A causal role of sensory cortices in behavioral benefits of 'learning by doing'

16 Oct 2019  ·  Mathias Brian, Sureth Leona, Hartwigsen Gesa, Macedonia Manuela, Mayer Katja M., von Kriegstein Katharina ·

Despite a rise in the use of "learning by doing" pedagogical methods in praxis, little is known as to how these methods improve learning outcomes. Here we show that visual association cortex causally contributes to performance benefits of a learning by doing method. This finding derives from transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and a gesture-enriched foreign language (L2) vocabulary learning paradigm performed by 22 young adults. Inhibitory TMS of visual motion cortex reduced learning outcomes for abstract and concrete gesture-enriched words in comparison to sham stimulation. There were no TMS effects on words learned with pictures. These results adjudicate between opposing predictions of two neuroscientific learning theories: While reactivation-based theories predict no functional role of visual motion cortex in vocabulary learning outcomes, the current study supports the predictive coding theory view that specialized sensory cortices precipitate sensorimotor-based learning benefits.

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