1. Learning with music can change brain structure

    July 24, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Edinburgh press release:

    Using musical cues to learn a physical task significantly develops an important part of the brain, according to a new study.

    People who practiced a basic movement task to music showed increased structural connectivity between the regions of the brain that process sound and control movement.

    The findings focus on white matter pathways — the wiring that enables brain cells to communicate with each other.

    The study could have positive implications for future research into rehabilitation for patients who have lost some degree of movement control.

    Thirty right-handed volunteers were divided into two groups and charged with learning a new task involving sequences of finger movements with the non-dominant, left hand. One group learned the task with musical cues, the other group without music.

    After four weeks of practice, both groups of volunteers performed equally well at learning the sequences, researchers at the University of Edinburgh found.

    Using MRI scans, it was found that the music group showed a significant increase in structural connectivity in the white matter tract that links auditory and motor regions on the right side of the brain. The non-music group showed no change.

    Researchers hope that future study with larger numbers of participants will examine whether music can help with special kinds of motor rehabilitation programmes, such as after a stroke.

    The interdisciplinary project brought together researchers from the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Music in Human and Social Development, Clinical Research Imaging Centre, and Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, and from Clinical Neuropsychology, Leiden University, The Netherlands.

    The results are published in the journal Brain & Cognition.

    Dr Katie Overy, who led the research team said: “The study suggests that music makes a key difference. We have long known that music encourages people to move. This study provides the first experimental evidence that adding musical cues to learning new motor task can lead to changes in white matter structure in the brain.”


  2. Study suggests programs that teach emotional intelligence in schools have lasting impact

    July 23, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of British Columbia press release:

    Social and emotional learning programs for youth not only immediately improve mental health, social skills, and learning outcomes but also continue to benefit children years later, according to new research from UBC, University of Illinois at Chicago and Loyola University.

    “Social-emotional learning programs teach the skills that children need to succeed and thrive in life,” said Eva Oberle, an assistant professor at UBC’s Human Early Learning Partnership in the school of population and public health. “We know these programs have an immediate positive effect so this study wanted to assess whether the skills stuck with students over time, making social-emotional learning programs a worthwhile investment of time and financial resources in schools.”

    Social-emotional learning teaches children to recognize and understand their emotions, feel empathy, make decisions and build and maintain relationships. Previous research has shown that incorporating these programs into the classroom improves learning outcomes and reduces anxiety and behavioural problems among students. Some schools have incorporated social-emotional learning programs – like MindUP and Roots of Empathy – into classrooms while other school systems, including the new B.C. curriculum, embrace it more systemically.

    The new study analyzed results from 82 different programs involving more than 97,000 students from kindergarten to middle school in the U.S., Europe and the U.K. where the effects were assessed at least six months after the programs completed. The researchers found that social-emotional learning continued to have positive effects in the classroom but was also connected to longer-term positive outcomes.

    Students who participated in programs graduated from college at a rate 11 per cent higher than peers who did not. Their high school graduation rate was six per cent higher. Drug use and behaviour problems were six per cent lower for program participants, arrest rates 19 per cent lower, and diagnoses of mental health disorders 13.5 per cent lower.

    Oberle and her colleagues also found that all children benefitted from the programs regardless of race, socioeconomic background or school location.

    Teaching social-emotional learning in schools is a way to support individual children in their pathways to success, and it’s also a way to promote better public health outcomes later in life,” said Oberle. “However, these skills need to be reinforced over time and we would like to see schools embed social-emotional learning systematically into the curriculum, rather than doing programs as a ‘one-off.’ ”

    Oberle and her colleagues say schools are an ideal place to implement these interventions because they will reach almost all children, including those who are disadvantaged.

    “Especially during middle-school years and early adolescence, young people shift away from their families and toward influences in peer groups and teachers,” Oberle said. “Children spend 923 hours in the classroom every year; what happens in schools is very influential on child development.”


  3. Preschoolers learn from math games, to a point

    by Ashley

    From the Massachusetts Institute of Technology press release:

    What is the best way to help poor schoolchildren succeed at math? A study co-authored by researchers at MIT, Harvard University, and New York University now sheds light on the ways preschool activities may — or may not — help children develop cognitive skills.

