The mooc for teenagers… and their parents

Hi everybody,

Today, the article’s introduction has airs of official announcement. Actually, this article is not as the others, and that’s for a very good reason: the NeuroHack-Learning team is currently setting up a mooc to offer pupils of middle school and high school a powerful complement to what they can learn from the school system (and specially HOW). Well, yes, school has the information, but doesn’t seem to know well how to pass on it… At the age of neurosciences development, we think it’s a pity that no action is undertaken to learn to our teenagers… how to learn (nor to the parents to help their child without annoying him/her).
In brief, this mooc must be set up for September (FR) or December (ENG) and… that takes us quite a lot of time! As a result, this article (and probably some others in a near future) will have for specific theme the way we finalize this online formation, so you can see how we work. Well, beaten about the bush enough: let’s go!

First of all, first issue: to help our teenagers to learn effectively and to become autonomous, here is a beautiful project, but … what is our target public after all? Who worries about the school performance of teenagers, who have the means and potentially the desire to act?

Teenagers [#applause], of course, are the very first concerned by this mooc. They are obviously the first ones that can act to obtain best scholar results. The action power, they have, but the motivation to do so? Actually, it could be that some teenagers don’t frankly want to invest time and energy to progress in school, essentially because they do not perceive what’s important in there and lost already their motivation having worked (perhaps hard, who knows) for thin results only.

Chats, Animaux, Animaux De Compagnie, Domestiqué, MamanWho else, then? Their parents! If teenagers do not feel pressure having bad or just fair only scholar results, their parents often feel it a little more …
So, this mooc: is it designed for the parents and talking about supervision, or for their children and talking about performance? Well, as we didn’t want to choose, we decided to do both ^^!
Thus, there will be modules about the work’s efficiency, with all sorts of hacks, but also modules about how to plan and check the work, it’s context, other ones about motivation…

Wow, I forgot a thing: of course, there will be also modules about ” what is really a teenager “, from a sociological, psychological and neurological point of view, which will bring clues to parents to understand who is facing them at this moment of their life. It will be the necessary stage after which we can give to them concrete tools to facilitate the dialogue with their children, what is again a prerequisite to talk with them about real subjects (or big troubles if their teenager is dropping out at school or having high-risk behavior).

Travail D'Équipe, Équipe, Gear, Conseil, Craie, Hatch

Well, now, you probably understood it already, that we didn’t want to choose either between:
■ a very theoretical, super-interesting course but with no possible application in the field, and
■ a very “how to do” oriented course, which certainly could help a bit, but won’t propose elaborated solutions to answer the real issues rather than their symptoms.
Thus, we made all the modules in a way that there is always a bit of theory to understand well, and a lot of practice to make it happen in the field.

Well, end of the teaser. We’ll let you know about what’s next during the months to come!


APB – a nightmare algorithm that decides of your scolarity

This event shows convincingly the actual influence of algorithms on people’s real life. And that’s just the beginning…

This article points on the consequences of that French scholar system:

  1. Having very good results doesn’t make you sure to have the right to pursue further studies
  2. APB can’t assure you a student place in higher education
  3. We don’t know how the students in non-selective bachelor’s degrees are selected
  4. The foreigner French high schools are favored
  5. High schools have strategies to promote their students
  6. There is no random draw for provinces’ high schools
  7. APB has become a plan B
  8. The situation will be worse next year
  9. Students have no winning strategy against the software
  10. APB isn’t the disease, it is the symptom

 Read the entire article from Challenges magazine (French)




7 tricks to manage the things we have to without procrastination



You are bogged down in the priorities and the delays? You don’t manage anymore to move forward in your life? This article is made for you! Discover what has to change in your behavior to improve yourself and enjoy your life again!

1) Prepare yourself to carry out the painful tasks

Yes, the beginning of an action stands before that the action begins. The hardest is to obtain the adequate state of mind to do things. When we say that it is the first step which costs the most, that’s what it means. The trick is to launch the intellectual conditioning before launching the task. For example, if your problem is to go to sport in the evening after the work, an attitude which is going to help you to go to sport is to take your sports bag with you in the morning by leaving for the work, and to go to the room directly after this one. So, not only you avoid the temptation to stay at home when you go take your bag in the evening, but moreover your temptation to go back home after the work is counterbalanced by the fact you took your sports bag with you in the morning: this action wouldn’t have any point if finally you would not go to sports now that this is after work, would it?

2) Reserve specific spaces for the specific tasks

It is important to separate places dedicated to the various activities. In particular, the moments of relaxation and the working moments have to take place in different spaces (different places, different rooms, different desks). This is also a matter to condition yourself to do something.

