Neuroscience Concepts & Activities by Grade Level: High School, Grades 9 - 12

The scaffolding of these concepts does not follow any particular published set of standards. They come from Dr. Janet Dubinsky's experience in the BrainU, Brain Awareness Week, and Brain Bee programs. Some text taken from the Neuroscience Core Concepts, Society for Neuroscience.

Concept Activity/Resource
Information goes from one neuron to the next neuron at synapses where the electrical information coming down the axon changes to chemical information to cross the gap between them. Then dendrites of the next neuron taste the chemicals and turn the information back into electrical information. Connect the Neurons!

Synapses animation
The electrical information going from the dendrites to the cell body and then the axon is reliable. The chemical information crossing synapses can be variable. Synapses can change and get stronger with learning or weaker if not used. As we learn, we strengthen the chemical connections between neurons so they learn to work together to produce the behaviors we want. Continuously challenging the brain with physical and mental activity helps maintain its structure and function. Synapses Change animation

Altered Reality experiment

Neurotransmission model

Dendritic Spines Lab
The electrical activity of the nervous system is generated by ionic gradients and movement of ions through tightly controlled membrane proteins called ion channels and receptors. The Action Potential, Synapse, Synapses Change, Toxins and Synapses animations
Neurons connect to form pathways or circuits to bring information from one part of the body or brain to another part. Systems within the nervous system consist of lots of neurons connected in parallel conveying information necessary for executing a specific behavior, e.g. spatial localization, reading, motor activities, decision making, etc. VirtualNeurons

Nerves in the internal organs provide the brain with information about the body states generating our conscious perception of emotions. These feelings give an emotional stamp to all activities, necessary for events and ideas to become memorable. Feelings provide value information that is necessary for decision making. Facial expressions provide social cues to understand other peoples feelings (or body states), information that is necessary for us to interact socially. Mirroring Emotions

Makes Me Sweat

Any autonomic nervous system experiment (heart rate, respiration rate, etc.)
Most of the body's major homeostatic responses involve a nervous system component. The nervous system controls or interacts with every other organ system and creates the feedback pathways necessary for homeostasis. Makes Me Sweat

Intelligence arises as the brain reasons, plans, and solves problems. Cognitive processing requires integrating information from multiple parts of the brain. Ideas, actions, and feelings can be internally generated in the absence of external stimuli. Language and communication provide us with a way to examine ourselves, our behavior and our own brain function. Mirroring Emotions

What is Thinking? (define thinking in a class discussion)
Illegal and prescription drugs mimic, prevent or interfere with the activity of neurotransmitters at synapses. C. elegans and alcohol

What's the Deal? card game

Dendritic Spines Lab

NIDA educational resources

Classroom Resources on Drug Effects
Altered brains produce altered behaviors. Mental illness occurs when brains do not function properly due to injury, stress, genetic abnormalities, aging or infection. Damage to the front of the head can impair decision making or alter personality. Addiction can be viewed as a disease of the decision making system just as Alzheimer's disease is a disease of learning and memory. Some injuries harm nerve cells, but the brain often recovers from stress, damage, or disease. Addiction pages at Genetic Sciences Learning Center

Mental Health Information, NIMH

Publications about Children and Adolescents, NIMH
Some neurons continue to be generated throughout life and their production is regulated by hormones and experience. Stem cells at Genetic Sciences Learning Center

Neuroscience Concepts & Activities - Grade Pre-3   4-6   7-8