Mind, Brain, and Education Science: The New Brain-Based

                Teaching, Glossary, pp.235-314  by Tokuhama-Espinosa, 2010

Glossary of Mind, Brain, and Education Science


ability — Skill, natural aptitude, or acquired proficiency.
abnormal — Deviating from the normal or average; unusual, exceptional.
acalculia — Difficulties with arithmetic. May be the result of damage to the angular gyrus in the hemisphere dominant for speech and language.

accommodations — Adaptations in assessment tools and standards to permit children to show what they know and can do. Adjustments may be made, for example, in the way a test is administered or presented, in the timing, in the language, or in how the child responds.
acetylcholine — A neurotransmitter for motor neurons that is involved in the inhibitory function (as is dopamine) of the basal ganglia and is a major neurotransmitter in the autonomic nervous system related to muscle function.
achievement gaps — A consistent difference in scores on student achievement tests between certain groups of children. For example, the data document a strong association between poverty and students’ lack of academic success as measured by achievement tests.
action potential — An electrical signal that travels along the axon, away from the cell body to the axon terminal, where it triggers the release of neurotransmitters.
activation (neuroscience) — To make reactive or more reactive (as molecules) or to convert (as a provitamin) into a biologically active derivative.
active learning — A process whereby learners are actively engaged in the learning process, rather than passively absorbing lectures.

adaptation — Adjustment to environmental conditions; modification of an organism or its parts that makes it fitter for existence under the conditions of its current environment. additive — A combination (as in drug responses or gene products) in which the causative factors, when they act together, are the sum of their individual effects.

affect (in a learning context) — The conscious, subjective aspect of an emotion (considered apart from bodily changes) that has an impact on the reception of new information. affective filter (hypothesis) — Affective filter is a metaphor that conveys how a learner’s attitudes affect the relative success of second-language acquisition; negative feelings such as lack of motivation, lack of self-confidence, and learning anxiety act as filters that hinder and obstruct language learning.

affective neuroscience -- The study of the neural networks of emotion.

afferent neuron — See “sensory neuron.”
afferent pathway — Bearing or conducting inward. In neuroscience, conveying impulses toward the central nervous system. Refers to a neuron or pathway that sends information into the central nervous system, typically sensory in nature.
age-equivalent score — In a norm-referenced assessment, individual student scores are reported relative to age and those of the normal population.
agnosia — An abnormal forgetting caused by various forms of brain disease resulting in severe memory loss. Lack of sensory recognition as the result of a lesion in the association pathways or sensory association areas of the brain.
agraphia — Acquired disturbance of writing due to brain injury.
alerting network (attention) — One of three networks underlying attention (the other two being orientation and selective attention networks).
alexia — Acquired disturbance of reading due to brain injury.
alignment (education) — The degree to which assessments, curriculum, instruction, textbooks and other instructional materials, teacher preparation and professional development, and systems of accountability all reflect and reinforce the educational program’s objectives and standards.
alleles — Any of the alternative forms of a gene that may occur at a given locus. alphanumeric learning — The ability to read words and to interpret digits (which have common and distinct neurological features).
alternative assessment — Ways other than standardized tests (e.g., oral reports, projects, performances, experiments, and class participation) to get information about what students know and where they need help.

amnesia — A condition in which memory is disturbed. Organic causes include damage to the brain through trauma or disease or use of certain (generally sedative) drugs. Functional causes are psychological factors, such as defense mechanisms.
amygdala — A brain structure that is attached to the tail of the caudate nucleus (one in each hemisphere), the amygdalae are considered to be a part of the limbic system and involved in emotion and memory.

analogical quantity of magnitude code (math) — Mental links between time, space, and quantity that are part of a generalized magnitude (proportional size) system. analogy — A similarity between like features of two things, on which a comparison may be based.

anatomical — The art of separating the parts of an organism in order to ascertain their position, relations, structure, and function.
anatomy — The structure of an animal or plant, or of any of its parts.
anger — A strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong; wrath; ire. angular gyrus — The gyrus that lies near the superior edge of the temporal lobe involved in the recognition of visual symbols and the most important cortical areas of speech and language.

anomia — Difficulty with word-finding or naming. May be the result of damage to the angular gyrus in the hemisphere dominant for speech and language; however, it should be noted that anomia can be localized with the least reliability of any of the aphasic syndromes.

anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) — The frontal part of the cingulate cortex that appears to play a role in a wide variety of autonomic functions, such as regulating blood pressure and heart rate, as well as rational cognitive functions, such as reward anticipation, decision-making, empathy, and emotion.

anterior position — Toward the front (opposed to posterior).
anxiety — An abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (e.g., sweating, tension, increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it. aphasia — The loss of a previously held ability to speak or understand spoken or written language, due to disease or injury of the brain. Aphasia can affect auditory comprehension, oral expression, reading, and writing.

apraxia (of speech) — A disorder of the nervous system, characterized by an inability to perform purposeful movements, but not accompanied by a loss of sensory function or paralysis. Apraxia of speech is a disruption of the capacity to execute the skilled oral movements necessary for speech.

Arabic code (math) — Digits used in Western society (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9). architectonic structure — Having an organized and unified structure that suggests an architectural design.
arcuate fasciculus — The groups of fibers that connect Broca’s area with Wernicke’s area (these fibers connect to the angular gyrus) and are located below the supramarginal gyrus. Damage to this area results in conduction aphasia, or the inability to carry out normal language functions.

arousal — To rouse or stimulate to action or to physiological readiness for activity. ascending pathway — A nerve pathway that goes upward from the spinal cord toward the brain carrying sensory information from the body to the brain.
Asperger’s syndrome — An autism spectrum disorder in which people show significant difficulties in social interaction, and other restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. Differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development.
assay — A procedure in molecular biology for testing and/or measuring the activity of a drug or biochemical in an organism or organic sample.
assembly (cell; Hebb) — See “Hebbian synapse theory.”
assessment (education) — Teacher-made tests, standardized tests, or tests from textbook companies that are used to evaluate student performance.
association area — The parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes organize sensory information into a coherent perceptual model of our environment, centered on our body image. The frontal lobe or prefrontal association complex is involved in planning actions and movement, as well as abstract thought. These areas function to produce a meaningful perceptual experience of the world, enable people to interact effectively, and support abstract thinking and language.
associative memory — See “memory (associative).”
asymmetry (brain) — Refers to at least two distinct findings: (1) neuroanatomical differences between the left and right sides of the brain; and (2) lateralized functional differences between the left and right hemispheres.

attention — The ability to concentrate on a particular stimulus, event, or thought while excluding competing stimuli. The brain processes meaning before details in a hierarchy of visual information-processing features: We pay attention to a rotating three-dimensional image more than just about anything else; second, we are built to detect two-dimensional visual motion; third, we pay attention to static three-dimensional objects; and fourth, we pay attention to static two-dimensional objects.

attention networks — Divisions of attention suggested by Posner and Rothbart: alerting, orienting, and executive attention.
attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — Any of a range of behavioral disorders characterized by symptoms that include poor concentration, an inability to focus on tasks, difficulty in paying attention, and impulsivity.

attentional effort — Energy needed to stay on task (which can be inhibited by distracters, prolonged time-on-task, changing target stimulus characteristics and stimulus presentation parameters, circadian phase shifts, stress, or sickness).
atypical — Irregular or unusual way in which something functions or operates. auditory association areas — Brodmann’s areas 21 and 22; responsible for auditory memory and association.

auditory discrimination — Ability to detect differences in sounds; can involve a gross ability (e.g., detecting the differences between the noises made by a bird and cat) or fine ability (e.g., detecting the differences made by the sounds of letters m and n).
auditory figure–ground — Ability to attend to one sound against a background of sound (e.g., hearing the teacher’s voice against classroom noise).

auditory memory — Ability to retain information that has been presented orally. This can take place in short-term memory, such as recalling information presented several seconds before, or long-term memory, such as recalling information presented more than a minute before, or sequential memory, such as recalling a series of information in proper order. auditory processing disorder (APD) — An inability to accurately process and interpret sound information. Students with APD often do not recognize subtle differences between sounds in words.

authentic assessment — An umbrella concept that refers to the measurement of worth- while, significant, and meaningful accomplishment, as compared to what is measured by multiple-choice standardized tests. Authentic assessment can be devised by the teacher or in collaboration with the student. Authentic assessment uses multiple forms of evaluation

that reflect student learning, achievement, motivation, and attitudes on classroom activities. Examples of authentic assessment include performance assessment, portfolios, and student self-assessment. Also see “performance-based assessment.”
autism — A developmental disability that affects social interaction, communication, and imaginative play. A person with autism has a mind that has trouble conceiving of other minds. Autism is categorized as a “pervasive developmental disorder” because so many aspects of development are disturbed: intelligence, perception, socializing skills, language, and emotion.

automaticity — A general term that refers to any skilled and complex behavior that can be performed easily, with little attention, effort, or conscious awareness. These skills become automatic after extended periods of training. With practice and good instruction, students become automatic at word recognition, that is, retrieving words from memory, and are able to focus attention on constructing meaning from the text, rather than on decoding.

autonomic nervous system (ANS) — One of the three main divisions of the nervous system. The ANS innervates the involuntary structures of the body (e.g., heart, smooth muscles, glands) and is involved in control of automatic and glandular functions. The ANS is divided into two parts, the sympathetic and parasympathetic.

autonomy — Independence or freedom, as of the will or one’s actions.
axon — Extension from the cell that carries nerve impulses from the cell body to other neurons.


backward (curriculum) design (or understanding by design) — Backward design challenges the traditional methods of curriculum planning. In backward design, one starts with objectives or goals, then considers assessments or acceptable evidence, and finally chooses activities.

Baldwin effect — Theory by James Mark Baldwin (1896) that suggests a mechanism for selection of general learning ability (what is beneficial to the species will be remembered in the genes and passed on to subsequent generations).
basal ganglia — The basal ganglia is composed of the caudate nucleus and the lenticular nucleus and located at the level of the thalamus. This group of structures, located in the forebrain, coordinates movement,. The basal ganglia is the largest subcortical structure of the brain.

baseline — A line serving as a basis or starting point, used in scientific studies as a point of comparison against which experiments can be measured.
Bayesian statistics – A statistical theory based on the degree of belief as probability, such as that based on prior knowledge about an event or other personal experiences and not on frequency based on trials. Used to investigate the capacity of the nervous system, including the brain, to operate in situations of uncertainty (Wikipedia, 2020).

behavioral neuroscience — A subdiscipline of both neuroscience and psychology. Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system, while psychology is the study of behavior. Behavioral neuroscience is largely concerned with ascertaining the function of neural systems in generating behavior. The field is therefore closely allied with systems neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, and biological psychology.

behaviorism — A theory suggesting that learning occurs when an environmental stim- ulus triggers a response or behavior. Based on classical conditioning theory, behaviorism applies to educational practices that reward performance behaviors to encourage repetition of those behaviors. This is a theoretical viewpoint that emphasizes the study of observable behaviors, especially as they pertain to learning processes.

benchmark (education) — Statement that provides a description of student knowledge expected at specific grades, ages, or developmental levels. Clear, specific descriptions of knowledge or skill that can be supported through observations, descriptions, and documentations of a child’s performance or behavior and by samples of a child’s work often used as points of reference in connection with more broadly stated content standards. Benchmarks often are used in conjunction with standards.

benchmark performances — Performance examples against which other performances may be judged.
Best Evidence Encyclopedia — A free website created by the Johns Hopkins University School of Education’s Center for Data-Driven Reform in Education (CDDRE) with funding from the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, which provides summaries of scientific reviews produced by many authors and organizations, as well as links to the full texts of each review.

best practice (teaching) — Referred to as teaching methodologies with certain characteristics said to include being student-centered, experiential, holistic, authentic, expressive, reflective, social, collaborative, democratic, cognitive, developmental, constructivist, and challenging (Zemelman, Daniels, & Hyde, 1998/2005).

bias (cognitive) -- A cognitive bias is a systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment. Individuals create their own "subjective social reality" from their perception of the input. An individual's construction of social reality, not the objective input, may dictate their behavior in the social world (Wikipedia, 2020). Often related to heuristics.

bidirectional property — Anything that can move in two directions.
bilateral property — Having two sides, as in the right and left sides of the body or the right and left members of paired organs.

binding problem — Difficulty in binding or linking information relating to each object and distinguishing it from others.
biochemistry — The study of the chemical processes in living organisms that deals with the structure and function of cellular components such as proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, nucleic acids, and other biomolecules.

biofeedback — A nonmedical process that involves measuring a subject’s specific and quantifiable bodily functions, such as blood pressure, heart rate, skin temperature, sweat gland activity, and muscle tension, conveying the information to the patient in real time to allow the patient to exert conscious control over those functions.

biological neuroscience — The application of the principles of biology, particularly neurobiology, to the study of mental processes and behavior in human and nonhuman animals.
biology — The science of studying living organisms that examines the structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and classification of all living things. Five unifying principles form the foundation of modern biology: cell theory, evolution, gene theory, energy, and homeostasis.

biopsychology — A branch of psychology that analyzes how the brain and neurotransmitters influence our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings.
block design — In combinatorial mathematics, a particular kind of set system that has applications to experimental design, among other areas.

blood flow — The flow of blood in the cardiovascular system; can be calculated by dividing the vascular resistance into the pressure gradient.
Bloom’s taxonomy (taxonomy of learning objectives) — In 1956, Benjamin Bloom et al. sought to establish a taxonomy of learning objectives. Bloom’s Taxonomy is divided into six hierarchical categories: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

BOLD contrast MRI imaging — Blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) contrast MRI is an fMRI technique that tracks the coupling of cerebral blood flow, energy demand, and neural activity.
bottom-up processing — When information flows from the bottom of the system to the top of the system (e.g., as in taking recommendations from classrooms to decide lab experiments, or in studying neurons to explain behavior).

boundaries — Something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent.

brain — The portion of the vertebrate central nervous system enclosed in the skull and continuous with the spinal cord through the foramen magnum, which is composed of neurons and supporting and nutritive structures (e.g., glia). This organ integrates sensory information from inside and outside the body in controlling autonomic function (e.g., heartbeat and respiration), coordinates and directs correlated motor responses, and mediates the process of learning. This multilayered structure contains billions of neurons, countless numbers of neuronal connections, and thousands of specialized regions. brain-based learning — Education that moves beyond pedagogy alone to include the use of information about how the brain learns to teach better.

brain development study — The study of neural development draws on both neuro- science and developmental biology to describe the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which complex nervous systems emerge during embryonic development and throughout life.

brain map (cortical map) — A set of neuroscience techniques predicated on the mapping of biological quantities or properties onto spatial representations of the brain. Cortical maps are areas of mini-columns in the cortex that have been identified as performing a specific information-processing function.

brainstem — A region of the brain that consists of the midbrain, pons, and medulla and is responsible for functions such as breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. Also known as the hindbrain.
branch (neuroscience) — Projections of a neuron that conduct the electrochemical stimulation received from other neural cells to the cell body.

Broca’s aphasia — Language impairment in which patient exhibits telegraphic speech, affected syntax, and/or labored and slow speech, flat melodic contour, and impaired articulatory agility. Repetition is typically impaired, as is word finding. Auditory comprehension tends to be superior to expressive language. Also known as expressive aphasia or motor aphasia.

Broca’s area — The area of the brain involved in the programming of motor movements for the production of speech sounds; also involved in syntax. Broca’s area is located on the inferior third frontal gyrus (Brodmann’s area #44) in the hemisphere dominant for language; injuries here may result in apraxia or Broca’s aphasia.

Brodmann areas or regions of the brain — A Brodmann area is a region of the cortex defined in terms of its cytoarchitecture, or organization of cells. Brodmann areas were originally defined and numbered by Korbinian Brodmann in 1909, based on the organization of neurons he observed in the cortex and published. Although the Brodmann areas have been discussed, debated, refined, and renamed exhaustively for nearly a century, they remain the most widely known and frequently cited cytoarchitectural organization of the human cortex.

Brodmann’s classification system — A map of the cortex developed by neurologist Korbinian Brodmann that classifies the different areas of the brain by number.

