Friday, May 28, 2010

Learning & the Brain Presentation: Michael Posner

One of my favorite conferences is the Learning and the Brain Conference held at various locations several times a year. The most recent conference was held in Washington, D.C. in early May. I tried to play the role of on-the-spot-reporter and posted on Twitter live from the conference.

To provide readers with a sense of the conference, I'm going to post my Twitter stream from each presentation. These are the actual "tweets" I posted from the conference. I've cleaned them up a little, but other than a few corrected typos, they represent the raw ideas presented at the conference.

As you read through these "tweets," keep in mind that I was posting the comments/ideas of the presenter. These do not necessarily represent my conclusions from the research.

Here are my posts from the first keynote presenter, Michael Posner:

  • First speaker is Michael Posner, topic: Brain’s Attention Networks. Will use initials (MP) to indicate speaker.
  • Posner is from the University of Oregon and was recently honored by the President for his work in cognitive neuroscience.
  • MP: Attention is a central topic for education. New tech giving us new insight into nature of attention.
  • MP: Attention is a set of neural networks—at least 3: alerting, orienting, & executive. Each set associated w/different brain area.
  • MP: At rest, two brain networks are active, “default state,” which alert brain to change.
  • MP: Alerting deficits in early childhood later negatively affect the executive network.
  • MP: There are both overt AND covert shifts in attention.
  • MP: A deficit in orienting attention network correlates with some autistic behaviors.
  • MP: Executive network is associated with conflicts in sensory data and self-regulation.
  • Post on importance of self-regulation:
  • MP: Effortful control of attention is one self-regulation element of the executive network.
  • MP: The anterior cingulate is related to self-regulation; size & activity can predict self-regulation capacity.
  • MP: Executive network deficiency is related to most cognitive disorders.
  • MP: Individual differences in executive network functioning are wide-ranging.
  • MP: For example, the speed in managing conflicts in sensory data correlate w/self-regulation capacity.
  • MP: Separate white matter pathways deal with the three attention networks.
  • MP: Recent study shows IBMT (form of meditation) actually influences those white matter pathways positively.
  • MP: IBMT meditation influences brain state, which positively influences executive functions.
  • MP: Differing neurotransmitters are also associated with each attention network. This can help guide gene research.
  • MP: When does executive network begin to self-regulate individual? Evidence shows around 7-10 months of age.
  • MP: Around 7 months, a child is aware of conflicts in sensory data—e.g., a scene different from expectation.
  • MP: Anticipatory looking at 4-7 months correlates w/some self-regulation abilities at 4 years of age.
  • MP: Connectivity of the executive network, however, develops slowly—present at age 9 but not fully connected.
  • MP: Showing novel objects may help produce connectivity within executive attention networks.
  • MP: Gene DRD4 present on a specific chromosone correlates with ADHD. (Genetic basis discovered?)
  • MP: If gene is present AND parenting is poor, MAJOR ADHD impulsivity develops.
  • MP: “True experts” have “highly elaborated semantic memory,” correlated w/activity in fusiform gyrus.
  • MP: High levels of experience influence brain activity for specific areas. Fusiform gyrus active in chess, bird, & dog experts.
  • Posner now taking questions from audience.
  • MP: Alerting attention deficiency associates w/aging & ADHD disorders.
  • MP: Orienting attention deficiency associates w/autism.
  • MP: Executive attention deficiency associates w/Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, addiction, & others.
  • MP: Parents not to blame for ADHD children; research shows correlation in extreme impulsivity.
  • MP: With research subjects, parenting classes actually decreased children’s impulsivity.
  • (As you can imagine, some resistance to these ideas. Posner: “Just sharing what research shows.”)
  • MP: My research will be translated to classroom by educators, not me. I’m just a scientist. We need teachers to think this through.

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