NOVA scienceNOW: Brain Trauma
Discuss students' experiences related to sports injuries. Ask students to describe any experiences they have had with injuries acquired while participating in a sport. Have they or someone they know ever had a sports injury? If so, how did they get the injury? What kinds of testing devices were used to diagnose the injury? What was the result of the injury? What steps did they take to remedy the injury? What advice would they give so others could avoid a similar injury? List student responses on the board for later reference.
Demonstrate what happens when a concussion occurs. If the term concussion was not brought up during the previous discussion of sports injuries, define the term for students. (A concussion is injury to the brain caused by a blow to the head.) Point out to students that during a concussion, the impact of the brain against the skull causes bruising. To demonstrate how this occurs, place an egg in a clear glass of water. Explain that the glass represents the skull, the egg represents the brain, and the water represents the fluid surrounding the brain. Ask students to predict what will happen to the egg if you gently move the glass. (The egg will move in the water.) Next ask students what they think will happen if you give the glass a sharp jolt and/or shake the glass. (The egg will hit the side of the glass and bounce around in the water. It may even crack.) Demonstrate both motions for the students. Point out that it's not simply movement that causes a concussion. Instead, it is rapid movement, with its associated increase of acceleration and force that causes the brain to hit the skull and bruise.
Create a map of the brain. Remind students that the brain has many regions that perform different functions. Have students explore the interactive brain at: www.pbs.org/wnet/brain/3d/index.html and locate these following regions: frontal lobe, parietal lobe, occipital lobe, temporal lobe, cerebellum, and brain stem. Then ask students to research the main functions of these regions and identify the ones that control movement, touch, hearing, vision, and breathing. Ask them which regions they think are most vulnerable to concussions, why, and what the possible effects might be.
(Brain region functions: frontal lobe: reasoning, speech, planning, movement, emotions, problem solving; parietal lobe: movement and orientation, recognition, perception of stimuli; occipital lobe: visual processing; temporal lobe: perception and recognition of auditory stimuli, memory, and speech; cerebellum [has two hemispheres], movement, posture, balance)
Design an ad campaign that promotes sports safety. Explain to students that they have been hired by the school athletics program to design an ad campaign promoting sports safety and to encourage young athletes to wear protective gear. Before they design their campaign, students should research the importance of protective gear for preventing injuries. If you wish, have coaches or physical education teachers from your school speak to the class about the different types of protective gear used in the school's sports program. Then have students produce flyers, brochures, and/or posters that could be used to convince students to wear protective gear and include the following elements:
- A picture of the protective gear
- A description of the gear's purpose
- How the protective gear reduces the acceleration of a blow or cushions or redirects forces that might otherwise damage the body
- An explanation and/or inducement as to why students should wear the gear
After students have completed their posters, have the teams share them with the class. If possible, have students present their materials to their coaches or PE teachers for distribution in the school.
Investigate different brain imaging techniques. Remind students that advances in understanding the brain are the result of techniques that allow scientists to view different parts of the brain and to compare normal brain function with injured brain function. Group the class into teams, and assign each one to research one of the following imaging techniques: positron emission tomography (PET), computerized axial tomography (CAT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), magneto encephalography (MEG), electroencephalography (EEG), and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). Ask students to determine how their assigned imaging technology works and what it allows scientists and physicians to see. Have students create a report that includes illustrations and diagrams. Then have groups present their reports to class.
(PET: scans radioactive materials, diagnoses or treats diseases; CAT: special X-ray equipment that produces multiple images and provides more clarity than conventional X-rays; MRI: uses a large magnet and radio waves to look at organs and masses in the body; MEG: use to observe details of the brain; EEG: records the brains electrical signals; DTI: detects brain areas where normal flow of water is disrupted)
Offers resources related to brain injuries, including additional activities, streamed video, and reports by experts.
Brain Injury Association of America
Contains information about prevention, rehabilitation and treatment, and living with a brain injury. Includes publications, FAQs, a national directory of rehabilitation services, and links for further information.
The Dana Foundation
Includes general information about the brain and current brain research, as well as links to sites related to more than 25 brain disorders, including brain injury. The Brainy Kids section offers students, parents and teachers links to games, labs, educational resources and lesson plans.
KidsHealth: Your Brain and Nervous System
Offers a kid-friendly description of the parts of the brain and their associated functions. Includes illustrations.
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control: Concussion and Brain Injury
Offers an online brochure entitled Facts About Concussion and Brain Injury that provides information about the signs of brain injury, symptoms, tips for healing, and where to go for help.
National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering: Health & Education
Includes descriptions and resources for current technologies in biomedical imaging. Also includes research findings and glossaries.
NOVA Online: Brain Geography
Offers an interactive activity designed for middle-school students that demonstrates the parts of the brain and brain function. Includes a quiz about brain injuries.
Society for Neuroscience: Brain Briefings
Makes a series of two-page newsletters available explaining a variety of topics related to neuroscience and the brain, including articles on brain injuries, brain mechanisms, and technology.
The Whole Brain Atlas
Designed as a learning tool for medical school students, this online atlas offers images of healthy and diseased human brains.
Head Cases: Stories of Brain Injury and Its Aftermath
by Michael Mason.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.
Interweaves compelling stories of people living with traumatic brain injury with explorations into the brain and brain science.
Phineas Gag: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science
by John Fleischman.
Houghton Mifflin, 2004.
Relates the story of a construction worker who survived for 10 years after a 13-pound iron rod shot through his brain and how the man played an important role in our understanding of brain science.
Margy Kuntz has written and edited educational materials for more than 24 years. She has authored numerous educational supplements, basal text materials, and trade books on health, science, math, and computers.