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Lydia Krabbendam

Educational Neuroscience

Professor of Educational Neuropsychology Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Educational Neuroscience: principles, promises, and pitfalls


Cognitive neuroscience investigates processes that are relevant to teaching and learning. Yet, implementing neuroscientific findings in the classroom is by no means straightforward. Any uncritical transfer ‘from brain scan to lesson plan’ is likely to trigger unrealistic expectations and the formation of so-called neuromyths. In this presentation, I will outline general principles for neuroscientific research that aims to generate educationally relevant knowledge and I will discuss the promises and pitfalls of this approach. First, educational neuroscience should be based on an integration of theories and methods from cognitive neuroscience and educational science. Second, the experimental paradigms used in neuroscience should aim to systematically incorporate factors that are characteristic of the complex classroom situation. Third, field studies should be conducted to investigate the meaning of insights from neuroscientific research for educational practice. We have commenced such an approach, focusing on the development of motivation and social cognition in the social context of the classroom in adolescence. In the presentation, initial results will be discussed, focusing on the interplay between the neural mechanisms underlying social cognitive functions and the social networks characteristic of the classroom.


Lydia Krabbendam is a registered clinical neuropsychologist and full professor at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Department of Clinical, Neuro- and Developmental Psychology. Her main interest is normal and abnormal development of higher cognitive functions during adolescence. Her current  research focuses on the development of social cognitive processes such as empathy, perspective-taking and trust and how these interact with the social context. She and her team investigate these processes using cognitive tasks and functional neuroimaging, in conjunction with social network analysis and ecological momentary assessment. This research is funded by personal grants from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research and the European Research Council.