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UW Educational Neuroscience Lab
Linking Education and Neuroscience

Welcome to the Ed Neuro Lab!

The lab is directed by Edward M. Hubbard in the Department of Educational Psychology and the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

We explore question at the intersection of education and neuroscience, in the emerging field of Educational Neuroscience. Our research examines the neural underpinnings of cognitive processes that are relevant for education, and the role of educational experiences and enculturation as primary drivers of brain plasticity to create the neural circuits that underlie human specific abilities. Our research combines the latest technological advances in understanding the human brain as a “learning organ” with insights from cognitive psychology and education to help build the emerging field of educational neuroscience.

The lab focuses on three main areas:
1) the acquisition of mathematics in typical and atypically developing populations
2) the role of multi-sensory integration in learning; and
3) the role of learning in synesthesia, and the consequences of synesthesia for education.


Ed Speaking at APS

Published on May 24, 2016, by

Ed will be speaking at the Association for Psychological Science (APS) meeting in Chicago this Saturday afternoon as part of an invited symposium “Frontiers in Educational Neuroscience”, chaired by Fred Morrison. Other speakers include Fumiko Hoeft (UCSF), Jennie Grammer (UCLA) and Margaret Sheridan (UNC), with topics ranging from the development of reading and reading difficulties, the development of executive control, our fractions work, among others.


New article on financial literacy tools out in Journal of Economic Education

Published on April 16, 2016, by

Our new article with Percival Matthews and Anya Samek “Using online compound interest tools to improve financial literacy” just came out in the Journal of Economic Education.  In this article, we examine the use of different types of tools (tables and visualizations) t0 teach people about compound interest. Our findings (which were surprising to us) were that the table format actually lead to greater gains than the visualizations.


Becky Liu Awarded Hilldale Fellowship

Published on April 16, 2016, by

Congratulations to our undergraduate Becky Liu, who has been awarded a Hilldale Fellowship for her project “Cross Cultural Investigation of Foundational Fractions Concepts”.  This Hilldale award builds on Becky’s successful Welton application last year, and will support Becky’s project in which she compares fractions understanding between groups of Native English speakers and Native Chinese speakers.


Come See Our Undergrads Present at the Undergrad Symposium

Published on April 10, 2016, by

The Ed Neuro Lab will have five presentations at the Undergraduate Symposium this Thursday, April 14.

URS student Maiyer Vang will be presenting a poster (Session 1 12:30 – 1:45) Investigating the Neural Basis of Developmental Gerstmann’s Syndrome

Hilldale Award Winner Grace George will be presenting a poster (Session 2: 2:00 – 3:15 p.m) Investigations Into the Neural Basis of Effective Math Teaching

URS student Kim Crow will be presenting a poster (Session 3 3:30 – 4:45) FMRI Investigations of Multisensory Integration of Number

Hilldale Award Winner Jennifer Hathaway will be presenting a poster  (Session 3 3:30 – 4:45)  Neural Mechanisms Supporting Multisensory Integration of Number

URS student Nina Vakil will be speaking on The Link Between Fraction Magnitude Representations and Math Skills

For all the details, and information about all the other wonderful presentations, see the full program.


Ed to Speak at Temple University

Published on April 8, 2016, by

Ed will be heading to Philadelphia to speak at Temple University in their Temple Institute for Learning & Education Sciences series next Wednesday, April 13.  He will be speaking about Understanding Fractions: A Case Study in Educational Neuroscience.


The Ed Neuro Lab is at CNS

Published on April 1, 2016, by

The Educational Neuroscience Lab is sending a party of three (Liz, Radhika and Zac) to the Cognitive Neuroscience Society meeting in the Big Apple!

We will be presenting three posters on our work, and Radhika will also present as a data blitz talk:

Data Blitz Session 1 (Saturday 2:54 – 3:00 pm) Talk 5: Decoding Grapheme-Color Synesthesia Using Multivariate Pattern Analysis*
Radhika Gosavi, Emma Meyering, Nathan Rose, Bradley Postle & Edward Hubbard

* The Data Blitz talk is also part of the Graduate Student Award (GSA) Radhika received from CNS

B32 (Sunday 8:00-10:00 am) An ALE Meta-analysis of Facial Processing in Autism
Zachary Grulke & Edward Hubbard

D173 (Monday 8:00-10:00 am) Individual Differences in Spatial Representations of Fractions Relate to Formal Math Achievement
Elizabeth Y. Toomarian & Edward M. Hubbard

F151 (Tuesday 8:00-10:00 am) Decoding Grapheme-Color Synesthesia Using Multivariate Pattern Analysis
Radhika Gosavi, Emma Meyering, Nathan Rose, Bradley Postle & Edward Hubbard

Please stop by and check out the latest work from the lab!


Radhika Awarded NSF Honorable Mention

Published on March 29, 2016, by

Congratulations to our second year PhD student, Radhika Gosavi, for her Honorable Mention in the 2016 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program for her application to study the neural correlates of synesthesia!  Radhika’s Honorable Mention was one of only 38 nationwide in the Cognitive Neuroscience area.


Liz Defends Master’s Thesis

Published on March 10, 2016, by

Congratulations to our third year PhD student, Liz Toomarian, who successfully defended her Master’s Thesis, The Spatial Representations of Fractions on the Mental Number Line. Liz’s work includes a series of behavioral studies examining the mental representation of fractions on the mental number line, and a large study of individual differences in fraction processing.   Parts of this work have been presented at conferences including CNS and AERA, and submitted for publication.


New Media Coverage of Our Psych. Science article

Published on January 12, 2016, by

Our new Psychological Science article, Individual Differences in Nonsymbolic Ratio Processing Predict Symbolic Math Performance, has been getting a fair bit of media coverage, including press releases from the American Psychological Society (APS) which publishes Psych. Science, our own School of Education, and even Jonathan Wai’s excellent blog over at Psychology Today.

APS: Basic Ratio Capacity May Serve as Building Block for Math Knowledge

UW-Madison SOE: Abstract math concepts may be grounded in basic non-symbolic processing abilities

Psychology Today: Do Humans Have A Basic Capacity To Understand Fractions?


New Article Out in Psych. Science

Published on December 30, 2015, by

Our new article describing how individual differences in perceptual ratio processing relate to college student’s math abilities (especially fractions) is now out in Psychological Science.

Matthews, P.G. Lewis, M.R. and Hubbard, E.M. (2015). Individual Differences in Nonsymbolic Ratio Processing Predict Symbolic Math Performance, Psychological Science, first published on December 28, 2015 as doi:10.1177/0956797615617799

In this article, we lay out a theory for the perceptual foundations of fraction processing, based on a basic system for non-symbolic ratio processing, which we dub the “ratio processing system” (RPS), by analogy with the approximate number system (ANS). We test a key prediction of this account by showing that individual differences in RPS precision relate to higher-order math skills, including fractions processing, and strikingly, even algebra skills!