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Human Brain Function

based on 5 ratings
Author: Muriel Gerhard

Grade Level: 8th; Type: Neurosciences/Biology

Objective:

To determine how the human brain functions by constructing a model of our brain and identifying the basic structures and specific areas of specialization.

Research Questions:

  • What is the brain and what purpose does it serve?
  • Do we have two brains or just one? Explain.
  • What are the functions of the left hemisphere? The right hemisphere?
  • What is the role of the corpus callosum?
  • What would occur if we lacked a corpus callosum or if it became inoperative?
  • What is the function of the spinal cord?
  • How does the medulla oblongata make life so much easier for us?
  • What part of the brain regulates our sleep?
  • What is the limbic system?
  • Is the neocortex of any value?
  • What are the differences among the following lobes, the frontal, the parietal, the temporal the occipital?
  • Why are Broca`s and Wernicke`s Areas so important?
  • Would you agree or disagree with the following description of the brain? On what basis would you agree or disagree? The brain is both a chemical and electrical organ which drives and sustains the nervous system   and fully regulates the human body?

On the information level, the student will acquire basic and current information on the structures of the human brain and the specific functions of each. For most students, this is an exciting adventure since it deals with how they function, how they learn, how they read, write, invent, create, and adapt to their world. Topics such the existence of two hemispheres  having different functions and working together, complementing each other, the intriguing results gathered from the  split brain research,  advances in  brain development and growth, in studies on consciousness, memory , states of mind as well as diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Epilepsy capture their interest.

Materials:

  • Measuring cup
  • Flour
  • Water
  • Teaspoon
  • Cream of tartar
  • Vegetable oil sat
  • Red food coloring
  • Bag of stick pins
  • Squares of paper
  • Pen
  • Tape recorder

Experimental Procedure:

  1. Begin by doing some arm chair research using the list of references cited below in the bibliography as well as some of the excellent web sites which provide excellent visuals of the anatomy of the brain and brain functions.
  2. Construct a rough diagram mapping the parts of the brain which you will identify and their specific functions. You may wish to include it in your report.
  3. Gather all the materials you will need to make the model of the brain. These include a big bowl, a blender, a stove  2 cups of water, 2 cups of flour, 4 teaspoons of cream of tartar, ¼ cup of vegetable oil ,1 cup of salt and some red food coloring.
  4. Mix the water, flour and cream of tartar in a large bowl or in a blender to remove all of the lumps. Now, stir in the vegetable oil. Pour all of it into a saucepan and place on stove on low heat and mix until it gets lumpy. Now, dump the mixture and let it cool. Then knead and shape it into the form of a brain. Add the wrinkles and use the red food coloring for the blood vessels.
  5. Using your diagram as a reference, cut up the slips of paper, use them as labels for all the parts you plan to locate and use the stick pins to place your labels on the model.
  6. This step is optional. Use your tape recorder and tape your presentation, introducing your model of the brain and citing the major parts and the specific functions they serve. When you get to Broca `s and Wernike`s areas you may want to emphasize how they function and how they are different in what they do.  Check your tape presentation to make any changes. You may wish to take photos of your model for display or for distribution to the public. 
  7. Write up your report. Make certain to include your bibliography and any other reference materials that might interest the audience.
  8. Based on your research, are there questions you would like to investigate next year relating the brain such as how neuroscientists are currently mapping the brain and what they are learning about this magnificent organ. You may wish to include your ideas for future research in your report for—as scientists always say, further research is needed!

Terms/Concepts:  Cortex; Hemispheres; Left hemisphere; Right hemisphere; Corpus callosum; Cerebrum; Cerebellum; Pons; Medulla oblongata; Spinal core; Frontal lobe; Temporal lobe; Occipital lobe; Parietal lobe; Primary motor cortex; Primary visual cortex; Primary auditory cortex; Primary somatosensory cortex; Broca`s Area; Wernicke`s Area; Neurons; Synapses; Dendrites; Glia cells

References:

  • Restak, R. The Brain, Bantam Books, New York, 1984
  • Smith, A. The Mind, The Viking Press, New York, 1984
  • Abelson, P., Butz, E., Snyder, Solomon, Neuroscience, The American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Pinker, S, How the Mind Works Norton, New York, 1997
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