Exercise Physiology

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					Brain-Based Learning Is the Foundation of
          Integrated Curricula

                                            C. Murray Ardies
 The purpose of this presentation is to illustrate some of the basic concepts of brain-based learning and
                      how they can be incorporated into an integrated curriculum.

Brain-based learning is the process used to accomplish the educational objectives of the

An example curriculum for Health Science will be used to illustrate the concept.

Brain-Based Learning (BBL):

     - Instruction based on neurological processes that result in the formation of new memories.

     - BBL applies to in-class dynamics.

Integrated Curriculum (IC, aka Interdisciplinary Curriculum or Synergistic Teaching…):

     - an approach to developing entire curricula

     - concepts that overlap multiple disciplines are examined for common concepts

     - factual & conceptual interrelationships are highlighted
Problem-Based Learning (PBL):

student-initiated learning with guidance provided by an instructor/facilitator.
          - realistic problems are “posed” by the instructor
          - students figure them out with appropriate levels of guidance.
                       - determine all factual & conceptual areas and their inter-relationships

PBL is not the focus of this presentation, however...

A PBL approach to designing lesson-plans, course materials, and curriculum development
closely adheres to BBL model
Concept Map

   -illustrate relationships

   -problem solving

   -understanding new learning (in relation to what they already know)

   -organizing and evaluating curricula

Health Science Curriculum Design:

        - a PBL approach

                 - what are all those things that affect our health?

                 - how do they work?

                 - demands EXPERTISE
Developing Expertise:

Education Systems

           - provide structured learning opportunities

                       - develop minimal functional expertise

                                   - deemed important by society

                                   - defined by Standards

Illinois Learning Standards

           - science goal 12: “… provides fundamental concepts, principles, and
           interconnections of life, physical, and earth/space sciences”

           - science goal 13: “… know and comprehend the relationships between science,
           technology, and society…”

                                   Integrated Learning Concepts!
Experts are Learned People

          - meaningful patterns of information

          - content knowledge is organized

                      - cannot be reduced to sets of isolated facts

                                 - knowledge is “conditionalized” on circumstances

          - retrieve knowledge with little effort

organization, patterns, and conditionalized knowledge are integral to expertise, integrated learning and
                                    the neurological basis of learning
Experts are Important

         - developing & teaching integrated curricula

                   - provide sufficient guidance for learning integrated concepts.

Hard to Find

         - an expert in math is not necessarily expert in physics or chemistry or biology”

                   - traditional education system not designed for integrated expertise.

                                       A Shameless Plug:

                          Professional Development for Teachers
Neurological Basis of Developing Expertise

         - long-term (declarative) memories

         - easy to recall
Central Nervous System

         - brain and spinal cord

Peripheral Nervous System

         - sensory and motor nerves

    coordinates and integrates information from the
    internal and external environment …

Selects appropriate internal responses

Coordinates appropriate behavioral responses

develops memories and maintains consciousness
        We pay attention to those environmental stimuli
        that are the strongest…

        …and react accordingly for “survival”

                                       We also pay attention to those stimuli that are
                                       most important to us…

                                       …and react because we choose to

Based on all the external information received, and influenced by those stimuli that we
are most attentive to, the brain selects and coordinates the appropriate (or
inappropriate?) responses …
Some Important Parts of the Brain That Relate to Learning
                   Limbic (another very important) System of the Brain

The limbic system is
responsible for generating
our emotional feelings (pleasure, frustration,
anger) based on our cognitive interpretation of
our environment
   Basal Ganglia – (Involved in Regulation of Movement)
            is part of the limbic system

                                                             Globus Pallidus


                                                           Ventral tegmental
                                                           Locus coeruleus
Memory, Learning, & Behavior

we desire to perform behaviors which produce responses that we want

          - learn     remember       repeat

unpleasant experience

          - learn     remember       avoid

not particularly pleasant but highly desirable outcome

          - learn     expect     repeat       remember   repeat

pattern of nerve-cell activity

           - interconnected nerve cells

                     - interconnected to all other brain cells.

