Psychology in Action

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Students are often surprised (and sometimes dismayed) about the content of this chapter. They seem to feel that the material is more appropriate to a biology or anatomy class. It helps to discuss how the study of the brain and nervous system belongs within the domain of psychology. Mentioning the role of diminished dopamine in Parkinson's and excessive dopamine in schizophrenia helps make the study of neurons and neurotransmitters more interesting. Also, tying in the use of L-Dopa and antipsychotic drugs to treat these illnesses further illustrates "why we need to know this stuff!" Asking students to describe friends and family members who suffer from brain function deficits, stroke, or brain-crippling diseases such as Alzheimer's also demonstrates how understanding the pure science of brain anatomy and functioning supports the applied science of helping people with disorders. 2. Ask students to discuss whether the transplants of tissue from human fetuses, animals, or other available donors violates these standards. Help students to separate their own feelings about abortion and animal rights from the ethical standards of scientific psychology. If time allows, you may want to try, or repeat, the Values Clarification (Critical Thinking Exercise 1.1) with a Instructor's Resource Guide Chapter 2 Page 63
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statement related to this chapter. You might also want to invite a guest speaker from a local hospital to explain the process and value of organ donation. Students have many myths and misconceptions in this area. 3. Chapter 2 contains a bewildering number of specific terms and concepts. One way to increase student retention is to ask them to form small groups and list the five most essential structures of the brain and the five least essential. This always leads to a lively discussion. Although there are obviously no "right" answers, the struggle to prioritize the various structures seems to help bring meaning and organization to chapter contents. 4. Ask the students how the human race might be different if humans had evolved a dominant right hemisphere? 5. Assign students to design a better nervous system. What's good or bad about the existing electro-chemical signal propagation? One group could be tasked with defining the major capacities of the existing system and another group could invent a brand new signal system based on different principles. Challenge the students to see if there is a simpler way to set up such a system capable of handling millions of messages. How does it compare to a telephone system or a computer network? 6. A large percentage of brain development in humans occurs after birth. This plasticity means that the early childhood environment has great influence on the subsequent development of the dendritic patterns. What differences in size, complexity or functioning might we expect in the brains of children from undernourished, violent, boring, abandoned, secure, or enriched environments? What are the implications of every human being we meet having a different wiring pattern?
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