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An ongoing conversation on brain and behavior, associated with Biology 202, spring, 1998, at Bryn Mawr College. Student responses to weekly lecture/discussions and topics.
What new insights into the nervous system, behavior, and/or the relation between them come from discussion of sleep/wake behavior and related phenomena?
Name: Elaine de Castro
Subject: Yeah baby, I have a Killer I-function - or do I?
Date: Thu Apr 16 15:16:27 EDT 1998
Today's class made me happy - I thought - wow, I can make myself go to sleep with or without sensory input! What an I-function! When I tell myself before I go to sleep, "I will wake up in 8 hours" and count to 8, I do it, right on the minute. Yeah! I even thought of the times when I get on a plane to the Philippines, where the time change is 12 hours (ie, noon in New York is midnight there), and by planning sleeping and waking hours on the plane, I completely evade any form of jet lag. Wow! Go I-function!
So how come I fall asleep in class? (Not neurobio, of course). Maybe my I-function needs to work on some of its skill areas.
I've also been thinking of the cyclic hormone release in women as generalized control mechanism - is this an appropriate application?
I've had a constant internal debate as to whether or not there really is an I-function. I'm on the "yes" side (again). But maybe it's not my choice to avoid jet lag - maybe my body knows what's good for me and is taking the precautionary steps to do so, meanwhile tricking me into thinking I'm actively making the choice. Maybe there isn't an I-function, we're just tricked into thinking we have one. Hey! It's a big conspiracy!
Also, with a generalized control mechanism, it's amazing how much is, or isn't, in our hands (or I-function). When I go without much sleep for a night, I would think my body would want to catch up on its REM sleep at least, and make me sleep longer the next day - but if I'm stressed out, well, I can't sleep at all no matter what I try to do. If the menstrual cycle is a GCM, then stress again alters its regularity in most women. I'd like to see where, if such a thing exists, the line between I-fcn control and I-fcn override exists.
Lots of thoughts...
Another topic of interest to me was the idea of circadian rhythm. It makes me realize how harmful to thought processing and mental capacity working long inconsistent hours that encompass both night and day shifts may be. I immediately thought of medical residents and the hours they keep. I am quite certain that at some point someone has done a study showing that more mistakes are made by physicians who work inconsistent hours and are not following a normal circadian rhythm. I think it just shows again the powerful relationship between sensory input and the internal expectation of the brain. The "I-function" has a powerful role in this, also I think.
But I disagree with the statement that the "I-function" can exclusively help my body get to sleep if I just tell my body that I need sleep. I find it extremely difficult to fall asleep even when I get the environment one that is conducive of sleep. . . but then again, I sometimes find myself falling asleep at the most inopportune moments when I do NOT WANT to fall asleep and the environment certainly is not one that should lull me to sleep! I am thinking in particular of my physics classroom for example. . . I guess what I am trying to say is that the sensory input, "I-function" and circadian rhythms need to work together for sleep to occur. I think it is dangerous to try and compartmentalize the body's functions into one specific area of the brain. There are just too many complications to try and narrow it down that much.
There are very few things that I remember from the Biology 101 class that I took at Bryn Mawr in 1993 (No offense meant to Prof. Grobstein. It was a LONG time ago). The only lab that comes to mind is the one where we found the blind spot (and that is NOT just because it only took one hour of the allotted 3 hours). The other thing that has stuck in my mind after these years is "circadian rhythms" and internal clocks. I cannot tell you how many times I have told people about the sleeping patterns of those poor folks who got stuck in the cave study. I have even won a few beers over it.
I have been thinking about another possible example of the internal clock and the "roughly" 24 hour sleep/wake cycle that we usually maintain: Daylight Savings Time. When we push our clocks back by one hour (or forward by one), for a couple of days, it is tough to get into the new rhythm. Because we generally change the clock overnight, we lose (or gain) an hour out of the sleep in the usual sleep/wake pattern. While the cycle does not undergo a drastic change (after the adjustment period, it remains "roughly" 24 hours), it does incorporate the new environmental cues associated with the changing time. For example, the nervous system has to incorporate the idea that it is lighter when the sleep cycle begins or it is darker when it is time to wake. Overall, however, the cycle itself will still be 24 hours.
