Biology 202
Neurobiology and Behavior
Spring 2004

Forum 7

Name:  Prachi
Subject:  language thinking
Date:  2004-02-24 09:28:35
Message Id:  8441
The comments regarding language are especially interesting. I grew up in Kenya but largely within an Indian community and was schooled in the british tradition. Therefore, I speak English, Gujarati and Kiswahili (although not as well as I could hope). Especially when at home I find myself stringing all three languages into a single sentence and often realise that in my thoughts, especially in deliberate thought, I switch between languages depending on the subject matter. Various subjects seem appropriately expressed in my mind only in certain languages, my memories of yearly visits to India are almost always in gujarati, for example. Also, asking my mother one day about the same phenomena, she said that during religious occasions she thinks in either hindi or sanskrit. Our language is highly context-dependent and linked to memory in both real and affective terms and since riots have been raged over the right to use one's language, language seems indeed to be an important aspect of human experience.
Name:  Eleni
Subject:  Senses
Date:  2004-02-25 22:56:03
Message Id:  8510
Brad's comment about why it is so hard to describe the way something smells as opposed to describing it using our other senses got me thinking why this was so. Perhaps our sense of smell is just less developed-since we don't use it as much as sight, hearing, and touch in our society-so there are less brain connections having to do with smell. I happened to read an article in People magazine about a 40-something year old man who had been blind since age 3 and just had an operation that brought back some of his sight. He reported that sometimes he couldn't tell what objects were by just looking at them. Though he was technically "seeing" an object, his brain couldn't process the info he took in visually so he couldn't tell what it was. If he touched it, on the other hand, as he was used to doing, he could then identify it. I think this point shows that a sense has to be developed (by amount of usage) in order for it to be most effective. I'll bet this man could better tell what an object was by touch as opposed to someone who wasn't blind and therefore had a less developed sense of touch. This also goes along with the idea I heard that if you lose one of your senses, the others get sharper since you're using them more and making more connections to them.
Name:  cham
Subject:  this forum thing and i are not friends
Date:  2004-02-26 00:17:08
Message Id:  8513
ok so i just wrote the longest posting of my life and then decided to accidently hit the reset button and erase all of it. so i will now bitterly attempt to reconstruct it...

yeah, so phantom limbs.

im gonna have to paraphrase myself because im so annoyed right now-
basically what i said was that i found the answer to my own question about a biological explanation for phantom limbs. contrary to my assumption that the experience of a phantom limb is an unusual case, it turns out that almost every amputee continues to feel the presence of the amputated limb. the existence of this limb if so compelling that a person will actually try to lift things with their amputated (i.e., nonexistent?) body part. also, there are two "types" of phantom limb experiences: a person may either experience movement of the limb (e.g., swinging while walking)or may experience the limb as being "stuck" in a particular position. for example, one man's phantom limb stuck out in a 90 degree angle from his body and therefore whenever he would walk through doorways, he would turn sideways in order to avoid hitting walls!!

about 50% of amputees experience severe chronic pain in their phantom limb. as a person who deals with severe chronic pain from advanced osteoarthritis, i cant imagine what it would be like to be unable to receive analgesis-directed treatment or similar therapy, due to the fact that my affliction did not involve an actual, tangible body part. i would go insane. it would be as if you got hurt and could not apply ice, or as if you had a nagging itch that could never be scratched...

the most recent biological explanation for the experience of phantom limb pain, is that it results from the "irritation of nerves in the stump", which sends signals to the areas of the somatosensory cortex that used to receive input from the limb prior to amputation. possible treatments include: surgical destruction of parts of the neural pathways between the stump and the cortex, the peripheral nerves and the stump, or various pathways involving "relay nuclei" to the thalamus or somatosensory cortex. unfortunately, these treatments only result in temporary pain relief, which leads to the belief that the experience of phantom limb pain exists in the cortex itself and is therefore much more difficult to address.

so, that was basically what i said although in a much less articulate/much shorter version.

