The Learning Brain – Chapter 8

Torkel Klingberg*. (2013). The Learning Brain: Memory and Brain Development in Children. New York. Oxford University Press. [Translation: Neil Betteridge].

Extremely stressful events (e.g. life and death moments) have resulted in precise and deeply imprinted memories.

  • Does this mean that surprise or sudden tests have their place in education?

In the case of working (short term) memory, excess stress beyond a certain ideal point causes unsuccessful recall – such as during a blanking out in an examination. (Research on US skydiver deaths (1990s) returned one reason as ‘no pull’. The inference or guess was that the skydiver experienced a ‘mental block’ such that he failed to use the reserve parachute.)

On a related note, long term incessant (‘chronic’) stress was found to cause poor working memory. On persistent childhood stress (the author focused on poverty; there are others stress factors like school performance, and friends/family according to Erica Frydenberg at the University of Melbourne – 2008; in Chapter 2 cancer treatment is described as negatively affecting working memory), the restoration process is unclear. [Shorter term exposure to constant stress however allowed for rehabilitation. This was concluded from two studies: one on mice, the other on students].

*Author details from Psychology Today (no date) and company Cogmed (no date). [On p. 121 of the book, he states that he acted concurrently as a consultant for Cogmed].