The Brain: Understanding Neurobiology
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The Brain: Understanding Neurobiology

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Teacher’s Guide

Lesson 1—Engage/Explore

The Brain: What's Going On in There? (Page 2 of 2)

Procedure

Activity 2: Positron Emission Tomography and Brain Function

Web activity icon

The following procedure describes how to conduct the Web version of this activity, which is the preferred method of instruction. Instructions for conducting the alternative print version follow the shaded Steps 1–5.

National Science Education Standards icon
Content Standard A:
Formulate and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence.

Content Standard A:
Scientists rely on technology to enhance the gathering and manipulation of data.

Content Standard C:
Organisms have behavioral responses to internal changes and to external stimuli.
  1. Before starting the Web-based activity, inform students that they will be analyzing positron emission tomography (PET) images. PET is one technology scientists use to learn about the function of the living human brain. The PET images that the students will examine use radioactive glucose to identify parts of the brain that are active. Active brain areas use more glucose than less active areas and thus more of the labeled glucose is taken up into the active areas. PET images are color-coded by a computer. The most active brain areas are shown in red. Areas in yellow are less active than areas in red, but are more active than areas in green. The least active areas are shown in blue or purple. Students will see a color scale on the screen with the PET images for reference.

Students may have seen color-coded computer images on television weather reports. In weather radar images, areas encountering heavy storms appear in red and yellow, and areas experiencing milder weather disturbances appear in green or blue.

  1. Divide the class into groups of three students. Arrange for each group to work at a computer to complete the online activity Analyzing Brain Images. Give each group a copy of Master 1.2, Interpreting PET Images.

Go to the supplement’s Web site. Select Lesson 1—The Brain: What’s Going On in There?

  1. Instruct students to work with their group members to analyze the PET images and to answer the questions on Master 1.2. When students reach question 5, display a transparency of Master 1.3, PET Image Tasks, to provide the needed information.
  2. After the groups complete the activity and write their answers to the questions on Master 1.2, discuss the answers to the questions as a class.

Sample Answers to Questions on Master 1.2

National Science Education Standards icon
Content Standard A:
Communicate and defend a scientific argument.

Question 1. When you look at the images that make up Set #1 (Master 1.1), how do the four images differ from each other?

The brain images are different sizes. The images show variation in the amount and pattern of the different colors.

Question 2. Why are four images shown in each set of PET images? Why would scientists need to examine more than one PET image taken of a subject’s brain?

The four PET images in each set show the activity at different levels of the brain. If a scientist examines only a single image, he or she increases the chances of missing important information.

Question 3. When comparing the images in Set #1 with the images in Sets #2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, how is the activity of the brain in each of these sets different from Set #1’s?

Set Number Identify the image that shows the greatest change
(a, b, c, or d)
Describe the change in brain activity
2 b There is more red on the right side of the brain, mainly near the center in terms of front-to-back direction. There is also red on the left side, but it is not as strong as it is on the right side.
3 b The main activation is in the back of the brain on both sides of the midline.
4 c The main activation is at the front of the brain near the periphery on both sides of the midline.
5 d The main activation is in four areas, two on each side of the brain. Two are very near the back of the brain, and two are farther forward.
6 a The main areas of activation are a spot on the left side of the brain and a smaller spot near the front of the brain on the midline.

Question 4. The PET images shown in Set #1 show brain activity in a resting brain. The images in Sets #2–6 show activity in the brains of humans who are doing different tasks. When you look at the PET scans and the chart in question #3, what generalizations can you make about the activity of the brain when different tasks are performed?

The key points of this exercise are that different brain areas are activated during different tasks and different brain functions are localized to different brain areas.

Question 5. Compare the tasks that the subject performed during each of the PET scans (as shown on the overhead transparency) with the individual’s brain activity. Use the information from the overhead and from the PET images to complete the following chart (Master 1.2b).

