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An ongoing conversation on brain and behavior, associated with Biology 202, spring, 2000, at Bryn Mawr College. Student responses to weekly lecture/discussions and topics.


TOPIC 4:

If one is interested in behavior, is it likely to be useful to spend time exploring the behavior of individual neurons, and the ion fluxes, permeabilities, and batteries which account for them? What insights into behavior have or might come out of such explorations?


Name: hillary bobys
Username: hbobys@haverford.edu
Subject:
Date: Fri Feb 11 13:50:41 EST 2000
Comments:
i think it is very useful to discuss and dicover about individual neurons especially if we are still applying the brain=behavior argument. neurons and their functions according to processes like ions flux and permeability affect the entire nervous system because of the connectedness of interneurons. changes in the ion concentration can drastically change brain and the resulting behavior. for example, the anti-depressents on the market help people by adjusting neurotransmitter levels, hence selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. and these meds do help people.

it is pharmaceutical research and reseach in malfunctions of the brain that have led us to know anything at all about the brain. one cannot always discover the way in which an organ functions normally unless one may see how it functions abnormally. lesions in the brain have led to discoveries on epliepsy, speech disorders and visual problems. from this information, we are then able to discern how the brain might function without such maladies. it is all the boxes within boxes that enbale such discovery. because we as a class are taking the last box to be the neuron, it can only aid our learning of behavior to see how the last box functions and affects the other boxes.


Name: Richard Cruz
Username: rcruz@haverford.edu
Subject: aeon flux
Date: Fri Feb 11 15:27:32 EST 2000
Comments:
I agree with Hillary here. From the side of Brain = Behavior, it is neccesary to investigate the biochemistry of the brain. It does explain a lot of "abnormal" behavior. The danger is when people start to track down all sorts of complex human behaviors and decisions (ie, "where" is the soul?). This has been happening in neurobiology and genetics for a little while now. Two examples: I think that it was Time that had a cover that simply stated "The Infedelity Gene?". Couple this to the search for a "gay gene" or "heterosexual/homosexual" part of the brain, and you start to see how easy it can be to become too mired in finding physio/biological bases for all sorts of societly defined issues. It is very tempting to want a very neat (if complex) explanation for vast areas of human life. Think about the whole debate about ritalin or prozac-like anti-depressants. Many people have a serious problem with these drugs (or laud them) because they can so dramatically change a person's personality and social behavior. I think that this is like the nature/nuture debate. Brain, behavior, personality. They're all so intertwined that it would be nearly impossible to unravel them. If you did, what would you be left with?
Name: Mridula Shrestha
Username: mshresth@brynmawr.edu
Subject: not a waste of time
Date: Sat Feb 12 19:31:01 EST 2000
Comments:
Our class is titled "Neurobiology and Behavior." Surely we have reason to believe that the biology of an organism, and specifically the neurobiology of it, is somehow linked to its behavior. So of course it's worthwhile to talk about the technicalities of the structure and function of the little boxes. What would chemists and physicists do if they didn't understand the fundamental principles concerning protons and electrons? It is the opening and closing mechanisms of the ion channels, the transmission properties of the neuronal synapse, and the kinetics of ligand-receptor interactions that allow us to step forward in our quest to understand. These are the kinds of things that allow us to make sense of the vast expanse of what's going on in our brains. Without them, we're faced with a mystery greater than the origin of life.

There are so many things that have come out of our (or someone's, rather :) )ability to connect the nitty gritty details of our nervous system with an overall behavior. I'm talking about tremendous advances in medicine, pharmacology, and neuroscience research. How would we know how to develop drugs that target one kind of receptor and not another if we didn't understand receptors? How would we develop effective therapies for disorders of memory and learning if we didn't understand the physiological mechanisms underlying them? I guess my point is that because they are so important to our understanding of behavior, they are worth spending some time on. Of course this doesn't mean that we have to reduce all of behavior to just the nuts and bolts of the nervous system. It is just one aspect to consider and does not eliminate the possibility of many others.


Name: Anna Arnaudo
Username: aarnaudo@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Neurons
Date: Sat Feb 12 21:27:37 EST 2000
Comments:
I think neurons are absolutely fascinating!! The fact that a bunch of ions, or a lack there of in some cases, can have such a drastic effect on an individual is both amazing and frightening. Getting down to the "nitty hgritty" as Mridrula says is very important to the understanding on the brain and its functions. There are so many interesting diseases and problems that can be explained at the molecular level; the only way we could learn about them is to have an understanding of the neuron at such a level. Demylinating diseases that leave axons to be unprotected, addiction, antidepression medication- like uptake inhibitors, and Parkinson's disease (which is caused by a lack of the neurotransimitter dopamine)are just a few maladies that can viewed from the molecular level.