I find it interesting that both of the examples that I can pick out of my Biology 101 class have to do with "normal" human behavior. Rather than the frog or brain models, what stuck in my mind had to do with those things that make up a part of our days, either consciously or subconsciously. The other thing that I remember thinking back in 1993 is that it would be my biggest nightmare to wake up in a cold, dark cave and realize that I had accidentally signed up to be a part of some sleep/wake study.
Now are they changing the set point to be "happier" or is the set point being pushed toward unhappiness and causing a drug dependence?
PG asked whether we found it disturbing that there are things outside of our I-functions over which we often have no say; and in certain circumstances, like the one just described, or depression, or obsessions, or phobias, et al., one might say it is disturbing. But at the same time, these "disorders" are better known to us than this elusive I-function (which I am still not sure of); perhaps it is best that they ARE outside of our I-functions, perhaps that allows us to do something about them. Also, these are all examples, I think, of instances where the contributive role of the I-function is overruled by those processes outside of it; that is, we all have the basic set-up for such disorders, we all have downs, fears, etc., and what we are seeing in individuals whom we label as "mentally ill," and whom we see as distinct and different, is actually an amplification of parts of ourselves (trope borrowed from Dr, Vilayanur Ramachandran; see my second web-paper).
So what is the I-function? IS there an I-function? Is it a box? If such a great part of who we are lies outside of it, what role does it play? I feel like PG is leading us slowly toward the key to this mystery, purposefully winding the path, teasing and tempting us at the same time...and although I enjoy everything we are learning and also see why it is that we have to take a roundabout route, I have to admit that, despite our progressive delineation of what it is not, this notorious I-function seems to be gaining in importance.
I understand that everyone has an internal clock that keeps their bodies on a roughly 24 hour cycle. Those people that once found it hard to accept this circadian oscillator theory were stuck on the input side. They were always concerned with something changing the state of the nervous system from without and never considered from within.
We said in class that our internal clocks wake us up independent of sensory input. I also think that besides our "clocks" waking us up, we have other internal signals that can arouse us from sleep. Often when I have a disturbing dream, I will wake up. Also, a small bladder can necessitate a visit to the bathroom in the middle of the night, independent of any sensory input.
For the majority of people, their internal clocks signal to them that they are tired at the same time they are getting sensory inputs telling them that it is nighttime, and therefore time for bed. What about those people that work night shifts and need to sleep during the day? Their bodies must need to completely readjust their cycle. It will probably still be a 24 hour cycle except it will be completely opposite most of society's "clock." I know that even when those people's "clocks" readjust, they still never seem quite right. Sleeping during the day is just not as restful for them as it is at night. And even though they can be completely exhausted, it is harder for them to fall asleep because their sensory inputs are telling them it's daytime. This in turn, makes them cranky and agitated.
Does every person work on a 24 hour cycle or are some people different? Also, what about those people that don't need to be tired, or for it to be dark, or quiet- if they lie down at any time, they can fall asleep? Does this show that their I-function might have more control than their "clocks" or is their cycle a little mixed up?
And with sleeping, how do large groups of neurons all begin to work in cosort and go off at the same times to make a general sinusoidal, predictable wave? It seems to me that when im sleeping it would be a good time to let the brain go wild and have the neurons firing when they please.
To make this EEG mess make sense, I have been thinking about motor symphonies. And Im certain there must be an analogous neural symphony that goes along with the many functions happing during the day. For example there must be a lot of neural output happening to allow my thinking for the typing of this project, as well as some neural activity monitoring the passage of time, so im not late to my next class, and then some neural activity for the complicated coordinated movement of my fingers across the key board. So, all these separate tasks must make for the confusing EEG taken while awake.
But is sleeping any less complicated a time? When I sleep I am often dreaming, how come making up those dreams does not require a ton of neural activity? Does this mean that my dreams are just not that complicated, that only a few bunches of neruons need to work together to make this happen? And what about the breathing and heart beating, and remembering to wake up before the next day passes by. Are all these events happening on such a cyclic schedule that the neurons can handle them in a regular fahsion.
