Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Advancements in Neuroscience

When we talk about our work at the Yellin Center we often use the term neurodevelopment. Dr. Yellin often refers to advances in neuroscience. Yet we don't always stop to explain why these terms are important and what they mean to parents and students who want to understand more about how individuals learn.

We were reminded of this when we read a profile in yesterday's New York Times Science Section of Dr. Samuel Wang, an associate professor at Princeton University (Dr. Yellin's alma mater), whose research and writings are focused on looking at how the brain actually functions.

Dr. Wang looks at functional MRIs to find relationships between the structure of brains and how dogs function. Why dogs? Because their MRIs are readily available and have no privacy laws that protect veterinarians from donating them for scientific study. As for applying this technology to humans, Dr. Wang urges caution, although he is excited by the advances that are now making it easier to answer some of the many questions about how people actually think and learn.

So, when we talk about neuroscience or neurodevelopmental constructs in our work, we are talking about how scientists have been able to link brain structure and function with mental tasks. Perhaps nowhere has this work gone further in humans than in the area of dyslexia. Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz of Yale University who have used the functional MRIs to map the brains of individuals with dyslexia.

As science advances, we will have more answers to questions about how individuals learn. For the moment, we link our work to existing science and carefully follow the research literature to incorporate the newest findings about brain science into our work.

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