Grade Level: 5 - 12 Age Range: 10 - 18 Lesson Length: 1 - 2 classes

Addiction has been called a disease of learning. Once addicted, it is very difficult to unlearn the behavior. For drug addiction, the drugs themselves mimic or alter the ability of neurotransmitters to function properly and for synapses to remodel. A number of the materials on this website address this subject.

BrainU lesson plans on the subject of addiction

C. elegans and Alcohol is a laboratory experiment in which students test the effects of alcohol on the roundworm.

What's the Deal? Card Game Students can explore this subject via a fun card game.

Dendritic Spines Lab is a lesson related to drugs and their effects on the brain.

Lesson plans on the subject of addiction from other organizations

Online activities at the Genetic Science Learning Center let students explore the effects of drugs and addiction on the brains of mice and humans in a fun and interactive way.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse has online information about specific classes of drugs and their use. NIDA Lesson Plans & Activities for Parents and Teachers (formerly NIDA Goes Back to School) offers free lessons on the science and consequences of drug use. NIDA also offers a publications search page.

The Brain: Understanding Neurobiology Through the Study of Addiction is an NIH Curriculum Supplement for Grades 9-12. At this link, you may access the Web version or request printed materials. Chapter 4: Drug Abuse and Addiction is one chapter in this curriculum supplement.

The study of addiction and the brain is being carried out at numerous sites across the country. Notable websites include:

Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah

NIDA The National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Also from NIDA: NIDA for Teens: Mind Matters features games and stories for students in grades 5-9 as well as parents and teachers. Other excellent links may be found on NIDA's Parents & Educators page.

Interesting Article on Addiction

Party animals: People aren't alone in the quest to get high - puffer fish make a toxin called TTX that dolphins use to party. "The behaviour was captured on camera by the makers of Dolphins: Spy in the Pod, a series produced for BBC One by the award-winning wildlife documentary producer John Downer." according to an article entitled Dolphins Deliberately Get High On Puffer Fish Nerve Toxins in The Independent.

Seen any interesting articles? Please let us know and they may appear on a page on BrainU.

Podcast on Decision Making

BrainU instructor and UMN neuroscientist David Redish spoke about his recent book, The Mind within the Brain: How We Make Decisions and How those Decisions Go Wrong, with Eric Zimmer of The One You Feed. In this 37-minute interview, they discuss the types of systems involved in making decisions (deliberative, procedural, Pavlovian...). During the last 15 minutes of the podcast with David Redish and Eric Zimmer, the discussion turns to addiction which is essentially a breakdown of the decision-making system.

Cocaine Use Animation from NIDA

Why Do People Lose Control Over Their Cocaine Use? animation Researchers monitored the activity of two types of neurons in mice: “urge” neurons, which promote feelings of reward and repeating behaviors that have produced rewards, and “control” neurons, which dampen those feelings and inhibit behavior.

In simplifying these experimental results for public presentation, the video does not explain that the black line is the ratio of the slope of the green line divided by the slope of the red line. The slope represents how fast the D1 (green) and D2 (red) neurons are firing.

The Workings of the Adolescent Brain

Teenagers are wired to learn — but this same wiring also makes them more vulnerable to addiction. Neuroscientist and editor Frances Jensen discusses how the biology of the teen brain presents a double-edged sword in this 3-minute video.


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