Introduction. Resources. Suggested answers. Science explanations

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1 Teacher Notes Introduction This activity gives students practice in recognising that different parts of the brain have different functions. They are given a set of short case studies of people with brain damage and asked to identify the region damaged. They can also identify the different regions of the brain to be used when playing music. They are not expected to recall this information. Resources Text book or ns/brainmap/ Whilst the textbook provides the necessary information the visualisation provided by the web site is easier to follow and more interesting. A model of the brain showing different regions of the cortex would be helpful and interesting if available, or you could make one in class. See for ideas. Suggested answers Science explanations Ka The brain consists of several main sections. The brain stem controls reflexes and processes the main unconscious functions such as breathing, heart beat and digestion, as well as receiving incoming stimuli. The cerebral cortex is where thinking, memory and language are processed and voluntary movements are controlled. The cortex is relatively much larger in humans than in any other animal. Kb Within the cortex different regions process signals from different parts of the body and process specific types of input. Several brain regions will be actively involved in any thought process. Connections b) 50 x or 5.0 x c) Growth and development, learning and memory, repair of damage. Regions 1. The patient has probably had a stroke which has affected Wernicke s area in the temporal lobe. In most people, language is controlled by the left side of the brain (left hemisphere). Wernicke s area is the part of the cerebral cortex which controls the understanding of language. The patient is suffering from Wernicke s aphasia (sometimes called receptive aphasia ). 2. The patient has probably had a stroke affecting Broca s area: the patient has Broca s aphasia. Broca s area is in the frontal lobe (usually the left side), and controls the formation of speech. It is close to the motor area, so strokes in this region can also lead to loss of movement in the opposite side in this case the right leg. The right leg weakness confirms that the brain damage is in the left hemisphere. Gradual recovery signifies plasticity of the brain the ability of other brain areas to take over the lost function to some extent. 3. Patient has damage to prefrontal cortex caused by impact to the front of the head. This region controls personality, decision making and memory. Symptoms may be partly caused by posttraumatic stress disorder. Page 1 The Nuffield Foundation, 2009

2 Teacher Notes 4. Patient has damage to the cerebellum, which controls balance (cerebellum receives sensory information from the inner ear) and fine movement (which involves feedback of motor control via the cerebellum). Patient has probably had a stroke affecting the cerebellum. 5. Patient has damage to the right visual cortex, which interprets signals from the left visual field. He can not see anything in the left half of his visual field so ignores food on that side of the plate. Symptoms caused by a tumour in the right visual cortex, causing pain. 6. Degeneration of neurones has begun in the motor cortex (hence clumsiness), but then spreads to other parts of the brain including the frontal lobes. [Patient is developing symptoms of Huntington s Disease (Huntington s Chorea), an inherited neurodegenerative disease controlled by a dominant allele (gene). A person has a 50% chance of developing the disease if one parent has it, but the symptoms do not usually appear until the 30s or 40s. The disease is progressive and incurable]. 7. Patient has damaged spinal cord so is unable to move as signals can not be sent from brain s motor cortex to limbs. Also has some damage to medulla oblongata in the brain stem, which controls breathing movements of rib cage and diaphragm. Answers: Brain regions and music. 1. The visual cortex receives sensory information from the eyes concerning the notes on the page (and the movements of the conductor). The touch sensory cortex receives signals from touch receptors in the skin (eg tips of fingers).the auditory cortex receives sensory information about the sound of the violin and other instruments in the orchestra. Association areas related to vision, touch and sound analyse the sensory input and send signals to the frontal lobes, which make decisions about what to do. Wernicke s area interprets written words on the musical score. The frontal lobes send signals to the motor cortex which in turn sends signals to the muscles needed to carry out the actions of playing the violin. 2. Two different violinists could differ in the exact location and size of the different brain areas. Some differences could be genetic and others could have arisen as different regions were used to acquire the skills concerned. 3. The right hemisphere would probably lack Wernicke s area. The right motor cortex would be active and controlling muscles on the opposite (left) side of the body. 4 a) The subject must be completely still to carry out an fmri. b) Similar brain areas might be active, plus perhaps areas used in memory such as the hippocampus and other parts of the frontal lobes. 5. Signals pass by means of nerve impulses. June 2009 Page 2 The Nuffield Foundation, 2009

