No matter their age, students today are faced with intense academic and social pressures: long days, heavy homework loads, challenging classes, demanding deadlines, and complicated social hierarchies. Alongside these pressures, young people are also reporting higher levels of stress, anxiety, self-esteem issues, and mood disturbances. Furthermore, those with learning disabilities or pre-existing mental health struggles face a path through education that is littered with roadblocks and hurdles. To be successful in school, students not only have to develop effective habits and executive functioning skills, but their brains also need to be functioning at their best in order to facilitate complex processes required for learning, attention, memory, stress regulation, and more.
I’m a college athlete and was about to be kicked out of school for poor grades, which is why I came here. The neuro training helped me to focus in school, remember things better, and overcome my test anxiety. And it even helped me “zone in” and perform better on the field!
related brain activity
In order to successfully execute all that is required of students, the brain is continuously communicating, integrating, consolidating, activating, and regulating. When students are in class or sitting down to study, different brain regions work together to (ideally) help the student focus their attention, weed through the information, encode what’s important, and store/recall that information correctly. For example, the temporal lobes and visual cortex process what the student is hearing and seeing, the parietal lobes integrate that information with prior learning to make sense of it, the cingulate cortex directs attention toward or away from relevant/irrelevant information and sensations, the hippocampi are responsible for proper storing of new information (i.e., memory and learning), and the prefrontal cortex assists with problem solving, abstract thought, organization, planning, memory recall, determining how to behave appropriately. If any one of these regions is not functioning properly, it can significantly impacts students’ ability to perform well in school.
how we boost academic performance
Extensive neuroimaging research continues to provide more and more information around underlying neurophysiological activity related to attention and learning difficulties, as well as mood and behavioral disorders. As part of our assessment process, we also compare each student’s functional brain imaging against a database of high-functioning individuals their age. This shows us what the student’s brain needs to do in order for the student to do what they need to do. This may include correcting communication errors (whether it be too much or too little communication) between regions, modulating electrical activity, activating regions that are under-firing, and calming down overly excited areas. We then utilized our advanced neurotherapy technology to train each of these metrics in the direction they need to go so that the student can achieve optimal academic performance.
Neurotherapies, like neurofeedback and neurostimulation, have proven themselves to be effective tools at helping students optimize their academic performance. Not only can these therapies help the brain learn how to better facilitate learning, memory, and motivation, but they can also help to minimize stress and improve emotional regulation. Pairing these services with our personalized academic coaching and/or neuroscience-informed wellness coaching can also provide more comprehensive support around goal planning and habit formation, setting them up to succeed in school as well as life as a whole. For example, we often work with students on developing good sleeping and eating behaviors, implementing helpful study strategies, utilizing metacognitive strategies, and improving time management.
Here at NeuroGrove, we utilize advanced forms of 3D functional neuroimaging to see exactly where and how each client’s brain might be impaired and thus be able to get directly to the root of the issue. We then use this information to develop targeted, individualized programs for each client to aid neurophysiological recovery and optimize cognitive function in the most efficient, effective manner possible. This may involve advanced brain-computer interface technology (e.g., swLORETA neurofeedback), transcranial neurostimulation, biofeedback, somatic therapies, personalized nutrition, supplementation to reduce inflammation and aid neurogenesis, wellness coaching, and/or integrative psychotherapy.
What the research says
When it comes to optimizing academic performance through neurotherapy, there are two primary goals to consider: 1) removing any deficits (e.g., attention deficits) and 2) enhancing functioning within and between specific brain regions. Neurotherapies have traditionally been used to treat clinical diagnoses and injuries. Often, these diagnoses impede the functioning of many of the skills and behaviors students need to be successful: good memory, quick reactions, focused attention, self-confidence, etc. So, there is a deep history of efficiently using neurotherapies to address any of these skill deficiencies. Researchers have also found success in using these therapies to specifically work with optimizing students’ academic performances.
The parietal lobe is responsible for most mathematical comprehension and calculation. It’s important that this region work closely with the frontal lobes to share and receive information. Pasqualotto (2016) was curious whether transcranial random noise stimulation (a form of neurostimulation) was helpful in improving students’ arithmetic skills, but he also wondered about the most effective location site for training (the parietal or the frontal locations). Participants included three groups of students with fairly equal math abilities. One group received tRNS on the parietal lobe, another group on the frontal lobe, and a third group as a placebo. Compared to the placebo, stimulation of the parietal and frontal lobes, resulted in quicker reactions and improved accuracy. It’s believed this is in part due to the treatment benefiting working memory.
Another group of researchers wanted to see if the evidence of neurofeedback benefits on students with learning difficulties was translatable to the non-clinical student population (Fritson, Wadkins, Gerdes, & Hof, 2007). They conducted a study in which 16 college students were randomly assigned to receive a certain neurofeedback protocol focusing on enhancing SMR activity, while minimizing theta and high beta. Participants were assessed on intelligence, attention, memory, emotional regulation, mood, self-efficacy, and impulse control. After only 20 sessions, results showed significant improvements in response control especially.
For more research studies on this topic, see our Research page.
- Fritson, K. K., Wadkins, T. A., Gerdes, P., & Hof, D. (2007). The impact of neurotherapy on college students’ cognitive abilities and emotions. Journal of Neurotherapy, 11(4), 1–9.
- Pasqualotto, A. “Transcranial Random Noise Stimulation Benefits Arithmetic Skills.” Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, vol. 133, Sept. 2016, pp. 7–12, doi:10.1016/j.nlm.2016.05.004.