Biology 202
Neurobiology and Behavior
Spring 2004

Forum 2

Name:  Emily H-R
Subject:  Modern Identity: Integral to, and changing as a result of, technology
Date:  2004-01-25 13:00:26
Message Id:  7737
I'm posting this as a response/continuation/future jumping-off-point to the conversation Dana and I were having in class on Thursday about identity. It's interesting because it talks about how the individual, a specific "identity," is the most important thing in current social networking (AIM, email, mobile phones, etc). This, I think, begs the question Dana was asking about the formulation, validiity, and origin of personas that one puts consciously into the world via technology. The author of this blog brings up an interesting point in this post, that relates to the social aspect of behavior: That something has been lost in the direct contact phenomenon of recent technology. How does this relate to identity? How do we "know" that the person we're speaking to is "real" (that it is this person's main persona)? If not, is the persona with which we have direct contact any less "real"? How is this redefining the social aspects of behavior, both in the behaviors themselves and in how we look at them? It seems a bit of a stretch, or at least something that I haven't yet found the words for, to relate this to neurobio...I have to think more about it. But it's a very interesting post nonetheless.
Name:  Emily H-R
Subject:  More
Date:  2004-01-25 13:13:47
Message Id:  7738
I hadn't read all of the previous comments before I posted on technological identity (above). I want also to continue along the thread established by Laura and Anjali, and to tie in Michelle's thoughts about neurobio and trauma:

I think that, in the conversation started by Laura and continued by Anjali, that it is important to acknowledge that not all behavior is conscious or voluntary. There are many things we do without thinking about them: we breathe, our heart beats, we get angry or sad or happy. Emotion is a particularly interesting involuntary behavior. And it ties directly in with what Michelle was saying about trauma. I'm reading a book called The Myth of Sanity by Martha Stout, Ph.D.. Dr. Stout is a trauma specialist, working mostly with victims of childhood trauma: severe abuse or neglect, tragic circumstances. The book examines the "reality" of sanity by applying the themes of trauma-indcued dissociation to "normal" people in every day life. Essentially, she says, we all experience some dissociation, mostly not of the trauma-induced kind. But we are not always "here." And yet, sometimes, like those with dissociative disorders, we continue to function, to behave even when dissociated from ourselves to varying degrees. We may lose track of time and place when engrossed in an interesting project. We may go through an entire day distracted by something, going about our normla routines, but not really conscious of what we're doing. Obviously, the routine is behavior. But what of the dissociation? Is that behavior, too? I think so. It's happening only in that unobservable internal universe. But it is just as important in the consideration of "behavior" as a whole, and its residence in the brain, as more physical, observable behaviors. Perhaps it is more important, because it shows us that behavior can exist only within the brain, or the internal world created by the brain (are these two different or one and the same??), totally distinct from the outside world. Is this not direct evidence that the behavior resides in the brain and the brain alone, even if it at times seeps out into the world around us?

Name:  Paul Grobstein
Subject:  after the first week - matters arising
Date:  2004-01-25 15:26:27
Message Id:  7740
Interesting beginning, thanks all. See blue box on last week's course notes for my noticing/thinking something I hadn't thought about quite that way before. Hope you all had at least one such moment, and looking forward to hearing about them here.

Mine had to do with the thought, related to Emily's thoughts above, that if Dickinson et al were right, that the self is in the brain, and if it were also true that the brain is always changing, that suggests that the self may also always be changing. Which, of course, in turn relates to one of the general questions I suggested for writing about here .... what DO you think of the "brain = behavior, there isn't anything else" notion, and why do you think whatever you do? It would be worth leaving some thoughts here at the beginning of the semester so we can look back and see what's changed (if anything) at the end.

Another thing you might want to write about that we talked about this week is the science as "getting it less wrong" instead of determining Truth idea. What's your reaction to that?

A couple of other issues that stuck in my mind from last week:

