Todd Rose finds himself at the forefront of research on the mysterious attention process.

He is one of several dozen students in the Mind, Brain and Education program at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, the first program to combine cognitive science, neuroscience and education.

Program director Kurt W. Fischer says it is critical to train experts who can marry new scientific findings with classroom experience. Most of what passes for "brain-based education," he said, is "hogwash."

"One of the reasons there is so much junk out there is that there are so few people who know enough about education and neuroscience to put the thing together," Fischer said.

Rose, a doctoral student, wants to help children with attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder and dyslexia. He is researching inhibitory control -- the capacity to inhibit irrelevant distractions, a key component of staying on task. The sound of a pencil dropping will distract these children from their work because they lack developmentally appropriate inhibitory control.

Rose applied to 13 other graduate programs, but all were devoted to a single branch of science, so he chose Fischer's. "I realized that all the really important questions," he said, "were at the intersection between these different fields."

-- Valerie Strauss