I definitely agree with Hillary that we learn a lot about the brain by studying its malfunctions. The classic case that I have heard multiple times is HM- an epilepsy patient that had both sides of his hippocampus lesioned. As a result, HM can acquire no new memories- he forgets everything that happens in the course of a day. Everything prior to his operation however is intact.


Name: Maria Vasiliadis
Username: mvasilia@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Crazy?
Date: Sat Feb 12 21:56:58 EST 2000
Comments:
Itís what I call the labeling game. Richard and Hillary make some great points that we can even talk further about. Psychiatrists are known for calling every quirk a mental illness especially in todayís society, where no one seems to be blaming themselves for their actions. But research on genes and the brain are beginning to suggest that these neurological problems might be valid. Today with technologies such as brain imaging, MRI, CT and PET scans that see into the structure and activity of the brain scientists might are able to see more than they ever did, but are they really looking at the answers? Scientists also now look at genetics. Researchers are finding genes that seem to increase the risk of particular mental illnesses. Since virtually all such illnesses are thought to involve several genes, it is tempting to label people who have only one of them as a touch schizophrenic or slightly paranoid. In some sense we might all be crazy. Looking at mental health in this view is a continuum. People are being labeled left and right; there are so many examples. For example, the computer geek who doesnít socialize and communicate with others well, according to theories like this instead of just being considered socially awkward, would be know to suffer from a mild case of autism. The originators of dietary rules and hand washing rituals well they could have a case of mild obsessive compulsive disorder. How about men, who canít talk about their feelings, well that could be recognized as an adult form of ADD. This list could go on, I mean look what they said about Clinton, some kind of sex problem? Doctors are blaming their patientsí peculiarities on biologically based mental illnesses, rather than seeing them as individual responses to lifeís circumstances, and are quick to prescribe psychoactive drugs. All these psychiatric diagnoses have been making us seem crazy when in fact we are just being human. I think many times these labels are covering up peoples actions and many times we use these labels as scapegoats to cover up the effects.
Name: Jennifer Webster
Username: jwebster@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Response 4
Date: Sun Feb 13 14:38:16 EST 2000
Comments:
Since we're making the assumption that brain and behavior are the same thing, I think it is the next logical step to try and understand the brain on every possible level. It only makes sense to start from the basic building blocks of the brain, the neurons. Understanding the neurons helps us to better understand the basic biological, chemical and physiological processes of the brain. I think it is safe to assume that understanding these processes will eventually give us some insight into the basic processes that drive our behavior, assuming that the statement that brain and behavior are the same thing is in fact true. In fact, understanding the structure and function of neurons already gives us insight into some more dramatic aspects of behavior. We can for instance explain that when a person is poisoned with cyanide, the normal actions of neurons are interrupted causing the collapse and eventual death of the victim. Seizures can also be explained as the "firing" of neurons at far too great a frequency. It seems certain therefore, that as we begin to understand more complicated structures and functions of the brain, we will in turn come to understand more complicated aspects of behavior.
Name: Cameron
Username: cbraswel@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Dead Battery
Date: Sun Feb 13 19:25:07 EST 2000
Comments:
Well a lot of interesting comments that I had thought of have been broached already such as the definete interweaving of behavior to brain now that we can give behavior a set of batteries along a path that control every move. And the idea of if one battery dies the signal dies leaving the transmission unfulfilled and a "short circuit" arises. If the battery continues to be faulty then the chemistry involved goes haywire or just doesnt happen, this would be the "crazy" or "mentally disturbed" aspect of past conversations. I too have read about the demyalating diseases which strip the axons of their insulation basically and the circuits in essence get overloaded. This of course with small amount of time destroys the connection because the power of the internal and external batteries a does not travel fast enough anymore, and b wears out the membrane. But it is facinating to think that each area of the brain, each set of neurons, controls something different so depending on where the disease hits different characteristics are affected. In researching the brain in this day and age it makes it more difficult than ever to determine where the environment leaves off and the chemical signals through the "batteries" begins. If brain is behavior then there is a chemical signal more than likely repeated many many times that controls the behavioral output at all time, such as there are neurons conducting signals by the millions that are controling not only how I am typing this message but what I think to write and why I think it. But I have also had input from the environment (Profs., news, mags, papers, studies) that give me a basis for what I think. Where's the line? I think it has to do with when the signals that control an action or behavior are set off to travel the neurons and produce the output. An environmental stimulus can give a sensory input to pass on information to the brain to pay attention to that, or move closer to this, stay away from that. Those are obvious. But can an environmental stimulus not also activate the behavior to be mean, be nice, be sad, be jealous, hurt or help someone? We as humans must have every signal that could ever travel the battery circuit stored and only take them out when necessary. When is it necessary? When a stimulus, often an outer one, tells us to.
Name: anonymous
Username:
Subject: weekly essay #4
Date: Sun Feb 13 21:16:37 EST 2000
Comments:
I don't think I have much to add to this week's topic -- everyone already pretty much touched upon all the points I would have made.