    The study, based on an experiment in Delhi, India, engaged preschool children in math games intended to help them grasp concepts of number and geometry, and in social games intended to help them cooperate and learn together.

    The results contained an unexpected wrinkle. Children participating in the math games did retain a superior ability to grasp those concepts more than a year later, compared to children who either played only the social games or did not participate. However, the exercises did not lead to better results later, when the children entered a formal classroom setting.

    “It’s very clear you have a significant improvement in the math skills” used in the games, says Esther Duflo, the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics at MIT and co-author of the study. “We find that the gains are persistent … which I think is quite striking.”

    However, she adds, by the time the children in the study were learning formal math concepts in primary school, such as specific number symbols, the preschool intervention did not affect learning outcomes.

    “All the kids [in primary school] had learned, but they had learned [those concepts] equally,” says Duflo, who is a co-founder of MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), which conducts field experiments, often in education, around the globe.

    A paper detailing the results of the study, “Cognitive science in the field: A preschool intervention durably enhances intuitive but not formal mathematics,” is being published in the journal Science.

    The authors are Duflo; Moira R. Dillon, an assistant professor in New York University’s Department of Psychology; Harini Kannan, a postdoc at J-PAL South Asia; Joshua T. Dean, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Economics; and Elizabeth Spelke, a professor of psychology and researcher at the Laboratory for Developmental Studies at Harvard University.

    It’s a numbers game

    The results bear on the question of how early-childhood educational interventions can help poor children access the same educational concepts that more privileged children have before entering primary school.

    Spelke, an expert in cognitive development among children, notes that around age 5, children “transition from developing knowledge in a common-sense, spontaneous manner, to going to school, where they have to start grappling with formal subjects and building formal skills.” She adds that this can be a highly challenging transition for children living in poverty whose parents had no schooling themselves.

    To address that, the researchers developed a field experiment involving 1,540 children, who were 5 years old on average and enrolled in 214 Indian preschools.

    Roughly one-third of the preschool children were put in groups playing math games exposing them to concepts of number and geometry. For instance, one game the children played allowed them to estimate numbers on cards and sort the cards on that basis.

    Another one-third of the preschool children played games that focused on social content, encouraging them to, for instance, estimate the intensity of emotional expressions on cards and sort the cards on that basis. In all, the games were “fun, fast-paced, and social” and “encouraged a desire to play together,” Dillon says.

    Meanwhile, the final one-third of the preschoolers had no exposure to either type of game; these children formed another control group for the study.

    The researchers then followed up on the abilities of children from all three groups, soon after the intervention, as well as six and 12 months later. They found that even after the first year of primary school, children who had played the math games were better at the skills that those games developed, compared to children from the other groups. The intervention using social games had effects on social skills but did not produce a comparable effect on math skills; the effects of the math games were specific to their math content.

    Despite these effects, the early exposure to numerical concepts such as one-to-one correspondence, and geometrical concepts such as congruence and parallelism did not produce an advantage for the first group of students when it came to achievement in primary school. As the paper states, “Although the math games caused persistent gains in children’s non-symbolic mathematical abilities, they failed to enhance children’s readiness for learning the new symbolic content presented in primary school.”

    Not adding up

    The researchers have been analyzing why the intervention did not produce improvements in school results. One possibility, Duflo observes, is that children in Delhi primary schools learn math in a rote style that may not have allowed the experiment’s set of games to have an effect. Kids in these schools, she observes, “are [only] learning to sing ‘1 times 1 is 1, 1 times 2 is 2.'” For this reason, Duflo notes, the greater understanding of the concepts provided by the preschool math games might be more beneficial when aligned with a different kind of curriculum.

    Or, Spelke puts it, “the negative thing that we learned” from the study is that lab work is not necessarily “sufficient to establish what actually causes knowledge to grow in the mind of a child, over timespans of years in the environments in which children live and learn.”

    With that in mind, the research team is designing follow-up studies in which the games will segue more seamlessly into the curriculum being used in a particular school district.

    “We want to include in the games themselves some element of bridging between the intuitive knowledge of mathematics and the formal knowledge they will be actually exposed to,” Duflo says. J-PAL is currently engaged in developing projects along these lines in both India and the U.S.

