Francisco Mora

Doctor in Neuroscience and Medicine

"We must focus on curiosity to awaken children's attention from within"

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Neuroeducation is an attempt to bring a new light to education and instruction. In other words, it is how you can learn better. To approximate values and standards to human conduct. And in this sense, neuroeducation belongs to what is now a revolution in the world. A new culture. The culture we live in and have known and know is dying. A new culture — neuro culture — is emerging, which means that we realize that what human beings are, what they feel, what they believe, what they think, and what they do, learn and memorize, is the product of the brain's functioning. How does the brain do it? That means that trying to teach without knowing how the brain works would be like trying to design a glove without ever having seen a hand.

Neuroeducation has to be applied, even if it is only to tackle and destroy neuromyths or false truths. Today, everyone talks about the brain. Because beyond philosophy, it is the main reference point. This is what verified data provides. And talk about those things, we say that we can talk about memory. Of learning and memory, of values and standards, what attention means.

Emotional intelligence is capacity to empathize. The ability to be intuitive of what someone says, how they say it, and for the other person to see in you a calm, approachable face, a face that shows the effort to understand what is being said, a face in which in few minutes there might be something mysterious, which is what makes there be an emotional transfer. Applying intelligence that works for the success you can have in life. You can be very smart in mathematics or engineering... But since you don't have basic emotional intelligence, the tiniest thing can derail your mathematical ability.

"Without emotion, there is no coherent thinking or structure; without emotion, there is no right decision-making."

Emotion is the substrate that makes the brain work. People still think that emotion is the reaction that means that if someone attacks you, you can react in three different ways. It is so-called "fight, flight, fright." If they attack you, defend yourself by fighting, or you run away, or you hide. That's the most basic thing. That's why we say that emotion is an always unconscious process. When you fight, flee, or hide, no one asks why you've done that. Why you have chosen A, B or C. You do not know. The brain has done the work for you unconsciously. And it does so by choosing what it knows is most likely to save your life.

Emotions were born about 200 million years ago. In mammals, throughout the evolutionary process. And very recently, we have been told in groundbreaking research that we can possibly trace their birth in invertebrates, which had no brain, only ganglia, 450 million years ago. Our species, Homo sapiens, is only 150,000 years old. Compare that to 450 million. That means that emotions are so deeply anchored in our nature that I will publicly asset that we are emotional beings. And then, a little rational. It is emotion that guides everything. Thinking and reasoning already comes with ideas that are embedded in an emotional meaning. We are mammals. And no mammal can behave in any way without meaning. That is what human beings also do.

The information that comes in through our eyes, ears, touch, taste, smell, etc., after a long process of making the world, channels through the emotional brain or system. And after that it is processed. In short, emotion is the essence of everything. Without emotion, there is no coherent and structured thought. You can't think. Without emotion, there are no good decisions. Without emotion, there is no solid memorization.

Attention is the fundamental brain process. Without attention, there is no learning or memory. The main thing is to realize that we need to give, help or know, even if we talk, if you want, about the brain processes of attention, less attention and more about how to open up that attention. And that is curiosity. If Pedrito is normal and does not pay attention to you, you might think about it and conclude that what you are teaching him is incredibly boring. So you have to make an effort to wake up Pedrito from within. And you will never again have to take the board eraser and bang it to get their attention, as a punishment.

Great teachers are those who can always make things interesting. Because what is interesting is what open up your attention. And attention is absolutely necessary to be able to learn and memorize explicitly. Curiosity so absorbing when it is real and all your attention is focused on something.

Now, when technologies are invading us, they have so much to offer, but they can never replace a teacher. The teacher must be the jewel in the crown. It is about the humanity they convey. Humanity. Don't expect that from a machine, never expect it from a tablet. A tablet and a computer serve you. But if we only work on that in any institution, unless it is an advanced MIT, what must not happen is that the child knows nothing beyond where they have memorized everything they need to know. A child has to know poetry, a child has to know that sometimes they have to make up a speech. You have to memorize selectively and learn. Because that, in part, is also about being able to develop theories. Performance talents, which are vital, as are the inhibition of functions, and the work report. You have to learn that and work on it with the teacher. Because the teachers transfers emotion and humanity. When I read that in Albert Camus's Nobel Prize speech in 1957, it stuck with me. The transfer of knowledge, semantics, syntax, prosody, emotional colors and what becomes our values, cannot be done on a tablet.

Doctor in Neuroscience from Oxford University, Doctor in Medicine from the University of Granada, and professor of Physiology at the Complutense University of Madrid. Francisco Mora is the author of books such as "Neuroeducación: solo se puede aprender aquello que se ama," and is a leading voice globally on improving learning and memory.