What We Do:
The Advanced Learning Institute located in Boulder, Colorado is dedicated to dramatically accelerating learning speeds and behavioral change within organiza-tions, by employing the Science of the Learning Code.
The Advanced Learning Institute employs the latest scientific research from the fields of neuroscience, genetics, molecular biology, evolutionary biology, quantum physics, complexity science and chaos theory to develop and implement cutting-edge learning programs.
After 20 years of research, the Institute has discovered that in each one of us there is a genetically implanted Learning Code. Trying to affect learning or behavioral change without first accessing our biological Learning Code is like trying to open up a bank vault with the wrong combination. It can’t happen!
When fully integrated and operational, the components of the Learning Code can help facilitate astonishing advances in the speed of learning, the depth of understanding, the duration of retention and the intensity of behavioral change.
The Rosetta Stone of Memory Formation and Behavior Change
The discovery of the Learning Code is so profound it has been compared to the discovery of the double helix shape of DNA made by Watson and Crick in the 1950s. The Learning Code is the Rosetta Stone of memory formation and behavioral modification, because understanding how to switch on the Learning Code allows learning speeds and memory formation to accelerate dramatically.
If your organization is not using the latest scientific research to develop learning/training programs, you will not be maximizing your results.
- Scientific PuzzleOver 90 percent of us are dissatisfied with our ability to learn and remember.
- Twelve weeks after the average corporate training session, most participants forget 85 percent of the information delivered.
- Lack of science-based, efficient learning/training programs result in
- Minimal training retention,
- Lower productivity,
- Management frustration,
- Employee dissatisfaction,
- Less value added to company, market, and customers, and
- Companies are less adaptive in rapidly changing market.
- Because of inefficient learning/training methods it is estimated that of the $56 billion spent on training in 2008 over $47 billion was wasted.
What is the Learning Code?
The Learning Code is simply: “…the special code in your DNA that must be switched on before learning, memory formation, and behavioral change can take place.”
The key finding is that, in each one of us, there is a genetically implanted Learning Code.
Before we can create learning systems that produce profound memory formation and lasting behavioral change in learners, we have to understand that we must first create biological change at the level of their genes and neural tissues.
Failure to recognize that learning, memory formation and behavioral change are biological processes is the primary cause of our existing learning problems.
Having a more scientific perspective allows us to grasp that our past learning/training failures have not been a result of our lack of effort. No, our past learning failures have arisen because we did not know that this Learning Code existed and because we lacked the knowledge to turn it on.
Unfortunately, the reason we experience such high levels of learning failure in our scholastic and corporate institutions is that our existing educational methods fail to effectively turn on this Learning Code.
What is Learning?
When we have a firm understanding of what learning actually is, and how it is best facilitated, it is much easier to develop learning programs that work. From the scientific perspective, the ultimate goal of any learning/training program must be to create genetic and neurological change in the biology of the learner. Why?
Because without genetic and neurological change in the learner, there can be neither long-term memory formation nor lasting behavioral change. The reason most learning programs fail to live up our expectations is that our learning process has not been based on science; we have focused on getting learners to pass tests rather than on creating biological change within them.
The Scientific Explanation:
Temporary vs. Long-Term
The main reason we experience such a high level of learning failure is that virtually all traditional ‘stand and deliver’ and e-learning programs only create low-level electrochemical change within the neurons of learners. This low-level change is called temporary potentiation. Temporary potentiation fails to create genetic change within a neuron.
Long-term memory formation can only occur when higher-level neurological and genetic change occurs in a neuron which leads it to change its shape and its function. This high-level biological change in a neuron is called long-term potentiation.
Why do learners forget 85% of what a typical training/learning program presents?
Because most learning/training programs are designed in a way that creates only temporary potentiation in a learner’s neurons not long-term potentiation.
In order to be successful, the goal of any learning/behavioral/training program must be to create long-term potentiation in the neurons of learners. Once you make the paradigm shift from designing learning programs that get learners to memorize facts and pass tests, to developing learning programs that create biological change, a whole new world of learning/behavioral change opportunities opens up.
Are Your Learning/Training Programs Built on Scientific Principles?