Brodmann’s areas

Areas 3, 1, & 2: primary somatosensory cortex (frequently referred to as Areas 3, 1, 2 by convention)
Area 4: primary motor cortex
Area 5: somatosensory association cortex

Area 6: premotor cortex and supplementary motor cortex (secondary motor cortex; supplementary motor area)
Area 7: somatosensory association cortex
Area 8: includes frontal eye fields

Area 9: dorsolateral prefrontal cortex
Area 10: anterior prefrontal cortex (most rostral part of superior and middle frontal gyri) Area 11: orbitofrontal area (orbital and rectus gyri, plus part of the rostral part of the superior frontal gyrus)
Area 12: orbitofrontal area (used to be part of BA11, refers to the area between the superior frontal gyrus and the inferior rostral sulcus)
Area 13 and Area 14: insular cortex
Area 15 and Area 16*: interior temporal lobe
Area 17: primary visual cortex (V1)
Area 18: secondary visual cortex (V2)
Area 19: associative visual cortex (V3)
Area 20: inferior temporal gyrus
Area 21: middle temporal gyrus
Area 22: superior temporal gyrus, of which the caudal part is usually considered to contain Wernicke’s area

Area 23: ventral posterior cingulate cortex Area 24: ventral anterior cingulate cortex Area 25: subgenual cortex
Area 26: ectosplenial area

Area 27: piriform cortex
Area 28: posterior entorhinal cortex
Area 29: retrosplenial cingulate cortex
Area 30: part of cingulate cortex
Area 31: orsal posterior cingulate cortex
Area 32: dorsal anterior cingulate cortex
Area 33: part of anterior cingulate cortex
Area 34: anterior entorhinal cortex (on the parahippocampal gyrus)
Area 35: perirhinal cortex (on the parahippocampal gyrus)
Area 36: parahippocampal cortex (on the parahippocampal gyrus)
Area 37: fusiform gyrus
Area 38: temporopolar area (most rostral part of the superior and middle temporal gyri) Area 39: angular gyrus, considered by some to be part of Wernicke’s area
Area 40: supramarginal gyrus, considered by some to be part of Wernicke’s area
Areas 41 & 42: primary and auditory association cortex
Area 43: subcentral area (between insula and post/precentral gyrus)
Area 44: pars opercularis, part of Broca’s area
Area 45: pars triangularis, part of Broca’s area
Area 46: dorsolateral prefrontal cortex
Area 47: inferior prefrontal gyrus
Area 48: retrosubicular area (a small part of the medial surface of the temporal lobe) Area 52: parainsular area (at the junction of the temporal lobe and the insula)


CAT scan (computer axial tomography) — An imaging method in which a cross- sectional image of the structures in a body plane is reconstructed by a computer program from the X-ray absorption of beams projected through the body in the image plane. caudal position — From the Latin cauda, “toward the tail”; often means the same as inferior. caudate nucleus — One of the two structures that make up the basal ganglia, which is divided into a head, body, and tail and is bounded on one side by the lateral ventricle.

causality — Refers to the relationship between one event (the cause) and a second event (the effect), where the second, the event, is the direct consequence of the first.
cell (brain) — See “neuron.”
central nervous system (CNS) — Portion of the nervous system that includes the brain and the spinal cord.

central sulcus (fissure of Rolando) — The deep sulcus (divide) that separates the frontal and parietal lobes in the brain.
cerebellar theory (dyslexia) — A biological theory that claims that the cerebellum of people with dyslexia is mildly dysfunctional.

cerebellum — Involved in the coordination and production of speech, the organization of muscle movement, the coordination of fine motor movement, and balance. The cerebellum is the center of a feedback loop involving motor and sensory information. Cere- bellum is Latin for “little brain.”

cerebral (part of the brain) — Refers to the cerebrum or telencephalon, together with the diencephalon, which constitute the forebrain.
cerebral cortex — The outer covering of the cerebral hemispheres consisting mostly of nerve cell bodies and branches. The cerebral cortex (often just called cortex) is involved in functions such as thought, voluntary movement, language, reasoning, and perception. cerebral hemisphere — Defined as one of the two regions of the brain that are delineated by the body’s median plane. The brain can thus be described as being divided into left and right cerebral hemispheres. Each of these hemispheres has an outer layer of gray matter, the cerebral cortex, which is supported by an inner layer of white matter. The hemi- spheres are linked by the corpus callosum, a very large bundle of nerve fibers, and also by other smaller commissures, which transfer information between the two hemispheres to coordinate localized functions. The architecture, types of cells, and types of neurotransmitters and receptor subtypes are all distributed between the two hemispheres in a markedly asymmetrical fashion. However, while some of these hemispheric distribution differences are consistent across human beings, or even across some species, many observable distribution differences vary from individual to individual within a given species. challenge — A test of one’s abilities or resources in a demanding but stimulating under- taking.

channel (ion) — Pore-forming proteins that help establish and control the small voltage gradient across the plasma membrane of all living cells by allowing the flow of ions down their electrochemical gradient.
chemistry — The science of the composition, structure, properties, and reactions of matter, especially of atomic and molecular systems.

cholinergic property — Related to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine; if a receptor uses acetylcholine as its neurotransmitter, it is cholinergic.
chunking of information (memory) — In cognitive psychology and mnemonics, chunking refers to a strategy for making more efficient use of short-term memory by recoding information and organizing items into familiar manageable units.

cingulate (gyrus) — A cortical area (a gyrus) considered to be part of the limbic system, which is located immediately superior to the corpus callosum.
circle of Willis (circulus arteriosus) — A point where the blood carried by the two internal carotids and the basilar system comes together and is subsequently redistributed by the anterior, middle, and posterior cerebral arteries, and is the main arterial anastomotic trunk of the brain.

circuit physiology — The study of how the circuits of the brain interact to guide behavior.
classical conditioning — A type of associative learning formed by pairing two stimuli in what is known as the learning of conditioned behavior. Also known as Pavlovian conditioning or respondent conditioning.

classification — The assignment to groups within a system of categories distinguished by structure, origin, etc.
coaching — An instructional method in which a teacher supports students as they perfect old skills and acquire new skills.

coactivation — A process by which proteins called coactivators are recruited to DNA- binding transcription factors through their activation domains. They increase transcription by relaxing the chromatin structure to allow greater access to a gene or by bringing in components of the basal transcription complex needed for transcription to occur.

coarse (coding) — Generalization from state X to state Y depends on the number of features in their receptive fields that overlap.

coding (observation) — The assignment of organisms to groups within a system of categories distinguished by structure, origin, etc.

cognition — The action or faculty of knowing, specifically including perceiving, conceiving, etc.; the acquisition and possession of empirical factual knowledge or a perception, a sensation, a notion, an intuition.
cognitive development — A field of study in neuroscience and psychology focusing on a child’s development in terms of information processing, conceptual resources, perceptual skill, and other topics in cognitive psychology. A large amount of research has gone into understanding how a child conceptualizes the world. Jean Piaget was a major force in the founding of this field, forming his “theory of cognitive development.”

cognitive dissonance theory (motivation) — Proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by changing or rationalizing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.
cognitive maps — A type of mental processing, or cognition, composed of a series of psychological transformations by which an individual can acquire, code, store, recall, and decode information about the relative locations and attributes of phenomena in everyday or metaphorical spatial environments. (Also known as mental maps, mind maps, scripts, schemas, frames of reference, cognitive models, or mental models.)

cognitive neuroscience — A science investigating how people learn rather than what they learn. Prior knowledge and out-of-classroom experience help form the foundation on which teachers build effective instruction. Also referred to as MBE science, the study of the mind or brain studies in educational circles. In psychological circles, cognitive neuro- science is the fusion of psychology and brain science.

cognitive neuropsychology — Branch of study that aims to understand how the structure and function of the brain relates to specific psychological processes.
cognitive neuroscience — An academic field concerned with the scientific study of biological substrates underlying cognition.

cognitive preference — Learning style or choice of sensory pathway through which one elects to take in information.
cognitively guided instruction — An instructional strategy in which a teacher assesses what students already know about a subject and then builds on students’ prior knowledge. Students typically are asked to suggest a way to represent a real problem posed by the teacher. Guided questions, encouragement, and suggestions further encourage students to devise solutions and share the outcome with the class. (Also known as constructivism.)

cognitive load – Refers to the energy needed for working memory tasks and explains why people cannot “multi-task” as the brain can usually only manage one heavy cognitive load task at a time.

cognitivism — A theoretical approach that uses quantitative, positivist, and scientific methods and describes mental functions as information-processing models. Cognitivism adopts two assumptions: that psychology can be (in principle) fully explained by the use of experiment, measurement, and the scientific method; and that cognition consists of discrete, internal mental states (representations or symbols) whose manipulation can be described in terms of rules or algorithms.

collaborative learning or cooperative learning — An instructional approach in which students of varying abilities and interests work together in small groups to solve a problem, complete a project, or achieve a common goal, and in which each student has a specific responsibility within the group.

collocation — An example of lexical units; the relationship between two words or groups of words that often go together and form a common expression.
comparative methods/studies — The comparative method is often used in the early stages of the development of a branch of science. Comparison is one of the most efficient methods for explicating or utilizing tacit knowledge or attitudes. This can be done, for example, by showing in parallel two slightly different objects or situations and by asking people to explain verbally their differences.

compensatory action/property — To offset or counterbalance.
competence — The state or quality of being adequately or well qualified. Also known as an ability or a specific range of skill or knowledge.
competencies (education) — The combination of knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Possession of a satisfactory level of relevant knowledge and acquisition of a range of relevant skills that includes interpersonal and technical components at a certain point in the educational process. Such knowledge, skills, and attitudes are necessary to perform the tasks that reflect the scope of professional practices.
competition — A contest for resources that arises whenever two or more parties strive for a goal that cannot be shared. Competition occurs naturally between living organisms that coexist in the same environment. Competition may give incentives for self-improvement. complementary learning systems — In neuroscience, related to the connectionist models of learning and memory in which benefits from one system (e.g., the hippocampus), lead to benefits in another (e.g., the neocortex).
complexity theory — The study of complex systems.

comprehension strategies (education) — Techniques to teach reading comprehension, including summarization, prediction, and inferring word meanings from context. comprehension strategy instruction — The explicit teaching of techniques that are particularly effective for comprehending text. The steps of explicit instruction include direct explanation, teacher modeling (“think-alouds”), guided practice, and application. computational theory of mind (CTM) — A philosophical concept that the mind functions as a computer or symbol manipulator.

conceptual imagery — Mental representation.
conceptual knowledge — A person’s representation of the major concepts in a system. conditioned learning — The process of learning associations between environmental events and behavioral responses; based on the idea that animals learn to respond to a neutral sensory input in the same way they would respond to an effective, threatening, or negative stimulus. They then form associations between the neutral stimulus and the negative stimulus. In this process, responses become linked to particular stimuli, and learning takes place.
confirmatory factor analysis (CFA; statistics) — A special form of factor analysis used to assess the number of factors and the loadings of variables. In contrast to exploratory factor analysis, where all loadings are free to vary, CFA allows for the explicit constraint of certain loadings to be zero.
conflict detection (databases) — In computers, an aspect of file synchronization. Conflict detection is found during file synchronization (or “syncing”), which is the process of making sure that files in two or more locations are updated according to certain rules.

congenital learning disabilities — Learning problems existing at or before birth, usually due to heredity factors.
connected instruction — A way of teaching systematically in which the teacher continually shows and discusses with the students the relationship between what has been learned, what is being learned, and what will be learned.
connectionism — A set of approaches in the fields of artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, and philosophy of mind that models mental or behavioral phenomena as the emergent processes of interconnected networks of simple units. There are many forms of connectionism, but the most common forms use neural network models.
connectivist model — A model that links or networks previously unconnected areas.

connectivity (and white matter tracts) — In neuroscience, related to typical areas of white matter tracts that are connected during specific conditions.
connectome project— Launched in 2009 as a Blueprint Grand Challenge, the NIH Human Connectome Project (HCP) is project to map the neural pathways that underlie human brain function. The overarching purpose of the Project is to acquire and share data about the structural and functional connectivity of the human brain. Understanding these wiring patterns within and across individuals will help researchers in the emerging field of connectonomics begin to decipher the electrical signals that generate our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (National Institutes of Health, 2020).

consciousness — Subjective experience, awareness, wakefulness, or the executive control system of the mind. In psychology and philosophy consciousness has four characteristics: subjectivity, change, continuity, and selectivity. In biology, consciousness usually requires some form of selective attention and a short-term storage of information. consolidation (memory) — The process of converting short-term memory traces to longer, sturdier forms, which can occur either through conscious learning activities or during certain stages of sleep.

constructivism — Theory suggesting that students learn by constructing their own knowledge, especially through hands-on exploration. It emphasizes that the context in which an idea is presented, as well as student attitude and behavior, affects learning. Students learn by incorporating new information into what they already know. Constructivism values developmentally appropriate, teacher-supported learning that is initiated and directed by the student.

content standards — Statements that provide a clear description of what a child should know and be able to do in a content area at a particular (grade or age) level.

continuous assessment — An element of responsive instruction in which the teacher regularly monitors student performance to determine how closely it matches the instructional goal over time.

contralateral takeover — When the functions of a damaged area of the brain are taken over by the corresponding area in the opposite hemisphere (e.g., from a damaged left temporal cortex to intact right temporal cortex). This is different from ipsilateral or inter- hemispheric transfer, in which the transfer is from the damaged area of the brain to an adjoining undamaged area of the same hemisphere.

control (cognitive) — Cognitive control is another term for executive functions, a supervisory attentional system theorized in psychology to control and manage other cognitive processes.
corpus callosum — The large bundle of axons that connects the two cerebral hemi- spheres and disseminates information from the cerebral cortex on one side of the brain to the same region on the other side.

“Corpus sanus in mente sana” — “Sound mind, sound body.”

correlational relationship — Studies which look for a continuous relation between variables.
correspondence — The agreement of things with one another, which may or may not show a particular similarity. Also used to refer to a relation between sets in which each member of one set is associated with one or more members of the other.

cortical columns — A group of neurons in the cortex that can be successively penetrated by a probe inserted perpendicularly to the cortical surface, and which have nearly identical receptive fields.
cortices — Plural of cortex. (See “neocortex.”)

cortisol — Usually referred to as the “stress hormone” because it is involved in responses to stress and anxiety. Cortisol is a corticosteroid hormone or glucocorticoid produced by the adrenal cortex, which is part of the adrenal gland. It increases blood pressure and blood sugar, and reduces immune responses.

cranial nerves (12) — The 12 sets of nerves that originate from the brainstem, retina, and nose and which mediate the senses as well as providing the motor and sensory innervation of the head and neck.
creativity — A human mental phenomenon based on the deployment of mental skills and/or conceptual tools, which, in turn, originate and develop innovation, inspiration, or insight. In some circles, correlated with overall, or even called, intelligence.

criterion-referenced assessment — An assessment that measures what a student under- stands, knows, or can accomplish in relation to specific performance objectives. It is used to identify a student’s specific strengths and weaknesses in relation to skills defined as the goals of the instruction, but it does not compare students to other students.

critical pedagogy — A teaching approach that attempts to help students question and challenge the beliefs and practices that dominate in society. A theory and practice of helping students achieve critical consciousness. The teacher leads students to question ideologies and practices considered oppressive (including those at school) and encourages liberal collective and individual responses to the actual conditions of their own lives.

critical period — Referred to as that time in development when there is maximum plasticity in the evolving neural system, such that it can be modified by environmental inputs. (See “sensitive period.”)

critical thinking (higher-order thinking skills) — Logical thinking that draws conclusions from facts and evidence and consists of a mental process of analyzing or evaluating

information, particularly statements or propositions that people have offered as true. It forms a process of reflecting upon the meaning of statements, examining the offered evidence and reasoning, and forming judgments about the facts. Critical thinking has its basis in intellectual values that go beyond subject-matter divisions and which include clarity, accuracy, precision, evidence, thoroughness, and fairness.

crowding (neuroscience) — Related to the visual theory of the cause of dyslexia. Considers dyslexia to be a visual impairment that gives rise to difficulties with the processing of letters and words on a page of text, due to unstable binocular fixations, poor convergence, or increased visual crowding.

culture — The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization, or group, which can include an integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior and that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning.

cultural mediation (Vygotsky) — Vygotsky’s belief that the role of culture and interpersonal communication is fundamental in the development of the individual, who improves higher mental functions via social interactions. Through these interactions, a child comes to learn the habits of mind of his or her culture.

curriculum/curricula — A plan of instruction that details what students need to know, how they are to learn it, what the teacher’s role is, and the context in which learning and teaching will take place.
curriculum-based assessment — A type of informal assessment in which the procedures directly assess student performance in learning-targeted content in order to make decisions about how to better address a student’s instructional needs.

cytoarchitectonic — The study of the cellular composition of the body’s tissues under the microscope.
cytoarchitecture — The cellular composition of a bodily structure.


damage — Loss or harm resulting from injury.
data-driven decision-making (education) — A process of making decisions about curricula and instruction based on the analysis of classroom data and standardized test data. Data-driven decision-making utilizes data on function, quantity, and quality of inputs, and how students learn in the process of proposing educational solutions. It assumes that the scientific methods used to solve complex problems in industry can effectively evaluate educational policy, programs, and methods.