So to purposefully get off topic...I saw this VERY interesting case on Dateline about nature vs. nuture. There was this couple in Canada who had twins -- 2 sons. Well, when it came time to circumsize them, the doctors used some kind of electric current instead of the usual snip, snip with the knife. Anyway, on one boy it worked fine but on the other, it was a mess. The current was too strong or something and his penis was totally gone -- his mother said it looked like a charred string. Lovely details, huh?

So, after hearing about this doctor/psychologist (?) person who was convinced that it was all nurture and not nature, the parents decided on was to make this boy a girl. Now, this boy is in every way a boy except that he just didn't have a penis anymore. So all his life, he is raised as a girl -- his name was changed to Brenda, he was dressed up as a girl, given girl things to make him be feminine, and when he was of age, was given hormones to make her more of a woman.

But Brenda was having trouble fitting in and being herself/himself. (S)he wanted to do all the things that her/his twin brother wanted to do (like shave) but (s)he was forced to play with makeup -- things that (s)he just did not have an interest in.


Name: Soo Yi
Username: syi@brynmawr.edu
Subject: weekly essay #4
Date: Sun Feb 13 21:30:06 EST 2000
Comments:
I was the one writing about the Dateline story...I pressed the "post comments" button by accident. Yeah, I'm brilliant.

Anyway, to finish the story, Brenda was having trouble in school and was just having emotional problems -- I mean, who wouldn't? So, I think after a suicide attempt, the parents decided to tell the twins the truth.

Brenda immediately changed his/her name to David and went back to being a boy. He went through painful constructive surgery to get the proper genitals. There were a couple more suicide attempts and he even went to see the doctor that had messed up his circumcision with the intent to kill him but after he saw the remorse in the doctor, he didn't. Anyway, David is now married and is living the "normal" male life.

The messed up thing is that the doctor who told David's mother and father to raise him as a girl, published all these works with false statements that it was actually working and that "Brenda" was living as a normal girl when in fact, (s)he just wasn't. He, of course, did not come on Dateline and so we didn't get to see his side of the story.

A big question I had in my mind though, was when David was Brenda, I wonder if (s)he was attracted to males or females. Don't you think it'd be a great test to see if homosexuality was indeed nature or nurture? I mean, one case can't prove a thing but I'd really be interested in knowing if "Brenda" thought he was a lesbian for being attracted to girls or if because society told him so, he decided that he was attracted to males. Hmm...interesting, don't you think?


Name: amse hammershaimb
Username: dramatraumaqueen@hotmail.com
Subject: where oh where has my little dog gone?
Date: Sun Feb 13 23:26:41 EST 2000
Comments:
where to begin? the boxes help all understand the sri's, maoi's, and numerous diseases of teh world. they help oen to understand one's self. would we knew more! understanding the boxes would help ease the suffering of so many. not enough is understood as it is.

the sufferings of those afflicted by what can essentially be called neurological disorders can be unbearable to watch. everyone exposed to such illness can suffer by being the afflicted or by being the watcher of the afflicted. with such well-known illnesses as schizophrenia, depression, epilepsy, etc., does the question you pose need the asking?


