Pre-College Programs
SPARK - Science for Middle School

« Return to Course Catalog

From Brain to Sensation: Neurobiology of Perception - Senior SPARK

This course is no longer being offered.

Course Description

Taste! Smell! Sound! Sight! Touch! Balance! How is all of this information turned into sensation? Hint: it involves the brain! Students will learn how our brains make sense of the world around us, and they'll learn a little brain anatomy along the way too!

Through a combination of individual and small group experiments, students will about the sensory systems and the neural mechanics of perception. We will cover the neurobiology of the gustatory (taste), olfactory (smell), auditory, visual, and somatosensory systems. Class activities include: a jelly bean lab that explores how the cooperative senses of taste and smell, the building of a model of the organs of balance, sound localization experiments, and a human brain lab where students have the chance to hold a real human brain. A field trip to the Roger Williams Zoo is also planned where students will discover what elephants can teach us about our sense of touch and will learn about the specialized sensory systems of their other animal friends (and competitors). Students will attend daily classes that are supplemented by discussions, group work, and short films. This class is based on the popular Introduction to Neuroscience course that is part of the core curriculum for undergraduate Neuroscience concentrators at Brown. We encourage students to ask questions during lectures, your questions help us keep lectures interesting! While students will exit the course with a basic understanding of the brain processes involved in perception, we hope they'll leave with more questions than answers and the desire to take more brain science classes!

At course end, students will understand the basic neuroanatomy of the major sensory systems. They will understand sensory transduction, the process by which stimuli from the external world are transformed into signals the brain can understand within each sensory modality. Finally, by the end of the course they will be able to put together their own brief lecture (5 min.) or lab demonstration for family and friends.

*This Senior SPARK course is designed for students currently in 8th grade (entering 9th grade Fall 2014). Younger students are encouraged to register for our Junior SPARK courses.

*Please note: students will have the opportunity to taste jelly beans and Miracle Fruit Tablets during this course. The jelly bean experiment will be used to explore the relationship of smell to taste. The miracle fruit experiment is used to demonstrate how the phenomenon of taste is related to taste receptors. Both of these experiments are optional for the students and not required.