Curiosity and memory

Curiosity is the drive to know or to learn something.  It’s a simple definition and we all recognize what it means.

What happens in the brain when a person’s curiosity is piqued is a whole other matter.  Neuroscientist Matthias Gruber explains that curiosity activates the brain’s “wanting” system, in the same way any other type of anticipation does.  It also activates the memory centres, which appears to have an effect on learning.  The surprising finding is that during the period between a person’s curiosity being stimulated and the curiosity being satisfied, any type of learning that takes place – not just learning related to the subject of curiosity – is much better retained.

The take-away is that piquing students’ curiosity not only helps to maintain motivation, it is also strongly instrumental in consolidating all the learning.

Watch Gruber’s talk here:


Jazz and the brain

Out of the blue comes this article on CNN’s website about neuroscience and creativity.

Dr. Charles Limb’s work shows that when jazz players get into “the zone,” the regions of their brain that allow for creativity become active at the same time as the areas responsible for inhibition and self-control in the prefrontal cortex are shut down.

Limb also shows that the same is true for other types of improvisational artistic expression.

There is an important lesson here because the relationship between an (over)active prefrontal cortex and inhibited creativity goes a long way to explaining why children tend to play a lot more than adults.  As our brains mature, we have a better capacity to self-monitor and inhibit the free thinking of childhood.

As the article explains, practice allows for easier access to “the zone.”  In other words, adults need to practice playing! How about it?