Blog Post

Neurotransmitters and Learning.

    In the classroom, the chemicals in your brain play an enormous role. Too little or too much of these chemicals can make or break their learning experience because of the various effect of the chemicals. There are a lot of various activities or practices a teacher and student can do to enhance these chemicals, and improve classroom expectations.     
    Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is produced within your brain that acts as a reward factor, and gives you pleasure. It also enables emotional response and enables you to see rewards and take action to engage them. When there are low amounts of dopamine being produced, students won’t pay attention as much because they have no interest in the information being presented. You can think of dopamine being your brain’s “auto-save” feature. This is because people remember events that they enjoy, which is the result of higher levels of dopamine being produced. A lot of faculty don’t realize that making material fun means that students remember the content more because of this chemical.
    Using more exciting methods in class are also good ways to help students remember the content. Coming from my experience with previous faculty, I have had a teacher in the past that presented information in a lot of different yet exciting ways. My zoology teacher in high school did this with a lot of activities like having outside classroom sessions when it’s nice, having a class pet, and doing a lot of fun labs that show a lot of visual things she has presented in class. On the contrary, I have had teachers that just present non-visual appealing PowerPoints and lectures, which makes students bored resulting in them not taking in the information being presented to them. There are some exercises you can do before class to get dopamine levels up. One way is take about 5 minutes before class, and breathe deeply. Focus on your breathing and calm down. You could also call this meditation. This will reduce levels of stress the student may have, and prepare him/her for class.
    Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that often effects a person’s emotion and mood. This neurotransmitter is often the case of someone’s depression, anger problems, or poor sleeping
schedules. Obviously this neurotransmitter has an impact on learning, as it regulates sleep, memory, appetite, which all play a factor in learning. This chemical is very special to a lot of functions that happen within your brain, and if used properly can produce amazing results. Doing a simple, yet silly exercise before class like taking a five minute walk around the room or if it’s nice outside let the students get some fresh air before class. This can increase the rate which serotonin is pushed within the brain, resulting in both a release and synthesis of it. Another way is to group students up while they work. Because serotonin is produced by friendships (which is quite similar to dopamine: on the contrary, dopamine is more related to personal relationships, such as loved ones) you can use group work to create friendships among students.
    Noradrenaline (or norepinephrine) is the neurotransmitter that gets your heart rate and blood pressure up. It is also very important for the formation of memories. You could also think of this as adrenaline. A good use of this neurotransmitter is using an activity that involves risk and competition. Activities such as these can promote other neurotransmitters as well such as dopamine and serotonin as rewards. By playing games such as Jeopardy or Bingo to review for tests/exams is a great way to produce this chemical and use it for your advantage. And to make a game such as Jeopardy more interesting, you could split the class into teams and the reward for winning is a few points extra credit on the test/exam. Doing this will sprout excitement, make the students take risks as they answer questions, and gives them a bit of urgency for each question due to the time constrains. As students get questions correct, it is stored within their memory because they got it correct. This is also the case when the student gets the question incorrect because the opposing team gets a chance to get the question correct, creating a memory that will come back during the test/exam. With Bingo, you play for the same goals. Implement rewards such as candy or extra credit to each time a student gets a “bingo”. This creates excitement for the students because they never know when they will get a bingo, creating tension and urgency within.
    There are also many many more neurotransmitters that can be discussed, but these are the main ones that play a significant role in the classroom and daily life. Using these techniques you can improve your performance in and outside the classroom making your life better and stress free.

1 comment

I think you made a great point of talking about the different neurotransmitters and how they each make an impact on our learning. You made a great point about dopamine and when you do more hands on activities it is easier for you to remember things. I learned this first hand this semester, I took a Biology class that had a lab with it. I found myself not only remembering things but also understanding how certain things worked because my lab gave me the chance to be more hands on. It improved not only my grades but my confidence and understanding of the topic that we were learning. Also I liked how you gave a few ideas on how to relax before class, these could be very useful for me because I tend to overthink things when it comes to test and finals, which is a downfall for me. I will defiantly be trying the 5 minute breathing technique in the future. Serotonin sounds like it could be a very important factor in not only our social skills but also learning and emotional, Im curious to learn tools that could help improve serotonin levels besides being around friends and social settings. Jeopardy and bingo have always been a great review for me to make sure I am well prepared for an upcoming quiz, I never thought of it as a reward system but it does make sense, also another great point.