Name:  Maryam
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  "unobservable consciousness"
Date:  2004-01-25 19:05:54
Message Id:  7741
It seems misleading to say that we observe the "effects of consciousness". If we find we cannot observe consciousness directly, a likely explanation could be that there is no one thing that is consciousness there to be observed. If we can give a physical account for all the phenomena we associate with consciousness, but feel unsatisfied because this complete account doesn't comprise a definitive thing that we feel comfortable calling consciousness we would have occassion to revise our intuitions about how our brains work. As far as we may be from a satisfactory, let alone complete, physical account of mental activity, I think we can be mislead by preconceived ideas about what we are looking for.
Name:  Sarah Caldwell
Subject:  The goal of science
Date:  2004-01-25 19:58:01
Message Id:  7742
I think the point raised in class regarding science as seeking to prove theories wrong is an interesting one, and one worth debating. If we look back at one of science's most pivotal discoveries, the structure DNA, it's easy to see how the use of science to deduce the structure of DNA proved valuable. How many models were concluded to be wrong before the actual structure of DNA was found. In fact, if you think about, the current structure of DNA may not even be completely accurate. This, I hope, demonstrates the point that science deals with studying the uncertain. We never really know what the right answer is. Accordingly, science can't say with 100% certaintly what is... it can only say what isn't.
Name:  Kimberley Knudson
Subject:  brain=behavior? Not always
Date:  2004-01-25 20:28:36
Message Id:  7743
If one were to look at simple movements as behavior one would first have to discuss reflexes. The simplest reflex in humans is the "knee-jerk reflex" or patellar reflex. Most people should be familiar with this reflex because it is generally tested at a doctor's visit. The doctor has you sit so that your lower leg dangles freely and taps just below the kneecap where the patellar tendon is located. This tap causes a neural response that is processed solely in the spinal cord with no brain involvement. The sensory neurons contact motor neurons in the spinal cord, which will activate a reaction in the quadriceps muscles causing the lower leg to kick. I think this is a clear example of the brain not equaling behavior.

I think this is important to note especially when thinking about neural systems in less evolved organisms. An organism such as a hydra has no centralized nervous system, certainly no "brain." However, it moves, takes in food, are these not behaviors?

A question I would like to look into from this point is "how complex must a behavior be to involve the brain?"

1. Mathews, G. (1998) Neurobiology: molecules, cells, and systems. Malden, MA. Blackwell Science.

Name:  Eleni
Subject:  brain=behavior
Date:  2004-01-25 20:31:08
Message Id:  7744
A few words on brain=behavior: if brain=behavior and thinking takes time as discussed on Thurs, then the behavior my not show up right after the brain responds to something. If one develops a phobia, it may not show up right after the event takes place (it may take time for the brain to react to the event and connect that event with fear). Here is a somewhat funny example from my childhood. When I was about 3, I was sick and threw up all over the back seat of my parents' car. My parents pulled over and ran out to make sure I was ok. My younger sister was in the car too, strapped in a car seat screaming while my parents ignored her for a couple minutes and tried to help me. When she was 4, my sister develped a fear of getting sick and throwing up, and we think it may have been caused by my throwing up in the car that day. If that was in fact the root of the phobia, it is interesting that the phobia didn't surface until a few years later. I would be interested in looking further into this "delayed" effect of behavior.
Name:  Michael Fichman
Subject:  Chemical Man and the Subjectivity of Consciousness
Date:  2004-01-26 09:57:55
Message Id:  7748
In my opinion, one of the most important things to consider when reasoning about ideas of consciousness and sentience, is the predominance of chemistry in the function of the brain and nervous system. To a certain degree we functionally are all just aggregates of a number of reactions which take place within our bodies. We are prisoners to the constraints of physical matter in what we often concieve to be our metaphysical palace.
My functionalist take on consciousness is often contested by the idea of "free will," that you have the ability to perform acts and deeds at any time which are unexpected and novel.
I do not debate this idea, but I would like to point out that animals, generally not seen as sentient enough to have free will, do things like this with similar frequency. Every action is new, every moment just as unexpected as the last, regardless of species or specialization or so-called sentience.
There is a subjectivity to consciousness and our reasonings surrounding the issue. We cannot comment on the consciousness of other beings and animals because we are physically limited to make judgements as to the fitness, nature or ability of another's consciousness.
Name:  Kristen Coveleskie
Subject:  brain=behavior
Date:  2004-01-26 10:01:59
Message Id:  7750
I love the idea that brain=behavior. It is fascinating to think that humans have evolved from the first unicellular bacteria to become such complex thinking creatures. The question I wanted answered by taking this course is how the brain physically affects behavior. After doing some reading on the subject, I realized that this is not the way in which most scientists seem to think. The way to get answers is not to ask the big picture questions, but to focus on more detailed observations. Scientists have made observations about how the athlete's brain seems to unconscientiously operate on probability and statistics or how those who practice juggling have enlargements of certain areas of the cerebral cortex. All of these observations fit the idea that brain=behavior. In order to get answers, we must look at the little pieces and try to fit them into some bigger puzzle. However, there really is no getting answers, there is only making observations and asking more questions. I really like the concept of "getting it less wrong" because science is more about disproving than proving.
Name:  Chelsea
Subject:  Brain, consciousness, Nabokov
Date:  2004-01-26 14:36:36
Message Id:  7751
I want to throw out another literary moment to tie in with Emily:

"How small the cosmos (a kangaroo's pouch would hold it), how paltry and puny in comparison to human consciousness, to a single individual recollection, and it's expression in words!"
-Nabokov. Speak, Memory. 1967.