Name:  Elissa Seto
Subject:  a couple of thoughts
Date:  2004-02-26 07:36:46
Message Id:  8520
This is something that I thought of during class. If 80-90% of our nerve actions are inhibitory, our bodies would probably be incredibly hyperactive if those inhibitory synaptic potentials were decreased. If that's the case, do people with ADD or ADHD have a decreased amount of inhibitory synaptic potentials? My knowledge of ADD and ADHD is that people with the disorder have little control over their hyperactivity and/or their attention span. Their minds seem to just go all over the place. It seems like something in their nervous system is unable to keep them from doing one thing. I know very little about the disorder, so my apologies if I overgeneralized it.

Another thought is regarding people's ideas about languages. English isn't my first language, Cantonese is, although I don't speak it very often. Because I don't speak Cantonese often, I've definitely lost a lot of my vocabulary and comfort with speaking it. I think Maja's mostly right, regarding languages, if you don't use it, you'll lose it. However, I can still understand Cantonese pretty well. I can watch a Cantonese movie without reading the English subtitles. Why is it that I can understand the language, but I can't seem to coherently speak it?

Name:  cham
Subject:  ADD
Date:  2004-02-26 21:06:41
Message Id:  8536
The topic of ADD came up in class today and many questions were left unanswered. one was: why give someone who doesnt have enough inhibitory signaling, a stimulant? Although, im pretty sure that there isnt yet a well-developed biological theory for why this seems to work (and i certainly have no idea), i can testify to one thing: when people hear that ADD patients receive stimulants for treatment, there is a common misconception (and one that i felt was floating around the classroom today)regarding the impact that these stimulants (e.g., ritalin or adderrall)have on people with ADD. These drugs do not cause typical amphetamine effects such as agitation, hyperactivity, or other "speed-like" responses. Contrarily, it creates a sense of calm and quiet in the person with ADD, a state that is rarely attainable for them without medication. so, to throw out another question: how is this all related to changes in amount and/or area of inhibition? that was the question i originally set out to address in this post, but as i began writing i realized that i dont have a damn clue. so, does anybody have any ideas?

one more thing- i have ADD and i have noticed an important difference between those of us with this issue and non-afflicted people. when i am thinking about or doing more than one thing at a time, i can actually pay better attention whereas i feel as though when "normal" people multitask, their attention suffers. i think that this is an very intriguing distinction. all i know, is that the more i do in class (e.g., reading or writing), the better i can pay attention to prof. grobstein. is this perhaps because as Paul said in class today, there is too little inhibition in the nervous system and therefore excess excitation that needs to be channeled? whatever the reason, it is certainly convenient in terms of productivity and time management!

