Making Memories with Glutamate!

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Objective

Students will gather information from a eye witness case study and video segments to synthesize a neuro-physiological explanation of memory formation.

Big Idea

Memories are the result of multiple factors that can influence the brain's architecture such as genetics, repetitive stimulation and the release of Glutamate. Said variety can lead to questionable eyewitness testimonies in court cases.

Introduction

Lesson Background & Justification:

    Neurotransmitters are endogenous chemicals that transmit signals across a synapse from one neuron to another or target neuron.Glutamate is a major excitatory transmitter in the brain. It is considered to be the major mediator of excitatory signals in the mammalian central nervous system and is involved in most aspects of normal brain function including cognition, memory and learning. Once synthesized between neurons and glia cells, it is released from the presynaptic neuron, this chemical executes a conservative set of cyclic activities which include: a) the induction of a response in the receiving cell, b) re-absorption into the dispensing cell and/or c) processing by specialized proteins to ascertain adequate levels of the neurotransmitter for subsequent potentials. The overall goal is to evoke an excitatory response of its receiving cell. In this lesson, students become familiarized with glutamate's role in the process of long term potentiation and consequently the formation of memories. 

Prerequisite Knowledge: It is recommended that students be familiar with the structure and function of a neuron, the concept of neurotransmission and the action potential mechanism. 

Lesson Preparations:

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

a) Access to  The Art of Crime Detection Virtual Activity

b) A class set of National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science's Case Study: A Case of Mistaken Identity (1 per student)

c) Student lab books.

Common Core and NGSS Standards:

RI.8.9- Analyze a case in which two or more texts provide conflicting information on the same topic and identify where the texts disagree on matters of fact or interpretation.

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data.

MP1- Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

MS-LS1-8-Gather and synthesize information that sensory receptors respond to stimuli by sending messages to the brain for immediate behavior or storage as memories. 

Standards Rationale:

       In the classroom, it is important that teachers engage students in thinking & processing skills and/or practices, to set the foundation of success in a lesson or instructional unit. As many students are more inductive than deductive reasoners, which means that they learn better from examples than from logical development starting with basic principles, it is important to provide opportunities for them to build a helpful skill that they aren't accustomed to. One option to build said skills can be accomplished  through the use of case studies in the science classroom. In this lesson, students use a case study on to develop and exercise their deductive reasoning skills in concert with other science practices in the classroom to promote students’ reasoning and understanding of core science idea presented (the neurotransmission of the Nt Glutamate and its relationship to forming and strengthening memories in the human brain).

Engage

10 minutes

Section Primer: 

        Memory is our ability to encode, store, retain and subsequently recall information and past experiences in the human brain. It can be thought of in general terms as the use of past experiences to affect or influence current behavior. The extent to which one can store and recall these memories are based on the altered landscape of the human brain which is driven by a process called long term potentiation and the repeated neurotransmission of the chemical Glutamate. The goal of this section of the lesson is to demonstrate to students that the memory acquisition process is not immediate and take some time to develop.         

Section Sequence:

a) Slide 1: Engage students with a discussion of the questions listed on the screen. After asking about the image to the right, inform students that this was a sketch developed from a victim's memory and that the culprit, the infamous Zodiac Killer was never caught. Ask if they think that the image had any bearing on this fact. Discuss. 

b) Share that as a class, we will see how well our short term memory serves us. Then launch The Art of Crime Detection and advance through the events up through the facial composite activity. Do not submit the composite. Rather minimize the window until later. Tell students that we will come back to this image when attempt to compare and contrast their composite of the suspect from now and that from later in the lesson to see if they were in the Zodiac's victim how well their memories would serve them post viewing. 

Standards Covered:

RST.11-12.8

Explore

35 minutes

Section Sequence:

      In this section of the lesson, students dissect a case study focused on memory and court proceedings. The case study itself brings the reliability of human memory into question and encourages students to think deductively about memory and pose questions about the process therein. The idea is to get students to think about how memories are formed. 

Section Sequence:

a) Slide 2: Share with students that will dissect a case study on human memory as it relates to eyewitness testimony in the legal system. Dispense a copy of the Case Study: A Case of Mistaken Identity to each student and guide students through it as they read the case study aloud the following paragraphs and address its corresponding set of discussion questions below:

Paragraphs 1-3: Describe this case and state associated problems with it. Do you think that a memory expert is needed for the case? Why or why not?

Say: Record any questions that you may potentially have about memory at this point in your lab book.

