In the summer of 2017, brain researcher Minna Huotilainen tweeted that she would one day like to give a lecture in a gym. We already know how to get pupils moving in comprehensive school, but the idea has not yet gained traction at the university level. Is the time ripe for an experiment?
In September 2018, Huotilainen’s dream will finally come true. Developed collaboratively by her and the Open University, the five-credit course Neuroscience of Learning will take place in the UniSport spinning room at the Meilahti Campus of the University of Helsinki. The course provides a fascinating glimpse into the connections between the brain and learning, such as brain plasticity, the impact of lifestyle choices and the physiology of learning. The lectures will be recorded, so they can be viewed even while exercising at home.
Professor Minna Huotilainen, why is exercise so good for the brain and learning?
“The benefits of exercise for learning are based on what happens in the brain during physical activity. To look at it the other way round: prolonged sitting and physical inactivity put the brain into a state in which learning gradually stops. After several hours of sitting, the brain is no longer primed for learning.”
How can learners best take care of their brain?
“First and foremost, our wellbeing requires sleep. Too little sleep or broken sleep is part of life, and you can cope with that for a while, for example if you are taking care of an infant, but it cannot continue in the long term. Combining commuting with exercise by walking or cycling to work or study is one solution. At least in Helsinki, it is often easier to do so than to use public transport.”
Why is knowledge about the brain and learning interesting and important?
“I began to study the brain and learning because I find them incredibly interesting. Learning and the provision of knowledge and education are a way to promote social equality and tolerance, increase wellbeing and help people make the most of their potential. The brain is a mystery. We understand only fragments of how the brain functions. We don’t yet have the knowledge to make sense of the brain as a whole. So there’s plenty to investigate!”
The Neuroscience of Learning course (5 cr) will begin on 25 September 2018. The lectures will be held in English. The course material is also available in Finnish. The learning assignments can be completed in Finnish, Swedish or English. More information and registration through the study programmes:
- Special Course in Education: Neuroscience of Learning
- Kasvatustieteen erikoiskurssi I: Neuroscience of Learning – Oppimisen aivotutkimusta (study program in Finnish)
Video: Ada Ullström