Name:  Maria(h)
Subject:  Rambling about ADD
Date:  2004-02-27 21:58:46
Message Id:  8547
People toss the term ADD around a lot, and quite frankly most people don't know a lot about it. They have usually read some half-page article in Time magazine written by an indignant mother who belives that her child was unnecessarily diagnosed or just know that the word 'hyperactivity' is involved. People characterize the behavior of someone using the term ("wow, she's really ADD"). If you find yourself using ADD as an adjective often, it's probably also worth it to invest in a dictionary, thesaurus, or both. It's not all that nice a thing to say, especially since as a group we are so pathologically over-sensitive to every freaking thing that goes on around us (one of my mother called it the "kicked puppy" look that I got whenever someone whose opinion I value acts displeased or is overly critical). "Self-esteem" is one the commonly cited areas where ADD kids get hit hard and while I don't think of it as being a huge problem I also always think of myself in terms of what should be improved, how I messed something up. I have had a lot of practice in looking at something in terms of how I --or some failing on my part-- made it less good than it should have been. In terms of being inhibited or not inhibited, I don't find that the things i do are really abnormal or very uninhibited; rather, I don't always see that given the situation a certain behavior is probably not all that appropriate. When I was 9 years old I flicked my father off with a grin from the middle of the soccer field because I thought he was yelling at me too much (my father thought this was hysterical and tells the story with pride), I wasn't that mad it was more than anything affectionate, it was just what I would have done at home and it didn't occur to me that from the center of the soccer field everyone else saw it too. It is hard for ADD kids to put off what they want to do and instead do that which they are obligated. Knowing that I needed to pay attention to a lecture because when the test came I would want to do well did not translate into *actually paying attention* to the teacher. It might instead consist of thinking about how I might study, thinking about the last test, thinking about what I might have for lunch... What it did translate into was often getting academic results I didn't want, and knowing that it was my own fault. More than anything else, I've found ADD to be characterized by self-castigation, a lot of frustration at my own inability to behave in a way that I know would benefit me and at times a fairly severe sense of alienation from those around me. You can't trust yourself to act in your own best interest when you've got ADD and your behavior is perpetually indicative of motivations and emotions that don't actually exist. I suppose that there isn't anthing ALL that useful in this posting, but on the off-chance that someone out there wanted to know anything about's a lot more than just not wanting to do homework or having a hard time sitting still.
Name:  Liz
Date:  2004-02-29 15:56:03
Message Id:  8561
Class discussion on Thursday really altered my perspective on the functions of neurons. In past biology classes, inhibitory actions have been mentioned, but I did not realize that they played such a large role in the functions of the body. After thinking about the role of inhibitory actions on neurons, however, it seems to make sense that they would be just as important as excitatory synapses. Instead of having to excite a process every time in order to cause a response, some processes that are constantly active must be inhibited.
Name:  Millie Bond
Date:  2004-02-29 22:39:41
Message Id:  8568
In another class of mine, Healing, Harming, and that Humanities, we discussed living with depression and read the following poem by Emily Dickinson.

I felt a cleaving in my Mind
As if my Brain had split-
I tried to match it- Seam by Seam-
But could not make them fit.

The thought behind, I strove to join
Unto thought before-
But Sequence raveled out of Sound
Like Balls- upon a Floor.

The poem describes the feeling of confusion that can go along with neurological disorders. With this in mind we were led to the question of how a person with a neurological disorder figures out that he or she has a problem that needs to be addressed. We also discussed the problems modern medicine creates when patients become so satisfied with their treatment that they no longer feel the need to continue taking the medication. In short I thought it was interesting to get another class' thoughts on some of the topics we have been discussing.

Name:  Sarah
Subject:  Olfactory idea
Date:  2004-02-29 23:37:13
Message Id:  8574
This is in response to the question or problem about olfactory reception and the inability to communicate with words how things smell. Although I do believe that there is a mechanistic reason that explains why that is, I also want to throw out the idea that perhaps we simply lack the words to do so? Maybe we just have not expanded the human language to explain or depict what things smell like. Along these lines, I feel like there is some standard among humans about how things smell. Otherwise, how is that companies can make room scents that smell like "fresh rain" or "chocolate chip cookies?" On some basic level, we all have to agree that one thing smells a certain way, that fish smells bad and that chocolate smells good. Just some thoughts.
Name:  Dana
Username:  dbakalar
Date:  2004-03-01 08:51:25
Message Id:  8578
"On some basic level, we all have to agree that one thing smells a certain way, that fish smells bad and that chocolate smells good. Just some thoughts. "

But we don't,, thats the thing. My brother, for exaple, HATES the smell of bananas. It makes him sick. I, however, think they smell great. Also, I like the smell of gasoline, while some hate it. I think you're right that the smell is percieved in basically the same way, since smell is an interation of chemicals with receptors, but that recieved smell is interpereted differently. This is why people have preferences in bleach scents and perfumes.

I like the idea of language not covering the smells, its very 1984, but the question becomes WHY is there no language for this when there is such a rich vocabulary for our other senses?

