Glossary

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  • a

  • Abstract
    This is the understanding of relationships between ideas. It identifies generalisable features of an idea so that understanding can be transferred across several examples.
  • Automatic
    When an action has been repeated or practiced, the neural connections become very strong, and the action can be completed without needing to consciously think about it.
  • Autonomy
    Making choices and decisions according to your own free will, rather than taking direction from others.
  • b

  • Behaviour
    An organism's responses to its environment. This includes movement as well as actions such as speaking and listening. Sometimes behaviour may be goal-directed (ie trying to achieve something), and sometimes it may be more reactive (ie responding to something that has been experienced).
  • Blocking
    This is also known as ‘massed practice’. It is when a block of time is spent practicing or learning about one particular concept.
  • Brain areas
    The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain. It is divided into four lobes or areas. The frontal lobe is responsible for reason and higher thinking skills. The parietal lobe integrates sensory information. The occipital lobe processes visual information. The temporal lobe is involved with(...)
  • c

  • Circadian rhythm
    Any process which follows a cycle over a 24-hour period. They tell our bodies when to sleep, be alert, and eat, and can be adjusted by the external environment (temperature, light, and darkness). They are also known as your internal 'body clock'.
  • Cognition
    Processes involved in thinking and adding to our own knowledge and understanding, by receiving, interpreting and evaluating information.
  • Cognitive process
    Different ways that our brain processes and uses information from the environment - for example, sensing and perception, memory and attention, and problem-solving and reasoning.
  • Cognitive processes
    Different ways that our brain processes and uses information from the environment - for example, sensing and perception, memory and attention, and problem-solving and reasoning.
  • Concrete
    This is when learning relates to specific facts rather than abstract ideas, or when physical materials are used to enhance understanding. It attaches specific examples to an idea.
  • Conform
    To obey a rule, or behave according to a particular expectation.
  • Counterintuitive
    When something is contrary to what might be expected.
  • d

  • Dopamine
    A chemical that reinforces the brain’s reward system. It motivates animals to repeat an action that previously led to a release of dopamine, which might be associated with something that was positive or pleasurable. It also helps us with speech and movement.
  • Dual coding
    This is when verbal and visual information are combined so that a memory is stored in two different ways. Examples of using dual coding to remember information include annotated diagrams, timelines, and spider-grams.
  • e

  • Educational neuroscience
    Educational neuroscience brings together neuroscience, psychology and education with the aim to produce powerful school learning experiences.
  • Effect sizes
    Effect sizes statistically describe the difference between two groups. The general guidelines for Cohen's d are that 0.2 is a small effect, 0.5 is a medium effect, and 0.8 is a large effect (however, as with all general guidelines, the context and detail of the study should also be taken into(...)
  • Encoding
    This is the creation of a memory. When attention is drawn towards an event, the sensations associated with that event are processed by the brain and can then be stored. Emotion associated with the event can make the connections (and therefore the memory) stronger.
  • Executive Functions
    These are processes that enable individuals to plan and use resources to achieve a goal. It is an umbrella term that covers a range of activities including working memory, inhibitory control, and shifting attention.
  • h

  • Hypothesis
    An idea or theory which can be used (or tested) to explain or predict relationships.
  • i

  • Influence
    Something or someone that affects a person's behaviour, thoughts, or emotions.
  • Interleaving
    This is also known as ‘distributed practice’. It is when practicing or learning about one particular concept is spread out in a number of sessions, with time in between spent learning about or doing something different. This has been shown to be a more effective method than blocking (learning(...)
  • m

  • Mature
    The human brain develops until it reaches maturity, or 'adult-level'. Different areas of the brain mature at different rates.
  • Mechanism
    An explanation of how an action may impact on something else.
  • Multimodal
    Information presented using two or more senses. The nervous system integrates these signals to create a more detailed representation of a stimulus.
  • n

  • Networks
    When lots of neurons are connected across the brain, they are described as a network. When we have new experiences, a number of neurons in different areas of the brain may be activated together. If that experience is repeated, this network becomes stronger. “Cells that fire together, wire(...)
  • Neuron
    These are cells that make up the brain. There are about 80-100 billion neurons in a single human brain. Each neuron connects to many other neurons, and this is how information moves around the brain. Each neuron can have up to 10,000 connections.
  • Neuroplasticity
    Changing connections within our brains that result from our experiences. When we repeat something, or practice something, the connections become stronger. When connections are no longer needed, they fade.
  • Neurotransmitters
    These are chemicals which enable information to move around the brain and the body, by transferring signals across synapses (connections between neurons). They can either trigger a signal (excitatory), for example dopamine, or stop a signal (inhibitory), for example serotonin. They are(...)
  • p

  • Peer-reviewed
    Research that has been read and assessed by experts from within that field of study. Feedback comments from those experts have to be addressed before the research can be published. This helps to check that published research is robust.
  • Peers
    People of similar ages, abilities, or positions to each other.
  • Perception
    Making sense of sensory information received by the brain through seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling. The brain interprets the signals it receives according to previous experiences and task goals.
  • Primacy and recency
    When remembering a list of items or facts, those at the beginning or at the end of the list are more likely to be remembered than those in the middle.
  • r

  • Randomised controlled trials
    Participants are randomly grouped into an 'experimental' group and a 'control' group. The experimental group receive the intervention or activity which is predicted to have an effect on behaviour while the control group does not. Sometimes there is also an 'active control' group which receives(...)
  • Reasoning
    Evaluating and thinking about something in a logical way. It often requires the linking of two (or more) different ideas or experiences.
  • Retrieval
    This is the process of remembering. Neurons that were activated together when the memory was created, are re-activated when we remember.
  • s

  • Sensory memory
    This is memory relating to our senses. The memory lasts for a short time; long enough for it to be stored in our short-term memory.
  • Spaced practice
    This is when something is practiced in short doses over a number of repetitions. It is the opposite of cramming. It has been shown to be more effective than cramming when the same amount of time has been spent on both methods.
  • Storage
    This is the retention of a memory. If something is experienced a number of times, it is more likely to be stored in long-term memory.
  • Synapse
    These are the tiny gaps between individual neurons (cells in the brain). Information, in the form of electrical impulses, travels along a neuron. When it reaches the end, these impulses trigger the release of neurotransmitters which travel across the synapse to the next neuron, and so the(...)
  • u

  • Uncertain reward
    A reward that is given sometimes but not others, or a reward where the level changes unpredictably. There is a greater release of dopamine when the level and availability of a reward is unknown compared with when there is a known and expected reward.
  • Unconscious
    Processes of the mind which occur automatically and can’t be accessed by the conscious mind. For example, feelings that are related to hidden memories or experiences stored in the unconscious part of the mind. These unconscious processes can have an impact on conscious choices, thoughts, and(...)
  • w

  • Working memory
    This is an ability to hold information as well as mentally making changes to that information. For example, remembering a list of things and repeating them back reverse order, or doing mental arithmetic, or remembering an important message while searching for a pen and paper. It requires(...)