Helge Scherlund's eLearning News

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Swinburne's online resources commended

Posted: 19 Feb 2012 10:51 PM PST

Swinburne University of Technology's innovative MathsCasts teaching project has been recognised in the prestigious NMC Horizon Report: 2012 Higher Education Edition.

About MathsCasts

MathsCasts is part of an international research collaborative between Swinburne, the University of Limerick in Ireland and Loughborough University in England.

The joint project produces high quality resources aimed at supporting first-year undergraduates, online tutorial videos that explain how to solve various mathematical problems.

Photo: Professor Gilly Salmon
Swinburne's Pro Vice-Chancellor (Learning Transformations) Professor Gilly Salmon said Swinburne was the only Victorian university, and one of very few Australian universities, included in the US edition of the report.

This year a special NMC Horizon Report will be produced in Australia and Professor Salmon will serve on the national panel.

MathsCasts resources are available from:

Related link
Professor Gilly Salmon takes up new post in Australia       

Source: Swinburne University Media Centre

New brain connections form in clusters during learning

Posted: 19 Feb 2012 10:30 PM PST

New connections between brain cells emerge in clusters in the brain as animals learn to perform a new task, according to a study published in Nature on February 19 (advance online publication).

Illustration by Logan Parsons.
Photo: UC Santa Cruz

Led by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, the study reveals details of how brain circuits are rewired during the formation of new motor memories. The researchers studied mice as they learned new behaviors, such as reaching through a slot to get a seed. They observed changes in the motor cortex, the brain layer that controls muscle movements, during the learning process. Specifically, they followed the growth of new "dendritic spines," structures that form the connections (synapses) between nerve cells.

Initial results of the spatial analysis showed that one third of the newly formed synapses were located next to another new synapse. These clustered synapses tended to form over the course of a few days during the learning period, when the mouse was repeatedly performing the new behavior. Compared to non-clustered counterparts, the clustered synapses were more likely to persist through the learning sessions and after training stopped.

In addition, the researchers found that after formation of the second spine in a cluster, the first spine grew larger. The size of the spine head correlates with the strength of the synapse. "We found that formation of a second connection is correlated with a strengthening of the first connection, which suggests that they are likely to be involved in the same circuitry," Zuo said. "The clustering of synapses may serve to magnify the strength of the connections."

In addition to Zuo and first author Min Fu, the coauthors of the paper include UCSC graduate student Xinzhu Yu and Stanford University biologist Ju Lu. This research was supported by grants from the Dana Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health.

Source: Eureka! Science News and University of California - Santa Cruz,