Set Number Brain region that is more active in the PET image This region is involved in processing information related to
2 auditory cortex hearing
3 primary visual cortex vision, sight
4 frontal cortex thinking
5 hippocampus memory
6 motor cortex movement
National Science Education Standards icon
Content Standard E:
Science often advances with the introduction of new technology.
  1. Instruct students to watch the online video How PET Works.

From the main menu, select Lesson 1—The Brain: What’s Going On in There? Then click on How Is PET Done? This video expands students’ understanding of PET. A scientist explains how PET imaging is done.

After students have completed the activity, you may wish to challenge them by asking them to propose an explanation for why functions are localized to specific brain areas. Why would this be beneficial from an evolutionary standpoint? (See Background Information.)

print activity iconThe following procedure is for classes using the print version of the activity.


National Science Education Standards icon
Content Standard A:
Formulate and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence.

Content Standard A:
Scientists rely on technology to enhance the gathering and manipulation of data.

Content Standard C:
Organisms have behavioral responses to internal changes and to external stimuli.
  1. Tell students that one of the ways that scientists investigate the function of the living human brain is by using positron emission tomography (PET). The PET images that the students will examine use radioactive glucose to identify parts of the brain that are active. Active brain areas use more glucose than less active areas and thus more of the labeled glucose is taken up into the active areas. PET scans are color-coded. The scale bar shown on Master 1.1, Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Images, provides a reference. The most active brain areas are shown in red. Areas in yellow are less active than areas in red, but are more active than areas in green. The least active areas are shown in blue or purple.

PET images are color-coded by computer to show activity in the brain. This is similar to color-coded images students may have seen on television weather reports. In weather radar images, areas encountering heavy storms appear in red and yellow, and areas experiencing milder weather disturbances appear in green or blue.

  1. Divide the class into groups of three students. Give each group a copy of Master 1.1, Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Images, and a copy of Master 1.2, Interpreting PET Images.
  2. Help students understand how the PET images correlate to the orientation of the brain in the body.

The PET images show a cross-section of the brain. The four images in each set show four different levels of the brain. In these images, the front of the brain is toward the top (the subject’s face is toward the top of the image). Have the students examine the PET scans and identify the regions that become active in response to each stimulus.

National Science Education Standards icon
Content Standard A:
Communicate and defend a scientific argument.
  1. Instruct students to work with their group members to answer the questions on Master 1.2. When students reach question 5, display a transparency of Master 1.3, PET Image Tasks, to provide the needed information.
  2. Discuss the answers to the questions on Master 1.2 as a class.

Sample answers for the questions on Master 1.2 are listed in the procedure for the online version of Activity 2.

National Science Education Standards icon
Content Standard C:
Cells can differentiate and complex multicellular organisms are formed as a highly organized arrangement of differentiated cells.

Activity 3: Parts of the Brain

Note to teachers: This activity is intended for classes that want more information about the anatomy of the brain. Learning the names and functions of brain lobes and regions is not a major focus and could distract some students from the main concept, that brain functions are localized to specific brain areas. Understanding the main concept is critical for understanding how neurons communicate and how drugs of abuse affect neuronal function. These topics are covered in Lessons 2 and 3.

Web activity icon

For classrooms using the Web version of this activity.

  1. Have students continue in their groups to conduct the online activity What Does This Part of the Brain Do?

To access this activity, go to the Web site and select Lesson 1—The Brain: What’s Going On in There? Then click on What Does This Part of the Brain Do?

  1. Ask students to take out their completed worksheet on Master 1.2. Review the tasks that the students performed in Step 1 of Activity 1 and ask students to identify the part of the brain that was active in each case.

From the information in question 5 on Master 1.2, students should be able to identify the brain area involved in some of the tasks performed in Step 1, but others were not covered in that question. Also, for some Content Standard A: Communicate and defend a scientific argument. Content Standard C: Cells can differentiate and complex multicellular organisms are formed as a highly organized arrangement of differentiated cells. The Brain: Understanding Neurobiology Through the Study of Addiction 32 of the activities listed, more than one function is involved. For example, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance requires both memory and speech. Be aware that this chart is very simplified. Virtually all mental functions involve more than one brain area.

print activity iconThe following procedure is for classes using the print version of this activity.


