Week 5

Week 5 (Feb 11 -17, 2013) – WRAPPING UP – TEACHING THAT CHANGES THE BRAIN

During this week participants will

  • review important concepts about the brain and learning
  • speculate how to improve practice based on concepts about the brain and learning
  • discuss what they have acquired for their teaching toolkit and assess their own learning during the session
  • evaluate the workshop

Week 5 Tasks 

Task 1 – Summing Up

Read the text Braining up Your English Lessons, which contains some important ideas about the brain and learning, all taken from the book The Art of Changing the Brain, by James Zull.

I rearranged the text from the book „The Art of Changing the Brain“ by James Zull and created a power point presentation. In this form, it is much more clearer for reading. Here it is:

Task 2 – Speculating

 

a. From a brain-functioning perspective, speculate what could be wrong in the situations below. What other strategies could be more effective?

1) A group of students seem not to understand the target content of the unit. The teacher has been very patient and willing to help the students. The teacher has repeated the explanation several times, but they still don’t understand. Both the teacher and the students feel frustrated.

2) A teacher spends several hours preparing a beautiful lesson. In class, students have fun and do the activity in 5 minutes. Later, while correcting the students’ tests, the teacher is disappointed at the student’s

poor retention of that specific content. 

3) Students did poorly on a vocabulary exercise in the test. The teacher doesn’t understand it because they seemed to have understood the vocabulary in the class when the teacher taught that content.

My reflections:

Maybe teacher didn’t stress enough the main conclusions and ideas, key words, and maybe the lack of repetition occurred! These are the main reasons that stop the transition of the informations from short-term  to long-term memory!

So, the recommandations would be:

  • engage students to make notes during the lessons which could help them to repeat the material
  • force them to write down the key words
  • motivate them to repeat the lesson. It could be done during the last 5-10 minutes of the lesson or the tascher could instruct them to repeat the lesson as soon as they come home, when the material from the lesson is still fresh! It would be the best if students could repeat it once more during that day, becouse, the act of repeating makes the information remembered  and stored in long-term memory!

Task 3 – Portfolio Entry

a. Choose one of the case studies below. Think about how the knowledge you have acquired so far about the brain and learning could help the teacher deal with the situation described in the case study you have chosen. Add your personal views to your portfolio.

 

CASE 1Pedro has attended EFL classes since he was a kid. His native language is Portuguese. Pedro is a demonstrably clever thirteen-year-old boy who has the ability to use English fluently. However, in his EFL classes he misbehaves, disturbs his companions, insists on responding to his teacher in Portuguese, and is perpetually distracted and restless. His teacher calls his attention every single class with no effective result. Pedro almost never does homework, fails marginally at the end of the semester, is benefited by the bonus class opportunity, and ends up passing with a low final average. Pedro is infamous among the group of teachers in the institution.CASE 2

Victoria has learning difficulties and copes with the problems connected to her parents, who are in the process of a tempestuous divorce. Her major difficulty lies in keeping a focus on the subject, but she really wants to learn. Her teacher sends her regularly to emergency help classes and she attends hopefully, but the results are less than their mutual desire. The teacher also contacts Victoria’s parents at predictable intervals, asking for their input and encouragement with regard to homework and study for tests. Victoria is afraid of her parents’ reaction to her low grades. She’s also afraid of being in the spotlight, so it’s hard to get her to participate in class.

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My reflections upon Task 3

I‘ve chosen the Victoria’s case.

As she has a learning difficulties, she needs to learn from rearranged learning materials! I assume that she would be more successful in learning if she were exposed to small amounts of text. First, the lesson should be presented as a whole by 2 or 3 main sentences, and than sepparated in several parts conviniant for learning and catching the main ideas Finally, she could repeat all main ideas from each part! She should get verbal praises that would encourage her to speak publicly and explain everything she learned about! That would create a pleasant atmosphere that should enable the learning process. She should be awarded with the grade. All these motivators should open her mind for the concious capability of learning. Also, good marks should be a reason for the praise given by her parents. 

