Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Title of course:  Neuroscience and the Classroom: Making Connections

Neuroscience and the Classroom: Making Connections

Unit 1: Different Brains


Section 4:
Succeeding with half a brain

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Q: If the two hemispheres are heavily involved in virtually everything we do, what happens when one hemisphere is removed?

Two young men, Nico, an Argentine, and Brooke, an American, provide some insight into this question. Nico's right hemisphere was surgically removed when he was three to control severe epilepsy; he has become an engaging young man who enjoys fencing, art, and singing, and who has been academically and socially successful in school in Spain, where he moved with his family. Brooke's left hemisphere was removed when he was 11, also to control persistent seizures. He, too, is a charming young man who attended high school and college and works at a recycling center. What is striking about these young men is that both are able to do things that they "shouldn't" be able to do according to conventional views of the brain—such as use their remaining neural hardware to produce and understand language and its emotional meanings.

Self in Relationships
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Along with Ekman's test of facial recognition and the Self-In-Relationships Interview (see sidebar above), Mary Helen Immordino-Yang designed two tests (top)

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for her study of these young men's ability to understand and produce the prosody of language. One test determined how Nico's and Brooke's prosodic discrimination and comprehension compared to their peers, and one test compared the intonation patterns in their speech to that of their peers. Although the boys certainly revealed weaknesses, they generally compared favorably to their peers. How can these findings be interpreted in terms of the young men's emotional profiles? What can the results teach us about brain plasticity and development, especially in social contexts, and their relation to compensation and learning?

Nico's Story

Nico's Story

The right hemisphere of the brain is generally considered to be dominant for many functions, including prosody. When he was three years old, Nico suffered from life-threatening epileptic seizures and...

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Brooke's Story

Brooke's Story

At the age of 11, Brooke Smith had the left side of his brain removed. The left hemisphere of the brain is generally considered the locus of detailed, procedural tasks, such as language and reading. Brooke's story...

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Ekman's test of facial recognition
An assessment tool developed by Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen in the 1970s to measure recognition of emotions based on facial expressions.
brain plasticity
The potential for, or ability of, neurons or brain systems to modify functionality based on experiences. The degree to which brain function can be modified is a question of high interest, particularly for addressing topics including recovery from brain damage, responsiveness to intervention, learning, and skill acquisition.

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