Nabokov seems to be getting at the same idea expressed in "The brain is wider than the sky." The question then is, what is consciousness? Obviously there is more in the brain than consciousness. Also, the brain in brain=behavior is not literally "the brain" but the entire nervous system. See course notes. Also, I wanted to agree with Maryam- there is certainly a danger in saying "the effects of consciousness," as the behavior/effect which is observable likely dervies from many different places/experiences/memories/feelings, of which the person expressing may not even be aware. This references what Eleni said about her sister and being afraid of getting carsick- was her sister aware of why she felt that way? Probably not. In all likelyhood, that memory was completely lost to her-without other witnesses to make the connection for her, she would never know where it came from.

Name:  Jenny Stundon
Username:  Anonymous
Date:  2004-01-26 14:40:46
Message Id:  7752
When we discuss the idea that brain=behavior, who is asking these questions? Who is mediating the thoughts with in our own heads? Is it our brain, our background, our neurochemistry? We all have different ideas, perspectives, life histories... and all come to different conclusions, or no solid conclusions. Perhaps there is a part of the brain that is the mind, maybe they aren't the same, but one is contained in the other. Is there a section of our brain that works solely as our interpreter, bringing data together and assembling it for us? And if there is an interpreter, a mind, soul, whatever we choose to call that part of us that actually does the thinking, could it be visible? Maybe we just haven't reached an advanced state yet where we could cleary compartmentalize our thoughts and actions.

The mind vs. brain debate is really interesting to me, especially in regards to the use of psychological medication. Were psychoanalysts completely wrong in thinking that talking could help patients? Or did the dialogue between doctors and patients somehow create a change in the brain similar to the change now achieved by taking an SSRI? If the brain is the self, and the self changes through psychoanalytical therapy, then the brain is ultimately changed. Similarly if the brain receives more serotonin and a person's mood is uplifted, the self is changed by changing the brain. Is it a two way street of change? Or are they the same, and alterable from a number of pathways?

Just my random thoughts...


PS I read Girl, Interrupted over break, and there's an interesting chapter "Mind vs. Brain" that discusses some of the issues we've discussed in class. It's a really interesting book.

Name:  Aiham Korbage
Subject:  Behavior or Personality ?
Date:  2004-01-26 18:36:58
Message Id:  7756
The discussions here are very interesting, and I have my own thoughts about our last class topics.

Because of certain questions and comments raised last time, I ought to recommend a psychology course (at least an intro level). It is very helpful in finding out how we/brain perceive, recognize, evaluate, store, and retrieve information. This could help clarify how the mind/brain evolves and grows.

Otherwise, I must ask myself the following: When we say "Brain=Behavior", what "behavior" are we talking about? I think that many of us are quick to accept this "Brain=Behavior" formula because we seem to discuss it as though "Brain = Personality". This is maybe because our discussions are human-centric.
How about those certain species which do not posess a brain, nor by that an organized nervous system (maybe ants? or certain bugs? or snails? -- I maybe wrong here). We all agree that these species DO indeed have observable behavior, and maybe unobservale too (although, I won't argue about them having personalities). My point is, if this "Brain=Behavior" formula is universal, we should question it a bit more. In my opinion, this formula is too exclusive, and I believe that more variants affect and contibute to behavior in a species.

Name:  Elissa Seto
Subject:  Time magazine
Date:  2004-01-26 20:41:17
Message Id:  7758
On the subject of brain and behavior, Time magazine's January 19th issue was a special issue devoted to the topics of love, sex, and health. One of the articles in it that I found particularly interesting was one titled "Your Brain in Love". There was a study done at SUNY Stony Brook to see how the brain worked in people that were in love. They showed the subjects pictures of their beloved, and scanned their brains, and then they would show neutral photos and then scan their brains. The pictures are really cool, but I can't find them online. Different parts of the brain were found to be stimulated when the results were compared. What was also interesting regarding the pictures of their beloved is that in women's brains, most active parts of the brain were related to attention and emotion, while men's brains were more active in areas related to visual stimuli and sexual arousal.

I think that this and other studies can be used to indicate how brain has so much control over behavior. So is there a neurological reason that women tend to be stereotyped as the emotional gender, and men are the stereotypes as more easily aroused? Just curious. It's a great article, I highly recommend people reading it if they have a chance.

