December 2001

"Helping People Succeed"

Intentional Learning: Learning to Change the Brain

Purpose: Keep readers informed about learning orientation research and the application of individual differences in learning theories, models, and design strategies to mass-customize and personalize intentional learning. This whole-person approach highlights the importance of emotions and intentions on learning, in addition to social and cognitive aspects. This online newsletter appears at: http://training.trainingplace.com/newsletter/dec2001.htm. The index for these newsletters appears at: (http://training.trainingplace.com/newsletter/index.htm).











"My own brain is to me the most unaccountable of machinery-- always buzzing, humming, soaring roaring diving, and then buried in mud. And why? What's this passion for?" Virginia Woolf

This newsletter issue presents information about the Amygdala (our brain's emotional center) as it considers its connections to Learning and Memory (e.g., attention, motivation, and retention). It uses a whole-person perspective that is in contrast to the primarily cognitive or traditional perspectives (that too often subjugate or overlook the impact of affective and conative aspects). Current developments in many research areas continue to highlight the special impact of emotions on behavior, learning, performance, and memory. This is an updated look (a year later) at some of the recent work teaching us about the emotional connections to how individuals learn and perform. In this newsletter, you will find an assortment of resources that highlight studies and information about the amygdala and learning research.


The Learning Orientation Questionnaire (LOQ) is a survey that identifies an individual’s orientation to learn and measures online learning ability—from a whole-person perspective. The research construct describes dominant psychological factors that influence learning. These factors suggest how learners want or intend to approach learning - generally or situationally. This whole-person perspective (including affective, conative, social, and cognitive factors) considers the learner's 1) emotional investment in learning, 2) committed effort and strategic self-directedness, and 3) independence or learning autonomy. A beta version of the LOQ (45-items) is available for University-based research for free (100 copies). Faculty or students may ask to use the LOQ by writing to mmartinez@trainingplace.com. Here are a few recent researchers describing their work and use of the LOQ.

a. Edward Jones (Professor at Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi) presented "Learning Orientations in University Web-Based Courses" at WebNet 2001 October 23-27, 2001 Orlando, FL. This paper examines the research question of whether the distribution of learning orientations among university students enrolling in web-based courses differs from those in the general student population. Using the Learning Orientation Questionnaire (LOQ) (Martinez, 2001) statistically significant differences in learning orientations were found between science students in a web-based course and those in a more traditional classroom setting. The implications of this finding on sample bias in educational research studies of web-based courses and on the instructional design of university web-based courses are discussed.

b. David Stein (Associate Professor at Ohio State University) and colleagues, including Christine Overtoom (doctoral student) are working on a pilot study for a Workforce Development and Education research grant. They are using the LOQ as a component in developing learning communities. This project investigates under what conditions the online, academic community developed through interaction on the Internet leads to increased learning. Distance education provides opportunities for dialogue and construction of meaning though both individual reflection and group interaction. We will examine the interplay between learning and the strength of the educational community when courses are offered (a) at different degrees of distance, defined as the amount of face-to-face interaction, and (b) with varying structure in the course content.

c. Randy Spaid (Graduate Student, Florida State University) is presenting a paper at AERA about his dissertation study. This study considers high school science students who are not engaged in science class despite evidence that they have potential to be successful learners. He is exploring what the science teacher does to influence (positively or negatively) their student's engagement (or non-engagement.). In a pilot study, he used the Learning Orientation framework to study a group of high school physics students (they were largely conforming and resistant). For his dissertation, he will also be cross referencing their learning orientation scores with their PSAT, College Level Placement Test, and Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test results.

d. Lee Ann Rikard (Assistant Principal for Instruction, Norfolk Public School and doctoral student at Old Dominion University, Virginia) has used the LOQ for her graduate ECI761 course. Next semester, she will be using it for her Norfolk Public School teachers.