Assessment icon
Assessment:
Remember, the names of the parts of the brain are not the important concepts that students need to learn. Rather, this is a way for students to relate what they have learned about localization of brain function to other activities and thus reinforce the concept that different brain regions control different functions.
  1. Display transparencies of Master 1.4, Major Regions of the Brain, and Master 1.5, Areas of the Cerebral Cortex and Their Function.
  2. Ask students to take out their completed worksheet on Master 1.2. Review the tasks that the students performed in Step 1 of Activity 1 and ask students to identify the part of the brain that was active in each case.

From the information in question 5 on Master 1.2, students should be able to identify the brain area involved in some of the tasks performed in Step 1 of Activity 1, but others were not covered in that question. Also, for some of the activities listed, more than one function is involved. For example, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance requires both memory and speech. Be aware that this chart is very simplified. Virtually all mental functions involve more than one brain area.

Activity General Functions Involved Brain Areas Involved*
breathing   brainstem (medulla)
heart rate   brainstem (medulla)
waving hands in the air movement cerebrum—frontal lobe (motor cortex) cerebellum
hopping up and down on the right foot movement cerebrum—frontal lobe (motor cortex) cerebellum
walking around the classroom movement cerebrum—frontal lobe (motor cortex) cerebellum
looking out the window vision cerebrum—occipital lobe
(primary visual cortex)
reciting the Pledge of Allegiance speech, memory cerebrum—frontal lobe
hippocampus
doing an algebra problem thinking cerebrum—frontal lobe
remembering directions to get from the classroom to the school cafeteria memory hippocampus
reading a sentence aloud speech cerebrum—parietal lobe
and frontal lobe
*This is very simplified. Most mental functions involve more than one area of the brain.

Activity 4: Who Was Phineas Gage?

National Science Education Standards icon
Content Standard A:
Scientists rely on technology to enhance the gathering and manipulation of data.

Content Standard C:
Multicellular animals have nervous systems that generate behavior.

Content Standard G:
Usually, changes in scientific knowledge occur as small modifications in extant knowledge.
  1. Give each student a copy of Master 1.6, What Happened to Phineas Gage? Instruct students to read the story and answer the questions.

Phineas Gage was injured in an accident in the 1800s. His recovery from the injury and the resulting change in personality and behavior gave scientists new insight into brain function.8,9

Computer reconstruction of the skull of Phineas Gage
Figure 1.8: Computer reconstruction of the skull of Phineas Gage illustrating the projection of the tamping rod through the brain. Reprinted with permission from Damasio, H., et al. 1994. The return of Phineas Gage: Clues about the brain from a famous patient. Science 264:1102–05.

Sample Answers to Questions on Master 1.6

Question 1. How did Phineas Gage change after the accident?

After the accident, Gage’s personality changed. He was no longer the likeable and responsible person he was before the accident. Instead he was irresponsible and used profanity.

Question 2. How did Phineas Gage’s accident change scientists’ understanding of the brain?

Scientists learned that the brain does more than control language and movement. It also controls emotions and social behaviors. Equally important, scientists learned that the brain processes information for specific functions in specific brain areas.

Activity 5: Where Do Drugs Act?

National Science Education Standards icon
Content Standard C:
Multicellular organisms have nervous systems that generate behavior.

Content Standard F:
An individual’s mood and behavior may be modified by substances.

Assessment icon
Assessment:
If students understand that PET images reveal changes in brain activity and that drugs activate the reward system in the brain, students should predict that the reward system (the VTA and nucleus accumbens) should be more active after an individual takes drugs. These brain areas should appear red or yellow in PET scans taken after drug use, whereas they would be purple or blue in PET images taken before drug use.
  1. Now that students understand that different areas in the brain process specific types of stimuli, ask students to consider things that make them feel good, or are pleasurable. How might doing something pleasurable change brain activity?