Decade of the Brain — 1990–2000
decentering (Piaget) — A child’s eventual relinquishment of a narrow ethnocentric position and the coordination of his or her views with those held by others.
declarative knowledge — Knowledge that is, by its very nature, expressed in declarative sentences or indicative propositions. This distinguishes descriptive knowledge from what is commonly known as “know-how” or procedural knowledge (the knowledge of how, and especially how best, to perform some task), and “knowing of,” or knowledge by acquaintance (the knowledge of something’s existence). (Also known as descriptive knowledge or propositional knowledge.)
declarative memory — The conscious recall of people, names, places, objects, facts, and events (e.g., knowledge that there are 7 days in a week). Humans can hold about seven pieces of declarative information in mind for about 30 seconds. Without active rehearsal, the context in which the information was learned fades. If repeated, however, the information can go into a buffer, called “working memory,” where it can be held for anywhere between 90 to approximately 120 minutes. If not repeated, the information is lost; however, if repeated, it can be recruited to long-term memory (also referred to as “explicit memory”), and learned. See also “memory (working).”
decoding (memory) — The reverse process of transforming information from one format into another.
deficit theorizing — Theory that deficits in neural networks cause certain problems, such as ADHD, autism, etc.
degenerate condition — Having declined or become less specialized (as in nature, character, structure, or function) from a former state.
degrade — To wear down by erosion or to reduce the complexity.
dementia — A usually progressive condition (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease) marked by deteriorated cognitive functioning, often with emotional apathy and volatility.
dendrite — Extensions of the cell body that act as reception surfaces for the neuron. The part of the neuron that receives messages from the axons of other nerve cells; the two types of dendrites are apical dendrites and basilar dendrites.
deoxygenation — A reduction in hemoglobin.
deoxyhemoglobin — The form of hemoglobin without the bound oxygen.
depression — A condition of general emotional dejection and withdrawal; sadness greater and more prolonged than that warranted by any objective reason; involving complex brain mechanisms.

deprivation — Loss; a state of lacking provisions; an act or instance of depriving.

descending pathways — The nerve pathways that go down the spinal cord and allow the brain to control movement of the body below the head.
developmental aphasia — A severe language disorder that is presumed to be due to brain injury rather than to developmental delay in the normal acquisition of language. developmental assessment — An ongoing process of observing a child’s current competencies (including knowledge, skills, dispositions, and attitudes) and using the information to help the child develop further in the context of family/caregiving and learning environments.
developmental neuroscience — Study of the development of the nervous system in the broadest sense, including the brain.
developmental psychology — The study of human development, i.e., of systematic psychological changes that occur in human beings over the course of the lifespan.

diagnosis — The process of determining the existing status and the factors responsible for producing it. In medicine, the diagnosis should take into account etiology, pathology, and severity of the clinical state; in education, the identification of the nature or level of student ability or skill.
diagnostic test — Any kind of test performed to aid in the diagnosis or detection of a problem.
dichotomy — A division into two mutually exclusive or contradictory groups or entities; something with seemingly contradictory qualities.
differentiated instruction — An approach to teaching that includes planning and executing various approaches to content, process, and product; offers several different learning experiences within one lesson to meet students’ varied needs, readiness, interests, or cognitive preferences, as in different teaching methods for students with learning disabilities.
differentiation — Varying instructional approaches to meet students’ individual needs. diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) — A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique that enables the measurement of the restricted diffusion of water in tissue in order to produce neural tract images instead of using this data solely for the purpose of assigning contrast or colors to pixels in a cross-sectional image.
dipole (electric) — A separation of positive and negative charge. A magnetic dipole is a closed circulation of electric current.

direct instruction — An approach to academic subjects that emphasizes the use of care- fully sequenced steps that include demonstration, modeling, guided practice, and independent application.
disaggregated data — The presentation of data broken into segments of the student population instead of the entire enrollment. Typical segments include students who are economically disadvantaged, from racial or ethnic minority groups, have disabilities, or have limited English fluency. Disaggregated data allow parents and teachers to see how each student group is performing in a school.

discharge — To release (electrical) (energy).
discipline — An area of academic study.
disinhibition — The loss or reduction of a restraint.
disorder — The disturbance of regular or normal functions.
dispersion — The scattering of the values of a frequency distribution from an average. dissociation — The process by which a chemical combination breaks up into simpler constituents; especially (1) one that results from the action of energy (as heat) on a gas or of a solvent on a dissolved substance; (2) the separation of whole segments of the personality (as in dissociative identity disorder) or of discrete mental processes (as in the schizophrenias) from the mainstream of consciousness or of behavior.
distance learning — Using technology such as two-way interactive television so that teacher and student(s) in different locations can communicate with one another, as in a regular classroom setting.
divergent thinking — Creative or novel approaches to information. A type of thinking used to rehabilitate certain types of language disorder. For example, a patient with aphasia is required to produce several creative responses to every stimulus; the patient might be asked to think of several unusual ways to make use of an everyday object.
dizygotic (DZ) twins — Commonly known as fraternal twins (also referred to as nonidentical twins or biovular twins); usually occur when two eggs are independently fertilized by two different sperm cells and are implanted in the uterine wall at the same time. The two eggs, or ova, form two zygotes; hence the terms dizygotic and biovular. Dizygotic twins, like any other siblings, have an extremely small chance of having the same chromosome profile.
documentation (education) — The process of keeping track of and preserving children’s work as evidence of their progress or of a program’s development.

domain — The knowledge, skills, attitudes (competencies), and professional characteristics that can be combined into one cluster and should be learned during (post-secondary) studies.
dopamine — A pleasure-inducing neurotransmitter involved in the inhibitory function of the basal ganglia, it is produced by the substantia nigra.

dorsal position — Anatomical term referring to structures toward the back of the body or top of the brain.
dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — The last area (45th) to develop (myelinate) in the human cerebrum. A more restricted definition of this area describes it as roughly equivalent to Brodmann areas 9 and 46.

dual-code theory — A theory of cognition that was first advanced by Allan Paivio that postulates that visual and verbal forms of information are processed differently and along distinct channels, with the human mind creating separate representations for information processed in each channel. Both visual and verbal codes for representing information are used to organize incoming information into knowledge that can be acted upon, stored, and retrieved for subsequent use.

dualism — The idea that mind and body are separate entities that interact to produce sensations, emotions, and other conscious experiences. Division of human beings distinguished by Descartes and earlier proposed by Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, into physical substance and thinking substance. In particular, mind–body dualism claims that neither the mind nor matter can be reduced to each other in any way, and thus is opposed to materialism in general, and reductive materialism in particular.

dura mater — Latin for “hard mother,” the dura mater is the most superior of the layers of the meninges; this tough, inflexible tissue forms several structures that separate the cranial cavity into compartments and protect the brain from displacement as well as forming several vein-like sinuses that carry blood back to the heart.

dynamic cycles (Fischer) — A means of explaining human cognitive and brain growth correlations in which dynamic systems analysis is combined with human growth cycles in cognitive and brain development to provide a foundation for moving beyond the difficulties of analyzing brain–behavior relations.

dyscalculia — Loss or absence of computational skills; also referred to as acalculia. dysfunction — Impaired or abnormal behavior.
dysgraphia — A deficiency in the ability to write, regardless of the ability to read, not due to intellectual impairment; also known as agraphia.

dyslexia — A developmental disorder marked by difficulty in reading or in under- standing written words; said to be a neurological disorder with biochemical and genetic markers.
dyspraxia (developmental) — One or all of a heterogeneous range of development disorders affecting the initiation, organization, and performance of action. It entails the partial loss of the ability to coordinate and perform certain purposeful movements and gestures, in the absence of other motor or sensory impairments (e.g., cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease).


early childhood education — Education of a child from the period from birth to 8 years of age.
early (childhood) intervention — A support system for children with developmental disabilities or delays and their families.

early learning standards — Statements that describe expectations for the learning and development of young children across the domains of health and physical well-being; social and emotional well-being; approaches to learning; language development and symbol systems; and general knowledge about the world.

early stimulation — Belief in the value of providing language and other cognitive forms of stimulation, as well as sensory and motor stimulation, to enhance learning through whole-body experiences in very young children.
ecological (validity) — A form of validity in a research study in which the methods, materials, and setting of the study must approximate the real-life situation that is under investigation. Unlike internal and external validity, ecological validity is not necessary to the overall validity of a study.

education — A social science field that encompasses the teaching and learning of specific knowledge, beliefs, and skills. Licensed and practicing teachers in the field use a variety of methods and materials in order to impart a curriculum.
education for the masses — A historical national movement to provide free education for all citizens.

educational neuropsychology — Study of the relationship between brain function, behavior, and psychological processes in educational contexts.
educational neuroscience — A branch of neuroscience dedicated to the study of how humans learn in formal settings.

educational psychology — The study of how humans learn in educational settings, the effectiveness of educational treatments, the psychology of teaching, and the social psychology of schools as organizations. Concerned with the processes of educational attainment among the general population and subpopulations, such as gifted children and those subject to specific disabilities.

EEG (electroencephalography) — The recording of electrical activity along the scalp produced by the firing of neurons within the brain. In clinical contexts, EEG refers to the recording of the brain’s spontaneous electrical activity over a short period of time, usually 20–40 minutes, as recorded from multiple electrodes placed on the scalp.

effectiveness — A measure of the extent to which a specific intervention, procedure, regimen, or service, when deployed in the field in routine circumstances, does what it is intended to do for a specified population. In the health field, it is a measure of output from those health services that contributes toward reducing the dimension of a problem or improving an unsatisfactory situation.

efferent pathway — To carry outward, from.
efficacy — The ability to produce the necessary or desired result.
efficiency — An ability to perform well or achieve a result without wasted energy, resources, effort, time, or money. Efficiency can be measured in physical terms (technical efficiency) or terms of cost (economic efficiency). Greater efficiency is achieved when (1) the same amount and standard of services are produced for a lower cost, (2) a more useful activity is substituted for a less useful one at the same cost, or (3) needless activities are eliminated.
effortful/effortless (or controlled) processing — Part of a dual-processing model in cognitive psychology dividing information processing into two systems. One system slowly learns general regularities (effortful), whereas the other can quickly form representations of unique or novel events (effortless).
egocentrism — The tendency to perceive, understand, and interpret the world in terms of the self.
elasticity — The ability of a material to recover its original shape or size once a deforming stress has been removed.
electrical synapse — An electrically conductive link between two neurons that is formed at a narrow gap between the pre- and postsynaptic cells known as a gap junction.

electrode — An electrical conductor used to make contact with a nonmetallic part of a circuit.

electromagnetic field — A physical field produced by electrically charged objects; it affects the behavior of charged objects in the vicinity of the field.
electrophysiology — The study of the electrical properties of biological cells and tissues. eliminative position (reductionism) — Related to philosophy of mind, the belief that mental states can be reduced to brain states.

emergent property — In the process of coming out.
emotions — Intense feeling. Emotions tend to be labeled in opposing pairs: love–hate; lust–disgust; gratitude–resentment; self-confidence–embarrassment; trust–distrust; empathy–contempt; pride–humiliation; truthfulness–deceit; atonement–guilt; despair–elation.
empathy — The intellectual identification with, or vicarious experiencing of, the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
emotional intelligence (Salovey) — A focus on a crucial set of human capacities within individuals; the ability to manage one’s emotions and inner potential for positive relation- ships.
emotionally competent stimulus (EMS) — A relevant “hook,” used to gain attention in a lecture or presentation, which triggers an emotion.
emotionally valued memories — Memories that are characterized by their affective importance.
encoding — In the study of memory, encoding is the processing of physical sensory input into memory. It is considered the first of three steps in memory information processing; the remaining two steps are storage and retrieval. During memory encoding, information can be processed about space, time, and frequency through either automatic or effortful processing.
endorphins — Endogenous opioid polypeptide compounds produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in vertebrates during strenuous exercise, excitement, pain, and orgasm; they resemble the opiates in their abilities to produce analgesia and a sense of well-being. Endorphins work as “natural pain relievers,” whose effects can be enhanced by other medications.
engagement (education) — The sense of participation and motivation a student feels or does not feel toward learning or the learning environment.
enriched environment — Surroundings that have greater value or significance to people relative to their understanding of “enriched” (i.e., enrichment is relative to the learner).

enrichment — To make rich by the addition or increase of some desirable quality, attribute, or ingredient.
environmental factors — Elements (circumstances, objects, or conditions) by which one is surrounded that actively contribute to the production of a result.

epigenesis (biology) — The unfolding development in an organism; in particular, the development of a plant or animal from an egg or spore through a sequence of steps in which cells differentiate and organs form. Also the theory that plants and animals develop in this way, in contrast to theory of preformationism, which contends that an organism is fully formed at conception and that reproduction is thereafter simply a process of growth. epilepsy — A common chronic neurological disorder characterized by recurrent, unprovoked seizures. These seizures are transient signs and/or symptoms of abnormal, excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain.

episodic buffer — Proposed by Baddeley, the episodic buffer is a function related to working memory that links input across domains to form integrated units of visual, spatial, and verbal information with time sequencing (or chronological ordering), such as the memory of a story or a movie scene. The episodic buffer is also assumed to have links to long-term memory and semantic meaning.

episodic memory — Memories of experienced events. Stored with memories of the context in which the event occurred. Also referred to as “flashbulb memory.”

epistemology — The branch of philosophy that deals with the nature, origin, and scope of knowledge. Historically, it has been one of the most investigated and most debated of all philosophical subjects. Much of this debate has focused on analyzing the nature and variety of knowledge and how it relates to similar notions such as truth and belief. Much of this discussion concerns the justification of knowledge claims; that is, the grounds on which one can claim to know a particular fact.

epoch training — A mathematical or computational model that tries to simulate the structure and/or functional aspects of biological neural networks. It consists of an inter- connected group of artificial neurons and processes information using a connectionist approach to computation.

equilibrium — The condition of a system in which competing influences are balanced. equity (education) — The state of educational impartiality and fairness in which all children—minorities and non-minorities, males and females, successful students and those who fall behind, students with special needs and students who have been denied access

in the past—receive a high-quality education and have equal access to the services they need in order to benefit from that education.
ERG theory (existence, relatedness, and growth) (psychology) — Clayton Alderfer’s needs hierarchy based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

ERPs (event-related brain potentials) — Any measured brain response that is directly the result of a thought or perception. More formally, it is any stereotyped electrophysiological response to an internal or external stimulus. ERPs are measured with EEG.

estimation skills (math) — The ability to make an intelligent approximation of a degree of worth.

ethics — The branch of philosophy that deals with distinctions between right and wrong and with the moral consequences of human actions.
eugenics — The study of methods of improving genetic qualities by selective breeding (especially as applied to human mating).

eustress — Stress that is deemed healthful or that gives one the feeling of fulfillment. evaluation — The measurement, comparison, and judgment of the value, quality, or worth of children’s work and/or of their schools, teachers, or a specific educational program based upon valid evidence gathered through assessment.

evoked potential — An electrical potential recorded from the nervous system of a human or other animal following presentation of a stimulus, as distinct from spontaneous potentials detected by EEG or electromyography (EMG).
evolution (biology) — Change in the genetic material of a population of organisms from one generation to the next. The basis of evolution is the genes that are passed on from generation to generation, which produce an organism’s inherited traits.

evolutionary psychology — A branch of psychology that attempts to explain psychological traits, memory, perception, and/or language as adaptations, or the functional products of natural selection.
excitatory (vs. inhibitory) quality — Indicates a neuron or synapse that depolarizes its target, increasing the chance that the neuron will fire.

executive functions — The complex cognitive processes (e.g., reasoning and judgment) that are mediated by the most anterior part of the frontal lobe. The ability to organize cognitive processes, including the ability to plan ahead, prioritize, stop and start activities, shift from one activity to another, and to monitor one’s own behavior.

experiential learning (hands-on learning/discovery learning) — “Learning by doing.” The process of actively engaging students in an authentic experience that will have bene- fits and consequences in which students make discoveries and experiment with knowledge themselves instead of hearing or reading about the experiences of others. Related to the constructivist learning theory.

explicit learning — Learning that is fully revealed or expressed without vagueness, implication, or ambiguity, leaving no question as to meaning or intent.
explicit memory — The conscious, and intentional recollection of previous experiences and information

extinction — The gradual weakening and disappearance of conditioned behavior. In operant conditioning, extinction occurs when an emitted behavior is no long followed by a reinforcer.
extracellular position (biology) — “Outside the cell.” This space is usually taken to be outside the plasma membranes, and it is occupied by fluid. The term is used in contrast to intracellular (inside the cell).


facial recognition and interpretation — Identification and deciphering of facial expressions.
facilitator — A role for classroom teachers that allows students to take a more active role in learning. Teachers assist students in making connections between classroom instruction and students’ own knowledge and experiences by encouraging students to create new solutions, by challenging their assumptions, and by asking probing questions.

fear — A distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.
feedback (education) — The situation when output from (or information about the result of) an event or phenomenon in the past will influence the same event/phenomenon in the present or future. The transmission of evaluative or corrective information about an action, event, or process to the original or controlling source.

feedforward (neural) network — A feedforward neural network is an artificial neural network where connections between the units do not form a directed cycle. This is different from recurrent neural networks.
fibers — A class of materials comprised of continuous filaments or discrete elongated pieces, similar to lengths of thread. They are very important for holding tissues together in the biology of both plants and animals.

Fink’s taxonomy — L. Dee Fink’s six points for significant learning: foundational learning, application, learning how to learn, integration, caring, and human dimension.

First do no harm Primum non nocere is Latin for “First, do no harm.” This is one of the principal precepts of medical ethics and a guiding principle in MBE.

fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) — Imaging technique that tracks the flow of oxygenated blood by virtue of its magnetic properties, which differ from those of nonoxygenated blood. Because oxygenated blood preferentially flows to where it is in high demand, fMRI highlights brain areas that are most active when someone is thinking or doing something.

five pillars of the mind – Theory proposed by Tokuhama-Espinosa (2019) that all human learning is structured in a neuroconstructivist, hierarchical trajectory based on symbols, patterns, order, categories and relationships.

focal lesion — Any type of lesion of the central nervous system (e.g., stroke, brain tumor, multiple sclerosis) will cause a type of ataxia (incoordination and lack of balance) corresponding to the site of the lesion: cerebellar if in the cerebellum, sensory if in the dorsal spinal cord (and rarely in the thalamus or parietal lobe), vestibular if in the vestibular system (including the vestibular areas of the cerebral cortex).

forebrain — The frontal division of the brain that contains cerebral hemispheres, the thalamus, and the hypothalamus.
formal assessment — A procedure for obtaining information that can be used to make judgments about characteristics of children or programs using standardized instruments. The process of gathering information using standardized, published tests or instruments in conjunction with specific administration and interpretation procedures, and used to make general instructional decisions.

formative assessment — Any form of assessment used by an educator to evaluate students’ knowledge and understanding of particular content and then to adjust instructional practices accordingly toward improving student achievement in that area. Formative assessments are designed to evaluate students on a frequent basis so that adjustments can be made in instruction to help them reach target achievement goals.

foundations of educational neuroscience theory (Connell) — A theory to connect neuroscience and education by using computational models to link neural mechanisms to behavioral patterns, and then using these causal neural–behavioral models to inform education.

frontal lobe — The most anterior lobe of the brain; it is bounded posteriorly by the central sulcus and inferiorly by the lateral fissure; this lobe is associated with higher cognitive functions and is involved in the control of voluntary muscle movement.

