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Abstract Title: The Biology of Physics: What the Brain Reveals about Our Understanding of the Physical World
Abstract: Fundamental concepts in physics such as Newtonian mechanics are surprisingly difficult to learn and discover.  Physicists, philosophers, and educators have painstakingly detailed the use of concepts such as force yet the underlying mechanisms involved in the use of these concepts has been elusive.  Over the past decade we have been using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), brain damaged populations, and other neuroimaging techniques to uncover the neural substrates of conceptual change.  Using tasks derived from physics, chemistry, and biology we have found that conceptual change often involves the inhibition of prior knowledge and/or the recategorization of knowledge. The specific brain sites that we have discovered as being involved in conceptual change are the prefrontal cortex, the anterior cingulate as well the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. These regions are part of a network of brain sites that are involved in changes in knowledge use that are modulated both by experience and situational factors.  In this presentation I outline our findings and the implications for educational interventions.
Abstract Type: Invited Talk

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Kevin Niall Dunbar
University of Toronto