Maintaining a Fit Brain: Exploring Neuro-plasticity!

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Objective

Students will analyze and interpret data to define neruoplasticity and explore exercises that aid in its process.

Big Idea

The brain, like the body, requires proper exercise for health and longevity!

Inroduction

Lesson Background and Justification:

            Neuroplasticity is a term utilized to describe the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment and extends throughout one's life. This final lesson of unit 2: The Developing Brain iterates the idea that beyond the critical biological and physiological events that occur during the gestation period (previously learned), that the brain has the lifelong capacity to continue these processes and generate new connections with proper stimulation.  

Lesson Preparations:

 In the effort to prepare for this lesson, I make certain that I have the following items in place:

a) Student lab books.

Common Core and NGSS Standards:

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data.

W.11-12.1- Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

Standards Rationale:

       In the science classroom, students are regularly charged with tasks to collect and make sense of data from readings and investigations. What makes these science experiences powerful enough to retain however, is an instructor's ability to access, stimulate and develop students' higher order thinking capacities for cognitive growth and subsequently establishing sound learning practices. In this lesson, students learn to argue the validity of a scientific claim through scientific investigation, data collection and analysis therein. This aforementioned skill set is essential to science lessons because they offer students an opportunity to systematically approach everyday claims, the basis of science. It also establishes a framework for students to handle open inquiry and use evidence as support of claims made within their future investigations.  Furthermore, students learn to extract and develop significance of data collected within this framework and are better suited to think critically about their work as a final result. 

Engage

10 minutes

Section Instructional Sequence:         

           The goal of this section is to stimulate students interests the idea of participating in brain stimulating exercises and to ponder why such exercises are important for continuous development. I proceed with this exercise in the following sequence:

a) I present slide one of the power point presentation and ask students what do they do to work out their bodies? I permit time for responses and class discussion and repeat this question regarding their brain. I continue, is there a such thing?

b) Next, I say that neuroscience studies claim that there are thinking exercises that if you perform just as regular as body exercises can improve your memory and grow your brain. I survey the class for believers and nonbelievers in the claim. 

c) I then verbally state to the class that we are going to examine an example of said experiences and to tell me if they felt their brains attempting to work at understanding the presentation of material. I then proceed with the following video to the 2:50 minute point.  

d) I then ask students "Do you have explanation of how he achieved this?". I add, "Do you feel your brain working to address this question?". After a brief discussion addressing these questions, I finish playing the video. 

e) Post video, I ask students to tell me why the 100 will end up in the middle 100% of the time.  (The video explains why it can’t be in position 4, but he doesn’t explain why the bill HAS to be in the middle) Finally, I survey the class to find out which percentages felt that they've experienced a brain workout and if they believe the claim. 

Explore

30 minutes

Section Primer:

        A brain game is a catch-all name for a variety of online or computer based games. There are several categories of brain games: a) A Scientifically Validated Brain Game is based on well known neurocognitive tests, and the game is being/has been referenced in peer reviewed research journals. b) A Brain Training Program is a methodology for using scientifically validated brain games to achieve optimal results – a personal trainer at your gym is a good analogy. c) Casual Brain Games are for entertainment and general education purposes, and for the most part aren’t backed by any scientific validation. (Eg. Sudoku, brain teasers, brain puzzles, etc.).

Section Instructional Sequence:   

   In this section of the lesson students learn differentiate between the three by using them all to serve in the capacity of assessing initial brain acuity and using some methods to train their brain. This eventually leads to students understanding how true brain exercises aids in neural plasticity which is covered in the subsequent section of this lesson. I proceed with this section of the lesson as follows:

a) I instruct for students to record the term Brain Teaser Assessment and announce that we are going to assess how acute or precise our brains handle challenging material. I explain that they are to address the questions that are going to be presented in their lab books and advance to slide 2 of the presentation and read each question to students.  

