CHEMISTRY NOW: The Science of Fear (Grades 5-8) Print

Objective:

How fear affects the human body What biochemical changes create the fear response


Introduction Notes:

CHEMISTRY NOW: The Science of Fear

 

 

 

Title:

 

 

The Science of Fear

 

 

Subject/Topic:

 

 

How People Respond to Fear

 

Grades:

 

 

6–8

 

Standards

Alignment:

 

 

Science as Inquiry

Life Science: Regulation and Behavior

 

Time Allowance:

 

 

Two 50-minute periods

 

 

Overview and Purpose / Objective(s)

(information, concepts to be learned):

 

Students will understand:

 

  • How fear affects the human body
  • What biochemical changes create the fear response

 

 

VOCABULARY:

 

Adrenaline (or epinephrine)A molecule that acts as both a hormone and a neurotransmitter. Adrenaline is synthesized during times of stress and produces various effects that include increased heart rate, sweating, and increased metabolism.

 

Fear—A distressing negative sensation induced by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger.

 

Fight or flight—An organism’s response to fear is to make the decision whether to flee or to fight.

 

 

Materials

 

Magazines or access to computers with color printers

Stop watches

Lab sheet (included)

 

 

 

ACTIVITY / ENGAGEMENT

(reinforcing lesson, making real-world connection)

 

Part 1

 

Create a discussion about fear with students by asking the following:

 

  • What types of things create fear in humans?
  • How do you think humans show fear?
  • How does the body react to fear? (talk about fight or flight, adrenaline, etc)
  • How do you think humans stop being fearful of something?

 

Let students know that in people ages 12 and older, the number one fear is not spiders, not snakes or sharks…it’s public speaking!

 

Teacher’s note—Fear is a chain reaction in the brain that starts with a stressful stimulus and ends with the release of chemicals that cause a racing heart, fast breathing, and energized muscles, among other things; also known as the fight-or-flight response. The stimulus could be a spider, a knife at your throat, an auditorium full of people waiting for you to speak, or the sudden thud of your front door against the door frame.

 

The brain is a profoundly complex organ. More than 100 billion nerve cells comprise an intricate network of communications that is the starting point of everything we sense, think, and do. Some of these communications lead to conscious thought and action, while others produce autonomic responses. The fear response is almost entirely autonomic: We don't consciously trigger it or even know what's going on until it has run its course.

 

Because cells in the brain are constantly transferring information and triggering responses, there are dozens of areas of the brain at least peripherally involved in fear.

 

    • Amygdala—decodes emotions; determines possible threat; stores fear memories.
    • Hippocampus—stores and retrieves conscious memories; processes sets of stimuli to establish context.
    • Hypothalamus—activates “fight-or-flight” response.
    • Sensory cortex—interprets sensory data.
    • Thalamus—decides where to send incoming sensory data (from eyes, ears, mouth, skin).

 

The process of creating fear begins with a scary stimulus and ends with the fight-or-flight response. When the hypothalamus tells the sympathetic nervous system to kick into gear, the overall effect is that the body speeds up, tenses up, and becomes generally very alert. The sympathetic nervous system sends out impulses to glands and smooth muscles and tells the adrenal medulla to release epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline) into the bloodstream. These “stress hormones” cause several changes in the body, including an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.

 

The sudden flood of epinephrine, norepinephrine and dozens of other hormones causes changes in the body:  heart rate and blood pressure increase, pupils dilate, muscles tense up, and nonessential functions, like the digestion system, shut down to save energy needed for the fight-or-flight response.  (Source: HowStuffworks.com)

 

After the discussion, have students find pictures of things that commonly make people fearful. Have each group of three students collect at least 10 pictures. Note: This can be a homework assignment. Pictures should be in color.

 

Part 2

 

Students will design their own investigation that will help them understand how the human body responds to fear by capturing the heart rates of individuals before and after they have been exposed to something fearful. Using the pictures they have collected, students will set up an investigation by using the group members as subjects.

 

Students will need to be able to take a pulse. Please refer to the following websites for assistance:

 

  • http://www.cchs.net/health/health-info/docs/0900/0984.asp?index=5508
  • http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/pulse-measurement

 

As a conclusion, have students prepare a 5-minute presentation on their findings, based upon their designed investigation.

 

 

CONCLUDING DISCUSSION / ACTIVITIES

 

Have student group representatives present their findings to the class. After the presentations, have the class create one conclusion. What did these investigations conclude? What did the students learn about fear and the body’s response to it?

 


Student Worksheet for Fear Investigation

 

 

Experiment Title: ______________­___Date: _____Name: ____________________

 

Student Hypothesis: ___________________________________________________

 

 

Materials:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Safety Precautions:

 

________________________________________________________________

 

________________________________________________________________

 

Procedure:

 

  1. ___________________________________________________________
  2. ___________________________________________________________
  3. ___________________________________________________________
  4. ___________________________________________________________
  5. ___________________________________________________________

 

Data and Observations:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Close NBC Learn

FILTERING

If you are trying to view the videos from inside a school or university, your IT admin may need to enable streaming on your network. Please see the Internet Filtering section of our Technical Requirements page.

DVDs AND OTHER COPIES

Videos on this page are not available on DVD at this time due to licensing restrictions on the footage.

DOWNLOADING VIDEOS

Subscribers to NBC Learn may download videos and play them back without an internet connection. Please click here to find out more about subscribing or to sign up for a FREE trial (download not included in free trial).

Still have questions?
Click here to send us an email.

Close NBC Learn

INTERNATIONAL VISITORS

The Science of the Olympic Winter Games videos are only available to visitors inside the United States due to licensing restrictions on the Olympics footage used in the videos.

FILTERING

If you are trying to view the videos from inside a school or university, your IT admin may need to enable streaming on your network. Please see the Internet Filtering section of our Technical Requirements page.

DVDs AND OTHER COPIES

The Science of the Olympic Winter Games is not available on DVD at this time due to licensing restrictions on on Olympic footage.

DOWNLOADING VIDEOS

Subscribers to NBC Learn may download videos and play them back without an internet connection. Please click here to find out more about subscribing or to sign up for a FREE trial (download not included in free trial).

Still have questions?
Click here to send us an email.

Close NBC Learn

Choose your product

NBC Learn K-12 product site
NBC Learn Higher Ed product site

For NBC Learn in Blackboard™ please log in to your institution's Blackboard™ web site and click "Browse NBC Learn"

Close NBC Learn

If you have received a new user registration code from your institution, click your product below and use the "Register now" link to sign up for a personal account.

NBC Learn K-12 product site
NBC Learn Higher Ed product site

For further assistance, please contact our NBC Learn Support Team and we'll be happy to assist you.

Start Your Free
day
Day Trial!