Researchers have discovered that memory is improved based on how the information is originally learned. This study, found in Nature Neuroscience, strives to determine how the structure of the brain affects the findings of the study.
Being able to control a learning situation has long been known to be a powerful tool, but researchers are just finding more about it. Active exploration of certain ideas or places seems to form a functional connection between various parts of the brain.
This study analyzed specific areas of the brain, one being the hippocampus. While important for memory function, the hippocampus connects to many other areas of the brain, and researchers were able to track blood flow in the brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machines.
To analyze brain function and the differences between active and passive learning, authors of the study created a study asking participants to memory locations of objects on a screen. For the passive learning exercise, objects appeared automatically, and the active study allowed participants to reveal the objects.
Active learning allowed participants to do whatever they wanted on the screen, navigating to the left or right, just as long as they memorized everything.
Passive learning forced individuals to just view replays of what active learners performed while navigating,
After performing the exercise, individuals switched learning styles with different object arrangements.
Noticeable differences were evident between brain function and each learning style. Using an active learning style appeared to allow individuals to recall object and object placement much more clearly than the passive learners.
The fact that most educational environments are strictly passive is very disheartening to many. Without exercises allowing students to actively learn in the classroom, the education system is severely hindering learning potential of many students.
While analyzing fMRI images, researchers noticed that the hippocampus is important for memory, but only when interaction with other areas of the brain is allowed.
Researchers are planning to research this theory in more depth, but noticed significant differences between passive and active learning in terms of memory.