A systematized review of cognitive load theory in health sciences education and a perspective from cognitive neuroscience

J Educ Health Promot. 2020 Jul 28;9:176. doi: 10.4103/jehp.jehp_643_19. eCollection 2020.


Introduction: To design instructions in health sciences education, it is highly relevant to heed the working memory and the approaches for managing cognitive load. In this article, we tried to mention the implications of cognitive load theory (CLT) for optimizing teaching-learning in health sciences education and discussing cognitive load from the perspective of cognitive neurosciences as brain-aware medical education.

Materials and methods: We searched databases of Pubmed, Proquest, SCOPUS, and ISI Web of Science for relevant literature in September 1, 2018.

Results: The 27 articles out of a total of 46 records, along with 23 papers from snowballing and hand searching were included in this study. Main items encompassed; "Various types of cognitive loads," "Aim of cognitive load theory," "Strategies to managing Cognitive Load," "Cognitive Load Theory in novice and experienced learners and "expertise reversal effect," Medical and Health Sciences Curriculums and Cognitive Load Theory," "Challenges of Cognitive Load Theory."

Conclusions: We discussed six important themes for CLT in health sciences education according to the literature. Mental imagery (visualization) as one of the useful techniques to optimize germane load was suggested, as it processes further gain access to neural circuits that are engaged in sensory, motor, executive, and decision-making pathways in the brain.

Keywords: Cognitive load theory; cognitive science; education; medical; neuroscience.

Publication types

  • Review