The Effect of Trial and Error Problem Solving on the Brain

Recent advances in neuro-imaging are revolutionizing the way scientists and clinicians understand where information processing occurs for various areas of cognition. Recently, scientists have been able to break problem solving into four discrete stages: encoding, planning, solving, and responding. Scientists at Carnegie Melon University were investigating whether or not changes in the brain occurred if any of these four stages were manipulated. They found that problem solving through trial and error actively increases brain activity in the orbital-frontal cortex, which is known for impulse control and decision making. Conversely, those that didn’t have to use trial and error did not show the same levels of positive brain rewiring. The researchers look forward to figuring out how to apply this knowledge to help shape educational experiences for students.

In the meantime, take a look at these ideas to help provide opportunities for your child to flex this part of their brain.

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