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  1. Gero, John S. (Ed.)
    To explore the connection between brain and behavior in engineering design, this study measured the change in neurocognition of engineering students while they developed concept maps. Concept maps help designers organize complex ideas by illustrating components and relationships. Student concept maps were graded using a pre-established scoring method and compared to their neurocognitive activation. Results show significant correlations between performance and neurocognition. Concept map scores were positively correlated with activation in students’ prefrontal cortex. A prominent sub-region was the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), which is generally associated with divergent thinking and cognitive flexibility. Student scores were negatively correlated with measures of brain network density. The findings suggest a possible neurocognitive mechanism for better performance. More research is needed to connect brain activation to the cognitive activi-ies that occur when designing but these results provide new evidence for the brain functions that support the development of complex ideas during design. 
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  2. The research presented in this paper tested whether drawing concept maps changes how engineering students construct design problem statements and whether these differences are observable in their brains. The process of identifying and constructing problem statements is a critical step in engineering design. Concept mapping has the potential to expand the problem space that students explore through the attention given to the relationship between concepts. It helps integrate existing knowledge in new ways. Engineering students (n=66) were asked to construct a problem statement to improve mobility on campus. Half of these students were randomly chosen to first receive instructions about how to develop a concept map and were asked to draw a concept map about mobility systems on campus. The semantic similarity of concepts in the students’ problem statements, the length of their problem statements, and their neurocognition when developing their statements were measured. The results indicated that students who were asked to first draw concept maps produced a more diverse problem statement with less semantically similar words. The students who first developed concept maps also produce significantly longer problem statements. Concept mapping changed students’ neurocognition. The students who used concept mapping elicited less cognitive activation in their left prefrontal cortex (PFC) and more concentrated activation in their right PFC. The right PFC is generally associated with divergent thinking and the left PFC is generally associated with convergent and analytical thinking. These results provide new insight into how educational interventions, like concept mapping, can change students’ cognition and neurocognition. Better understanding how concept maps, and other tools, help students approach complex problems and the associated changes that occur in their brain can lay the groundwork for novel advances in engineering education that support new tools and pedagogy development for design. 
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