e. Holly Priestly (Pennsylvania State University) has used the LOQ for PSU's Biology 110 course (two semesters). This effort is part of a larger Mellon Grant project that looks at which factors impact online learning. She uses the LOQ to provide information about attendance and achievement. Her statistics show that for her audience (mostly performing learners) it is largely the second factor (committed effort and strategic self-directedness) -- and the first factor to a lesser degree (emotional investment in learning) that impact successful attendance and achievement for her audience.


a. Introduction to the Amgydala (N. Keele). Today, the amygdala is widely recognized as a critical structure in emotional processing (LeDoux 1992), whereas the structures of the Papez circuit participate more in cognition (Weiskrantz 1956). In studies with humans having discrete lesions localized to the amygdala (Urbach-Wiethe disease), it has been shown that the amygdala is critical for processing emotional stimuli and forming emotional memory (Adolphs et al., 1994); and further, that there is a dissociation between the role of the amygdala in emotion and the function of the hippocampus in declarative memory (Bechara et al., 1995). http://marlin.utmb.edu/~nkeele/intro.html

b. Emotions and Learning - How do emotions affect your learning? Have feelings of anger or frustration kept you from focusing on a task? Have your students been so excited about learning something that their accomplishments far exceeded your expectations? Experts in brain research remind us of the important connection between emotion and cognitive development in the following selections.


Martinez, M. (2001). Successful Mentoring, Guiding, and Coaching Relationships from a Whole-Person Approach. In J Wood & J. Cortada (Eds.), 2001 ASTD Training & Performance Handbook. American Society for Training and Development. New York: McGraw-Hill. [online] http://shop.mcgraw-hill.com/cgi-bin/pbg/search.html?mv_searchtype=db&mv_matchlimit=20&mv_first_match=0&mv_search_file=products&mv_search_file=author2isbn&mv_search_file=descriptions&mv_search_field=%3A*&mv_search_field=lname&mv_search_field=detaileddesc&mv_column_op=rm&mv_column_op=rm&mv_column_op=rm&mv_substring_match=yes&mv_all_chars=yes&mv_unique=yes&mv_search_page=results.html&mv_searchspec=2001+astdMartinez,

M. (2002). Know Thyself: Becoming an Independent Online Learner. In Ken White and Jason D. Baker (Eds.), The Online Teaching Guide. Virtual University Gazette (http://geteducated.com/vugaz.htm).

Martinez, M. (2002). Understanding Online Learning Excellence. In Annie England (Ed.), Motivating & Retaining Online Learners. Virtual University Gazette (http://geteducated.com/vugaz.htm).


a. Beyond Classroom Solutions: New Design Perspectives for Online Learning Excellence presented to the International Forum of Educational Technology & Society (Discussion: 21 - 30 January 2002 and Summing up: 31 January - 1 February 2002). (http://ifets.ieee.org/discussions/current_next_discuss.html)

b. Moving Learners Online (specially presented for the Element K User Conference) at the Training 2002 Conference and Exposition: February 18-20, 2002, Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta, GA. (http://www.trainingconference.com/attendee/e_pop_session.cfm?session_id=5640&class_id=6432)


This section presents a variety of resources describing the amygdala's connection with learning. 

a. Emotion, Memory, and the Brain (James Ledoux). - Welcome to the Ledoux Lab, Center for Neural Science at New York University. How does the brain form memories of life's significant events? This is the question that motivates the research in our laboratory. More specifically, our work is focused on how traumatic memories are formed, stored, and retrieved. A fundamental assumption in this work is that the brain has multiple memory systems, each devoted to different kinds of memory functions.

b. Fear and the Amydala (Brain Briefings, March 1998). Whether you are ecstatic, dejected or frightened, emotions certainly can have a grip on your life. In the world of science, however, emotions did not have such a hold. In the past they took a back seat to more clear-cut scientific topics. But now an increasing amount of evidence is showing that the emotion of fear is decipherable. (Brain Briefings is a online newsletter for the Society for Neuroscience).

