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BBI 2007 Session 7

Paul Grobstein's picture

 

BRAIN AND BEHAVIOR INSTITUTE 2007

The bipartite brain: The frog and the story teller

 

Review (and extension)

  • Nervous system consists of very large numbers of neurons
  • Sensory neurons, motor neurons, mostly interneurons
  • Neurons receive, process, transit information in form of action potentials
  • Assembly of neurons (architecture) is what makes difference people (organisms) different, is changing all the time
  • Acting is pattern of action potentials in neurons, so too is perceiving, thinking, and .... (Tammi: emotion?)
  • Diversity and change are fundamental features of the nervous system, and hence of behavior

"The boxes, inside the boxes, inside the boxes...is a great demonstration of how we are hard wired, in the physical." ... Geneva

"I found it interesting to learn that the dfferences among people are not in the building blocks but rather the structures themselves." ... Dalia

"Each person becomes unique because of the way they are put together. This means that everyone in the world is significant and necessary to make life special. I was really impressed by the fact that there are more interneurons than sensory and motor neurons together." ... Judith

"Seeing how easily the nervous system generates action potentials makes understanding individual personalities a complex phenomenon. Isn't it a wonder that we have a common perspective or capacity for cohesion at all given how differently we interact with the external world, our internal environs, and the stories we tell about what is perceived?" ... Teresa

"during instruction the hope is that student’s neurons are working as expected without too much competing action in neurons concerned with other ideas. But self firing neurons will be inserting thoughts about the big game, a coming social activity, and countless other distractions. I need to learn ways to help students deal with such off focus ideas effectively while they are trying to learn. This might be where inhibition is helpful. Can inhibition be effectively encouraged?" ... Bruce

Synaptic integration: excitation AND inhibition

Thinking backwards about the nervous system and behavior: causing versus allowing

Important general architectual features (continuing to get it less wrong)

 

 

Loopiness and right to left arrows

  • More thinking backwards - output to get input
  • Corollary discharge - creating expectations, models
  • Nervous system as scientist - getting it less wrong (without thinking about it)

The "I-function" and Bipartite Brain

  • Unconscious/conscious distinction fundamental to nervous system organization
  • Nervous system as distributed system
  • Begins to account for story telling as distinct from acting

Implications for education?

Your thoughts about the story so far? Is it well-founded re observations? Add additional ones? Are there things it doesn't account for? What new questions does it raise?

Comments

Geneva Tolliferreo's picture

The Architectural Structure

Do the boxes only build within each other, or do they also build on top of and underneath of, and on the sides of each other? How dimensionally are we actually hardwired? Do we (does anyone) really know? If so, how so? In essence, is it safe to say we are in fact 3-D beings?
Diane OFee-Powers's picture

Brain as a Scientist

I agree with Cheryl, I also like the idea of the brain as a scientist and I want to use this concept for my summer assignment. Any suggestions????, please feel free to share them!
Anne Dalke's picture

What makes I I?

I'll be teaching the next Summer Institute, so I stopped by this morning to get a taste of how this one is going. I stayed on because I was intrigued by the story that was being told about the outputting/inputting/reafferenting brain. And I came back here this afternoon because I have a question about that story. It's a question about where we put the "I," and about what the consequences are of locating it solely in that aspect of self that we are aware of.

I understand the distinction between the modules that are the conscious and unconscious parts of our brain; I think I also understand how and why those parts might aptly be re-named the "storyteller" and "frog brain." What I really don't understand (and want to challenge) is the terminology of the "I-function." Why attribute only what is conscious to "I"? Why isn't "I" all that I do, via my body--all that my body does--in the world, whether I'm conscious of it or not? Especially if most of what I do is done unconsciously?

Is this a way of setting up some sort of morality, of saying that I'm only responsible for what I'm conscious of, what I intend to do? If so, then that story isn't very satisfying to me, doesn't acknowledge the really radical consequences of understanding the relationship of our unconscious to our behavior....

