Applying neuroscience to learning

I was lucky enough to attend the pilot course in Neuroscience For L&D: Practical Principles For Transforming Learning at the CIPD headquarters in Wimbledon. It was a fantastic event facilitated by the fabulous Stella Collins. As a learning designer I believe it is vital to understand how people learn. The pilot event was a great opportunity to refresh my knowledge in this area and discover new ideas to create engaging learning experiences.


After delving into different parts of the brain, we discovered that information is temporarily stored in the hippocampus. Another delegate said the hippocampus sounded like a hippopotamus camp, the comment made me laugh which sparked an emotion and generated neurotransmitters, dopamine, and hormones, endorphins.

As a reflection tool I created the below to explain how information is stored, encoded and recalled in the brain. The context in which I have remembered this shows how my mind works… Childish I know, however it demonstrates you can easily create a learning anchor by related an item to something else, in this case zoo animals!

Apply neuroscience to learning design

As a group we looked at a ‘dry’ health and safety subject and discovered ways to use neuroscience to increase engagement. It was amazing to see how a simple, well told story stimulated our brains, grabbed our attention and draw us emotionally into the subject. Altering the way information was delivered allowed us to go through more stages of learning and provided plenty of opportunities to link and anchor key points into our memory.

Information Overload

Stella shared some wonderful research around brain waves, how these differ and how each has an effect on learning. I discovered that Beta brain waves are transmitted when we are focused in a physical activity or mental challenge and our bodies can’t maintain this for a prolonged period of time. If overloaded with Beta waves the brain will automaticity switch to Alpha waves and we will then start to day dream.

I volunteered to have information, quite literally, thrown at me and as a group we agreed on actions to prevent cognitive overload in training programs.

There are so many things to take away from this course and the research can be applied to any area of L&D and OD. I would fully recommend it to anyone who wants to improve the learning experiences or find out more about neuroscience.

The research into neuroscience has fascinated me for some time and I have shared articles in  previously, I look forward to continuing to increase my knowledge in this area.

2 thoughts on “Applying neuroscience to learning

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