Blog Archives

E3 Innate and Learned Behaviour

Class Presentation:

Essential Biology E3: Innate and Learned Behaviour

Animations and Tutorials:

Collection from The Animated Brain

Classical Conditioning from

Indiana Univerity Song Learning in Cowbirds: Social effect on birdsong:


To what extent is human behaviour innate in nature?

Watch this video from the California Academy of Sciences’ Science in Action series: Facial Expressions

What is the effect of the observer on human behaviour when they know they are being observed?

Why do the blind olympians provide a good sample population for the study?

What conclusions could be drawn from the investigation? Why?

E2 Perception of Stimuli

Class presentation:

Essential Biology: E2 Perception of Stimuli

Hermann Grid Illusion


Collection of animations from North Harris College

Eye structure tutorial from Sumanas

Simple how-the-eye-works from BiologyMad

The Sense of Sight from Wisconsin Online

How many megapixels is the human eye? from Brainiac.


How the Ear Works, from

The Sense of Hearing from Wisconsin Online

Neat Ear Tutorial from University of Alaska Fairbanks

McGraw Hill Effect of Sound Waves on Cochlear Structures

Test your hearing range (carefully) from the University of New South Wales

Mantis Shrimp: Awesome Vision

Interesting reading:

The peer-iodic table of illusions, from

The Mantis Shrimp’s amazing visual capabilities, from NotExactlyRocketScience

The eye is not irreducably complex – it is the product of natural selection

Evolution of vertebrate eyes from Pharyngula

Owl monkey example of eye evolution, from NotExactlyRocketScience

Video, The Evolution of the Eye, from PBS:

E1 Stimulus and Response

Class Presentation:

Essential Biology: E1 Stimulus and Response

For Reflex Arcs (including the pain reflex):

Start with this tutorial from Sumanas

And this animation from the University of Minnesota

Lots more CNS animations from North Harris College

Some good readers from Not Exactly Rocket Science for the effect of natural selection on response to stimulus:

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…

Rediscovering Biology – web-based Bio course

Rediscovering Biology is a comprehensive free learning resource that covers 13 different topics-  mostly with an emphasis on Biochemistry and Genetics.

Each topic has an introductory video, downloadable texbook, course outline, learning activities and a selection of images and animations in quicktime, which are high-quality. One of the highlights of the site is the selection of immersive case studies. There is also a useful pop-up glossary.

Topics: Genomics, Proteins and Proteomics, Evolution and Phylogenetics, Microbial Diversity, Emerging Infectious Disease, HIV and AIDS, Genetics of Development, Cell Biology and Cancer, Human Evolution, Neurobiology, Biology of Sex and Gender, Biodoversity, Genetically Modified Organisms.

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