Connection, nutrition, sleep and activity crucial for the brains of school students, says CQUni Neuroeducation expert

17 March 2021

Inserting more social connectedness in classrooms and improving nutrition' sleep and activity in students' are just some of the strategies outlined for teachers in a new paper by CQUniversity's head of Neurosciences' Prof Ken Purnell.

The research' titled Neuroeducation that works: Teach yourself and your students how to un-hijack the amygdala' will soon be published in the journal MindBrainED+.

"The paper focuses on teaching the teacher what goes on in the brain using neuroscientific evidence and provides strategies on how to deal with things – like anxiety and stress - when they go wrong'" Prof Purnell said.

He said social connectedness was largely missing from today's classroom learning.

"The human brain is designed to socially connect' and a lot of classrooms try and stop this at almost any cost' which in turn impedes learning and student wellness'" he said.

"Learning' whether it be face to face or virtual needs to be fostered using our social brain' and it needs to be effortful and got off the couch.

"A reasonably noisy classroom might actually be good – not one that disturbs the classroom next door of course – but having kids engaged and connecting with one another socially is fundamental to better learning and wellness."

Prof Purnell said students would thrive if they had better diets' obtained more quality sleep.

"Adolescent brains need 9-10 hours of sleep and major research has found that Australian adolescents only about 7.25 hours each night. Kids are coming to class sleep-deprived'" he said.

"Timing of the school day is also a factor. It's fine in primary schools but for secondary schools' senior students are expected to be at school at 7.30am or similar and these young adults with their brain still under construction don't get enough sleep and have a build-up of neurotoxins which affects brain performance.

"Educating the kids to get those nine hours of needed sleep and why is probably the most helpful thing that teachers and parents could do."

Other techniques to help students included deep abdominal breathing' bringing oxygen into the abdomen rather than just the chest to reduce adrenalin and cortisol levels and in turn' stress and anxiety.

Produced in Japan' MindBrainED+ is published world-wide and is marketed to school and university teachers.