Affective Brain Network

From It6740 Udl

The Affective Brain Network (AN) for shorthand) is the third network discussed in UDL. It is used to attach emotional significance to patterns, content, and assignments. In this way, people can become engaged in learning by establishing preferences to different ways of approaching learning. The AN answers the question, "Why?" Why should I learn?

The AN also deals with fear or anger. The teacher would ask, "How do I make my students comfortable, yet motivated? I know that some of my students will freeze because the information looks daunting. Others may be angry because they don't like the assigments or see the need. What do I do?

Your task is to further define the AN and its role in UDL, learning, and teaching. What strategies and tools can be used to increase comfort, safety, and motivation?

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The Affective Network in the brain is a part of the limbic system, including the powerful hypothalamus, thalamus, hippocampus, amygdala and pineal gland. (from Manglani, M. “Affective Network” Developmental Dyscalculia. Website: It is one of the oldest parts of the brain, and is sometimes called the “reptilian brain” (possibly because it is related to our most core instincts and is found in fish, amphibians and reptiles as well as mammals). This area of the brain controls our fight or flight mechanism and is responsible for our survival instincts. These brain structures were developed with the very first multicelled organisms and were closely linked to developing the knowledge and instincts to protect animals from a multitude of dangers. It’s not a surprise then that this area in humans also is connected to learning, though not necessarily the higher order thinking skills we normally associate with the brain.

In this area of the brain, different sensory triggers can attach to learned or recognized information. From wikipedia: “A person can exploit the function of the limbic system to aid in memory retention and recall. Exposure to certain easily recognizable smells (like coffee, peanut butter, chocolate, sulfur, or crayons) while forming memories will link the memory to the smell. Smelling the same thing will help recall the information later. Bottom line: brew coffee while studying for a test then drink coffee while taking the test and it will be much easier to remember the information.” (

This helps us understand why learners are more motivated by things that have personal relevance: it "speaks" to the reptilian parts of our brain that are concerned with our own personal survival.

The limbic system lies in the part of the brain that is responsible for emotion, while survival is important to the primative brain, the affective network also helps to determine whether the patterns we perceive in the strategic networks are important. The determination of importance leads us to prioritize which actions and strategies we should pursue. The affective networks are responsible for preferences, goal development, confidence, the ability to persist when faced with challenges and to care about learning.

Emotional disturbances can influence the way one perceives the outside world and may generate some strong emotions and unusual responses. Some people with damage to the affective network cannot interpret the emotions they see in others while others can see the emotions of other people but cannot express their own emotions. Chapter 2: Teaching Every Student TOC: Information & Ideas

In light of Kami's bipolar disorder, it is highly important that the affective network be considered when developing teaching strategies. Her perceptions can change with her manic state or depressive state. While in a manic state Kami may be able to conquer the world if she could maintain her focus and prioritze and then as she drops into a depressive state she may be completely overwhelm by the most menial tasks. It would be a good idea to discuss with Kami her methods of coping during periods of extreme emotion. Kami may also benefit from aids available through a Special Services or Disability office. These offices may have notetaking or recording tools that can provide Kami with tools that emphasize reciprocal learning(1).

(1) See for more information

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