Maybe the teacher could speak to Victoria’s parents and explain them that their reaction is very important for Victoria’s learning capabilities! If she would be motivated by her parents to learn, she would be more successful! That would be the reward for learning that would strengthen her personality!)

She should also be instructed to have a constant time and place for learning (that is a sign for learning); to have a learning schedule; to repeat the lesson, to use learning visual mind-maps that would facilitate her learning and knowledge…

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Week 4

Week 4 Tasks 

One basic principle about the brain is that brains are wired differently.

Every brain is different partly because our experiences wire our brains differently.

What we do and learn in life physically changes what our brain looks like—it literally rewires it.

The various regions of the brain develop at different rates in different people.

No two people’s brains store the same information in the same way in the same place.

The single most important factor in learning is the existing networks of neurons in the learner’s brain.

What do we call the existing neuronal networks? PRIOR KNOWLEDGE.

Prior knowledge is physical. It builds as brains physically change and it is held in place by physical connections. 

 

We know that prior knowledge is the starting point for  the formation of new knowledge, that is, no new knowledge is built from scratch.

Prior knowledge is the beginning of new knowledge.

From a brain perspective, this means that the existing neuronal networks are very important for new learning to take place.

Task 1 – Dr. Medina’s Video

 

a. Watch this video by John Medina about schemas and experience yourself the importance of Prior Knowledge – it’s all about mental schemas and it’s influence on one’s learning processes and, also, future knowledge. Prior knowledge can shape how one memorizes and stores the informations!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=mzbRpMlEHzM

Here is some more from John Medina and his book „The brain rules“ – fantastic videos about different aspects of the brain functioning:

http://www.youtube.com/user/brainrulesbook?feature=watch

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I’ll add that mental schemas are very important while learning! They function as organizators of the process of receiving informations. The way we’ll accept certain information literally depends on the schema that is engaged! Thus, two different people understand the same situation on different ways!

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Task 2 – The Present Perfect

 

In some languages (e.g. Portuguese and Spanish) there is no such verb tense as the Present Perfect.

Speculate, from a brain perspective, how easy or difficult for a Portuguese or Spanish adult learning English as a foreign language it might be to become fluent in the use of the Present Perfect and how you’d introduce the grammar point to the students, considering their lack of prior knowledge. 

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Here are my speculations:

  • It would be difficult becouse students have no such a schema related to the use of Present Perfect Tense! Here, in Serbia, people are also not familliar to this tense! 
  • What teacher could do? First of all, he could tell students that they will learn something totally new and strange to them, so that they would be prepeared to creat a new mental schema! The rule of making this kind of tense still means nothing to them – it’s a simple bunch of words!!
  • I suggest that techer could use many primers to show how Present Perfect „works“. This is, in cognitive  terms, inductive way of learning – from concrete primers towards abstractive rules! This will lead students to feel the implementation of new mental schema.
  • Further more, they could try to use Present Perfect on the primers of their own! This concludes both trying and making mistakes, but, maybe that is the best way to learn. Here in Serbia we use to say: The mistakes are the path towards learning!
  • Finally, they could be presented to the rule of making Present Perfect Tense again, and this time, the rule is something close to their experience and feelings!

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Task 3 – Temple Grandin

This is the story about authistic person who had very difficult childhood and schooling, but but managed to finish college and, finally, became a renowned expert both on autism and livestock! Her story is encouraging for parents of authistic children, but also attracted the attention of neurologists.

http://autism.about.com/od/whoswhoinautism/f/TempleGrandin.htm

and

https://www.dropbox.com/s/ww3bs7byotm16rt/TempleGrandin_Final.wmv

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wt1IY3ffoU

– this one is an extraordinary video about authism, presented by Temple Grandin!

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I find her life story very interested. Here is what I found about similar person – Daniel Tamet, also authistic, with Asperger’s syndrome (he has an extraordinary abilities of synestheasia, memorizing numbers, learning new languages such as islandic, which is very hard for learning, in only a week, etc! In spite of this, he could never learn to drive a car, because of the lack of his spatial abilities!!)

