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Journal Article

Morning brain: Real-world neural evidence that high school class times matter


Poeppel,  David
Department of Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;
Max Planck-NYU Center for Language, Music and Emotion;
Department of Psychology, New York University ;

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Dikker, S., Haegens, S., Bevilacqua, D., Davidesco, I., Wan, L., Kaggen, L., et al. (2020). Morning brain: Real-world neural evidence that high school class times matter. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 14(11), 1193-1202. doi:10.1093/scan/nsaa142.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-1101-3
Researchers, parents and educators consistently observe a stark mismatch between biologically preferred and socially imposed sleep–wake hours in adolescents, fueling debate about high school start times. We contribute neural evidence to this debate with electroencephalogram data collected from high school students during their regular morning, mid-morning and afternoon classes. Overall, student alpha power was lower when class content was taught via videos than through lectures. Students’ resting state alpha brain activity decreased as the day progressed, consistent with adolescents being least attentive early in the morning. During the lessons, students showed consistently worse performance and higher alpha power for early morning classes than for mid-morning classes, while afternoon quiz scores and alpha levels varied. Together, our findings demonstrate that both class activity and class time are reflected in adolescents’ brain states in a real-world setting, and corroborate educational research suggesting that mid-morning may be the best time to learn.