Introducing students to neural communication: an embodied-learning classroom demonstration

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Learning about neural communication can be a dry and challenging undertaking, particularly for students without a background in biology. To enhance learning of this and other STEM material, there has been a call for science educators to embrace the use of active learning techniques. The aim of this Brief Communication is to encourage the use of embodied metaphors in the university classroom by sharing an active learning method for introducing students to a number of key concepts in neural communication. The students work in pairs or small groups, using foam projectiles such as Nerf guns to work through several metaphors for electrical and chemical processes including action potentials, neurotransmission and receptor action, excitatory and inhibitory postsynaptic potentials, and neurotransmitter inactivation. The activities are easy to stage and lend themselves well to customisation based on available class size, classroom space, and resources. Student feedback showed that the activities improved self-reported impressions of understanding and ability to convey key concepts to others. The activities thus can serve as a useful method of student engagement and help develop understanding of complex material in a neuroscience classroom.
Original languageEnglish
Article number18
Number of pages4
Journalnpj Science of Learning
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2020


  • active learning
  • embodied metaphor
  • neurotransmission
  • STEM education
  • action potential
  • Nerf gun


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