Significant advances have been made in understanding the neurophysiological basis of learning, including the discovery of mirror neurons and the role of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) responsive element binding (CREB) protein in learning. Mirror neurons help us visually compare an observed activity with a remembered action in our memory, an ability that helps us imitate and learn through watching. Long-term potentiation, the Hebb rule, and CREB protein are associated with the formation of long-term memories. Conversely, protein phosphatase 1 and glucocorticoids are neurophysiological phenomena that limit what can be learned and cause forgetfulness. Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences contends that different areas of the brain are responsible for different competencies that we all possess to varying degrees. These multiple intelligences can be used as strategies for improved learning. Repeating material, using mnemonics, and avoiding overwhelming stress are other strategies for improving learning. Imaging studies have shown that practice with resultant learning results in significantly less use of brain areas, indicating that the brain becomes more efficient. Experts have advantages over novices, including increased cognitive processing efficiency. Nurses are in a unique position to use their understanding of neurophysiological principles to implement better educational strategies to provide quality education to patients and others.
Questions or comments about this article may be directed to John W. Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is a PhD student in the School of Nursing at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas City, MO. His area of study is learning with a neuropsychological foundation.