I guess I am concluding that my sleep state and wake state do not seem to be that different in regards to the sum of activities that must be taken care of by my brain. Then what is the difference? It seems that while I am sleeping my I fucntion is not as active. Could it be that the I funciton produces the chaos of waking EEG records? I bet it is. I remembering hearing some where that people who are really good at meditating can make their EEG come across as a sensible wave, rather then chaos. Is this because they can control their I functions such that they can have a senseible neural symphony.
Many questions.... what a chaotic I funciton I have!
So, what's the secret behind these mysterious bulges on the skin? I'm afraid I can only venture a guess, due to the scarcity of resources on this topic. The friend, with whom I was speaking, mentioned that she saw a special on public TV a little while ago on the subject of emotion and cognition. A scientist on the show indicated that there are more connections from the limbic system to the frontal lobe than from the frontal lobe back to the limbic system. Therefore, if a person experiences a traumatic event, she will immediately experience a stronger emotional reaction than if she had a chance to think about it first. Perhaps the strength of the initial emotional reaction has to overcome a threshold in order to cause the appearance of goosebumps. It would be interesting to conduct an experiment on the subject. The study could involve measuring the goosebump response after an "emotion before thought" condition which would involve jumping out and scaring the subjects and after a "thought before emotion" condition which would involve reading a scary ghost story to the subjects (I'm not sure, though, whether the latter would really qualify as a "thought before emotion" condition).
My friend also mentioned that she recently read in Descartes' Error by Antonio R. Damasio, that after Phineas Gage had his "pole through the head" accident (please excuse the crude description), he completely lost his affect and his rationality. Evidently, immediately following the incident, Gage relayed what had transpired with absolutely no emotion. It was as if he had undergone an accidental lobotomy. He also became incredibly impulsive, unable to make any rational decisions. Damasio believes that emotion and rationality are intimately related. His view seems to be supported by the evidence listed above. If he is indeed correct in thinking that rational thought cannot exist without emotion, than it almost makes Mr. Spock himself seem highly illogical. Incidentally, the book is so titled, my friend guesses (she's only at the beginning), because Descartes assumed that cognition and affect or mind and emotion were separate.
I wonder whether people who commit violent crimes have fewer connections between their limbic systems and frontal lobes, giving them their lower emotional arousal and thereby making events much less emotionally significant for them. Perhaps sociopaths do not get goosebumps as readily as the rest of us.
I'd like to think more about how the mind creates categories; I am especially interested in the ones that we create as a group. Some of the categories are explainable given the fact that we all have machinery built on the same model (sensory receptors all built for the same range of input; axon tracks all leading to roughly the same place, etc). I believe that external reality exists, and that the brain constructs interpretations of experience based on what it is able to perceive and also what it is able to infer. ( The example of inference currently on my mind is that of radon, a gas which is invisible, odorless, silent, tasteless and "untouchable", yet we've been able to deduce its existence from experiments with cause and effect and we even have a test for its presence which compensates for our inability to perceive it. ) I understand how a variety of perspectives can be achieved through the variety of experiences each person has through the filter of this basic template, which explains why one person swoons for Mozart while another is indifferent. What I cannot seem to grasp is, what would the neuronal or genetic basis be for distinguishing between categories we have in common and those which are personal? In other words, what criteria do our neurons use to distinguish between perceptions, inferences or thoughts which fall on the common grid and those that are our own individually, original and unique? (Forgive me if this seems unusually dense; the Foucault we read for Col. Sem. has permanently scrambled my thinking about what people do in groups.)
When Prof Grobstein said (in reply to Meredith Ralston in last weeks forum) that "social influences are just action potentials in sensory neurons", it still doesn't explain why some influences resonate in my nervous system, presumably for the rest of my life, while they pass like radio waves, with no discernable effect, through the nervous system of somebody else. We haven't yet come up with a box that sorts (and retains or discards) some of these concepts.
