How neurosciences enlighten us about learning methods

“The 21st century will be the one of the brain”. These are the prophetic words of the one considered to be the Founding Fathers of modern neurobiology, Jean-Pierre Changeux. A Dumbledore 2.0 but less beard.

Only a few years after the swansong of the “decade of the brain” (90s) and under the impetus of dazzling technical progress (brain imaging and significant advances in molecular biology), the descendants of Prometheus have accumulated more knowledge about the brain during the last 25 years than in all of human history. That makes a lot of progress!

This new knowledge is all avenues for improving educational practices and training within companies. But the digital age, so fruitful in many ways, also brings its share of challenges and difficulties. Understanding the brain therefore responds to a double challenge: teaching better and learning better. But what can be done to better understand the brain?

The senses, generators of emotions, are at the heart of the learning process

Rule number 1: To capture the attention of your learners, you will be interested in senses and emotions.

N.B.: emotion arises from sensory perception via our sense organs.

Attention is a commodity in this age of infobesity. Our brain is constantly sough out (and distracted), thus complicating the trainer’s task. However, attention is crucial in learning process because it is the first step to achieve effective memorization (take a look at the pyramid, we promise you that it is not the Relics of the death).

learning pyramid

This influences hard skills and soft skills. The quality of attention is predictive of performance and determines the degree of well-being.

What to do ? Neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene wrote: “Learning is choosing the model that best explains the data received by the sense organs.” So you have to play with the senses and the emotions to capture one’s attention. The more the senses are stimulated, the more the attention of the sorcerer’s apprentice will be captured.

Since the brain has very specialized units (eg: one area processes images, another one for writing), plural use of the senses works wonders in learning. Human beings are above all visual, but the combination of sound and image (television, video game) makes the situation almost “hypnotic” for the brain. The more different senses are stimulated, the more they are activated and efficient.

Would we be losing you with all this theory? How about putting it into practice?

Virtual Reality (Immersive Learning for its application in education and training) generates exceptional emotional commitment (thanks to VR, apprentice sorcerers are 4 times more emotionally connected to the content offered than their face-to-face peers, according to a PwC study).

By immersing the learner in an environment that reproduces reality of the field, his senses are much more stimulated and his attention is 100% captured thanks to total immersion. In addition, in order to maintain optimal attention, the immersion modules are relatively short (between 5 and 9 minutes), facilitating the work of memorizing the brain.


Antonio Damasio, in L’Erreur de Descartes. La raison des émotions, has shown that cognition and emotions are intimately linked. However, not all emotions have the same impact on the brain : some are positive and should be nurtured while others are not. The example of stress is very interesting because there is a direct link between the level of pressure (challenge) and the quality of attention. A certain level of stress is required to facilitate attention, but above a certain threshold it becomes counterproductive.

Here too, Virtual Reality makes it possible to achieve this “flow”. It generates a sufficient level of emotion for a better memorial anchoring because the environment reproduces the realities of the field, creating the illusion for the brain, without ever generating it in an abusive way because there is no need to be afraid of the consequences. Indeed, Virtual Simulation offers an almost infinite “trial and error” where the sometimes intimidating gaze of others does not exist.

Rule number 2: To motivate and consolidate the learning of your learners, always on the senses and the emotions you will support yourself.

Emotions and senses promote an essential gain in motivation for an effective retention (memorization) of knowledge. Without memorization, there is no real learning. Indeed, the emotions symbolize an emotional state marking a reaction to an element present in our environment.

Whether positive or negative, in addition to generating attention, it helps to reproduce pleasant emotions and avoid what is not. According to a study by PwC, once in the field, in a real-life situation, apprentice sorcerers will be up to 275% more confident in applying what they have learned in Virtual Reality training.

In addition, emotions play a major role in the consolidation of hard and soft skills. Emotions amplify neural traces by involving a region of the brain that is crucial for learning : amygdala. Some scientific studies go even further, by seeking to demonstrate the link between emotions and creativity. A study by Barbara Frédrickson shows that people exposed to a pleasant emotion adopt a more effective and creative strategy.

Learning to learn and to relearn

Rule number 3: For a greater progress, repetitions and feedbacks you will do.

A Russian Proverb says: Repetition is the mother of learning. Indeed, the Bayesian brain theory (a scientific hypothesis that assumes our brain’s ability to do statistics from the information it collects) assumes that mistakes allow us to learn.

At the same time it reinforces the role of rehearsals and tests. That’s a possible thing thanks to Immersive Learning  (immersion in realistic situations too dangerous to reproduce in reality, infinitely reproducible at large scale) and inexpensive (all media are possible, including on smartphone or computer for a large-scale sharing).

New learning is inherently fragile. The consolidation of knowledge can be generated via two levers: rehearsals or by creating links. Repetitions will allow the learning to be empowered as it becomes more and more unconscious. The Stroop Effect illustrates well the role of repetitions in the learning process but also those of feedback

With trial-and-error dynamics, feedback are crucial to know the progression leeway. With Virtual Simulation, at the end of a training module, you can directly collect data of your sorcerer’s apprentices. Uptale’s data dashboard allows you to collect their feedback, in addition to in-depth analyzes such as voice analysis, heatmap, completion and to assess the impact of Virtual Reality on learning process.

Rule number 4: In a safe environment, your learners you will practice.

Neuroscientists like Robert Pawlak and James R. Flynn have shown that environment influences the quality of learning process. A climate of trust allows the brain to work in good conditions. Just as fear of failure and fear of the gaze of others usually generates counterproductive stress, Virtual Reality allows Harry apprentices to practice in peace.

uptale experience

In addition, to stimulate the senses, activities must also be varied and playful dimension should not be neglected, far from it. Thus, Immersive Learning, often qualified as serious game-augmented because, in addition to a playful dimension (3D handling, star gain, voice recognition, etc.), this technology makes it possible to reproduce reality on the ground and add an overlay of educational interactions

Playfulness dimension is very significant because it also generates dopamine. Learning activities that promote dopamine dramatically increase attention score and memorization. With Virtual Simulation, Hogwarts residents will be 4 times more focused than their comrades in e-learning (PwC study).

With the help of new technologies such as Uptale’s Virtual Reality and 360 ° platform, all that remains is to put into practice these few rules to better teach and learn better !

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Written by Corentin Luce.

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