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Brain Power: Grades 4-5

Introductory Story for Module 2

Beth and Juan are sitting at a table in the Brain Power! Clubhouse looking at model brains. Beth says, “The brain is really so cool. You don’t have to think about it, but it still does all your thinking for you.”

Juan picks up one of the brains and looks it over. He says, “We couldn’t even breathe if we didn’t have a brain.”

Juan then squeezes the brain a little as he looks at it. He puts it back and goes for another brain. It leaps out of his hands – it’s Corty! Juan jumps back.

Corty looks at Beth and Juan who are still holding the brain models and winces saying, “Hey, you’re giving me a headache playing with those things.”

Beth says, “But Corty, we’re really interested in brains. They’re very important, and we want to learn more about them.”

Corty says, “Now that’s food for thought! So, what do you want to know?”

Juan replies, “We want to learn how scientists know so much about brains. I mean, how do they study brains? You’d need to have x-ray vision to look inside someone’s head.”

Corty says, “OK! I have the perfect mission for you. How about teaming up with the other club again so you can help out each other?”

“We don’t need any help. I mean, we’re Junior Scientists,” Beth says.

“You’re right. But you know what would be fun?” asks Juan. “What?” says Beth.

“What about if we compete with them?” Juan says. “That’s a great idea!” says Beth.

Corty says, “You’re wasting brainpower by splitting up!”

The kids just stare at him. There’s no way they’re working together.

Corty says, “Okay, okay. I’ll tell the Spectacular Scientists Club members the plan. Now listen up. How do scientists know so much about brains? How do they learn about brains? And what can we learn from them?”

Beth says, “It seems like we’d have to talk to some scientists to learn the answers to those questions.”

Corty says, “You’re right! And I’m going to introduce you to some of my scientist friends who study drug abuse research.”

Corty snaps his fingers, and scientists show up on the computer monitor who explain different imaging techniques that can be used to see the effects of drugs on the brain. These techniques include MRI, PET, and SPECT. Anna Rose Childress explains that MRI uses radio frequency signals produced by magnets to create an image of the brain. Bob Malison and Nora Volkow explain that in PET and SPECT scans, radioactive material is injected into the bloodstream, which allows scientists to view computerized images of the brain.

Juan says, “Wow! They sure said a mouthful! I didn’t realize there’s so much for scientists to do and learn.”

Beth says, “That’s the truth! I have got to organize this information so I can study it better. Let’s make a chart.”

Juan goes off to get markers and rulers. Then, they begin to make their chart of the scientists—what they do and what machines they use. When they finish, they pin up their chart.

Stop here until students have completed procedure #6.

Corty says, “Very nice! You’ve really been paying attention! Great job, but I can’t stick around. I’ve got to give a mission to the kids in the Spectacular Scientists Club.”

“What’s their mission?” asks Juan.

Corty replies, “Can’t tell you. It’s top secret. If you’d cooperated instead of competing, you’d be in on it, too, but... see ya!” Corty starts to leave, but both kids yell for him to help them out.

Corty responds, “You wanted to compete.”

Beth says, “Just a hint?”

Corty can’t resist responding. He says, “Okay, okay, I’ll give you a hint: neurotransmitters.”

Beth and Juan look at each other, confused.

Corty continues, “The brain’s no good without them. They go together like PB and J, cereal and milk, synapses and neurons.” The kids just stare at him blankly. Corty says, “So, you could say neurotransmission is another example of teamwork.”

Beth says, “Corty, you’re a brain with a one-track mind!”

This page was last updated September 2012

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NIDA. (2012, September 1). Brain Power: Grades 4-5. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/brain-power/brain-power-grades-4-5

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