Archive for January, 2014

Late Nights May Cause Disruptions In Teenage Education, Emotions

A recent study from UC Berkley has found that teenagers reporting bedtimes later than 11:30 have lower GPAs and higher rates of emotional problems than their peers.  This study also suggests that bright lights and electronics before bed may suppress the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone important for sleep.  Click here or read on for the full article.


In a study of 2,700 middle and high school adolescents, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley found that those who stay up later are more likely to struggle academically and emotionally.

In an analysis of the longitudinal data from the large study group, of which 30 percent reported bedtimes later than 11:30 pm on school days and 1:30 am in the summer, the team found by the time the students graduated those who slept less throughout the year had lower GPA scores and were more vulnerable to emotional problems than teens who went to bed early. They said their results add more weight to the argument schools should consider a later middle and high school start time.

“Academic pressures, busy after-school schedules, and the desire to finally have free time at the end of the day to connect with friends on the phone or online make this problem even more challenging,” Lauren Asarnow, lead author of the study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, said in a statement.

Asarnow added the findings highlight how a healthy sleep cycle can promote academic and emotional success.

“The good news is that sleep behavior is highly modifiable with the right support,” said Asarnow, a graduate student in UC Berkeley’s Golden Bear Sleep and Mood Research Clinic.

Researchers said going to bed late in the summertime did not negatively impact academic achievements. However, they did find a link between late summer bedtimes and emotional problems in young adulthood.

The team theorizes an “evening circadian presence” in adolescents is a confluence of biological factors, as well as parental monitoring, academic and social pressures and the use of electronic gadgetry.

“These findings underscore the significance of evaluating and monitoring bedtime in adolescents and the importance of intervention strategies that target bedtimes in an effort to reduce associated functional impairments, and improve academic and emotional outcomes,” the researchers wrote in the journal.

Another study at the same university found bright lights and laptops, smartphones and other electronic devices might suppress melatonin, which is a hormone that regulates sleep cycle. Dim lighting and limiting technology before bedtime may be one way for parents to help combat a night-owl.

‘This very important study adds to the already clear evidence that youth who are night owls are at greater risk for adverse outcomes,” UC Berkeley psychologist Allison Harvey, senior author of the paper, said in a statement. “Helping teens go to bed earlier may be an important pathway for reducing risk. This will not be an easy process. But here at Berkeley, our sleep coaches draw from the science of motivation, habit formation and sleep to help teens achieve earlier bedtimes.”

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Practice, Not Talent Helps Students Become Better Mathematicians

So there IS hope for those of us born without a “natural” talent for math!

It turns out that most people aren’t either inherently good or bad at math and stuck that way for life.  Rather, practice makes perfect as far as math is concerned.  Here’s how it works:  anytime you practice anything repetitive, be it piano, tennis, or an algebra problem, you activate neural pathways in your brain that become increasingly ingrained the more they are used.

I’ve seen this personally – I was never good at math until I had to practice it enough to be confident teaching it.  Now, I can do math problems better than almost anyone I know.  Read below or click here for the full article. 


New research published in the journal Psychological Reports could change the way math is taught in the classroom.

The traditional outlook on math is that it is a skill you are simply born with, but a team at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim says it is practice that makes perfect, rather than natural talent.

Researchers tested the math skills of 70 Norwegian fifth graders with an average age of about 10 years old. They found it is important to practice every single kind of math subject in order to be good at them all, and these are not skills that are just inherited.

“We found support for a task specificity hypothesis. You become good at exactly what you practice,” Professor Hermundur Sigmundsson, of NTNU’s Department of Psychology, said in a statement.

The team tested nine types of math tasks, ranging from normal addition and subtraction to oral multiplication and understanding the clock and calendar.

“Our study shows little correlation between (being good at) the nine different mathematical skills,” Sigmundsson said. “For instance there is little correlation between being able to solve a normal addition in the form of ’23 + 67′ and addition in the form of a word problem.”

While basic math may not be a problem for one student, reading itself could be, making written math problems more difficult for the student. Sigmundsson said some students could be good at geometry but may struggle in algebra, which means these students should be practicing more algebra.

“At the same time this means there is hope for some students. Some just can’t be good at all types of math, but at least they can be good at geometry, for example,” he said in a statement.

Being good at what you practice is due to the fact different kinds of practice activate different neural connections in the brain.

“This is also supported by new insights in neurology. With practice you develop specific neural connections,” says Sigmundsson.

Even though this study focused on math as a subject, the team said the results could be translated to other areas as well, even beyond education. A football player who practices hitting a field goal from 25 yards away will become good at exactly this, but not necessarily good at tackling or throwing.

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Spaced Learning Makes For Longer-Lasting Memories, Better Than Cramming

As a nontraditional medical student more than 10 years removed from my undergraduate degree, I have my work cut out for me.  Any study methods that will help me retain information more easily, and for longer, therefore get my attention.  Spaced learning is one such technique that you should immediately integrate into your study habits.  Spaced learning takes advantage of the scientifically proven tendency of the brain to retain information longer if the information is reviewed at specific time intervals – and luckily there is plenty of software that makes this easy to do!

Read below for more information, or click here to go directly to the article on Red Orbit’s Education site.


Those last-minute cramming sessions fueled by instant noodles and coffee might help you pass your exams. But they won’t help your brain remember things in the long term.

Scientists have long known that learning with breaks in between helps your brain remember things longer than when you try to cram it all in one go. Called the “spacing effect,” the phenomenon was first described by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus in 1885.

Researchers had previously shown that this type of spaced learning helps boost the lifetime of nerve cells in the hippocampus – the part of the brain where long-term memories are formed.

Now, a study conducted by researchers at the National Institute for Physiological Sciences, Japan throws light on what changes in the brain influence this long-term memory retention.

In their experiments, the researchers trained two groups of mice to track moving images and studied what is known as their horizontal optokinetic response – the reflex that helps you keep track of scenery when traveling in a train. One group was given breaks in between trials (“spaced” learning) while the others were given none (“massed” learning).

The mice were made to look at a quickly moving revolving image. A camera was used to track their eye movements to check for when they saw and responded to the image. After some initial difficulty, both groups of mice got used to the speed and were able to respond more quickly in subsequent trials.

However, mice that had ample rest in between trials were able to remember to adapt to the speed for a longer time, the researchers found. Giving them a break of just one hour between trials helped them remember what they had learned for more than four weeks.

The other group, which had been subjected to massed learning, was able to remember their training for only a week.

Memory retention in the hours following the training was linked to a drop in the number of nerve cell bridges and structural changes in a specific set of nerve cells called Purkinje cells. Purkinje cells play a vital role in controlling motor skills such as writing or walking. Defects in these cells can lead to poor learning or autism-like disabilities.

Changes in the Purkinje system happened very quickly for mice with spaced learning – within 4 hours after the training – while it took days for the other set of mice.

Spaced training also created repetitive peaks in specific signaling protein activity, while massed learning produced only one peak, after 20 minutes of training. As a result, recovery of information was faster, helping to form long-lasting memories in mice with spaced training, the researchers found.


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