If students understand, from Activity 2 of this lesson, that brain functions are localized to specific brain areas, they should suspect that things that make them feel pleasure will stimulate a specific brain region.

  1. Display the transparency of Master 1.7, The Reward System. Tell students that part of the brain produces and regulates feelings of pleasure, which scientists call reward. This brain region is called the reward system. The parts of the brain that make up the reward system are the ventral tegmental area (VTA), the nucleus accumbens, and part of the frontal region of the cerebral cortex. This brain region responds to life-sustaining activities such as eating and drinking, as well as species-sustaining sexual activity.
  2. Introduce students to the idea that drugs of abuse activate the brain’s reward system, or pleasure circuit. Drugs alter the way the reward system functions. Drugs also act on other regions of the brain, but their action in the reward system makes the person abusing drugs feel pleasure and want to continue taking drugs.

Students will learn more about how drugs exert these effects in the remaining lessons in this curriculum supplement.

  1. Ask students to hypothesize how PET images of a person’s brain would change after taking drugs of abuse.

Students may predict an increase in activity in the reward system of the brain. Currently, though, PET technology is not sensitive enough to allow scientists to visualize this reward-system activation. The VTA and nucleus accumbens are too small for PET images to detect significant activity changes. Scientists have relied on other technologies to learn that drugs of abuse do activate these brain regions.

Some students may hypothesize that PET images of the brain after drug abuse would also show changes in other regions of the brain. This is correct. Drugs do affect other regions of the brain, but it is the reward system that triggers the pleasurable feelings associated with drug use. More information on the more widespread effects of drugs on the brain is presented in Lesson 4.


Web activity icon Lesson 1 Organizer: Web Version
Activity 1: What Does the Brain Do?
What the Teacher Does Procedure Reference

Ask for six to eight volunteers to perform tasks written on the task cards you prepared.

Step 1

Ask students to identify the part of the body involved in all of the tasks they just saw.

Step 2

After students deduce that the brain is the part of the body involved, ask students to suggest how they think scientists investigate the human brain.

Step 3
Activity 2: Positron Emission Tomography and Brain Function
What the Teacher Does Procedure Reference

Inform students that they will analyze positron emission tomography (PET) images. Briefly explain that these PET images use radioactive glucose to identify areas of brain activity. Active brain areas use more glucose than less active areas. Introduce students to the colorcoding added by a computer and the color-scale reference. Areas in red are the most active. Areas in blue or purple are the least active.

Step 1

Divide the class into teams of three students. Have each group log onto a computer, go to the Student Activities page, and select Lesson 2—The Brain: What’s Going On in There? and then Analyzing Brain Images. Give each team a copy of Master 1.2.

Web activity iconStep 2

master icon

Allow time for student teams to analyze the PET images and answer questions on Master 1.2. Display a transparency of Master 1.3 when students reach question 5.

transparency iconStep 3

Reconvene the class to discuss the answers to the questions on Master 1.2.

Step 4

Allow time for students to watch a segment online about PET imaging. From the Student Activities menu, ask students to select Lesson 1—The Brain: What’s Going On in There? and click on How Is PET Done?

Web activity iconStep 5
Activity 3: Parts of the Brain
What the Teacher Does Procedure Reference

Have students return to their teams to work on an online activity. From the Student Activities menu, select Lesson 1—The Brain: What’s Going On in There? and then What Does This Part of the Brain Do?

Web activity iconStep 1

Instruct students to examine their completed Master 1.2. Review the tasks that the student volunteers performed in Step 1 of Activity 1. Have students identify the part of the brain that was active in each case.

