Elements for High School STEM didactic activities from International Neuroscience Meeting



This publication derived from participation as biologist didactic – researcher to “European Synapse Meeting ”, Milan University 4 – 6 December 2017 . It was very interesting to present in Meeting my abstract and poster about didactic neuroscience research and to know integrated and innovative informations about researches in modern international neuroscience sectors transferable in motivating didactic project.

Synapse is important to educate high school students to understand modern brain science. The aim of my didactic project, in which was inserted this Meeting participation, is to create new didactic science STEM strategies for modern communication about neuroscience and synapse in High School working as didactic – researcher with protagonist students. Innovative research about strategic didactic activities for learning biological neuroscience of synapse for high school classes, also modern concepts about plasticity and connectivity.

Key Words

Brain science; plasticity;connectivity; glutamate receptors; synapse; neuromodulation; neurodegenerative disease; interdisciplinary methods; channel proteins; modern didactic strategies; STEM inquire methods; didactic teacher – researcher; optogenetics. 


In teaching modern neuroscience topics in high school is very important to link school research activities with science world, learning innovative developments and limits of modern brain science.  It is very interesting for biologist researcher – didactic beginning from the analyze  international synapse researches, the core of studies, to understand different aspects of interdisciplinary methods to investigate the brain. Concepts, experimental descriptions, considerations, analyses of networks disfunctions, limits of results obtained , studies about presynaptic and postsynaptic channel proteins, for example presynaptic calcium channels present on the membrane of neurons; important functional properties of neurons were presented by different international relators during Meeting. References also about synaptopathies caused by mutations of synaptic proteome with defects associated to ribosome functions, remodelling also structure cytoskeleton and structure of actin protein. In my case all contents, informations, considerations were very useful and it will possible to transfer in motivate way different key elements of Meeting. Both in didactic project of high school classes itinerary about integration between proteomic, genomic and biomedicine, both in didactic seminary during innovative course for science teachers that I have created and in which I will be one relator.


From the basic concepts about chemical synapses about rule of neurotransmitters in neuronal communication, it is very interesting to promote an interdisciplinary analyse beginning with protein receptors important for plasticity of the brain: for example Glutamate protein receptors (NMDA  and AMPA) . The brain is the most complex machine that exist and unlike other organs does not appear to have a functional unit.

During Meeting were presented seminaries “Synaptic physiology in Alzheimer’s Disease” in which relator Juan Pita Almenar spoken with clarity about differences between computer and brain, usually compared to our most advanced technology developments. Unlike computers, brain are analogic not digital, contents addressable memory not bits, synapses are more complex than electrical logic gates (transistors), parallel processing not  modular and self organizing system. In the brain there are 90 billion of neurons, 900 trillion of synapses, 90 per cent glutamatergic. Disfunctions in neuron connections, that result from synapses deficit, appear to be important for cognitive alterations associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Loss of synapses occurs early in neurogeneration diseases, important aspect emerging during seminary is if is possible to discover neuromodulation all factors (to understand better rule of  phosphorylation of some proteins and neuroprotection factors).

In my terminal High School classes, before Meeting, I worked with students about Glutamate Protein Receptors implicated in memory mechanisms and neurodegenerative diseases. I drove students for little group in ICT surfing activities using Bioinformatic Data Protein Bank (PDB), searching proteomic informations about chemical structures (aminoacid numbers, per cent of alfa helixes and beta sheets, year of discoveries and techniques, receptors weight), the rule of these proteins in normal plasticity during modulation of neuronal communication, potentiation or depression.


Plasticity is a key concepts in modern science as also presented for different aspects during Meeting. After learning fundamental elements of neuroscience with important concepts, I ask to my students to tell in simple way what is for them “neuroplasticity”.

Plasticity for students is “the brain ability to reorganize itself by new connections between neurons:  throughout life”

What is neuroplasticity caused by? Physiological factors and pathological factors.

  1. PHYSIOLOGICAL CAUSES: learning; automatic behaviour; reactions to positive damaging stimuli
  1. PATHOLOGICAL CONDITIONS: After a brain damage are consolidated circuits break down; brain areas replaced by parallel circuit: re-educational path.


A lot of elements presented during Neuroscience Meeting were very interesting to create new didactic STEM path with students. In the first, from all reports was evidence that neuroscience is a multisciplinary science. For the  development of brain science are necessary collaborations between scientists with different skills and with different experimental activities of many disciplines (molecular biology, neuroelectrophysiology, biochemistry, genetics, bioinformatics, pharmacology). In this way should be taught elements of neuroscience neuroscience in high school, with interdisciplinarity approaches and with STEM enquire methods. Active biology researcher  teachers to integrate in neuroscience itinerary the ideas of science world. Not only

students participating in passive way to science seminaries, but biology teachers transmitting in active way some elements from modern science to create innovative project with our students.

Other aspects interesting for High school emerging during International Synapse Meeting are about using Model Organisms . In particularly, mouse Model to study Alzheimer’s disease with  trangenic models AD introduced in 90’s years (APP mice), with mutations in APP (Apoprotein)

in human fundamental to determinate AD. In the years were created different generations of Alzheimer’s disease mouse models creating also models that permit to investigate also the role of TAU protein in pathology of local  microcircuits in the brain. Other innovative aspect was presented by relator Pierre Paoletti,  Optogenetics that links genetics, pharmacology and optical control with the possibility to manipulate receptors with UV photoinactivation , the possibility to describe proteins conformation mobility and introducing new functions into proteins with also positive and negative allosteric modulation of glutamate receptors.


I think that an aspect very innovative for application in high school classes is the data base SYNGO, Synapse Consortium – Synapse Gene Ontology presented by relator Matthijs Verhage. It is a collection of different informations about genes in different species, proteins, experimentals, 3D images about synapse  brain regions. Biology teachers that plan in didactic itinerary some bioinformatics activities can to use some contents of this database for aspects of brain studies with students. In this way is possible to construct new activities as teacher researcher with  students consulting some parts of this bioinformatic bank. In my educational synapse path is important the possibility to integrate different elements of this Meeting realizing in terminal high school classes, teacher – researchers write itinerary of didactic project to improve critical thinking and creative skills. It is in fact  possible for biology teachers to construct and to guide students with motivating strategies, presenting new aspects and limits of actually researches about brain to work as didactic – researchers. Work as didactic researcher analyzing with students in groups biochemical and physiological innovative dates,  relationship between molecules of neuronal communication, learning by doing also about pathological mechanisms of Alzheimer ‘s disease (AD). Others aspects interesting for high school didactic project is about Meeting seminaries relationship neuronal mechanisms and circuits underlying social novelty exploration with implication in Autism Disorder and behavior cognition with evaluation interneurons number and genes for control elaborations knowledge.


Marina Minoli, Michele Mazzanti, “Didactic of Neurodegenerative disease in High School”, New Secondary magazine, Studium Editor 11/2017

Marina Minoli,” Elements of innovation in didactic of biology: educate to System Biology with bioinformatics”, Emmeciquadro magazine for high school teachers, in press 2017

Marina Minoli, “Elements of didactic innovation for neuroscience: synapse for high school, Abstract and Poster,  “European Synapse Meeting 2017”, Milan University 4 – 6 December.

Article by: Marina Minoli, University Science Didactic Expert, Biologist Tenured High School Teacher, ONBI and Royal Society of Biology Member.

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