Paragraphs 4-8: Instruct students to turn their papers down and jot down any similarities from the stories. Refer back to the story for accuracy and ask students what they have forgotten and why. Discuss.

Say: Record any questions that you may potentially have about memory at this point in your lab book.

Paragraphs 9-10: Share that there are 3 types of evidences presented in our courts to make a case: Physical, Circumstantial and Eyewitness. Ask which of the three do they think that courts generally have a higher regard for? (Eyewitness testimony is the correct response). Ask if there is any information from this case study to validate this. Discuss. 

Say: Record any questions that you may potentially have about memory at this point in your lab book.

Paragraphs 11-12: Ask if there are any other factors that may influence one's account of a person, place or item from a crime scene and to support their responses. 

Say: Record any questions that you may potentially have about memory at this point in your lab book.

Read and discuss the questions listed post case study.

Standards Covered:

RST.11-12.8-Evaluate the hypotheses, data, analysis, and conclusions in a science or technical text, verifying the data when possible and corroborating or challenging conclusions with other sources of information.

Explain

20 minutes

Section Primer:

       Long-term potentiation (LTP) is a persistent increase in synaptic strength following high-frequency stimulation of a chemical synapse that secretes Glutamate to accumulate stored and encoded thoughts or memories. Studies of LTP are often carried out in slices of the hippocampus, an important organ for learning and memory. In this section of the lesson, students follow two videos and discussion points to develop a better understanding of this important human process. 

Section Sequence:

      By this point of the unit (lesson 8), students have been exposed to many graphics and graphic organizers  to organize their thoughts on the neurotransmission process and thus, possess the capacity to develop a set of comprehensive notes on Glutamate's transmission without the aid of these graphics. As such, students will be guided through a set of videos to independently record their own sets of notes on pertinent information related to memory formation. This activity proceeds as follows: 

a) Slide 3: Say "Now that you all have some questions about memory, let's take a look at the physical and chemical processes responsible this". Instruct students to record notes from the video below as it relates to the activity of the brain that constructs memories. Play and pause the video at the following times for students to process and ask clarifying questions before proceeding to the next part of the clip: :50, 1:37, 2:18, 2:38, 3:31, 4:25, 5:17, 6:19, 6:40, and 7:50. 

b) As a quick follow up to student developed notes, play the following video for students to either review the glutamate dependent process of LTP or to add items to their notes that they may have missed. 

c) Post video ask specifics about glutamate:

      1) Is it inhibitory or excitatory?

      2) Is its receptors g-linked receptors?

      3) Is there a re-uptake process for this Nt?

      4) Where is synthesized?

Standards Covered:

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data.

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

Extend

10 minutes

Section Sequence: 

       In this section of the lesson, students revisit the virtual facial composite activity to see how well they remember or if they stimulated a high frequency potential in their hippocampuses. This activity proceeds as follows:

a) Slide 4: Ask students if they still remember the facial features of the suspect in the virtual crime earlier. Share that as a class that they are going to see if they experienced low or high frequency action potentials in their hippocampuses for this person profile. Instruct students to explain what this means. Discuss and proceed to launch the facial composite activity from another window.

b) After producing the class's second composite, show students the differences between their first and second set of descriptions by toggling between the two windows or taking a screen shot of both and placing them side by side on the power point. Instruct for students to construct a venn diagram as seen on the slide and fill it in in their lab books with their comparing and contrasting traits. 

c) Slide 5: Instruct students to think about the synaptic differences (or those in the making) if any in their brains during each composite activity. Further instruct students to develop another venn diagram to verbalize or illustrate the differences between the two. However, in this diagram emphasize that they are to show the differences in synaptic activity. 

Standards Covered: 

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

Evaluate

15 minutes

Section Sequence:

     In this section of the lesson, students bring their set of personal questions about memory full circle and address them using their notes and experiences throughout the lesson. This section of the lesson proceeds as follows:

a) Slide 6: Read and guide students through the instructions seen on the final slide.

Note: The goal is to direct students to revisit their initial questions and determine if the lesson provided them with adequate information to address their individual questions. This exercise serves a dual role: 1) to evaluate and assess what students have learned in the lesson and 2) grant students an opportunity to reflect on their notes and the importance of asking questions within the lesson. 

Standards Covered:

RST.11-12.8-Evaluate the hypotheses, data, analysis, and conclusions in a science or technical text, verifying the data when possible and corroborating or challenging conclusions with other sources of information.