Resources: three lessons on brain scanning/imaging and developing academic skills

Kim J, Matthews NL, Park S. Wikimedia Commons.
Studies show that blog posts accompanied by brain scan images are 70% more convincing.

Here are three lessons on brain scanning/imaging. They’re from early on in my course so they’re also planned to help developing important skills and ways of thinking. There is a set of brief lesson plans for each session (these plans are read from top to bottom; no timings are given).

Lesson one introduces CT, PET and fMRI (slideshow) using a text on brain imaging and a reciprocal teaching activity. This is followed by an introduction to making comparisons, with a brain scans comparison table (copy this on A3). I ask students to complete the table outside class. There is some supplemental information to help them do this.

Lesson two (slideshow) starts with a Socrative quiz on brain scanning. This is followed by an application task in which students need to choose and justify the appropriate imaging technique for each scenario. There is then an opportunity for students to develop their academic writing.

Lesson three (slideshow) involves students planning and writing a short essay requiring application to a problem and critical comparisons between scanning/imaging techniques.

1 thought on “Resources: three lessons on brain scanning/imaging and developing academic skills”

  1. Sam requested some suggested responses. Here they are:

    Case 1 – brain damage in impact sports
    CT scan. The researcher is interested in brain structure, as they are looking for evidence of brain injury. CT will give the finest structural detail, takes least time and cost least per scan, all of which increases the number of PPs that can be investigated. fMRI could also be used for this but would still lose out in terms of image quality, time and cost.

    Case 2 – experts versus novices
    fMRI scan. Both PET and fMRI will give images that correspond to brain activity but fMRI has a finer spatial resolution (more detailed images) and a higher temporal resolution (easier to track changes in activity). Also, no need to inject radiotracers and costs less. Motion-induced artifacts can be a problem with fMRI but the study can be designed to avoid them (e.g. stimuli projected on screen, responses recorded via button presses in handheld module). CT is inappropriate as it doesn’t image activity.

    Case 3 – OCD and serotonin
    PET scan. Of the three, only PET can track activity in specific neurotransmitter systems as radiolabelled neurotransmitter ligands can be injected into the PP’s blood and the PET scanner will pick them up.

    Case 4 – mathematical thinking
    fMRI would have the same advantages as in case 2 but the PPs are talking aloud, which might cause motion-induced artifacts so PET might be a better bet. You’d need to consult an imaging specialist for a definitive answer but this is a good one for pointing out that any research study inevitably involves compromise between competing issues.

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