Name: amse
Username: dramatraumaqueen@hotmail.com
Subject: just some questions i hope to answer at a later date
Date: Sun Feb 13 23:44:53 EST 2000
Comments:
separately from my vague response to the initial question, i share soo's sentiments on this week's topic.

questions i have wondered about for a long time will fill this section. why do medictaions tretaing depression, seasonal mood, chronic fatigue, etc. usually have the side effect of drowsiness? why are medications such as lithium prescribed to people with mood disorders and low self-esteem when one of the major side effects is acne and weight gain? - the two seem to cancel one another out on a regular basis (the medication stabilies mood, but the side effects agitate mood). how can disorders arising from seratonin imbalances cause the deterioration of ligaments in the body?

my mother - a physician - was telling me about patients suffering from depression 'healing' themselves by sleeping. one patient slept almost constantly for three months, with a nurse to take care of her eating needs and whatnot, and awoke without her life-long feelings of depression. she has remained stable. the theory behind this is that seratonin is primarily produced during REM and that those suffering form depression lack enough seratonin to keep their moods stable. can the brain realy produce enough seratonin to heal itself the way that woman supposedly experienced? are these seratonin imbalances caused by genetics or conditioning? to what extent can they worsen over time?

my last unanswered question: do people with chronic fatigue syndrome and/or fs really not experience enough REM to keep their moods stable? or is it the other way around? my research resulted in a stale-mate.


Name: Ann Mitchell
Username: amitchel@haverford.edu
Subject: charged particles
Date: Mon Feb 14 06:18:31 EST 2000
Comments:
Yep, biochem is useful in understanding neurons and the way the nervous system works. I guess what interested me more from lectures this week was the idea of charged particles bumping around at random inside a boundry or a membrane. I've been trying to think of ways that outputs might occur without inputs at the small neuron box level, and it seems to me that if these ions are just bumping around in and out of the membrane at random, and by chance something happens to this concentration, which in turn affects the permeability of the membrane or vice versa, it might be possible to have an output without an input.

I think it's also funny to think of neurons on this level because a reductionist might then say that we're all just a bunch of charged particles, bumping around at random into other bunches of charged particles. It definitely gives a new meaning to "fate"(if that exists) and what it means to be in the right place at the right time or that cheesy phrase "life is just a game of chance", because you could then think of everything in terms of the statistical probability of bumping into other charged particles. For example, if you wanted to "run in" to someone, or try to exert some influence on whatever it is we call "fate", it would seem easier if you were in a smaller population of people, like Haverford or Bryn Mawr, because population size affects probability.


Name: Sunny Park
Username: spark@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Weekly Essay 4
Date: Mon Feb 14 11:04:20 EST 2000
Comments:
Basically, I agree with everyone's comments and share similar thoughts...so I am struggling to come up with something interesting to add here. I guess slowly, we're adding details to our box model of the nervous system...I'm going to digress a bit from our topic. I'm writing on what alters behavior during pregnancy and now I'm curious how or whether the constituents of neurons or permeabilities of membrane change that result in those stereotypical behaviors found in pregnant women.
Name: Susan Lee
Username: sslee@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Nature vs. Nurture
Date: Mon Feb 14 19:12:59 EST 2000
Comments:
Currently I don't know which way to look at things. So far we have continued to discuss more and more microscopic levels of behavior, working from our general box model to the firing of APs in neurons. I know that in the forum we have been discussing observed behaviors ( such as behavioral disorders) and their relations to processes of the brain.

What I feel is still under question is whether certain responses of the brain to the environment are predetermined or if nature "trains" our brains to ellicit particular responses. I was watching some news show and they had a segment which dealt with this issue. A researcher wanted to find out whether animals of one species adopted by a different species would later on choose to mate with their own species or the species of their foster mother.

What the researcher basically did was to have sheep raised by goats, after reaching sexual maturity, enter a test situation in which there were two different species to choose from. The choices were a male or female goat and a male or female sheep..four subjects total to choose from. The male sheep would always go to the female goat (the species that resembled its foster mom). The male goats would also go to the species resembling their foster mom. However, this was not true for females. They were found to go to males of their own species.

The male and female results seem to contradict each other. On the surface level it appears the the results from the male subjects support some aspect of behavior being a result of nurture, but then the results of the female test subjects appear to support the idea that nature determines our behaviors.


