A groundwork for allostatic neuro-education

Front Psychol. 2015 Aug 17;6:1224. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01224. eCollection 2015.


We propose to enliven educational practice by marrying a conception of education as guided human development, to an advanced scientific understanding of the brain known as allostasis (stability through change). The result is a groundwork for allostatic neuro-education (GANE). Education as development encompasses practices including the organic (homeschooling and related traditions), cognitive acquisition (emphasis on standards and testing), and the constructivist (aimed to support adaptive creativity for both learner and society). Allostasis views change to be the norm in biology, defines success in contexts of complex natural environments rather than controlled settings, and identifies the brain as the organ of central command. Allostatic neuro-education contrasts with education focused dominantly on testing, or neuroscience based on homeostasis (stability through constancy). The GANE perspective is to view learners in terms of their neurodevelopmental trajectories; its objective is to support authentic freedom, mediated by competent, integrated, and expansive executive functionality (concordant with the philosophy of freedom of Rudolf Steiner); and its strategy is to be attuned to rhythms in various forms (including those of autonomic arousal described in polyvagal theory) so as to enable experiential excitement for learning. The GANE presents a variety of testable hypotheses, and studies that explore prevention or mitigation of the effects of early life adversity or toxic stress on learning and development may be of particular importance. Case studies are presented illustrating use of allostatic neurotechnology by an adolescent male carrying diagnoses of Asperger's syndrome and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and a grade school girl with reading difficulties. The GANE is intended as a re-visioning of education that may serve both learners and society to be better prepared for the accelerating changes of the 21st century.

Keywords: RDoC; allostasis; executive function; neuro-education; neurodevelopment; neurotechnology; polyvagal theory; toxic stress.