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Neuroscientific Correlates of Diagnostic Reasoning and the Transfer of Learning in Medicine

Fri, April 17, 2:15 to 3:45pm, Virtual Room


The objective of the study was to determine the neuroscientific correlates of learning to diagnose chest x-rays and medical students’ ability to transfer this knowledge. It was hypothesised that a decrease in prefrontal cortex (PFC) activation is an indication of progressive learning that predicts transfer. Participants (N=20 premedical students) had to complete a learning task during which they were trained to diagnose chest x-rays. Subsequently, they were tested in transfer. During the study, PFC activity was scanned using near-infrared spectroscopy. As behavioural indicators, response time, diagnostic accuracy, and transfer of learning were recorded. The results suggest that successful learning manifest itself by a significant decrease in PFC activity. In addition, higher levels of PFC activity during learning predicted successful transfer.