Reducing Brain Injury Misconceptions and Willingness to Risk Concussion with a Three-Week Introductory-Level Neuroscience Course

Rupa Gupta Gordon


Misconceptions of brain injury are common and persistent in the general public (Ralph and Derbyshire, 2013). Moreover, undergraduate students are in an age range where they are at high risk of concussion and traumatic brain injury, but often lack knowledge of the symptoms, severity, recovery, and varied impacts of brain injury on cognition. Introductory-level undergraduate neuroscience courses have the potential to reach a broad audience and improve students’ knowledge of the brain. It is also important to know, however, if neuroscience courses can combat common misconceptions and impact real-world behaviors like willingness to risk concussion and prevention of brain injury. An introductory-level immersive three-week course during January term was developed, targeted at first-year students and non-majors. The focus of the course was to help students understand the role of different brain regions in behavior by presenting neurological cases that demonstrate  the human experience of brain injury. Following the course, all students displayed greater knowledge about brain injury and reduced willingness to risk brain injury or concussion. Although students with a history of concussion were more willing to risk future concussion overall, they did show a similar reduction in risk as those without a history of concussion but were also less likely to endorse safety practices like helmet use. Beyond improving basic knowledge of neuroscience, introductory-level courses also have an opportunity to impact students’ understanding of brain injury in their personal and professional lives.