Step 2
Activity 4: Who Was Phineas Gage?
What the Teacher Does Procedure Reference

Give each student a copy of Master 1.6 and ask them to read the story and answer the questions.

master iconStep 1
Activity 5: Where Do Drugs Act?
What the Teacher Does Procedure Reference

Ask students to consider things that make them feel good or are pleasurable. Have them consider the question, How might doing something pleasurable change brain activity?

Step 1

Display a transparency of Master 1.7. Tell students that part of the brain produces and regulates feelings of pleasure, which scientists call reward. Point out the parts of the brain that make up the reward system: the ventral tegmental area (VTA), the nucleus accumbens, and part of the frontal region of the cerebral cortex.

transparency iconStep 2

Introduce students to the idea that drugs of abuse activate the brain’s reward system. Specifically, introduce the idea that the action of drugs on the reward center is what makes the user feel pleasure and want to continue taking drugs.

Step 3

Ask students to hypothesize how PET images of a person’s brain would change after taking drugs of abuse. Inform them that they will learn more about how drugs affect the brain during the remaining lessons in this unit.

Step 4
Web activity icon= Involves using the Internet.
master icon= Involves copying a master.
transparency icon= Involves making a transparency.

print activity icon Lesson 1 Organizer: Print Version
Activity 1: What Does the Brain Do?
What the Teacher Does Procedure Reference

Ask for six to eight volunteers to perform tasks written on the task cards you prepared.

Step 1

Ask students to identify the part of the body involved in all of the tasks they just saw.

Step 2

After students deduce that the brain is the part of the body involved, ask students to suggest how they think scientists investigate the human brain.

Step 3
Activity 2: Positron Emission Tomography and Brain Function
What the Teacher Does Procedure Reference

Inform students that they will analyze positron emission tomography (PET) images. Briefly explain that these PET images use radioactive glucose to identify areas of brain activity. Active brain areas use more glucose than less active areas. Introduce students to the colorcoding added by a computer and the color-scale reference. Areas in red are the most active. Areas in blue or purple are least active.

Step 1

Divide the class into groups of three students. Give each group a copy of Master 1.1 and of Master 1.2. Help students understand how the images relate to the orientation of the brain in the body.

master iconSteps 2, 3

Allow time for student teams to analyze the PET images and answer questions on Master 1.2. Display a transparency of Master 1.3 when students reach question 5.

transparency iconStep 4

Reconvene the class to discuss the answers to the questions on Master 1.2.

Step 5
Activity 3: Parts of the Brain
What the Teacher Does Procedure Reference

Display a transparency of Master 1.4 followed by a transparency of Master 1.5.

transparency iconStep 1

Instruct students to examine their completed Master 1.2. Review the tasks that the student volunteers performed in Step 1 of Activity 1. Have students identify the part of the brain that was active in each case.

Step 2
Activity 4: Who Was Phineas Gage?
What the Teacher Does Procedure Reference

Give each student a copy of Master 1.6, and ask them to read the story and answer the questions.

master iconStep 1
Activity 5: Where Do Drugs Act?
What the Teacher Does Procedure Reference

Ask students to consider things that make them feel good or are pleasurable. Have them consider the question, How might doing something pleasurable change brain activity?

Step 1

Display a transparency of Master 1.7. Tell students that part of the brain produces and regulates feelings of pleasure, which scientists call reward. Point out the parts of the brain that make up the reward system: the ventral tegmental area (VTA), the nucleus accumbens, and part of the frontal region of the cerebral cortex.

transparency iconStep 2

Introduce students to the idea that drugs of abuse activate the brain’s reward system. Specifically, introduce the idea that the action of drugs on the reward center is what makes the user feel pleasure and want to continue taking drugs.

Step 3

Ask students to hypothesize how PET images of a person’s brain would change after taking drugs of abuse. Inform them that they will learn more about how drugs affect the brain during the remaining lessons in this unit.

Step 4
master icon= Involves copying a master.
transparency icon= Involves making a transparency.

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