Name: Stephanie Wall
Username: swall@brynmawr.edu
Subject: batteries and behavior
Date: Mon Feb 14 19:19:36 EST 2000
Comments:
The neuron is the basic building block of the nervous system. I believe that any understanding of neurobiology must begin with understanding the structure and function of a neuron. I also agree with others that exploring ion fluxes, permeabilities and batteries is important in understanding neurobiology, and to a lesser degree perhaps, behavior itself. But I feel us moving toward the assertion that our behavior can be reduced to a battery-like mechanism in neural cells, and I want to stop short of that. As others have mentioned, I agree that an understanding of action potentials and neurotransmitters helps to explain certain conditions such as depression, Parkinsonís disease, and multiple scerlosis. Certainly our knowledge of the nervous system has shed light on many diseases. Behavior does seem linked to electrical and chemical messages that are relayed by neurons.

But there seems to me to be huge pieces missing in our understanding of how our brains work. What are these electrical and chemical messages made of? What, exactly, is a neurotransmitter transmitting? How do neurotransmitters result in feelings of sadness, or the ability to solve a math problem? I have a difficult time fathoming that our behavior, from tying a shoelace to creating the atomic bomb, can be reduced to electrical and chemical impulses. And Iím still dissatisfied that we as a class donít have a definition of what counts as behavior. I think we are on the right track in terms of exploring the anatomy and physiology of the nervous system, but I want us to keep questioning how it explains (or not) behavior.


Name: melissa
Username: mwachter@haverford.edu
Subject: what an interesting potluck
Date: Mon Feb 14 20:59:02 EST 2000
Comments:
After spending several weeks posting towards the beginning of the weekend, I am posting Monday night (actually I just forgot this weekend), but the end result is that I have read numerous postings before doing mine for the week. So many interesting issues from mental illness to intersex children. I'll begin with my more mundane comments about neurons and then move to reactions to some of the postings I found particularly facinating. I do think that a grounding in the resting and action potentials of neurons is important and relevant for our class. Let's take for example the study of mental illness (since it was brought up) I think that it is no doubt not sufficient for researchers to sit in labs all day, researching the minutest of tiny little chemical interactions between neurons or determinedly jumping into the human genome to find "the gene" for schizophrenia. Determining that the reuptake of one particular neurotransmitter is lower in schizophrenics than non-schizophrenics is certainly not enough to explain the disease and the fact that there is a difference in a sequence in a sequence in their genomes does not prove that that particular genetic sequence causes schizophrenia. Yet, I think that it is just as dangerous (if not more so) when researchers do not have a strong working knowledge of the nuts and bolts of neurobiology. In other words, while we do not want to lose connection with a bigger picture, it is importnant that we familiarize ourselves with the way the neuron works so that we can carry on intelligent dialogue and be grounded as we ask the tough questions.

I did not see the Dateline special, but the story sounded interesting. In the posting, Soo Yi ends writing about answering the nature vs. nurture question in regards to homosexuality based on studies of larger groups of individuals like this...I don't think that the issue can be parcelled out that easily...as in any behavior, I think that sexual orientation is no doubt a combination of nature and nurture. I think that while many might argue that David/Brenda's brain and body were immersed in the hormonal profile of a masculine individual and thus clearly, the brain and body would develop in "masculine" ways...but as we talked about the brain is not a stagnant entity...isn't it also possible that the influences of being treated like a girl (external imputs from the environment) could modify the brain. In other words, our conception of gendered behaviors, biologically speaking is influenced both by the effects of organizational hormones which may well be primarily genetically determined and also by the effects of activational hormones which may be able to be much more in


Name: Elissa Braitman
Username: ebraitma@brynmawr.edu
Subject: details are important
Date: Mon Feb 14 21:13:26 EST 2000
Comments:
I agree with what many others have said already (that knowing some details about how the nervous system operates is important to understanding neurological diseases). Since I know a number of people who suffer from depression, schizophrenia, etc., I am especially interested in understanding WHY they behave in the way they do.

I also found Hillary's comment about the fact that lesions in the brain often lead to important discoveries about epilepsy, speech, etc., interesting. And I just wanted to add that one of the major discoveries in sleep research (the role of the suprachiasmatic nucleus in setting circadian rhythms) was largely the result of damage to that region of the hypothalamus. So, yes, I think that looking at these specifics is crucial to understanding behavior.