Watch the video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xd1gywPOibg&feature=related

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Conclutions from both primers are:

Learning about Temple Grandin’s life history helps us to understand that

 
>>> There’s not a single kind of intelligence. There are multiple intelligences;
>>> There’s not one single kind of creativity. We can be creative in a number of ways;

>>> Being handicap in some areas may allow the plasticity of the brain to emerge and to give us new capabilities that we might otherwise not have. 

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Task 4 – Learn about Cheryl’s Experience 

Link 1 How do you learn best?

Link 2 What makes it easy for your brain to learn?

Link 3 Choice in Projects

Link 4 Studying for tests

Link 5 What makes it hard for your brain to learn in school?

The videos are loaded at YouTube.com

Task 5 – Portfolio Entry – What have I learned this week

These are some suggested web-tools to fulfill this task:

 

Go! Animate Videos

Make Belief

Chogger

Storybird

Infogr.am

Easel.ly

Visual.ly

Mural.ly

Linoit

Glogster

I used Linoit and here is the result:

http://linoit.com/users/Simonida/canvases/The%20best%20way%20to%20learn

Week 4 – Comic about motivation

Task 5 – Portfolio Entry

We are all wired differently, but still, people have something in common. It refers to our motivation which depends on two related things: one’s knowledge of what is worth the effort and one’s feeling towards it! If one component is missing, motivation is not complete!

Proposed digital tools for this task are:

Some Digital Tools that we might be interested in exploring for our blog entry:

Go! Animate Videos

Make Belief

Chogger

Storybird

Infogr.am

Easel.ly

Visual.ly

Mural.ly

Linoit

Glogster

motivation_3

„Clic“ on the picture to see the original one!

I made it on:

http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/Comix/

They don’t store the comics, so you have either  to take a snapshot if you want to save them or to save them as PDF-document. You can also print your comic!

How to Focus

I found this infographic in Saša’s blog – thank you, Saša:)

(http://sasasirk.blogspot.com/2013/01/i-want-you.html)

Week3 – Memory

This is the video about memory:

And these are some informations about memory:

The many kinds of studies of human and animal memory have led scientists to conclude that no single brain center stores memory. It most likely is stored in distributed collections of cortical processing systems that are also involved in the perception, processing, and analysis of the material being learned. In short, each part of the brain most likely contributes differently to permanent memory storage.

Repeat to remember: Short-term memory
The brain has many types of memory systems. One type follows four stages of processing: encoding, storing, retrieving, and forgetting.
Information coming into your brain is immediately split into fragments that are sent to different regions of the cortex for storage.
Most of the events that predict whether something learned also will be remembered occur in the first few seconds of learning. The more elaborately we encode a memory during its initial moments, the stronger it will be. You can improve your chances of remembering something if you reproduce the environment in which you first put it into your brain.
Remember to repeat: Long-term memory
Most memories disappear within minutes, but those that survive the fragile period strengthen with time. Long-term memories are formed in a two-way conversation between the hippocampus and the cortex, until the hippocampus breaks the connection and the memory is fixed in the cortex— which can take years. Our brains give us only an approximate view of reality, because they mix new knowledge with past memories and store them together as one. The way to make long-term memory more reliable is to incorporate new information gradually and repeat it in timed intervals.
Sleep is vital for the consolidation and integration of memories during the formation process. Sleep is biological creativity. The difference in how the brain handles learned information before and after sleep is the difference between knowledge and wisdom.  Learning involves 3 steps for memory formation – 1. encoding  2. consolidation and integration 3.  recall.  Sleep is vital for the 2nd stage.  The last 2 hours of our sleep is most critical for consolidation and yet our sleep is often cut short.  Sleep physically changes the geography of memories.  After sleep the location in the brain of our learning has actually moved.

Link about the memory could be helpful:

http://www.teachthought.com/learning/how-the-memory-works-in-learning/

Extra Video – How Memory Works – with Dr. Antonio Damasio

Dr. Antonio Damasio is a renowned neuroscientist. His research focuses on the neurobiology of mind and behavior, with an emphasis on emotion, decision-making, memory, communication, and creativity. His research has helped describe the neurological origins of emotions and has shown how emotions affect cognition and decision-making.

