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THE SECRET LIFE OF THE BRAIN
Outreach Center
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MAPPING THE BRAIN

Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Assessment | Worksheet | Internet Resource List

Procedure for Teachers

Prep

  • Reserve VCR/TV from school resources
  • Rent movie As Good as it Gets and choose examples of Jack Nicholson showing behavior that is symptomatic of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) Some possible scenes of interest: ordering in the restaurant early in the film, locking his door 5 times, not stepping on cracks in the sidewalk, repeatedly asking about soft shell crabs at the restaurant on the road trip.
  • Write many different brain disorders on scraps of paper and fold in half. Have these in a hat, box, or bag.
  • Decide how to break up the class into research groups (pre-select groups or allow them to choose)
  • Decide how to divide responsibilities and roles within the research groups (allow them to choose, random assignment, or teacher pre-selected roles)
  • Decide how to create mixed groups (one person from each research team becomes a mixed group.)
  • Make copies of Research guidelines sheet, Character description guidelines sheet, and Internet resource list (see student materials).
  • Create Jeopardy questions on the topics they are researching. Questions should include brief dramatizations of each type of disorder in addition to verbal questions.


Steps

Day one: Introduction

1. Introduce by giving examples of behavior and symptoms related to brain disorders. This can be done by telling a story about certain behaviors you've seen and wondered about. Stories can be elicited from students as well. Note the characteristics on the board and ask for specifics and clarification to describe the behavior.

2. Ask students to hypothesize about the reasons for the behavior. Interject possible reasons related to disorders in the brain.

For example: Behaviors noted could include restlessness, inability to sit still, talks a lot, says everything that comes to mind without thinking about if it is appropriate or not. A possible explanation could be Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, which has to do with a chemical imbalance in the brain. Briefly explain how in the brain messages are sent along neurons, sort of like a telephone wire, but between each neuron, there is a small gap where the electricity must cause some chemicals to be released to fill the gap and continue the message. Sometimes the amount of chemical can be too much or too little, or it can remain in the gap too long or too short a time. Depression is also related to these neurotransmitters.

3. Another useful description could include the teacher describing the behaviors of someone who is blind or deaf without letting on that they are blind or deaf in order to show how symptoms can be misinterpreted.

For example: Explain how someone has to walk really slowly and feel around, and they never look you in the eyes, plus they bump into things. We could guess that they are drunk or clumsy and shy. But if they are blind, then immediately we expect this behavior because of the fact that their eyes do not send messages to their brain about what things look like. Similarly if we see people who ignore us when we call their names, and they speak strangely with odd pronunciation and inappropriate volume levels, we might think they were really rude and strange if we didn't know whether or not they are deaf. Now, it's possible to not realize for a while that people are deaf or blind, but usually you find out quickly and then you understand the need for certain behaviors that would otherwise seem inappropriate. A lot of disorders of the brain like ADD/ ADHD, and depression don't show on the outside so we may often misinterpret behaviors.

4. To emphasize the point that behaviors may seem to be one thing but really be symptoms of something else, let's watch a clip from As Good as it Gets. (Show selected clips)

5. Ask students to describe the behavior and mannerisms of Jack Nicholson's character and how others reacted to him. List these on the board, ask students to copy them down as notes as they may need them later.

6. Explain the assignment: In small groups we will pick a specific brain disorder to research. After completing research as a group each individual will be responsible for writing a character description of a character with the brain disorder being researched. The character description should include specific descriptions of behavior, mannerisms, speech, movement etc. and typical reactions others may have to this character.

7. Pass out the Research Guidelines Sheet, Character Description Sheet, and Internet resources list (See student materials) and go over them and answer any questions that the students have.

8. Divide students into groups (either teacher pre-selected or by choice)

9. Ask for a representative from each group to come forward and draw a topic from the hat/bag/box.

10. Homework: each member of the group begins to research and brings in 2-3 pages of interesting and useful information on the disorder. This can be copied from a book, magazine, or Internet. Sources must be attached to the information.

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