Name:  Michelle
Subject:  The idea of shock
Date:  2004-03-01 09:01:14
Message Id:  8579
Listening to Tuesday's discussion in class about phantom limbs reminded me of something I had seen. I watched a video of someone getting a compound fracture of their tibia and fibia (lower leg). He fell onto the ground on his back (after his leg was broken) and his face showed pure pain. He lifted up his leg and shook it. Not to be gross but, he realized that this leg was dangling, unattached to the rest of his leg. Only after he saw this did his face glaze over and shift to shock. It was as if he needed the physical affirmation of seeing his dangling leg before his mind could melt into shock. What could account for this need? It seemed that although the pain was pushing his body towards shock, his mind also needed to be convinced in order for the entity of his body and mind to slip away from reality. What bring about shock? Can some people have situation A happen where one person will go into shock and the other will not? How much is shock related to perception?
Name:  Ginger
Subject:  A Rambling on Communication
Date:  2004-03-01 09:38:20
Message Id:  8580
I was very interested in all the discussion regarding language and its role as an output of the brain. Have you noticed how some people are just inherently better at communicating through speech than others? Of course most of this is the result of training, but could it be possible that there is a biological predisposition as well? Last night's Oscars actually put this thought in my head. Isn't it astounding how many actors and actresses are wonderful in movies, but terrible speakers in normal settings? Perhaps there are different mediums in which an individual's brain responds better for communication.

To throw some other phenomena out... Do people ever have the experience that they've thought something out so well that you think you've said it? Is that representative of my brain's to communicate within itself? Also, I just returned from my Uncle's funeral. I was amazed by the amount of time people could sit looking at each other, communicating without words. As human beings, we often subconsciously weed through the words of a conversation in an attempt to find the emotion underlying. Are our brains built better for physical expression? Is speech just a device that developed to convey this with more detail?

I know this post is a little wacky, but these were just some thoughts that were flying around in my head.

Name:  Erica
Date:  2004-03-01 11:31:49
Message Id:  8583
Just a thought about inhibitory actions. I remember taking Anthro a couple of years ago, and we talked about how human evolution includes the ability to walk and, simplistically speaking, how walking is just a way of preventing a person from falling forward. It's interesting to think of it in these terms because I'm sure that if we were to really sit and think about it, a good portion of our daily actions could actually be seen as being inhibitory rather than excitatory. Do we still have license to blame our brains for making us do something as opposed to preventing us from doing something?
Name:  Ariel
Username:  asinger
Date:  2004-03-01 15:03:50
Message Id:  8589
I thought that Ginger's point about how some people are naturally better communicators than others was really interesting. I agree that a great deal of this is related to environment and training, however I know that personally I will have ideas in my head that make complete sense, until I try to explain them, then I have difficulty framing the idea so that others can understand what I am thinking. I know this happens to some of my friends as well, since we have had conversations about it, and it happens especially in certain situations, such as being very tired or very stressed. So I was wondering what it is about the environmental factors that hinders our ability to communicate our thoughts?
Name:  Kristen
Date:  2004-03-01 17:32:19
Message Id:  8595
After Thursday's class, I was just struck by how many variables exist in the transfer of signals or molecules throughout the brain. I especially enjoyed the example of estrogen vs. testosterone. It is amazing how similar these two hormones look when their effects are so drastically different. The difference comes from the unique receptors that the hormones respond to rather than the hormones themselves. This variability could help explain why different people react to stimulants differently. Perhaps it is not the stimulant, but the internal structures such as receptors that cause the different behavior. This is especially interesting considering how easy it is for the internal structures to be changed, thus creating even more variability and uniqueness.
Name:  Anjali
Subject:  Consciousness
Date:  2004-03-01 19:43:05
Message Id:  8599
I've been thinking about an idea that I think was brought up earlier, about the difficulty in telling whether or not another animal has consciousness. It's kind of funny- there's a Star Trek episode that that always makes me think of. I saw it ages ago- when I was 8 or 9 years old, and I don't remember it very well, so I wouldn't have brought it up except that I think today I finally remembered the ending. Or I may have just unconsciously made up an ending that I like. I don't know. Either way, the ending I remembered this afternoon kind of caught my fancy, and seemed interesting. The episode is from Deep Space 9, called "Shadowplay", about a colony on some planet where the settlers have started mysteriously disappearing. So two people from Deep Space 9 are sent to investigate, and they get to know some of the settlers, and in particular the leader of the colony, who's at this point an old man. Anyway, various things happen, they're no closer to an answer, when it suddenly transpires that all of the people in this colony are holograms. Except for the old man, their leader. He had built a machine years before to create this entire colony of holographic people, so realistic that it was only by complete chance that the two people from Deep Space 9 discovered they weren't actually real. He had been trying to recreate people that he had once known, and who had died- I think it was something like that, anyway. But as much as he wished otherwise, the people he created had not been real. They showed all of the outward signs of being living, breathing, conscious individuals - and yet they were not, and he knew they were not, and it made him very bitter. So when the machine started to get old and fail he didn't repair it, and just let his people slowly disappear.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the people from Deep Space 9 turned the hologram machine off, and discovered the old man was the only person who didn't disappear. He wouldn't let them turn the machine on again, then, and they had a long argument. He kept insisting the the people of the colony weren't real, and he didn't want them back. They were a mockery of the people that he longed for and had tried to recreate, because they resembled them in every way down to the last detail- except that they were neither conscious nor alive. And then this is the ending I remembered today, which I may very well be making up, but I still like it: Their reply to the old man was, how did it matter, that he knew they weren't alive? He was still killing them.

