8 Must-Read Neurolearning™ Books

Neurolearning™ isn’t just the hot topic du jour or a corporate buzzword to throw around in meetings. Instead, Neurolearning™ is a combination of learning theory and neuroscience; a complicated study of how the brain (and the nervous system) works and reacts to stimuli and situations.

For our purposes, Neurolearning™ helps us understand the way individuals learn and how to turn material into memories for later retention. Sometimes referred to as “neuroscience for training” or its dastardly cousin “neuromarketing,” the study of how the brain learns gives us insight into becoming more effective at what we do. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or you’re just starting to understand the importance of neuroscience as it pertains to your daily interactions, here are the best books to start lining your shelves.

Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning; Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, Mark A. McDaniels

Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel are each highly respected in their fields: Brown is a writer, and both Roediger and McDaniel are professors of psychology. Make it Stick is their love letter to neurolearning and how to apply the science of learning for your purposes. Drawing from their experiences with students, pilots, surgeons, and other learners, the three authors explain the link between material, learning, and turning those experiences into memories for better retention.

Backed with scientific research and personal anecdotes, Make it Stick teaches every type of educator how to improve information recall for students, no matter the subject matter. The book also debunks many deep-rooted learning myths and replaces old ideas with a fresh, new look on how the brain reacts to different learning situations.

The Do it Messy Approach: A Step-by-Step Guide for Instructional Designers and Online Learning Developers; Dr. Robin Nichole Sargent

Learning the ins and outs of neuroscience for instructional design takes years. If you need training now, consider the “Do it Messy Approach.” 

Created by instructional designer Robin Sargent, who has spearheaded course creation for everyone from Walmart to Amazon, the approach is a simple step-by-step guide to get started today. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re looking to build your ID skills, Sargent offers practical tips on how the brain loves to learn so you can capture learner attention from the first interaction. It’s a great quickstart guide that we love for getting over the fear of failure and utilizing the SAM design model to launch faster. 

Design for How People Learn (Voices That Matter); Julie Dirksen

True learning and mastery could be described as a combination of retention and action. In Design for How People Learn, eLearning expert Julie Dirksen shares her best insight and trusted research on the best way for brains to commit information to memory and implement new skills in their roles. By practicing what she preaches, Dirksen utilizes storytelling and metaphor to teach instructors the best way to help learners build new habits and get the best ROI on every training minute.

Now You See It: How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Business in the 21st Century; Cathy N. Davidson

Its author Cathy Davidson’s hypothesis that “if you build it, they will come.” “It” referring to iPhone apps, of course. And she would know: While teaching at Duke, she persuaded the university to give the entire freshman class of 2003 iPods.

It was a way of staring the perceived enemy right in the face. Rather than run from the very device causing inattention in schools, she invited it into her classroom–with excellent results. As students learn to use their devices for good, Davidson sees the transformative power of engagement in real time.

Learning Science for Instructional Designers: From Cognition to Application; Clark Quinn

When designing learning opportunities, there can be a gap left between strategy and implementation. Understanding the way the brain works is key to ensuring that your training objectives take root in learners’ behavior. 

Consider it a primer for all instructional designers; Quinn’s book reads like a how-to guide for leveling up your design skills. Whether it’s allowing your learners time for reflection or harnessing the power of social learning, the book helps you capitalize on neurolearning to increase motivation and close that gap between theory and reality. 

Thinking, Fast and Slow; Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman is a psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in Economics, so he knows a thing or two about human behavior. In Thinking, Fast and Slow, he details just how brain systems affect the way that we make decisions. 

Whether it’s buying milk at the store or making a choice at work, the two systems of the brain are responsible for fast, intuitive thinking, and logical, deliberate thoughts, respectively. Kahneman says that by understanding both systems of the brain, humans can streamline decisions and use the slower version of thinking to tap into better choices altogether. And, by identifying when that quick, emotional thinking comes into play, learners can combine intuition and logic for the right decision.

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School; John Medina

What could you achieve if your brain was operating at its optimum level? That’s the question that bestselling author and molecular biologist John Medina asks in Brain Rules. 

By probing our daily lives for clues, Medina explains how everything from stress, sleep, and even multitasking affects the brain. In taking the time to understand exactly what scientists know about the brain and the way it responds to different emotions, senses, and situations, Medina offers practical tips to see immediate results. Brain Rules is a great book for instructional designers, but it’s also an interesting study on neurolearning and the human brain for anyone interested in understanding how to improve daily function. 

How People Learn: Designing Education and Training That Works to Improve Performance; Nick Shackleton-Jones

Sometimes organizations can get so caught up in the promises of new tech in eLearning and training that they forget to measure the true ROI of a program. 

In How People Learn, Shackleton-Jones examines how new tech can be applied in practical ways to see real change at work. While reading, you can expect to catch up on robust case studies, design models, and ways to give learners exactly what you’re asking for.  From discovering AI’s potential to the effective use of simulation, the book helps instructional designers levy prevailing neuroscience theories with methods to keep learners engaged, motivated, and ready for more. 


No matter the root of your interest in neuroscience, learning from the best is a step in the right direction. Taking advantage of years of research, study, and experience, the best neuroscience books are the ones that make the brain less of a mystery and neurolearning a reality.

Ready to take your eLearning to the next level? Contact us with your must-have training components and we’ll help you design something incredible.