. Scientific Frontline: Learning with all your senses: Multimodal enrichment as the optimal learning strategy of the future

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Learning with all your senses: Multimodal enrichment as the optimal learning strategy of the future

Illustration Credit: John Hain

Neuroscientist Katharina von Kriegstein from Technische Universität Dresden and Brian Mathias from the University of Aberdeen have compiled extensive interdisciplinary findings from neuroscience, psychology, computer modelling and education on the topic of "learning" in a recent review article in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences. The results of the interdisciplinary review reveal the mechanisms the brain uses to achieve improved learning outcome by combining multiple senses or movements in learning. This kind of learning outcome applies to a wide variety of domains, such as letter and vocabulary acquisition, reading, mathematics, music, and spatial orientation.

Many educational approaches assume that integrating complementary sensory and motor information into the learning experience can enhance learning, for example gestures help in learning new vocabulary in foreign language classes. In her recent publication, neuroscientist Katharina von Kriegstein from Technische Universität Dresden and Brian Mathias of the University of Aberdeen summarize these methods under the term "multimodal enrichment." This means enrichment with multiple senses and movement. Numerous current scientific studies prove that multimodal enrichment can enhance learning outcomes. Experiments in classrooms show similar results.

In the review article, the two researchers compare these findings with cognitive, neuroscience, and computational theories of multimodal enrichment. Recent neuroscience research has found that the positive effects of enriched learning are associated with response in brain regions that serve perception and motor function. For example, hearing a recently learned foreign language word may elicit activity in motor brain regions if the word was associated with the performance of a congruent gesture during learning. These brain responses are causal to the benefits of multimodal enrichment for learning outcome. Computer algorithms confirm this hypothesis.

"The brain is optimized for learning with all the senses and with movement. Brain structures for perception and motor skills work together to promote this type of learning. We hope that our deeper understanding of the brain's learning mechanisms will facilitate the development of optimal learning strategies in the future," explains Brian Mathias.

Katharina von Kriegstein adds, "The results of the literature we reviewed contribute to our understanding of why several long-used learning strategies, such as parts of the Montessori method, are effective. They also provide clear clues as to why some approaches are not as effective. Recently uncovered neuroscientific mechanisms may inspire the updating of cognitive and computational theories of learning, providing new hypotheses about learning. We anticipate that such an interdisciplinary and evidence-based approach will lead to the optimization of learning and teaching strategies in the future, for both humans and artificial systems."

Published in journalTrends in Cognitive Sciences

Source/CreditTechnische Universität Dresden

Reference Number: ns020123_02

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