We do not remember facts as discrete pieces of independent information

We have memories of facts only in association with other memories

We develop new memories only in association with existing memories

coordinate existing pattern (or patterns) with new pattern (or patterns) of neural activity

synthesis of new proteins in nerve cells

            - modify ability to be activated

                      - create a new patterns of activation

Parts of the brain
that are important
for learning.

Hippocampus coordinates and integrates all
incoming environmental stimuli with existing
memories that correspond to the stimuli so
we can identify (threats?) and act

activating ALL of them

 – we then pay attention to those that we recognize
and are “important” to us

New memory is constructed
based on novel stimulus in
comparison to existing

“Strength” of the memory is
dependent on the frequency
and strength of the neural
Synaptic Remodeling

new active synapses

stimulate nerve-growth / maintain for many hours:
           synapsin I, synaptotagmin, syntaxin, integrins...

activate signal transduction pathways
            Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II,
            CaM-KII; mitogen-activated/extracellular signal-
            regulated protein kinase, MAP-K/ERK I and II;
            protein kinase C, PKC-δ

activate transcription regulators)
            cyclic AMP response element binding protein -
            CREB, Brain-derived neurotrophic factor - BDNF
          Synapse    Synaptic Remodeling

New Memory

after sufficient amounts of new growth
signals have been produced …


… they remain elevated long enough in the
“stimulus-memory specific” activated nerve

          … a new memory is formed
New Memory

activated either through “new stimulus”


through the associated memory

We remember facts as pieces of “information” in
relation to other pieces of “information” which
in turn are related to other …
Learning & Memory

The greater the number of interconnected
pathways that “intersect” the “new memory” –
the easier it is to recall the “new memory”
Memory & Motor Skills

patterns of neural activity in

developed in the same way as
declarative memories.
                                                  Motor Skills & Memory

                                                  Analyze and activate memories of possible
                                                  motor responses to the current stimuli.

                                                  Select and activate the pre-motor cortex

                                                  Basal ganglia initiate & coordinate motor

Sensory input is unconsciously compared to sensory memory - unconscious adjustments

Sensory input compared to conscious memories - conscious adjustments

Integration of conscious and subconscious adjustments results in actual performance
                              So… why is the skill stuff here?

Skills such as running & cycling (and a whole lot more) are actually just
programmed memories that are activated by a variety of stimuli; such as:

            got to catch the bus…

            starters pistol goes off at the beginning of a race…

            PE teacher tells you to run for a standardized test… and so on.

Physical exercise is important for learning as illustrated in the following slides…
Exercise, Learning & Memory - Experiments:

Rats on running wheels for 3, 7, & 28 days

         large “transient” increase in: synapsin I, synaptotagmin and syntaxin; Ca2+/calmodulin-
         dependent protein kinase II, CaM-KII; MAP-K/ERK I and II; PKC-δ; CREB

         moderate “transient-longer” increase in: BDNF

         moderate “transient” increase in: N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor, NMDAR-2A and
         NMDAR-2B and 1, EAAC1

         moderate “transient” down regulation of: GABA receptor, glutamate decarboxylase

                  Exercise can enhance learning by “priming the pump” for new growth

                    Exercise can enhance learning by “enhancing ABILITY to focus”
Exercise, Learning, & Memory - Experiments:

Can activation alone produce brain changes without the subjects actually learning anything, just as activation of
muscles by exercise can cause them to grow?

            Group 1 - traverse elevated obstacle course (very little total activity)
            Group 2 - ran 30 minutes, rested 10 minutes, then ran 30 minutes.
            Group 3 - had free access to an activity wheel
            Group 4 - “cage potato”

            Mandatory exercisers and the voluntary exercisers had higher densities of blood
            vessels than the cage potatoes or the “acrobats”

            The “acrobats” had the greatest number of synapses/cell

                                          Learning adds synapses...

