Lesson 1: Alcohol and Your Brain
This lesson can be used individually or in sequence with Lessons 2 and 3.
Students will learn about the functions of different parts of the brain and how alcohol affects those functions.
Time Required: 20 minutes, with additional time for classroom discussion
SET UP AND PREPARE
Skills Covered: Reading Comprehension/Critical Thinking/Diagram-Reading
Key Concepts: Each part of the brain is responsible for different functions, including coordination of movement, decision-making, and the five senses. Alcohol has both stimulant and depressant effects on the brain. It may initially make a person feel happy. Then the depressant effects take over, slowing brain processes. Alcohol abuse can damage critical areas of the brain, and these effects may be long-lasting. In extreme cases, drinking can shut down parts of the brain—leading to a coma. Research shows that a teen’s brain may be particularly susceptible to damage from alcohol because it is still developing. Recent research by the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism shows that the brain keeps developing well into a person’s twenties.¹
Discussion: What are some processes in the body that are controlled by the brain? What might happen if signals in a person’s brain get slowed down or mixed up? Have you ever heard about changes to a person’s behavior or movements that are the result of drinking alcohol? (slurred speech; difficulty walking straight; erratic behavior) What do you think might cause those changes? Have students complete the Student Worksheet individually or in small groups.
Critical Thinking: How does alcohol affect the signals in your brain? How does alcohol affect your ability to make decisions? Could drinking alcohol affect your relationships with your friends and family? How? Why might drinking alcohol make it difficult to do other activities, such as drive a car or ride a bike? Could drinking alcohol as a teenager affect your adult life? Why or why not?
1. "Underage Drinking," Alcohol Alert, no. 67, January 2006. http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/AA67/AA67.htm