Lesson “Mapping the Brain”
First published 2016. To view the latest Heads Up content, click here.
The brain is the body’s most complex organ, controlling everything from our heartbeat to how we make important decisions. Through research and the use of brain-imaging tools, neuroscientists are learning just how critical the teen years are for brain development. This article explains for students how brain-imaging techniques work, how they apply to their lives, and also highlights some of the things neuroscientists have learned about using drugs. It may also inspire them to want to learn more about neuroscience!
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Science Literacy, English/Language Arts, Health/Life Skills
|RST.9 Analyze structure of relationships among concepts in a text||LS1.A Structure and Function||Structure and Function in Living Things|
|W.9 Draw evidence to support analysis and reflection||LS1.D Information Processing||Personal and Community Health|
- How can brain research help explain how teens make decisions? (Brain imaging can show more brain activity for teens in the area that processes motivation and pleasure than that used for decision making. This indicates that teens may focus more on rewards and less on risks when making decisions.)
- Describe how each brain-imaging tool highlighted in the article teaches something different about the relationship between the brain and drug use. (Structural MRI scans can show changes in a person’s brain structure as a result of using drugs. Functional MRIs [fMRI] show that teens may focus more on rewards and less on risks when making decisions—which can increase risks for using drugs. PET scans have shown how using drugs can cause changes in the way brain cells function.)
- How might findings from brain research, such as the ABCD study, help doctors in their jobs? (Doctors can use brain research to better understand who might be at greater risk for disease, or how using drugs changes the brain. This information can give insight into prevention and possible treatments.)
- What are two ways using drugs may affect the brain?
- Compare and contrast each of these three brain-imaging technologies: structural MRI, fMRI, and PET.
- How might changes in the brain caused by using drugs make it more difficult for a person to stop using drugs?
- “Wiring Your Brain,” headsup.scholastic.com/students/wiring-your-brain
Writing Prompt: Evaluate the statement: “Using drugs can interfere with brain development.”
- The Awesomely Evolved Human Brain, headsup.scholastic.com/students/awesomely-evolved-human-brain
Writing Prompt: Explain the role of dopamine in the brain and how it might affect behavior.
“The Human Brain: Major Structures and Functions,” https://teens.drugabuse.gov/videos
After reading the article, watch this short video with your students and ask them what new information about the brain they learned. Discuss how brain imaging may have helped scientists to learn facts explained in the video. Have students write down at least one question they still have about the brain after reading the article and watching the video. Ask them to conduct additional research, and write a 3–4 paragraph report on their findings.
ADDITIONAL TEACHING RESOURCES: