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The main goal of the research that is conducted in the Brain and Education Lab is to create a better understanding of the cognitive and neural systems that support learning and academic performance across development. To pursue this goal, lab members draw on theories and methods from developmental and cognitive psychology, educational sciences, and cognitive neuroscience.

Research Topics

Our basic interest in learning and neurocognitive development leads to a number of questions that can be clustered around 4 main topics of research:

Learning and Memory: Individual and Developmental Differences

How do children, adolescents, and adults learn? Are there quantitative or qualitative differences in learning strategies between individuals, depending on their age, background knowledge, and cognitive abilities? Using behavioral tasks as well as cognitive neuroscience methods we try to gain insight into the cognitive processes that occur during learning and identify possible sources of difficulties as well as opportunities for learning. We examine these questions using both neuroimaging and behavioral methods, including research in field settings such as in schools. This research is partially funded by the Jacobs Foundation (D.D.J.).

Development and Training of Executive Functions (cognitive control)

In what way does the development of executive functions contribute to age related change in scholarly tasks such as reading comprehension, mathematics, and learning in general? Is immature cognitive control always disadvantageous or does it also have benefits for learning and exploratory behavior? And is it possible to train executive functions in a way that is beneficial for functioning in everyday life? We examine these questions using different methodologies, including cognitive tasks, questionnaires, dual-task studies, and intervention studies.

Development of Reading comprehension

How do reading comprehension skills develop, and how can we explain individual differences in reading comprehension abilities from childhood through adolescence? Are adolescents less motivated to read than children, and how does the development of social cognitive skills influence reading comprehension in this age range? How does brain development support our ability to comprehend and learn from texts? We examine these questions using both neuroimaging and behavioral methods, including research in field settings such as in schools. 

Development of Spatial and Mathematical skills

How do spatial and mathematical skills develop, and why do some children have more difficulty learning these skills than others? How can we train spatial abilities in a way that benefits math performance? And what is the role of working memory? These questions are examined in a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (MSCA-ITN) project examining the role of spatial cognition in STEM learning. For more information, see the SellSTEM website.

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