TEACHER ENRICHMENT INITIATIVES

Activity 5D: Brain Maps & Neural Networks

Even though the number of brain cells does not increase with age, the neurons in the brain do undergo change. The brain can expand dendrites and refine connections between neurons with challenging mental activity. This complexity of interconnections, or neural networks, results in a greater number of pathways to transmit messages. These pathways can be compared to roads on a map. The greater the number of roads represents different routes a person can take to go from one point to another point. The neurons in the brain are at risk of being damaged or lost during a lifetime due to various factors such as head injury or drugs. When neurons are destroyed, nearby surviving neurons can grow new dendrites and connections. This adaptability results in the rerouting of signals. Think of a route you take to a friend's house. If there is a detour sign, you have to find another route to take to get to your friend's house. The number of roads adjacent to the blocked route enables you to find another route.

The students will use the worksheet on brain mapping. Thinking of the analogy between neural networks and roads, the students will trace different pathways to go from Dallas to Corpus Christi using brain maps A and B. The evaluation questions will be answered afterwards.
 
Prerequisites: Explain the basic counting principle and the tree diagram as two methods to determine the possible number of routes between two points. This information is provided for the teacher.
 
This lesson will help students to discover that learning and developing new skills strengthens brain connections and promotes new ones. After the students answer the evaluation questions, the teacher will discuss the information on neural anatomy and aging neurons below and show the handout illustrating dendritic neuronal connections. Review the structure and role of dendrites and axons in lesson 1.

Keywords: 

Neural pathway, tree diagram, neural network, dendrite, neural branching, dendritic branching

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Activity Code: 
5D
Unit Reference: 
It's All in Your Mind
Lesson Reference: 
Lesson 5: Changes As Our Brains Age