spacer Robert L. Harriman, Ed.D.
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Topics of Interest


Basic Neuroscience and the Educational Practitioner

The very best thing going for education at this time is the conjoined efforts of NEUROSCIENCE AND THE EDUCATIONAL PRACTITIONER.

The physical meeting of these two disciplines is manifest more often now that the ice is broken with more contemporary thinkers in both fields tending to agree that they really need each other for the sake of good education.

It seems that there is no real disagreement on the outcome that can be produced by a synergism being formed for the betterment of education for the student.

Some of the biggest hurdles to cross are still there:

  1. Territorial insecurities. This is one of the most difficult areas to address by insecure professionals who cannot seem to let go of old ways of doing things.
  2. The need for professional group leaders who are trained in group dynamics and can help move things off dead center.
  3. Lack of Risk Takers. The general public is under the false impression that scientists and especially educators are liberal risk takers. This could not be further from the truth. Both of these groups are generally conservative and non risk takers.
OECD and CERI along with several Universities through out the world have been taking the lead in conjoin meetings of the neuroscientists and educational practitioners.

Sharisa Joy Kochmeister is indeed a special young lady who has more personal resolve than most anyone that I can describe. I would like you to read her story and meet her. She is a model for my granddaughter who is ten years old and has autism. Even though they have never met even on line; the stories relayed to my ten year old manifest a "great great" spirit that is unique. Sharisa Joy Kochmeister is my nominee for "what we all wish we possess....kindness, spirit and resolve.


Thought that I would share a moment with you about telling the truth about experiential learning; along with getting a very cold shoulder from the professor.

I had just completed my final exams and defended my dissertation when low and behold a former professor of mine asked me the following: Rob, now that you have completed your doctorate, there are a number of students in my doctorate class who would like you to speak on what you learned in my international curriculum class. Would you be so kind?

Well, I said yes only after being assured that I could speak freely and answer questions directly with objective and subjection answers on my part.

Well, the class was full of doctorate candidates and there was standing room only....I noticed this since all the windows were open and the air conditioning was on full force. I was a little nervous because I was talking with my peers and the subject meant a great deal to me.

The questions and comments were at best banal and were very narrow in answers were also banal and really narrow in scope; then a young man ask me the following: Notwithstanding the lack of flexible scheduling in a doctorate would your learning have been profoundly different and better if you could change the tenor of this particular class. I had him repeat the question and we even wrote it down word for word so that there was no misunderstanding.

I took a deep breath and said that to really really learn the international curriculum that was offered in this particular class, I would take the extremely high tuition costs for the class and set out to visit these countries personally; living with the communities and interacting with the cultures. I suggested that this would be real...and a consummate learning experience at really very little extra cost.

Well, I still believe this, but unfortunately the professor who turned very red and said to the class and directed his remarks to me was.....yes you might have learned a hundred times more, but you would not have received your doctorate since it would never be approved and you [meaning me] would be the loser. He then excused class.

"Teach-the-Brain" is brought to us by OECD/CERI and is a forum for learning that is interactive and found on the net all over the world. Very fine program.


Memory: From Mind to Molecules by Larry R. Squire and Eric R. Kandel is my top choice of all books for educators and beginning neuroscientists to read. I suggest that the mastery of this text will most likely set you on your way to understanding memory at most levels of graduate study. Please understand I say this assuming that your "prior knowledge" on the subject is average and that you can be considered a serious student.

I really use to think that memory was not all important but was I ever wrong. We are dealing with unconscious memory [nondeclarative] and conscious memory [declarative memory]. They run on two parallel neural pathways. By the way, nondeclarative memory remains unconscious. I think this is profound. We can add bicycling, driving a car, swimming (once you really learn) to the unconscious nondeclarative memory. These are memories that are unconscious and tend to never let you down. Unless you are very ill with neurodegenerative diseases.

Habituation is also nondeclarative and we know that this helps us tolerate the TV, Grandkids yelling (playing..sorry) CD going, and driving your car with the noise of the freeway.........Habituation gives us some relief and we can shut out most of the noise and concentrate on our driving...and it is all for free or unconscious (just kidding; it is not free). However, seriously many people are very hypersensitive to noise and habituation helps but not entirely.

Now to your smoking.....habituation? or habit? Or is it an addiction with a tough habit to break. We do know that the 'feel good' area of your brain gives you a temporary fix...just that. But, it is a habit that is hard to break especially an addictive can call it habituation if you like. But it is an addictive habit. I smoked a pipe for years and years. I was almost never without it...I finally threw all my pipes and tobacco away and bought some nicorette gum. I went on a fishing vacation by myself and came back a week more smoking....18 years...not too bad. Feel great.

Back to neurons and memory...neurons have two salient means to signal and communicate. One is by action potential and the other is by synaptic potential. I will talk about these soon. Rather interesting to say the least. This helps shape our overall memory.


Parkinson’s Disease or Parkinsonism sound pretty much the same, but are different types of diseases, yet may be very difficult to ascertain the difference during early diagnosis.