Keeping Score: In the effort to determine and assess students' baseline and growth activities respectively, I first instruct for students to record their responses as I advance and read each statement (step a). Post brain training exercises (steps b-e), I present the correct responses to the class on slide 9 & instruct for them to grade their work (record # correct/ total number of statements) for both their pre and post assessments. Students grade and compare these scores during step f to assess if any growth occurred. We then discuss the potential shortcomings of this data.        

b) I then tell students that we will formerly assess their acuity after we run a few scientifically validated brain games to see if it helps with our thinking ability. I then advance to slide 4 and allow for students in pairs to play the Stroop Effect game and to time one another.

c) I then advance to slide 5 and ask students tell me what they see. Students should witness movement of the gears and are then challenged to train their brain to see it as a static image. In partners, students discuss their strategies and timing required to do so. 

d) Next, I advance to slide 6 and say that we are now going to challenge ourselves to modify the visual images produced by the objects in various placement and motions as they watch. We then watch the following video together:

e) Post video, students discuss in pairs if they managed to avoid experiencing the optical illusions presented.

f) We then move to the next two slides and take the brain assessment questionnaire again. This time students, are given the answers on slide 9 and are instructed to grade their acuity and post brain exercises. We discuss results as a class and focus on the validity of casual brain game in general and the capacity of scientifically validated brain games to improve acuity.  Finally, students use their data to write an argument that supports or refutes the claim that scientifically validated brain games increase or enhance brain acuity.  

Standards Covered:

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data.

W.11-12.1- Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.. 

Explain

15 minutes

Section Primer: 

         Neuroplasticity is a term utilized to describe the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment and extends throughout one's life.

Section Instructional Sequence: 

       In  this section of the lesson, students utilize a video and discussion to define neuroplasticity and understand why it is significant to continuous brain development. I proceed with this section of the lesson as follows:

a) I state to students, now that we have learned that brain games may be beneficial to our mental acuity, let's examine the science behind this phenomenon. 

b) I then play the following video and encourage students to record notes as they move along: 

c) Post video, we discuss the science presented in the video and use the discussion's content to check and to ensure the accuracy of students' notes. Additionally, we use the recorded information on slide 10 to compare & contrast students' recorded notes to and to potentially clarify any misunderstandings of information presented in the video or of that presented in the class's discussion. Finally, we discuss the relationship between the concept of neuroplasticity and the cellular activity (using the red ball activity in the Fetal Brain 2 Extend section as a reference) which contributes to our brains ability to be "plastic".

Extend

20 minutes

Section Instructional Sequence:

       In this section of the lesson, students interpret MRI images and utilize their brain development timelines created in Lesson 4 of this unit to support or refute four presented facts about neuroplasticity. The goals here are to increase students' appreciation for the process and to justify why it is critical to human brain fitness or health. The sequence of the lesson proceeds as follows:

a) I instruct verbally students to obtain their brain development timelines from lesson 4 and present this MRI Image of Human Brain Development to the class. I share with them that we will utilize these two resources to support or refute 4 facts about Neuroplasiticity in part or its entirety. 

b) I read Fact 1: Neuroplasticity includes several different processes that take place throughout a lifetime. Many types of brain cells are involved in neuroplasticity, including neurons, glia, and vascular cells to the class. Students are then given 3 minutes to process a supporting or refuting statement that is justified by either the image or their timelines or combination of the two. After 3 minutes, we share out as a class for 2-3 minutes.

c) I repeat step b with the three additional facts below: 

Fact 2: Neuroplasticity has a clear age-dependent determinant. Your brain changes at all ages, but different kinds of changes are relevant at different ages.

Fact 3: Neuroplasticity occurs in the brain under two primary conditions:

1. During normal brain development when the immature brain first begins to process sensory information through adulthood (developmental plasticity and plasticity of learning and memory).

2. As an adaptive mechanism to compensate for lost function and/or to maximize remaining functions in the event of brain injury.

Fact 4: The environment plays a key role in influencing plasticity. (In addition to genetic factors, the brain is shaped by the characteristics of a person's environment and by the actions of that same person.) 

d) Finally, I instruct for students to record one statement in their lab books which explains why neuroplasiticy is critical to human brain fitness and/or health.  

Standards Covered: 

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data.

W.11-12.1- Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.. 

Evaluate

20 minutes

Section Instructional Sequence:

          In this part of the lesson, students add the concept of neuroplasticity to their fetal brain development timelines created in lesson 4 of unit 2. This section of lesson proceeds as follows:

a) I advance to slide 11 and discuss the questions listed on the screen with the class.

b) I  then state to the class, now that we understand neuroplasticity, let us add this to our constructed timelines and define it as we did with our previous terms. I then instruct for students to obtain their timelines and place this term on their works based on the information collected in this lesson. 

c) Finally, I solicit for volunteers to explain brain development from conception to neuroplasicity with the aid of their timelines. We continue this until student volunteers are exhausted.