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"PIECES OF MIND" Guide & Resources

"We've gone to extraordinary places and done extraordinary things in making SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN FRONTIERS. But there's nowhere we visited that is more extraordinary than our destination now: inside the human brain." With these words, host Alan Alda introduces "Pieces of Mind."

We still know relatively little about how the brain works. In this show, we meet researchers who are now able to see inside the human brain while it is thinking, remembering, learning, sleeping and dreaming. FRONTIERS meets scientists exploring the inner workings of the human mind, using a combination of technology and psychological studies to find out more about how the brain works. Join them as they take you on a fascinating journey, exploring the questions humankind has pondered for millennia. The remarkable and revolutionary findings you see here are perhaps only the beginnings of a larger understanding of the amazing and complex human brain of the late 20th century.

Here are the topics and running times of stories on this show and a brief description of related activities you'll find in this online teaching guide:

  • Big Picture

  • The Man with Two Brains (running time: 10:05) - Studies with so-called "split-brain" patients yield fascinating information about how the brain works. Activity: What happens when the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing?

  • Remembering What Matters (running time: 8:35) - Why do we remember experiences that are emotionally significant? A neurobiologist shares his findings. Activity: Learning more about PET scans and how they work.

  • True or False? (running time: 8:57) - A noted brain researcher explores false memory. Activity: Improving your memory with mnemonic devices.

  • What's in a Dream? (running time: 13:28) - Join host Alan Alda as he spends the night in a sleep lab. Find out what happens during REM sleep and why. Activities: Keeping a sleep and dream journal; Finding allusions to sleep and dreams in popular culture.

  • Old Brain/New Tricks (running time: 10:50) - Is there a critical window to learning language? One neuroscientist's work suggests that very early learning is best. Activities: An experiment in sensory competition; Graphing the relationship between language and age.

  • Viewer Challenge -- After you watch "PIECES OF MIND," test your viewing skills with ten questions about the show!


Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
Sponsored by GTE Corporation,
now a part of Verizon Communications Inc.