I guess that just caught my fancy because it ties back to that whole idea that we can't know for sure if any of the people around us have consciousness. We could each be the only real person in the world. But the fact is, eventhough that's a possibility- it isn't a useful way to view the world. Our reality may be an illusion, but the most useful way to deal with it is just to treat it as though it's reality. And if someone shows the outward appearance of consciousness, and yet does not actually have consciousness, in a way that doesn't really matter.

Anyway. I probably just mutilated that episode, and for anyone who's seen it and remembers it better than I do (which wouldn't be difficult), I'm sorry. Just one other thing: reading the discussion about language, I had a kind of related thought, about expressing yourself in a language- I've noticed that some people find it far easier to articulate ideas in writing than outloud, and for others it's easier to express themselves outloud than in writing. It's interesting. I've always wondered why that is. It feels as though your ability to express yourself outloud and in writing ought to be the same, but that's almost never the case. There are ideas that I can explain in writing that I find it almost physically impossible to express outloud. The words simply disappear, or get confused and forget where they're meant to go, and the idea itself starts to get tired of waiting about and I start to forget it, and finally all I want is to grab a pen and paper and communicate that way... And then I have a friend who's wonderful at expressing himself outloud. He's intelligent and eloquent and convincing, outloud. But set him in front of a keyboard, and all of a sudden he has nothing to say.

