The Science Behind Montessori

This is a summary I wrote for Nido BCN.  If you are interested in their project please visit

Does a Montessori education really make a difference?

Scientific studies into the long-term impact of a Montessori education are very promising. Aside from anecdotal evidence from Sergey Brin and Larry Page, founders of Google who credited their successful collaboration to their similar experiences and educational development at Montessori preschools1, scientific research also supports the long-term benefits of a Montessori education.

A study based in Milwaukee, USA, found that children who completed their education in a Montessori school between the ages of 3 – 11, scored significantly higher on standardised tests in maths and science compared to children who received a standard education2.

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The relevance of affect in education

In previous posts, we have reviewed some of the important aspects of certain cognitive abilities termed executive functions. In this post, we review the importance of emotions and their relationship with these cognitive abilities and explore an area also known as emotional thought. Continue reading “The relevance of affect in education”

Neuromyths in Education

Ideas about the brain are often used by teachers to guide lesson planning. Likewise, learning is a subject that is of great interest to neuroscientists. However, the gap between the laboratory and the classroom, and the scientist and teacher, means that miscommunication and misinterpretation of scientific studies and results can occur. As a result of this, a number of “Neuromyths” Continue reading “Neuromyths in Education”

Merimée Programme

This year saw the start of the Merimée Programme funded by the French government. The programme allows students from the three public universities in Barcelona (UB, UPF and UAB) to attend the Journées CBS2, a student 3-day conference held in Montpellier. Luckily, I was one of those picked to attend.

The conferences included short talks by PhD students, as well as lectures from internationally renowned specialists, and finally poster sessions for those of us at earlier stages in our research. Continue reading “Merimée Programme”

What if you were unconsciously sexist?

The facebook page, “I fucking love science” has over 4.8 million fans.  Many of whom were surprised or even shocked to find out last month that the writer was a woman and apparently an attractive one at that.  But is this sexual stereotyping something that we all do, consciously or otherwise?

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What if parenting style affected a child’s DNA?

A quick search on for parenting guides brings up a list of 5,416 books to choose from. TV series have been dedicated to parenting styles and their varying impacts.

But what if both good and bad parenting styles leave marks on the child, and in particular their DNA?

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What if we could improve science by sending scientists back to school?

photo taken from getBRAINY website

According to recent reports young people aren’t attracted to science.  Added to which, there are not enough women in science, nor men, depending on whom you ask.  And those we do have are often criticised for not being very good at communicating their ideas to non-scientists, or for not being inspirational enough for our young people.

But what can we do about it?  It often falls to teachers to make science understandable, interesting and attractive to their students; but isn’t it time that scientists did their bit?  Well, a team of neuroscientists, led by Gareth Hathway and Ian Devonshire, at Nottingham University has done just that by sending a group of undergraduate students back to school and they were at the BNA2013 festival to explain their findings.

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What if there was an App for collecting research for your PhD?

Image taken from

Collecting data from people is often a battle. Subjects don’t turn up, drop out, or your sample is only representative of all the people you could bribe or blackmail into filling out your questionnaire. But there is hope, and as with so many useful tools these days, it comes in the form of a free downloadable app.

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What if you could diagnose language difficulties before a child could talk?

It is generally accepted that early diagnosis improves recovery, or, in the case of developmental difficulties, enables us to help a child develop to his or her full potential. But language difficulties may not be picked up until a child is already behind his or her peer group in terms of linguistic ability. So, finding early markers prior to the onset of speech would be ideal for enabling early intervention.
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What if Pavlov’s dog had had an addictive personality?

Back in the early 20th century, Pavlov managed to train man’s best friend to dribble at the sound of a ringing bell. Quite an achievement back in the day.

By continuously pairing the sound of a bell (the conditioned stimulus) with food (the unconditioned stimulus), Pavlov trained his dog to expect the sound of the bell to be followed by food, and therefore salivate each time it heard the bell (the conditioned response). This has since become one of the classic experiments used to train animals to match a conditioned stimulus with an unconditioned stimulus to produce a conditioned response.

These days the same principle is used to train lab rats but the bell has been replaced by a light. Food is still often used and this drops down into a small container. The conditioned response is to go to the container and collect the food. However, researchers have noticed something rather strange.

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What if we could tune anxiety?

We all know what it is like to feel anxious; sweaty palms, fast breathing and that wish to run away and hide.

In this month’s Neuropod Kerri Smith talks to Karl Deisseroth about his latest publication in which he and his colleagues describe how they have managed to tune anxiety responses in mice.  By stimulating or inhibiting the activity in particular regions within a part of the brain called the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), they were able make these mice behave in a more or less anxious way.

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