For the past two morning trainings, Luigi has shared his extensive knowledge of the brain with us, as we are exploring the possibility of adding a sheep’s brain demonstration to the popular cow eye, flower, and DNA presentations. It’s really exciting to be thinking about the best ways to present this dissection to the public in a way that both passes along information and invites kids to share stories and relate the demo to their everyday lives. It’s important to think of issues of space, having a script versus ad-libbing, and how hands on we think it can be. As we found out, just having the brain in front of us stimulated a whole bunch of comments and questions from the group. Luckily we had an expert to teach us about the parts and share stories with us.
Some of the most interesting examples that Luigi shared with us had to do with the connection between the different parts of the brain, and what can happen when certain sections get damaged. For example, Phineas Gage, a railroad worker, and by all accounts an upstanding citizen, had a beam go through the front part of the brain and completely change his presonality. Since the frontal lobe can control impulses, Gage became angry, abusive, and mean. Good thing there were no railroad spikes lying around outside the day I fell off that pole.
A phenomenon that I found really amazing to learn about was called blindsight. If the visual cortex is damaged a person will be blind, yet if the superior colliculus another part of the brain that prosesses relexes can react to visual stimuli. So for example, if a person suffering from this condition had a chair pushed into their path (although this seems really mean), they would move out of the way even though they wouldn’t be able to see what object they were avoiding. Let’s just say we imagined the amazing hackey sack possibilities.
Cutting up the brain also led to discussions of different medical procedures that doctors can perform. Luigi told us about how doctors can remove half of the cerebral cortex in certain situations, especially in young patients. In the early years the brain can more easily re-wire itself and the remaining half of the brain will take over the function of the removed half.
These were only a few of the cool facts that I remembered. Maybe others can share the tid-bits that made a lasting impression on them during the training. It’s challenging to think about all the factors involved in the thought processes leading up to the creation of new on-the-floor activities. But it’s exciting to be pushing boundaries and learning from each other as we ponder the best ways to move forward as a group.