There are 24 Key Elements to the Learning Code. What follows is a list of the questions that must be answered in the affirmative in order to ensure that learning programs have been or will be designed to turn on the Learning Code and create long-term potentiation and biological change within the learner.
The Learning Code Check List:
Have you turned on the learner’s Meaning Network? Meaning is the Holy Grail of learning. Why? Because before new information can be efficiently selected into long-term memory, it must first stimulate a group of neurological structures called the “Meaning Network.” If you do not switch on the brain structures that code for personal meaning, you cannot create the neurochemical climate that allows neurological change and profound learning to occur.
2. Hebbian Learning Rule
In building learning programs, are you implementing the Hebbian Synaptual Learning Rule? This rule has become the basis for the 21st century neuroscientific view of how learning, memory and behavioral change take place. The Hebb rule maintains that in order for learning to occur, large diverse numbers of neurons in the brain must be activated at the same time; that this simultaneous activation produces the neurochemical/genetic changes in neurons which leads to long term memory formation. If your learning programs are ignoring the Hebbian Synaptual Learning Rule, they will not be successful.
Have you caused neurons in a learner’s brain to enter habituation? (Psychological process in humans and animals in which there is a decrease in behavioral response to a stimulus after repeated exposure to that stimulus over a duration of time.) Habituation is the down regulation of receptor sites that make a neuron much less sensitive to environmental input. Habituation occurs when there is too much sameness in a presentation. When a course is designed in a way that causes habituation in a learner’s brain, long-term potentiation in a neuron is severely compromised.
4. Two-Phase Learning Programs
Have you implemented a two-phase learning program? One phase to purposefully create Temporary Potentiation in learner’s neurons and a second stage to create Long-Term Potentiation. Most learning programs treat learner’s brains like vessels, trying to fill them up with as much information as possible, as fast as possible, with stand and deliver, video and e-learning programs. We then test them to make sure what we poured in remained.
But from a scientific perspective, all we have done is activate and measure the Temporary Potentiation of their neurons. And we all know this strategy has not been as successful as we would have liked. To ensure that neurons make the jump from Temporary Potentiation to Long-Term Potentiation, (the basis of all long-term memory formation and lasting behavioral change) a very sophisticated and scientific second follow-up learning phase must be designed and implemented.
5. Mirror Neurons
Have you stimulated the Mirror Neuron (”Mirrons”) System? This system forces us to imitate certain language, behaviors, and emotions of others (positive and negative) even if we don’t want to. Activating the Mirror Neuron System is one of the fastest ways to create behavioral change in individuals and organizations.
If your organization is engaged in change management, to be successful, you must positively activate the Mirror Neuron System. Like the activation of Alpha Dog genes (discussed below), the stimulation of these brain areas by apprenticeship/mentorship programs can dramatically accelerate learning and change management programs.
6. Concept Before Details
Have you implanted firm concept networks in learners’ brains before details are introduced? Details do not float about in our brains like many loose butterflies; they must physically attach themselves to strong preexisting neurological structures before they can be remembered. Concept networks provide 3 main benefits for detail acquisition.
- They provide the stable landing pad upon which details can attach themselves.
- The neurons and connections that make up concept networks supply mass, which then acts like a magnet, attracting details that resonate with them.
- When concept networks are activated, they demand large amounts of glucose and oxygen, which, in turn, provide the fuel necessary to power the neurochemical processes that allow details to be incorporated into long-term memory.
Any learning program, which does not follow the “Concept Before Details” rule, will limit Long-Term Potentiation in the neurons.
7. The Four Stages of Learning
Have you activated all four stages of the learning process? New research demonstrates, that learning and memory do not occur…“bam”… all at once in one fell swoop. Instead, in order to form lasting memories, your brain must go through four distinct stages of the learning process, marked by the alternating dominance of different neurotransmitter systems.
Limiting learners’ exposure to less than the four stages of learning hinders the stimulation of the correct neurotransmitters at the correct times, which, in turn, dramatically limits the efficiency of memory formation.
