Curiosity and the Learning brain: An Educational Perspective

Richard Hill


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Teachers (and therapists) know that interested, curious students pay attention and learn more (Berlyne, 1954; Engel, 2013). Stimulating their curiosity makes the job of teaching and the task of being a student so much more successful and enjoyable (Chak, 2007). New research is now establishing some of the neural mechanisms that explain this conceptual connection between curiosity and education. In a recent study, Matthias Gruber and colleagues (Gruber, Gelman, & Ranganath,2014) showed that when the brain is in a state of curiosity, learning is enhanced. They noted that curiosity activated the dopaminergic regions of the substantia nigra, ventral tegmental area, and the nucleus accumbens, which then showed a functional connectivity with the hippocampus. They also found that learning is enhanced not just for the target learning but for peripheral and non-related learning as well. The implication is that curiosity creates a brain state that is primed for learning. From an educational perspective, producing a state of curiosity is going to be very beneficial for the student’s learning experience.


Hill, R. (2014). Curiosity and the learning brain: An educational perspective. The Neuropsychotherapist, 8, 34-42. doi: 10.12744/tnpt(8)034-042

Richard Hill, MA, MEd, MBMSc, DPC has had an eclectic and fascinating journey to become an internationally recognized speaker and educator on the mind, the brain, psychosocial genomics and the human condition. Richard is a practicing psychotherapist, author and developer of the Curiosity Oriented Approach. He is also the creator and host of the online video program, MindScience TV. Mind Science Institute

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