As an aside, I have to say I am awfully reassured to discover what I have already suspected, that part of my mind is devoted to keeping me awake a certain number of hours every day, to diverting flying objects headed in my direction, and to maintaining a cohesive internal map of the path in front of me to which "I" am paying scant attention. I am an easily distractible person, and I am glad that some part of myself is consigned to regulating my response to such things; even if it makes some of them up; and all the better if it occurs without my "I" keeping abreast of every detail. It is very efficient, and it is pretty.
Like someone mentioned earlier in this week’s forum, the circadian rhythm discussion also reminded me of the regularity of women’s reproductive cycles and pheromones. How are these inputs- not sensory, of course, processed by the brain/nervous system to maintain the regularity of the cycle? How is this cycle’s regularity a strategy for survival?
I find it quite interesting that the I-function cannot control everything in our bodies. In some ways this is quite disturbing while in other ways in can be rather comforting. I would like to think that I am completely in charge of my moods and sleep patterns, but there must be times when our nervous systems must take over and variation that allows for varied perspective and experience can be quite helpful and important. I think that there are porbably times when I absolutely need sleep and if my I-function were in total control, I may not get that sleep. However, I am quite tempted to use that fact that the I-function is not in total control as an excuse. I want to just say to myself, "It's okay to have crazy outbursts, or fall asleep in class, because my I-function has no control over these things." Unfortunately this does not always work in the real world and I believe that's where medication comes into play, because of chemical imbalances caused by pharmacological dependences. Thinking about these issues, it also makes sense that a person may become severely exhausted if they are depressed.
I find the sleep/wake issues interesting as well. Last week in my essay, I mentioned the idea of "deaf-hearing" and it makes sense that a person could experience this "deaf-hearing" while sleeping, in which they're nervous system picks up sound waves, but their I-functions are unable to "hear". I think that dreaming must play an interseting role in sleep issues and I am always curious about what role the I-function plays in dreaming.
Another thing I was thinking about during the whole discussion on how we sleep was "why do we sleep". I have heard that sleep is not really biologically necessary and people would not die without it. But these same studies, and my own experience have shown that if someone is deprived of sleep, it suddenly becomes a powerful reinforcer and people do almost anything or give up anything in favor of the chance to sleep. I have also heard the without sleep, thought people suffer no physiological side effects, there can major psychological problems, such as impairment of reasoning, or even psychosis in extreme cases. Perhaps then sleep isn't required for the nervous systems, which is busy dreaming even when we are asleep, but instead it is for the "I function" (that is of course if it exists.
My friend and I question the value of this type of research. What are the benifits of research into the differneces between men's and women's brains? My friend and I feel that this type of research is likely to be misinterpreted by the general public and lead to discrimination. Furthermore, aren't any differences between men and women as a group minscule compared to the diffrences between individual men and women? Couldn't the money spent on this type of research be better spent elsewhere?
I suppose that I think of insanity as a loss of, or at least a loss of control over, the 'I'-function. On a smaller scale, I know that depriving myself of sleep is one of the most effective ways of changing my personality. Why is it that lack of sleep causes overemotionality and irrationality? Whatever the result, the tripartite relationship between sleep, sanity, and the 'I'-function lends me further proof to the notion that the brain really is just behavior.
An interesting phenomenon I discovered while researching on the web is that a person when awakened from REM sleep will seem to be completely awake and coherent, but usually doesn't remember waking up. It's almost as if the person is still in a dream. One the other hand, a person aroused from non REM sleep is disoriented and groggy, but is usually aware of being awake. This most likely is linked to the fact that REM brain activity is much like wakefulness.
Some scientists think that nonREM sleep is uses to slow down brain activity so that neurotransmitters be replenished and repackaged in the neurons. REM sleep is also somewhat of a mystery as well. But possible function of REM sleep and dreaming is memory processing. One theory is that the brain dreams so that is can replay events of the day thereby reinforcing the pattern of neurons which correspond to a memory. Another theory about dreams is that we dream in order to expunge useless memories from our brains so that new, useful memories can be processed. Proving the connection between memory and sleep has been difficult in humans (much more successful in animals), but I believe a connection exists.