In Search of Memory (Trailer)

„IN SEARCH OF MEMORY“ (film) examines how the brain stores memories, the difference between short-term and long-term memory, Alzheimer’s and age-related memory loss, and structural modifications to the brain that enhance memory. In revisiting the people, places and objects of Kandel’s lifetime experiences, IN SEARCH OF MEMORY reveals how everything we undergo changes the brain, even our genetic make-up, and can determine the focus of a life’s work.

My reflections upon the memory

  • I can conclude that, for the best results, it is recomanded to match the information with earlier knowledge
  • It is possible to increase brain development (neural and synaptic) with reach environment
  • The lymbic sistem with amygdala are switching station for the brain input wich means that if one is under the stress and his lymbic sistem is engaged, the learning process is stopped
  • Memory is constructed by pattering (prior knowledge with similar pattern links with new information)
  • memory takes place when there has been activation of the brain’s related prior knowledge before new information is taught.
  • The more times one repeats an action, the more dendrites grow and interconnect, resulting in greater memory storage and recall efficiency.
  • Multisensory instruction, practice, and review promote memory storage in multiple regions of the cortex, based on the type of sensory input by which they were learned and practiced.
  • Memory is matter of the brain as a whole rather than one specific point!
  • And, finally, the most important conclusion is that teachers have a role of the main person who make a great impact on child’s brain development. That is a huge responsibility
  • Learning process finishes with sleeping! If the teacher has the main role in acquiring informations, what consolidates them is sleep! I can only notice that our students don’t sleep enough or they don’t have a good sleeping-rythm which prevents learning to be complete!

Week 3 – Attention

Week 3 Tasks 

Task 1

Watch the following videos:

Have you noticed any changes? Changes like those in following video:

I must recognize the similarity to my earlier article about the selectivness of attention, but, as an example, I used another video, created by Chabris and Simon:

They are all about one of the features of attention and memory below- selectivness. The brain is tuned to pick only some of informations he is exposed to, due to their characteristics: impressionability, size, color, wether that information coincides with the interests of a person, direction in cognitive orientiation, etc…

Task 2: Thinking about Attention

Next paragraph is very important for teaching:

According to James Zull, good thinking requires that we pay attention, but that is hard to do if someone (a teacher, a parent or a colleague) threatens us. We may have trouble paying attention to an abstract problem when our amygdala is sending danger signals to our logical brain. And the same is true of our pleasure centers.Logic and its pleasures can suddenly seem inconsequential when we feel attracted to somebody. The issue here is competition and the brain function is attention. Different sensory signals physically compete for attention in the brain, and those that are the strongest win out. It’s a physical battle. We pay the most attention to the things that matter the most in our life. Can’t we just discipline our brains to ignore distractions? We can achieve discipline when we feel that discipline is what we want the most. As teachers, we must attend to this battle for attention. We must find some way to encourage our learners to want to use their reason and guide their attention.

Qustions are:

>>>1. How important is attention to the learning process?

I’d say, it’s very important. Although the learning can happen  unwittingly, we are talking now about the  wittingly form that happens during the lesson in the classroom. The focus of one’s mind should be on the learning matter. If not, the learning process would not be complete.  

>>>2. How hard is it to keep students’ attention engaged in what is happening in the classroom?

It is very hard. I teach in a secondary school where puplis are 15-16 years old. They have many attention distractors – cell – phones for sanding messages, playing games, they simpy love to have a chat about some „important things“ concerning their friends…etc..

>>>3. What can we do to help our students pay attention?

To:

1. eliminate distractors 

(demanding to clean up the surroundings for learning – on the table should be only what is nedded for reading, learning..)

2. attract attention during learning

(using power point presentations, graphoscope with foils, interesting stories that would prepeare pupils for the lecture, maybe pupils could be splitted into groups and prepeare parts of the lessons by themselves…)  

>>>4. What effective strategies do you use with your groups to help the students to pay attention?

I use to take my pupils to some interesting places (eg. school for mentaly disabled or to the or to orphanage when teaching about intelligance), I use films, power point presentations, I offer them to make presentations… As I teach psychology, I often report about some specific cases and that is something students especially like.

