Mixed signals – psychoactive molecules from plants

Note this resource has been earmarked for redevelopment and will be incorporated into our online learning system in the near future


Plants produce many types of molecules that are used to protect the plant from predators. Some of these are psychoactive: that is they impact on our nerve cells and change behaviours or perception. Many legal and illegal drugs are psychoactive molecules derived from plants.

In this workshop students are introduced to how our nerve cells communicate with each other using chemical signalling molecules called neurotransmitters. Students can use the interactive PowerPoint to investigate how various psychoactive plant molecules affect our neurotransmitters and then examine brain scans to see how prolonged use of the molecules can affect brain function and wellbeing.

Teachers have the opportunity to further develop this program. Possible extension topics include:

  • Brain structure and function
  • The impact of drug use
  • Identification of new substances through bio-prospecting and knowledge gleaned from indigenous cultures that may have biomedical properties


Presentation (click this link to access the presentation) - this will need to be run in class from this link

GTAC mixed signals teachers notes for slides - advice for the presentation

Student interactive task (click this link to view the task) - note students have access to this by selecting 'Learning Resources' in the 'Student' menu, then searching for the tab with the 'Mixed Signals' title

GTAC mixed signals student workbook - print and distribute to students

GTAC mixed signals answers workbook - suggested answers for teachers reference