Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

College Student's Nervous System More Active While Asleep Than In Class

    Kurt Vinion / Getty Images

    For those of you who think there’s not a lot going on inside the teenage brain… Well, if anything, this is good for a chuckle:

    A team of electrical engineers fitted a 19-year-old male college student with a sensor for a week as he went about his routine. The sensor recorded his electrodermal activity — a measure of “emotion, cognition, and attention.

    And just how much “emotion, cognition, and attention” did this student show while in class?

    Not a whole lot. In fact, as Joi Ito points out, this student’s electrodermal activity was higher when he was sleeping. (See for yourself — we posted the scans below the jump.)

    Screenshot / IEEE Paper

    Click to enlarge this chart from a study by electrical engineering student Ming-Zher Poh and IEEE fellow Rosalind Picard.

    A few caveats:

    • Don’t confuse this with a brain scan. It’s a measurement of nervous system activity and emotional arousal.
    • As Ito continues, it’s just one student, so (despite my jocund first paragraph) don’t give into the temptation to generalize.
    • Don’t let my humor shortchange the importance of sleep. But the student also displayed higher electrodermal activity while studying or doing homework as well.

    That said, we’ve reported on efforts at Purdue University to try and keep students more engaged in class. They don’t have students hooked up to EDA sensors, however.

    (h/t Joanne Jacobs, who linked to Ito’s post about the paper from the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers.)


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