How I Study the Brain

How I Study the Brain

A Team of Think Tank Advocates

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Editors: We asked our authors and advocates how they learn more about the brain. You’ll be surprised at the wide range of ways they offer.

There are so many really good books out there, but if I had to recommend just one for people wanting to get started, I’d suggest John Medina’s Brain Rules (2nd edition, 2014. Seattle, WA: Pear Press). He also has a good website: http://www.brainrules.net/

Oh, and reading the Think Tank every month is another great source of information and ideas. Thanks to Curtis, Stephen, Julia, and Skye for making this happen!

Marc Helgesen, Professor at Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University, Japan, and Think Tank Muse

My go-to recommendation for my students and people who are getting started with “getting to know and understand the brain” is the brainfacts.org website. The website has a lot of resources, that come in different levels of complexity and modalities, and they even have a lot of strategies and lessons for teachers. If you are looking for a book, their The Brain Facts Book is great, too.

Cynthia Borja, Universidad de Las Americas and Connections: The Learning Sciences Platform

I am a parasite on the body of the Think Tanks. As an editor, one of the things I do is check out all the references made by the various contributors. Just to make sure they are accurate and current, of course. But I do more than that: I bookmark them for future reading, using our talented writers as my filter to bring me the best in brain science research. And then I daisy-chain. The reference list of one publication leads me to more books and papers. A parasite, pretty much omnivorous, too.

Stephen M. Ryan, Sanyo Gakuen University, Think Tank Main Editor

I’ve learned neuroscience most from my experiences as one of the presenters of Book Talk events at Brain SIG and JALT conferences. I talked twice: once introducing John Medina’s Brain Rules and once discussing Louis Cozolino’s The Social Neuroscience of Education. I believe presenters are the ones who learn most by carefully preparing talks to have listeners grow interested in reading the books themselves and by communicating with them at the event.

Harumi Kimura, EdD, Associate Professor at Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University, still a toddler in the field of neuroscience and ELT

From 2006, the Brain Science Podcast, by Ginger Campbell, has been my “master’s course” in neuroscience. Most of what I know I learned in her 170 shows, mainly interviews with neuroscientists on their books. It was almost as good as reading the books. I highly recommend her podcasts, and even suggest premier subscription to get to the earlier ones. Start with Ratey.

Curtis Kelly (EDD), Professor at Kansai University, Japan, and MindBrainEd Think Tanks Producer

Collaborating with Professor Bill Acton (Trinity Western University) and several other colleagues/friends on the development of haptic pronunciation instruction has led me to neuroscience and Mind, Brain, and Education Science. Moving in this direction has been eye-opening and I learn something new every day! It has also motivated me to research the nexus between MBE principles and L2 teacher learning, with the aim of contributing to a paradigm shift in how English is taught in the classroom and how language teachers are trained.

Michael Burri, Senior Lecturer in TESOL, University of Wollongong

There are a lot of enticing book titles that are not based on reliable science. To avoid making a mistake, I watch TED talks and interviews with authors. These have led me to wonderfully readable and reliable brain science writers such as Lisa Feldman Barrett (How Emotions are Made), Lisa Mosconi (Brain Food and The XX Brain), Frances Jensen (The Teenage Brain), and Sarah-Jayne Blakemore (Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain).

Amanda Gillis-Furutaka, Ph.D., Professor at Kyoto Sangyo University and frequent contributor to Think Tanks

I am not active in the world of social media, but I have found Twitter to be an amazing source of just-published papers that are being discussed by some brilliant people in the worlds of education, neuroscience, and cognitive psychology. Not only do many people share their papers and articles as they publish them, but I can eavesdrop on the conversations the authors have with others in the field. 

Jason Lowes, Lecturer at Fukuyama University, Japan

I read a lot of books for ideas. When I find a topic or person interesting, I create an alert in Google Scholar. Google then sends regular emails to my inbox with the latest published information. Reading a lot is great and going deep into a single topic is too. 

Glenn Magee (M.A.), Lecturer at Gifu Shotoku Gakuen University and Treasurer of the JALT Mind, Brain, and Education SIG

My interest in neuroscience started long ago, when I did my undergraduate degree in psychology. I returned to it much later, when I learned about embodied cognition and, fascinated by it, decided to start a Ph.D. based partly on the theory. At the same time, I joined the Brain SIG, which has encouraged me to read more widely in neuroscience, although time constraints mean that I often depend on the daily newsletter from NeuroscienceNews.com.

Caroline Handley, JALT Mind, Brain, and Education SIG Coordinator

I look for books and articles that are related to specific areas of interest to me—for example, Benjamin Bergen’s Louder than Words, which looks at how the brain produces linguistic meaning. Others that interest me are more related to cognitive processing than brain function per se—for example, The Geography of Thought (cultural differences in cognition), by Richard Nisbett. And finally, I have found some of the most useful things for me have been brain-related concepts, such as “emergence” and “embodiment.” These have given me new lenses through which to understand learning. It’s not necessary to be some kind of brain “expert” to gain valuable insights from brain and mind sciences.

Joseph Shaules, Keio University, and Director of Japan Intercultural Institute

<www.thegreatcoursesplus.com> is a great source to learn foundations in psychology, neuroscience, and learning sciences in general. Each course consists of 24-36 lectures and a guidebook, by leading teachers and researchers. I strongly recommend looking at the courses through a trial subscription before subscribing. A few courses I recommend are: Memory and the Human Lifespan; The Story of Human Language; Language Families of the World; The Learning Brain; and The Intelligent Brain.

John Duplice (Ph.D. Candidate), Lecturer at the Center for Language Education & Research, Sophia University

Doing my Ph.D. at the University of New South Wales and working on Cognitive Load Theory with Professor John Sweller in the late 80s sparked my interest in educational aspects of neuroscience. In that space these days, I teach two pre-service teacher units (Bachelor and Master levels), head a Master of Educational Neuroscience (1200 hours) and Professional Development (700 hours) for educators, as well as having Ph.D. students in the area. With my team of four at Central Queensland University, Australia, we cherry-pick papers and other resources from the world’s best, including some in this periodical. In Australia, the Queensland Brain Institute is one of my favourites. So, always learning and enjoying the stunning work of colleagues.

Professor Ken Purnell, Head of the Master of Educational Neuroscience at Central Queensland University, Australia

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