Neurological Disorders: Unit 4

How do our neurons work together to control behaviors?

This unit expands what students now understand about how neurons talk to each other, to take a look at more complex behaviors. Carrying on with the theme of using examples that students will find personally relevant, the unit begins by exploring the sleep-wake cycle. Students keep a sleep journal and use it to directly analyze how their brains are controlling their behaviors. Armed with their knowledge of how neurons in a circuit excite and inhibit each other, students finish the unit with an understanding of how the sleep wake cycle works, and how the quality of their sleep can influence their performance. The unit concludes with an investigation of what can happen when signaling between neurons is short-circuited during epilepsy.

Lesson 1

What is sleep?

This lesson is intended to engage students with the concept of the neural circuit. The lesson and unit as a whole uses sleep, a behavior everyone is familiar with, to further explore neural circuits and how they control behaviors. In this lesson students are introduced to the sleep stages and how they are visualized and studied using EEGs. The lesson sets the students up to begin to learn about sleep in the context of neuronal control, a logical progression from the previous unit that focused on simple pathways.

Objectives – Students will be able to describe sleep and what happens to the activity of our brain, muscles and eyes as we progress through the dif-ferent sleeps stages.
– Students will be able to determine what stage of sleep someone is in by their EEG.
Activities – Self-assessment quiz.
– Socratic discussion of sleep.
– Analysis of an EEG.
Materials Printed Materials:
– EEG worksheet
– Homework worksheet
Homework Bring sleep journal to class tomorrow.

Worksheet: Effects of sleep deprivation.

Lesson 2

Are you getting enough quality sleep?

This lesson allows students to apply what they learned in the previous lesson about lesson to analyze their sleep journals and determine if they are getting enough quality sleep. Using their sleep journals, students will calculate their own sleep patterns and sleep debts, and determine whether there are correlations between their sleeping behavior, caffeine intake and level of sleepiness.

Objectives – Students will be able to explain how we progress through different stages as we sleep each night.
– Students will be able to calculate whether or not they get enough quality sleep.
Activities Analysis of sleep journals
Materials Printed Materials:
– Activity worksheet
Homework Students write a short report summarizing the findings of the sleep journal analysis

Lesson 3

What makes us go to sleep, and what makes us wake up?

This lesson presents the concept of the neural circuit. Using the sleep-wake circuit as an example, this lesson demonstrates how different parts of the brain work together to regulate behaviors. In addition to learning the brain structures involved in controlling the sleep-wake cycle, students will learn that this cycle is controlled by a switch sensitive to outside stimuli. Students will also be introduced to the key concept that circuits rely on both inhibition and excitation to regulate function. Finally, this lesson introduces the idea of using an animal model to study a human disorder.

Objectives – Students will be able to identify the components of the sleep-wake circuit.
– Students will be able to describe how these components work together to control our sleep-wake cycle.
Activities – Video of narcoleptic dog.
– Socratic discussion of the flip-flop switch and how it controls the sleep-wake cycle.
– Think, pair, share on what causes narcolepsy
Materials Printed Materials:
– Homework worksheet
Homework Worksheet: The role of orexin the sleep-wake circuit

Lesson 4

Can caffeine treat narcolepsy?

This lesson is intended to further develop the students’ understanding of the complexity of neuronal circuits. Continuing the discussion of the sleep-wake circuit and narcolepsy, this lesson also introduces caffeine, its mechanism of action and asks the students whether or not it would be an effective treatment for narcolepsy. Through the discussion of the many different “controls” of the sleep-wake circuits, students will begin to appreciate how complex neural circuits can become.

Objectives – Students will be able to describe the scientific findings with narcoleptic mice, dogs, and human patients.
– Students will be able to describe how caffeine works.
– Students will be able to explain whether caffeine is an appropriate treatment for narcolepsy.
Activities Small group discussions on caffeine as a treatment for narcolepsy.
Materials Printed Materials:
– Homework worksheet
Homework Worksheet: Biological clock

Lesson 5

How do circuits use excitation and inhibition for control?

This lesson is intended to demonstrate how different arrangements of excitatory and inhibitory connections can regulate output from a neuron both spatially and temporally. The concept of inhibitory control sets the stage for the next lesson which examines the clinical consequences when inhibition is abnormal, and for Unit 5 in which students will examine more complex circuits.

Objectives – Students will be able to describe how circuits use excitation and inhibition to control output.
– Students will be able to distinguish between the process of feed forward inhibition and feedback inhibition.
Activities Student model of neuronal pathway with excitatory and inhibitory connections.
Materials Printed Materials:
– Activity worksheet
– Activity instruction cards
– Activity signaling cards
Homework Complete activity worksheets.

Lesson 6

What causes epilepsy?

This lesson focuses on epilepsy. Because epilepsy is caused by abnormal disordered neuronal activity, this lesson provides the medical application of abnormal neural circuits. The lesson begins with an activity to demonstrate the consequence of removing inhibition within a circuit. After a discussion of epilepsy, including the symptoms, types and origin of seizures, the students will analyze three patients’ EEGs and give them a diagnosis. The lesson concludes with an overview of the current treatments for epilepsy.

Objectives – Students will be able to compare and contrast partial and gen-eralized seizures, include their neural causes and EEG traces.
– Students will be able to examine an EEG and determine if a patient is experience a partial or a generalized seizure.
Activities Diagnosis and predication of behavioral symptoms based on examination of EEGs from patients with partial and generalized seizures.
Materials Printed Materials:
– Do Now worksheet
– Activity worksheet
– Homework worksheet
Homework Read Scientific American Mind article “Controlling Epilepsy”

Teacher Prep: Unit 4 Lesson Overview Videos

In the YouTube embed below, click the order listing in the upper right to toggle the display for the full playlist.