Sowing the Seeds of Neuroscience - Botanical Heart Throbs: Investigating the Effects of Plant Extracts on Heart Rate in Lumbriculus Worms

This lesson should be taught after completing the Infusions & Decoctions: Preparing Plant Extracts lesson. Students will observe and count the heart rate of Lumbriculus worms with and without the addition of a plant extract. They will learn how chemical transmission works in the nervous system and circulatory system, using two plants as case studies: foxglove and valerian. In the lab portion, students will explore how plant extracts act as stimulants or depressants and effect the circulatory system of Lumbriculus. Because their circulatory system can be easily viewed, Lumbriculus are a widely used model organism. This lesson is part of the Sowing the Seeds of Neuroscience Series.


What's in the Lesson Plan:

  • Teacher instruction guide
  • Student handouts
  • Laboratory instructions
  • Extensions and additional resources

Grade Level(s):

6,  7, 

Student Skills Targeted:

  • Understanding that model organisms are non-human organisms that can be used to make discoveries that help us understand the human brain and body
  • Understanding how neurotransmission and the circulatory system work
  • Understanding the difference between depressants and stimulants and how they affect the nervous and circulatory systems

Time / Duration:

  • 2 class periods


  • Plant extracts from Infusions & Decoctions lab and Lumbriculus worms
  • Copies of student handouts
  • Safety goggles and gloves
  • “Tape-well slide”, cover slip, conditioned water, medicine cup, plastic pipette, timer, click counter, 100ml beaker, 10 ml graduated clylinder, 10 ml graduated cylinder, lab tape
  • Dissection or compound microscope
  • USB microscope camera
  • Computer with projector

Alignment with National Standards:

  • Next Generation Science Standards
  • Common Core Standards: English Language Arts


  • English

Complete Lesson