Paul Grobstein's picture

On an important distinction between the "I-function" and "I"

Nope, not "setting up some sort of morality", though I can see where the concern would come from. Its a "premature story telling" sort of thing. The "I-function" is a story about a particular set of observations: those that say that paralysis may involve not an inability to move but an inability of "I" to move, not an inability to respond to input but an inability of "I" to respond to input.

The existence of the "I-function" in turn raises (rather than answers) the very interesting question of what "I" actually means, and there are a variety of observations yet to be discussed that say quite clearly that "I" , as it is commonly used, includes things that are not in the "I-function". To put it differently, observations that lead to the I-function story in turn help to "unpeel an onion", to show the multiple levels of meaning inherent in the word "I" as it is generally used.

We'll get to those, and so it is a little early to be worrying about "morality" (and certainly too soon to argue that all this is "setting up some sort of morality"). On the flip side, though, the existence of the "I-function" and its relation to the unconscious does indeed raise some important questions about common understandings of "morality". Which we'll also get to.

Judith Lucas-Odom's picture

Bipart-Brain

This morning's session was very interesting because as a society we tend to separate ourselves into sections as we go grow as either an over-achiever or an under-achiever but based on what happens in our nervous system this is not necessarily so. We are all put together differently! Are we enabling our students? The I function is something that we need to spend more time on controlling and allowing our students choices for their differences. In a real world, we must start them on this road at an earlier age and keep them encouraged over a life time.
joycetheriot's picture

Brain & Behavior in the Classroom

Teachers are always looking for strategies to connect with their students. I've attended many Brain related workshops looking for specific tactics or at least a better understanding of student behavior so I can formulate a plan of my own. I am looking for keys to unlock my students’ resistance to learning and find a path to true engagement. Many researchers have presented ideas but it is teachers who create the keys. Keith told a story today about a math teacher that was able to suggest a pathway for him to engage in learning. His teacher had a key that fit Keith’s specific requirement. Finding that key may have come from the teacher’s own trials or experience or as advice from another teacher. We need workshops that incorporate both the researcher/expert and the elementary/secondary teacher as facilitators. The discussion period in this Institute tends to make sense of the delivered information by all of us trying to apply it to the classroom. Yes, we can write our ideas on this forum however it is not as rich as the live connection between us. The delivered brain information is a fabulous stimulus for us to bounce ideas off of each other. More importantly we are able to get feedback about our ideas from a neurobiologist – a brain expert! The connection between all is extremely rich but not satisfying in that some things are missed or never brought to a restated summary. The missing piece is the facilitating teacher who could build the formulated keys (from all of our interactions), that we need to take back to our classroom. Teachers care deeply about helping students to feel good about themselves and their ability to learn more. We all search desperately for the keys to brain behavior. Supporting children to find ways that work for them is vital.
Paul Grobstein's picture

Connections, and connections

Yep, writing is "not as rich as the live connection between us" (for good neurobiological reasons), shouldn't/won't ever replace it. But it isn't too be ignored either, as an addition to "live connection". It gives us what we never had before, an ability to contribute meaningfully to wider conversation, locally, nationally, and internationally (see Serendip's Evolving Web Principles). And that's something very useful, context setting, both for ourselves and our students.
Donna Morris's picture

I functions

using Christopher Reeves as a example of the Ifunction really brought it home.
Tammi Jordan's picture

I-Function

If behavior is caused by the removal of inhibitions, then what caused the inhibitions to be removed? How much does experience factor into the removal of inhibitions. I just found out that atleast 2 students from my school were involved in a massive fight that resulted in the ending of a life. Was this caused by the removal of inhibitions?
Victoria Brown's picture

something to think about!!!

Well today generated a whole new set of questions for me!!! I find the nervous system to be very complex and the architecture of it immensely interesting. I like what I learned today about the differences between both the inhibitory and excitatory synapse. Some of the questions that I'm still wrestling with is, what happens to all of those synapses that do not reach an action potential? Do they just dissapear? I was always taught to every action there is a reaction!!! So much for that theory....
Victoria Brown's picture

something to think about!!!

