Biology 202
Neurobiology and Behavior
Spring 2007

23 January

The challenge in general

This literature is going to have a powerful effect on our culture, maybe as powerful as the effect Freudianism had on our grandparents' time (the last time somebody tried to explain the brain's backstage processes). We should be a little wary of surrendering this field to the scientists ...

Review of Blink, NY Times Book Review, 16 January, 2005

Maybe even as powerful as the effect of Descartes, Copernicus, Newton, Darwin? ... PG

The response in general

Assemble a team of people with different backgrounds/perspectives to look into what is emerging from scientific exploration, become familiar with it and its implications, become involved directly and/or by helping others understand/become involved Who are we?

Biology major?
Psychology major?
NBS concentrator?
Other majors
Satisfy science requirement
Interested in biology/nervous system?
Interested in psychology/behavior?
Interested in philosophy/nature of reality/human experience?
Interested in practical problems? medicine, psychiatry, education social activism, etc?
Want to understand who you are? why you/other people behave the way you/they do? What you/they can do about it?

The challenge more specifically

Neurobiology and BEHAVIOR ... what is "behavior"?


NEUROBIOLOGY and behavior ... Neurobiology = study of the nervous system ... what is the "nervous system"?

Image by Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564), contemporary of Copernicus, suggested (less than 500 years ago) that nervous system rather than heart was origin of behavior (see Milestones in Neuroscience Research for a time line extending from 4,000 B.C.). Image by Rene Descartes (1596-1650). Set framework for several centuries (and continuing) discussion: mind and body distinct things or same thing?
Nervous system is material object, part of body, can be touched, manipulated, measured. What IS the relationship between brain (nervous system) and behavior (broadly defined to include human experience)? Subset of this are questions such as the relation between mind and brain, mind and body, matter and spirit, matter and form ...

The core of the challenge

Agree with Dickinson et al.
Disagree with Dickinson et al.

Brain = behavior?, from a "scientific" approach:

Issue is not "Truth" but whether there is a good "summary of observations", "working hypothesis", something that contributes to getting it continually "less wrong" is useful for the ongoing generation of new stories in science and in culture at large ...

Start with overview of the "trend of the evidence":

Our task for the semester (and beyond?):

to try and make sense of an existing and continuing explosion of observations on the brain, observations that have the potential to greatly influence our sense of ourselves and our relation to the world .... and to help others make sense of it as well.

Let's roll ... Forum area this weekend: YOUR thoughts on "brain=behavior", on science, on ... ?

To be continued  

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