This investigative case module was prepared as part of a BioQUEST faculty development workshop entitled Selected Cases at Beloit College in June 1999. The cases, resources, and implementation strategies were developed by participants for use with their own students. We invite you to adopt and adapt the following materials.

The BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium is committed to the reform of undergraduate biology instruction through an emphasis on engaging students in realistic scientific practices. This approach is sometimes characterized as an inquiry driven approach and is captured in BioQUEST's three P's (problem-posing, problem-solving, and peer-persuasion). As part of this workshop groups of faculty were encouraged to initiate innovative curricular projects. We are sharing these works in progress in the hope that they will stimulate further exploration, collaboration and development. Please see the following links for additional information:

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Investigative Cases
The Case: The Nerve of It All

Last year, I had a severe problem which effectively crippled me. My local doctor diagnosed sciatica and suggested exercises and panadols for the extreme pain. The panadols didn’t work, and the exercises were no good because of the pain.

So in desperation and after a colleague recommended it, I went to an acupuncturist who cured me totally after 4 sessions. I gained an improvement within 2 hours of each session, and I have not had a relapse in 12 months.

I have never had acupuncture before, nor have I ever had any ”alternative” medical treatments before this episode. I am 53.

Case Author:
Uma Garimella University of Central Arkansas
Madelyn Wilson Three Rivers Community College

Case Analysis

How does the body feel pain?

What are the systems involved?

What is the physiology behind methods of pain management?

Name three types of alternative medicine.

What are the common concerns of alternative medicine?

Recognize potential issues

Brainstorm for connections

How will you proceed to find the answers to your questions?

Option: Include a know / need to know chart like the one below:

What do you know?
What do you need to know?

Learning Goals


At the completion of this project, the students will:

  • Describe the overall anatomy of the nervous system.
  • Explain impulse conduction in the nervous system and perform a simulation using Action Potential Generator.
  • Describe methods of interference of impulse conduction and conduct a simulation using Axon.
  • Based on results obtained, form an opinion on the use of alternative forms of treatment for chronic pain.



Investigations and Activities

  • Construct a concept map of nervous system


  • Simulate movement of ions
    axon simulation software (BioQUEST)
  • Simulate drug or acupuncture interference of action potential conduction using the Axon simulator.
  • Explore the ADAM CD-Rom nervous system physiology.
  • Dissect spinal nerves on the fetal pig.
  • Do a literature search to determine reimbursement policies for alternative medicine by insurance companies. (extra credit)



Anatomy Textbook

Students will usually obtain additional references or resources
to help answer or explore their questions.

Special Data Items

1. nerve1.gif
2. nerve2.gif
3. nerve3.gif
4. nerve4.gif
5. nerve5.jpg
6. nerve6.jpg
7. nerve3a.jpg


Student Products

Individual activity
Concept map showing the connections between the central and peripheral nervous systems.

Group Activity
Submit a poster display incorporating the following investigations:

  • Report results of axon simulation software by relating it to acupuncture
  • Take a position on the efficacy of alternative treatments for chronic pain
  • Label spinal nerves on fetal pig.

Assessment and Evaluation Plan

Evaluate dissection of fetal pig. Demonstrate location of spinal nerves to instructor -- 25%

Evaluate the concept map using a grading rubric -- 25%

Poster evaluations -- 50%

Peer review -- 10%

Instructor review -- 20%

Group participation by group members (5%) and instructor (15%)



Course name:
Anatomy and Physiology
Likely sequence in syllabus:
Nervous System
Time during term:
Classroom, Field
Students in course:
Nursing, Health Alliance, Biology Majors
Collaborative elements:
Group work
Additional notes:



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