- feedback, and
Most traditional stand and deliver, video and e-learning programs only activate the first stage (the Information stage) of the four-stage learning process. The root of much learning failure can be traced to the inability to activate the other three vitally important stages of the learning process.
8. Over-Packing Working Memory
Have you over-packed working memory with too much information? This is the one of greatest sins of traditional learning/educational programs. Working memory has very limited space. These areas are very small, about the size of tiny thimbles in your frontal lobes. (These areas coordinate with the hippocampus in the limbic system) Most learning programs fail because they continue to pack information into working memory before evoking the process that allows this information to flow back into the learner’s long-term memory banks, which are located in the rear associative areas of the brain.
9. Maintaining Monoamines
Have you depleted the learner’s mono aiming system? (Dopamine, serotonin, Neuro-epinephrine) Most traditional learning systems over-stimulates the mono aiming system to such a point that these valuable neurons become depleted.
Why is it important not to deplete this monoamine system? Because without the correct levels of dopamine, serotonin, and neuro-epinephrine, neither working memory nor long-term memory can be efficiently formed.
10. Quick Adaptors
“If we take a serious look around us, the entire fiction that the IQ … fully measures intelligence rapidly disintegrates.” Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence
Are you designing your learning programs to mold workers into Quick Adaptors? As management guru Peter Drucker pointed out, we now live in a Knowledge Society. All the knowledge in the world is estimated to be doubling at the phenomenal rate of once every 18 months. In 7 years all the knowledge in the world will be doubling at the incredible rate of once every 35 days! This makes it clear; knowledge has become the most valuable asset any worker can possess.
The new sciences are forcing trainers and educators to embrace more biological and evolutionary views of intelligence. The research is revealing intelligence is not best described by our scores on tests, instead intelligence is now best defined as your ability to successfully adapt to the rapidly changing world around you. Learning programs based on the Learning Code apply principles that help learners become not just good test takers but Quick Adaptors. It is critical to do this so that companies can be staffed with the kinds of individuals who can add to organizational productivity
11. Beta Too Long
Have you kept the learner’s brains in focused forced-attentive wave states, called Beta, for too long a period? Research reveals that when we are in focused attentive states, the brain produces a very specific neurochemical signature, which in turn can be measured non-invasively by EEG (electroencephalogram) readings. Beta wave forms are fast frequency, unsynchronized brain waves that range from 13 to 30 cycles per second. When we keep learner’s brains in these high frequency brain wave states for too long, Long-Term Potentiation is again severely compromised.
12. Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivators
Have the correct balance of extrinsic and intrinsic motivators being implemented into the learning program? Most learning systems rely too aggressively on extrinsic motivators (passing tests and qualifications). This creates what is called a Neurological Downshift in the learners’ brains. What this means is that the blood flow, which contains vital glucose and oxygen, shifts from the upper and frontal neurocortical areas of the learner’s brain down to the lower more ridged limbic and reptilian brain areas.
This shift in blood flow not only compromises working memory but also negatively affects their ability to manage and relate to others. This Downshift affects their capacities for empathy, compassion, big-picture thinking, and planning for the future. To keep learners’ brains in the most effective learning state the correct balance of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators must be maintained with the goal of keeping their upper and frontal cortical areas engaged.
13. Access Triggers
In your training presentation, have you implanted conscious and unconscious Access Triggers? These Access Triggers are tags which when implanted at an initial learning session can be reactivated in secondary follow-up learning sessions and automatically stimulate neurons prompting them to make the jump from temporary potentiation to long-term potentiation. Often, trainers/educators do develop follow-up learning programs. But failure to design follow-up programs with well-defined Access Triggers implanted within them, is a primary reason why 85% of the information presented in most training programs is forgotten within a few short weeks.
Has novelty been strategically implemented into the learning/training session so that neurons are pulled out of habituation, thus increasing the attention and focus of the learner? It is important that when novelty is activated, it not be purely for entertainment value but (whenever possible) novelty must stimulate the learner’s Meaning Network. We will show you how to implement the “Red Tree” strategy of novelty implementation, so that your learners will remain engaged throughout the memory formation and behavioral change process.