Still, it’s not allways easy to attract students’ attention. They are fed up with different, useless informations, usually allowed to use cell-phones in the classroom which attract their attention, some of them suffer from sever game addiction. It is not easy, really!

Week 2 – THE EMOTIONAL BRAIN & MOTIVATION

Tasks for this session will be:

Task1

Tony’s Story is very familiar to me, because, I have in school many such a cases. When you engage them emotionally, they can easily learn and think!

Task 2 – Emotional brain 

(Amigdala, Lymbic system..) – I think this resource is extreemly important:

Task 3 – Expanding my learning

I found this presentation to be very interesting and informing!

These web-places also strucked my attention, the first one is about the importance of nutritions that influence the brain functioning, and the second one is about different parts of brain, each with it’s own functions:

first- nutrition:

http://www.sharpbrains.com/resources/2-the-4-pillars-of-brain-maintenance/nutrition-and-supplements-dhea-ginkgo-biloba-omega-3-separating-myth-from-fact/

second – parts of the brain:

http://www.sharpbrains.com/blog/2006/09/12/use-it-or-lose-it-what-is-it/.

While investigating different terms considering the influence of emotions on learning, I found astonishing video of a women (she is a pchychiatrist) who had a stroke by her self, and now represents her experience with feelings, emotions, capabilities of thinking during the worst part of the desease! It is one of TED stories:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-jill-bolte-taylor/neuroscience_b_2404554.html

There was a myth for a long time, that a brain and complete neurosystem is given at birth and stays the same for a lifespan! New researches shows that  this is really a myth! One of the brain’s main features is plasticity! Brain changes as a result of the influence of the environment as well as the changes are result of one’s emotions! The following video shows the importance of prefrontal cortex for both cognitive and emotional contex. It is, actually, the most important section of the brain for regulation and controling emotions. The greater activity of this part of the brain is, the better is control of emotions and amygdala wich is associated with the corttizol, hormon of stress! It means, further more, that training of calmness and patience has a great impact on cognitive functioning. Negative emotions interfere with cognitive prefrontal function. Social and emotional training can shape the brain and even change the gene expression in the brain! Here is the complete presentation, led by Richard Davidson:

And, here are some more resources about the bonds among cognition and emotions:

http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/10974?sponsor_id=1 The Emotional and Vulnerable Brain

http://www.helpguide.org/toolkit/immordino-yang_video.htm Dr. Immordino-Yang on the role of emotions.

http://www.innovateus.net/health/where-amygdala – from Azhar’s blog (http://azharreflections.blogspot.com/2013/01/neurosci-do-you-have-tonys-in-your.html). This page explains amigdala and it’s function in mental states.

http://www.lumosity.com/blog/lumosity-bright-science/ – luminosity blog

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8OziK-6IQI – Emotion and learning  – experiments, fascinating video

 

http://neuroscience-maja.blogspot.com/2013/01/dopamine-music.html – music and the brain (dopamin-efect) – Maja Dakic

Finally, my reflections upon this lesson:

When learning, thinking, remembering… one uses the whole brain! Different zones are engaged in every brain activity! That means that one brain function could enable or disable the other brain function! 

How can I use it in classroom?. 

First, knowing all of these new scientific facts, I could:

  • try to make a pleasent atmosphere while learning (that’s something I allready do);
  •  use extrinsic motivation by rewarding the knowledge, so that students would become, somehow, addicted to learning in order to be rewarded! That could return extrinsic motivation into intrinsic
  • try to use touching personal examples and stories during lessons, that would engage students emotionally. That would enable catching the information both on emotional and cognitive plan, and if the information is double catched, it is stronger and much more lasting!

The moderator’s reflection

These are the words of Carla Arena, the moderator on EVO, about the role of emotional brain and it’s consecvences on teaching:

Learning about how the emotional brain works does not give us magical powers to solve all or most of the problems we face in our classes. But it does help us to see many of problems from a new perspective. As we understand better about the influence of the amygdala on behavior, we might be able to help many of our students to learn better.