Name:  Mridula Shankar
Subject:  language acquisition
Date:  2004-03-01 21:14:52
Message Id:  8603
The posts regarding language got me thinking about what my father once told me. He spent his school years between the ages of 3-7 in 3 different countries. India, Switzerland and the U.S. When in India he could speak only in Hindi, when in Switzerland only in French and in the U.S only in English. Each time the family moved he forgot the language he had learnt previously and acquired the new one. It seems as though it was almost instinctive for him to acquire each language when he was exposed to it and once the need to know it disappeared so did the memory of it.
While reading some literature regarding dyslexia I came across some interesting information about language acquisition. A "phoneme" (smallest meaningful segment of language) is the fundamental unit of the linguistic system. A genetically determined phonological module assembles the phonemes into words for the speaker while the listener breaks down the spoken words back into its phonological components. This seems to indicate that the ability to speak a particular language is genetically determined to a large extent. Does this mean that there is a single phonological module that can be manipulated to convert words of different languages into their phonological components or are there multiple modules for different languages? Also if the phonological module is genetically determined, are some people genetically predisposed to speak a particular language....just a couple of thoughts!
Name:  Nicole Wood
Subject:  Hmmm...
Date:  2004-03-01 21:17:48
Message Id:  8604
I found it quite interesting to learn that most neurobiologists do not regard the field of hypnotism with any respect. It seems like it would be quite the phenomenon to discover. How can we account for the fact that, when under hypnosis, people are capable of doing things that they could never do in a normal state? What do the same neurobiologists who dismiss the powers of hypnosis believe to be the source for feats done while under hypnosis? Would they claim that these people were always capable of seemingly fabulous acts? It's an interesting idea to think about...
Name:  Kimberley Knudson
Subject:  the easiest answer
Date:  2004-03-01 21:18:11
Message Id:  8605
The movie "the Matrix" has come up a few times in class. I wanted to comment on the idea that we are not in control of our surroundings, that the possibility of a matrix type situation is possible. There are a few questions one can pose. First, as Dr. Grobstein pointed out in class, is this scenario very likely? For the most part, people can agree on what is reality. Besides the minority of those with delusions or schizophrenia, most people will describe concrete things in the same way, when we jump we come back to earth, when we go outside on a rainy day we get wet... Since we all share these common experiences and no one has any proof that there is some outside force controlling us or what we perceive why should we think that it could be so?

This thought leads to another that I have been struggling with for years. I used to feel a lot of guilt about my life situation. I would read the newspaper and watch CNN. I was confronted daily by the fact that the vast majority of the world's population does not live in the comfort and security that I do. I would often wonder why I deserved to live so well with so many opportunities available to me while many, perhaps more deserving than myself, lived in poverty? I told this to a researcher who I was helping one year and she told me an analogous story of a man who struggled with the idea of free will. He wanted so desperately to know if he was in charge of his life or not, yet every time he thought he had found an example of free will, he would quickly discover that the situation could just as easily support the idea that he had no free will. His inquiry went on for years and nearly led him to a mental collapse. Eventually he came to the conclusion that there was no way for him to prove or disprove that he had free will. So he decided that he would simply believe he did have it and lived as though it were so.

Is it useful to think about something one way for which we have no basis especially if this view is detrimental to our daily functioning? Or is it better to think about a situation that has evidence to support it and makes it easier for us to function? Though no one can disprove that we are not all just producing electricity for machines. I know that I can be a lot more productive thinking that reality is exactly as I and most other people perceive it. Likewise, I am more productive thinking that perhaps I do deserve to be where I am and the challenge for me is proving that this is true.

