Exploring the Neural Mechanisms of Physics Learning

Principal Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) will be used to directly examine brain networks associated with semantic memory and reasoning and determine the extent to which these networks are differentially engaged during physics problem solving. Two groups of college students, from lecture and modeling instruction classrooms, will undergo fMRI before and after a semester of introductory physics with calculus. We will investigate how brain networks associated with STEM learning change during the course of the semester, how different teaching approaches impact learning in the brain (i.e., traditional large lectures vs. small group active-learning experiences), and how the neural mechanisms associated with learning STEM skills may differ for men and women.


Florida International University, Miami, Florida.

Research Design: 

The project uses a longitudinal research design and will generate evidence that is causal [experimental]. Original data are being collected on undergraduate students taking introductory physics with calculus using functional magnetic resonance imaging [fMRI]. Data will be analyzed using GLM to investigate brain activation patterns. Data will also be analyzed using graph theory metrics to investigate functional connectivity. Behavioral data will be correlated with neuroimaging results. Data will be deposited in OpenfMRI (


Findings will be posted as they become available.

Target Population: 
Research Design: 


Subscribe to RSS - Science