Our hidden Brain Atlas

People used to believe that the earth is flat until someone proved them otherwise. That is why not everything you accept as fact actually is. The same thing goes for a new discovery that is made on how our brain functions. From secondary school till university, we are told that the right brain half is creative and the left brain is analytical. Therefore the language we learn is only stored in our left brain hemisphere. A new theory based on fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) proves all of this wrong. In this blog I explain what it entails and how we as language teachers can use this in our classroom, no matter the age of our learners.

The research started with people listening to more than  two hours of short and compelling tales. Meanwhile the scientists were able to measure the brain activity of each individual through the fMRI scans. The brain activity within these hours was captured based on semantics (the meaning of words). After collecting the data, they were able to complete a 3D model of how our brain connects words with each other based on context. No single brain area holds one word or concept. It is actually a group of words. All together they make up networks that represent the meaning of each word we use. This discovery revolutionises the way we think our brain functions. Now we can actually become aware of our semantic brain activity through colourful maps.

My wildest imaginations came to life after discovering this amazing research on The Guardian. It created ideas in my head as an English teacher to implement it into my classes. One of the main ideas was to show this to my pupils in order to raise awareness. Besides that it also motivates the students to participate more during the dull vocabulary lessons. If your students need more than just a fun fact to get motivated, you can also design a lesson around the topic of a brain atlas. An assistive tool that can help you with this is the interactive site: http://gallantlab.org/huth2016/. On this site your learners can zoom in on a brain and click on a certain area they are interested in. Right after having done this there appears a list of related words that are at that specific place. Even your most difficult learners cannot get around the cool and new way of looking at a brain.

History has shown us that common sense told us the earth is flat. By being extra ordinary we can redefine common sense. These scientists did that by rediscovering the true use of our brain. Therefore we as present language teachers can challenge our youngsters to do the same in their generation. I already can see a world wherein all learners have a personal brain atlas on their laptops or tablets that helps them to become more aware of their learning process.

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