Kids Want To Know: How Does The Brain Learn Things?

GREENSBORO, NC -- Why do you ace some tests and fail others? Why is it that you can "learn" something in school and not remember it years later? It's all about the mind, how your brain learns and how memories are made.

Tristen from McNair Elementary asks the question, "How does are brain keep track of what we learning?"

The answer to Tristen's question could take up a whole semester. But Elon Professor Amy Overman (Dept. of Psychology and Neuroscience) gave us the cliff notes version.

"The first is that the brain, the outer layer of the brain has a portion called the cortex and cortex means bark so I brought this piece of wood in to kind of visuals the portion of the brain. Deep inside the brain is a part called the Hippocampus it's critical for memory and so I'm just visualizing that hear with a little Hippopotamus."

What happens is that the Hippopotamus is a really fast learner it only takes on trial to learn most of the time, it's got it really quick and so it says hey, 'I know for instance that two plus two equals four and it goes and tells the cortex, hey cortex two plus two equals four'. The cortex is a slow learner so it doesn't get it right away. The Hippocampus goes back and says, 'hey I know that two plus two equals four the cortex say I didn't get again'.

"This takes place over and over again as people are sleeping normally and it can take place throughout the day as well. That's how something becomes from the initial short term memory to a long term strong memory."

Where is your Hippocampus? Amy brought a brain model to show you. "This is the whole brain, these are the eyes the back of the head would be hear and if you look at the side hear this is where the ear would be on each side where the ear is if you look underneath is the Hippocampus, so let me take this apart to give you a little bit of a better view. If we look just inside where the ear would be, flip it around then we can see right in hear is where we would expect to find the Hippocampus."

Ever wonder why you can remember some things better than others? Amy uses pipe cleaners to explain that! Watch this WEB EXTRA:


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