Neuroscience and education: The development of new education technology market in Russia

Neuroeducation, that is, the use of knowledge about the human brain in the educational process, has become a trend over recent years. The analysts from the Neuronet infrastructure center at the Foundation for the Development of Physics and Technology Schools and Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology with the support of the National Technology Initiative and relevant organizations studied the development of neuroeducation in Russia.

A visitor uses a VR headset for security specialists at the stand showcased by the Forsitek company at 2022 Interpolitex International Exhibition in Moscow. Photo by Ilya Pitalev/RIA Novosti

What is neuroeducation?

Neuroscience is the study of the mechanisms of memory, learning, education and other processes related with the work of the human brain. Neuroeducation, or neuroscience education, has formed on its basis as a multidisciplinary approach that suggests using scientific achievements in education. The global neuroeducation market in 2021 was estimated at $21 bln, while the share of the Russian segment was 0.2% and amounted to RUR 3.2 bln.

The goal of neuroeducation is to streamline the educational process and make it more efficient and inclusive. Neuroeducation uses various technologies and approaches; experts divide them into several big categories.

Distance education. In online education, neurotechnology is used to streamline the educational process and help students digest knowledge better even without a personal contact with the instructor.

EdTech (educational technology). The scope of EdTech includes various technologies, from microlearning to interactive whiteboards.

Wearable devices to control and improve concentration. These include special devices that track a person’s concentration and involvement; they help customize teaching process to students’ individual needs.

Augmented reality. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are currently used in various fields, such as the construction sector, while in education they are utilized to help students absorb knowledge more efficiently while studying subjects that require accurate visualizations, such as anatomy.

Neuroprotectants. This category includes pharmaceutical agents used to protect brain cells from damaging effects and improve their performance. Neuroprotective agents also improve concentration, including in people with ADHD.

Educational software and applications. Such technologies are generally used for personalized learning and often allow people to independently study new subjects, such as foreign languages.

The use of games. The gamification of learning is one of the recent years’ trends. This format is believed to help both children and adults better absorb new information.

Brain–computer interface (BCI). This is a computer system that enables brain signals to control an external electronic device to transfer information between the brain and electronic media. They allow human-to-computer interaction without directly implanting devices in the body (such as placing electrodes on the scalp). Although this technology has yet to become common, developers have high expectations in this regard.

Online brain-training platforms. This category includes websites and applications designed to make maximum use of specific cognitive functions. They allow people of all age groups increase their learning abilities, improve brain processing speed, and boost personal cognitive performance.

Neuroeducation in Russia

The global neuroeducation market is rapidly advancing, with increasing demand for quality education and many new technologies becoming more and more accessible. Yet, the Russian segment of the market is lagging behind. The EdTech sector ranks first in the domestic industry, accounting for RUR 56 bln in 2021, while online education ranks second (RUR 45 bln), followed by various VR technologies, wearable devices to improve concentration, and school educational technologies.

A unified register of companies that develop neuro-solutions in the educational field has yet to be established. Yet, experts note that the Russian market currently has about several hundred companies operating in the sector, with a large number of projects implemented by Skolkovo residents and participants in the National Technological Initiative (NTI) program.

Analysts named several companies that hold the largest share of the market while integrating neurotechnology into their products. These include the Netology online platform for additional education, with 30% of the market, the StandUp Innovations educational project for preschoolers (9%), and the Puzzle English self-study English language platform (7%).

Experts also highlight BiTronics Lab, a manufacturer of educational tools for schoolchildren and students in various fields such as biology, engineering and neurotechnology, as well as Neurobotics, a company that sells equipment for scientific research in neuroscience and produces BCIs. These companies, along with Wikium, Robotrack and other projects, have yet to expand in the market to achieve the level of Netology, but they offer new solutions and technology that experts view as prospective for the industry.

The sector’s developments

Experts have analyzed major barriers that hinder the development of Russia’s neuroeducation industry. Many of the aforementioned technologies utilized in this sector have proven not mature enough for mass introduction; this is particularly relevant for the brain-machine interface segment.

The advancement is also slowed down by equipment costs: the use of AR or VR technologies in educational projects requires special headsets, which are too expensive at this point. Affecting factors also include physical limitations, with some users experiencing motion sickness and disorientation when exposed to augmented reality.

The lack of qualified personnel such as developers, IT specialists and resource specialists seems to be a major obstacle to the Russian neuroeducation market. The situation is also aggravated by the lack of investments. These two issues are expected to only grow in the near future amidst sanctions and economic instability.

However, with all apparent challenges, the Russian market still has immense potential. Experts note a growing demand for new relevant disciplines at universities across the country, while higher educational institutions are expressing interest in neurotechnology and users are increasingly opting for additional education services. We can expect the industry to develop in the next few years and neuroeducation tools to become more widespread.

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