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364 Thad A. Polk: Great courses: The Learning Brain

“The Learning Brain” explores the fascinating field of neuroscience and cognitive psychology to understand how the brain learns, processes information, and forms memories. The course provides insights into the underlying mechanisms of learning and offers practical strategies to enhance learning and maximize cognitive abilities.



In "The Learning Brain," Professor Thad A. Polk takes learners on an enlightening journey into the inner workings of the brain, unraveling the mysteries of learning and memory. The course combines scientific research, real-life examples, and practical techniques to help learners grasp the fundamental principles of brain functioning and apply them to enhance their own learning potential. Through engaging lectures, Professor Polk empowers learners with knowledge about brain plasticity, attention, memory formation, and effective study strategies, offering valuable insights into the lifelong process of learning.


Title: "The Learning Brain"

Author: Professor Thad A. Polk, PhD

Publishing Year: 2018

Publisher: The Great Courses

Length in Hours: 12 hours and 23 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. The Neurobiology of Learning: Professor Polk explains the neural mechanisms involved in learning, including synaptic plasticity, neurogenesis, and brain regions responsible for memory formation and retrieval.
  2. Attention and Focus: The course explores the role of attention in learning, highlighting strategies to improve focus and optimize information processing.
  3. Memory and Recall: Professor Polk discusses different types of memory, such as working memory and long-term memory, and provides techniques to enhance memory retention and recall.
  4. Effective Study Strategies: Learners discover evidence-based study techniques, such as spaced repetition, retrieval practice, and elaborative encoding, that can significantly improve learning outcomes.
  5. Lifelong Learning and Brain Health: The course emphasizes the importance of continued learning for brain health and explores the benefits of intellectual engagement and cognitive stimulation in preventing cognitive decline.

5 funny quotes

  1. "Your brain is like a learning superhero, capable of amazing feats of knowledge acquisition!"
  2. "Learning is not just for kids; it's a lifelong adventure that keeps our brains sharp and engaged."
  3. "Think of your brain as a muscle that gets stronger with exercise. Let's hit the cognitive gym!"
  4. "Learning can be fun! Embrace curiosity, explore new subjects, and expand your intellectual horizons."
  5. "Unlock the secrets of your amazing brain and become the learning champion you were born to be!"

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "The brain is not a fixed entity; it is a learning machine that can adapt and change throughout our lives."
  2. "Attention is the gateway to learning. Without attention, information cannot be effectively processed and encoded in the brain."
  3. "Memory is not a filing cabinet; it is an active process of reconstruction and interpretation."
  4. "Effective learning requires deliberate practice, strategic thinking, and metacognition."
  5. "The more we understand about the brain, the better equipped we are to optimize our learning and unlock our intellectual potential."

5 dilemmas

  1. Nature vs. Nurture: What role do genetics and environmental factors play in shaping our cognitive abilities and learning potential?
  2. The Forgetting Curve: Why do we forget information over time, and how can we combat the forgetting curve to retain knowledge effectively?
  3. Multitasking: Is multitasking detrimental to learning and cognitive performance, or can some individuals effectively handle multiple tasks simultaneously?
  4. Cognitive Load: How does the capacity of our working memory influence our ability to learn and process information?
  5. Neuroplasticity: Can we enhance neuroplasticity and promote brain changes that optimize learning, even in adulthood?

5 examples

  1. Albert Einstein: Professor Polk references Einstein's remarkable cognitive abilities and discusses how his brain's neural connections contributed to his genius-level intelligence.
  2. Maya Angelou: The course explores Angelou's poetry and storytelling as examples of how memory and emotion intertwine to create enduring memories.
  3. Elon Musk: Professor Polk discusses Musk's entrepreneurial success and highlights how his learning strategies and cognitive flexibility have played a crucial role in his achievements.
  4. Marie Curie: The course explores Curie's scientific discoveries and discusses the role of focused attention and persistence in her groundbreaking work.
  5. Leonardo da Vinci: Professor Polk examines da Vinci's multidisciplinary brilliance and discusses the cognitive processes behind his ability to make connections across diverse domains of knowledge.

Referenced books

  1. "Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning" by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel
  2. "The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How." by Daniel Coyle
  3. "Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School" by John Medina
  4. "The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains" by Nicholas Carr
  5. "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success" by Carol S. Dweck

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"Think of your brain as a muscle that gets stronger with exercise. Let's hit the cognitive gym!"

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