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The Physiology of the Senses


Found in: health & phys ed, science, 6-8, 9-12

The Physiology of the Senses is an undergraduate course on the sense organs and associated regions of the brain that can be used by AP high school biology or health classes. Elements, especially the visuals, can be adapted and used in general middle school and high school classes as well. There are 12 sessions with each session providing animated, video, and PDF presentations, interactive practice, and links to related websites.

The animation of The Eye covers the anatomy and function of the lens, retina, fovea, receptive field, and the survival value of color vision. In the discussion of color vision it explains our three-cone system (red, green, blue), how cones are distributed on the retina, color blindness, and our ability to distinguish 2,000,000 gradations of color (hue, saturation, and brightness). The section concludes with experiments in color adaptation. The PDF covers the same material and can be used as a study guide.

The animation on Hearing opens with the importance of hearing and how the hearing impaired can feel isolated and can be misdiagnosed as cognitively impaired. The session introduces the three sections of the ear and how they work so that we perceive sounds: loud and soft, high and low frequency. As can be expected, this session features sound. It describes the four major causes of hearing loss. (The CDC reports that an estimated 12.5% of children and adolescents aged 6–19 years have hearing loss that will affect their academic achievement.) How we locate the source of sound. And how the brain processes word sounds. One of the links, The Biology of Humour, looks at how the brain processes jokes.

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