                                               Exercise does not!
Exercise, Learning, & Memory - Experiments:

Learning a maze (highly visual)

          structural changes in the visual area as expected

          one eye blocked: only brain regions connected to the open eye were altered

          add in complex motor skills: structural changes in motor region of the cerebral cortex
          and cerebellum

        Learning imposes new patterns of organization on the brain in ONLY those areas
                  that are specifically activated during the new learning activity

                       There is NO SUCH THING as “cross-learning”
                               (a play on the cross-training concept)
One Last Experiment (human):

List of words to memorize:

          sour candy-sugar-bitter-good-taste-tooth-nice-honey-soda-chocolate-heart-cake-tart-pie

Later Tests:

          insisted that the word “sweet” was on the list.

                      the “brain” creates categories for processing information

                                            Where There is No Order

                                            The Brain Imposes Order
What does this Mean For Education?

Learning is an active process on the part of the student, not the teacher!

                                    Educators cannot teach!

                                      (we must create)

                                    Learning Environment
Brain-Based Education

Memories are linked together in meaningful patterns

           If no pattern exists - one will be constructed:

                   explain and illustrate exactly where the new learning fits

                               - topic concept maps

                               - course concept maps

                               - curriculum concept maps
Brain-Based Education

Memories are linked together in meaningful patterns that are
specific to the actual “learning stimulus”

  Learning in one context will not automatically “cross-over” to another one …
                   few connections

many connections
              Brain-Based Education

Repetition is key to forming new memories:

     Without constant review new connections will NOT be synthesized and the
     new learning cannot take place
             Brain-Based Education

“Strength” of the memory is dependent on the frequency and “strength” of
the neural activity during learning.

             - arousal          - focus        - engagement                - no distractions
             Brain-Based Education

    It takes time to develop permanent memories

You can’t just plow through the lesson plans, you must explain thoroughly the facts,
relationships, and the integrated concepts … REPEATEDLY!

Educators cannot expect students to remember what was said 10 minutes or even 3
minutes ago …
              Brain-Based Education

    It takes time to develop permanent memories

Think sports …
           how much effort and time does it really take to become
           minimally skilled?

                                   incorporate that time into class

             DEMAND sufficient homework to force the necessary practice…
         Brain-Based Education

It takes time to develop permanent memories

                                    Frequent Assessments


                                     Written Explanations
               Brain-Based Education

We must re-think how our entire education system is organized …

                                                  Traditional Model

                  Integrated Model
                                 PBL Curriculum Development:

The purpose of the next set of slides is to illustrate how to approach the development of a
curriculum in Health Science... (not actually describe all the details of the courses in one....)
                   PBL Curriculum Development... start with the problem:

     What Do You Have To Know and Understand to be an Expert in Health Science?

What are all those things that affect our health?... What inside of us gets affected by all those
things?... How does that change our health?... How does that change us?

How do all those things work?... How do they affect each other?... How can we change those
effects?... How can we make good things happen and bad things not happen?...

As specific areas of content are identified and interrelationships understood... The concept for a
curriculum model is developed and a curriculum starts to appear...
Known areas of study are simply placed adjacent to the appropriate concept areas and a
developing concept of a Health Science curriculum starts to emerge...

(while the relationships might be obvious... the details of interaction are not... and explaining
those detailed interactions is what education is all about, eh?)
                                                                                      all things health relate to
                                                                                      cell function of one sort or

Those things that maintain or enhance cell function can be considered to be “healthy”

Those things that compromise cell function can be considered to be “unhealthy”

          a convenient model for a general or introductory course in health at any academic level –
                      (but just not quite right yet for a curriculum...)
Because what follows is a model for a university-level Health-Science curriculum... The
individual course details quickly get very complex...

With a focus on cell functions... an introductory-level course in biochemistry and cell
biology is necessary as a starting point:

                   (And yes... the next slide is meant to be ridiculously complex)
In order to easily understand current concepts in the biological basis of human function and health, a
cellular approach is necessary; which means that the first course in a Health Science Curriculum will be an

Introduction To Metabolic Biochemistry And Cell Biology


                             Cell Structures                     Metabolism /
                                                                         Protein Synthesis


                                             Cell Division

Once a general model of cellular function has been established (including concepts of normal
function, dysfunction, and consequences of damage) other courses are then developed
and added to the curriculum:

      Nutrients... Diet... Human Disease... Learning... Exercise... Sex... Drugs...