    The larger goal of helping disadvantaged preschool children remains intact, Duflo emphasizes: “If we could take the poorest kids and instead of sending them to school with a [learning deficit], because they haven’t been to preschool or been to very good preschools, or their parents have not been able to help them out in the schoolwork, why couldn’t we try to use the best cognitive science available and bring them to school with a slight advantage?”


  4. Learning with music can change brain structure

    July 21, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Edinburgh press release:

    Using musical cues to learn a physical task significantly develops an important part of the brain, according to a new study.

    People who practiced a basic movement task to music showed increased structural connectivity between the regions of the brain that process sound and control movement.

    The findings focus on white matter pathways — the wiring that enables brain cells to communicate with each other.

    The study could have positive implications for future research into rehabilitation for patients who have lost some degree of movement control.

    Thirty right-handed volunteers were divided into two groups and charged with learning a new task involving sequences of finger movements with the non-dominant, left hand. One group learned the task with musical cues, the other group without music.

    After four weeks of practice, both groups of volunteers performed equally well at learning the sequences, researchers at the University of Edinburgh found.

    Using MRI scans, it was found that the music group showed a significant increase in structural connectivity in the white matter tract that links auditory and motor regions on the right side of the brain. The non-music group showed no change.

    Researchers hope that future study with larger numbers of participants will examine whether music can help with special kinds of motor rehabilitation programmes, such as after a stroke.

    The interdisciplinary project brought together researchers from the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Music in Human and Social Development, Clinical Research Imaging Centre, and Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, and from Clinical Neuropsychology, Leiden University, The Netherlands.

    The results are published in the journal Brain & Cognition.

    Dr Katie Overy, who led the research team said: “The study suggests that music makes a key difference. We have long known that music encourages people to move. This study provides the first experimental evidence that adding musical cues to learning new motor task can lead to changes in white matter structure in the brain.”


  5. Controlling a single brain chemical may help expand window for learning language and music

    July 19, 2017 by Ashley

    From the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital press release:

    Learning language or music is usually a breeze for children, but as even young adults know, that capacity declines dramatically with age. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital scientists have evidence from mice that restricting a key chemical messenger in the brain helps extend efficient auditory learning much later in life.

    Researchers showed that limiting the supply or the function of the neuromodulator adenosine in a brain structure called the auditory thalamus preserved the ability of adult mice to learn from passive exposure to sound much as young children learn from the soundscape of their world. The study appears June 30 in the journal Science.

    “By disrupting adenosine signaling in the auditory thalamus, we have extended the window for auditory learning for the longest period yet reported, well into adulthood and far beyond the usual critical period in mice,” said corresponding author Stanislav Zakharenko, M.D., Ph.D., a member of the St. Jude Department of Developmental Neurobiology. “These results offer a promising strategy to extend the same window in humans to acquire language or musical ability by restoring plasticity in critical regions of the brain, possibly by developing drugs that selectively block adenosine activity.”

    The auditory thalamus is the brain’s relay station where sound is collected and sent to the auditory cortex for processing. The auditory thalamus and cortex rely on the neurotransmitter glutamate to communicate. Adenosine was known to reduce glutamate levels by inhibiting this neurotransmitter’s release. This study also linked adenosine inhibition to reduced brain plasticity and the end of efficient auditory learning.

    Researchers used a variety of methods to demonstrate that reducing adenosine or blocking the A1 adenosine receptor that is essential to the chemical messenger’s function changed how adult mice responded to sound.

    Much as young children pick up language simply by hearing it spoken, researchers showed that when adenosine was reduced or the A1 receptor blocked in the auditory thalamus, adult mice passively exposed to a tone responded to the same tone stronger when it was played weeks or months later. These adult mice also gained an ability to distinguish between very close tones (or tones with similar frequencies). Mice usually lack this “perfect pitch” ability.

    Researchers also showed that the experimental mice retained the improved tone discrimination for weeks.

    “Taken together, the results demonstrated that the window for effective auditory learning re-opened in the mice and that they retained the information,” Zakharenko said.

    Among the strategies researchers used to inhibit adenosine activity was the experimental compound FR194921, which selectively blocks the A1 receptor. If paired with sound exposure, the compound rejuvenated auditory learning in adult mice. “That suggests it might be possible to extend the window in humans by targeting the A1 receptor for drug development,” Zakharenko said.