I also thought that Maria made a good point that our society has a desire to give every "odd" behavior a label in order to avoid responsibility for the consequences of that behavior. What does that say about our society? If we do, in fact, all suffer from some mental illness to some degree, does that mean that we are now more accepting of people who have the most serious cases? I don't know


Name: Andrew
Username: aholland@haverford.edu
Subject: essay 4
Date: Mon Feb 14 21:23:05 EST 2000
Comments:
It is important to study the neuron because the building block of the nervous system is the neuron, and if the nervous system equals behavior, the neuron is the building block of behavior. Do the sum of the parts equal the whole? That is, if we study the behavior of the neuron will we be able to predict the actions of the entire nervous system? Are most neurological diseases caused by a problem at the basic level? Maybe many of the diseases are not caused by the neurons themselves, but instead from a fault in the battery? Behavior altering drugs were previously mentioned in this discussion. If these drugs, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, are able to alter behavior and many work by increasing the amount of available Serotonin, I take that as proof that the neuron and neurotransmitters are essential in understanding behavior.
Name: hiro
Username: htakahas@haverford.edu
Subject: nurture and neurons
Date: Mon Feb 14 21:42:14 EST 2000
Comments:
i sometimes work with a speechtherapist in california. when i am there, i often help children with learning disabilities. there, i have found out that many of the children in a special day class have a poor family with a single parent, no parents but grandparent(s), or one of the parents in jail, and lots of siblings. assuming that brain=behavior, some errors in their brains cause the children to have learning disabilities. it may be a lack of a specific neurotransmitter. the wrong components of some neurons or incorrect arrangemet of the neurons which make up a bigger box may also result in the errors. i wonder how the environment, the family situation in this case, affect the children's brain to produce some errors.
Name: Laurel
Username:
Subject:
Date: Mon Feb 14 21:56:15 EST 2000
Comments:
Iím also having a hard time coming up with something novel on the topic of Ďis the microscopic useful in understanding the macroscopicí. Weíre all clearly in agreement that it is, otherwise biochemists would be bored and/or unemployed. Since I am neither biologist nor biology major (perhaps in the minority in this class?), Iím interested in discovering specifically how the ion concentrations, arrangement of neurons, etc. affect our behavior. How do hormones fit into this picture? What about nutrition, environment, and genetics? I also share Sunny's interest in behavioral and biological changes in a woman's body during pregnancy--good paper idea! I will try to be more verbose/original for next week's forum!
Name: chrissy
Username: cpili@haverford.edu
Subject: neurons neurons neurons
Date: Mon Feb 14 22:33:58 EST 2000
Comments:
I think it is essential that we discover exactly how neurons operate- especially if we continue to equate behavior with the brain. For the most part, this point has become repeatedly redundant. If the brain equals behavior, then the neurons are the building blocks for our behavior and the man- made world around us. Because the material world has been completely constructed by man, alone...then yes, it is 100% necessary to pay attention to the physical and functional sides of these neurons, ions, batteries etc This would allow us to have deeper insight not only into the surrounding universe but also to how we relate to each other as humans on every level.

This class strikes me as being very different from any other bio class I have taken because it is so philosophical at times. It is somewhat refreshing to give science that extra "edge"- we actually link a science class which is usually non biased and not really open to emotional interpretation to how we interact spiritually emotionally to others. However, because we deal with more than the behavioral part of humans, we first have to start with the fundamentals of just how the brain functions as a physical unit. In this sense, as Hilary pointed out, we can detect certain illnesses and changes in the brain just from physical and tangible evidence that can possibly explain why we react certain ways at times.


Name: Laura
Username: lchivers@brynmawr.edu
Subject: others comments
Date: Mon Feb 14 23:22:34 EST 2000
Comments:
I agree with most of what everyone else has said. Studying the neuron and how it works gives us important insight into what may cause disorders and how better to treat them. If drugs weren't able to somehow affect the nervous system and combat symptoms of a problem, then they wouldn't be used. But because drugs are able to affect neurons, by hindering rapid reuptake mechanisms, inhibiting enzymes that break down neurotransmitters, or those responsible for their synthesis, affecting their release by destroying the storage granules that hold them in the terminal button or by facilitating their release, they have an important role in the treatment of so many problems. Studying how neurons and neurotransmitters work help us understand what affects which diseases, and allows us to offer some type of partial solution to diseases and to change unwanted behaviors.

