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Discussion-activity:
Teen brains are different, part two

December 6, 2000
Web posted at: 12:56 PM EST (1756 GMT)

Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Analyze the effects of drugs on the teen brain.
  • Develop a plan to enhance brain health over the long term.

Questions

1. Why is your brain often referred to as "the master control center of the body"? How is the brain protected within the human body? What do we know about the brain and its features? What is the difference between gray matter and white matter? What protects white matter in the fully developed adult brain? When do the nerves that regulate emotion, judgment and impulse control become fully covered in myelin? How does this underscore the need to protect the young brain?

2. What are some experimental behaviors in which some teens engage that could be harmful to the brain? According to Dr. Jay Giedd, which behavior may be especially dangerous? What is huffing? Why is inhalant abuse especially harmful? What other negative behaviors are the subject of neuroscience research?

3. How do drugs affect the brain? Students have seen the "This is your brain on drugs" ads, but what exactly do substances such as nicotine, marijuana, cocaine, alcohol and even caffeine do to the human brain? Divide the class into groups. Have each group choose one drug and examine the neurological consequences of its use, focusing on the brain. Direct groups to present their information with illustrations and charts, if possible. Relying on what they have learned in the first two parts of this series, ask students to speculate as to whether these substances would have more harmful long-term consequences for the teen brain or the adult brain and why.

4. Invite a physician or other scientist to address the class on what teens can do to promote healthy brain development. Focus the discussion not only on the negatives to avoid but also on positive behaviors that could enhance brain health and function over the long term. Have the class combine what they have learned with additional research to create an informative brochure on "The Healthy Brain" and make copies available in your guidance department and clinic.



RELATED SITES:
Neuroscience for kids
Watching the brain in action
Brain.com

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