Use This ERIN Teaching Tool
As the knowledge base in neuroscience continues to expand educators need timely resources to engage their students. Educational Resources in Neuroscience (ERIN) was a web portal developed by the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The database included videos, interactive quizzes, and simulators, all selected and reviewed by experts. Selected resources from ERIN can now be found on Neuronline.
Resource Highlighted: Connectomics: An Interactive Lecture
Audience: Introductory, intermediate, and advanced undergraduates
How are memories stored? How is learning organized? In this lecture, Jeff Lichtman, Jeremy R. Knowles, professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard University, does more than just discuss these topics. He illustrates what the brain’s wiring looks like through a demonstration of how to cut and collect thin sections of brain cells from a brainbow mouse, so called because it’s color-coded and lights up to show key connections.
The process is intricate and time consuming. Dr. Lichtman demonstrates how he uses electron microscopy to create enlarged images that are then built up into a block of tissue. The presentation ends with a reconstruction of a small piece of brain tissue surrounded by a single dendrite.
Goal of a lifetime
Dr. Lichtman has spent his career studying how the brain’s wiring is changed by experiences, especially early in life. His goal is to take his knowledge to the next level by mapping the wiring of the entire developing and adult brain. Ultimately, Dr. Lichtman hopes to solve the mystery of how information is stored in neural pathways. The techniques illustrated during this lecture will be applied to this massive effort.
The lecture was organized by a spinoff of the popular TED lectures known as TEDx. Because this particular event was organized by the California Institute of Technology, it is called TEDxCaltech. Dr. Lichtman also presented a portion of this talk as part of the Presidential Lecture at SfN’s Neuroscience 2013.
The video can be incorporated into a lecture on neural pathways, or it can be assigned for students to watch as homework. Used in this way, the lecture could be the starting point of an interesting discussion on Dr. Lichtman’s project and what students can learn from this endeavor.