Learn about the Brain: Lesson Plans for Grades 6-8 Now Available

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For teachers who want to incorporate lessons about the brain into their classrooms, we have new and exciting lesson plans available on our website, which can be downloaded for free. Geared towards grades 6-8, each lesson plan comes with a PowerPoint presentation and includes a hands-on activity to get students as involved as possible in learning about the brain.

The first lesson, Design an Imaginary Animal, gives students a breakdown of how different animals’ brains are composed and why. Paired with our fact sheet How Does the Brain Work?, students go over basic neuroanatomy and are then split into groups of three to come up with their own imaginary animal, and build its brain using Play-Doh, enlarging parts of the brain that correlate to a heightened brain function. For example, animals with a strong sense of smell would have a large olfactory lobe.

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Neuroethics Society Meeting: Environmental Factors Impacting the Developing Brain

It’s not just genetics, it’s not just diet—many factors contribute to healthy brain development in people, which continues until about 25 years of age. At yesterday’s International Neuroethics Society (INS) panel, “The Brain in Context,” three neuroscientists talked about different aspects of the physical and social environments that can affect the developing brain.

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Even before a baby is born, in utero processes can have long-term effects on brain development. Panelist Moriah Thomason of Wayne State University uses fMRI to study how the different regions of the fetal brain communicate with each other. In a longitudinal, Detroit-based study, she and her colleagues found that babies born pre-term show less brain connectivity than those born full-term. Of particular note, a small area on the left side of the brain associated with language processing showed weaker connectivity with other brain areas.

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DIY Brain Awareness Week Arts and Crafts

As you look toward Brain Awareness Week next month (March 13-19), think about joining lab tours and lectures, but also consider art contests and brain hats. Why not infuse your Brain Awareness Week celebration with a little Do-It-Yourself arts and crafts?

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A video of how to knit a brain hat popped up in my Facebook feed a few weeks ago, and were I a knitter, I’d surely be sporting one come March 13. This project will take some commitment, but will undoubtedly impress fellow neuroscience-enthusiasts. By Studio Knit, the five-minute video explains what you’ll need and gives step-by-step directions. What color would you choose for your brain hat?

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Music and the Arts Promote Heathy Cognitive Function

A session entitled “Arts, Music, and the Brain: How the Arts Influence Us from Youth to Maturity” drew a standing room only crowd in a late afternoon session on Tuesday at the Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego.

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Four speakers came at the topic from slightly different angles. The common denominator: In addition to anecdotal evidence and common sense, improved imaging and sound wave technology has helped neuroscientists demonstrate that arts and music boost cognitive function across social economic class, age, gender, and ethnicity.

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SfN Discussion Centers on Youth Football

On an early Sunday afternoon a few blocks away from the Society for Neuroscience Conference at the San Diego Convention Center, sports bars packed with football fans watched their heroes bang heads playing the most popular sport in America. Inside the center, four neuroscientists who specialize in head trauma and a former NFL player talked about the complex issues of concussion and multiple impacts to the brain in football, others sports, military service, and in random accidents.

“Here is an October 9 New York Times article about Jordan Reed, a tight end for the Washington Redskins, who sustained his sixth concussion and pondered whether if and when he should return to the field,” Harry Levin, a professor of neuroscience at Baylor University, enlarged on a screen. “Six is too many, and he ended up missing only two games.”

“Did he have come back too soon?” asked Levin. The answer, to the frustration of athletes, their families, and neuroscientists head trauma researchers is: We really don’t know.

While the roundtable discussion, “Concussion: From the Players’ Experience to the Future of Research,” offered compelling data on the scope of concussion and mild head trauma by gender, age, and circumstance, the speakers emphasized that in light of heightened awareness and the challenges facing researchers about quantifying the dangers, making public policy decisions is purely speculative and premature. [See full video of the discussion, below.]

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