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266 Mind, Brain, and Education Science

frontoparietal position — Relating to or characteristic of both frontal and parietal bones. function — Any of a group of related actions contributing to a larger action.

functionalism — A doctrine or practice that emphasizes practical utility or functional relations. A late-19th to early 20th-century American school of psychology concerned especially with how the mind functions to adapt the individual to the environment. A theory that stresses the interdependence of the patterns and institutions of a society and their interaction in maintaining cultural and social unity.

fusiform face area — A part of the human visual system located in the ventral stream on the ventral surface of the temporal lobe on the fusiform gyrus, which might be specialized for facial recognition.
fusiform gyrus — Part of the temporal lobe.


GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) — A glutamate neurotransmitter that is involved in the inhibitory function of the basal ganglia.
gender — The range of differences between men and women, extending from the biological to the social.

gene — The basic unit of heredity in a living organism. Genes hold the information that builds and maintains their cells and passes genetic traits to offspring.
expression (gene) — The process by which information from a gene is used in the synthesis of a functional gene product. These products are often proteins, but in nonprotein coding genes such as rRNA or tRNA genes, the product is a functional RNA.

genetics — The science of heredity and variation in living organisms.

genome — A full set of chromosomes or genes in a gamete, which includes both the genes and the noncoding sequences of the DNA.
genotype — The genetic constitution of a cell, an organism, or an individual (i.e., the specific allele makeup of the individual), usually with reference to a specific character under consideration. It is a generally accepted theory that inherited genotype, transmitted epigenetic factors, and nonhereditary environmental variation contribute to the phenotype of an individual.

genotyping — The process of determining the genotype of an individual by the use of biological assays.
gifted ability (education) — An intellectual ability significantly higher than average. Gifted children develop asynchronously; their minds are often ahead of their physical

growth, and specific cognitive and emotional functions often are at different stages of development within a single person. The concept of giftedness has historically been rife with controversy, some even denying that this group exists.
gifted and talented education — A program that offers supplemental, differentiated, challenging curriculum and instruction for students identified as being intellectually gifted or talented.

glial cells — Nonneuronal brain cells that provide structural, nutritional, and other forms of support to the brain. Glial cells are 10 times as common as neurons and make up two- thirds of all brain cells.
glucose — A simple sugar also known as grape sugar, blood sugar, or corn sugar, it is a very important carbohydrate in biology.

glutamate — An excitatory neurotransmitter that plays a critical role in the process of long-term potentiation. About 80% of the signaling in the brain is carried out by two neurotransmitters that balance each other’s effect: the major excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate stirs up activity to begin the signaling cascade, and the major inhibitory neuro- transmitter GABA clamps down on activity.

goal-setting theory (motivation) — The use of goals to narrow attention, encourage direct effort and persistence, and provide for tangible, measurable results.
good learning environments (Billington; Kaufeldt) — In education, good learning environments are those that provide security (physical and emotional); where there is intellectual freedom, respect, self-guided learning; and where there are paced challenges, active learning, and constant feedback.

graphic organizers — Text, diagram, or other pictorial devices that summarize and illustrate interrelationships among concepts. Graphic organizers are often known as maps, webs, graphs, charts, frames, or clusters.
graphically depicted and modeled mathematic relationships — Using a visual model to depict arithmetic associations.

graphomotor functions (Levine) — Motor skills related to writing; distinct from fine and gross motor skills.
gray matter — Areas of the brain that are dominated by cell bodies and have no myelin (in contrast to white matter).

gyrus/gyri — A ridge on the cerebral cortex, generally surrounded by one or more sulci.


habits of mind — A collection of 16 thinking dispositions designed to help people

develop their critical and creative thinking skills developed by Professor Arthur L. Costa: (1) persisting—stick to it; (2) thinking and communicating with clarity and precision; (3) managing impulsivity; (4) gathering data through all senses; (5) listening with under- standing and empathy; (6) creating, imagining, innovating; (7) thinking flexibly; (8) responding with wonderment and awe; (9) thinking about your thinking (metacognition); (10) taking responsible risks; (11) striving for accuracy and precision; (12) finding humor; (13) questioning and problem posing; (14) thinking interdependently; (15) applying past knowledge to new situations; an (16) remaining open to continuous learning.

habituation — The most widespread of all forms of learning, thought to be the first learning process to emerge in human infants. Through habituation animals, including human beings, learn to ignore stimuli that have lost novelty or meaning; habituation frees them to attend to stimuli that are rewarding or significant for survival.

hands-on/minds-on activities — Activities that engage students’ physical as well as mental skills to solve problems. Students devise a solution strategy, predict outcomes, activate or perform the strategy, reflect on results, and compare end results with predictions.

head cap — Used in tomography scanning to attach electrode sensors to the scalp (looks like a swim cap).
Hebbian synapse theory — Describes a basic mechanism for synaptic plasticity wherein an increase in synaptic efficacy arises from the presynaptic cell’s repeated and persistent stimulation of the postsynaptic cell. Introduced by Donald Hebb in 1949, it is also called Hebb’s rule, Hebb’s postulate, Hebbian synapse, and cell assembly theory; use it or lose it. hemispatial neglect — A neuropsychological condition in which, after damage to one hemisphere of the brain, a deficit in attention to and awareness of one side of space is observed. Hemispatial neglect is very commonly contralateral to the damaged hemi- sphere, but instances of ipsilesional neglect (on the same side as the lesion) have been reported. Also called hemiagnosia, hemineglect, unilateral neglect, spatial neglect, or neglect syndrome.

hemisphere — If the brain is split down the middle between the eyes into two halves, each half is called a hemisphere and referred to as either the “right hemisphere” or the “left hemisphere.” Each hemisphere is grouped into four different chunks or parts called

“lobes.” The four lobes are referred to as the frontal (front), temporal (side), parietal (top), and occipital (back). The two hemispheres are linked by the corpus callosum. hemispherectomy — A surgical procedure where one cerebral hemisphere (half of the brain) is removed or disabled. This procedure is used to treat a variety of seizure disorders where the source of the epilepsy is localized to a broad area of a single hemisphere of the brain.

hemodynamics — A medical term for the dynamic regulation of the blood flow in the brain. It is the principle on which fMRI is based. Neurons, like all other cells, require energy to function. This energy is supplied in the form of glucose and oxygen (the oxygen being carried in hemoglobin). The blood supply of the brain is dynamically regulated to give active neural assemblies more energy while inactive assemblies receive less energy.

hemoglobin — The iron-containing oxygen-transport metalloprotein in the red blood cells. Hemoglobin transports oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, where it releases the oxygen for cell use.

heritability (genetics) — The proportion of phenotypic variation in a population that is attributable to genetic variation among individuals. Variation among individuals may be due to genetic and/or environmental factors. Heritability analyses estimate the relative contributions of differences in genetic and nongenetic factors to the total phenotypic variance in a population.

heterogeneous grouping — Grouping together students of varying abilities, interests, or ages.
heuristics – A heuristic technique, or a heuristic for short, is any approach to problem solving or self-discovery that employs a practical method that is not guaranteed to be optimal, perfect or rational, but which is nevertheless sufficient for reaching an immediate, short-term goal (Wikipedia, 2020). A mental short-cut.

higher-order questions — Questions that require thinking and reflection rather than single-solution responses.

higher-order thinking skills — Understanding complex concepts and applying some- times conflicting information to solve a problem, which may have more than one correct answer.
hindbrain — The rear division of the brain, including the cerebellum, pons, and medulla (also called the rhombencephalon).

hippocampus — A cortical area classified as part of the limbic system; a gyrus located on the medial edge of the temporal lobe involved with long-term memory and is important for converting short-term memory to more permanent memory.
histology — The study of the microscopic anatomy of cells and tissues of plants and animals performed by examining a thin slice (section) of tissue under a microscope; an essential tool of biology and medicine.

holistic scoring — Using a scoring guide or anchor papers to assign a single overall score to a performance.
homeschooling — A generic term for children schooled at home during the compulsory schooling ages (6–16). To home-school a child the parents/caregivers must satisfy the ministry (Department of Education) that the child will be taught at least as regularly and as well as in a registered school.

homunculus — Latin for “little man”; a pedagogical device that is used to explain and demonstrate the functioning of the motor strip of the human cortex.
hormone — A chemical released by one or more cells that affects cells in other parts of the organism. It is essentially a chemical messenger that transports a signal from one cell to another. Hormones in animals are often transported in the blood. Cells respond to a hormone when they express a specific receptor for that hormone. The hormone binds to the receptor protein, resulting in the activation of a signal transduction mechanism that ultimately leads to cell-type-specific responses.

hypothalamus — Part of the diencephalon, ventral to the thalamus. The structure is involved in functions including homeostasis, emotion, thirst, hunger, circadian rhythms, and control of the autonomic nervous system. In addition, it controls the pituitary, a subcortical structure located immediately below the thalamus; by controlling the functioning of the pituitary gland, it regulates basic biological functions (e.g., appetite, body temperature, sex drive).


iconic store — Human beings store a perfect image of the visual world for a brief moment, before it is discarded from memory.
image (mental) — Something one remembers or imagines. The subject of an image need not be real; it may be an abstract concept, such as a graph, function, or imaginary entity. imagery — A collection of images that can have auditory, affective, metal, motor, as well as visual components.

imaging (neuro-) — See “neuroimaging.”
imitation (psychology) — In psychology, cognitive imitation is a type of social learning. Like the imitation of motor rules (i.e., motor imitation), cognitive imitation involves learning and copying specific rules by observation. The principal difference between motor and cognitive imitation is the type of rule (and stimulus) that is learned and copied by the observer. Whereas in the typical imitation learning experiment subjects must copy

novel actions on objects or novel sequences of specific actions (novel motor imitation), in a novel cognitive imitation paradigm subjects have to copy novel rules, independently of specific actions or movement patterns.
self-efficacy (and learning) — The impact on learning that the belief that one is capable of performing in a certain manner to attain certain goals.

impairment — Disability.
implicit memory — See “memory (implicit).”
impoverished condition — Lacking in provision of basic human needs such as nutrition, clean water, health care, clothing, and shelter because of the inability to afford them. impoverished environment — Poor or reduced surroundings.
impulsivity — A type of human behavior characterized by the inclination of an individual to act on impulse rather than conscious thought.
inclusion — The practice of placing students with disabilities in regular classrooms; also known as mainstreaming.
independent value (math) — Not depending upon another for its value.
independent quality (social) — Not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion or conduct.
indicator — Various statistical values, data, or other reported information that, when aggregated, provide an indication of the condition or direction of movement relative to a standard or issue under study. A variable that helps to measure changes directly or indirectly and permits one to assess the extent to which objectives and targets of a goal are being attained.
individual differences — The ways individuals differ in their behavior (including learning).
individual education program (IEP) — A written plan created for a student with learning disabilities by the student’s teachers, parents or guardians, the school administrator, and other interested parties. The plan is tailored to the student’s specific needs and abilities, and outlines goals for the student to reach.
individualized education — A method of instruction in which content, instructional materials and media, and pace of learning are based upon the abilities and interests of each individual learner.
inferior location (anatomy) — Refers to the lower parts of the nervous system. inferotemporal position — Situated or occurring in, on, or under the temporal lobe of the cerebral cortex.

informal assessment — A procedure for obtaining information that can be used to make judgments about characteristics of children or programs using means other than standardized instruments. The process of collecting information to make specific instructional decisions, using procedures largely designed by teachers and based on the current instructional situation.

informal knowledge — Knowledge about a topic that children learn through experience outside of the classroom.
inherit — To get from one’s ancestors either through legal succession (e.g., “inherit the throne”) or from genetic transmission (e.g., “inherited color-blindness from his father”). inhibition (physiology) — The process by which some nerve cells use their presynaptic terminals to stop the receiving cells from relaying information. An inhibitory neuron or inhibitory synapse is one that hyperpolarizes its target, decreasing the chance that the neuron will fire an action potential. Also referred to as suppression.

inhibitory neurotransmitter — A neurotransmitter released from the presynaptic neuron whose work increases the resting membrane potential (a value) of the postsynaptic neuron, making it much more difficult for the neuron to fire (i.e., inhibiting it). innateness — Intrinsic; denoting a property of some thing or action that is essential and specific to that thing or action, and which is wholly independent of any other object, action, or consequence. A characteristic that is not essential or inherent is extrinsic. inner voice (Vygotsky) — Thinking in words.

inquiry — A process in which students investigate a problem, devise and work through a plan to solve the problem, and propose a solution to the problem.
inquiry education — A student-centered method of education focused on asking questions. Students are encouraged to ask questions that are meaningful to them and that do not necessarily have easy answers; teachers are encouraged to avoid speaking at all when this is possible, and in any case to avoid giving answers in favor of asking more questions. Sometimes known as the inquiry method or Socratic questioning.

instinct — Any response that is natural (i.e., inborn and unlearned) and a characteristic of a given species.
instructional design — The analysis of learning needs and systematic development of instruction. Instructional designers often use instructional technology as a method for developing instruction. Instructional design models typically specify a method that, if followed, will facilitate the transfer of knowledge, skills, and attitudes to the recipient of the instruction. Also known as instructional systems design.

insular cortex — A cerebral cortex structure deep within the lateral sulcus between the temporal lobe and the parietal lobe. The insular is divided into two parts: the larger anterior insula and the smaller posterior insular, in which more than a dozen field areas have been identified. The insula plays a role in diverse functions usually linked to emotion or the regulation of the body’s homeostasis, perception, motor control, self-awareness, cognitive functioning, and interpersonal experience.

insult (medicine) — An injury or trauma.
integrated curriculum — Refers to the practice of using a single theme to teach a variety of subjects. It also refers to an interdisciplinary curriculum that combines several school subjects into one project.
integrated learning — A learning theory describing a movement toward making lessons that help students form connections across curricula.
integrated teaching — A method of teaching that interrelates or unifies subjects frequently taught in separate academic courses or departments. In integrated teaching, subjects are presented together as a meaningful whole. Integration can be horizontal or vertical. Horizontal integration functions between parallel disciplines such as anatomy, histology, and biochemistry or medicine, surgery, and pharmacology. Vertical integration functions between disciplines traditionally taught in different phases of curriculum; it can occur throughout the curriculum with medical and basic sciences beginning together in the early years.
integrative neuroscience — Brings together biological, psychological, and clinical models of the human brain within neuroscience and focuses on the brain as an adaptive system. It is concerned with how all the components of the brain are coordinated, and aims for a unified understanding of brain function across timescales.
intellectual freedom — A human right defined as the freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. intelligence(s) — The mental capacity to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend ideas and language, and learn. Although nonscientists generally regard the concept of intelligence as having much broader scope, in psychology, the study of intelligence generally regards this trait as distinct from creativity, personality, character, or wisdom.
interconnections — Links between different areas.

intercortical connections — Links within the cerebral cortex.
interdependence — Relying one upon the other.
interdisciplinary — Combining or involving two or more academic disciplines or fields of study.
interdisciplinary curriculum — A curriculum that consciously applies the methodology and language from more than one discipline to examine a central theme, issue, problem, topic, or experience.
interference (psychology) — The distorting or inhibiting effect of previously learned behavior on subsequent learning; the forgetting of information or an event due to inability to reconcile it with conflicting information obtained subsequently.
interference theory — The theory that forgetting is caused by one memory competing with or replacing another, which offer an explanation for why we forget. According to the theory there are three kinds of interference: proactive, retroactive, and output interference.
internalization — To incorporate the cultural values, mores, motives, etc., of another or of a group, as through learning, socialization, or identification.
intervention (education) — Funds that schools get for students who are not learning at grade level. They can be used to fund before-school or afterschool programs or to pay for materials and instructors.
invariant representations (psychology) — The brain’s internal pattern for representations. Learning sequences are the most basic ingredients for forming invariant representations of real-world objects. Objects can be “concrete” or “abstract”; they are treated the same way by the brain (as sequences of patterns that occur over time, in a predictable fashion).
ions (channel) — Pore-forming proteins that help establish and control the small voltage gradient across the plasma membrane of all living cells by allowing the flow of ions down their electrochemical gradient. Present in the membranes that surround all biological cells.
IPS (intraparietal sulcus) — Located on the lateral surface of the parietal lobe and consists of an oblique and a horizontal portion. Its principal functions are related to perceptual–motor coordination (for directing eye movements and reaching) and visual attention and may also be related to processing symbolic numerical information, visuospatial working memory, and interpreting the intent of others.

isomorphic relationship — A kind of mapping between objects, which shows a relation- ship between two properties or operations. If there exists an isomorphism between two structures, the two structures are isomorphic.
isotope (PET) — Any of the different types of atoms of the same chemical element, each having a different atomic mass (mass number). Isotopes of an element have nuclei with the same number of protons (the same atomic number) but different numbers of neutrons.