Pharmocological influence can keep one awake even though they are placed in a sensory deprivation chamber. For example, reticular neurons terminate over a wide area of the NS rather than a particular place, so caffeine can bind with those receptor sites that are ammenable to its influence and keep the body alert regardless of other sensory input. Chemicals can temporarily reset the internal clock. So can flying to another country. Sensory input does not correspond to the expected input so feelings of jet lag persist, but the body adjusts by resetting the clock (This is predicated on sensory input and is a generalized response). Finally, the I-function can will one to stay awake.
All of this suggests that the I-function is indeed a distinct entity of the NS and that sleeping behavior among other kinds of behavior can be modified by its' 'will'. It also suggests that behavior, once again, is not just a function of a predicted output based on a certain kind of input. Rather, there is a feedback loop where output can effect input; this is especially so when the body is under a pharmocological influence.
The concept of a generalized control mechanism is exceedingly important because it helps to substantiate how mutliple aspects of behavior can be effected by one or many inputs/outputs at anyone time. Mood is a great example of this.
First of all, I think if we were always conscious about what was going on internally, we wouldn’t be able to concentrate on external things at all. I think the point of having a consciousness is so we can make decisions about how to behave in reaction to these external happenings. In fact, this might be the only behavior we really have the ability to modify or change.
The second benefit is the capacity of our nervous system in relaying information to our I Function Box. If neurons had to be sent to relay details of everywhere in the body to the I box, there would probably be major traffic jams! It would also cause a need for a much larger short and long term memory storage place. More short term memory would be needed because the consciousness might want to look back on what just happened to come to some hypothesis or to answer a question. More long term memory would be needed because if something went wrong internally, you would want to remember details about it so you can help it get better or so next time if the same thing happens you will be prepared.
Another plus of not hearing what is going on internally is so our insides can be super efficient. They do not have to bother to go through the I Box in order to do their job- they can take the fastest route. They also do not have to wait for any approval from the consciousness before they act. This is very important if things need to get done quickly. Another benefit of not having to be side tracked by the I Box is they are kept away from a lot of the action in the nervous system. This might be good to prevent any unnecessary injuries and damage that might happen due to increased exposure to activities. Perhaps the routes the internal information takes around the nervous system are extra safe as to protect the whole internal modification process. It would be the worst thing for your body if anything in this system goes wrong.
Although I admit it would be cool if we automatically knew everything that was going on inside of my body (because then cellular Biology would be a lot easier!) I think the way it works now has a lot of benefits.
At the same time as my I-function was on hiatus, I was definitely seeing proof of this circadian oscillator thingy. While it wasn't quite operating on a 24-hour cycle, I found that after being awake for a certain time, I would crash and sleep like a log for a night or two and sleep constantly during the day.
Admittedly, I haven't done a lot of research into insomnia and so I don't know a lot about the intrinsic thing-a-ma-roos(closely related to under-roos) that happen in the nervous system of an insomniac, but I actually see this as proof of the existance of the I-function. I have been perfectly capable of helping myself go to sleep when I want for my entire life--I haven't ever suffered from jetlag or had any previous bouts with insomnia or any other sleep related dilemmas. And suddenly I can't do that any more--which I see as proof that there was previously an I-function involved which will hopefully become involved again(soon?!?). Certainly the I-function does not play as large of a part in sleeping/awake and other nervous system functions as I thought it did at the beginning of the semester, as is evidenced by our growing list of things that the I-function does not control. However, I am a believer that it IS there...somewhere...and it does give us a semblance of involvement...sometimes...over the processes of our nervous system. So there.:)
It was also interesting to hear how in addition to the random behavior that is created, there is also fundamental randomness as a result of “noise” in the nervous system. That too is odd to consider since the body is such a complicated “machine”. It seems that this could have a devastating effect on the organism. Although it was said that different parts of the body are more or less susceptible to the noise. But I’m curious to know how much of an effect it has on an organism’s life.
I’ve been continually amazed over the course of the semester as we’ve placed functions and aspects of the body that I thought “just happened” into real and concrete systems in the body. It’s incredible how much our body does that we just take for granted.
