The Howard Exchange » Spotlight on Brain Research

Spotlight on Brain Research


Research Articles


This study sheds light on how structured literacy programs actually affect white matter in the brain.


Neuroscience is uncovering more knowledge about the functional impact of stimulant medications used to treat ADHD.  These medications seem to help in particular with working memory (holding information in the mind actively while doing something with it), sustained and focused attention, and inhibition (i.e., putting on the brakes and thinking about an action before executing it).  


This study provides additional evidence that brain-training/brain games are not well-established, empirically valid treatments for conditions such as learning disorders and ADHD.  The main problems are that the results of the "brain training" don't last, and they don't generalize into other domains of students' learning.  Exercise and sleep are still better use of time and money for developing healthy brains!


Although this study does not prove that sleep deprivation causes increased risk-taking, there is a suggestion that the two may be related.   Teens are significantly more likely to engage in a variety of unsafe behaviors when they are sleep deprived.


This is why we move around frequently during the day!


  • When there's an audience, people's performance improves
    • 2018 Johns Hopkins study found that the presence of others may give our brains more incentive to perform; an audience may actually enhance our cognitive performance (more likely if we are not anxious).
  • The impact of dark chocolate consumption on cognition and other brain functions
    • Maybe reaching for that chocolate in the bowl at work is a good thing!  This 2018 study found positive effects of dark chocolate on mood, memory, stress, the immune system, and inflammation!
  • The secret to honing kids' language and literacy
    • At The Howard School, we integrate teaching executive functioning skills such as self-regulation directly into lesson plans.  This Michigan State University study suggested that better regulated attention and impulse control led to stronger short and long-term language and literacy skill development in children. 
  • Regulating screen times may improve sleep health and reduce depression
  • Piano/music lessons can improve language functioning
    • An interesting finding out of M.I.T.- more evidence that music instruction has benefits for broader language and academic skill development
  • Sleep deprivation associated with increased anxiety and depression
    • Lack of sleep may make it more likely for people to experience prolonged intrusive thoughts that contribute to depression and/or anxiety, according to this study.
  • The jury is still out on Omega-3
    • This study failed to replicate earlier results suggesting a link between Omega-3 and child reading or memory skills.
  • ADHD affects teen driving
    • ADHD, but not depression, negatively impacts teen driving, according to this study.
  • Sedentary lifestyle associated with weaker memory
    • This study supports why SPARK is so important at Howard School!
  • What are the most important skills to succeed at a company at Google? It's habits of mind, not tech.
    • In this Washington Post Article, we learn "The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas."
  • Positive attitude toward math predicts math achievement
    • More research evidence of a connection between attitude, anxiety/stress, and the ability to learn math
  • Parents providing alcohol to teens at home does not reduce risk 
    • This is a large study out of Australia that suggests that parents who provide alcohol to teens under the pretense of safety/learning to drink responsibly do not actually mitigate risks associated with teen drinking.
  • The impact of too much junk food and energy drinks on the developing brain
    • The teen brain has particular risks, according to this research
  • Reading out load helps with memory
  • Yoga and meditation improve brain function
    • 25 minutes a day of yoga or mindfulness meditation has measurable effects on executive functions, including inhibiting negative behaviors, attention, and emotional regulation, according to this study.
  • Evidence for why we teach Metacognition at Howard
    • New research reveals that explicit training of metacognition-thinking about one's own thinking in the context of a challenging task- may lead to improvement in retention and academic performance.
  • "Vision Therapy" is not an evidence-based treatment for dyslexia
  • Brain food! What the research suggests about certain types
    • More research suggesting a linkage between nutrition and cognitive skills
  • Tween/teen sleep and risk for depression and addiction
    • This study suggests that chronic sleep deprivation in the tween and teen years disrupts the brain's processing of rewards, affecting mood and putting them at risk for depression, dangerous thrill seeking behavior, and/or addiction.
  • Student self-concept is a predictor of academic achievement
    • Student self-concept related to math and reading actually predicts long term math and reading achievement, even when controlling for ability and learning differences! This study supports the importance of a positive, growth mindset in students.
  • Reading and writing with your children at home improves literacy skills AND executive functions
    • Great research to suggest that parents who read and write more with their children at home not only improve emerging literacy skills, but also contribute to a lifetime of improved executive functions.
  • Why do boys with ADHD often fidget during academic tasks?
    • New research on boys with ADHD suggests that fidgeting happens when they are using a large amount of "working memory," which is more common on academic tasks than with leisure activities. This is why we accommodate fidgeting at The Howard School...fidgeting is adaptive and helps with focus!
  • More evidence that playing a musical instrument is good for the brain
    • THIS is why Howard School focuses so much on playing musical instruments!
  • Does anxiety come from perception of risk, or aversion to consequences?
    • This article summary sheds some light on how anxiety emerges- looks like anxious people overestimate the risk of negative outcomes, more so than dwell on the negativity of those outcomes.
  • Critical thinking training helps people spot pseudoscience
    • This study explains how teaching critical thinking in humanities classes helps students be more discerning about scientific versus psuedoscientific information.
  • Creativity = brain connectivity?
    • Connectivity between the left and right hemispheres, particularly in the frontal lobe, may be associated with higher creativity, based on this study.
  • Proficiency with fractions is key for algebra skill development
    • Great article on the connection between fractions and algebra skills!
  • The thrill-seeking teenage brain
    • A good blog article from a few years ago that talks about the neuropsychology of the adolescent brain, particularly in light of potential for drug use and other high risk behaviors.
  • To sleep, perchance to text
    • This study suggests an alarming number of teens are missing out on sleep due to social media distractions. Parents are encouraged to keep electronics out of the bedroom!
  • Spatial reasoning and early math skills
    • This is a good article that explains the connection between mathematics and the brain's ability to think and reason spatially.
  • Mindfulness meditation as a treatment for anxiety
  • Working memory and dyslexia
    • Research is discovering the important role of working memory in the development of reading skills. At Howard School, we naturally use strategies designed to maximize working memory potential with our students.
  • Limitations of lectures and learning
    • This research reveals how lectures don't teach students problem solving skills. This is why at Howard we emphasize movement and ACTIVE engagement in learning!
  • 6 Questions: Addicted to Social Media?
    • The jury is still out as to whether social media can be a source of addiction, but here are 6 questions to ponder if you are concerned someone is spending too much time on line.
  • Practice tests may help to reduce testing stress
    • We know that stress effects memory, but researchers are finding specific strategies that can help reduce interfering stress during memory recall.
  • New research on ADHD persisting into adulthood
    • Estimates of what percentage of students with ADHD will continue to have such symptoms in adulthood have varied. This research suggests that it may be higher than previously thought (around 60%).
  • Neuroscience can and should inform educational policies
    • Brain research has much to tell us about how the brain learns best. This article shows many of the reasons why research needs to be translated into best practices in education more readily. I'm so proud of being part of The Howard School, who already is doing so many of these evidence-based best educational practices!
  • American Academy of Pediatrics new guidelines on screens/electronic media for children and adolescents
    • The American Academy of Pediatrics has released new guidelines for appropriate use of media/screen time for children and adolescents.