If your child loves science, he will find neuroscience both fascinating and fun! Though the subject is complex, there are many tools you can use to teach your child. Begin with an understanding of what neuroscience is.
What is Neuroscience?
Neuroscience is the study of the brain and the nervous system. Neuroscientists work towards developing an understanding of the structure, development and functions of the brain. These studies are used to help find cures for diseases and improve the quality of life.
The nervous system is made up of both the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. It is used to carry messages from the brain to your body. When explaining neuroscience for kids, use examples to show him how it affects his everyday life.
Central Nervous System
The central nervous system is composed of the brain and the spinal cord. It represents the largest portion of the nervous system.
The brain controls everything you do. It is the only organ that makes decisions. You use it to study, remember facts, find solutions, walk, talk, eat and even go the bathroom. Your brain controls your personality and emotions. It is constantly working to help you with everyday tasks including homework and recess. At night, it controls your dreams.Your brain also controls everything inside your body, including your organs. It makes us who we are.
Your spinal cord is the road your brain uses to send information. It is a thick bundle of nerves protected by a bony spinal column. These nerves connect your brain to the rest of your body.
Peripheral Nervous System
The network of nerves that carry information from the brain to the other parts of your body is called the peripheral nervous system. Your body contains millions of nerve cells called neurons. There are three types of neurons:
- Sensory neurons have sensitive nerve endings called receptors, which respond to light, heat and chemicals. When you touch a hot stove, your sensory neurons tell your nervous system that something is not right.
- Association neurons are the interpreters. They take the message ''hot'' and warn your brain that something needs to be done so you do not burn yourself.
- Motor neurons carry the message "take your hand off the hot stove" to the muscles in your hand.
This system of neurons continues to work to protect us and keep us moving.
There are five senses that send messages to your brain and give it information about the world around you:
Your central nervous system controls the senses.
Conduct experiments using items around your home to learn how the central nervous system works. Some great activities include:
- Testing your reflexes
- Studying optical illusions and discussing why your eyes play tricks on your brain
- Experimenting with your senses
- Playing memory games
- Discussing colors and emotions
A trip to any children's museum will provide opportunities for teaching neuroscience for kids. Before you go, find out what exhibits are on display, and prepare some activities that will demonstrate how the nervous system and brain work.You can also use a visit to the park as a teaching experience. Use discussion questions to make observations:
- How does your body know how to make a swing move?
- How quick are your reflexes when you see something you are about to run into?
- What emotions do you feel when you go down the slide for the first time?
Here are some fun trivia facts to help you understand neuroscience!
- An adult brain weights approximately three pounds!
- There are over 100 million neurons in your brain
- Your brain is made up of 78% water
- When you are talking to your friend, your voice is measuring about 60 decibels. 130 decibels will hurt your ears.
The Internet offers great resources about neuroscience for kids.
- Neuroscience for Kids has a newsletter for kids, news articles, experiments and games.
- Illusions shows how your brain plays tricks on you.
- Brain Facts is an intro to the brain and nervous system.
- Find lots of facts at this Website including comparing human and animal brains and other fun facts about our nervous system.
- Brain jokes offers fun jokes to share with your friends.
- The Nervous System explains how neurons help transmit information using great pictures and diagrams.
- Innerbody offers an interactive picture of the nervous system.
Jobs in Neuroscience
Now that your child understands neuroscience, she can consider a career that uses this knowledge.
Neuroscientists have numerous options. She can:
- Teach at a university or hospital
- Conduct research to learn more about neuroscience
- Work in a biomedical research lab
- Find a cure for a neurological disease
- Work in pharmaceutical drugs
- Work for a government agency