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According to a new study led by our very own Department of Physics graduate student, Jessica Bartley, and Eric Brewe from Drexel University, learning physics, especially by solving problems, will make new areas of the brain become active and increase reasoning power.

With more than 50 volunteer students, the team conducted an experiment that showed the brain’s activity can be modified by different forms of instruction. The students’ brains were measured in certain areas using fMRI or functional magnetic resonance imaging, both pre- and post-learning.

Students were taught physics using “Model Instruction,” a style of teaching that encourages students to be pro-active in learning. Afterward, they were tested by taking the Force Concept Inventory. The inventory was able to assess their understanding of concepts that were being taught.

Comparison of the pre- and post-learning scans showed a considerable increase of activity in the frontal poles, which have been linked to learning in the brain. But they found another area that also became active, that is, the posterior cingulate cortex, which is linked to episodic memory and self-referential thought. As Brewe explained, “These changes in brain activity may be related to more complex behavioral changes in how students reason through physics questions post- relative to pre-instruction.”

Read the full International Business Times article to learn more.