When you arrive in your workspace, you know that you are here to work. But if your workspace is also your space of leisure, the temptation to slide from one to another will be bigger …

3) Do a schedule

This is the logical result of the two first points: the schedule allows you to get the good state of mind before the task really begins, and then helps you not to do something else at the appropriate moment of the day, as it will ask an effort to your brain to change the course of your day. It is important to write your schedule: ” the words fly away, but the papers stay! ” they said.

4) Begin with the unpleasant things and finish by those which are pleasant

Because now you’re going to define your schedule, begin by planning to do the unpleasant things at first. This advice stands for several reasons: at first, if you begin with the pleasant things, your pleasure will be ruined by your knowing that the unpleasant things are coming (as said previously, your brain is conditioned to do things in the planned order, and thus the tasks to come are already loaded in your mind). Then, you will have no difficulty in throwing away the unpleasant tasks when the time has come to enjoy your life. On the other hand, the temptation not to respect anymore the planned program is bigger when you plan to do them in the reversed (wrong?) order …

5) Build up yourself a routine

Don’t underestimate the power of the habit. If your daily schedules are seemingly the same from day to day, very fast, you will go into a positive cycle. This statement stands for several reasons. At first, you will gain in self-confidence: if you succeed to do what you had to do the day before, why should you fail this time? Then, the necessary intellectual mechanisms to undertake the task is always the same, and if doing this task turns to be regular, your brain “will configure” mechanically and automatically to make the tasks planned at the planned moment.

6) To remember why you do things

A precious motivation is to remember why we do things, which are their utility. An interesting story that tells why is the following one. In the Middle Ages, a traveler meets a gloomy man standing in the roadside, a hammer and a chisel in hand. He asks him for what is he doing, and the man answers: “I break pebbles.”. A little farther, he meets another man, concentrated on his task, with the same tools in hand as the first one. He asks him for what is he doing, and the man answers: “I work to feed my family.” Finally, he meets a third man, equipped as the first ones, but in ecstasy. And when the traveler asks him for what is he doing, he answers: “I build a cathedral!”

7) Think to the others

Said like that, it can seem ridiculously right-thinking. But in fact, it is just realistic: except in exceptional circumstances, your life has nothing exceptional and the difficulties that you meet are the same that those the other people meet in your circle of acquaintances. It should help you to put in perspective your own difficulty assuming certain unattractive tasks. Furthermore, observe the others: let yourself be inspired by the behavior of those who manage apparently to overcome the difficulties which are blocking for you at the present.

I hope this list can be useful to you. See you!

THE international best-seller that inspired others:

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity, from David Allen

Back on top of the article

Memorizing a PIN code or another number sequence

Transcript of the video translated in English :

Today we gonna learn one of the most effective methods of numbers memorization. This method is used by all the champions of memory and also by mentalists, in order to remember any sequence of numbers: PIN codes, years, anniversaries, digital codes to enter buildings, phone numbers etc. …

Well, this memorization method is very effective because the idea of the tip is to make doing to our brain two things he likes to do: viewing an image and telling a story.

So, we are going to transform numerals into images and to invent a story using these images. Using this method, I need less than one minute to memorize a sequence of numbers, and after that I perfectly remember it for a very long time. Don’t worry: the first time you will do it, you will need a little more time, as you’ll have to set up the universal system which you will then always use.

You can create any system you want, but here I will show you mine. You can modify it if you want to use images that fit you better than mine.

Here are the ten images I use to remember the ten numerals (from 0 to 9):
0 = egg
1 = Eiffel tower
2 = swan
3 = pair of buttocks
4 = sail
5 = serpent
6 = sprouted pea
7 = set square
8 = glasses
9 = umbrella

I need to memorize the number 4138. Even if I repeat it 5 times, I will soon forget it as I have other informations to memorize during the day!

But after transforming it into images, we have: a sail, the Eiffel tower, a pair of buttocks and glasses. Now, we have to make a story out of these images:

At first, we have no connection between a sail and the Eiffel tower, but the Eiffel tower stands into Paris, which is a great touristic place. And the sail could be a windsurf, which is also associated in my mind with holidays, then tourism! So let’s say that my story is about a surfer who’s going to Paris during his holidays. Let’s go now with buttocks and glasses. Well, glasses are not meant for buttocks… No problem: we will make it our idea! If we sit down on our glasses, we break it. I got it! The surfer broke his glasses by sitting on it, and then had to avoid his holidays in Paris.

So that’s my story: a SURFER avoided his holidays in PARIS, because he SAT DOWN on his GLASSES.