Name:  Brad Corr
Subject:  brain=behaivor
Date:  2004-01-26 22:08:13
Message Id:  7760
I believe that Brain=behavior. We have already mentioned the idea of the continually changing brain (which I also agree with) that helps account for changing personalities as well as behavior. I currently define behavior as the thoughts, both subconscious and conscious, and actions of an organism. I believe that brain=behavior because it is the chemical and electrical workings of the nervous system that comprise behavior. An excellent example was brought up by Elissa, in one of the latest Time issues. One example the article talked about was the levels of the Oxytocin hormone released in men and women. This hormone has multiple affects on behavior, one of which is the desire to stay with and "cuddle" with your partner. It is released by such activities as holding hands. It has been shown that the levels of this hormone released to men and women are different. Hence, causing one of the behavioral differences in men and women. I believe that it is reactions like these which are the underlying factors of behavior. Reactions such as the patellar reflex do in fact further this theory because it is an electrical signal sent through the neurons of the nervous system which cause the reflex. The signal may never reach the actual brain (I don't know if that is true or not), but it certainly travels through the nervous system.
Aiham brought up the idea that brain=behavior is too exclusive. So I tried to think what it could be excluding. I couldn't think of anything. All of the examples he gave do have nervous systems, but he is right, there are organisms with no organized nervous system. I do agree that this belief must be universal to have validity, otherwise you question where do we draw the line? So basically I want to know if anyone can think of things that this theory may be excluding, because that may in fact prove my whole thought process wrong. Thanks.
Name:  Brad Corr
Subject:  Modern Identity
Date:  2004-01-26 22:31:48
Message Id:  7761
The whole idea of modern identity is related to a persons comfort level. Everybody feels different levels of comfort around different people. In front of a respected superior many people actively think about their responses and actions more because they are less comfortable than when sitting around with their closest friends, or family. The same has to do with online personalities. It increases a persons comfort level because they feel there are no repercussions. It doesn't matter if you become a societal outcast on the internet, because you can become a whole other identity. Emily talks about these varying personas with the "real" main persona. I don't view them as separate personas or that a person has a "real" persona. They are all part of one persons behavior (see my posting on brain=behavior). It is the comfort level that a person feels which determines how much of each personal characteristic is presented. I think that it is merely different characteristics of a persons persona coming out at different times, not that they are separate personas. This relates to identity because identity is how you view yourself or how others view you. Due to the different characteristics, your identity is going to be different to almost every single person you meet, including yourself. We can relate this to neurobio by determining what signals or chemical affect a persons comfort level. What chemicals or electrical signals make you feel it is ok to take your shirt off and dance with a chair at a party among your peers and not in Roads (sp?) cafeteria among strangers?
Name:  Erin
Subject:  scientific method
Date:  2004-01-26 22:53:56
Message Id:  7762
My comment pays particular attention to the scientific process as proposed during class and the standard method. I think that the process involving the continual analysis of observations with the main goal of "getting it less wrong" is rather universal and is the foundation to all inquiry -- scientific or personal discovery. But I suspect that it might be harder to generalize the scientific process when it comes to making macro-type contributions to society as the integrity of the results/conclusions needs universal validation. I think that the notion of "getting it less wrong" implies certain conclusions about the path of discovery, thus implying the need for a rigid scientific method. For example, a person who observes through various analyses that people wear black to funerals and white to weddings arrives at a conclusion that is "less wrong" than an initial assumption of red to funerals and yellow to weddings. However, if his/her observations were to be tested by another individual in another country where the opposite is true, the universality of the first person's conclusion would be broken.

In effect, I think that the true nature of the scientific process, making observations and analyzing them, should be the process initially taught in schools. In this way, children will learn early on how the true nature of any inquiry is applicable to everyday realizations. Once that personal nature of scientific inquisition is established, the standard scientific method will make more sense Ė creating an avenue for others around the world to follow their intuition and contribute to the already observed phenomena that help make things "less wrong."

Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Brain and Behavior
Date:  2004-01-26 22:54:37
Message Id:  7763
Personally I think that brain equals behaivor for the simple reason that any behavior has to be dictated by the brain. Perhaps looking at the brain cannot explain certain behavior but it is certainly the root behind it. without the brain there can be no behavior but without behavior there is still a brain. I think what Elisa said is very interesting about different parts of the brain functioning in response to two similiar objects(the picture of the random person and the picture of the beloved). I think it would be interesting in general to see how the brain registers emotion.
Name:  Natalie Merrill
Subject:  Neurobiology and relativism?
Date:  2004-01-26 23:17:14
Message Id:  7764
These discussions and posts remind me of a class I took last semester called Relativism: Cognitive and Moral. I found the class quite a stretch in terms of conceptualizing theory and knowledge and defining values. I found it quite difficult, but also very interesting, to attempt to justify actions as moral ir immoral in the perceptions of different cultures. I found myself asking in this class on Thursday how much culture shapes our behavior. I'm a sociology major and so this is a very important question in my field. Communities and institutions and small groups impact dramatically the individual's responses and actions but to what extent? And what can be said to explain deviance? In some cases that too is a socialization problem, but when is it brain chemicals that force someone to violate norms? I'll continue to keep this in mind throughout the class because I think it is a question we'll be asking for years. When does society end and the brain begin? When does the individual begin to distinctly seperate from their social grouping?
Name:  Amanda Glendinning
Date:  2004-01-27 00:02:52
Message Id:  7766
Last Thursday I was one of the few people who raised my hand to say I was uncomfortable with the idea that the brain is always changing and that it is bigger than the sky. While I understand that both must be true, i do not like the idea of that. Dickinson et al state that the self is the brain. I (and this is sappy) believe that the self also has to do with the soul and the body. The brain may register and process the information, but it could not be without the body, heart, senses, and all other body parts. I also understand that the brain and self are always changing. I do not like the idea though that I am changing every second. I believe that the core of me stays the same. I don't want to think how I change and am thus not myself. This is a very personalized opinion. It is not about the theory, but about me.
Name:  Lindsey
Subject:  personas, stable self?
Date:  2004-01-27 00:04:42
Message Id:  7767
I don't think the self is a stable entity. We are always changing on a very fundamental basis (neuron synapses are generated and destroyed, etc.) as well as adapting to various sociological, psychological and physical influences. The brain's ability to manifest various personas is what in fact allows us to survive and adapt. Even if we lived in a vacuum in which we were entirely devoid of any external influences, we would still be undergoing transformation. I DO feel that in some ways our self is the accumulation of everything that has happened in the pastóbut living in the present is either a reaffirmation of past behaviors or a new adaptation to our environment. Ironically, our environment can act as an agent of both conformity and change. We always been coerced to behave consistently in order to maintain some notion of self, but we do have a free will that will result in dramatic changes when this self is threatened. Rather than searching for one singular, real self, I think our "different" personas are overlaps of each other in which some personality traits are more dominant than others.
Name:  Liz
Subject:  brain and behavior
Date:  2004-01-27 00:09:05
Message Id:  7768
On the subject of brain=behavior, I wanted to provide a story about Phineas Gage. Phineas Gage was a railroad construction supervisor in Vermont. In 1848 an explosion projected a steel rod into his skull. The rod transversed the frontal part of his brain and existed the top of his skull. He lost consciousness momentarily but could walk and talk by the time he was taken to a doctor. Months later, people began to observe changes in Gage's personality, mood, and behavior. He became extravagant and anti-social and could no longer hold a job or plan his future. His friends said that he was no longer himself.

I first read this story in "Descartes' Error" a book by Dr. Damasio (as a mentioned in a previous posting). I found this case so interesting because it seems to suggest a relationship between behavior and the anatomy of the brain. Though I am not ready to say that all of self is contained within the brain, I thought that this case may be valuable for future discussion.

Name:  Chevon Deputy
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Brain and Behavior
Date:  2004-01-27 00:10:03
Message Id:  7769
The discussion on brain and behavior during the last class really intrigued me to think about the various ways in which the brain influences certain types of behavior. In some ways, I feel that the relationship between the brain and the behavior does not always represent a direct correlation. I believe that there are other factors, such as one's environment, that lends to certain behaviorial patterns. In this instance, behavior is not limited to the brain activity of an individual.
I am not discrediting the argument that there is a connection between the brain and behavior. Behavior can be translated both internally and externally. Since it is much easier to observe the external than the internal, I sometimes treat behavior and brain as two separate entities. However, it is important to be aware of the fact that the internal activity actual reveals the reason why brain=behavior. The mental processes such as dreams, thoughts, and emotions all help develop behavior and are stored in the brain. If the processes no longer existed in the brain, the behavior would not exist. It is ironic that I can draw more of a parallel between the two when it involves the internal processes rather than the external. Hopefully by the end of the semester I will begin to see the connection using external behavior.
Name:  Ghazal Zekavat
Subject:  Brain=behavior?
Date:  2004-01-27 00:16:27
Message Id:  7770
I think that on a rudimentary level, we can definitely assert that the brain dictates behavior. As Elissa and Brad mentioned, there are many chemicals in the brain responsible for making us feel a certain way. To me, this is was a pretty convincing argument. However, I think that Natalie has raised some really interesting questions that perhaps interfere with the notion of brain=behavior. Specifically, I'm drawn to the question, "When does society end and the brain begin?" I think that bringing society or social interactions into this picture really complicates things. I don't think society can be used to explain how we behave, but it may tell us some things about WHY we behave as we do. There's no doubt that where you grew up, or where you live will, and who you're surrounded by impact your behavior (and thus your brain?).