15. Orchestrated Alpha and Theta Time
Have you implanted Alpha and Theta wave form time into learning sessions? Like a fresh flower bud, newly learned information is very fragile. Precious information placed into working memory must be cultivated before it can become a hardy part of your long-term memory networks (sleep).
To allow information in working memory to flow back into our long term memory banks, the brain must drop into spindles of the synchronized and slower frequency alpha (8 to 12 cycles per second [cps]) and theta (4 to 7 cps) brain wave states, otherwise Long-Term Potentiation will be impeded. In addition to facilitating long-term memory formation, these slower brain wave states have three other main advantages:
- They promote the protein synthesis that provides the construction of the physical structures of learning.
- They produce the brain wave rhythms that allow for heightened creativity.
- They replenish the aminergic system so that when we reenter the information, action, and feedback stages of learning we are more focused and attentive.
16. “Hot” Networks and Wrapping
Have you fired up “hot” networks in learners’ brains in order to get them to remember information that previously held no value to them? As we all know too well, often what we want learners to remember has no value or meaning to them. Trying to get learners to remember what they consider valueless is a very, very difficult task. When preexisting networks that code for novelty or what we find personally meaningful in life, are turned on and firing, they become what we at the Advanced Learning Institute call “hot.” Once these networks are “hot”, information that the learner has not previously valued can be wrapped into novel and meaningful stimuli so that it can more easily become a permanent part of the learners’ long-term memory structures.
17. Blowing Magnesium Plugs Out
Have you created a learning environment where Magnesium plugs will be blown out of specific receptor sites prompting Long-Term Potentiation? A critical element of long-term memory formation is fulfilled when the brain’s most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter, called glutamate, floods the brain and binds to a very special receptor on neurons, called the NMDA receptor.
Normally, an NMDA receptor on an individual neuron is blocked by a magnesium plug. But if glutamate attaches to the NMDA receptor at the same time the neuron is being simultaneously stimulated by other neurons at other receptor sites, glutamate is able to blow the magnesium cork out of its NMDA socket. One way to look at this process is that the magnesium plugs act like boosters holding their power in reserve until an extraordinary response is required to remember special, important, and meaningful information.
18. Immediate and Intense Feedback
Have you implanted immediate and intense feedback into your learning programs? The definition of feedback is any process where the result of your action serves to continually modify your future actions. Many memory researchers consider the following to be the most important discovery about learning and feedback:
The more immediate and intense the feedback from an individual’s actions, the more effective the learning; and, the converse, the lower the intensity and the longer the lag time between an action and feedback from the environment, the weaker the learning. Today, we know that the expression of the genetic code itself is dependent upon loops of feedback between an individual and his environment and that without the right kind of feedback, learners will lack the production of enough dopamine, neuro-epinephrine, and serotonin to create efficient working and spatial memory formation.
19. The 11 Biological Intelligences
Have you designed the learning program to access the 11 Biological Intelligences of learners? To ensure the survival of the human species, evolution has selected genes that produce a limited number of general brain designs. These plans provide each of us with a primary modality in which we prefer to learn and adapt to our world. At The Advanced Learning Institute we call these learning modalities “Biological Intelligences.” The evidence from brain imaging reveals that the brain areas that house our individual Biological Intelligence have more neurons, and neural connections.
Also when we engage in specific tasks these Intelligence brain areas receive more of the brain’s energy in the form of glucose and oxygen, than other brain areas. Because of these factors the most efficient way for us to learn new information is to have it delivered to your preferred biological intelligence. This is because accessing our primary intelligence helps commence the neurological cascade that is the basis of long-term memory formation. While there are conceded to be more that 11 Biological Intelligences, we emphasize the stimulation of the following most common ones.
20. Alpha Dog Genes
Have alpha dog (“follow the leader”) genes in the learner been activated? Learning environments can be created that will activate specific genes in specific brain structures in such a manner that learners in training sessions will pay heightened attention to the presenter. When this learning environment is created, information that the learner believes will support his or her surviving and thriving will more quickly be logged into long-term memory. Like accessing the Mirror Neuron System, if your organization is engaged in change management, you must activate Alpha Dog genes in those whose behavior you are endeavoring to change. It is also important to note apprenticeship/mentorship programs accelerate change management implementations because they activate the Alpha Dog genes.