    Zakharenko and his colleagues also linked the age-related decline in ease of auditory learning to an age-related increase in an enzyme (ecto-5′-nucleotidase) involved in adenosine production in the auditory thalamus. Researchers reported that mature mice had higher levels than newborn mice of the enzyme and adenosine in the auditory thalamus. Deletion of this enzyme returned the adenosine level in adult mice to the level of newborn mice. Therefore, researchers are currently looking for compounds that target ecto-5′-nucleotidase as an alternative approach for extending the window of auditory learning.


  6. Children play key role in making early education successful

    by Ashley

    From the Northwestern University press release:

    The way children engage with their teachers, peers and tasks is vital to the success of early-childhood education but greatly underestimated, according to new Northwestern University research.

    Contrary to conventional wisdom, emotionally supportive, well-organized and stimulating pre-kindergarten classrooms may not be enough — especially for low-income children, according to the study.

    “Children bring a lot to the table,” said Terri Sabol, an assistant professor of human development and social policy in the School of Education and Social Policy, who led the research. “It’s important to look beyond overall classroom quality and capture children’s individual experiences in classroom settings.”

    Children’s individual engagement was related to their developmental gains, even after accounting for emotional support, classroom organization and instructional support at the classroom level.

    Positive engagement with teachers was related to improved literacy skills, and positive engagement with peers was related to improved language and self-regulatory skills. In addition, positive engagement with tasks was related to closer relationships with teachers.

    Children who were negatively engaged in the classroom — those who got into conflicts with teachers or peers — were at a comparative disadvantage in terms of their school readiness, the study found. Children with higher levels of negative engagement performed at lower levels across nearly all of the academic, language, and social outcomes measured, including lower language, literacy and self-regulatory skills.

    High-quality early childhood education has long been hailed as a promising approach to narrowing the achievement gap. But assessment of early-childhood education programs has emphasized teachers, often missing the central role that children play in their own development, according to the study of low-income, ethnically diverse students.

    Conducted by researchers at Northwestern, Montana State University Billings and the University of Virginia, the study was published in the journal Child Development.

    The study looked at 211 low-income, racially and ethnically diverse 4-year-olds in 49 classrooms in state and federally funded preschool programs. Researchers measured the children’s engagement in the classroom by observing their positive and negative interactions with teachers, peers and tasks.

    “We have to think about children as active participants in their own education when we are devising interventions,” said Sabol, who also is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern and leads the University’s Development, Early Education and Policy Lab.

    The lab produces innovative and functional scholarship aimed at improving the lives of low-income children.

    A former first grade teacher, Sabol personally observed these patterns in her classroom at Lavizzo Elementary School on Chicago’s South Side, where she taught first graders with Teach For America before enrolling in graduate school.

    The student body at Lavizzo is 96 percent low income, according to the 2015-16 Illinois Report Card.

    “After teaching 35 low-income first graders, I took a step back and tried to understand why is it that by the time the kids are in first grade, they’re already behind before they even started,” Sabol said. “This study takes some of the emphasis off of teachers and really unpacks the positive and negative effects of children’s engagement on their own learning.”


  7. Picture overload hinders children’s word learning from storybooks

    July 16, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Sussex press release:

    Less is more when it comes to helping children learn new vocabulary from picture books, according to a new study.

    While publishers look to produce ever more colourful and exciting texts to entice buyers, University of Sussex psychologists have shown that having more than one illustration per page results in poorer word learning among pre-schoolers.

    The findings, published in Infant and Child Development, present a simple solution to parents and nursery teachers for some of the challenges of pre-school education and could help in the development of learning materials for young children.

    Doctoral researcher and co-author Zoe Flack said: “Luckily, children like hearing stories, and adults like reading them to children. But children who are too young to read themselves don’t know where to look because they are not following the text. This has a dramatic impact on how well they learn new words from stories.”

    The researchers read storybooks to three-year-olds with one illustration at a time (the right-hand page was illustrated, the left-hand page was blank) or with two illustrations at a time (both pages had illustrations), with illustrations introducing the child to new objects that were named on the page.

    They found that children who were read stories with only one illustration at a time learned twice as many words as children who were read stories with two or more illustrations.

