How to achieve synergy between medical education and cognitive neuroscience? An exercise on prior knowledge in understanding

Dirk J Ruiter, Marlieke T R van Kesteren, Guillen Fernandez

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


A major challenge in contemporary research is how to connect medical education and cognitive neuroscience and achieve synergy between these domains. Based on this starting point we discuss how this may result in a common language about learning, more educationally focused scientific inquiry, and multidisciplinary research projects. As the topic of prior knowledge in understanding plays a strategic role in both medical education and cognitive neuroscience it is used as a central element in our discussion. A critical condition for the acquisition of new knowledge is the existence of prior knowledge, which can be built in a mental model or schema. Formation of schemas is a central event in student-centered active learning, by which mental models are constructed and reconstructed. These theoretical considerations from cognitive psychology foster scientific discussions that may lead to salient issues and questions for research with cognitive neuroscience. Cognitive neuroscience attempts to understand how knowledge, insight and experience are established in the brain and to clarify their neural correlates. Recently, evidence has been obtained that new information processed by the hippocampus can be consolidated into a stable, neocortical network more rapidly if this new information fits readily into a schema. Opportunities for medical education and medical education research can be created in a fruitful dialogue within an educational multidisciplinary platform. In this synergetic setting many questions can be raised by educational scholars interested in evidence-based education that may be highly relevant for integrative research and the further development of medical education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-40
Number of pages16
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Cognition
  • Education, Medical
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Models, Educational
  • Neurosciences
  • Teaching
  • Journal Article


Dive into the research topics of 'How to achieve synergy between medical education and cognitive neuroscience? An exercise on prior knowledge in understanding'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this