Making neuroscience fun your hairy senses (Grade 3) ♥slide #1: introduction

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(Grade 3)
Good Morning (Afternoon)!
My name is __________ and I am a Neuroscience student (or you can say you study Neuroscience – or you are a Neuroscientist) at Johns Hopkins University.
Question: Does anyone know or can anyone guess what neuroscience is (or what a Neuroscientist studies?
Let’s look at this guy up here.
Question: Do you know what this is a picture of?
This is a cartoon of a brain. This is a brain that is having fun – because this little brain is skateboarding.
Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system – which includes your brain. If you study the nervous system you are a Neuroscientist.
(Next, tells the students why you are visiting them. I usually say something like this…..)
I am here because I LOVE NEUROSCIENCE and I wanted to share some things I know about the nervous system with you.
Question: OK – so, what is the nervous system?
The nervous system is made up of your brain, your spinal cord, and all of your nerves. Here is a drawing of what your nervous system would look like if we removed all of your skin, muscles, bones and organs.
Your nervous system is connected to every part of your body. It is what makes your body work.
There is so much to know about the nervous system…..


Inside of your brain are little pieces – like a puzzle. These little pieces are called neurons.
Neurons talk to each other by sharing chemicals with one another. One throws their chemical, and another one catches it. Then they become friends and make a connection. They tell your brain what it needs to know, and then your brain tells your body what it needs to know.
Today I am going to talk to you about your hairy senses. I’m not talking about the hair on your head!
Question: Does anyone have any idea what I am going to be talking about?
The first “hairy” sense is letting you listen to me talking…..hearing – right. That is also called your auditory system.
The other “hairy” sense that I am going to talk to you about is a sense that you don’t even know you have…..
Question: What happens to you when you spin around in a circle?
You get dizzy right. But, how do you know you are dizzy? That is your sense of balance, which is also called your vestibular system.
So today we are going to get a little hairy and talk about your auditory system and your vestibular system, which is why I have titled my presentation, “YOUR HAIRY SENSES: HEARING AND BALANCE”.
In order for your nervous system to get information about sounds in the world and where our bodies are while we are moving around – we need to change that information into something the nervous system can understand. This process is called transduction.
Inside of our bodies we have special cells in charge of the transduction…these are hair cells.
Both the auditory system (your hearing sense) and the vestibular system (your sense of balance) use hair cells to change the information into something the neurons can understand.
Question: So why do I call your sense of hearing and sense of balance your “hairy” senses?
That is because we have special cells in our body that tell our brain about sounds and about balance, and they actually have “hair” on them known as cilia.
This cilia is important and very sensitive. It bends and moves according to what you hear and how you move, and that movement starts a chain reaction that tells your brain exactly what is going on outside your body….but more on that in a bit!
Here is a picture of your ear…..
First, there is the external ear which leads to the middle ear and then to the inner ear. The inner ear is really important to our talk today – it’s where everything is going to go down.
The hair cells for both of our “hairy” senses are in our inner ear.
The inner hair cells of the auditory system are in the cochlea.
The inner hair cells of the vestibular system are in the semicircular canals.
Both the cochlea and the semicircular canals are located in our inner ear.
Here you see a picture of where your inner ear is on your face, inside your head.
The hair cells have cilia on the ends.
These hair cells have cilia on the ends. The cilia move like hair. They actually bend.
The cilia are connected by tip links. When the cilia bend they pull on the tip links.

Show how bending the “cilia” open up the tip links channel.

Opening up the tip link allows ions to flow.
This sends a signal from the hair cell to other cells – called neurons – that are in the nervous system.
So…bending the cilia on the hair cells tells the neurons about sounds and about our sense of balance.
Question: What makes the cilia on the hair cells bend?
Now, let’s see how your brain gets information about your vestibular system.
Question: Does anyone remember what sense your vestibular system tells us about?
Right… your sense of balance.
Your vestibular system tells you about the movement of your body in space and the movement of your head on your neck.
When your vestibular system is working you can keep your balance.
The hairs cells that tell our brain about our sense of balance are in the part of your inner ear known as the semicircular canals and the otolith organs (utricle and saccule).
Hair cells that tell our brain about us spinning around are at the end of the semicircular canals.
Hair cells that tell our brain about us going back and forth are in the utricle.
Hair cells that tell our brain about us going up and down are in the saccule.
Now, in order to bend the cilia of your hair cells in your semicircular canals or your otolith organs….YOU HAVE TO MOVE!!!
So information about you or your head moving causes the fluid in the semicircular canal and otolith organs to move the gelatinous membrane and bend the cilia of your hair cells.
This information is sent to the brain……..
BUT….only some parts of your brain gets information from the hair cells in the vestibular system.
Your neurons that control your muscles and your motor system get the information.
Question: Why do you think they get information?
Right…when your vestibular system tells your muscles your body is moving – your muscles help to keep you balanced.
Plus, your visual system also gets information from your vestibular system.
Question: Why do you think they get information?
Right…you need your eyes to help you keep your balance.
Question: Who in here gets sick in the car? ….on spinning rides?

When the information from your muscles, your motor systems and your eyes don’t match – that is when you get motion sickness.

Demo: Swirling ball
When the fluid in your semicircular canals moves, it keeps moving even when you stop.
Your eyes and your muscles “tell” you that your body has stopped, but the fluid in your semicircular canals is still moving. Your brain is confused and you are dizzy!!!
You need the information from your muscles, your eyes, and your vestibular system to match.
When one of those systems isn’t working – you get dizzy and sometimes sick.
Next, let’s look at the hair cells in the auditory system. These cells tell our brain about things that we hear.
Sound waves travel through the air.
There are actually molecules in the air that are constantly moving.
The rate at which the molecules move is called a frequency. We hear sounds of a certain frequency (20-20000 Hz).
Sounds that are low frequency (sound low) move the air molecules slowly – demonstrate with a deep voice.
Sounds that are high frequency (sound high) move the air molecules quickly – demonstrate with a squeaky high voice.
Louder sounds also move the air molecules higher in amplitude – demonstrate with loud and soft sounds.
Here is a picture taken of actual dust molecules moving in the air at a certain frequency.
The hair cells that help you to hear are in the cochlear of your inner ear.
The cochlear looks like a snail shell all rolled up.
Now, let’s see how all of this works…..
Air molecules are moving, they are “caught” by the external ear.
This causes the membrane connecting the outer ear (tympanic membrane) to the middle ear move.
This then makes the 3 little bones in the middle ear move (malleus - means hammer – incus – means anvil – and stapes – means stirrup).
Look…all 3 bones are smaller than a dime!!!
The movement of the bones (ossicles) makes the membrane connecting the middle ear to the inner ear (oval window) move.
This moves fluid that is in the inner ear move and this makes the tectorial membrane move.
The frequency of the sound determines the movement of the tectorial membrane and which hair cell cilia get bent.
This whole process is called transduction.
Information about the moving air molecules gets changed by the hair cells into information the brain can understand.
SLIDE #22: TRANSDUCTION – use this only if the video isn’t working
The information from the hair cells then goes to the brainstem and finally in the cortex of the temporal lobe.
When it reaches the cortex, you “know” about the sound – perception occurs.
Well, there you are….your hairy senses – which we know now is our auditory and vestibular senses.
These senses help us to hear what is in the world and to keep our body balanced.

I have enjoyed talking to you today, and I hope that you have enjoyed hearing about the neat things that your nervous systems can do.

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