    In a follow-up experiment, researchers added a simple hand swipe gesture to guide the children to look at the correct illustration before the page was read to them. They found this gesture was effective in helping children to learn words when they saw two illustrations across the page.

    Zoe, who has written a blog post about the research, said: “This suggests that simply guiding children’s attention to the correct page helps them focus on the right illustrations, and this in turn might help them concentrate on the new words.

    “Our findings fit well with Cognitive Load Theory, which suggests that learning rates are affected by how complicated a task is. In this case, by giving children less information at once, or guiding them to the correct information, we can help children learn more words.”

    Co-author Dr Jessica Horst, said: “Other studies have shown that adding ‘bells and whistles’ to storybooks like flaps to lift and anthropomorphic animals decreases learning. But this is the first study to examine how decreasing the number of illustrations increases children’s word learning from storybooks.”

    She added: “This study also has important implications for the e-Book industry. Studies on the usefulness of teaching vocabulary from e-Books are mixed, but our study suggests one explanation is that many studies with e-Books are only presenting one illustration at a time.”

    The study is one of many being carried out at Sussex in The WORD Lab, a research group that focuses on how children learn and acquire language. Previous research has shown children learn more words from hearing the same stories repeated and from hearing stories at nap time.


  8. Study suggests counting on fingers may be important part of math learning

    July 10, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Frontiers press release:

    Is it OK for children to count on their fingers? Generations of pupils have been discouraged by their teachers from using their hands when learning maths. But a new research article, published in Frontiers in Education shows using fingers may be a much more important part of maths learning than previously thought.

    The article, by Professor Tim Jay of Sheffield Hallam University and independent researcher Dr Julie Betenson, confirms what parents have long felt instinctively — that the sorts of finger games children often play at home are central to their education.

    The researchers worked with 137 primary pupils aged between six and seven. All the children were given different combinations of counting and number games to play — but only some were given exercises which involved finger-training.

    Some pupils played games involving number symbols, such as dominoes, shut-the-box, or snakes and ladders.

    Other pupils were asked to play finger games: such being asked to hold up a given number of fingers, or numbering fingers from 1 — 5 and then having to match one of them by touching it against the corresponding finger on the other hand, or tracing coloured lines using a particular finger.

    Both these groups did a little better in maths tests than a third group of pupils who had simply had ‘business as usual’ with their teachers. But the group which did both the counting and the finger games fared significantly better.

    “This study provides evidence that fingers provide children with a ‘bridge’ between different representations of numbers, which can be verbal, written or symbolic. Combined finger training and number games could be a useful tool for teachers to support children’s understanding of numbers,” Professor Jay said.

     


  9. Study examines brain mechanism behind multitasking

    July 7, 2017 by Ashley

    From the American Friends of Tel Aviv University press release:

    Although “multitasking” is a popular buzzword, research shows that only 2% of the population actually multitasks efficiently. Most of us just shift back and forth between different tasks, a process that requires our brains to refocus time and time again — and reduces overall productivity by a whopping 40%.

    New Tel Aviv University research identifies a brain mechanism that enables more efficient multitasking. The key to this is “reactivating the learned memory,” a process that allows a person to more efficiently learn or engage in two tasks in close conjunction.

    “The mechanism may have far-reaching implications for the improvement of learning and memory functions in daily life,” said Dr. Nitzan Censor of TAU’s School of Psychological Sciences and Sagol School of Neuroscience. “It also has clinical implications. It may support rehabilitation efforts following brain traumas that impact the motor and memory functions of patients, for example.”

    The research, conducted by TAU student Jasmine Herszage, was published in Current Biology.

    Training the brain

    “When we learn a new task, we have great difficulty performing it and learning something else at the same time. For example, performing a motor task A (such as performing a task with one hand) can reduce performance in a second task B (such as performing a task with the other hand) conducted in close conjunction to it. This is due to interference between the two tasks, which compete for the same brain resources,” said Dr. Censor. “Our research demonstrates that the brief reactivation of a single learned memory, in appropriate conditions, enables the long-term prevention of, or immunity to, future interference in the performance of another task performed in close conjunction.”

    The researchers first taught student volunteers to perform a sequence of motor finger movements with one hand, by learning to tap onto a keypad a specific string of digits appearing on a computer screen as quickly and accurately as possible. After acquiring this learned motor memory, the memory was reactivated on a different day, during which the participants were required to briefly engage with the task — this time with an addition of brief exposure to the same motor task performed with their other hand. By utilizing the memory reactivation paradigm, the subjects were able to perform the two tasks without interference.