c. The Amygdala in Brain Function: Basic and Clinical Approaches (Conference on March 24 - 26, 2002, Moody Gardens Hotel, Galveston Island, Texas. New York Academy of Sciences. Co-sponsored with: The University of Texas, Medical Branch, Galveston). Interest in the amygdala is very high among scientists and the general public, in view of the importance of understanding how the brain governs emotions, learning and memory. The objective of this meeting is to provide a forum for presenting the most current information on the basic characteristics of amygdala function, including neuroanatomical, electrophysiological, behavioral, and imaging studies in animals and in humans. Participants will integrate data with the most recent findings in clinical human diseases in which the function of the amygdala is compromised. Throughout these discussions, pharmacological information will also be presented to provide a foundation for designing drugs for treatment of amygdala pathology.

d. A Computational Model of Emotional Learning in the Amygdala (Jan Morén, Christian Balkenius. In Jean-Arcady Meyer, Alain Berthoz, Dario Floreano, Herbert L. Roitblat, Stewart W. Wilson, (Eds.), From Animals to Animats 6: Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on the Simulation of Adaptive Behaviour, Cambridge, Mass., 2000. The MIT Press). The amygdala has repeatedly been implicated in emotional reactions and in learning of new emotionally significant stimuli. The system forms an important part of motor learning as well as attention. This paper presents a neurologically inspired computational model of the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex that aims to partially reproduce the same characteristics as the biological system. The model has been tested in simulations, the results of which are presented. The amygdala has repeatedly been implicated in emotional reactions and in learning of new emotionally significant stimuli. The system forms an important part of motor learning as well as attention. This paper presents a neurologically inspired computational model of the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex that aims to partially reproduce the same characteristics as the biological system. This model has been tested in simulations, the results of which are pre-sented. of the real amygdalo-orbitofrontal system; instead, our aim is to make use of neurophysiological data.

e. Emotions and Learning (Barry Kort ) Most of the resources on the Emotions and Learning research are now collected at the MIT Affective Computing web site for the NSF-funded project on The Affective Learning Companion.

h. Memory Storage Area of Brain Found (February 05, 2001) The brain-triggered "flee, freeze, or fight" responses to threat are based on experiences and memories. Scientists have just now found that an area of the brain, the amygdala, thought at one time to store painful and emotion-related memories, also initiates memory storage in other regions of the brain. New research indicates that the amygdala plays a major part in the initial process of storing memories elsewhere in the brain. It seems to sort out which experiences are important enough to store, based on the emotional significance of the events in a decoding process that affects both learning and memory. "This work puts the amygdala in the middle of the circuitry, in a very prominent position in terms of relevance toward learning," Gabriel said. The findings of the study also are consistent with a theory originally formulated by James L. McGaugh of the University of California at Irvine, he pointed out. However, the new data show how the theory is implemented in terms of the activity in the brain circuitry.

i. Emotional regulation of learning and memory: Role of the amygdala (Part of a Psychology Course at the U of Alberta) Discusses the emotional regulation of learning and memory: Role of the amygdala.
Multiple roles of the amygdala in learning and memory. All are related to emotion/affect stimulus-reinforcement. http://www.psych.ualberta.ca/~mparent/p371b1/371nts10a.html

j. Affective Learning Companion (Affective Computing Research Project)"I can't do this" and "I'm not good at this" are common statements made by kids while trying to learn. These thoughts, usually triggered by affective states of confusion, frustration, and hopelessness, are some of the greatest problems not being addressed by educational reform. Education has emphasized conveying a great deal of information and facts, and has not modeled the learning process. When teachers present material to the class, it is usually in a polished form that omits the natural steps of making mistakes (feeling confused), recovering from them (overcoming frustration), deconstructing what went wrong (not becoming dispirited), and starting over again (with hope and maybe even enthusiasm). Learning naturally involves failure and a host of associated affective responses. The aim of this project is to build a computerized learning companion that facilitates the child's own efforts at learning.

k. Grounding Emotions in Adaptive Systems (5th International Conference of the Society for Adaptive Behavior (SAB'98) University of Zurich, Switzerland, August 21, 1998). Submissions for this conference are posted online.

