Lesson 5 allows students to demonstrate their understanding of the major concepts from earlier lessons and serves as the final assessment for the module. Students learn about the effects of damage to the nervous system through analysis of four fictitious patient case studies. Each patient has sustained damage to the nervous system that may or may not have resulted in a loss of the patient’s sense of self. The class analyzes one case study together. As a homework assignment, students take a position on whether the brain contains the sense of self (determines who we are). They analyze the remaining case studies, then write an essay using the case studies and concepts learned in Lessons 1 to 4 to defend their position.
The nervous system can be damaged through injury or disease. Damage to the spinal cord does not change who we are, but it may change what we can feel and do. Damage to the brain can change who we are.
After completing this lesson, students will be able to
Refer to the following sections in Information about the Brain:
|Activity 1|| Master 5.1, The Brain: Our Sense of Self, 1 transparency
Master 5.2, Case Study—John M., 1 transparency
Master 5.3, Three Case Studies, 1 copy per student
|Activity 1||Overhead projector and screen|
Set up overhead projector and screen.
If students need help getting started, remind them of Lessons 1 and 2, when they discovered the unique responses they each had to different tasks and situations. Students likely will list being a member of their family, having particular friends, their special talents, and things they do and do not like to do. Affirm all of these by agreeing that their past experiences (memories), their unique talents, and their likes and dislikes all contribute to who they are, the unique way they each think about and respond to the world.
Encourage students to think more deeply by asking questions such as, “Do other parts of the body help you know who you are?” and “How about other parts of the nervous system?” Some students may say that “who they are” is determined by their entire body. Others may state that the entire nervous system determines how they know who they are. Accept all responses at this time.
Students may have no suggestions, or they may suggest that they could do something to change a particular region of a person’s brain or other part of the nervous system and see how that affects a person’s behavior. Move quickly to Step 5.
Tip from the field test: Leading students through this discussion of John’s case history provides students with a model for the analyses of case histories expected of them in the final assignment of this unit.
Students likely will have different opinions. Lead them to the idea that, fundamentally, John is the same person he was before the accident; that is, his sense of self has not changed.
Some students may argue that John is now a different person and support that opinion by pointing out that he would likely now make different decisions in situations such as the bike-riding or, for John, wheelchair-riding, scenario in Lesson 2 than he would have before the accident. If the accident had not occurred, he might have gone on to be a professional football player and made lots more money than he will as a physicist. They may feel that this changes John’s identity.
Point out that although John cannot do all the things he did before, the core person has not changed. Although some of John’s neural pathways are “broken,” those that make him who he is have not changed. He can still draw on the same past experiences and unique abilities in his approach to life. Evidence from the case history supports this: he remained an outgoing, upbeat person; his talent for physics was the same. Although he can no longer play football, he remains interested in sports, as evidenced by his participation in wheelchair races. John is still the same person.
Students should conclude that Frank’s injury caused him to change his identity, or sense of self. The case study included evidence that he no longer thought about or responded to the world in the same way. He no longer finds things funny that once were funny to him. His personality also changed: he once was calm and easygoing and now is angry and unhappy. Frank seems to have become a different person.
Although she is no longer able to do all of things she could before the accident, Lisa has not lost her identity. She continues to work effectively at the same kind of job she had before the accident and to enjoy teaching children. While the accident apparently damaged the region of her brain that receives visual information, it did not change the fundamental, core person.
Mandy’s sense of self has changed drastically as her Alzheimer’s disease has progressed. Her memories are gone, and her personality has changed dramatically. Students should recall from Lessons 1 and 2 that people have different responses to situations partly because of their past experiences. Because Mandy cannot remember many of her past experiences, she responds to situations differently from how she did before she was stricken by Alzheimer’s.
Students may agree or disagree with the statement “The brain contains your sense of self; it makes you who you are.” Those who agree may use the examples of Frank’s and Mandy’s brain injuries to support their opinion—because of damage to their brains, Frank and Mandy are now different people from who they were before. Students who disagree with the statement may indicate that while Frank’s and Mandy’s cases seem to support the statement, Lisa’s case invalidates it. Although her brain was injured, Lisa is fundamentally the same person she was before. The most insightful students will state, correctly, that the three case studies support the idea that some, but not all, regions of the brain contain our sense of self.
|Activity 1: Our Sense of Self|
|What the Teacher Does||Procedure Reference|
Define “sense of self” by explaining that it means to know who you are, or your identity. Ask students to describe things that are part of their identity.
Display a transparency of Master 5.1, The Brain: Our Sense of Self. Ask students
Explain that scientists can study the effects of injuries to the nervous system on a person. Introduce students to the case studies. They are written from the perspective of a physician who has patients with nervous system damage.
Display a transparency of Master 5.2, Case Study—John M. Ask students to follow along as you read aloud.
|Steps 7 –10|
Give each student a copy of Master 5.3, Three Case Studies.
|Steps 11 –12|
|= Involves using a transparency.|
|= Involves copying a master.|