The physiologic correlates of learning in the classroom environment
Frustace, Bruno Salvatore
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This study served to further investigate learning and memory, and to offer a potential tool to support educational interventions. More specifically, this was accomplished by an investigation of the physiologic changes in the brain that occurred while students learned medical anatomy. A group of 29 students taking the Gross Anatomy course at Boston University School of Medicine participated in the study. Testing occurred in two sessions: prior to the course and at the completion of the course. For each session, scalp EEG was recorded while participants were shown 176 anatomical terms (132 relevant to the course and 44 obscure) and asked to respond with "Can Define", "Familiar", or "Don't Know". Behavioral results indicated a positive correlation between participants' course grades and performance on the experimental tasks. EEG results were analyzed for event-related potential (ERP) components related to two memory components: familiarity and recollection. Results had a number of indications. For Don't Know responses, a stronger early frontal, late parietal, and late frontal effect occurred more so for terms of Session 1 compared to Session 2. For an analysis of just Session 2 data, results indicated increased activity of the early frontal, late parietal, and late frontal effects for Can Define responses only. Session 2 Can Define responses elicited a stronger early frontal ERP, occurring between 300 and 500 milliseconds yet, the most post-retrieval processing and monitoring appeared for Can Define terms of Session 2. Ultimately, we focused on investigating two points: 1) the effect of classroom learning on memory, and 2) the examination of ERPs as a tool to guide education interventions. Specifically, ERPs would potentially indicate markers to predict whether students would retain materials long before behavioral measures indicate these results. This has potential to determine whether long-lasting or transient learning will occur; as well as the potential to support early intervention strategies for not just students, but also individuals with learning disabilities or memory impairments.