Growing Vexed with Crossing and Cross with Vectors
Last week I asked, "Why crossed pathways?" The inevitable question that follows is "Why uncrossed pathways?" Answering one question may be impossible without answering the other. I am starting to see how this problem can be frustrating. Fortunately, I have a lot of patience left.
Another rationalization for crossed pathways: the shortest distance between two points. How? This argument stretches the limits of the interneuronal "box" metaphor, requiring that a box exist physically, in a specific spatial orientation. The model suggests that Kostyk and Grobstein's tectal outflow processing box is a set of interneurons arranged with respect to one another, and to their upstream "source" and downstream "target" so as to perform a specific task. The box must be located caudal to the optic tectum, rostral to the CPGs which are the pathways' targets, medial to both tectal lobes, and transverse to the midline. (See figure 1.) One central box processes outflow from both lobes. Ignore the uncrossed pathways for now. The crossing pathways first descend vertically, so as to enter the ipsilateral end of the elongate box. They emerge from the contralateral end. Each pathway traverses the box in its own track: the outflow from the right tectal lobe proceeds from right to left, and the outflow from the left lobe proceeds from left to right. Modulation of the signals occurs progressively, as they travel through the box. (NB: This essay will not attempt to give meaning of the preceding meaningless sentence -- speculation as to the mechanism of "modulation" will have to wait.)
From each lateral end of the box, one of the crossed outflow pathways proceeds to its contralateral CPG responsible for a given motor output. This model assumes that the CPGs have a physical location, and that the right-side and left-side CPG-containing neurons are located equidistant from the box, due to bilateral symmetry. If this is the case, it is evident from the diagram that the CPG closest to each pathway's point of exit from the box is the one contralateral to its associated tectal lobe. The diagram suggests a triangular relationship. The vertices of the triangle are the pathways' contralateral points of exit from the box, their ipsilateral target CPGs, and their contralateral target CPGs. To reach the contralateral CPG, a pathway follows the side of a triangle; to reach the ipsilateral CPG, the pathway would follow the hypotenuse. Thus, according to the pythagorean theorem, by projecting to the ipsilateral CPG, a pathway would traverse a longer distance than it does by projecting to the contralateral CPG, as is observed.
This model makes numerous assumptions. Some of these, if wrong, invalidate it immediately. The preceding paragraphs describe the assumed locations of the relevant nervous system components. It is also assumed that nerve tracts tend to project over the shortest distance possible. As nature is parsimonious, this seems likely. It is assumed that neural pathways persist indefinitely. The model does not preclude dynamism, but changes in neuronal structure must occur so as to preserve the general geometry of the interacting parts. The biggest assumption made in this explanation of pathway crossing pertains to the location and properties of the box. The transverse orientation of the box is important because it causes the spatial displacement of a pathway away from its tectal lobe, toward its target CPG. This displacement gives rise to the triangular relationship on which the argument is based.
The idea that signal modulation occurs in a nerve tract that is oriented perpendicularly to the descending pathways may be interpreting the meaning of vertical and horizontal tracts too literally. Nevertheless, there are examples of information being transformed by passing through neurons arranged in columns that traverse a defined area in space. Signals entering the cortical lamina undergo progressive change as they pass through neurons of gradually differing functional characteristics, which are arranged sequentially. The signal that emerges from these layers is not only modified in content, it is translocated a finite distance, in a particular direction. Unlike in the cortical lamina, however, the horizontal modification and translocation of signals carried by crossed tectal outflow pathways would have to occur bidirectionally. This would require oppositely-directed columns of progressively varying neurons to be arranged transversely, parallel to one another inside the box.
STILL TO COME (after Orgo exam):
*Advantages of this model, and arguments to support it
*Criticism of this model
*Ways in which this model can explain observed intrinsic variability
*Where do the uncrossed pathways fit in?
