Neuroscience is the study of the brain and the nervous system. The brain is the organ that enables us to adapt to our environment - to learn. The brain is constantly changing and everything we do changes our brain - this allows us to continuously take account of the environment and store memories to use in the future.

Curriculum links

All sciences


3.6 Specification content

• Consider ethical issues in the treatment of humans, other organisms and the environment.
• Appreciate the role of the scientific community in validating new knowledge and ensuring integrity.
• Appreciate the ways in which society uses science to inform decision making.


5.6 AO2: Application of knowledge and understanding of science and of How science works

a) analyse and evaluate scientific knowledge and processes
b) apply scientific knowledge and processes to unfamiliar situations including those related to issues
c) assess the validity, reliability and credibility of scientific information.

Biology
1.5 Cells
c) In complex multicellular organisms cells are organised into tissues, tissues into organs and organs into systems.
1.8 Control systems
a) Homeostasis is the maintenance of a constant internal environment.
b) Negative feedback helps maintain an optimal internal state in the context of a dynamic equilibrium. Positive feedback also occurs.
c) Stimuli, both internal and external, are detected leading to responses.
d) Coordination may be chemical or electrical in nature.
Psychology 4.3 AS level specifications must require candidates to develop knowledge and understanding from all of the following areas of psychology:
• cognitive
• social
• developmental
• individual differences
• biological.
4.5 In 4.3 and 4.4 above, there is a minimum requirement to relate to the following:
c) ethical issues in psychology
f) the contribution of psychology to an understanding of individual, social and cultural diversity.
4.6 A level candidates must have an understanding of the major approaches in psychology including cognitive, biological, behavioural and psychodynamic. Knowledge and understanding must be related to:
a) the applications and implications of psychology to cultural, social and contemporary issues
b) the interrelationship between different areas of psychology
c) the scientific nature of psychology
d) the selection and application of knowledge and understanding of theories, concepts and approaches to the solution of problems
h) an appreciation of issues and/or debates in psychology.


Scottish Curriculum

Human Biology Higher Potentially relevant to modules:
Neurobiology and Communication (whole module)


Why is neuroscience important?

What is neuroscience?

Neuroscience is the study of the brain and the nervous system. The brain is the organ that enables us to adapt to our environment - to learn. The brain is constantly changing and everything we do changes our brain - this is called 'plasticity' and allows us to continuously take account of the environment and store memories to use in the future.

hippocampus_300We know that both nature (genetics) and nurture (the environment) affect the learning brain but it is not understood exactly how genes influence the brain's development and function. For example we know that genes can partially explain differences in reading ability, but there is no single gene that makes someone a good or poor reader. Also genes can be turned on and off by environmental factors such as diet, chemicals and social interactions (known as 'epigenetics').

The brain continues to change in adults as skills, such as music, juggling and dance, are repeated and learned. However it seems to be the case that you should "use it or lose it". One study showed that an area of the brain called the hippocampus showed high areas of activity in taxi drivers who had spent years navigating the streets of London, compared with controls. When these drivers left their jobs, after a while the activity levels in these parts of the brain went back to normal.

 

Why is studying neuroscience important?

Increasing understanding of the brain and improved methods to study it will enable scientists to develop treatments for neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer's disease) and mental illnesses. Research will also help us find out more about normal human behaviour and mental wellbeing, and can help develop artificial intelligence. As well as treating illnesses, research could also lead to better understanding of how we learn, allowing us to optimise our intelligence.

These developments are likely to provide significant benefits for society and have implications for a diverse range of public policy areas such as health, education, law, and security. However they will also raise major social and ethical issues and raise questions about personality, identity, responsibility, and liberty.