On a similar note, I'm curious how much genes affect a person's behavior. Behavior is certainly not 100% genetic, but how much of that percentage belongs to genes? I have noticed that I possess certain personality traits that are very similar to my father's. I find it odd that I would be prone to behave like one parent over the other. Additionally, I don't like the notion of genes dictating behavior... it's a very trapping feeling.

To wrap up... how much of our behavior comes from within? How much is influenced by the outside world?

Name:  Maria[h] Scott-Wittenborn
Subject:  fairly vague and random ramblings...
Date:  2004-01-27 00:26:33
Message Id:  7772
I don't think whether or not the "brain=behavior" is really an arguable statement. The brain does determine our behavior and there isn't any way around that. Yet, I think that many people are mistaken in thinking that this means that the brain and behavior relationship is a simple one. I don't think it's just a one way street from the brain to the body that determines behavior. I think that new information is constantly going in and out and being scrambled around and reconciled with old information and tested out in day to day life and then accepted or rejected etc. I mean, we were all doing that before we were really concious (like the baby and crying thing) so it must, to some degree, take place at a subconcious level. In terms of nature versus nurture debate, it seems incredible to me that anyone would argue that both one's nature and the environment in which one is nurtured (or *not* nurtured) are not BOTH responsible for how one behaves and the way that both thier mind and brain function. It doesn't really matter how good a child's nature is, you ship them off to Sierra Leone and they will come back a bit damaged. I personally see the difference between the mind and the brain as being the difference between the concious and the unconcious and I think that most things sort of float up from the unconcious, which is why it's so difficult to change behaviors even when one conciously wants to. I don't think that we conciously learn behaviors, whether they are obvious ones such as mannerisms or more subtle ones. While the brain might control behaviors, the way that brains work would be (I imagine) impacted the experiences of the individual.
Name:  Shirley Ramirez
Subject:  brain=behavior????
Date:  2004-01-27 00:27:50
Message Id:  7773
I feel that brain= behavior is a theory that allows many people to be comfortable with issues of the brain and behavior. If that theory was to be true then a lot of things would now have explanations. Further, brain=behavior might be true to an extent, the brain does direct behavior, but there has to be something else. We are all complex individuals meaning that the brain needs to attain some help from other parts of our body to produce behavior (chemicals etc.). If research one day does prove that brain=behavior then it will show that the brain is extremely powerful. I am intrigued to learn more about this brain=behavior relationship.

My reaction to the statement that science means "getting it less wrong" is very accurate. The research process is so complicated that arriving to a definite right answer is very difficult to do. On the other hand, arriving to a definite wrong answer is very probable, but this allows us to make the right changes to guide our research interest in the correct direction. Every time you work on your project you are less wrong. This was an interesting factor to get cleared out since many people think that when you are a scientist you have to derive to the right answer.

Name:  Shadia
Subject:  Brain = behavior?
Date:  2004-01-27 00:32:57
Message Id:  7774
I tend to find the conclusion that brain is the root of all behavior a logical one; our brain compiles all the input it receives (internally and externally) and our behavior is simply one of many outputs. Because the "inputs" are constantly renewed, so too is our behavior, resulting in the ever-changing self we mentioned in class. I have to say that seeing these thoughts expressed as brain=behavior "bothers" meómaybe because my mathematical side converts this to behavior=brain and thinks no!
In any case, I've been racking my brains trying to think of a situation where behavior didn't stem from the brain. Kim, thanks for drawing our attention to reflexes. Can it be argued that the brain does control the sensory and motor neurons that are reacting and that in our best interest, they are directed to send the impulse to the spinal cord in order to ensure a speedier response? I also remembered reading in Christopher Reeve's autobiography that during those first few months after he was paralyzed, he experienced a lot of spasms at night and that when his arm would suddenly move he hoped that it meant his brain was controlling those movements and that he was "getting better". I'd like to see the brain's role in reflexes and spasms explored in class...
Name:  amar
Subject:  neuro thoughts
Date:  2004-01-27 01:34:24
Message Id:  7776
Just in regards to an article I read in an old, 1997 Scientific American. It was about monkey's and their neurobiological response to fear (entitled "Neurobiology of Fear"). I'm not planning on going into any detail about this article. But after reading this piece, and thinking about our class, I began thinking about how we say that the brain=behavior and the brain contains the sky.

