Additional Resources
Exploring the Neural Mechanisms of Physics Learning

Bartley JE, BrainHack Global (2015).

JB gave this 5 minute lightning talk at the Miami BrainHack Global data blitz in 2015.


Modeling how students think about physics is often measured via observation of students solving physics problems [1]. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) may inform how these processes occur, but currently no neuroimaging studies have examined how students develop physics problem-solving skills. To provide insight into the neural nature of physics learning we examined resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) in brain regions associated with problem-solving. Meta-analysis identified the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) as the region most consistently implicated across problem-solving tasks. Resting-state fMRI data were acquired pre/post instruction in 8 undergraduate, first-time enrollees in introductory physics. Correspondence between post-instruction rsFC and meta-analytic results suggests a semester of university physics may facilitate enhanced recruitment of posterior brain regions involved in reasoning. Increased IFG-correlated activity from pre to post instruction indicates intrinsic brain connectivity may be modulated as a result of educational experience.


  1. Reif et al, Educ Psych 17 (1982).