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MERLOT II


    

Peer Review


The Brain from Top to Bottom!

by Bruno Dubuc
 

Ratings

Overall Rating:

5 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 5 stars
Ease of Use: 5 stars
Reviewed: Jun 01, 2006 by Psychology
Overview:

This website is an excellent presentational resource for
information related to the brain.  As of April 2006, eight of a proposed twelve modules have been
developed, focusing on topics ranging from brain anatomy and function to mental
disorders. The site is
arranged in five layers of organization (molecular, cellular, neurological, psychological, and social) and three levels of explanation (beginner, intermediate, and advanced). It was developed, researched, and written by
neuroscientist Bruno Dubuc, and is affiliated with and funded by the Canadian

Institutes of Health Research (Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and
Addiction). An additional plus of the site is that it is available in two languages: English and French.
 

Learning Goals:

There are too many potential learning goals to list;
however, the major topics are: from the simple to the complex (brain anatomy and function); memory and the brain; pleasure and pain; emotions and the brain; evolution and the brain;

body movement and the brain; the senses; and mental disorders. Modules currently
under construction include: how our faculties develop; from thought to language;
sleep and dreams; the emergence of consciousness.
 

Target Student Population:

Because the site contains several levels of explanation,
it could be used by

middle school, high school, college, or even graduate students. It also makes

an excellent resource for instructors. The site would be of use in any course
where some element or aspect of the brain were being studied.
 

Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:

No prerequisite knowledge or skills are needed.

 

Type of Material:

This website is a multi-page presentation consisting of
text, images, and links. As the authors explain, "The Brain from Top to Bottom
has been designed so that you can not only browse its pages on the Web, but also
project them with a video projector to make interactive multimedia
presentations. Simply choose the topic or sub-topics that you want to cover, and
the appropriate difficulty and interest level for your audience, then navigate
through the site, projecting the desired pages. The Brain from Top to Bottom
thus becomes a veritable museum, with you, the presenter, as the guide."

 

Recommended Uses: The website can be used as a reference resource for faculty and students and for
in-class presentations. Additionally, out-of-class assignments would be easy
to design for use with this site.

Technical Requirements:

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: Institutes of Health. The quality of the material here is excellent; the site
is attractive, accurate, and well-organized. The three levels of explanation as
well as the five levels of organization and the supplementary information
modules are all excellently written with helpful graphics. Even the outside
sites linked from some pages have been chosen with care and provide the same
quality of information.
Concerns:

The site is so extensive that it is likely to forever have
components under construction and the authors will need to be diligent in identifying dead links.
Conversations with one author have found that dead links will be replaced by
PDF files of the missing material.
 


Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths:

The diverse means of presenting the information ensure that any student will find something engaging.The site is quite popular; during Feb. 2006, the site averaged over 1500 English hits per day. It is also massive in scope: as of November 2005, the site provided beginner, intermediate, and advanced discussions of 92 different subjects, for a total of 228 main content pages, plus 44 supplementary modules and 4 guided tours. Organizing the material into beginner, intermediate, and advanced pages allows multiple levels of students to profit from the site. The author has also taken a uniqued approach to copyright or rather, "copyleft." "The content of the site The Brain from Top to Bottom is under copyleft. The concept of 'copyleft' is a method of providing free access to the results of original work and of encouraging people to reproduce and even modify this work on an equally free basis."

 

Concerns:

The strength is the concern - it is easy to get lost. There is also no opportunity for self-assessment, which would be a most valuable addition.
 


Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths:

The site is, in many ways, simply done despite the wealth of material. The pages are uncluttered with easily found navigational links and icons. To increase the ease of use, the author has included a user's guide as well as guided tours. One also can search within the site (using Google's search tool).

Concerns:

I have no concerns.


Other Issues and Comments:

I have nothing but glowing praise for this site. I recently taught
physiological psychology, which is not my primary area. During that semester, I
searched continually for good websites that my students could use for more
explanation of difficult concepts. "The Brain from Top to Bottom" was far and
away the best one I found.