Neurological Disorders

We think, therefore we exist. But how do we actually think? We depend on our brains to keep our bodies functioning and make sense of our environment.

Unit 1

Got Brains: What do our brains do?

From gross – and amazing – brain anatomy to sensory illusions, this unit is all about getting a hands on feel for what makes brains tick. How do our brains process what we sense about our environment? What parts of your brain are activated when you read this paragraph?

Lesson 1: How can we study our brains?
Lesson 2: How does brain structure impact its function?
Lesson 3: How can we study the behaving brain?
Lesson 4: How do our brains interpret the environment?
Lesson 5: How do the parts of our brains work together?

Download workbook for this unit

Supplemental Media (external links)
Lesson 1: Life Without Memory: The Case of Clive Wearing (YouTube); H.M.’s brain and the History of Memory (NPR)
Lesson 3: Measuring Brain Waves with an EEG (electroencephalogram) (YouTube)
Lesson 4: Optical illusions show how we see (TED)
Lesson 5: Broca’s aphasia – Sarah Scott – teenage stroke (YouTube); Wernicke’s aphasia (YouTube)

Unit 2

What are the building blocks of our brains?

What’s in a neuron? A cell by any other form may have the same DNA, but neurons are uniquely specialized for their function in the nervous system. In this unit we’ll look at those specializations in depth, and see how breakdowns in different parts of a neuron’s function cause the symptoms of different neurological diseases.

Lesson 1: What is the structure of a neuron?
Lesson 2: How do our axons transmit electrical signals?
Lesson 3: How fast do our neurons signal?
Lesson 4: What do our neurons need to work efficiently?
Lesson 5: What can go wrong?

Download workbook for this unit

Supplemental Media (external links)
Lesson 4: Axonal transport (YouTube); Kinesin Transport Protein (YouTube)
Lesson 5: Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease: A patient’s perspective (YouTube); Inside the Brain: Unraveling the Mystery of Alzheimer’s Disease (YouTube)

Unit 3

How do our neurons communicate with each other?

Not all action potentials are created equal. In this unit, we’ll look at how interactions between different types of neurons can boost, dampen, or outright halt signals such as pain traveling through the nervous system.

Lesson 1: Why do we all experience different levels of pain?
Lesson 2: How do our neurons communicate with each other?
Lesson 3: Why does applying pressure relieve pain?
Lesson 4: What causes different pain phenomena?

Download workbook for this unit

Supplemental Media (external links)
Lessons 1-2: 3-D Animation of a Synapse (YouTube)
Lesson 4: VS Ramachandran: 3 clues to understanding your brain (TED)

Unit 4

How do our neurons work together to control behaviors?

Lesson 1: What is sleep?
Lesson 2: Are you getting enough quality sleep?
Lesson 3: What makes us go to sleep, and what makes us wake up?
Lesson 4: Can caffeine treat narcolepsy?
Lesson 5: How do circuits regulate their output?
Lesson 6: What causes epilepsy?

Download workbook for this unit

Supplemental Media (external links)
Lesson 1: Measuring Brain Waves with an EEG (electroencephalogram) (YouTube)
Lesson 3: Narcolepsy (YouTube); Snoozy the Narcoleptic Dog! (YouTube)

Interactive: The Forces That Control Sleep and Wakefulness

How do we stay awake throughout the day and sleep through the night? See the forces that make this happen.

Launch interactive on the HealthySleep site

See also The Drive to Sleep and Our Internal Clock and What Is Sleep? at the HealthSleep site

Unit 5

How do our choices change our brains?

Lesson 1: What circuits do drugs affect in our brains?
Lesson 2: How do drugs alter synaptic transmission?
Lesson 3: Should animals be used in scientific research?
Lesson 4: How is dopamine involved in addictive behaviors?
Lesson 5: When does abuse become addiction?
Lesson 6: What are the long-term effects of drug abuse and addiction?
Lesson 7: Is addiction a chronic disease?

Download workbook for this unit

Supplemental Media (external links)
Lesson 1: Brain Mechanisms of Pleasure and Addiction (YouTube)
Lesson 2: How Does Cocaine Affect the Brain? (YouTube); Visualization award winner in Science – Nicotine addiction and molecule diffusion (YouTube)

App: 3-D Brain
Download the 3-D Brain App for your iPhone or iPad Touch, or visit the DNA Learning Center site to explore the 3-D Brain map online.

Ethics of Animal Research
Should animals be used in scientific research? Visit the following websites to learn about this issue from multiple perspectives:

Virtual Cocaine Lab: Play offline

Final Project: Create a public health brochure

To emphasize how many different kinds of choices and behaviors can have profound effects on their brains, students will assemble their knowledge to create a public health brochure. They use the brochure, in which they explain the effects of a specific choice or behavior, to quash some myths about why we behave like we do and to inform themselves and their communities about the level of both conscious and unconscious control their brains exert.