Nervous System

GCSE Biology students need to be able to explain how the structure of the nervous system, including the Central nervous system, sensory and motor neurons and sensory receptors are all adapted to their particular functions. Students must be able to explain how the structure of a reflex arc is related to its function. They must also know how the main structures of the eye are related to their functions, and link this to common defects of the eye and possible ways that these defects may be overcome. GCSE Biology students need  to describe the structure and function of the brain, and also explain some of the difficulties of investigating brain function, along with the limitations in treating damage and disease in the brain and other parts of the nervous system.

Misconceptions with this topic area are often seen in relation to receptors and effectors, with students confusing the two and also students failing to appreciate that electrical impulses are not sent directly to muscles (for example). A possible approach to support understanding is that of modelling the system using students to represent the component parts of a process, such as a reflex arc, synaptic transmission etc.

For example lines of students holding hands can be the axon of an effector neuron, when they receive a stimulus (ringing phone/buzzer), a mexican wave can illustrate the electrical impulse travelling down the axon. There are numerous possibilities with this approach and once students are familiar with it, groups of students can be tasked with working out how the class (or their group) can represent particular processes physically.

 

Links and Resources

Nervous System: Action Potentials

Although aimed for post 16 students some of the initial sections of this animation would be suitable for GCSE Biology students. The whole animation and quiz at the end of the animation could be used as an extension activity for the most able GCSE Biology students

publication year
2000 - 2009

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Quick Reactions *suitable for home teaching*

This Catalyst article explores how the nervous system works. How nerve impulses pass around the body, and why these responses are so fast are investigated in the article. Neurones, reflexes, synapses and receptors are also looked at. There is a good illustration of a reflex arc.

This article could be used in a variety of ways: it could simply be a piece of reading for homework, or students could be asked to write a similar article on the endocrine system, highlighting differences and similarities.

The article notes how in certain diseases, malfunction of the nervous system is seen, such as in Alzheimers syndrome, where the normal mechanism involved in releasing neurotransmitter stays open, flooding the neurone with calcium ions. Students could be asked to research another disease/disorder where neuronal function is in some way impaired, they could then present a summary of this to the class.

As with all Catalyst articles there are a number of ways in which this resource could be used: reading, developing activities, students summarising etc.. For ideas about using any Catalyst article it would be worth looking at the following resource: https://www.stem.org.uk/elibrary/resource/27308. This booklet, developed by the Gatsby Science Enhancement Programme (SEP), aims to provide ideas for how Catalyst magazine can be used with students in the classroom.

publication year
2000 - 2009

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Your Brilliant Brain *suitable for home teaching*

This comprehension activity, from Genetic Disorders UK, looks at the structure and function of the brain and central nervous system, and what can happen if the brain becomes damaged. The information provided for students gives a brief description of neurons, synapses, neurotransmitters and the structure and function of the cortex and basal ganglia. In Huntington’s disease the basal ganglia are damaged. The symptoms of the condition are related to the areas of the brain that are unable to work properly.

In this resource students are asked to consider how this may affect people with the disease. Students could be asked to research how damage to specific areas of the brain results in particular symptoms. They could produce posters/leaflets/Powerpoints to illustrate their findings

publication year
2010 to 2019

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The Brain

This Medical Research Council (MRC) resource discusses the brain - the most complex and least understood organ in the human body. The resource explains how the brain controls all body functions, from breathing and listening to thinking and moving. The resource demonstrates how MRC researchers are working to understand more about how the normal brain and the senses work, as well as what goes wrong and why.

Although designed for post 16 students, there are some excellent illustrations in this resource which would work well on a whiteboard to initiate discussions about brain function, and the results of damage to the brain

publication year
2000 - 2009

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Eyes

A Catalyst article examining the basic functioning of the eye and what can be done to maintain function when something goes wrong. In particular, the article looks at problems with focus, cataracts and colour blindness and how these problems can be detected and treated.

As with all Catalyst articles there are a number of ways in which this resource could be used: reading, developing activities, students summarising etc.. For ideas about using any Catalyst article it would be worth looking at the following resource: https://www.stem.org.uk/elibrary/resource/27308.  This booklet, developed by the Gatsby Science Enhancement Programme (SEP), aims to provide ideas for how Catalyst magazine can be used with students in the classroom.

publication year
2000 - 2009

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Nervous System: Responding to Stimuli *suitable for home teaching*

This resource from the National Learning Network Materials' Biology collection introduces the structure and function of the human nervous system. Animations and illustrations show the structure of nerve cells, transmission of signals at a synapse, a reflex arc, sense organs and effectors. Students could use this resource for independent study working their way through the animations and completing the range of drag and drop activities and questions

publication year
2000 - 2009

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Human eye - worksheet & Interactive resource *suitable for home teaching*

This resource provides detail about the anatomy of the eye and visual process. Included is a worksheet to help students learn about the human eye and how we see. This worksheet should be used with the interactive resource (found on the Vision Direct UK website). The digital resource on the website (http://www.visiondirect.co.uk/the-human-eye) could be used as a whole class activity and then the worksheets can be used to test student knowledge. The worksheet reviews different parts of the eye and different states of the eye.

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Mind Mapping

Dr Richard Wise works at the Brain Research Imaging Centre at Cardiff University. He explains how the centre is using magnetoencaphelography (MEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to explore brain function.

The film explains how the two scanners work and how images from both scanners can be combined to give an accurate picture of brain function, and how this technology may be useful in Alzheimer’s research.

Students could watch the film in class and then prepare a two minute summary of what the film was about, the summary could take various forms: 3 powerpoint slides, no more than 50 words, 5 bullet points only

publication year
2010 to 2019

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S Jones

Can I also suggest the ABPI website for schools topic on the Nervous system which was created specifically to fit the new curriculum. https://www.abpischools.org.uk/topic/nervoussystem/1/1