In the article's analysis of the most basic emotion, fear, they were able to distinguish certain portions of the brain that triggered a chemical response to the observed stimuli. The idea is that this trio of the amygdala the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex are all involved in the assessing and processing of fear. These organs eventually trigger the hypothalamus to trigger the adrenal gland to pump out hormones to give the "fight or flight" syndrome.

The question I pose to the class is how many of you can really relate your emotions to chemicals in your body. When one thinks of the sky, do you think that picture you hold in your head is really in fact some sort of molecule which is a compound of some organic molecules that trigger your hypothalamus to envision a sky? This correlation is simply to clear to me. I think this adds to the discussions we've seen about how science cannot seek truth, but rather less falsity.

I hope someone can grab some idea from this...

Name:  amar
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  followup
Date:  2004-01-27 01:50:48
Message Id:  7777
But I have a little more to add. I wanted to clarify the second to last line in the last paragraph "This correlation is simply NOT clear to me."

I wanted to emphasize that based on the lack of evidence between memory and some biological aspect of the brain, I have to side with Descartes about the notion of a dualistic Soul/mind from the brain. The brain as I understand it is something that is composed of chemicals and organs which reacts in a very mechanical manner. Although we may know the organs involved in memory and emotion, I think that this abstract idea of a soul/mind is in fact the missing link between these feelings and the scientific aspect.

Being a religious person, I find it interesting to see how ancient religious texts (such as the Hindu Gita, or even the Bible) can still clearly relate to people. Whereas science, which is a fairly recent field (in comparison to religious texts), is constantly struggling (proving and disproving theories) to understand people.

Name:  Mridula
Date:  2004-01-27 02:43:52
Message Id:  7778
I am not entirely comfortable with the theory that it is solely the brain that determines behavior. I believe the way one acts, thinks and feels is the outcome of a combination of conditions that could be genetically determined, neurological and environmental.
The brain possesses the machinery needed to assimilate, organize and essentially make sense of the numerous inputs it receives from various sources leading to behavior. I don't think we can entirely discount these sources and say that that it is the brain that is exclusively accountable for behavior.
Name:  Maja
Subject:  Brain = Behavior
Date:  2004-01-27 03:57:41
Message Id:  7779
The vast majority of research points to the idea that the brain is the central and most crucial aspect of behavior. The question that we are all struggling with, however, is whether or not this is all there is to the equation.

In having moved throughout different countries, cultures, and language zones, at a young age, I have had an opportunity to observe, experience, and blend into a number of different cultures. This places me at an interesting viewpoint in being able to observe several different cultures but as an insider in each. Each individual person has their own behavioral characteristics and ways of dealing with issues; however, in the broader scheme of things, it has been observed that certain aspects of behavior are greatly influenced by one's culture and the society by which they are surrounded.

I feel that without the many other things that play into behavior, the brain alone can not accomplish the task at hand, though I do believe that it is the central coordinator and regulator.
For example, speaking a language is a behavioral characteristic. When a child is born, any existing language can become their native tongue. We are predisposed to learning the language, and the process takes place via the brain. However, someone who is locked away in solitary confinement from the day of birth will not miraculously learn to express themselves in the form of spoken language. For this behavioral task to work there needs to be collaboration between the surrounding environment and the individual's brain.

