The Comparative Neuroanatomy Module is intended to teach students about the similarities and differences among brains of different species. We have a collection of mammalian (human, porpoise, monkey), marsupial (opossum), reptilian (tortoise) avian (penguin) and fish (manta ray, tuna) brains.
Volunteers typically discuss commonalities in brain structure and point out visible anatomical structures. Students are encouraged to think about why some brains are larger or smaller than others and how an animal’s brain may have adapted for living in different environments.
Sheep’s Brain Dissection
The Sheep’s Brain Dissection Module is used to demonstrate common anatomical regions of the mammalian brain. In this module, students are allowed to touch and hold the brains.
Volunteers typically guide students by pointing out gross anatomical features and discussing the function of particular brain regions. Depending on the grade level, basic neurophysiology may also be discussed.
Sheep brains have been provided by generous donations from The DANA Alliance for Brain Initiatives.
The Spiker Box module uses live recordings from cockroach limbs to demonstrate the nervous system response to sensory (touch) and motor stimuli. The recordings are presented visually, through a tablet computer, and aurally, through a speaker, allowing students to conceptualize how the body and nervous system acts and reacts.
Volunteers discuss the concept of action potentials and electrochemical communication between neurons, typically with regard to motor control and sensory experiences. More in-depth discussions can cover how these processes are disrupted by conditions like epilepsy and neurodegeneration. Though intended to educate high school students about electrophysiology, younger audiences also enjoy the demo.
Equipment is made available by Backyard Brains, and funding for this module is provided by the Society for Neuroscience and Brain Corporation.
The Histology Module aims to give students a better understanding of nervous system structure at the microscopic level. Using slides of mammalian tissue, students are able to see individual neurons from regions including the cerebral cortex, cerebellum and spinal cord.
Volunteers discuss the diversity of neuron types and how a neuron's structure is related to its function in different areas. Basic principles of microscopy and staining techniques may also be discussed based on grade level and student interest.