5 Creative Ways to Teach Students the Mechanisms of Sensory Transduction

Anjaney Kothari

Sensory transduction, or the conversion of sensory stimuli into neuronal activity, is a fundamental neurobiological phenomenon. Different types of sensory neurons respond to different stimuli, like mechanical pressure, chemical exposure, temperature, or pain. Understanding the mechanisms by which sensory neurons are able to respond to stimuli is an involved undertaking.

Furthermore, the experimental techniques that researchers use to study sensory transduction are complex and time-consuming. For example, patch-clamp, the gold standard method to study ionic currents, requires substantial training and expertise for appropriate implementation.

Educators, therefore, should come up with innovative methods to teach their students about the mechanisms of sensory transduction. Here, we list five creative ways to teach students about sensory transduction and its mechanisms.

1. Engage Students with Interactive Models

Interactive models can provide each student a pristine insight into a topic by allowing them to choose their own individual way of interacting with the subject matter. This not only enhances learning, but also stimulates curiosity that encourages the students to widen their scope of learning.

Take Labster’s sensory transduction simulation, for example. In our simulation, students compare how two anesthetic drugs act on nociceptive neurons. In a virtual lab setup, they learn how to apply the patch clamp technique to study pain transduction. In fact, the students virtually dissect dorsal root ganglia from a rat spinal cord for this experiment – something that would require weeks of hands-on training in a real laboratory setting.

2. Make the Topic Fun with Games and Activities

Using games and activities to impart scientific education can facilitate a multidimensional learning experience. In this experience, students learn even the most challenging concepts quickly in order to accomplish gamified yet practical tasks. Games and activities can significantly assist in teaching about the nervous system and related subtopics like sensory transduction too.

Here are some activities you could use to teach sensory transduction:

·   Ask your students to gather various items that one typically finds in a classroom. These could be pens, whiteboard erasers, books, water bottles, and so on. Now use these differently-sized items to teach students about the functioning of nociceptive sensory neurons and the role of object size in pain perception.

·   Ask your students to perform different tasks, like writing on a whiteboard, or opening a book. Let them identify the different types of sensory neurons that must have helped them as they conducted each activity.

3. Infuse Technology into Lessons

A number of technologies have cropped up in the education sector. Some of these – like simulation and virtual reality – are already proving to be revolutionary. These technologies help reduce the burden of classroom teaching and infuse a certain playfulness into the lessons.

For example, Labster’s sensory transduction virtual lab uses holographic animation to showcase the different types of sensory neurons. Our virtual lab also uses simulation to help students visualize how sensory neurons respond to six different types of stimuli. Furthermore, the students take a deep dive into the transmembrane receptors that enable nociceptive neurons to respond to pain.

Discover Labster's sensory transduction virtual lab today!

4. Inspire Students Through Career Exploration

Hearing from accomplished professionals about how a certain subject helps them conduct their job can be quite inspirational for students. This assisted career exploration prepares them for their future. At the same time, it encourages the students to invest their time sincerely exploring the subject matter.

When teaching sensory transduction in your class, consider inviting some seasoned professionals for seminars spread throughout the semester. You could invite ophthalmologists, audiologists and/or neurologists to discuss the medical applications of learning about sensory transduction. Also consider inviting food scientists, perfumers, and/or user experience designers to discuss the implications of sensory transduction in their fields.

5. Connect Topic to Real-World Applications

Learning about the real-world applications of a subject that students have only experienced through their textbooks thus far can be a transformative experience. It can forge an intimate connection between the students and the subject matter.

For example, to connect sensory transduction to its real-world applications, you can:

·   Talk to your students about how pharmacologists use their knowledge of pain transduction to design pain management drugs.

·   Discuss the role of learning about the mechanisms of sensory transduction in engineering hearing aids, cochlear implants, and visual prosthetics.

Final thoughts

Sensory transduction is a complicated but critical component of neurobiology. The five creative teaching methods we have listed here can help educate your students about sensory transduction while making it an engaging topic.

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