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Please feel free to use this PowerPoint presentation in the classroom. It is intended to support the KS3 & KS4 curriculum and the
Scottish S3-S4 curriculum.

The structure of the brain and how the central nervous system works, including information about what happens at a synapse and
information about how our brains adapt and change.

Specific curriculum areas include:

KS4 GCSE Biology Syllabuses AQA Scottish S3-S4 science
11.1 How do human bodies respond to changes inside them Biological Systems - Body systems and Cells
OCR and their environment? SCN 2-12a I have explored the structure and
3.3 Fundamental Scientific Processes. Module B1d The nervous system The nervous system enables humans to react to their function of organs and organ systems and
Foundation tier only: low demand surroundings can relate this to the basic biological
Name and locate the main parts of the nervous system, to include: and coordinate their behaviour. processes to sustain life.
o the central nervous system (CNS) (brain and spinal cord) Information from receptors passes along cells (neurones)
o the peripheral nervous system in nerves to the brain. The brain coordinates the response. Scottish Certificate in Education, Standard
Both tiers: standard demand The role of receptors, sensory neurones, motor neurones, Grade Biology. Topic 5: The body in action.
Name and locate the parts of a motor neurone: cell body, axon and relay neurones, synapses and effectors in simple reflex Subtopic c: Coordination
sheath. actions. 18) Examine the gross structure of the nervous
Recall that the nerve impulse passes along the axon of a neurone.
system of a mammal.
Higher tier only: high demand Edexcel 19) Obtain and present information on the flow
Recall that the gap between neurones is called a synapse. Topic 2: Responses to a changing environment of information in the nervous system.
Describe how an impulse triggers the release of a transmitter 2.19) Recall that the central nervous system consists of the State that the nerves carry information from
substance in a synapse and how it diffuses across to bind with receptor brain and spinal cord and is linked to sense organs by the senses to the central nervous system and
molecules in the membrane of the next neurone causing the impulse nerves from the central nervous system to the
to continue. 2.20) Explain the structure and function of dendrons and muscles.
axons in the nervous system 20) Obtain and present information on the
OCR 21st Century Science 2.21) Describe how stimulation of receptors in the sense three main parts of the brain.
MODULE B6: BRAIN AND MIND OVERVIEW organs sends electrical impulses along neurones Identify the cerebrum, cerebellum and the
B6.2 How is information passed through the nervous system? Structure of 2.23) Describe the structure and function of sensory, relay medulla and state their functions in simple
motor neurons; transmission of electrical impulses, including synapses. and motor neurones and synapses terms.
Your brain and nervous system

How does it work?

your nervous system

is divided into the central

nervous system (CNS)
which is the brain and
spinal cord

Medical Art Service, Munich /, Wellcome Images

Credit Medical Art Service, Munich /, Wellcome Images

and the
peripheral nervous system
which connects everything
to the brain and spinal cord

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your brain
interprets the information it gets
though your senses in order to
monitor and regulate your body

as well as being responsible for

thinking, learning, memory

and emotion

Credit: Heidi Cartwright, Wellcome Images

Different parts of
your brain have
different functions

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different regions have different
Cerebral cortex
functions Functions include:
planning; reasoning;
language; recognising
sounds and images;
Corpus memory.
connects the brains
right and left

Brain stem
regulates heart
rate, breathing, Cerebellum

Credit: Mark Lythgoe & Chloe Hutton, Wellcome Images

sleep cycles important for
and emotions coordination,
precision and timing
of movement

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the cells of the nervous system are called neurones

dendrites nerve endings

myelin sheath

cell body


structure of a neurone
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there are different types of neurone

dendrites direction of
cell body electrical




motor neurone sensory neurone relay neurone

sends signals to your muscles sends signals from connects neurones to
to tell them to move your sense organs other neurones

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neurones communicate with each other using a
mixture of electrical & chemical signals

dendrites nerve endings

But what happens when the signal

myelin sheath
reaches the end of the axon?

cell body

nucleus an electrical
signal is
along the axon

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signals cross between neurones at the synapse


dendrites nerve endings

myelin sheath

synaptic cleft cell body

nucleus receptor neurotransmitter

the signal
is transmitted to
another neurone across a
junction called a synapse by
axon chemicals called
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electrical impulse triggers vesicles
signals cross between neurones at the synapse
to move to the synapse membrane
vesicles fuse with the membrane and synapse
2 release neurotransmitter into the
synaptic cleft nerve endings
neurotransmitter diffuses across vesicle
the cleft and binds to receptors myelin sheath
on the other side

synaptic cleft cell body

nucleus receptor neurotransmitter

the signal
is transmitted to
4 Once enough receptors have
another neurone across a
neurotransmitters bound to
them, the signal is junction called a synapse by
transmitted axon chemicals called
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The point where your muscles and nervous system meet is called the

neuromuscular junction (NMJ)

Signals sent from your central nervous

system to the NMJ tell muscles to move

The synapses at the NMJ

use a neurotransmitter
called acetylcholine

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Your brain changes and adapts

What happens as our brains mature?

your brain changes and adapts all the time and all through your life

your brain learns and

forms memories by
synapses that are
used a lot and
weakening those
that are used less

Credit Marina Caruso, Wellcome Images

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What happens as you grow?
Between birth and age 3 your
brain makes lots of new synapses
A toddler has 2-3 times more
synapses than an adult

As your brain matures, it prunes

synapses to make it more efficient
During adolescence your brain has a
major tidy-up and gets rid of lots of
connections it isnt using
This is a critical and delicate process. It is
thought that conditions such as schizophrenia
could be the result of it going wrong
Some evidence suggests that using
drugs can disrupt this process