Next Tuesday, cognitive neuroscientist Michael Posner will
be one of nine researchers this year to be awarded
the National Medal of Science, the highest honor given by the U.S.
government to scientists, educators and inventors. He wrote about his recent research
in this month’s Cerebrum story, “ How Arts Training Improves Attention and Cognition.”
He also took part in the Dana Foundation’s Arts &
Cognition Consortium, which in March 2008 reported evidence of close links
between training in the arts and improvement in certain cognitive areas, such
as memory, self control and attention. He is a strong advocate for spreading
the word about what we are have discovered about the brain and learning to the
public and to policy-makers, including coming here to the Dana Center in
Washington, D.C., in 2008 to talk about the consortium studies [see videocast].
I last saw him this May in Baltimore during the Learning, Arts,
and the Brain summit, sharing his research and participating in the small-group
brainstorming sessions with educators, arts advocates and state and regional
government leaders. The teachers and advocates at my table were quite taken
with him, especially his easy style and clear delivery that made the top-flight
research understandable, helping them to see clearly what we’ve learned about
learning and the brain and what we do not yet know.
My table-mates also commented on the discipline of research
in general and on how careful he and the other scientists were to claim only and
exactly what they could verify, unlike the intuitive and anecdotal reporting
education researchers often rely on. Transferring a more rigorous research
approach may be one of the first goals of people developing the nascent field of neuroeducation, which combines neuroscience, psychology and education to build improved teaching methods and curricula.