• Hands-on activity for upper elementary-high
school that focuses on neuroanatomy,
vertebrate diversity, and brain evolution
• Laura Carruth, Ph.D. (Georgia State University
Neuroscience Institute and the Center for
• John Pecore (GSU College of Education and CBN)
• Melissa Demetrikopoulos, PhD. (Institute for
Why study the brain?
• Because it is involved in
the control of all of our
– Regulates many aspects
– Much more!
The Amazing Case of Phineas Gage
“The man who hurt his brain”
Did he live?
Accident happened in 1848
with a steel tamping rod
1.25 inch (3cm) thick and 3.5
What do you think happened to him after the accident?
You’ll find out at the end of the session!!
• parts of speech
• Hearing or audition
perception related to:
• Vision or sight
Lobes are only organized like this in the brains of mammals
Brain Stem and Spinal Cord
Responds to visual and
Lower vertebrates =
Involved in the
• All vertebrates have
a cerebellum which
varies in size
depending on the
class of animals
How Do You Interact with the World Around You?
What are your senses?
What brain regions process sensory information?
2. Hearing (auditory or aural; ears or skin)-- Temporal lobe of cerebrum
3. Touching (tactile; skin)-- Parietal lobe of cerebrum
4. Tasting (gustatory; tongue, skin in some animals)—
Limbic system and parts of cerebral cortex
5. Smelling (olfaction; nose)—olfactory bulbs
1. Seeing (vision)--Occipital lobe of cerebrum
What Do Our Senses Tell Us?
1. What is out in the environment
2. How much is out there
3. Is there more or less of it than
4. Where it is located
5. If it is changing in time or place
Brain Diversity and Adaptations
Understanding an animal’s behavior or how it interacts
with its environment can help you make predictions about
what its brain might look like
Knowing about an animal’s brain can help you make
predictions about its behavior or sensory systems
Relative brain size is more important than overall brain
Cerebellum, Brain stem
Dog vs. Cat
How do they behave or act?
How do they move?
Who is smarter?
What senses do they use?
•Have specialized receptors for sensing the
electrical field put out by prey
•Can detect smells in the water at concentrations
lower than one part in 10 billion
•Some sharks sense light directly through the skull
•Pit-vipers have a heat-sensitive organ that
responds to very small temperature changes
•A rattlesnake can detect a mouse 40 cm away
•Snake tongues have no taste buds. It brings
smells and tastes into the mouth which are then detected
in two pits on the roof of their mouths.
•Snakes have no moveable eyelids. Instead, they have a clear,
scale-like membrane covering the eye.
AMAZING VERTEBRATE BRAINS and SENSES
•Can detect warmth of an animal from
about 16 cm away
•Can find insects up to 18 ft. away and get
information about the type of insect
using their sense of echolocation
Birds of Prey—Hawks, Buzzards and Eagles
•Retina has 1 million photoreceptors
(to detect light) per square mm.
•Can see small rodents from a height of
15,000 ft and has 20/5 vision
Brain Complexity and
the Human Brain
How does this brain compare to the vertebrate brains
you’ve just seen?
•Convolutions = folds
•Increase in brain
complexity in the
Brains and Behavior of Aquatic Mammals: A
Comparison of Dolphins, Sea Lions and Manatees
Comparison Dolphin Sea Lion Manatee
Class Mammal Mammal Mammal
1° foraging mechanism
(how they find food)
echolocation visual tactile
Diet shrimp, fish fish sea grasses
Vocalizations Complex, whistles barks mother-pup I.D.
Territorial no yes no
Dominance hierarchy yes yes no
Tricks Acrobatic/balance Acrobatic/balance ?
Olfaction Lobes and nerves
Pup I.D. probably
Cerebral cortex Guess! Guess! Guess!
Carnivore vs. Herbivore
How do their behaviors differ?
Looking at this brain what
can you say about an
Sense of smell?
People always say elephants
have good memories. What
region of the brain is
involved in memory?
Can we see it here?
•He lost almost the entire left side of the frontal lobe
•He lost his left eye
•His personality changed
•He went from being mild-mannered, polite
and likeable to crude, rude and unable to
make or follow through with plans
•He live for 11 years after his accident
What did we learn from the brain
of Phineas Gage?
So, what did happen to Phineas Gage?
Websites about the brain
• Neuroscience for Kids website:
• Brainy Kids
• Center for Behavioral Neuroscience:
• Comparative Mammalian Brain Collections
• Make the brain of an imaginary vertebrate animal
• Use colored play-doh
• Work in group of no more than 4 students
• Think about:
– Where does your animal live, how does it move, what does it
eat, when is it active……….
– Use a different color for each brain part:
• Cerebrum—mammals need to have the four lobes
• Spinal cord
• Sensory systems (like olfactory bulbs)
• Any other brain regions important for behavior
– Does your animal have convolutions in the cerebrum or
•Live in forests or swamps, along
coastal areas of islands. Roost in
colonies by day, and may use the
same roosting site for years.
•Need a large body of water nearby
•At night, they fly to neighboring
fruit trees to feed.
•Mainly drink the juice of the fruit,
spitting out the pulp and seeds.
Bats: Indian Flying Fox