Bite-sized beginner-friendly brain courseware
Wouldn't it be great if some of our teammates with bio-sciences or med-school training could, for starters, and for beginners, create a 5-part crash-course on neurobiology with 10-minute videos (or 500-word articles) on the following?

(i) Hunger, homeostasis and the hypothalamus
(ii) Going places, gaits and ganglia
(iii) Sight, sound and sensory transduction (retina and/or cochlea)
(iv) Cellular zoom-in : Somas, synapses and spike-trains
(v) Behavioral zoom-out : Neural plasticity, neuropathies and neuroses

In each 'lecture', use under 10 slides. Some rules-of-thumb for content selection : Medical images rather than 'textbook figures', 'hands-on' view of neuroscience rather than 'brain-in-a-vat' view (this influenced chapter headings as you can see), self-contained rather than riddled with reading recommendations.

What say? Would you choose a different layout of topics here? Or stepping back, how would you design such a course for general biology to start with?

I have no background in biosciences. But I am looking forward to this courseware. BTW, how did you come up with these 5 topics. Do these exhaustively cover all that the brain does?
**Archiving from Facebook**

DS wrote:

Quote:That's a great idea. Together we can make these pint sized videos/(Tumblr-esque) blogposts. Having tried to design a lecture on basic MolBio/Evolution for 12-16 year olds, I can assure you that these are much more difficult to make than talks targeted to a more specialised audience. I remember every single kid falling asleep about halfway through the 45 minute lecture.

The topics you mentioned:

i) Hypothalamus is one of the more difficult structures of the brain. I remember Prof. Marian Diamond's lecture series on the human brain (the whole series is available for free on YT), where she gives an overview of the variety of different tasks performed by this grape sized structure. To engage the kids with a more analytic frame of mind (kids with interests in computation etc.), we'll need to get down to a level which might require assistance from researchers on the front-line. Definitely worth a try. Let's see what we can gather up.

ii) Gaits are too technical, require too much medical jargon and would involve the cerebellum in ways that are not very clear to us. So is the thing with the basal ganglia. But like the hypothalamus, definitely worth digging up a little more and we'll see what we can come up with.

iii) Sensory transduction would probably be the most exciting thing to do. You can include sections from the Feynman lecture and include links to the EyeWire game (which should be a fad given the hype around the BAM project). This needs to be done!

iv) Cellular zoom in would be a visual treat, if the video is made properly. There are already some great animated clips on the action potential/synaptic transmission but we could always make it a little more interesting.

v) Behavioural zoom out would be bordering on psychology/psychiatry and the metaphysical fundamentalist in me might even cringe a little but it'll probably be one of the more informative videos of the series. Would require someone with the right background.

Regarding the suggestions, I like the idea of medical images instead of textbook figures. Makes the thing more accessible. Would be great to sneak up on the anatomy dissection hall and take a few pictures of the structure(s) as well (too messy, perhaps?). And they have to be, as you say, "self-contained rather than riddled with reading recommendations."

AI wrote:

Quote:There's a twofold motivation to emphasize at the outset 'non-cortical' topics related to autonomic or spinal-motor functions : (i) Forestall the view that the brain is essentially a 'thinking machine' and the main reason to study it is mental illness or building better computers (ii) Counter anthropocentric/'Scala Naturae' views (i.e. Whenever a structure with a hoary evolutionary history like the hypothalamus shows up, include an inset titled 'Who else has it?' listing other organisms possessing the structure)

That said, it's true that the exquisite anatomical complexity of these structures is daunting during quickfire introductions. Hybrid illustrations like dissection instagrams with labeled insets may help.

Choosing the level of detail for study and teaching is a challenge in sensory neuroscience as well. Princeton physicist William Bialek says, "Most physicists who started studying vision couldn't get past rhodopsin!" [1]

The cast and coverage are excellent in the Charlie Rose Brain Series [2] though it doesn't quite fit within the typical constraints of attention-span. A format we could experiment with is an illustrated playscript narrative which can be an enjoyable read in its own right, which can serve as a voiceover of an animation-assisted version when resources become available.


/end archiving

(13-Mar-2013, 06:09 PM)Captain Mandrake Wrote: Arvind,

I have no background in biosciences. But I am looking forward to this courseware. BTW, how did you come up with these 5 topics. Do these exhaustively cover all that the brain does?

The topic selection as discussed above is not intended to be comprehensive, but geared towards demystifying some myth-prone topics which are commonly encountered, bringing to the fore some topics that are unfairly seen as less newsworthy than cognitive science, while not assuming more than a high-school background.
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