How to Make a Model Brain Out of Play Dough

by Lane Cummings

Sculpting a diagram of the human brain out of play dough is a great hands on way to teach students about the shape and function of the human brain. It allows a student to talk out the function of each part of the brain as he makes it, as well as have a three dimensional model to help him while studying or just to reinforce what he already knows. When sculpting your own model of the human brain, it helps to have a diagram in front of you as you work.

Roll a small sausage out of the play dough. Squeeze the dough toward the upper middle section of the base so that it creates a slight bulge. This is the brain stem, which helps you breathe, and controls your heartbeat and body temperature.

Take a piece of dough and roll a perfect ball, slightly smaller than a tennis ball to make the cerebellum. Roll two small twiglike pieces of play dough, making one half the size of the other and stick them on top of the ball. The cerebellum controls movement of the human body and some of the things we do via rote memorization.

Twist the two twiglike pieces horizontally, so they don't stick straight up. Turn the ball on its side, attaching it to the right side of the brain stem (when held vertically). Thus the two twiglike pieces will be touching the brain stem directly

Make a backward letter "C" that has a slightly thicker lower part. This is the hippocampus, the house of your short-term memory. Place it on top of the brain stem.

Roll out a "smile" shape out of the play dough. Turn it upside down and put it directly on top of the hippocampus. This is the corpus collosum, which allows the two sides of the brain to communicate with each other.

Make the largest part of the brain, the cerebrum, by rolling out eight or so, six inch sausages. Fold each one slightly in half, and place the first one on top of the cerebellum, at the back of the brain. Stack the next one on top of that and continue in this manner until you have a placed a slightly folded sausage around the perimeter of each piece you have made thus far. This part of the brain is the storage house of your long-term memory and helps you process information from your eyes and ears.

Roll out a mass in the shape of an egg and place it in the middle of your hippocampus, or your backward letter "C." This is your thalamus. It processes information from the outside world.

Make a piece the size of a walnut and push it into place directly in front of the bulge of the first small sausage you made in Step 1. It should be directly below the hippocampus. This is your amygdala, the part of the brain that controls your reactions when you're afraid or furious.

Things You Will Need

  • Play dough
  • Diagram of the brain

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images