If we can find drugs that affect different neurons and neurotransmitter systems, why can't we just give medicine to the person who, as mentioned earlier, may have a mild case of ADD ((s)he who wrote the hand washing rule) if it will make them be less uptight? Besides risking individuality, it is because of the side effects that drugs have, as Amse briefly brought up. One reason for this may be because there are so many different types of receptors for each neurotransmittors. A disease may exist at teh site of one tupe of these receptors, say for serotonin. Howver, giving a drug that increases serotonin will do so at all receptor sites. Thus a study of the different types of receptors is important to see which behaviors controlled by a certain neurotransmitters are due to which receptors. If we know this, perhaps we will be able to create treatents that affect only that receptor so that we can reduce side effects.

Another reason for this is the regulation of neurons. Receptors in neurons are capable of upregulating or downregulating. When there is a lack of a neurotransmitter, the receptor becomes much more sensitive to it. This is what occurs in Parkinson's as dopamine levels decrease. Upregulation explains why it is not until 80% of the dopamine producing neurons in the substantia nigra are destroyed that symptoms start to appear. Downregulation occurs when there is a great deal of neurotransmitter present, causing the receptor to become less sensitive. This is why, in Parkinson's patients receiving L-dopa treatment, the dose needs to be contiually increased in order to have the same effect. thus studying the ways in which receptors can become more sensitive or less sensitive to neurotransmitters is also important.

Since behaviors are affected by having diseases, and these diseases can be affected by treatments to the brain, continuing the study of teh brain is important. We cannot understand the effects that treatment will have if we don't know how the things that they affect will work. By studying the setails of the brain and tailoring the treatment to the specific boxes we want to affect, we should be able to get rid of many of the behavioral and physical problems of the disease without introducing new problems caused by the drug or treatment.


Name: anonymous
Username:
Subject: the boxes
Date: Tue Feb 15 01:37:46 EST 2000
Comments:

Name: shigeyuki ito
Username: sito@haverford.edu
Subject: the boxes part 2
Date: Tue Feb 15 01:47:23 EST 2000
Comments:
sorry, I accidentally pressed the return key, yes its too late. My brain needs rest. Brain is behavior.... So how do individual neurons effect behavior? Although I am having trouble figuring this out myself I will try to make things clear.

As a few people have mentioned, drugs that effect the neurons(permeability, ion fluxes included), can indeed have an effect on how we behave. But then I have a question... When we behave "abnormally" emotionally unstable etc. are neurons always involved? Although it is logical to think "yes of course", I have doubts. In such cases, what are the direct cause of such behavior? What besides drugs causes this? or could cause similar effects to if we have taken drugs? Although I have read some are connected to neurons, I have trouble seeing how??


Name: Hajira Amjad
Username: hamjad@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Neurons
Date: Tue Feb 15 22:17:43 EST 2000
Comments:
Exploring the behavior of neurons is important in understanding the overall central nervous system. By studying the smallest boxes, in this case the neurons, it is possible to attain a clearer understanding of the bigger boxes, the nervous system. I do not really know very much about psychological disorders, but it seems that it would be likely that these disorders may stem from problems with the improper functioning of the neurons i.e. problems with ion fluxes and permeabilities of membranes. In examining the functioning of neurons, it may give us a better understanding of what causes mental disorders and what could possibly be done to treat these types of disorders.
Name: Laurel
Username: ledmunds@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Response #5
Date: Thu Feb 17 20:11:35 EST 2000
Comments:
Based on the mechanisms of resting and action potentials along our bodyís axons, we concluded today that signals can indeed originate in the middle of our nervous boxes. As I said in class, this was not particularly surprising to me; it just added another layer of proof onto my conviction that brain and behavior are the same thing.

What I did find extremely intriguing was the topic of limited human realities resulting from our inability to transduce certain external stimuli. While Iíve always been aware that our life experiences must be quite different from those of different animal species, Iíve never thought about it in this context. But now as I actively mull this over, I realize that as humans, we really do miss a considerable number of sensory experiences. I donít necessarily think this is a bad thing, however. I can imagine being driven absolutely mad if I had to tune out radio waves and dog whistles while I sat in Neurobiology class or tried to talk on the phone. Someone (was it Richard?) suggested that perhaps evolution played a part in this pared-down sensitivity to our environmentóan interesting suggestion. Itís quite reasonable, or at least creatively satisfying, to imagine a more primitive human that was endowed with more extensive powers of transduction. I imagine if such a being did exist, some of these powers were lost either because they were unnecessary for survival and/or because their presence resulted in sensory overload. After all, how would you be able to stealthily stalk the wooly mammoth for dinner if electrons were constantly buzzing in your ears?

