Virtual Neuroscience Lab #1: Cocaine Study
Contributors:  David L. Anderson: Storyboards
Paul Garris: Author, Storyboards
Felix Greco: Storyboards
Darci J. Harland: Storyboards
Barbara Meyer: Author, Storyboards
Jahnavi Mithyantha: Storyboards
Elisa L. Palmer: Author, Storyboards
Stefan Sandberg: Storyboards
Allison Steinhauer: Animations, Artwork
Kevin Stewart: Animations, Artwork
Robert Stufflebeam: Animations, Artwork, Author, Design, Programming, Storyboards

Overview:

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MODULE DESCRIPTION:

Until recently, it was thought that the neurotransmitter dopamine was associated with the brain's reward system. For instance, when cocaine reaches the brain, there is a significant rise in dopamine levels. Recent experiments have shown that dopamine may play a role in reward seeking behavior as well. This is a virtual neuroscience lab where students perform an experiment studying the relationship between dopamine levels and cocaine seeking behavior in a virtual rat. The student must perform all the duties of a "real" scientist: read the background information, follow the lab procedures, select a rat, prepare a rat for surgery, perform the surgery, conduct the experiment, record observations, then publish the results. How data are collected represents the latest in dopamine measuring technology and cocaine self-administration in a trained rat. This virtual experiment is based on real-world experiments. And if the user does not follow lab procedures, as in the real-world, the virtual rat may die.

The lab is a Flash file that will play in any browser that has a recent Adobe Flash plug-in. To download a new plug-in, go to Adobe.

MODULE COMPONENTS:

VIRTUAL COCAINE LAB VIDEO TRAILER (For Teachers Only)

Below are four different video formats of a 4-minute video introduction to The Mind Project's Virtual Neuroscience Lab #1: Cocaine Study. We recommend the Flash version if your browser is able to play it. These videos were created to familiarize teachers with the experience of the lab. We recommend that students do not see this preview because it will reveal aspects of the lab that students should have to deduce themselves. There is a separate introductory video geared to students.

THE VIRTUAL COCAINE LAB [Two Versions]

We have created two functionally different versions of the Cocaine Lab. The first is the basic version, which is intended to be completed in one sitting. The basic version is a good choice for teachers who want students to complete the lab chronologically and in one sitting. The second, is the flexible version that allows students to jump to various parts of the lab. This flexible version is a good choice for teachers who plan on having students complete the lab over a series of class sessions.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT MATERIALS
  • The Cocaine Lab Professional Develoment Manual (PDF)

    This pdf provides teachers with a detailed introduction to the lab, pedagogical goals and tips, national science standards, screen captures of the virtual lab itself with additional teaching tips not found on the website. Additionally, there are supplementary handouts that teachers can copy for students to use as they complete the lab, including the answer keys. Student handouts can also be downloaded separately; see below.

    This manual was created for face-to-face teacher workshops organized by The Mind Project. We post all resources provided at our workshops here on our website to support teachers even if they have not attended one of our workshops.

  • Professional Development Tutorial: The Virtual Cocaine Lab

    The Professional Development for Teachers Tutorial provides professional development for teachers who are considering implementing the Virtual Cocaine Lab with their students. The tutorial is equivalent to the introductory training we offer in our face-to-face workshops It contains tips for using the lab with students, objectives aligned with state and national standards, and references to supplimentary mateirals currently available. Spoiler Alert: The video contains concepts in the lab that students should have to deduce themselves. There are separate introductory videos geared to students. (Length: 21 minutes)

  • Script of the Professional Development Tutorial

    This is a pdf file containing the script of the Professional Development Tutorial for The Virtual Cocaine Lab. If you are not able to view the video, this script is a nice alternative.

  • Quiz Answer Sheet
    After students complete their observations in the experimental area of the Virtual Cocaine Lab, they answer questions using the notes they wrote in their lab notebooks. This file contains the answers to the 14 quiz questions.
STUDENT RESOURCES

The resources below are resources for students who participate in The Virtual Cocaine Lab. Teachers; feel free to distribute these resources to your own students in order to meet their individual needs and to meet your own curricular goals.

  • Overview Tutorial

    The Overview tutorial includes navigation tips, as well as brief descriptions of what lab participants will do at each of the lab stations. It includes an introductory explanation of cocaine, neurotransmitters, and motivated behavior so that participants can better focus on the purpose of the lab. We recommend that anyone planning to complete the Virtual Cocaine Lab, watch this video. (Length: 10 minutes)

  • Overview Tutorial Script: Student Handout

    This is a pdf file containing the Overview Tutorial script for The Virtual Cocaine Lab. If students are not able to view the tutorial, or you have students with special needs, this script is a nice alternative to watching the video.

  • Cocaine and Dopamine Tutorial

    The Cocaine and Dopamine video tutorial covers the essential neurobiology background needed to complete the lab. It is a condensed version of the three books found in the desk area. This tutorial can be used instead of, or in addition to the reading associated with the lab. The content can also be learned by downloading the tutorial script or the pdf of the virtual books. (Length: 12 minutes)

  • Cocaine and Dopamine Tutorial Script: Student Handout

    This is a pdf file containing the Cocaine and Dopamine Tutorial script for The Virtual Cocaine Lab. If students are not able to view the tutorial, or you have students with special needs, this script is a nice alternative to watching the video.

  • Virtual Books: Student Handout

    This is a pdf file of the Virtual Books that are found in the desk area of The Virtual Cocaine Lab. Feel free to download this paper copy to view, distribute, or print for students to use. Some teachers prefer to assign this reading to students before they enter the virtual lab.

  • Lab Notebook: Student Handout

    This file is identical to the online Lab Notebook that students complete as part of their lab experience. Since the online notebook cannot be saved, teachers may print this pdf and have students write out their responses. It is a 3-page, 17 question handout with questions from the desk area, prep area, surgery area, and the experiment area. This file, as well as the answer key, are also included in the complete professional development manual.

  • Mathematical Science Conversions: Student Handout

    This handout is a supplementary activity to help students learn how to do mathematical conversions. If students need practice, this handout can be used to teach them how to calculate the amount of anesthesia rats of different weights will need before surgery. This file, as well as the answer key, are also included in the complete professional development manual.


Credits:

Funding
This module was supported by National Science Foundation (NSF) / Course, Curriculum, Lab Improvement (CCLI) Award #0127561 and National Institute of Health (NIH) / National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) / Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) #1R25RR020425.