kinesthesia — Feedback from muscle spindles related to feeling.
knowledge (education) — The acquisition or awareness of facts, data, information, ideas, or principles to which one has access through formal or individual study, research, observation, experience or intuition. Information of which someone is aware. Knowledge is also used to mean the confident understanding of a subject, with the potential to use it for a specific purpose.


latency — Present but not visible, apparent, or actualized; existing as potential.
latent learning — Learning that occurs in the absence of reinforcement but is not behaviorally demonstrated until a reinforcer becomes available.
lateral position (anatomy) — Literally, toward the sides.
lateralization — Functional specialization of the brain, with some skills being more associated with one hemisphere than another. Researchers often criticize popular psychology books for misrepresenting lateralization; often the functions are distributed across both hemispheres, although mental processing is divided between them.
layer (cortical) — The human cortex is a roughly 2.4 mm thick sheet of neuronal cell bodies that forms the external surface of the telencephalon. The human cerebral cortex is composed of six layers, each layer identified by the nerve cell type and the destination of these nerve cells’ axons (within the brain).
layered curriculum design — Three layers of curriculum design that consider basic knowledge, application, and critical thinking skills; developed by Kathie Nunley.

learner-centered education — Classroom in which students are encouraged to choose their own learning goals and projects. This approach is based on the belief that students have a natural inclination to learn, learn better when they work on real or authentic tasks, benefit from interacting with diverse groups of people, and learn best when teachers

understand and value the difference in how each student learns. Learners are responsible for identifying knowledge gaps, actively participating in filling them, and keeping track of their learning gains.
learning — Learning can be said to take place in the mind, in a psychological sense, and in the brain, in a neurological sense. Learning is instantiated in the brain and is prompted by internal thought processes, sensory input, motor training, or simulated perceptual input in the mind, resulting in a physiological and measurable change in the neural networks, as well as changes in the muscles and other parts of the body. Human learning is complex and is intricately related to emotions, cognition, action, volition, and perception. Learning is always accompanied by brain changes, which underlie learning itself, as well as changes in behavior, including thought and feeling. Human learning can be achieved through active and constructive processes such as those that occur in formal school contexts. Much learning can be observed neurologically before being expressed in behavior, as in implicit learning, which results in subtle changes in behavior and is usually noticeable only when new learning is “scaffolded” upon it, as is much of the early child- hood learning.

learning environment — The surroundings in which successful teaching experiences take place.
learning by teaching — Designates a method that allows pupils and students to prepare and teach lessons or parts of lessons, or in which peers teach one another. Learning by teaching should not be confused with presentations or lectures by students; in teaching their classmates a certain area of the respective subject, students do not only convey a certain content, but choose their own methodological and didactical approach.

learning disability — Used to refer to sociobiological conditions that affect a person’s communicative capacities and potential to learn. The term includes conditions such as perceptual disability, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, autism, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia; in general terms, a developmental disability.

learning styles — Approaches to learning, problem solving, and processing information. lesion — Any abnormal tissue found on or in an organism, usually damaged by disease or trauma.
“less is more concept” (education) — A principle built on the idea that quality is more important than quantity. It is reflected in instruction that guides students to focus on fewer topics investigated in greater depth, with teachers performing the task of prioritizing subjects as well as specific skills within those subjects.

levels-of-processing effect — Describes memory recall of stimuli as a function of the depth of mental processing. The mental processing depth of a stimulus is determined by connections with preexisting memory, time spent processing the stimulus, cognitive effort, and sensory input mode. Depth of processing falls on a shallow to deep continuum. Shallow processing leads to a fragile memory trace that is susceptible to rapid decay. Conversely, deep processing results in a more durable memory trace.

lexical retrieval — Ability to search for and successfully find the correct word choice. lifelong learning — Continuous training over the course of a professional career. The concept that “It’s never too soon or too late for learning,” a philosophy that has taken root in a whole host of different organizations, providing learning opportunities at all ages and in numerous contexts: at work, at home, and through leisure activities, not just through formal channels such as school and higher education.

lifespan development — Development over the average or maximum length of time an organism, material, or object can be expected to survive or last.
limbic system — The most ancient and primitive part of the brain composed of both cortical and subcortical structures located on the medial, inferior surfaces of the cerebral hemispheres. The limbic system is involved in the processing of olfactory stimuli, emotions, motivation, and memory, and may be involved in cortical speech and language behavior.

lobes (frontal, temporal, occipital, parietal) — The four main areas of the cerebral cortex.
localist — A range of philosophies or epistemologies that prioritize the local (or a single disciplinary) vision.

localization — A fading idea, being replaced by neuroplasticity, that the pathways in which experience gets into our minds are hardwired in very specific brain locations.

long-term habituation — Stage of habituation in which the number of presynaptic connections among sensory neurons and motor neurons decreases.

long-term memory — See “memory (long-term).”
long-term potentiation (LTP) — A chemical process that occurs at the neuronal level and that strengthens the connections between neurons (supporting the concept that “neurons that fire together, wire together”). A long-lasting increase in synaptic strength between two neurons.


macaques — A genus of Old World monkeys. Aside from humans, the macaques are the most widespread primate genus, ranging from northern Africa to Japan. In medical testing, most nonhuman primates used are macaques.
magnet — A force that pulls on other ferromagnetic materials and attracts or repels other magnets. A material or object that produces a magnetic field, which is invisible but is responsible for the most notable property of a magnet. Several imaging techniques use magnets, including the fMRI.

magnocellular theory (dyslexia) — Globally unifying theory about the origins of dyslexia in which the magnocellular dysfunction is not restricted to the visual pathways but is generalized to all modalities (visual and auditory as well as tactile).

manipulatives (education) — Three-dimensional teaching aids and visuals that teachers use to help students with math concepts. Any physical object (e.g., blocks, toothpicks, coins) that can be used to represent or model a problem situation or develop a mathematical concept. Typical tools include counting beads or bars, base 10 blocks, shapes, fraction parts, and rulers.

mapping (brain) — A set of neuroscience techniques predicated on the mapping of (biological) quantities or properties onto spatial representations of the human or nonhuman brain.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — Motivational theory developed by Abraham Maslow in 1943, which considers five levels: physiological, safety, association, esteem, and self-actualization.

mathematical cognition — The psychology of numeracy.
mathematical theories — An analytical structure designed to explain a set of empirical observations. Roughly 70 mathematical theories exist in 2010.
matrix sampling — An assessment method in which no student completes the entire assessment but each completes a portion of it. Portions are allotted to representative samples of students. Group (rather than individual) scores are obtained for an analysis of school or district performance.
maturation — Pertaining to or characteristic of full development.
mechanism (psychology) — The habitual operation and interaction of psychological forces within an individual that assist in interpreting or dealing with the physical or psychological environment.
medial — Literally, toward the center.

medicine — The art and the science of healing. A branch of health care study that researches the preservation of the body and the treatment of illness.
medulla — Refers to the middle of something. In medicine it refers to either bone marrow, the spinal cord, or more generally, the middle part of a structure (as opposed to the cortex).

MEG (magnetocephalography) — Neuroimaging technique that relies on the principle that if you touch different body parts, the localized electrical activity that results can be measured as changes in magnetic fields on the scalp. The major advantage of the technique is that it is noninvasive; one does not have to open the patient’s scalp to peer inside the brain. Used to measure the magnetic fields produced by electrical activity in the brain. memory (cognitive neuropsychology) — The ability to acquire and store information. A set of distinct psychological processes that operates with different representations and physiological mechanisms to retain information over time. Memories are stored not in the cells themselves, but in the overall pattern of electrical signals firing between cells. The memory of something and the perception of the same something share the same network. When changes in the network become lasting, the information becomes firmly established in long-term storage. The links between individual neurons, which bind them into a single memory, are formed through a process called LTP (long-term potentiation). Memory is a persistent representation for a sequence of patterns.

memory (associative) — The brain’s ability to store, retain, and recall information by relating it to other like memories.
memory (declarative) — The aspect of human memory that stores facts.
memory (emotional) — The brain’s ability to store, retain, and recall information by relating it to emotions.

memory (episodic) — The memory of autobiographical events (times, places, associated emotions, and other contextual knowledge) that can be explicitly stated.
memory (implicit) — A type of memory in which previous experiences aid in the performance of a task without conscious awareness of these previous experiences. Evidence for implicit memory arises in priming, a process whereby subjects show improved performance on tasks for which they have been subconsciously prepared.

memory (long-term declarative) — A set of processes that retains information over days, months, and years. Long-term memories include both implicit, sensory–motor skills and declarative, memories for autobiographical details and facts. Long-term memory is not simply an

extension of short-term memory; not only do the changes in synaptic strength last longer but the actual number of synapses in the “circuit” changes. Long-term memories are processed in part in the hippocampus.
memory (procedural) — Unconscious memory for skills (e.g., riding a bike, playing tennis, knotting a tie). Procedural memory underlies habituation, sensitization, and classical conditioning, as well as perceptual and motor skills. Sometimes referred to as implicit memory.

memory (rote) — A learning technique that emphasizes memorization rather than understanding of a subject. The major practice involved in rote learning is learning by repetition; the idea is that one will be able to quickly recall the meaning of the material the more one repeats it.

memory (semantic) — Refers to the memory of meanings, understandings, and other concept-based knowledge unrelated to specific experiences. The conscious recollection of factual information and general knowledge about the world, generally thought to be independent of context and personal relevance. Semantic and episodic memory together make up the category of declarative memory, which is one of the two major divisions in memory.

memory (short-term) — A catch-all term for to the capacity for holding a small amount of information in mind in an active, readily available state for a short period of time. A commonly cited capacity is 7 ± 2 elements. Also referred to as immediate, working, primary, or active memory.

memory (spatial) — The part of memory responsible for recording information about one’s environment and its spatial orientation.
memory (survival) — Memories on which one’s personal survival is dependent.

memory (working) — A form of short-term memory that does not last. For example, remembering a formula just long enough to use it on a test. Characterized by a small storage capacity, semantic representation, and short duration.

memory consolidation (and learning) — A category of processes that stabilizes a memory trace after the initial acquisition.
mental models — An explanation of someone’s thought process for how something works in the real world. It is a representation of the surrounding world, the relationships between its various parts, and a person’s intuitive perception about his or her own acts and their consequences. Our mental models help shape our behavior and define our approach to solving problems and carrying out tasks. (Also see “mental schema.”)

mental number line (math) — Mental system for representing and ordering numbers related to the angular gyrus area of the brain.
mental schema — Structures we use to order the world around us; a structured cluster of preconceived ideas; an organized pattern of thought or behavior.

mentoring — A developmental relationship between a more experienced person and a less experienced partner, referred to as a mentee or protégé́.
mesolimbic dopaminergic reward system — The pathway that begins in the ventral tegmental area of the midbrain and connects to the limbic system via the nucleus accumbens, the amygdala, and the hippocampus; it also connects to the medial prefrontal cortex known to be involved in modulating behavioral responses to stimuli that activate feelings of reward (motivation) and reinforcement through the neurotransmitter dopamine. metabolism — The set of chemical reactions that occurs in living organisms to maintain life. These processes allow organisms to grow and reproduce, maintain their structures, and respond to their environments. Metabolism is usually divided into two categories: Catabolism breaks down organic matter and anabolism uses energy to construct components of cells such as proteins and nucleic acids.

metacognition — The process of considering and regulating one’s own learning and thinking processes. Activities include assessing or reviewing one’s current and previous knowledge, identifying gaps in that knowledge, planning gap-filling strategies, deter- mining the relevance of new information, and potentially revising beliefs on the subject.

metaphor — A figure of speech concisely expressed by an implied analogy between two objects or ideas, conveyed by the use of one word instead of another word.

methodology — The study and knowledge of methods as well as the study of techniques for problem-solving and seeking answers, as opposed to the techniques themselves. microbiology — The study of microorganisms, which are unicellular or cell-cluster microscopic organisms.

midbrain — The most superior part of the brainstem (mesencephalon).
midline (brain) — Normally related to suprachiasmatic nucleus or nuclei (SCN).

midwifing (education) — Practices that nurture the development and “birth” of ideas or students’ thinking processes. Originally proposed by Socrates.
migration (cell) — A central process in the development and maintenance of multicellular organisms. Tissue formation during embryonic development, wound healing, and immune responses all require the orchestrated movement of cells in particular directions

to specific locations. Errors during this process have serious consequences, including mental retardation. Cells often migrate in response to, and toward, specific external signals, a process called chemotaxis.
milestone (developmental) — Milestones are changes in specific physical and mental abilities (e.g., walking and understanding language) that mark the end of one develop- mental period and the beginning of another. For stage theories, milestones indicate a stage transition. Studies of the accomplishment of many developmental tasks have established typical chronological ages associated with developmental milestones. However, there is considerable variation in the achievement of milestones, even between children with developmental trajectories within the normal range. Some milestones are more variable than others; for example, receptive speech indicators do not show much variation among children with normal hearing, but expressive speech milestones can be quite variable. millimeter — A unit of length equal to one-thousandth of a meter and equivalent to 0.03937 inch.

millisecond — One-thousandth of a second.
mind–body connection — A general model or approach that posits that biological, psychological (thoughts, emotions, and behaviors), and social factors all play a significant role in human functioning in the context of illness or in learning. Also known as the biopsychosocial model.
mindful learning — Mindfulness is calm awareness of one’s body functions, feelings, content of consciousness, or consciousness itself.
mind mapping (teaching activity) — A diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision-making, and writing.
mirror neurons — Neurons that represent actions performed both by oneself and by others. First described by Giacomo Rizzolatti and his research team in 1994 and found in the premotor cortex, parietal cortex, insula, cingulated and the secondary touch cortex of monkey brains, mirror neurons are thought to be the key to many higher mental functions including imitation, empathy, and the ability to “read” others’ intentions. Currently the prime suspect in hunt for the roots of autism. Some argue that the evolution of mirror neurons was important in the human acquisition of complex skills such as language and that their discovery is a most important advance in neuroscience. Highly controversial and as of 2020, undetermined if truly a different type of neuron, of which there are 352 to date.

mnemonic devices — Learning aids that rely on associations between easy-to-remember constructs that can be related back to the data to be remembered. Commonly, mnemonics are verbal—such as a very short poem or a special word used to help a person remember something—but can be visual, kinesthetic, or auditory.

modality (cognitive neuroscience) — Any of the qualitatively distinct types of sensation, such as sight, hearing, smelling, taste, or touch.
modeling — Demonstrating to the learner how to do a task, with the expectation that the learner can copy the model. Modeling often involves thinking aloud or talking about how to work through a task.

models — Patterns, plans, representations (especially in miniature), or descriptions designed to show the main object or workings of an object, system, or concept.

modularity — A general systems concept, typically defined as a continuum describing the degree to which a system’s components can be separated and recombined.

molecular genetics — The field of biology that studies the structure and function of genes at a molecular level and how genes are transferred from generation to generation.

molecular systems — Refers to theoretical methods and computational techniques that model or mimic the behavior of molecules.

monozygotic (twins) — Frequently referred to as identical twins, occur when a single egg is fertilized to form one zygote (monozygotic), which then divides into two separate embryos. Monozygotic twins are almost always the same sex and their traits and physical appearances are very similar, but not exactly the same, although they have nearly identical DNA.

morphology (biology) — The study of the form or shape of an organism or part thereof. morphology (linguistics) — The study of the structure and content of word forms. morphometry — A field concerned with studying variation and change in the form (size and shape) of organisms or objects.

motivation (psychology) — The internal condition that activates behavior and gives it direction; energizes and directs goal-oriented behavior. According to various theories, motivation may be rooted in the basic need to minimize physical pain and maximize pleasure; or it may include specific needs such as eating and resting, or a desired object, hobby, goal, state of being, or ideal; or it may be attributed to less-apparent sources such as altruism or morality.

motor cortex — In the frontal lobe of the cerebral cortex, a region that sends impulses to motor neurons and is involved in coordination of movement.