A SURFER (sail) avoided his holidays in PARIS (Eiffel tower), because he SAT DOWN (buttocks) on his GLASSES. 41-38!

Let’s repeat this story another time, while we try to imagine the images:

A SURFER avoided his holidays in PARIS, because he SAT DOWN on his GLASSES.

If you do it again one hour later, and tonight again before going to sleep, you will remember the story and then the number sequence foy days.

Try it and you’ll remember for a long time this SURFER who avoided his holidays in PARIS because he SAT DOWN on his GLASSES!

False memories in your brain

Did you know that scientists managed to implant forged memories in brains using electrodes? Unbelievable, isn’t it? But very true in fact…

I said that’s very true, and in fact it is! It’s just that hopefully, scientists only managed to do this to mice brains for the time being. But that’s not really comforting to know that this backdoor on the mind is now open, so that we can manipulate complex life forms memories. We’ll talk about that in two minutes of time.

The experiment consists in associating two different memories in mice brains to create a new one. To make it happen, the Professor Susumu Tonegawa research team, from MIT, placed mice in cages and analyzed the zones of their brain that were bustling as they discovered their new environment.

The next day, they took the mice and placed them in another environment, they reactivate their neurons that were bustling the day before when they discovered their cage, and they administered to them a slight electric shock, not dangerous for their lives but not very pleasant for them too.

Another day later, the researchers replaced the mice in their original cages and they could observe that as the mice were recognizing the place, they showed a frightened attitude because of their memory of the electric shock they experienced the day before and that their brains wrongly associated with this cage. Actually, in the real world, the mice never get electrified in this cage.

All that is fine (if we can say this…), but you have to tell me here that this experiment has to deal somewhere with a practical issue. Actually, how do the researchers to reactivate the memory zone of the mice brains used when they discovered their cage on the first day of the experiment? Well, they dealt with a technic called opto-genetics: the mice used were genetically modified ones, so that their neurons were made light sensitive. Then the researchers could reactivate the mice neurons by exposing them to a light source.

This might look as a little achievement only: the mice were not natural ones, researchers needed to use sophisticated material to lighten specific neurons into the mice bodies… Indeed, genetic manipulation is already kind of forging memories when you think of it…

But you know, this experiment was made in 2013, and it just opened the breach. Many others took place until now, and not only others, but more effective ones!

In 2015, researchers from CNRS2 managed to implant forged memories into mice brains, using electrodes… No more genetic manipulation and no more invasive technologies to achieve the same result! Their article has been published in the review “Nature Neuroscience”, n°18 p.493-495, 20153.

The protocol of the experiment was the following one: while the mice were sleeping, the researchers activated their cerebral zones in charge of the reward system as other neurons in charge of geolocalization stuff.

Doing so, the researchers simulated the presence in a located place and an amount of pleasure in the mice brains. The next day, the researchers could observe that the manipulated mice get specifically on the place where they had synthetized pleasure memories.

The NeuroHack team likes to show you the two faces of the discoveries: the good one… and the ugly one.

Good first.
By applying such a technology on man (what we are unable to do for the time being), we could improve our understanding of the memory device and hope to:
1 – heal mental disorders linked with neurodegenerative diseases
2 – improve the reliability of testimonies in legal cases
3 – managed better the post-traumatic emotional shocks

And then the ugly.

According to sci-fi works talking about this subject, (Inception, Total Recall, Blade Runner…) this technology could have other consequences. And bad news is that in history, when something becomes possible to man, it finally appears in the reality.

Be aware that modifying someone’s memories means modifying his intimate, very true nature and personality. It means playing with his joys, his sorrows, his fears. Doing so, it becomes possible to make him hate or love someone else…

Long story short, unpleasant philosophical question would somehow enter your mind, such as: Can I trust my childhood memories? Am I sure that I really love the people I love? Or hate those I don’t? Am I sure of what I have done the day before? Or one minute ago? Am I living my real life? And if not: what does my real life look like???

But let’s begin with a simpler question: are you really sure to have read this article?





Back on top of the article

Forgetting is essential to the smooth running of the brain

from Marie-Céline Jacquier, read full article in french on Futura Sciences

Forgetting is an essential element in the human intelligence because it allows to concentrate on what is important. An effective memory does not design as an accumulation of data: the preservation of too precise information can indeed become counterproductive.

That is said by two researchers of the university of Toronto in a new article appeared in Neuron, where they draw up a parallel between the human memory and the artificial recollection. […] According to the authors, the objective of the memory is not to pass on the most faithful information, but rather to optimize the decision-making by preserving only those of value. […] Forgetting allows to adapt oneself to new situations by leaving aside dated and misleading information which are not necessarily useful in an environment that has changed.