Name:  Erin
Date:  2004-03-01 22:26:49
Message Id:  8606
Kimberley's comment about reality got me thinking about how much realities change between people despite relatively similar environments. I think it is really interesting that in one aspect, "reality" is basically the same for all people we run and we get tired, we don't eat and we get hungry, we laugh when we are happy and cry when we are sad. However, our environment dictates how our individual interpretations of "reality" shape and mold us. On one level though we are all human, the reality faced by the orphan in a foreign country is different than that of a student in Michigan, in both cases, with each individual -- born into a particular environment and bound by circumstance. But on another level, when external factors are controlled for and environments are as similar as possible people still experience a personal "reality" different from anyone else. We have no idea what is in the head of the student sitting next to us even though we are in the same class, hearing, seeing and smelling pretty much the same thing. In effect, I would ask, how much of our experience is molded by our external environmental stimuli and how much of our experience as humans is failure of our inhibitory processes to regulate what goes on inside of our brains regardless of external stimuli?
Name:  Amy Gao
Subject:  different realities?
Date:  2004-03-02 00:02:51
Message Id:  8613
The talk on how we each preceive our surroundings and environments differently got me thinking about this game I played a few years back (it's probably a bit out there, but that's what came into my mind). The plot is about this man, James, who goes to a place called Silent Hill. He discovers that it is a town full of monsters and strange beings. He meets a little girl, Laura, and he's concerned about her safety since she runs around town without any protection. I can't remember the exact dialogue, but it went something like this. James: You shouldn't run around like that. This place is dangerous. It's full of monsters. Laura: Monsters? What monsters? What are you talking about? As the game progresses, you discover that the town and its surroundings are actualy reflections of people's consciousnesses. In other words, James was seeing monsters and weird imagery becuase of the deep, dark secrets that he holds in his heart, which manifest into physical forms in this town. Laura, however, is not seeing any monsters because she is only a little girl and is relatively inexperience in the world and hence has no dark secrets to hide. I was inspired by this to think that mentally ill individuals look at the world differently than we do (perhaps because of chemical inbalance or the brain not wiring right) and that whereas the world maybe a good place for us, they think that their (respective) human experience is horrible. Sort of like Don Quixote riding at the windmill thinking it's a giant. (Excuse me if I remembered this wrong!) We may look at things differently because of the external stimuli that we receive which are processed differently in each of us. Or we may look at things different because we are unconsciously projecting our ideas of what things should be onto it. Just a thought.
Name:  Natalie Merrill
Date:  2004-03-02 00:11:14
Message Id:  8614
I will frequently write thoughts down during class and these are a few ideas I had last week: I realize that we will continue discovering things that are closer and closer to the truth with more and more understanding. In terms of the brain and personality, I wonder if we'll ever completely understand how the two interact. If we ever were to meet, say, an alien race, I'm sure that most of our conclusions about the brain and personality would be tossed away again and we'd have another set of endless questions. This goes for animals as well. Once we figure out ourselves, should we turn to discovering the personality link for there one??
Name:  Neo (Mike)
Subject:  The Matrix- you just have to deal with it
Date:  2004-03-02 00:19:50
Message Id:  8616
Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

I have a friend from high school who is a high grade schizophrenic and a generally wild guy (we're talking knocking police officers unconscious while under the influence of LSD, joining a cult kind of wild). Nonetheless, Latrell has always been very interested in the mind and it's capacity to percieve "reality." He read books on magic and the occult, and joined a cult which was loosely based on these principles if I remember correctly.

This past summer, my friends and I had just seen the second "Matrix" movie and we're hanging out on the street talking about what a piece of crap it was. Latrell walks by and we ask him about it.

"What did you think of the Matrix?" I said.

"Well, you just have to deal with it," was his response.

Although not appropriate for the question I asked, his response was adequate for the question we are addressing. If there is a transcendent "reality" that we are unable to grasp, you just have to deal with it, because trying to grasp what is inherently ungraspable is a pretty fruitless activity. The idea of the Matrix is that in order for the Matrix itself to be so sinister and deceptive, we can't know about it. We'd be inside of it, and we'd just have to deal with it until Keanu Reaves achieves a vocabulary large enough to save us.

Name:  Akudo Ejelonu
Username:  Anonymous
Date:  2004-03-02 00:48:48
Message Id:  8617
I would like to know why mental illness is part of the sociological classification of deviance.
Name:  Lindsey
Subject:  Reality and the Inner voice
Date:  2004-03-02 00:53:07
Message Id:  8618
This talk of our perception of reality is fascinating (especially since I'm a fan of the Matrix and its underlying philosophy). If we remove the question "what is reality?" from the scientific basis (as a pattern elicited from various inputs) and talk about it more generally from a philosophical standpoint, a lot can be said. In Plato's Republic: The Cave, a hypothetical situation is created. We live in a cave (a metaphor for a state of confusion) where we must learn to the best of our abilities. In the cave, there is a fire that projects shadows of figures onto a wall (the real figures are blocked by a wall, so we can only see their shadows). These shadows constitute our reality. If we are freed from the cave, released into perfect daylight, than we can also attain perfect knowledge of real things although it may be quite uncomfortable to adjust to these new ideas and sights. I'm not quite sure where I am going with this, but I think there are two things that can be said here. First, the question isn't what is reality; it is what is our perception of reality. Obviously, this is shaped heavily by our environment/culture and our individual makeup. The second question is what is our perception of reality? What does it mean that this reality is converted into a representation of what is actually there by our sensory neurons?