21. We Learn Through Selection Not Instruction
“Looking back into the history of biology, it appears that wherever a phenomenon resembles learning, an instructive theory was first proposed to account for the underlying mechanisms. In every case, this was later replaced by a selective theory.” Niels Jerne; Nobel Laudret
Is your course being designed on the counter-intuitive principle that all learning and neurological change occurs through the process of selection and not instruction? Any learning system that fails to embrace this scientific principle will be inefficiently designed. From the fields of molecular biology, genetics and neuroscience we are discovering that our previously held beliefs are off the mark…we learn though a selective process not an instructive one. At the Advanced Learning Institute, it is our sincere belief that this scientific concept, will have a more profound impact on accelerating learning speed and increasing the joy of learning than any other previous learning advancement. Failure to understand this vital tenet of learning, keeps us trapped in the world where painful and inefficient learning systems dominate.
22. Optimal Learning Stress
Has the course been designed so that Optimal Learning Stress is created? Low levels of learning stress actually helps increase long-term memory formation. Yet extended or high levels of learning stress severely compromises long-term memory. How? Research shows that when stress level are too high or elevated for too long (just 20 minutes) the stress hormone cortisol impacts neural function by opening up a Pandora’s Box of complications; such as the creation of neural tangles, the atrophy and withering of neural connections, and even the death of neurons, severely depressing long term memory formation. Excess stress also affects workers effectiveness by setting up a condition called a Neurological Downshift. (See Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivators for explanation) Like the fable of Goldie Locks and The Three Bears, the stress levels in learning programs must have the right amount of stress injected at the right times in order to accelerated learning to the maximum level.
23. Balance of Linearity and Complexity
Does your course design have the right balance of linearity and complexity? The new sciences are revealing that the brain’s main job is to make order out of chaos. (Consider that your brain right now is processing literally billions of bits of data!) We now find that higher-ordered conceptual understanding can come about only after the brain experiences enough new input such that its existing neural order breaks down. (Similar to building new muscle mass) This breaking down of the existing physical order in the brain is often experienced by the learner as chaos or confusion. Yet, this untidy mental state is the rich soil from which higher-ordered conceptual thinking can arise (our “aha” moments). But, there is a danger in introducing too much complexity too quickly, as this can create a toxic learning environment. That is why there must be a delicate balance between linearity and complexity in any training/educational program in order to create profound learning and behavioral of change.
24. Real World Experience
Have you incorporated real world experience into your initial and secondary follow-up learning phases? Real experience is the fastest and most efficient way to access the Learning Code. Real world experience can increase the neurotransmitter activity necessary for the formation of long-term memory by as much as five hundred percent.
From an evolutionarily biological view point, the idea that we can get organisms, whether they be amoebas, mice or men to effectively learn in small rooms by just talking to them, having them watch a video or do e-learning programs far away from the natural world is a very new concept, indeed. Ever since lightning hit the primordial ooze 3.5 billion years ago, genes and nervous systems of all organisms have learned by moving through and getting rich feedback from real world environments.
The genes and brains of learners are pre-set by evolution to learn most effectively in real world environments. Learning programs must take advantage of this genetic predisposition in order to maximize long-term memory formation. The reason that games and simulations are such efficient forms of learning is that they have the ability to mimic real world experience.
Consider the reasons experience is in fact the best teacher:
- At this point in human evolution, the brain centers that support linguistic processing are not mature enough to support learning solely through language.
- While experience automatically stimulates approximately 95 percent of all neurons that provide the massive neural firing that is the basis for all long-term memory in the brain, verbal presentation in general fires only 5 to 20 percent of neurons.
- Experience enhances working memory formation by stimulating the all-important monoamine system by up to 500 percent.
- Experience naturally allows for the creation of personal meaning where no meaning previously existed.
- As we move through time and space, real world experience builds large spatial maps that provide substantial neurological structures upon which new information can easily attach itself.
Please contact us to get started on your journey, or to ask us your questions. We look forward to hearing from you!