C./Donoghue, G. M. (2016): A Bridge Too Far. Revisited: Reframing Bruer’s Neuroeducation Argument for Modern Science of Learning Practitioners. Frontiers in Psychology, 377, 1-12.

Lee, H. W./Juan, C. (2013): What can Cognitive Neuroscience do to enhance our Understanding of Education and Learning? Journal of Neuroscience and Neuroengeneering, 2, 393-399.

Macedonia, M. (2018): „Wissenstransfer aus den Neurowissenschaften“. Macedonia.

Madeja, M. (2015): „Hirnforschung, was kannst du? Die Schule erzieht junge Menschen, keine Gehirne“. Frankfurter Allgemeine, 07.03.15, Wissen.

Sigman, M./Peña, M./Goldin, A. P./Ribeiro, S. (2014): Neuroscience and education. Prime time to build the bridge. Nature Neuroscience, 17, 497-502.

Stern, E./Grabner, R. H./Schhumacher, R. (2016): Educational Neuroscience. A Field Between False Hopes and Realistic Expectations. Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 224, 237-239.

Tandon, P. N./Singh, N. C. (2016): Educational Neuroscience. Challenges and Opportunities. Annals of Neuroscience, 23, 63-65.

Weekly newsletter