    By uniquely pairing the brief reactivation of the original memory with the exposure to a new memory, long-term immunity to future interference was created, demonstrating a prevention of interference even a month after the exposures.

    “The second task is a model of a competing memory, as the same sequence is performed using the novel, untrained hand,” said Dr. Censor. “Existing research from studies on rodents showed that a reactivation of the memory of fear opened up a window of several hours in which the brain was susceptible to modifications — in which to modify memory.

    “In other words, when a learned memory is reactivated by a brief cue or reminder, a unique time-window opens up. This presents an opportunity to interact with the memory and update it — degrade, stabilize or strengthen its underlying brain neural representations,” Dr. Censor said. “We utilized this knowledge to discover a mechanism that enabled long-term stabilization, and prevention of task interference in humans.

    The researchers are eager to understand more about this intriguing brain mechanism. “Is it the result of hardwired circuitry in the brain, which allows different learning episodes to be integrated? And how is this circuitry represented in the brain? By functional connections between distinct brain regions? It is also essential to determine test whether the identified mechanism is relevant for other types of tasks and memories, not only motor tasks,” Dr. Censor concluded.


  10. Strategic studying limits the costs of divided attention

    July 6, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Association for Psychological Science press release:

    Multitasking while studying may impair overall memory for the study material, but your ability to strategically identify and remember the most important information may stay intact, according to new findings published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

    “Dividing attention wasn’t necessarily a good thing for learning and recall, but we found that distracted participants were just as likely to recall the most important information as were participants who were able to give the presented information their full attention,” explains psychology researcher Catherine D. Middlebrooks of the University of California, Los Angeles. “The ability to prioritize high-value information during study was consistently immune to the effects of divided attention, regardless of the extent of the distractions that participants faced.”

    Previous research has shown that learners are able to compensate for the limitations of memory by prioritizing certain information and essentially sacrificing other information as they study. That is, they strategically compensate for factors that are beyond their control — but deploying this strategic approach to studying itself requires cognitive resources. Middlebrooks and UCLA co-authors Tyson K. Kerr and Alan D. Castel wanted to know whether learners have sufficient cognitive resources to overcome the potential costs incurred by studying strategically.

    In one experiment, the researchers asked 192 undergraduate student participants to view a series of word lists and remember as many words as possible. Importantly, each word had a numerical value, from 1 to 10, and participants were instructed to maximize the total value of the words they recalled.

    Students randomly assigned to the divided attention group studied the word lists as digits were also being read aloud — they were instructed to press a key every time they heard three odd digits in a row. Other students studied the lists while lyrical music, with which they were familiar or unfamiliar, played in the background. Another group of students studied with no additional distractions.

    As expected, those students who were forced to divide their attention between the word list and the digits recalled fewer words compared with the students in the other groups. The data showed that the background music had no discernible effect on students’ overall recall.

    Importantly, students really did seem to pay attention to the value of the words — their odds of recalling a 10-point word were almost five times greater than their odds of recalling a 1-point word. The link between value and recall held for students in all of the groups, regardless of whether they studied with or without distraction.

    The findings suggest that the students adjusted their studying to compensate for their study conditions, paying particular attention to the most important study items.

    A second experiment, in which students had to divide their attention between studying word lists and completing tone-monitoring tasks that varied in difficulty, showed a similar pattern of results. Participants performed worse when their attention was divided, but they were still able to selectively remember the high-value words.

    In both experiments, participants were better able to remember the words as they gained more experience with the task, suggesting that their ability to study selectively improved with practice.

    “Situations in which we can actually give something our full, truly undivided attention are often few and far between — at any given moment, you’re likely to be distracted to some extent by a number of factors,” says Middlebrooks. “Our findings don’t suggest that multi-tasking or being distracted will never affect how well we might prioritize important information, but they do suggest that distraction does not automatically doom our efforts and that we seem to consider their costs when deciding how best to allocate our limited resources.”

    In future research, Middlebrooks and colleagues hope to explore how various real-world factors — such as having to choose which material to study and how — might affect strategic studying.