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Brain Workouts

What Helps Cognitive Fitness?



Co Authors:

Jane P. Sheldon
Department of Behavioral Sciences
University of Michigan—Dearborn
jsheldon@umich.edu

Susana M. Peciña
Department of Behavioral Sciences
University of Michigan—Dearborn
pesu@umich.edu

Abstract:

This directed case study follows two college roommates, Darrell and Anthony, who have just returned to school after winter vacation. They share that their ageing fathers are concerned about their declining faculties and are amused by their fathers' efforts to reverse the process.  Darrell's dad plays "brain games" on the computer while Anthony's father believes running will slow his memory decline. Intrigued, the roommates search through their biopsychology class notes to find out whether their fathers are correct. They review the topics of synaptic formation and plasticity, including axonal and dendritic development, and chemical factors in the brain that promote the survival and growth of neurons or stop the genetically programmed death of neurons. Based on research findings, students reading this case will decide whether Darrell and Anthony's fathers are correct in their assertions. The case is appropriate for a wide variety of courses including introductory anatomy or physiology, or for upper-division biopsychology, biology, or neuroscience courses.

Objectives:
  • Understand the concepts of brain plasticity, neurogenesis, and apoptosis.
  • Understand the neuronal structures and actions involved in synaptic formation and maintenance.
  • Explain what neurotrophins are and how they affect neurons.
  • Explore two ideas concerning what is helpful for brain functioning and memory.
  • Critically assess evidence and decide how well the two different ideas are supported.
Keywords: neuroscience; brain plasticity; dendritic branching; synaptogenesis; neurons; apoptosis; axonal branching; synaptic plasticity; neurotrophins; synaptic formation; neurogenesis; biopsychology
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Directed
Language: English
Subject Headings: Biology (General)   Cell Biology   Neuroscience   Psychology  
Date Posted: 12/10/2016
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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