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Neuroscience - Physiology - Science Policy


“Do Octopuses Have a Brain?” Knowledge, Perceptions and Attitudes towards Neuroscience at School
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Author: Alessandra Sperduti et al.

by Alessandra Sperduti, Federica Crivellaro, Paola Francesca Rossi, Luca Bondioli

The present study contributes to the question of school literacy about the brain, with an original survey conducted on Italian students from the 3rd to 10th grades (n?=?508). The main goal was to test student's knowledge, attitudes, and interests about neuroscience, to assess needs, prospects, and difficulties in teaching about the brain from elementary to high school. A written questionnaire, maintaining anonymity, asked 12 close-ended multiple choice questions on topics related to human and animal brains, plus one facultative open-ended question about interests and curiosities on brain topics. The results show that respondents have a fragmentary level of basic knowledge about the brain, with aspects related to brain functions and consciousness the most challenging. As expected, degrees of performance improve with school level; elementary school students answered correctly an average number of 5.3 questions, middle school 6.5, and high school 7.4. Overall, students show great interest in the brain, as shown by the large number of questions gathered through the open-ended question (n?=?384). Other topics are addressed, mostly related to brain structure/functions and the role of the brain in the everyday life. The survey indicates the need of more thorough school programs on this subject, reinforced by interdisciplinary teaching where comparative anatomy and evolutionary aspects of brain development are covered.
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