Name:  Allison
Subject:  brain=behavior is less wrong and the connection between the brain and the self
Date:  2004-01-27 04:41:19
Message Id:  7780
The concept of "getting it less wrong" seems to sum up the debate surrounding the validity of the brain=behavior equation. Agreeing with Kimberly, reflexes are obviously physical behaviors. These behaviors result from stimulating portions of the nervous system, though not necessarily the brain itself. Therefore the equation, brain=behavior, is proven incorrect when utilizing these involuntary reflex behaviors as tests. As stated in many other postings, physical behaviors do not completely encompass the vast realm of behavior in general. Behaviors are construed in the brain through various chemical, biological, and psychological processes. From my perspective, the majority of observable behaviors are the concrete products of the brain's ability to intertwine the different elements of one's environment, whether these elements are realized or not, with one's acquired knowledge gained from their reactions and experiences to/in their environment. In this case, behavior is totally dependent on the brain, but I would not go as far as to say that the brain is totally dependent on behavior. Yes, behavior shapes the brain, but it appears the brain does not need behavior to function. An example of this relationship is, the brain of a person in a coma. The brain is still functioning even though the person is not exhibiting any observable behaviors. The phobia of getting sick is an example of the brain's ability to process as well as interconnect oneself with one's environment. This angle proves brain=behavior equation to be true, because behavior is a direct effect of the functioning of the brain. Therefore, the equation isn't right, but it isn't completely wrong either, making it simply "less wrong."
The ever-changing brain and self debate intrigues me as well. Continuing with the outlined reasoning above, frequent changes in the brain are facilitated by one's constantly changing environment. The chemical, biological, and psychological changes in the brain enable the self to be constructed, annexed, and altered. The self is another product of the brain, and in my opinion cannot be modified without an analogous change in the brain. The self transforms through psychoanalysis, but this transformation is caused by the brain's interpretation of the dialogue between the doctor and the patient. This dialogue is a component of one's environment.
Name:  Akudo Ejelonu
Subject:  Dating 101
Date:  2004-01-27 09:04:31
Message Id:  7782
To start off my response in regards to Chevon's comment about if social interaction affects the brain behavior and how one think that themselves and others. I would think that the interactions that one has in society is affected by they see things, are use to and how their brain accepts or rebuttal these things. For example, let's say that I am walking down the street and a guy is approaching me. Since I have an indication of what the guy is going to ask me because of my previous interactions with the other guys, the brain and body automatics outs up a defense mechanism and I start to analyze the guy up and down, from what kind of shoes wearing to the way he is walking. So by the time the guy approaches me, I know what to say if he asks me a question like having us get to know each other (wink, wink). Sometimes my interpretation is wrong and all he wanted to know is where is the closest bus stop but due to previous encounters with other guys who assume that they have the right to mack to me, I have to choose no other than to set up a fortress around myself. I don't know if this ism my on behavior or if this is what my brain as already observed and has equipped itself to make me act this way. Although some of my actions and responses that I have come from my brain, I do have the choice to go along with it or refuse it. Like instead of being having this fortress, I could have convinced myself to hear what the guy has to say and not judge his intentions automatically.

Maybe that is what I am always Home Alone 1, 2 And 3 : )

Name:  Tegan
Subject:  Self, Brain, Behavior
Date:  2004-01-27 09:18:02
Message Id:  7783
While I can sympathize with individuals who are hesitant to acknowledge the brain as the source of all behavior--citing society's influence on behavior, for example--I am unable to make sense of the issue any other way. No matter what the "external" influences we would like to credit with creating/altering/informing our behavior or our identity, we have to consider what these influences are influences on: unless we want to go with Descartes, and create a kind of extra-sensory, ephemeral "Mind," then these stimuli are all influencing the brain. (And even Descartes had issues with his own theorizing: if the Mind is external and immaterial, how exactly does it physically alter the brain?)
For some people, it isn't pleasant to cite the brain as the final source for all of our actions. The debate becomes even more emotionally charged when we attempt to delineate identity. For my two cents on the issue, I am inclined to believe that we are what we do. The series of actions and processes that individuals perform in their day to day lives is the only indication we and they are given of who they are. (Individuals here counting as bodily continuous and most imporantly brain-continuous, because how else can we count individuals? We have yet to identify much less quantify alledged souls or minds.)
As far as I can tell, those who wish to cite other sources for behavior and claim them as "not brain" do so out of a desire to say that Human Beings/the Mind/the Soul is greater than the sum of bio-chemical-neurological parts, that all these great things can not be contained in so small a physical and temporal space as the individual brain. But we are just beginning to understand the brain, to map out its spaces... Perhaps with greater understanding, fewer people will be hesitant to think that Brain and Behavior are one and the same.
Name:  Ginger Kelly
Subject:  Brain=Behavior
Date:  2004-01-27 09:34:10
Message Id:  7784
The brain is a powerful organ. One could argue that in addition to being the master of our bodies, it is the source of behavior. I, like other people, have trouble rationalizing that all the uniqueness of humanity is solely a function. However, I am not claiming that the brain isn't involved in behavior. The way I rationalize the two is to look at the brain's involvement in the human body. It regulates the other organs of the body, but could not maintain homeostasis in the body without their presence. I equate that to the relationship between the brain and behavior. The brain may process and output behavior, but it could not do it without interactions, cultures, and the external environment.

| Course Home Page | Course Forum | Brain and Behavior | Serendip Home |

Send us your comments at Serendip

© by Serendip 1994- - Last Modified: Wednesday, 02-May-2018 10:53:05 CDT