m. 2002 From Animals to Animats 7 (The Seventh International Conference on the
SIMULATION OF ADAPTIVE BEHAVIOR (SAB'02), 4 - 9 - 11 August 2002, Edinburgh, UK . This index page is intended as a bulletin board to be updated with the most important current information.

n. The Future of the Study of Emotion
- My [James Ledoux] wish list for the future of emotion research would include four items.

o. Emotion in learning: a neglected dynamic (Christine Ingleton, Advisory Centre for University Education, University of Adelaide). Learning environments are social environments, and learners are highly complex beings whose emotions interact with their learning in powerful ways. To value the learner is to value the whole person, not just the intellect. In this paper, a model of emotion in learning is developed which illustrates the role of emotion in establishing and maintaining identity and self-esteem in learning situations. From the standpoint of psycho-analytic and social-constructionist theory, it is argued that the disposition to learn has its basis in social relationships. Arising from those relationships are the emotions of pride and shame which play a key role in the development of identity and self-esteem. The dynamics of pride and shame and identity, in the context of experiences of success and failure, may dispose students to act positively or negatively towards learning. The theory is illustrated in the experiences of students in mathematics classrooms from primary to tertiary level. These experiences indicate that emotion is constitutive of learning, and merits greater consideration in learning theory. http://herdsa.bris.binke.com.au/vic/cornerstones/pdf/Ingleton.PDF

p. Emotion in the Classroom - (Edward Vela, California State University, Chico). Students come to our classes knowing things. Cognitive psychology has long maintained that what we know plays a vital role in the learning of new information ( Bartlett, 1958). Therefore, as teachers, or as learning coaches, many of us tailor our curriculum goals to what students already know. In this essay, however, I suggest that a vital aspect of the learning process ­ the power of emotion -- is either ignored or relegated to a minor, or worse, a pandering status. Psychology has provided a wealth of insight into how students learn. Yet almost no attention is given to why students learn. I believe that the "why" of learning is profoundly influenced by emotion.

Eureka! The thrill of discovery is the purest, least understood event in science. - (Gareth Cook, Globe Staff, 12/18/2001). Now, studies of the brain are revealing the anatomy of a 'Eureka moment. By measuring changes in electrical activity in the brain, researchers believe they have pinpointed the so-called "Eureka moment," the point in time a person understands a concept.

r. Towards an Affect-sensitive Cognitive Machine - (Barry Kort, Rob Reilly, M.I.T. Media Laboratory). Numerous research studies support the claim that affect plays a critical role in decision-making and performance as it influences cognitive processes [see e.g., Damasio, 1994; Goleman, 1995; Picard, 1997]. Despite this body of research the role and function of affect is not generally recognized by the disciplines that address the broad issues of understanding complex systems and complex behavior, especially in the presence of learning. The innovative models and theories that have been proposed to facilitate advancement in the field of human-computer interaction (HCI) tend to focus exclusively on cognitive factors. Consequently, the resulting systems are often unable to adapt to real-world situations in which affective factors play a significant role. We propose several new models for framing a dialogue leading to new insights and innovations that incorporate theories of affect into the design of (affect-sensitive) cognitive machines.

s. Several other standard Neurobiology of Learning and Memory links:

Neurosciences on the Internet (Neuroguide.com)
Helmstetter Behavioral Neuroscience Lab at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee 
Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (CNLM) 
Neurobiology of Learning and Memory
National Institutes of Health, National Institute for Mental Health, Elisabeth A. Murray, Ph.D., Chief, Section on Neurobiology of Learning and Memory  
25th Annual Winter Conference on the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory
Society for Neuroscience 
The World-Wide Web Virtual Library Neuroscience (Biosciences)
Neuroscience WWW Sites, Florida State University 


In closing, I want to thank you all for your interest in this research focus. I've thoroughly enjoyed working with most of you over the past several years. Happy Holidays and I want to wish you all a wonderful year in 2002. I hope all your wishes and dreams come true! Best Wishes and Happiness to you all. I look forward to working with you in the new year.

******** Copyright (c) 2009 Margaret Martinez ( all rights reserved)
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