Category Archives: Neurobiology & Behaviour

Meet Your Brain: Royal Institution Christmas Lectures

Professor Bruce Hood explores the human brain in this series of lectures from the Royal Institution in London. The trailer is below and in time all the lectures should appear on the RI Channel Website here (Vimeo channel here).

If you can access BBC iPlayer, you can keep up with the lectures here.

The theme of the 2010 Lecture series by Mark Miodownik was “Size Matters”, again relevant to the IB Biology course and available to watch in full from the RI Channel website.

Science Stunts for Parties

Richard Wiseman is a psychologist and author of Quirkology, the Curious Science of Everyday Lives. He also has a YouTube channel loaded with illusions and tricks. As dinner-party season approaches, here are some collections of little science tricks to impress your granny. Be careful with flames.

RSA Animate – The Divided Brain

I love these video clips. Here they animate Iain McGilchrist‘s RSA lecture on the nature of the divided brain.

The full talk is here:

The Shadow Illusion Brought to Life!

Cool – for more illusions check out brussup’s YouTube channel.

E4: Neurotransmitters and Synapses

Review Nerves content from the Core before completing this topic.

Class presentation:

Essential Biology E4: Neurotransmitters and Synapses

The New Science of Addiction: Genetics and The Brain

From Learn.Genetics

Fantastic resources available from Utah, including the mouse party, neuron and synapse animations and an interactive involving pedigree charts and the role of genetics in addiction.

Spend some time here to really read around the subject of drugs and addiction – you’ll be glad you did and it really helps answer the ‘discuss the causes of addiction’ question!

Drugs and The Brain


Jellinek is a Dutch drugs education website that has some great, accessible resources for neurobiology of drugs and the brain. Animations are available in multiple languages – why can’t more organisations be as internationally-minded as this?

Be patient though -it needs a lot of bandwidth.

Neurotransmitters and Drugs:

Good powerpoint from HHMI

Excellent overview of effects of drugs (Harvard)

Amphetamines, Cocaine, Nicotine as excitatory psychoactives (McGill ‘The Brain’)

Benzodiazepines, Cannabis, Alcohol as inhibitory psychoactives (McGill ‘The Brain’)

TOK and Biology: The Nutt-Sack Affair

Leader of advisory panel on drug safety sacked for disagreeing with UK government:

Read around the topic, and then answer these questions:

Nutt's Scale of Drugs

  1. How does this story show the conflict between science and politics?
  2. What do you feel the respective roles of science and politics should be in the government of a country?
  3. Suggest reasons why some drugs which are clearly very harmful, such as tobacco and alcohol, are still legal in many countries.
  4. If you were to form a new country and write a whole new set of drug laws, which would you make illegal or legal and why? Upon which sources of evidence would you rely in order to make your decisions? How would you balance political pressures with scientific evidence?

Find out more about drug laws and the rationale behind them in your own country and the countries you visit or live in.

Remember – regardless of your own opinion on drug laws, if you are caught breaking the law wherever you are, penalties can be very severe.

Why do gecko tails hop around when they drop off?

Here is a great article from and shows tbe potential of video analysis in science. It’s a great topic for Indonesia, too!

Here’s a quote from researcher Anthony Russell of the University of Calgary, trying to explain the randomness of the tail movements:

“The tail is buying the animal that shed it some time to get away,” Russell said. If the tail simply moved rhythmically back and forth, predators would quickly recognize a pattern and realize they’d been duped. Unpredictable tail movements keep predators occupied longer, and in some cases, they may even allow the tail itself to escape.

“Leopard geckos store fat in their tail, and a lot of their resources are tied up in there,” Russell said. “The tail may move far enough away that it actually evades the predator, so that the owner can come back and eat its own tail to recoup some of the resources.”

If you want more, head on over to Wired for the full article.

Think about how this topic relates to Option E: Neurobiology and Behaviour.

How could this research lead to progress in treating spinal injuries?

And take care not to tread on a gecko on the way home…

The Kidney

Last topic for the HL Students!

The Kidney is great – it filters our blood, makes urine and ties together so many aspects of the course – cells, membrane transport, osmosis, chemistry of life, hormonal control. We can look at how it is similar to and different from the liver and how its structure reflects its function. I love the kidney.

Here’s the presentation, with some data-y questions at the end.

More resources here:

Best kidney animation ever from

Quick guide to thekidney from

Complete tutorial from Sumanas

Bilingual (Chinese and English) guide to the kidney, with rave tunes from

More Loop of Henle action from the University of Colorado

Hormonal control of ADH from McGraw Hill

Diabetes recap from MedMovie

Kidney quiz from ZeroBio

Want to see a kidney stone?

Find out more about kidney stones here.

Nerves, Hormones and Homeostasis

The final topic for Standard Level!

For updated versions of this post (and more to do with drugs), please click here:

Nerves, Hormones and Homeostasis

Neurotransmitters, Synapses and Drugs

As usual, click on the shadowed images to see an animation.

Introduction to the nervous system

YouTube video:

Loads of useful resources from Neuroscience for Kids

Reflex arc animation from msjensen.

Nerve impulses: resting potential and action potential

Cool tutorial from the Harvey Project

McGraw Hill nerve impulse animation

Nice and simple from mrothery

Another good one from Alberta Psychology

Propagation on myelinated and non-myelinated nerves from Blackwell Publishing

Synaptic Transmission

Great animation from McGraw Hill

Good tutorial from Harvard Outreach

Another WHS Freeman tutorial (lifewire)

The Endocrine System

Good visual introduction from Delmar Learning

Really good animation – lots of info – from e-learning for kids


Tutorial and game from think-bank

Detailed tutorial from the University of New South Wales

Homeostasis in Newfoundland from Memorial University

Another good Freeman tutorial

Blood Glucose and Diabetes

MedMovie introduction

WebMD guide to diabetes

Einstein the Parrot: Talking and Squawking

This is five minutes of entertainment from TED Talks:

Einstein the Parrot is an African Grey, a species known for their intelligence and ability to build a large vocabulary. As research into animal intelligence develops, it raises questions on how we measure intelligence – are we really that much more ‘intelligent’ than our philosophising cousins?

How do we discern the difference between a well-trained animal putting on a show and one which is making considered decisions on its behaviour?

For an interesting overview of animal cognition, check out this wikipedia article and do some further reading around the sources listed in the references section.

Just thought this was funny…

From the rut cartoon blog (mature content)

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