Learning about emotions in the brain reminds us that as we plan our lessons, we should start at our students, by considering their characteristics and their needs, not at the content we are going

 to teach. It reminds us that our students are the ones who have to be in control – in control of doing, of learning – because learning is pleasurable to the brain. Our amygdala is constantly monitoring our experience to see how things are. For example, when we see happy faces, the amygdala becomes less active than normal. It drops its guard a little. The same thing happens when we are engaged in cognitive tasks – the amygdala becomes less active. If we learn how to get our students more involved in their work, they will feel less nervous, less afraid. This might be one of the ways through which we may gain more control over students’ behavior. So, instead of focusing on misbehavior, we might want to consider engaging our students in work that will give them the pleasure of learning.

As the Brazilian Educator Paulo Freire said, “No one starts to become an educator on a certain Tuesday at 4 pm. No one is born an educator. We make ourselves an educator; we become an educator, permanently, in our practice and in the reflection about the practice.” The Neurosciences – together with many other sciences – does not miraculously give us a manual about how to be a teacher, but it does empower us with important knowledge that may orient our practice.

EVO 2013, WEEK 1

Week 1 Tasks

These are the tasks for the Week one:

This EVO session is about the role of the brain during the learning process.

Here we have an abstract of this online workshop (just not to forget):

Abstract

Learning happens in our brains. It’s a physical and biological process. Brain-based teaching and learning focus on how the brain learns best and how language teachers can learn to understand and use this knowledge to help students learn English effectively. Much is already known about brain functioning during learning processes to orient the practice of teaching. The brain and learning are the bridge that teachers can and must cross with knowledge that effectively connects them to learners.

In this five-week online workshop offered through the Electronic Village Online, participants will explore how the brain works during the learning process and they will be introduced to helpful tips to enhance their teaching practice. By the end of the workshop, participants will have had an overview of how neuroscientific research findings can positively impact educators’ pedagogical approach to spice up their lesson plans to promote students’ creativity, engagement and learning. We promise it will be madly fun and informative!

And…

this is the way the brain works! Fascinating! (Task 6)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9p2ou1IyC0&feature=related

Something about the neuro-myths:

http://www.edutopia.org/neuroscience-brain-based-learning-myth-busting

More about the neuromyths:

http://hottopicselt.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/61382559/Neuroscientific%20knowledge%20and%20education%20week%201%20task%205.pdf

Do we use only 10% of our brain capacity?

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324556304578119351875421218.html

The neurotransmission – simulation:

http://www.childrenshospital.org/research/_neuron/index.html

Neuromyths in education: Prevalence and predictors of
misconceptions among teachers

by:

Sanne Dekker, Nikki C. Lee, Paul Howard-Jones  and Jelle Jolles!

https://docs.google.com/file/d/1LkU7V57vRVSFd0xAJUVjTvZIXWsj1Wj9Hf4_U2pqR7G1eLNBpK1Dy4yMurFu/edit

And, I’d add my reflections upon the Neuromyths – Task 6d. 

The most of the statements were recognized as myths! By, I was realy surprised with several of them to be treated as myths:
1. During studying psychology, we were tought about the existence of critical periods throughout the development of certain skills!!
2. Mental capacity is hereditary! – Isn’t it? I accept this statement only partially! The mental capacity is the geneticly mximum – that is what we get with genes, but we usually never reach that predisposed maximum because of the influence of many environmental factors. Also, environment could increase our achievements, but never over that maximum!
3. Omega3 and Omega 6 have no influence on academic achievement? That is new to me!! Doctors adwice to take fish oil, rich with omega 3 to increase inteligence, attention, memory…
4. Environments that are rich in stimuli improve the brains of preschool children! This is the myth??
And here is my question: How could I become less vulnerable to the pseudoscientific influence?

 

One more animated resourse for the classroom

– the role of the brain and how it works and make connectiones with the rest of the body. I found it thanks to my coleagues Dejan Boskovic, biologist, and Irina Damnjanovic, also biologist, who posted about this animation:

http://www.e-learningforkids.org/Courses/Liquid_Animation/Body_Parts/Brain/index.html