I was also very interested by the discussion of language, and the notion of the "inner voice." I found this random website called the "skinny on deaf people's inner voice." The question posed was, "do profoundly deaf people who learn to talk have a voice in their head?" The answer was that we can cogitate, daydream and reminisce without employing any language system at all. In fact, random gibberish bounces around in the brain (just like the random firings of our brain that need to be inhibited by our nervous system..). A deaf clinical psychologist responded "the brain has a special capacity to develop phonological representations, even when it does not have auditory input." What one person hears may function as a sound, or convey the same meaning that language would. Also, how is this manifested in dreams? Apparently, Deaf people can have an auditory inner voice as well a signing one. From personal experience (as a hearing impaired individual), I feel pretty confident that I "hear" in my dreams, however I do not know if this hearing is that of a true hearing person or the hearing that I have now. I know I've gotten quite off topic from the notion of language..but I thought it was an interesting question that has always floated around. Do blind people see? Can quadriplegics walk in their dreams? Can we smell in our dreams? We think of dreams as primarily visual, but what happens if we include other sensory elements?

Name:  amar
Subject:  matrix reality
Date:  2004-03-02 02:06:21
Message Id:  8620
I just had a short comment that was told to me by a fellow philosophy major. When i told him how frustrating it was to discuss philosophical views on reality with any of my friends who are stuck in the scientific mind he simply told me that science always answers "how?", but never "why?".
Relating to Mike's friend, the idea is that if we do question our reality etc. we are approaching this from a philosophical view, but if we get caught up in approaching this question from the scientific basis we are only confusing ourselves. Science will always explain reality, but never answer why this is the reality we have.
Name:  Maja
Subject:  talking to the brain
Date:  2004-03-02 02:39:35
Message Id:  8621
A professor once told me that the brain is the only organ in the human body that we can heal by talking to it. And this got me thinking about people's ability to convince themselves of certain feelings. We've all done it at some point or another. Weather it be unreciprocated attraction that we're trying to 'get over' by convincing ourselves that we don't actually like that person, or being in a gloomy mood and trying to 'snap out of it' by reminding ourselves of all the good things in our life. Could this be a built-in self-preservation mechanism?
Name:  Chelsea
Date:  2004-03-02 03:14:00
Message Id:  8622
I'm responding to Maja's post. I absolutely think this is a built-in defensive mechanism. Besides the ablility to change our feelings and opinions through conditioning, we also repress painful or potentially harmful memories. Even though we may eventually need to release these memories, the ability to supress them definately has short-term advantages.

This also reminds me of the feeling (or lack thereof) described by people after the death of a loved one. An ability to "hold it together" and "do what needs to be done" before grieving is probably also a survival adaptation. I'd like to know more about the processes behind this phenomena.

Name:  Allison
Date:  2004-03-02 03:40:05
Message Id:  8623
Sarah and Dana's postings made me think more about an individual's perception of different scents. I don't agree that one can make a universal claim regarding whether or not something smells good or bad. Identifying a scent as either good or bad denotes individual perception. However, in the case of bananas, I do believe individuals smell for the most part an identical scent. One person may hate the scent of bananas while another likes it that isn't the point. Both people agree that they smell bananas. It seems in part that the unconscious plays a role in perceiving different scents. I don't think inadequate language is the reason for one's inability to describe why they dislike a particular scent. It seems plausible that one's unconscious associates a scent with a negative experience, and therefore one dislikes that particular scent. The disconnect between the unconscious and the self appears to be the reason one cannot express why they dislike a scent.

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