Note: This lesson is based on "Split my Brain: A Case Study" by Julia Omrazu and the original can be found at the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science.
For this exercise you will follow the case of Jerrod, a boy who develops a seizure disorder. You will help him and his parents decide whether he should undergo brain surgery to treat his severe disorder. You will draw upon what you have learned in the course and original research to build your recommendations. Also keep in mind how some of the technologies you learned about helped make the diagnosis possible.
Part I—Jerrod and Jump
Jerrod Hamilton is seven years old. He is an only child and much loved by his parents, Karen and Jeﬀ , and by his extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Jerrod has always been a very active boy. He loves hockey, baseball, swimming at the local pool, climbing trees, and playing with his golden retriever, Jump. Making friends has never been a problem for Jerrod. He has several good friends he plays ball with whenever he can. He also does fairly well in school, although he is not as interested in the classroom as he is in recess.
Shortly before Jerrod’s seventh birthday, he had a small seizure. He was out playing with his dad and Jump in the yard, when suddenly he stopped, his right arm twitched a little and he seemed disoriented for a few seconds. Afterward he said he was ﬁne, but his mother Karen thought he was quieter than usual. Both his parents watched him more closely in the following days. Soon he had another couple of episodes of muscle twitching and weakness. During these seizures, Jerrod also stared blankly, moving his head slightly back and forth, and for a minute or two could not respond to his parents. When the seizures ended, Jerrod had no memory of them.
Jerrod’s parents took him to their pediatrician, Dr. Madeline Sierra, who listened as Jerrod’s parents described his symptoms.
“Before I try to conclude anything, I’d like to order several tests for Jerrod, including an EEG and an MRI scan. I know that sounds a little scary, but the tests are painless and noninvasive. We should get the results back very quickly. Once I see those, I’ll know more about what’s going on.”
“A friend of mine said it sounds like Jerrod might have epilepsy,” said Karen. “Is that what you think? How serious would that be?”
“Epilepsy is one possibility,” replied the doctor. “It is a relatively common problem and there are some very good treatments for it.”
Dr. Sierra went on to explain: “The brain uses electrical energy. The cells of the brain, called neurons, emit a small electrical charge when they send messages to other cells. This is how the brain communicates and runs your mind and body.” Dr. Sierra interrupted her explanation for a moment to show them a diagram of a neuron:
“In epilepsy, the neurons somehow get out of control,” Dr. Sierra continued. “The electrical activity increases to a level that the brain can not manage. That produces what we call seizures, where people lose control of their voluntary behaviors for a brief time. Sometimes seizures are nothing more than short lapses of consciousness. Other times they involve convulsions or involuntary movements.”
Jeff and Karen looked at each other. “That sounds sort of like what’s happening to Jerrod,” Jeff said.
“Yes, it does. But let’s not jump to any conclusions. I’d rather wait for the tests.” Dr. Sierra paused. “I would also recommend something else,” she said.
“This is something that many families find helpful. Starting today, I suggest that you keep a journal or record of Jerrod’s illness. Include his symptoms, tests, information from doctors, any treatments or therapies. Document everything. I will help you, but ultimately, you and Jerrod are the ones who will have to make the decisions, and there will be lots to think about along the way. I think you will be grateful later to have a record of what you learn and observe.”
That evening Karen and Jeff called a family meeting to share the results of the doctor’s visit.
1. You will help Jerrod’s family by keeping the record Dr. Sierra suggested. Begin creating Jerrod’s records by researching and answering the questions below in a way that Jerrod’s family can use and understand. You should do further research, but you must synthesize the information you get from the research into a new form that suits Jerrod’s situation. Do not just cut and paste from the Internet.
- Why is there electrical activity in the brain? Describe how it is used by neurons.
- What happens in the brain during a seizure?
- What is epilepsy? How is it diagnosed?
What are the procedures for doing an EEG test and MRI scan? What type of information does each of these tests provide? (See here for EEG info and MRI info, make sure you follow the sublinks in the navigation bar on the left for more info)
- What are some possible causes of seizures other than epilepsy?
- Based on the information in the case, what type of seizures does Jerrod appear to be having?
- What should you do during a seizure to help Jerrod?
- What are some treatments for epilepsy?
2. Once you have researched the answers the questions, click your section's blog in the navigation column on the left and enter your answers as blog post. Entitle your blog post "Case Notes". Be sure to post your sources.
Note: You will update this page in the second part of the exercise.
3. Lastly, return to this page, click '+Submit Assignment' and enter the url of the blog containing your work. (Remember: Post the URL of your individual blog post, not the section's blog).