Humans have always been fascinated with how the mind works. How can a unique ‘you’ with memories, thoughts and feelings be created by the activity of 100 billion neurons (or nerve cells) in the brain? And what happens in the brain when people suffer from mental illness, or from diseases like Alzheimer's?

What's special about your brain?

In this activity the students will be testing their cognitive functioning by a series of online tests developed by Cambridge Brain Sciences. These can be found at: http://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/

Before the students take the test please read the terms and conditions on the Cambridge Brain Sciences website.

The Cambridge Brain Sciences website contains several freely available tests that have arisen from the cognitive neuroscience research funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC). It is understood that these tests are provided for public use with no guarantee of validity or accuracy of the results, and are not to be interpreted as diagnostic or indicative of any illness or disability.

Registration:
Some of the tests require a login to access. Read the privacy policy on the Cambridge Brain Sciences website before using these tests with your students. Anyone who registers their details gives consent for their results to be used as part of MRC's research and may be used entirely anonymously in some future publications.

All children should discuss their use of this website with their parent or guardian, and no information should be provided without their consent.

However, not all the tests require a login. If you feel that it is inappropriate for your students to enter their details then you can try a test from each category that you do not need to register for.

Tests that can be done without registering are:

Facilities required: It would be very useful to have access to an ICT suite. If you do not have access to ICT facilities you could allocate the test for students to do as homework.

Timing: This is flexible as the students can do a certain number of tests depending on the time available.

Curriculum links

Organisms and health 5d: Chemical and electrical signals enable body systems to respond to internal and external changes, in order to maintain the body in an optimal state.
5e: Human health is affected by a range of environmental and inherited factors, by the use and misuse of drugs and by medical treatments.

Applicable examination modules:

Exam Board Unit

Edexcel: GCSE science

B2: Messages & medicines

Topic 3: Electrical and chemical signals in the body

Edexcel: GCSE Biology

B6: Behaviour in humans and other animals

OCR 21st Century Science Suite:

GSCE Additional Science, GCSE Biology

B6: Brain & mind

WJEC: GCSE Science

B1: Body maintenance and protection

Nervous system

Scottish Curriculum: Standard Grade Biology

Topic 5: The Body in action

Sub topic C - coordination

Northern Ireland Curriculum: GCSE Single Award Science

Module: 1 Staying alive


Science for you to try

What's special about your brain?

In this activity you will do some interactive tests to help find out what's unique about your brain. Everyone has different abilities and these tests, such as the ones on the Cambridge Brain Sciences website, are used by scientists to assess cognitive function.

They are rigorously tested and scientifically proven tests of memory, attention, reasoning and planning. All of the tests have been used in scientific studies of brain function and have been described in more than 150 scientific publications in leading academic journals.

Many of the tests have been used in functional neuroimaging studies to show how cognitive functions relate to specific regions of the brain (a field known as 'brain mapping'). In other studies, these tests have been used to investigate why some of these cognitive functions become impaired in Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and schizophrenia, and after traumatic brain damage caused by injuries to the head.

Try these tests and find out what your special skills are. Are you an excellent planner? Or do you excel at grammatical reasoning? Or is your memory better than a monkey's?

 

To start the tests go to Cambridge Brain Sciences.

You can try a test from each category without registering your details. If you register your details then your results may be used anonymously in MRC research. It is understood that these tests are provided for public use with no guarantee of validity or accuracy of the results, and are not to be interpreted as diagnostic or indicative of any illness or disability.

Cambridge brain sciences

 

 

What's next?

Now compare your test results to those of your classmates and discuss what these might tell you about your and your classmate's performances.

  • Do you think that the tests reflect your ability accurately? For example, if you scored highly on the rotation test, are you generally good at reading maps?
  • Did you notice any gender differences between the scores on the tests?

  • What do you think would happen if you did these tests every day?

  • Research has shown that the region of the brain called the hippocampus is larger in some London taxi drivers' brains when compared with other people's. Why do you think this is? Hint: You'll need to do some research to find out what function the hippocampus is responsible for.

Brain facts