Mozart effect — Disproven research results that initially showed that listening to Mozart’s music may induce a short-term improvement in the performance of certain kinds of mental tasks. Now considered a neuromyth.
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) — Noninvasive neuroimaging technique that uses magnetic energy to generate images that reveal some of the structural details in the living brain and throughout the body.

multidisciplinary approach — Composed of or combining several usually separate branches of learning or fields of expertise.
multi-tasking – Refers to the neuromyth that people can do multiple tasks at the same time, when in reality humans can usually only manage to do one heavy cognitive load task at a time.

musical affect — Feelings aroused by exposure to music.
myelin (sheath) — A fatty insulating substance that covers, at regular intervals, many of the axons in the central and peripheral nervous system. Myelin serves to increase the speed of transmission of impulses.

myelinization — The formation of the myelin sheath around a nerve fiber.


nativist philosophy — The doctrine that the mind produces ideas that are not derived from external sources.
nature versus nurture — The debate that concerns the relative importance of an individual’s innate versus personal experiences. This question was once considered to be an appropriate division of developmental influences, but since both types of factors are known to play such interacting roles in development, many modern psychologists consider the question obsolete, representing an outdated state of knowledge.

near infrared (NIR) device — Devices to detect infrared radiation variances (not temperature). Used in some brain imaging technology.
negative transfer (language) — When the relevant unit or structure of two different languages is the same, linguistic interference can result in correct language production, called positive transfer. Negative transfer occurs when speakers and writers transfer items and structures that are not the same in both languages.

negativity effect (psychology) — The tendency of people, when evaluating the causes of the behaviors of a person they dislike, to attribute positive behaviors to the situations surrounding the behaviors and negative behaviors to the inherent disposition of that person. The negativity effect is the inverse of the positivity effect, which is found when people evaluate the causes of the behaviors of a person they like. The negativity effect plays a role in producing the fundamental attribution error, a major contributor to prejudice.

neocortex — In evolutionary terms, the recently evolved six-layered portions of the cerebral cortex (found in mammals), sometimes referred to as the isocortex, the neocortex comprises the bulk of the cerebral hemispheres.
nervous system — A network of specialized cells that communicate information about an organism’s surroundings and itself. The interaction of the different neurons form neural circuits that regulate an organism’s perception of the world and what is going on with its body, thus regulating its behavior. It processes this information and causes reactions in other parts of the body. It is composed of neurons and glial cells that aid in the function of the neurons. The nervous system is divided broadly into two categories: the peripheral nervous system and the central nervous system. Neurons generate and conduct impulses between and within the two systems. The neurons of the nervous systems of animals are interconnected in complex arrangements and use electrochemical signals and neurotransmitters to transmit impulses from one neuron to the next.

neural connectivity — Links between neurons that are measured from length of dendritic “trees” of cortical neurons.
neural network pathway — A neural tract connecting one part of the nervous system with another, usually consisting of bundles of elongated, myelin-insulated neurons, known collectively as white matter. Neural pathways serve to connect relatively distant areas of the brain or nervous system, compared to the local communication of gray matter. neuroanatomy — A branch of neuroscience that deals with the study of the gross structure of the brain and the nervous system.

neuroarchitecture — Brain structure.
neurobiology — Forerunner to neuroscience, when the study of the brain was considered to be solely a biological science.
neurochemistry — The study of neurochemicals, which includes neurotransmitters and other molecules (e.g., neuroactive drugs) that influence neuron function. Closely examines the manner in which these neurochemicals influence the network of neural operation. This evolving area of neuroscience offers a neurochemist a micro–macro connection between the analysis of organic compounds active in the nervous system and neural processes such as cortical plasticity, neurogenesis, and neural differentiation. neurocognitive model (Atherton) — An educational design suggested by Michael Atherton, based on a model of cognition using a metaphor of neural activation and supported by findings in the neurosciences.

neuroconstructivism – A theory that states that gene–gene interaction, gene–environment interaction and, crucially, ontogeny all play a vital role in how the brain progressively sculpts itself and how it gradually becomes specialized over developmental time (Wikipedia, 2020).

neurodevelopmental constructs (Levine) — A theory of intelligence assessment developed by Mel Levine that focuses of eight mental systems: attention, temporal sequential ordering, spatial ordering, memory, language, neuromotor functions, social cognition, and higher-order cognition.

neuro-educator — A term coined first by O’Dell in 1981 and later used by Gardner to describe a new type of teacher who would be knowledgeable about how the brain works. neuroethics — Most commonly understood to be a subcategory of bioethics concerned with neuroscience and neurotechnology.

neurogenesis — The process by which neurons divide and propagate; the brain’s manufacture of new neurons, which continues into old age, though at a slower rate than in earlier decades.
neuroimaging — Includes the use of various techniques that allow scientists to see the living brain at work, either directly or indirectly creating different types of images of the structure, function, and pharmacology of the brain. Types of imaging include positron emission tomography (PET), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), computed axial tomography (CAT), diffuse optical imaging, single positron emission computer tomography (SPECT), and optical tomography (OT).

neurology — A medical specialty dealing with disorders of the nervous system. Specifically, it deals with the diagnosis and treatment of all categories of disease involving the central, peripheral, and autonomic nervous systems. A neurologist is a physician (not a surgeon) who specializes in neurology and is trained to investigate, or diagnose and treat, neurological disorders.

neuromapping — A term used to describe the location of certain skills, neural pathways, or systems of the brain.
neuromarketing — A new field of marketing that studies consumers’ sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective responses to marketing stimuli.

neuromyth — Misconceptions, misunderstanding, or misuse of information about the brain, which leads to false conclusions.
neuronal recycling — A hypothesis proposed by Stanislas Dehaene that suggests that the human capacity for cultural learning relies on a process of preempting or recycling preexisting brain circuitry.

neurons — Nerve cells located in the brain, which are composed of a nucleus, an axon, and dendrites. At birth, the typical brain contains over 100 billion neurons, whose

number slowly diminishes with age. Each neuron makes anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 synapses (connections) with other neurons. The basic building blocks of the brain, these cells receive input from other nerve cells and distribute information to other neurons; the information integration underlies the simplest and most complex of our thoughts and behaviors.

neuropathology — The study of disease of nervous system tissue, usually in the form of either small surgical biopsies or whole autopsy brains. Neuropathology is a subspecialty of anatomical pathology.
neurophysiology — Part of physiology; the study of nervous system function. neuroplasticity — The changing of neurons and the organization of their networks, and thus their function, via experience. This idea was first proposed in 1892 by Santiago Ramón y Cajal. Plasticity relates to learning by adding or removing connections or adding cells. The brain consists of nerve cells or neurons (and glial cells) that are interconnected; learning may occur through changes in the strength of the connections between neurons, by adding or removing connections, or by adding new cells.

neuropsychiatry — The branch of medicine dealing with mental disorders attributable to diseases of the nervous system.
neuropsychology — The scientific discipline that studies the structure and function of the brain related to specific psychological processes and overt behaviors. Alexander Luria integrated aspects of the psychoanalytic method and of psychology into neurology, becoming the founder of neuropsychology. The science that examines alterations in mental processes produced by brain damage.

neuroreceptors (biochemistry) — A receptor is a protein molecule, embedded in either the plasma membrane or cytoplasm of a cell, to which a mobile signaling molecule may attach. A molecule that binds to a receptor is called a ligand and may be a peptide (e.g., a neurotransmitter), a hormone, a pharmaceutical drug, or a toxin. When such binding occurs, the receptor undergoes a change that ordinarily initiates a cellular response.

neuroscience — The scientific discipline that studies the structure, function, development, genetics, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, and pathology of the nervous system. Traditionally it is seen as a branch of the biological sciences. However, recently there has been a convergence of interest from many allied disciplines, including psychology, computer science, statistics, physics, philosophy, mathematics, and medicine. The scope of neuroscience has now broadened to include any systematic scientific experimental and theoretical investigation of the central and peripheral nervous system of biological organisms. Furthermore, neuroscience is at the frontier of investigation of the brain and mind. The study of the brain is becoming the cornerstone in understanding how we perceive and interact with the external world and, in particular, how human experience and human biology influence each other.

neurotoxins — A toxin that acts specifically on nerve cells (neurons), usually by inter- acting with membrane proteins such as ion channels.
neurotransmitter — A brain chemical (molecule) that facilitates the communication between cells by binding to a receptor on the receiving (postsynaptic) neuron surface and activating a chemical (the second messenger) inside the cell. (Also referred to as a chemical transmitter.)

neurotrophic proteins — A family of proteins that induces the survival, development, and function of neurons.
NIH (National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD) — An agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services primarily responsible for biomedical and health-related research.

NIRS (near infrared spectroscopy) — A spectroscopic method that uses the near infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Typical applications include pharmaceutical, medical diagnostics, food and agrochemical quality control, as well as combustion research.

noise (language) — Unwanted sound; “noise pollution.”
noninvasive medicine — A medical procedure in which there is no contact with the mucosa, or skin break, or internal body cavity beyond a natural or artificial body orifice. Also related to an abnormal tissue growth, that doesn’t spread (invade) to the surrounding healthy tissue.
nonlinear system — Any system wherein the variable(s) to be solved for cannot be written as a linear combination of independent components.
nonparametric statistics — Distribution free methods that do not rely on assumptions that the data are drawn from a given probability distribution.
norepinephrine — The first neurotransmitter scientists studied to try to understand mood. Norepinephrine often amplifies signals that influence attention, perception, motivation, and arousal.
normalization — Any process that makes something more normal, which typically means conforming to some regularity or rule, or returning from some state of abnormality.

norm-referenced assessment — Designed to discover how an individual student’s performance or test result compares to that of an appropriate peer group. Also known as a standardized testing instrument by which the test-taker’s performance is interpreted in relation to the performance of a group of peers who have previously taken the same test. novelty — Newness.

nucleus accumbens — A collection of neurons within the striatum thought to play an important role in reward, laughter, pleasure, addiction, fear, and the placebo effect.

nucleus basalis — The gray matter of the substantia innominata (Latin for “unnamed substance”) of the forebrain that consists mostly of cholinergic neurons and is related to focused attention.

numeracy — A contraction of “numerical literacy,” also known as “quantitative literacy.” nutrition — The provision, to cells and organisms, of the materials necessary (in the form of food) to support life.


observational assessment — A process in which the teacher systematically observes and records information about students’ level of development and/or knowledge, skills, and attitudes in order to (1) make a determination about what has been learned, (2) improve teaching, and (3) support students’ progress. A checklist or notes are often used to record what has been observed.

observational learning — Learning that takes place through observing the actions of others.
occipital lobe — The most posterior lobe of the brain, associated with vision; also referred to as the visual cortex.

occipital position — Of, pertaining to, or situated near the occiput or the occipital bone. occipitotemporal — Of, relating to, or distributed throughout the occipital and temporal lobes of a cerebral hemisphere.
olfactory — Sense of smell.

ontogeny — Describes the origin and development of an organism from the fertilized egg to its mature form.
open-ended question — A question that has many avenues of access and allows students to respond in a variety of ways. Such questions have more than one correct answer.

open-ended task — A performance task in which students are required to generate a solution or response to a problem when there is no single correct answer.

open-response task — A performance task in which students are required to generate an answer rather than select an answer from among several possible answers, but there is a single correct response.
operant conditioning — The modification of behavior brought about over time by the consequences of said behavior. Operant conditioning is distinguished from Pavlovian conditioning in that operant conditioning deals with voluntary behavior explained by its consequences, whereas Pavlovian conditioning deals with involuntary behavior triggered by its antecedents.

ophthalmology — The branch of medical science dealing with the anatomy, functions, and diseases of the eye.
optical tomography (OT) — Real-time observation of brain functions using the better penetrating near infrared light, rather than visible light, to measure changes in blood hemoglobin concentrations in the brain. Infrared light is a type of radio wave that has a longer wavelength than that of visible light.

orbitofrontal position — Region of association cortex of the human brain involved in cognitive processes such as decision-making.
orchestrated immersion — One of three instructional techniques espoused by Renate and Geoffrey Caine in 1994 to provide learners with rich, complex educational experiences that include options and promote a sense of wholeness.

orienting network (attention) — One of three networks underlying attention (the other two being alerting and selective attention networks).
orthography — The correct way of using a specific writing system to write the language. outcome-based education — An integrated system of educational programs that aligns specific student outcomes, instructional methods, and assessment. This approach emphasizes educational outcomes rather than the educational process and focuses on the product of education (such as what kind of professionals will be produced, and with what professional knowledge, skills, abilities, values, and attitudes in X field).

outcomes — Changes in behavior, knowledge, understanding, ability, skills, or attitudes that occur as a result of participating in a program or course of study, receiving services, or using a product. All possible demonstrable results that stem from causal factors or activities.

overlearning — A pedagogical concept according to which newly acquired skills should be practiced well beyond the point of initial mastery, leading to automaticity.

oxygen — The third most abundant element in the universe by mass after hydrogen and helium and the most abundant element by mass in the Earth’s crust; vital for human life. oxygenation — The process by which concentrations of oxygen increase within a tissue.

P600 — A language-relevant event-related potential (ERP), or peak in electrical brain activity, measured by electroencephalography (EEG). Because it is thought to be elicited by hearing or reading grammatical errors and other syntactic anomalies, it is a common topic of study in neurolinguistic experiments.


paced challenges — Tests of learning conducted in incrementally difficult stages. parahippocampal gyrus — Also known as the hippocampal gyrus; a gray matter cortical region of the brain that surrounds the hippocampus and plays an important role in memory encoding and retrieval.

parallel distributed processing (PDP) — Original approach of the prevailing connectionist model; a neural network approach that stresses the parallel nature of neural processing and the distributed nature of neural representations.
parallel processing — The ability of the brain to simultaneously process incoming stimuli from several sources.

parasympathetic nervous system — One of the two systems that comprise the autonomic nervous system; a parasympathetic response constricts pupils, stimulates salivation constricts airways, slows the heartbeat, stimulates digestion, etc.
(pars) opercularis — Literally, “the part that covers.” This brain structure is the part of the inferior frontal gyrus that lies between the inferior precentral sulcus and the ascending ramus of the lateral sulcus. Called opercularis because it covers part of the insula.

parietal lobes — Located behind the frontal cortex and involved in perception of stimuli related to touch, pressure, temperature, and pain; and combines information from many sources: muscles, joints, eyes, and motor command centers. Associated with sensation (touch, kinesthesia, perception of temperature, vibration), writing, and some aspects of reading.

parietal position — Of or relating to the walls of a part, or forming the upper posterior wall of the head (as in parietal lobes of the brain).
pathway (neural) — A neural tract connecting one part of the nervous system with another, usually consisting of bundles of elongated, myelin-insulated neurons, known collectively as white matter. Neural pathways serve to connect relatively distant areas of the brain or nervous system, compared to the local communication of gray matter.

pattern (neuroscience) — In common usage, a pattern is a succession of repeating events: to follow a pattern is to do as was formerly done. Patterns of this type are governed by a generative rule: Repeat the last n events. The pattern can be continued when the rule has been discovered.

pattern recognition — The organism’s ability to recognize a new object or a new problem as a member of an already familiar class of objects or problems. The pattern recognition capability of the association cortex and other advanced regions of the cortex is called emergent because it truly emerges in the brain. Pattern recognition is not unique to humans; it is shared by every other species capable of learning.

Pavlovian conditioning — A form of associative learning that was first demonstrated by Ivan Pavlov. The typical procedure for inducing classical conditioning involves presentations of a neutral unconditioned stimulus (US) along with a stimulus of some significance, the conditioned stimulus (CS). If the CS and the US are repeatedly paired, eventually the two stimuli become associated, and the organism begins to produce a behavioral response to the CS. Pavlov called this the conditioned response (CR). Also known as classical conditioning.

pedagogy — The art or science of teaching.
pediatrics — The branch of medicine that deals with the medical care of infants, children, and adolescents.
peer review or peer evaluation — Method for evaluating professional attitudes and behavior; used by trainees to assess each other and also used by supervisors, nurses, and patients to assess trainees. Typical measurement tools for this form of testing are check- lists and questionnaires.
peptides — Any of various amides that are derived from two or more amino acids by combination of the amino group of one acid with the carboxyl group of another and are usually obtained by partial hydrolysis of proteins.
perception — Reports of sensory input. Perceptions emerge as a result of reverberations of signals between different levels of the sensory hierarchy, even across different senses. Many neuroscientists have suggested that perception arises not simply by building up bits of data through a hierarchy, but rather by matching incoming sensory data.
perceptual visual-noise exclusion hypothesis (dyslexia) — A hypothesis for the cause of dyslexia, related to the concept of a perceptual noise exclusion failure (impaired filtering of behaviorally irrelevant visual information in dyslexia).

performance assessment — Systematic and direct observation of a student performance or examples of student performances and ranking according to preestablished performance criteria. Students are assessed on the result as well as the process in which they engaged in completing a complex task or creating a product.

performance-based assessment — Any assessment strategy designed to estimate a child’s knowledge, understanding, ability, skill, or attitudes in a consistent fashion and across individuals; emphasizes methods other than standardized achievement tests, particularly those using multiple-choice formats. Typically include exhibitions, investigations, demonstrations, written or oral responses, journals, and portfolios.

performance criteria — The characteristics to be assessed for a given task. Performance criteria can be general, specific, analytical, trait, or holistic, and they can be expressed as a scoring rubric or scoring guide.
performance task — An assessment exercise that is goal- directed. The exercise is developed to elicit students’ application of a wide range of skills and knowledge in solving a complex problem.

peripheral nervous system (PNS) — Portion of the nervous system that includes all the nerves and neurons outside the brain and spinal cord; collection of nerves throughout the body. The PNS brings messages from the sense receptors to the spinal cord and brain and carries messages from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles and glands. This system has two subdivisions: the autonomic nervous system and the somatic nervous system. perisylvian fissure — One of the most prominent structures of the human brain, which divides the frontal lobe and parietal lobe above, from the temporal lobe below (also called lateral sulcus).

