Tuesday, January 28, 2014

TBBB Chapter 3: The Duplex Brain

In the chapter the author is essentially saying that it is important that they brain is divided into two separate systems- top and bottom- separated by the Sylvian fissure. The long-range connections between the different parts of the brain determine whether the brain is in the top-brain system or the bottom brain-system. The author is also very clear to communicate that the top system and bottom system are in constant communication with each other even though they may serve different functions.


A computer program, created in the 1980s, that can recognize shape and location of objects teaches us that a system operates much more effectively when the labor is divided and organized into specific top and bottom parts that communicate with each other instead of one single system.

I find it interesting that they are using computers that simulate neural networks to support brain theory. But I understand the challenge of studying and manipulating a human brain. It is fascinating though that the computers did prove that it is much better better to divide the tasks of shape recognition and location into two different systems than just have one system try to do both tasks.

This computer simulation supported the research done by Ungerleider and Mishkin when they actually cut the top and bottom parts out to monkey's brains. This experiment showed that the top part of the brain determines location and the bottom part of the brain determines that shape. 


The idea of the top and bottom brain is supported mostly by a meta-analysis done by a team of researchers in 2011. It makes me a little bit skeptical that this book seems to rely heavily on one meta-analysis. They say it is the only one done of its kind about this type of brain research. I know by the term meta-analysis a ton of different research was looked at to find the patterns they talk about in the book, but wouldn't you want more than just want study to be done to back up your book?


Friday, January 24, 2014

TBBB Chapter 2: Roots of the Theory

The main idea of chapter 2 was to present the history and evolution of brain theory. 

One of the early theories about the brain was the idea of phrenology. Phrenology is the idea that examining a person's skull was a way to assess the nature of his or her brain. This theory was developed by Fraz Joseph Gall in the early 19th century. 

Source: http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi2148.htm

Something that concerns me in this chapter is that phrenology was never really accepted by the scientific community "because certain of its fundamental assumptions are incorrect" yet it gained huge popularity among the public (Kosslyn and Miller 23). Phrenology was disproven by scientific research yet people still held onto the idea and believed it as truth until late in the 20th century. Makes me wonder why people seem to be skeptical of science. Why don't people seem to trust scientific evidence?

As a science teacher, I feel like I need to be better at helping students learn how to be skeptical of popular science. What does the scientific research actually say? What is research that is being generalized too much? What research and answers should I actually trust? How can I get my students to start asking, "I see that they are making a claim. Is that claim backed up by good scientific evidence? Does their reasoning for their claim make sense?"


I find this quote to be important. "Phrenology proved false, but not without value." (Kosslyn and Miller 24). Even though it bothers me that people hold on to false ideas for far to long, I like the fact that the scientist still found value in the false idea. By proving a theory wrong they were able to develop a better more sound theory. They were able to build on the idea that phrenology broke "the mind down into components" (Kossly and Miller 24). Phrenology became the start of the idea that functions in the brain are localized. Pierre Paul Broca conducted several studies on patients will brain damage to help give evidence to the idea of localization of brain functions.


*Fun Fact: The brain doesn't have any pain receptors.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

TBBB Chapter 1: A New Way of Looking At What Your Brain Says About You

After reading chapter 1,  I created a graphic to organized the general information they gave about the brain. I am sure they will go into more detail as the book goes on, but creating this got me oriented and ready for information to come. 


The following quote stood out to me as I read the first chapter.

“If you were expecting to see your friend in the crowd, this would actually be easier than noticing her without warning. The expectation (vis the top brain) “primes” the recognition machinery in the bottom brain” (Kosslyn and Miller 14).

This passage made me think of Frank Smith’s ideas about prediction and our theory of the world in Reading Without Nonsense. It makes me wonder, “If students are predicting and asking questions about what is to come will this “prime” their brain for the new information? Will this help them to recognize what they are looking for easier?”

Top Brain, Bottom Brain Pre Reading Reflection

What are three things you know to be important to teaching and learning?  Why are they important?  How do you ensure that your students experience them?

Three things I know to be important to teaching and learning is forming relationships with students, accessing prior knowledge and presenting materials in multiple ways. They are important because students want to feel known and feel safe in order to learn and be honest about their learning. Learning is a vulnerable process and happens more when you are learning from someone you trust. Because I believe this I work hard to establish relationships with my students and show them I care. To teach students something knew effectively you have to know what they know. By doing this you can connect the new learning to the old learning and help to clarify misconceptions. Because I believe this to be true I try to ask questions at the beginning of a new unit or class to figure out what they know and think. Finally, I try to present information through readings, student listen, visuals, on-line simulations and labs so students have different ways to gain the same information. Students also draw, complete math problems, write, read, color code, diagram in order to learn chemistry.

Make a prediction regarding what you hope to learn from reading and interacting with your book of choice.

Base on what I have read about this book, I expect to learn more about how they brain works. I have grown up hearing about left brain and right brain individuals. In the summary for this book it says it will show how this is not a correct theory. I look forward to learning more about how they brain works and how I can apply that to my teaching. I am curious to know how the top of my brain works differently but I bet in conjunction with the bottom of my brain. 

Top Brain, Bottom Brain Independent Book Study

I have decided to engage in an independent reading project with my colleagues at Northbrook High School. Together will be reflecting on independent books and learning from each other through our posts. You can follow the progress of all involved on the blog http://nhsreadstogether.blogspot.com. I will be reading and reflecting on the book, Top Brain, Bottom Brain: Surprising Insights into How You Think by Kosslyn and Miller. They also have a blog: http://topbrainbottombrain.blogspot.com.

I have decided to post my reflections on my personal blog but I will keep a link to all of my posts on the community blog so people are able to follow my journey. I feel that this is another way to honor the motto and title of this blog: I am still learning. 

The reflections will consists of a pre-reading reflection, reflections after each chapter and then an overall reflection after finishing the book. I hope you are able to learn along with me as I learn more about the brain and how it is connect to learning.