Neuroscientists are suggesting that teenagers do not need information, they are not aware of the decisions they make. They need self-regulation. And self-regulation is being worked on over time, with good emotional education programs. Neuroscientists suggest, for example, that when starting to read, phonology is very important. This correspondence between sounds, phonemes and letters and graphemes, more than the overall method being used. Or when beginning to learn mathematics. Years ago it was believed that we were born with a blank brain, a blank slate, but it has been proven that newborn babies have a kind of innate numerical logic: they are capable of differentiating different groups of small objects — two compared with three, with no need to count them. They are able to identify basic arithmetic, in a scenario you put down an object, you lower the curtain, they watch as you put down another, you raise the curtain and instead of there being two objects — the logical calculation — 1 + 1 = 2, there is just one, and are surprised because it seemed impossible. That research also suggests very relevant aspects related to emotions: cannot separate the emotional from the cognitive. With respect to attention, neuroscientists are showing us that it is not a unique construct, but there are different attention networks: an alert network, an orientation network, and one that is especially important: executive attention, which allows us to be focused on tasks, suppressing irrelevant stimuli. And what can we do in practice to improve this important executive attention for study and learning? As researchers are showing us, there is specific recreational software that works on these issues, but mindfulness if also importance, as is exercise; four-minute breaks, so that students can move, are enough to improve concentration during subsequent tasks.
From the point of view of neuroeducation, learning from, in and for life is essential. And what is the critical factor that research suggests to us? It has a name. It is called "executive brain functions." These are the complex cognitive functions that differentiate us from other species, which allow us to plan and to make appropriate decisions. They are essential for to perform everyday life well, and essential for students' academic performance.
Researchers have seen that executive functions are essential for success in life. If I don't know how to control myself, I will struggle in a traffic jam, but I will also struggle when trying to resolve a work conflict or a personal conflict, and I will find it hard to be focused trying to solve a mathematical problem. What is great is that all this can be learned; the recreational software that we talked about earlier, these computerized programs, visual discrimination tasks that allow us to work on that. But she believes after all these years that the best approach is to go beyond cognitive. We know what harms executive functions or their core points, the prefrontal cortex. What prevents you from making a good decision? Stress, bad health, loneliness. What can we do? Children and teenagers need to play, share, sing, dance, draw, move; we have to attend to the physical, social and emotional needs of students, or if you want, the disciplines traditionally considered as secondary linked to play, physical education, artistic education or emotional education. We are not saying that learning mathematics and reading is not important, but they would have to share a leading role with these other disciplines.