*Ways to test model
The first thing was the synchronized and desynchronized EEG's. We know that when an EEG is desynchronized, a persons’ I-function is active. However, we do not know if that is always the case with synchronized EEG's. You said that when people were woken up in synchronized sleep, that they could not remember or were not aware of what was happening in their mind. But they did remember, when woken up from desynchronized sleep and when asked said that they were dreaming. Since they can not remember, we can't assume anything (like the I-function is not present). They may have simply forgotten what they were thinking about. So, when you say that synchronized EEG outputs mean that the I-function is not present, I still do not think that we can conclude that the I function was not present based on the evidence that you provided.
I've been known to sleepwalk and the stories that I've been told about what I do seem a bit different from what you mentioned in class today (about how sleep walking people act as they do when awake). When I was at a summer program I finished showering and when I went to my room, my roommate was gone. I checked the floor and everyone on the floor was gone (this was late at night). I was worried that I was missing a meeting or something but went to bed anyway wondering where they all went. The next morning, my roommate told me that when she came in later in the evening, I hopped up in the bed. I turned to her and emotionally exclaimed, "WHERE DID THEY ALL GO!?!" She told me, "They all went down the drain." I then said incredulously, "All of them?" And, she mournfully replied, "Yes. All of them." At that I jumped up in bed, flipped around, did a big plop back into the bed, and went to sleep (continued sleeping?). After I was told about my behavior, I found it odd and not typical of me at all. It seemed as if what I was concerned about came out while I was asleep, but it was not how I would normally behave.
Eliza and I tried to figure out what you meant by personality. Internally, we have urges, likes, dislikes, cravings, and all sorts of things. The I-function can consciously monitor these. When other people see me and interact with me they have an idea of my personality which is based on the combination of what I "naturally" want to do and say, and what my I function allows me to do. When I was talking to my roommate in my sleep, it did not seem as if the I-function was there to monitor everything that I did say (though I believe that my I-function was not there, I do not believe that all synchronized sleep lacks the I-function). So, was that the personality without the I-function, or something else (can we have personality without the I function)? When I was little I would run through the house in my sleep and just run around the living room. My parents would find me there and put me back in bed. During the day, I might have wanted to run around the house, but my I-function was developed enough for me to stop myself (I probably would have gotten in trouble for running around the house). So, what is personality, the inner urges, or what we display to others? Obviously the I-function does something and we would be completely different if we threw out the I-function.
Also, about babies and their I function, we learned that women, people who moved a lot (I’ve moved 5 times), people in a good economic class, and intelligent people tend to remember back farther. I qualify for at least 2 of those and I remember back to before I was 18 months old. We moved out of my first house when I was 18 months old and we do not have any pictures of this house. I have 2 vivid memories from this time (I described the memories to my parents of our kitchen, and they said that what I remembered was correct). In my memory, I was in the highchair in the kitchen and was looking out the Window. I wanted to go outside and saw a lot of pretty lights. I yearned to go explore. In the other one, I was in the car and felt as if I was going to spit-up, I wanted to hold it in and was determined to hold it until we got home. I remember them lifting me out of the car and seeing the strawberries in the garden and then not being able to hold it any longer (I asked my parents and they said that my dad used to go and pick strawberries in the garden behind our house and I would sit out there with him). It seems as if these indicate that babies do have some sort of I-function (I have memories from the second house as well but I think that I was talking by then) before they even have language. Even today, I have an aversion to vomiting (I think this is why I remember that experience so well). So, are we born with our personality, if so what is it?
I think that I agree with most of what your final conclusions were, but not with some of the examples.
This brings me to the question brought up in class about whether we need the I-function to develop personality. I'm not sure because I think some of personality(our tendency to behave in a certain way) is genetic. For instance, I might have been born with a bad temper ( a tendency to get very angry very quickly). I might behave this way for years and my I-function might actively go along with the tendency. But then one day things may begin to change. My I-function might actively begin to struggle with the tendency. If I conquered this tendency I would now become an easy going, mild mannered person. My personality has changed somewhat. It seems that the first angry personality could get along without the I-function, although the I-function participated. The second easy going personality needed the I-function. I wonder if the I-function was somehow damaged whether the earlier personality would return. For example, what if Phineas Gage ( I know I am taking liberties here) was originally a bad tempered guy with a tendency toward drinking too much. What if his I-function had overcome some of these tendencies. Then the accident may have damaged his I-function releasing the inhibiting effect it had on some of his tendencies. If this is true, then is the I-function a way out of harmful genetic tendencies? We've been asking what the use of the I-function is, maybe it is the reason we can say that we are more than just the sum of our genes. The ability to overcome genetic handicapps such as alcoholism, bad tempers etc. confers a great advantage.