                                      With a focus on:

                       Metabolic Biochemistry And Cell Biology


                   How Alterations in Cell Function Affect “Health”

                  (almost there with an overall curriculum concept...)
Diet & Nutrition concepts are added & model of “normal” function becomes...


       ...concepts of damage and cellular dysfunction are discussed as
       nutritional deficiencies with clinical health consequences (ie. deficiency diseases)...

The developing concept of Health is now seen as an interaction between factors that affect
cell function(s) and the response to cellular dysfunction & damage and how that
response is related to some forms of disease...
With the addition of this concept:

                    Health is considered to be the “end-result” of an

                 interaction between factors that affect cell functions &

                   the response to cellular dysfunction and damage &

              how that response affects cell functions, organ function and

                                     whole-body function...

         It is a simple matter to add in concepts of human disease to that model...

                    every new course starts with a review of metabolic biochemistry
                    and cell biology with an additional emphasis on those functions
                                 that are topical within the new course...
By incorporating various aspects of Human Disease into the cellular-function model it becomes
evident that disease is a chemical or biochemical process that leads to cellular dysfunction
and/or damage and the cellular / organ / systemic response to that damage is the
manifestation (symptoms) of the disease
Human disease, therefore, is nothing more than cellular function gone “awry” and mechanisms of
disease are really nothing more those specific processes that affect cellular function...

Environmental Exposure:
         estrogenic pesticides increase risk for breast cancer?

         inheriting BRCA1 & BRCA2 genes increases risk for breast cancer?

         lack of physical activity increases risk for breast cancer?

         Red dye #3 in foods alters cellular mechanisms that lead to increased risk for
         breast cancer?

Normal Aging:
         normal cell division processes in ductal epithelial cells of the breast increases
         risk for breast cancer over time?
Therefore the Conceptual Model of Health becomes:
Courses with a strong behavioral
component such as: Human
Sexuality and Drug Use and
Abuse start with the learning /
behavioral concepts developed
earlier in this presentation while
nerve-cell functions and
consequences of behaviors
appropriate to the specific
courses are incorporated as

Courses in Exercise Science
also are important because of
the almost universal effects of
exercise on cellular metabolism
and cell function (think
prevention here...)
       And the Conceptual Model for a
       Health Science Curriculum

Each course starts with an overview of
cell functions & disease mechanisms
to re-orient everyone to the health

Each course then emphasizes the
new functions and functional
relationships that are specific
to the course area... and
reviews relationships
with relevant functions
discussed in all previous
courses within the curriculum
Adding another course into the curriculum becomes relatively easy...

For example:

               The Biological Basis of Prevention Through Diet & Exercise...
Mechanisms of metabolism
and regulation of protein
synthesis from previous
courses are reviewed and
then expanded on with
new details...

Various dietary
components and the
different effects
of exercise that
alter Mechanisms
Of Disease are

Resulting in a Detailed
analysis of Prevention...
and, obviously, (how)
Enhancement of Health
And the Conceptual
Model for the expanded

Health Science Curriculum

                          Developing an Integrated BBL Curriculum:

1. Comprehensive and detailed analysis of all areas (courses) of study...

2. Understanding of the details of inter-relationships among areas and variables within each area...

3. A Conceptual Framework for each course and for the entire curriculum (including appropriate
         order... ie. prerequisite courses prior to advanced courses)...

4. Embed review of prior concepts into each course to enhance learning and overall conceptual

5. Embed review of curriculum concepts into each course to enhance learning and overall
         conceptual understanding...

6. Embed assessments into each course that forces review of previously covered material in
         addition to covering new material...

7. Valuable approach for course / curriculum evaluation

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