PET (positron emission tomography) scan — A nuclear medicine imaging technique that produces a three-dimensional image or picture of functional processes in the body. The system detects pairs of gamma rays emitted indirectly by a nuclear tracer, which is introduced into the body on a biologically active molecule. Images of tracer concentration in three-dimensional space within the body are then reconstructed by computer analysis. pharmacology — The study of drug action; more specifically, the study of the interactions that occur between a living organism and exogenous chemicals that alter normal biochemical function.

phase — A stage in a process of change or development
philosophy — The study of general and fundamental problems concerning subjects such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.

phenotype — An observable characteristic of an organism.
phoneme — In human phonology, the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances.
phonemic temporal processing — The relationship between auditory temporal processing, phonemic awareness, and possible reading disability roots.
phonological deficit theory (dyslexia) — A theory about the cause of dyslexia that postulates that a specific impairment in the representation, storage, or retrieval of speech sounds.
phonological processing — The study of the distribution and patterning of speech sounds in a language and of the tacit rules governing pronunciation.
phrenology — An outdated hypothesis stating that the personality traits of a person can be deduced from the shape of the skull; popularized by Franz Joseph Gall in 1796. phylogeny — The development or evolution of a particular group of organisms. physiology — The branch of biology dealing with the functions and activities of living organisms and their parts, including all physical and chemical processes.
Piaget’s stages of cognitive development — Piaget’s four levels of development are (1) infancy, (2) preschool, (3) childhood, and (4) adolescence. Each stage is characterized by a general cognitive structure that affects all of the child’s thinking.
planum temporale — The cortical area just posterior to the auditory cortex within the Sylvian fissure. It is a triangular region and forms the heart of Wernicke’s area, one of the most important functional areas for language.
plasticity — Refers to the ability to change the efficacy of synaptic transmission and neuronal connections in the face of altered afferent activity. Can occur at the level of synapses as well as within neural systems (e.g., visual cortex).
pole (temporal) — The anterior end of the temporal lobe in the brain is the temporal pole.
portfolio (education) — A collection of various samples of a student’s work throughout the school year that can include writing samples, examples of math problems, and results of science experiments.
portfolio assessment — An assessment process based on the collection of student work (e.g., written assignments, drafts, artwork, and presentations) that represents competencies, exemplary work, or the student’s developmental progress. A collection of work, usually drawn from children’s classroom work, which, when subjected to objective analysis, becomes an assessment tool.

posterior position — Literally, toward the back (opposed to anterior); situated behind or at the rear of; hinder.
prefrontal cortex — The anterior part of the frontal lobes of the brain, lying in front of the motor and premotor areas. This brain region is implicated in planning complex cognitive behaviors, personality expression, decision-making, and moderating correct social behavior. The basic activity of this brain region is considered to be orchestration of thoughts and actions in accordance with internal goals.

premotor areas (supplemental motor areas) — Brodmann’s area 6, located immediately anterior to the motor strip; this portion of the frontal lobe is responsible for the programming of motor movements (except speech).
preservation (self) — Behavior that ensures the survival of an organism and is universal among living organisms. Self-preservation may also be interpreted figuratively, in regard to the coping mechanisms one needs to prevent emotional trauma from distorting the mind.

primacy (recency) effect — Refers to the finding that recall accuracy varies as a function of an item’s position within a study list. When asked to recall a list of items in any order (free recall), among earlier list items, the first few items are recalled more frequently than the middle items.

primary auditory cortex — Brodmann’s areas 41 and 42; responsible for the awareness of sound and the ability to react reflexively to sounds.
primary motor area — Brodmann’s area 4; responsible for initiation of voluntary movement.

primary visual area — An area located within the occipital lobe that receives input from the optic tract; damage to this area may cause blind spots in the visual field or total blind- ness.
priming (psychology) — Occurs when an earlier stimulus influences response to a later stimulus.

principle (philosophy) — A fundamental, primary, or general law or truth from which others are derived.
prior knowledge — The range of one’s information or understanding at any given time. problem-based learning (PBL) — A student-centered instructional strategy in which students collaboratively solve problems and reflect on their experiences. This method challenges students to “learn to learn,” working cooperatively in groups to seek solutions

to real-world problems. These problems are used to engage students’ curiosity and initiate learning the subject matter.
problem-solving (education) — A method of learning in which students evaluate their thinking and progress while solving problems. The process includes determining solution strategies to similar problems and pinpointing additional problems within the context of their investigation.

procedural knowledge — The knowledge of how to perform some task; differs from propositional knowledge about problem-solving.
procedural memory — See “memory (procedural).”
projections (psychology) — The unconscious act of denying one’s own attributes, thoughts, or emotions, which are ascribed to the outside world, like the weather, the government, a tool, or another person or group of people. The fundamental mechanism by which we keep ourselves uninformed about ourselves.

proliferation (cell) — Related to cell growth; used in the contexts of cell development and cell division (reproduction). When used in the context of cell division, it refers to growth of cell populations, wherein one cell (the “mother cell”) grows and divides to produce two “daughter cells.”

propagation — Reproduction.
protons — A subatomic particle with an electric charge of +1 elementary charge found in the nucleus of each atom.
pruning — Brain process of getting rid of unneeded neurons. Also referred to as apoptosis. Occurs after birth and at different time courses for different parts of the brain, the frontal cortex being the last. Pruning is not random, but rather is a consequence of rein- forcing heavily used neural structures and letting go of those underused or not used at all. psychiatry — A medical specialty devoted to the treatment and study of mental disorders.
psychobiology — The application of the principles of biology, in particular neurobiology, to the study of mental processes and behavior.
psycholinguistics — The study of the psychological and neurobiological factors that enable humans to acquire, use, comprehend, and produce language.
psychological neuroscience — The application of the principles of biology, in particular neurobiology, to the study of mental processes and behavior in human and nonhuman animals. Also known as behavioral neuroscience.

psychology — The science of behavior and mental processes; the scientific study of mind and behavior.
psychometry — The field of study concerned with the theory and technique of educational and psychological measurement, which includes the measurement of knowledge, abilities, attitudes, and personality traits.

psychopharmacology — The study of drug-induced changes in mood, sensation, thinking, and behavior.
psychophysiology — The branch of psychology that is concerned with the physiological bases of psychological processes. (Also known as cognitive neuroscience.)

psychosocial factors/attributes — Descriptive term that conveys psychological development in interaction with a social environment. It was first commonly used by psychologist Erik Erikson in his stages of social development.
pullout programs — Students receive instruction in small groups outside of the class- room.

Pygmalion effect — Refers to situations in which students perform better than other students simply because they are expected to do so. (Also known as the Rosenthal effect.) Lead to the belief that students live up or down to the expectations placed on them.

pyramidal cells — The primary excitation units of the prefrontal cortex and the corticospinal tract. A type of neuron found in areas of the brain, including the cerebral cortex, the hippocampus, and the amygdala; first discovered and studied by Santiago Ramón y Cajal and are now studied in relation to the neuroplasticity of cognition.



radioactive isotope — An atom with an unstable nucleus, which is a nucleus characterized by excess energy that is available to be imparted either to a newly created radiation particle within the nucleus or to an atomic electron. Radionuclides may occur naturally, but can also be artificially produced. The radionuclide undergoes radioactive decay and emits a gamma ray(s) and/or subatomic particles. Radionuclides are often referred to by chemists and physicists as radioactive isotopes or radioisotopes.

rapid auditory processing theory (dyslexia) — A theory of the causes of dyslexia based on belief that the primary deficit lies in the perception of short or rapidly varying sounds. reactivation — To render active again; revive.
readiness test — A testing instrument designed to measure skills believed to be related to school learning tasks and to be predictive of school success.

reasoning — The cognitive process of looking for reasons for beliefs, conclusions, actions, or feelings.

recognition memory — The ability to correctly remember something that has been encountered before. Recognition memory is a subcategory of declarative memory. Recognition occurs if the environmental content (i.e., the stimulus) matches the memory content. (If there is a mismatch, then recognition does not occur.)

recollection (memory) — The retrieval, or recall, of memory; various means, including metacognitive strategies, priming, and measures of retention, may be employed to make the best use of memory.
recording (single-cell) — A technique used in research to observe changes in voltage or current in a neuron. In this technique an animal, usually anesthetized, has a microelectrode inserted into its skull and into a neuron in the area of the brain that is of interest. The electrode measures the changes in charge as the neuron reaches its action potential. recruitment (neuroscience) — Use of one hemisphere to conduct tasks normally associated to the other hemisphere.

recurrent connections — Reestablishment of neural connections in the brain.

reductionism — Reducing complex things to the interactions of their parts, or to simpler or more fundamental units. Also known as a philosophical position that a complex system is nothing but the sum of its parts, and that an account of it can be reduced to accounts of individual constituents.
reflective learning processes — An important model of learning that is based on the principle of gaining from the learner’s own experience and has very clear links with the model of self-directed learning. Students use their knowledge, skills, and attitudes to solve problems. However, many problems are ambiguous and create surprises. Recognition of these surprises causes the student to review problems and create alternative hypotheses, which is termed reflection in action. Reflecting on action involves looking back critically over the initial “surprise” and the resolution of the problem. The process of reviewing and evaluating information leads to learning, which in turn adds to expertise.

reinforcement (psychology) — The process by which a response is strengthened. The occurrence of a stimulus or event following a response that increases the likelihood of that response being repeated. Reinforcement is not essential for learning to occur. Rather, the expectation of reinforcement affects the performance of what has been learned. In operant conditioning, reinforcement is any change in an organism’s surroundings that occurs regularly when the organism behaves in a given way (i.e., is contingent on a specific response).

reliability (psychology, neuroscience) — An indicator of score consistency over time or across multiple evaluators. Reliable assessment is one in which the same answers receive the same score regardless of who performs the scoring or how or where the scoring takes place. The same person is likely to get approximately the same score across multiple test administrations.

REM (rapid eye movement) — Stage of sleep characterized by the rapid movement of the eyes, low muscle tone, and a rapid, low-voltage EEG, which occupies 20–25% of total sleep (about 90–120 minutes of a night’s sleep) and occurs four to five times a night in an average adult.

REM sleep (role in memory consolidation) — Numerous studies have suggested that REM sleep is important for consolidation of procedural and spatial memory.

remediation — The act of correcting or counteracting.
representation — The act or action of bringing before the mind.

research — Scientific inquiry or an organized quest for new knowledge and better under- standing, such as of the natural world or determinants of health and disease. Research can take several forms: empirical (observational), analytical, experimental, theoretical, and applied.

resolution (spatial and temporal) — Angular resolution or spatial resolution describes the resolving power of any image-forming device, such as an optical or radio telescope, a microscope, a camera, or an eye. Temporal resolution refers to the precision of a measurement with respect to time. Often there is a tradeoff between temporal resolution of a measurement and its spatial resolution. This tradeoff can be attributed to the finite speed of light and the fact that it thus takes a certain time for the photons carrying information to reach the observer.

reticular activating system (RAS) — The component of the reticular formation that is responsible for the sleep–wake cycle that mediates various levels of alertness. The RAS is the part of the brainstem in charge of general arousal and responsible for being able to pay attention.

reversibility (Piaget) — Part of the concrete operational stage in Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development; the mental process of understanding that numbers and objects can change and then return to their original state.
reward system — In neuroscience, a collection of brain structures that attempts to regulate and control behavior by inducing pleasurable effects.

rewiring — Reconnections between neural pathways.
risk factor — An aspect of personal behavior or lifestyle, environmental exposure, or inborn or inherited characteristic, which, on the basis of epidemiological evidence, is known to be associated with an unfavorable health-related condition and considered important to prevent, if possible. It is used as an indication of increased probability of a specified health outcome, such as the occurrence of a disease, but is not necessarily a causal factor.
rostral position — Literally, toward the beak; rostral can mean the same as superior, and is an antonym of caudal.
rote learning — A learning technique that avoids the inner complexities and inferences of the subject being learned and instead focuses on memorization of the material so that it can be recalled by the learner exactly the way it was read or heard.
rote memory — See “memory (rote).”
rubrics — Descriptive scales for organizing and interpreting data gathered from observations of students’ performance on a learning task or of their developmental status. Rubrics describe levels of performance of a student’s work or a particular area of knowledge by defining varying levels of quality or mastery and providing indicators of each level.
rule — A prescribed guide for conduct or action.


savant syndrome — An expert or wise person. In savant syndrome, a rare condition in which persons with developmental disorders have one or more areas of expertise, ability, or brilliance that are in contrast with their overall limitations.
scaffolding — An instructional approach in which the teacher breaks a complex task into smaller pieces, models the desired learning strategy or task, provides support as students learn to do the task, and then gradually shifts responsibility to the students. In this manner, a teacher enables students to accomplish as much of a task as possible without adult assistance. A way of teaching in which the teacher provides support in the form of modeling, prompts, direct explanations, and targeted questions, offering a teacher-guided approach at first. As students begin to acquire mastery of targeted objectives, direct supports are reduced and the learning becomes more student-guided.

scan — An image formed by some kind of machine that systematically investigates its target using a particular type of energy (e.g., magnetic resonance, positron emission).

scanner — A medical device for scanning a living body to collect diagnostic information.

schema — An organized cluster of information about a particular topic.
scheme — A systematic or organized configuration.
scientific method — A body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.
scientifically based research (education) — Research that involves the application of rigorous, systematic, and objective procedures to obtain reliable and valid knowledge relevant to educational activities and programs.
screening (education) — The use of a brief procedure or instrument designed to identify, from within a large population of children, those who may need further assessment to verify developmental or health risks.
segmentation (biology) — Refers to the division of bodies into a series of semi-repetitive segments, and the question of the benefits and costs of doing so. As such, segmentation is related to the more general concept of modularity parts.
seizure — A sudden attack (as of disease) or the physical manifestations (as convulsions, sensory disturbances, or loss of consciousness) resulting from abnormal electrical discharges in the brain (as in epilepsy).
self-advocacy — The development of skills and understandings that enable children and adults to explain their specific learning disabilities to others and cope positively with the attitudes of peers, parents, teachers, and employers.
self-concept — The mental and conceptual awareness and persistent regard that sentient beings hold toward their own being. Components of a being’s self-concept include physical, psychological, and social attributes; and can be influenced by habits, beliefs attitudes, and ideas. These components and attributes can each be condensed to the general concepts of self-image and the self-esteem.
self-control — The ability to control one’s emotions and desires; the capacity of efficient management in relation to the future.
self-correction — The ability to fix errors by oneself.
self-directed learning — A form of education that involves the individual learner’s initiative to identify and act on his or her learning needs (with or without assistance), taking increased responsibility for his or her own learning.
self-direction — The ability to manage or guide oneself.

self-efficacy — The belief that one has the capabilities to execute the courses of actions required to manage prospective situations. Unlike efficacy, which is the power to produce an effect (in essence, competence), self-efficacy is the belief (however accurate) that one has the power to produce that effect.

self-esteem — Includes a person’s subjective appraisal of him- or herself (or self-worth) as intrinsically positive or negative to some degree.
self-monitoring — The ability to observe oneself and know when one is doing an activity according to a standard; for example, knowing if one does or does not understand what one is reading or whether one’s voice tone is appropriate for the circumstances or too loud or too soft.

self-preservation — Behavior that ensures the survival of an organism.
self-reflection — Self-observation and reporting of conscious inner thoughts, desires, and sensations; also known as introspection.
self-regulation (learning) — Learning that is guided by metacognition (thinking about one’s thinking), strategic action (planning, monitoring, and evaluating personal progress against a standard), and motivation to learn.
semantic maps — A strategy for graphically representing concepts that expands a student’s vocabulary by encouraging new links to familiar concepts. Instructionally, semantic maps can be used as a prereading activity for charting what is known about a concept, theme, or individual word. They can also be used during reading as a way to assimilate new information learned from the text.
sensitive period — A term coined by the Dutch geneticist Hugo de Vries and adopted by the Italian educator Maria Montessori to refer to important periods of childhood development. Montessori believed that every human being goes through a series of quantum leaps in learning during the preschool years. Drawing on the work of de Vries, she attributed these behaviors to the development of specific areas of the human brain, which she called nebulae. Commonly used nowadays in place of critical periods.
sensory input — Environmental stimuli that is input through sight, smell, sound, touch or taste.
sensory neuron — nerve cells responsible for converting external stimuli into internal electrical impulses.

sensory store — The human memory has three processes: encoding (input), storage (throughput), and retrieval (output). Storage is the process of retaining information, whether in the sensory memory, the short-term memory, or the more permanent long- term memory.

sequence learning — The ability to comprehend and apply the correct steps or stages needed to achieve a process.
serial processing — A process in which steps are performed sequentially.
seriation — The belief that researchers can only apply meaning to phenomena based on the phenomena’s relationships within a series of comparable phenomena, as in ordered numbers.

serotonin — A modulatory neurotransmitter in the brain that has been implicated in the regulation of “mood states,” including depression, anxiety, and impulsive violence, as well as in food intake.
shaping — The differential reinforcement of successive approximations; more commonly, shaping is a conditioning procedure used primarily in the experimental analysis of behavior. In shaping, the form of an existing response is gradually changed across successive trials toward a desired target behavior, using differential reinforcement. The principles of shaping are present in our everyday interactions with the environment, as in pattern recognition.

short-term store (memory) — See “memory (short-term).”
signal (neuroscience) — A change in the membrane potential of a postsynaptic neuron as a result of input from a presynaptic neuron or as a result of activation of a sensory receptor. A neuron uses its dendrites to receive signals from other nerve cells, and its axons to send signals to other cells. There are two types of signals, local and propagated. Local signals are synaptic potentials and are restricted to a certain space and do not prop- agate actively. Propagated signals are action potentials that pass along the whole length of the axon to the synaptic terminals.
signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) — An electrical engineering measurement defined as the ratio of a signal power to the noise power corrupting the signal. In less technical terms, SNR compares the level of a desired signal (e.g., music) to the level of background noise. The higher the ratio, the less obtrusive the background noise is.

social brain hypothesis — Model proposed by Robin Dunbar, who argues that human intelligence did not evolve primarily as a means to solve ecological problems, but rather as a means of surviving in large and complex social groups.
social cognition — The study of how people process social information, especially its encoding, storage, retrieval, and application to social situations. The focus on information processing has many affinities with its sister discipline, cognitive psychology.

social cognitive neuroscience — The investigation of the biological basis of social cognition, that is, processes that involve interaction with members of the same species. The study of social phenomena and processes using cognitive neuroscience research tools such as neuroimaging and neuropsychology.

social intelligence — The capacity to utilize the major functions of the social brain: inter- action synchrony, types of empathy, social cognition, interaction skills, and concern for others.
social–emotional learning (Bar-On) — Effectively understanding oneself and others, relating well to people, and adapting to and coping with the immediate surroundings to be more successful in dealing with environmental demands. Bar-On posits that skill in this ability develops over time and that it can be improved through training, programming, and therapy.

socioeconomically disadvantaged group (education) — Students whose parents do not have a high school diploma or who participate in the federally funded free/reduced price meal program because of low family income.
Socratic method — A dialectic method of inquiry, largely applied to the examination of key moral concepts and first described by Plato in the Socratic dialogues. Currently used in modern pedagogy as a means of helping students find the answers to questions within themselves.

social sciences — The fields of academic scholarship that explore aspects of human society and include anthropology, archeology, cultural studies, economics, education, history, geography, international relations, linguistics, philology, sociology, and psychology.

sociology — The study of human societies.
somatic marker hypothesis — The theory that emotion derives in large part from bodily states and plays an important, largely underappreciated role in rational thought and decision-making.

somatic nervous system — One of two divisions of the peripheral nervous system. Responsible for voluntary muscle control, touch, and proprioception. Relays motor commands from the brain to the muscles. Sends feedback information from receptors to the brain.

somatosensory system — A diverse sensory system comprising the receptors and processing centers that produce the sensory modalities such as touch, temperature, body position, and pain. The sensory receptors cover the skin and epithelia, skeletal muscles, bones and joints, internal organs, and the cardiovascular system.

somatotopic arrangement — The maintenance of spatial organization within the central nervous system.
spatial resolution — Angular or spatial resolution describes the resolving power of any image-forming device, such as an optical or radio telescope, a microscope, a camera or an eye.

spatial intelligence — An understanding and use of spatial memory and perception to position oneself correctly, depending on the task.
spatial sequential organization (Levine) — One of eight neurodevelopmental constructs in Levine’s theory that describes the ability to correctly order concepts, ideas or physical structures.

special education — Describes an educational alternative that focuses on the teaching of students with academic, behavioral, health, or physical needs that cannot sufficiently be met using traditional educational programs or techniques. Special instruction provided for students with educational or physical disabilities, tailored to each student’s needs and learning style. Services offered to children who possess one or more of the following disabilities: specific learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, multiple disabilities, hearing impairments, orthopedic impairments, visual impairments, autism, combined deafness and blindness, traumatic brain injury, and other health impairments.

