Simple Breakdown / How the Brain Processes Information

In 2008, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency issued a challenge to researchers: Create a sophisticated, shoebox-size system that incorporates billions of transistors, weighs about three pounds, and requires a fraction of the energy needed by current computers. Basically, a brain in a box.

Although neuroscience has made important strides in recent years, the inner workings of the brain are still largely a mystery. “So little is really understood about the hardware of the brain—the neurons and their interconnections, and the algorithms that run on top of them—that today, anyone who claims to have built ‘a brain-like computer’ is laughable,” says Stan Williams, a research fellow at Hewlett Packard Labs.

Programs mirror human logic, but they don’t mirror intuitive thought.”

Rich Friedrich, Hewlett Packard Labs

A caveat from HP Labs (super website) regarding the analogy that the human brain like a computer processor. 


We have to start somewhere!

eLearning Design and Development

By Christopher Pappas,  November 11, 2016

The brain is often likened to a processor. A complex computing machine that takes raw data and turns it into thoughts, memories, and cognitions. However, it has its limits, and Instructional Designers must know the boundaries before they can create meaningful eLearning courses. In this article, I’ll explore how the brain works, from its basic biological and memory functions to its ability to process information. I’ll also share 3 tips to help you create an eLearning course design that facilitates knowledge absorption and assimilation.

Information Processing Basics: A Guide For Instructional Designers

The brain is a wondrous thing. It transforms letters, numbers, and images into meaningful data that governs every aspect of our lives. Neural pathways spark and new ideas meet with the old to form complex schematic structures. But one of the most miraculous tasks it tackles is learning. As eLearning professionals, we must understand how information processing takes place in order to create effective eLearning experiences.

Brain Biology / The brain consists of many different structures, and the cortex encases all of them. The cortex is the outermost shell of the brain that takes care of complex thinking abilities. For example, memory, language, spatial awareness, and even personality traits. The inner regions of the brain control the most primitive aspects of human nature, such as our base impulses, fears, emotions, and our subconscious. The brain also houses a “subcortex,” which connects directly to the cortex. As such, it’s able to transmit and process information. (A cliché description of “primitive, subconscious”)

The Human Memory

Now that we’ve briefly explored the physical makeup of the brain, let’s delve into one of its most vital functions: memory. After all, memory is crucial for eLearning. If online learners aren’t able to remember the information, then all is for naught. We usually don’t give memory much attention, as it’s an automatic process. Every event, no matter how small, passes through the gates of our memory without us even noticing. However, most of the occurrences are just passing through and never take up permanent residence. There are three types of memory that Instructional Designers should be aware of:

1. Sensory Memory 

When our senses are triggered by a stimulus, our brains briefly store the information. For example, we smell freshly baked bread and can only remember its scent for a few seconds before it vanishes. Even though the bread is no longer in front of us, our mind’s still hold onto its impression for a short period. The brain then has the option to process it through the memory banks or forget about it. In eLearning, sensory memory is triggered by a visually compelling image, background music, or any other element that utilizes the senses.

2. Short-Term Memory

A process that falls under the purview of working memory, which temporarily stores information when it is triggered by stimuli. Short-term memory can only hold a maximum of 7 items at one time. It also has a time limit, which is usually between 10 seconds to a minute.

3. Long-Term Memory

After passing through the short-term memory, relevant information is moved to long-term storage. At this stage, the brain is less likely to forget important details. However, even the long-term memory can diminish over time if we don’t refresh our knowledge.

Information Processing Stages

There are a number of Information Processing theories and models. However, many suggest that the learning process involves three key stages:

Stage 1: Input / The brain is exposed to a stimuli, at which point it analyzes and evaluates the information. For example, the online learner reads a passage and determines whether it’s worth remembering.

Stage 2: Storage / Our brains store the information for later use. It also adds it to our mental schema and encodes it. If the information is not reinforced, the brain may simply forget it over time.

Stage 3: Output / The brain decides what it’s going to do with the information and how it will react to the stimulus. For example, after reading the passage, the individual uses the information they learned to overcome a challenge.

Simple! The question is, How do specific human brains handle these processing tasks? Psychologists would have us believe that there is only ONE way this ought to be accomplished; their way. Bull Shit.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s