When we had learned that the frog displays random behaviors, that was initially hard to believe at first. However, after if was discussed that animals don't repeat the same behavior each time because of survival skills, that made some sense. How do animals learn to to do this? Is it learned? Can one learn to be unpredictable? This led me to strategies that animals use to learn. I remember from my psychology classes that a method of positive or negative reinforcement is used to allow animals to perform a certain behavior. If the frog does receive reinforcement (gets the food) while performing the behavior of catching the food in a certain way, then wouldn't it repeat the behavior because it is positively reingorced. If the frog is negatively reinforced or then I can understand that the frog would perform a variety of behaviors to see which is the most appropriate to get its food. However, once it finds the appropriate behavior I am sure that it would maintain it. This was the observation made with pigeons and mice when we tried to condition them to perform certain behvaviors.
This is where I get confused about whether intrinsic variability exists. One could say that reinforcement is related to the I-function because whether or not an animal decides to produce a behavior is decided through the I-Function. Since frogs don't have a neocortex and can therefore be assumed not to have an I-function, they can be said to not possess the abilities to be conditioned for certain behaviors. Do pigeons display intrinsic variability? If they do then how does that explain why we can get them to maintain a certain behavior without letting intrinsic variability take over. I hope that my dilemma makes some sense.
Another thought that crossed my mind related to the topic of mood. When it was mentioned in class that your good mood allows you to collect more information than what it is really experienced, it related to what I learned in my abnormal psychology class. There was an experiment where it was found that people who were always in a good mood were constantly overating situations as opposed to those in a depressed state. The depressed people saw the situation as it really was. This overrating relates to the fact that people in a good mood generally perceive information that is not really there. Could it be that depressed people or those in a bad mood have a more accurate view of the world? Is there a reason why a large majority of people generally do overrate situations? This could be related to some sort of internal positive reinforcement.
Question regarding the isolation experiments, I remember reading back in the early 80's about isolation experiments not to determine the sleep wake cycle. but to examine how a person reacted when by himself for an extended period of time. The subject was placed in an underground structure with all the amenities, aside from communication, tv, radio.. (i.e. anything that would connect him to the outside world). All i remember is that he was able to last approximatly 78 days before having to be removed. Is this indicative of all social animals?
Back to the original question regarding sleep deprivation. There seems to be a host of conflicting articles describing the effects. The latest one that I had seen commented that their study had shown that cognitive powers were not impaired, rather it was only attention span that had decreased dramatically. When thinking about this, I am not too sure taht I agree with this assessment. I have undergone training that involved sleep deprivation for 120 hours straight. By 100 hours into it, the entire crew i was with, was really walking zombies. We were given basic tasks to do, involving minimal thinking, but were very very slow to comprehend and complete the tasks. Made for an interesting week. Have there been any physiological studies detailing what chemicals are released into the body during that time and how the mind is able to keep the body awake despite it screaming out that it needs sleep?
On another subject. I think internal conflict is interesting. When I want a second piece of cake, I tell myself that I don't need it, it is not good for me, I have eaten plenty. But another part of me wants the yummy chocolate. Are these two conflicting parts of myself representative of different boxes? Is one of them (the more rational "you don't need the cake" voice) the "I function" box, and the other something more primal, that demands satisfaction? If so, it is disturbing how often the primal voice wins the argument. Who is really in control anyway? I think this question comes up often in violent situations. I think very few people, if you caught them when they were calm, would argue that hot tempered violence is a productive way to handle a problem. Yet some voice within people demand it, and we do it.Serendip © by Serendip 1994- - Last Modified: Wednesday, 02-May-2018 10:52:55 CDT