3 Introduction This activity is intended to introduce you to the some of the different parts of the brain and their different functions. Connections How complex is the brain? To get some idea, try the following exercise. Draw two vertical columns of ten large dots, with one column down each margin of a piece of A4 paper. etc Draw a line from the top left hand dot to each of the ten right hand dots, using a coloured pencil. Do the same with the remaining 9 dots using a different colour for each. The resulting diagram will give you some idea of scale of the brain s complexity: neurones in the cerebral cortex are connected (via synapses) to up to 100,000 different neurones. There are also feedback loops to the original cells, and the connections are modified constantly a process called plasticity. Questions a) How many connections did you make with just 10 neurons making 10 connections each? b) If the human brain contains 50 billion neurones and each one is connected to 100,000 others, how many connections are there in total? c) Suggest three reasons why the brain needs plasticity Regions Our brains control all our functions and behaviour. This activity is planned to familiarise you with the way in which different regions of the brain control different functions. You will find the information needed to answer the questions on pages of your textbook or on the brain map from the BBC web site You need to be aware of these different regions, you do not need to be able to recall them. The notes below describe the symptoms of seven individuals with brain damage. First familiarise yourself with the information in the sources above then use the information to identify which brain region has been damaged in each case. Give a brief explanation of your answers. Page 1 The Nuffield Foundation, 2009

4 1. The patient has suddenly developed symptoms in which he is unable to speak properly, but has not had a physical accident. Patient produces long word sequences which do not make sense, and has difficulty understanding other people. Can write reasonably well, but sentences long and rambling, like his speech. Sometimes includes nonsense words in sentences. 2. Patient has suddenly developed symptoms in which she understands what other people are saying but has difficulty in expressing herself. For example says walk dog when means I will take the dog for a walk. Has great difficulty writing or naming objects. Has some weakness of the right leg. Over several months, patient shows partial recovery with the assistance of speech therapy. 3. Patient has been in a car accident involving a shunt in a queue of cars. Patient at first unconscious for 2 days then gradual recovery. After 6 months shows emotional changes, poor decision-making and memory but IQ less affected. 4. Patient wakes in the morning feeling very dizzy and has difficulty standing up (vertigo). Some recovery over several days, but shows difficulty in controlling fine movements of the fingers. 5. Patient develops strange behaviour in which ignores food on the left hand side of his plate. He also does not respond to people standing to his left. Has severe pains in the back of the head on the right hand side. 6. In her mid 30s patient starts to develop tremor and clumsiness, tending to drop things and knock things over. Shows involuntary movements of the face and limbs. Gradually loses ability to concentrate, and shows irritability, memory loss and mood changes. Patient has a parent with a genetic neurodegenerative disease. 7. Patient has broken neck from diving into shallow water. Recovers all mental functions but is paralysed from the neck down and depends on a machine to control breathing. Brain regions and music The diagram below shows some of the brain areas used when playing a violin in an orchestra, while reading the music. 1. Outline how the shaded areas of the brain (Fig 1) would cooperate in carry out this task. You could give your answer in the form of a flow diagram. 2. Explain whether the brain areas used by two different violinists would be the same during this performance (assuming they were playing the same part). 3. The diagram shows the left hemisphere. Explain how activity in the right hemisphere might differ. 4. a) Explain why is it not possible to carry out an fmri on a person while playing a musical instrument. b) Suggest which brain areas would be active in a person thinking about playing a musical instrument. 5. Describe the means by which signals travel between different areas of the brain. Page 2 The Nuffield Foundation, 2009

5 Fig. 1 Some regions of the brain used when playing the violin. Page 3 The Nuffield Foundation, 2009

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