SPECT (single photo emission computerized tomography) scan — Research technique wherein a patient is injected with a radioactive isotope that is carried by the blood to active brain areas. A special camera is then used to photograph the isotope’s distribution.
spike (action potential) — A spike noted in an action potential (or nerve impulse) is a transient alteration of the transmembrane voltage (or membrane potential) across an excitable membrane generated by the activity of voltage-gated ion channels embedded in the membrane.

spin (physics) — In quantum mechanics, a fundamental property of atomic nuclei, hadros, and elementary particles.
spiral scanning — Helical (or spiral) cone beam computed tomography is a type of three- dimensional computed tomography (CT) in which the source (usually of X-rays) describes a helical trajectory relative to the object; a two-dimensional array of detectors measures the transmitted radiation on part of a cone of rays emanating from the source.

standardized tests — Assessments that are administered and scored in exactly the same way for all students. Traditional standardized tests are typically mass-produced and machine-scored; they are designed to measure skills and knowledge that are thought to be taught to all students in a fairly standardized way. Performance assessments also can be standardized if they are administered and scored in the same way for all students. A testing instrument that is administered, scored, and interpreted in a standard manner. It may be either norm-referenced or criterion-referenced. Often relies on multiple-choice questions, and the testing conditions—including instructions, time limits, and scoring rubrics—are the same for all students, though sometimes accommodations on time limits and instructions are made for disabled students.

standards-based assessment — A process through which the criteria for assessment are derived directly from content and/or performance standards.
standards (education) — Statements of what students should know and be able to do. Various standards have been developed by national organizations, state departments of education, districts, and schools. Widely accepted statements of expectations for children’s learning or the quality of schools and other programs.

stimulation (physiology) — The action of various agents on muscles, nerves, or a sensory end organ, by which activity is evoked.
stimulus (psychology) — Some physical reality (e.g., a sound or a smell) that is capable of stimulating the sensory organs of the organism receiving it (stimulates some response from the organism or is predominantly external in origin).

storage (psychology) — The process of retaining information in memory so that it can be used at a later time.
stress (psychology) — A physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation. A state of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium. By producing an over-abundance of sympathetic action, stress puts homeostasis in an imbalance. Some types of stress

are good for learning; others, such as learned helplessness, are not. Learned helplessness is a belief in one’s inability to control the aversive stimuli that are coming at one.
striatum — Anatomically, the striatum is the caudate nucleus and the putamen; also known as striate body or striate nucleus, a subcortical (i.e., inside, rather than on the outside) part of the telencephalon/cerebrum. It is the major input station of the basal ganglia system.

structural imaging — See “neuroimaging.”
student-centered learning — An approach to education focusing on the needs of the students, rather than those of others involved in the educational process, such as teachers and administrators. This approach has many implications for the design of curriculum, course content, and the interactivity of courses.
subject-based teaching — A method of teaching in which each subject area of curriculum is addressed separately. In the past, this model had been very prominent in basic science education. Now, however, it is gradually being replaced with a problem- based learning (PBL), wherein knowledge and skills unfold as elements in cases that illustrate real-life situations.
sulcus (pl. sulci) (neuroanatomy) — A depression or fissure in the surface of the brain. It surrounds the gyri, creating the characteristic appearance of the brain in humans and other large mammals.
summative assessment — Generally carried out at the end of a course or project. In an educational setting, summative assessments are typically used to assign students a course grade.
supplementary motor area — Part of the sensorimotor cerebral cortex. It is located on the medial face of the hemisphere, just in front of primary motor cortex. This element appeared late in evolution; in monkeys, linked to the appearance of a true medial pallidum.
suppress (genetics) — To inhibit the expression of a gene or genes.
suppressor (genetics) — A mutant gene that suppresses the expression of another nonallelic mutant gene when both are present.
supramarginal gyrus — Brodmann’s area 40, of the parietal cortex in the human brain. It is bounded approximately by the intraparietal sulcus, the inferior postcentral sulcus, the posterior subcentral sulcus, and the lateral sulcus, and it is involved in reading both in regard to meaning and phonology.

sympathetic nervous system — A division of the autonomic nervous system that prepares the body for fight or flight.
synesthesia — A neurologically based phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who report such experiences are known as synesthetes. Over 60 types of synesthesia have been reported, but only a fraction has been evaluated by scientific research. Even within one type, synesthetic perceptions vary in intensity, and people vary in awareness of their synesthetic perceptions. In one common form of synesthesia, known as grapheme–color synesthesia or color–graphemic synesthesia, letters or numbers are perceived as inherently colored.

synapse — Point of contact between two neurons through which neurotransmitters are passed, which transmit neural messages. Each neuron makes anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 synapses with other neurons. A synapse can be either on, “excitatory,” or off, “inhibitory.” A piece of brain the size of a grain of sand would contain 1 billion synapses. synaptic potential — A change in the membrane potential of a postsynaptic neuron; can be either excitatory or inhibitory. If sufficiently strong, an excitatory synaptic potential will trigger an action potential in the postsynaptic cell.

synaptogenesis — The formation of synapses. Although it occurs throughout a healthy person’s lifespan, an explosion of synaptic formation occurs during early brain development. synchronization — Timekeeping that requires the coordination of events to operate a system in unison. The familiar conductor of an orchestra serves to keep the orchestra in time. Systems operating with all their parts in coordination are said to be synchronous or in sync.

syndrome (medicine, psychology) — An association of several clinically recognizable features, signs (observed by a physician), symptoms (reported by the patient), phenomena, or characteristics that often occur together, so that the presence of one feature alerts the physician to the presence of the others. In recent decades the term has been used outside of medicine to refer to a combination of phenomena seen in association.

syntax (linguistics) — The study of the principles and rules for constructing sentences. In addition to referring to the discipline, the term syntax is also used to refer directly to the rules and principles that govern the sentence structure of any individual language. The way in which linguistic elements (e.g., words) are put together to form constituents (e.g., phrases or clauses) and the related parts of grammar.

synthesis — Commonly understood to be an integration of two or more preexisting elements, which results in a new creation.


taxonomy of educational objectives — An educational taxonomy that classifies educational objectives into three domains: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor.

teach — To inform, educate, explain, tutor, instruct, coach, train, enlighten, discipline, drill, school, indoctrinate, or impart knowledge of or skill in. To cause to know some- thing; to cause to know how; to accustom to some action or attitude; to cause to know the disagreeable consequences of some action; to guide the studies of; to impart the knowledge of; to instruct by precept, example, or experience; to make known and accepted; or to conduct instruction regularly in.

teacher-centered education — An educational system in which the teacher dictates what is being taught and how it is to be learned. The teacher is the central or key figure and activities such as the formal lecture and the formal laboratory are emphasized. Individual students have little control over what they learn, the order in which they learn, and the methods they must use. In this approach, learning is more passive than active. It is the opposite of the student/ learner-centered approach.

teacher self-efficacy — A teacher’s beliefs about his or her own capacity for producing a desired result or effect; effectiveness.
teaching for understanding (education) — A teaching method that focuses on the process of understanding as the goal of learning rather than simply the development of specific skills. It focuses on forming connections and seeing relationships among facts, procedures, concepts, and principles, and between prior and new knowledge.

team teaching — A teaching method in which two or more teachers teach the same subjects or theme. The teachers may alternate teaching the entire group or divide the group into sections or classes that rotate between the teachers.
technology (education) — In education, a branch of knowledge based on the development and implementation of computers, software, and other technical tools, and the assessment and evaluation of students’ educational outcomes resulting from their use of technology tools.

temporal lobe — The lobe of the brain that is inferior to the lateral sulcus and anterior to the occipital lobe; it is associated with auditory processing and olfaction. Located below the frontal and parietal lobes; involved in perception and recognition of auditory stimuli

and memory. Concerned with recognizing and naming individual objects and responding to them with the appropriate emotions. Part of the cortex that processes auditory input from the ears.
temporal resolution — Refers to the precision of a measurement with respect to time. Often there is a tradeoff between temporal resolution of a measurement and its spatial resolution. This tradeoff can be attributed to the finite speed of light and the fact that it takes a certain time for the photons carrying information to reach the observer. In this time, the system might have undergone changes itself. Thus, the longer the light has to travel, the lower is the temporal resolution.

temporal parietal lobe — An area of the brain that integrates sensory information from different modalities, and related to spatial sense and navigation.
temporal-sequential organization (Levine) — One of eight neurodevelopmental constructs suggested by Levine that relates to the proper ordering of time-bound concepts.

tenet — Any opinion, doctrine, dogma, etc., held as true by members of a profession, group, or movement.
test — A process through which the criteria for assessment are derived directly from content and/or performance standards.

thalamus — A subcortical structure that receives and integrates sensory information (with the exception of smell), from the periphery and sends the information to the cortex for further processing. A large mass of gray matter deeply situated in the forebrain at the topmost portion of the diencephalon, it is located inferior to the caudate nucleus and the fornix and medial to the lenticular nucleus. The structure has sensory and motor functions. thematic unit — A unit of study in which lessons are focused on a specific theme, some- times covering all core subject areas. It is often used as an alternative approach to teaching history or social studies chronologically.

theory of cognitive development (Piaget) — A developmental psychological theory developed by Jean Piaget to explain cognitive development. The theory is central to child psychology and is based on the notion that schemas—templates or blueprints of how one perceives the world—are formed during critical or sensitive periods, when children are particularly susceptible to certain information.

theory of mind — The ability to attribute mental states (beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.) to oneself and others and to understand that others have

beliefs, desires, and intentions that are different from one’s own. The ability to put oneself in someone’s “mental shoes.”
theory of multiple intelligences — A psychological and educational theory formulated by Howard Gardner in 1983 espousing that seven kinds of “intelligence” exist in humans, each relating to a different sphere of human life and activity: bodily-kinesthetic, logical- mathematic, language, spatial, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal. In recent years an eighth was added: naturalistic.

threat — An indication or warning of probable trouble.
threshold (psychology) — A theoretical concept used in psychophysics. A stimulus that is less intense than the sensory threshold will not elicit any sensation. Methods have been developed to measure thresholds in all of the senses. Several different sensory thresholds have been defined. Absolute threshold is the lowest level at which a stimulus can be detected. Recognition threshold is the level at which a stimulus cannot only be detected but also recognized. Differential threshold is the level at which an increase in a detected stimulus can be perceive. Terminal threshold is the level beyond which a stimulus is no longer detected.
TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) — A noninvasive method to excite neurons in the brain: weak electric currents are induced in the tissue by rapidly changing magnetic fields (electromagnetic induction). In this way, brain activity can be triggered with minimal discomfort, and the functionality of the circuitry and connectivity of the brain can be studied.
top-down processing — Analysis that moves from the whole to the parts; information processing that emphasizes the importance of the observer’s knowledge, expectations, and other cognitive processes in arriving at meaningful perceptions;
toxicology — The study of the adverse effects of chemicals on living organisms.
tracer (radioactive) — A substance containing a radioisotope (i.e., an isotope that has an unstable nucleus and that stabilizes itself by spontaneously emitting energy and particles). Tracers can be used to measure the speed of chemical processes and to track the movement of a substance through a natural system, such as a cell or a tissue.
tracking (education) — A common instructional practice of organizing students into groups based on their academic skills. Tracking allows a teacher to provide the same level of instruction to the entire group.

traditional assessment — An assessment in which students select responses from a multiple-choice list, a true/false list, or a matching list. (Compare to “alternative assessment.”)

transdisciplinary studies — An area of research and education that addresses contemporary issues that cannot be solved by one or even a few points of view. It brings together academic experts, field practitioners, community members, research scientists, political leaders, and business owners, among others, to solve some of the pressing problems facing the world, from the local to the global.

triangulation — Research structure used to indicate that more than two methods are used in a study with a view to double (or triple) checking results. This is also called “cross examination.”
transfer — To convey or remove from one place, person, etc., to another.

transitivity — Passing over to or affecting something else; transient.
triarchic theory of intelligence (Sternberg) — A theory of intelligence developed by Robert J. Sternberg in 1985, concerning how well individuals deal with environmental changes throughout their lifespan. Sternberg’s theory comprises three parts: componential, experiential, and practical.
triple-code model (math) — The belief in a triple-code model of numerical processing, involving (1) analog magnitude, (2) auditory verbal, and (3) visual Arabic codes of representations of numbers.


understanding by design (education) — Theory of planning by Wiggins and McTighe (1998) that promotes “backward” design: (1) set objectives; (2) determine acceptable evidence; and (3) decide activities.
universal design for learning (UDL) — UDL provides a blueprint for creating flexible goals, methods, materials, and assessments that accommodate learner differences. Universal does not imply a single optimal solution for everyone. Instead, it is meant to underscore the need for multiple approaches to meet the needs of diverse learners.


validity (psychology, neuroscience) — An indication that an assessment instrument consistently measures what it is designed to measure, excluding extraneous features from such measurement. A term that reflects a solid foundation or justification for bringing the intended results. The establishment of validity is the first priority in developing any form of assessment. Without it, all other attributes are of little consequence.

ventromedial prefrontal cortex — A part of the prefrontal cortex in the mammalian brain, located in the frontal lobe and implicated in the processing of risk and fear, and in decision-making.
ventral tegmental area (VTA) — A group of neurons located close to the midline on the floor of the midbrain (mesencephalon).

verbal code (math) — A math subarea that rehearses rote memories of arithmetical facts through word repetition.
verbal fluency test — A kind of psychological test in which participants have to say as many words as possible from a category in a given time (usually 60 seconds). This cate- gory can be semantic, such as animals or fruits, or phonemic, such as words that begin with the letter “p” used in tests of aphasia.

visual perception — The ability to interpret information and surroundings from visible light reaching the eye; the resulting perception is what we experience as eyesight.
visual theory (dyslexia) — Theory of the cause of dyslexia being rooted in problems with the eyes or visual perception.

visuospatial perception — Related to thought processes that involve visual and spatial awareness.
voice (tone of) — The human voice consists of sounds made by using the vocal folds for talking, singing, laughing, crying, screaming, and so on. Generally speaking, the mechanism for generating the human voice can be subdivided into three parts; the lungs, the vocal folds within the larynx, and the articulators.


web of skills — A dynamic approach of viewing learning as overlapping webs of integrated abilities, skill domains, and developmental processes promoted by Kurt Fischer.

Wernicke’s area — An area of the brain, located in the temporal lobe on the posterior portion of the superior temporal gyrus, that is associated with the ability to understand and produce meaningful speech; a lesion in this area will cause Wernicke’s aphasia.

Wernicke’s aphasia — The lack of abilities associated with Wernicke’s area; also known as semantic aphasia.

What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) — An initiative of the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences established in 2002, the WWC is a central and trusted source of scientific evidence for what works in education.

white matter — The shiny layer underneath the cortex that consists mostly of axons with white myelin sheaths (in contrast to gray matter).
working memory — See “memory (working).”




zone of proximal development (Vygotsky) — Vygotsky’s concept of the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can do with help.