One of the great advantages of being human, however, is that we do possess the ability to discover those things we cannot naturally detect. For example, we can measure UV and infrared light with spectrometers and perform a myriad of experiments that demonstrate some of the properties of the earthís magnetic field. I think the ability to explore and teach ourselves about these things if far more powerful than any physical prowess we may be lacking.


Name: Laurel
Username: ledmunds@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Response #5
Date: Thu Feb 17 20:11:35 EST 2000
Comments:
Based on the mechanisms of resting and action potentials along our bodyís axons, we concluded today that signals can indeed originate in the middle of our nervous boxes. As I said in class, this was not particularly surprising to me; it just added another layer of proof onto my conviction that brain and behavior are the same thing.

What I did find extremely intriguing was the topic of limited human realities resulting from our inability to transduce certain external stimuli. While Iíve always been aware that our life experiences must be quite different from those of different animal species, Iíve never thought about it in this context. But now as I actively mull this over, I realize that as humans, we really do miss a considerable number of sensory experiences. I donít necessarily think this is a bad thing, however. I can imagine being driven absolutely mad if I had to tune out radio waves and dog whistles while I sat in Neurobiology class or tried to talk on the phone. Someone (was it Richard?) suggested that perhaps evolution played a part in this pared-down sensitivity to our environmentóan interesting suggestion. Itís quite reasonable, or at least creatively satisfying, to imagine a more primitive human that was endowed with more extensive powers of transduction. I imagine if such a being did exist, some of these powers were lost either because they were unnecessary for survival and/or because their presence resulted in sensory overload. After all, how would you be able to stealthily stalk the wooly mammoth for dinner if electrons were constantly buzzing in your ears?

One of the great advantages of being human, however, is that we do possess the ability to discover those things we cannot naturally detect. For example, we can measure UV and infrared light with spectrometers and perform a myriad of experiments that demonstrate some of the properties of the earthís magnetic field. I think the ability to explore and teach ourselves about these things if far more powerful than any physical prowess we may be lacking.


Name: Paul Grobstein
Username: pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject: week 5
Date: Fri Feb 18 09:17:01 EST 2000
Comments:
You all have papers due next Tuesday, so (as it says on the syllabus) you don't HAVE to write in the forum this week. On the other hand .... there were, as Laurel says, some interesting issues that come up this week that you might want to share some thoughts about. More than happy to have them, so have, as usual, cleared the forum for fresh thoughts, moving to their own file last week's comments. I'll probably append to that file whatever things people have to say this week, since they are likely to be an extension of the general question of what can we learn about behavior from studying neurons.
Name: Laura
Username: lchivers@brynmawr.edu
Subject: a quick comment
Date: Mon Feb 21 12:48:54 EST 2000
Comments:
Since we don't have to post, I'll keep this short. Like Laurel, I too was strck by the idea that our reality is very limited. This thought returned me to the idea that the brain is all there is. Although we aren't wholly creating our reality within our brains because we get some info from the outside world, the reality we experience is in fact structured by our brains. We can only detect certain signals; thus a huge part of "reality" around us is not part of what we experience. And even with the signals that we can detect, our experience of them is limited to the capacity of our receptors to detect them and to the way in which we process info. For example, someone was talking abut how cats see better than us and dogs smell better than us. While all of these three species have detectors for sight and smell, the experiences, or the "reality", that each experiences is different than that of the other. Thus the brain doesn't have everything to do with "creating our reality", but it does play a lage part in giving us the reality that we expereince.
Name: Vandana
Username: vandnam@yahoo.com
Subject: topic 4
Date: Mon Feb 21 12:52:37 EST 2000
Comments:
I think it is very useful to spend time exploring neurons and what goes on inside them such as ion fluxes. I agree with almost everyone that since this course has a leading question of whether the nervous system is the same as behavior, we should study all the components, whether they be small or large, that make up the nervous system. If the nervous system is behavior, then behavior arises from things that are internal to the nervous system. By understanding the actions and events that go on within the nervous system at the minute level, we can also begin to understand problems of the nervous system and why certain indviduals who lack a certain protein are not able to act the same way as individuals who have that protein. Therefore, from understanding the biology and chemistry of neuorns, we can begin to learn about behavioral problems as well as genetic problems.

I thought that the discussion at the end of the last class was really interesting. It was interesting to brainstorm and explore issues, such as birds' detection of magenetic fields, that humans cannot sense or detect.


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