Parkinson’s Disease essentially is the dying of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra of the brain. A clinical diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease usually is not made until there are adequate criteria for such a diagnosis. This means that there must be at least 70 - 80 % of all dopaminergic neurons incapacitated or dead in order to made this diagnosis. Parkinson’s disease seems to be a long ‘wait and see‘…thus waiting for symptoms to manifest within a 15 minute neurologist’s clinical appointment. What if we knew of early symptoms before most all of the dopaminergic neurons died within the substantia nigra. What if people were trained to see certain prospective symptoms at a very early age when very few neurons had died?

Parkinson’s Disease is incurable but a person can live mostly a normal life span if the symptoms of the disease are receptive to medication and or other treatments. Unfortunately Parkinson’s disease is progressive.

My concern is quite clear….with the advent of NEUROIMAGING, there are top level discussions among researchers and neurologists that the possibility of Parkinson’s disease may begin at a very early age. How early? Very early, but we do not yet know. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if researcher could really concentrate on the curing of this dreaded disease as soon as it is manifest. This could occur with the continued improvement of more sophisticated neuroimaging equipment.

Could neuroimaging be the answer to a very early discovery of the beginning of the disease or many other diseases?


As we know prior learning is a physical change in the neuronal networks. Many times we can learn from information about the brain etc. from prior learning taught to children. Retrieved from the internet on 1-7-08


The OECD is one of the world's largest and most reliable sources of comparable statistics, and economic and social data. As well as collecting data, the OECD monitors trends, analyses and forecasts economic developments and researches social changes or evolving patterns in trade, environment, agriculture, technology, taxation and more.


The development of policy whether it be formally written down and ruled upon by a governing body versus the informal development of policy which is by word only, is extremely important.

I will be addressing the formal development of policy which is written and ruled upon by a governing body.

Policy development can mean the actual development of the policy which means conferring with 'all of the players' or a unilateral decision by a governing board. There is good reason for both...but the results are not always the same since policy development is ensconced in politics up to its neck.

This section will be continued as time permits......


Welcome to the School of the 21st Century (21C). Based at Yale University, the 21C program develops, researches, networks, and supervises a revolutionary educational model that links communities, families, and schools. There are currently over 1300 21C schools across the United States.


Stanford University Professor Robert Sapolsky has written a terrific book/text for those academics who are interested in stress. I recommend this text as one that can be understood by lay people and scholars. Dr. Sapolsky is probably one of the most cogent professors on stress in our time.


Many times public policy and actual manifestations of life hit heads and become in direct conflict with factual knowledge. In this short treatise we will cover one such conflict and the possible abdication of the implementation of public policy to ameliorate potential injury of teens. There are indeed more questions than answers and quite possibly more politics than common sense. However we shall open this can of worms rather than turn the other way.

The teenage brain is in direct conflict with public policy. Please follow with me as if you were sitting on a GOVERNING BOARD OR A LEGISLATOR ETC. How would you vote? What would you discuss? How important is this to you?

The human brain is complex, but there is strong agreement among the neuroscientists regarding the frontal and prefrontal lobes. They are referred to as the executive part of the brain. They are also the salient decision making portion of the brain. They are also the last portion of the brain to develop and mature. This maturity is usually found to be in the late teens to middle twenties. Of course, there will be exceptions to each developmental process; where maturation will be earlier or later.

Now for all of us who are sideline policy developers, why do we let children drive cars and operate dangerous machinery at such a young age? This is an example where public policy was made before anyone ever knew about the brain. If I recall, we had or may still have public policy for children as young as fourteen to help on the farms. I bet in these cases the number of accidents was/is very low due to the strong supervision of the farming community.

Now let's take a look at a teenager driving on the fast crowded, dangerous highways that we have today. Today, even the adults tend to think that a stop light or stop sign is just a suggestion rather than a strict law. I wonder if public policy will take the new brain based information into account when discussing the minimum age for driving.

Some elderly have similar driving and machinery type issues...but with a degeneration of the brain. Will the policy makers take brain based information into account when discussing the age to stop driving or might both age groups be considered on an individual basis.

It will be interesting to observe and quite possibly participant in these tough policy making decisions which may affect the individual driver and those who are unfortunately a victim.

How would you approach a policy decision with this new information?

We introduced just a whisper of knowledge about the brain when we discussed the frontal and prefrontal lobes. The executive portion of the brain; the decision making lobes and by all accounts the responsibility lobes, mature last of all. They mature as mentioned in the late teens and sometimes into the twenties.

What a powerful statement this is and it illustrates the importance of strong cooperation between the neuroscientists and educational practitioners. The science has substrates which are sometimes referred to as legs ( a foundational support). This possesses causation and you can pretty well take it to the bank. In other words, you can rely on this information to make policy or any other decision(s) that involve this particular illustration.

The cooperation between neuroscientists and educational practitioners will mean good knowledge for our students and excellent prior knowledge to build upon.

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