Michael Friedlander, executive director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, recently delivered a plenary lecture, “The Neurobiological Basis of Effective Learning, Retention, and Utilization of Information,” at the Group for Research in Pathology Education (GRIPE) annual meeting in Galveston, Texas. GRIPE is an academic society of educators who teach pathology to medical students and residents at medical centers across the country.

Friedlander – who is also the Virginia Tech associate provost for health sciences, the senior dean for research at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, and a professor of biological sciences and of biomedical engineering and sciences at Virginia Tech – shared the latest advances in neurobiological research into the processes that underlie effective learning in the medical sciences. He addressed findings from a range of research approaches, including molecular, physiological, cell biological, and behavioral. He offered insights derived from functional brain-imaging techniques that have been used to illuminate learning, memory, recall, and the application of learned information in a variety of settings, including medical education. And he explored the growing interface between the disciplines of neuroscience and education.

Following Friedlander’s presentation was a second plenary, on generational differences among learners, by Nicole Borges, assistant dean for medical education research and evaluation at the Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University. The two presentations together generated lively discussions among the meeting participants. The pathologists described their medical education experiences and discussed how they could best integrate the neuroscience of effective education into teaching medical students and residents.

“The pathologists’ interest in these issues illustrate the increasing emphasis in a range of medical specialties on understanding the scientific basis of effective teaching in medical education specifically and adult learning in general,” said Friedlander. “They are eager to know what approaches are proving successful, from the development of critical reasoning skills to problem-based learning, team-based learning, and integrated holistic and interdisciplinary education.”

Friedlander’s research into the neuroscience of medical education has led to a series of invitations to speak to groups across the country, including the International Association of Medical Science Educators and the Interprofessional Education Collaborative, which joins the efforts of six national health profession associations, including the Association of American Medical Colleges, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and the Association of Schools of Public Health.