• Question: How does development of the prefrontal cortex relate to academic achievement? If there's a link between development and academic progression, should we take this into account when planning for students progression? (Should we focus more on stage, than age?)

    Asked by boysong1 to Iroise on 9 Jan 2018.
    • Photo: Iroise Dumontheil

      Iroise Dumontheil answered on 9 Jan 2018:

      a number of cognitive functions supported by the prefrontal cortex have been found to relate to academic achievement, such as working memory, the ability to maintain and manipulate information in mind. For example visuospatial working memory is linked with achievement in arithmetic. During development, visuospatial working memory capacity increases, and brain activation in the parietal cortex and superior frontal cortex increases, and overall people who have higher visuospatial working memory, across ages, have greater activation in these regions during working memory tasks. However it is not clear how one could measure the general developmental stage of a pupil’s prefrontal cortex, because it may differ between cognitive functions. For example a teen may have an adult like visuospatial working memory capacity, and associated prefrontal cortex structure and function, but poor emotional regulation, with associated differences in activation in for example the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. So in my view the best approach would be for pupils and teachers to be more aware of their strengths and difficulties at each stage of their academic curriculum.


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