Well today generated a whole new set of questions for me!!! I find the nervous system to be very complex and the architecture of it immensely interesting. I like what I learned today about the differences between both the inhibitory and excitatory synapse. Some of the questions that I'm still wrestling with is, what happens to all of those synapses that do not reach an action potential? Do they just dissapear? I was always taught to every action there is a reaction!!! So much for that theory....
Cheryl Brown's picture

Thursday morning

I liked the idea of the brain being a scientist and generating outputs to see if the resulting inputs match the expectations. The new model is also interesting, with its loops and arrows and especially the I function.
Benjamin Zerante's picture

Thoughts on Today

In my opinion, education is essential to success in life. Though there can always be improvements in the system, I believe that the key goal of education should be to teach students "how to think." By the end of high school the goal should not be that every student knows a certain list of content material in each subject, but that they can think for themselves and make rational decisions about their own life. I suppose that success later in life then is not the goal or motivation, but at the same time becoming a thinker is not unrelated to success. Education is essential for success in society because we value it so much. If you do not have a high school diploma or a college degree, your choices in life will be extremely limited no matter how intelligent you are or what traits you might possess. Again, I don't think the point is that because you have a degree you possess certain knowledge, but more that the degree you attain shows that you have some skills that will continue to help you succeed in the job market (determination, intelligence, etc.). I think it's important to be real with our students. Education may not seem important in 7th grade (as many of my students believe), but not taking school seriously will most likely have negative affects on the choices available to you later in life.
Paul Grobstein's picture

Helping people learn to think better ...

Yep .... see This Isn't Just My Problem, Friend:

"I'm going to spend less time worrying about whether other people think I'm doing my job right, and more time thinking. And I'm going to tell my students that that's what they should be doing too, whether or not they or anybody else think that's what I'm supposed to be telling them. And I'm going to tell my kids to stop trying to get everything right on their worksheets, and instead every once in a while to try something different, to do something differently, just for the hell of it and to see what happens. Yeah, life will be a little more chaotic, and sometimes things will go wrong because of something I did instead of because of things I hadn't yet somehow managed to get under control. And maybe, if it spreads, I might have to work harder to persuade people to do what I want them to do, and walk farther to get a quick lunch. I'm pretty sure though that I'll feel a lot safer, and I'm damned sure life will be a lot more fun."

Teresa Albers's picture

frog brain

It's amazing how much of the self is autonomous and how much is "conceptual." This idea raises the notion that we can rewrite the stories of ourselves. Do we possess the will or internal resources to rewrite stories that are so comfortable and ingrained that they seem to be written in permanent ink.
Paul Grobstein's picture

rewriting stories ...

William Sgrillo's picture

Thanks Mr. Broudt

W. Keith Sgrillo I was reminded of my experiences as a student as we were discussing how we approach students with different ways of learning and understanding (or different brain/action potential patterns). When I was a junior in high school, trigonomatry was a subject that i needed for college acceptance. After I was about 4-5 weeks into the course, I had an average of 0%. I had not passed a test or quiz. So after exhibiting behaviors of frustration (sleeping in class, being argumentative, throwing my TI-82), my teacher Mr. Broudt came to me with a suggestion. He suggested I take an alternative course, carpentry, to get the needed credits because all of carpentry requires trig. I was always a visual-spacial learner and this suited me just fine. He gave me a withdraw-pass which would give me the necessary credit (providing I pass) for college acceptance. I took his suggestion and went from a "F" student to and award winning "A" student in that subject. My only regret was that I did not notice this innovative teacers ability to connect with and understand one student's abilities while I was in high school. However, I am extremely greatful that I had developed an understanding for what he had done for me well before I became a teacher myself. His ability is a trait that separates a good teacher from a great one. As I was listening to Paul at the beginning of class, I heard him use that 5 letter word...."truth." I also thought about some of our colleagues concerns about how we present the term "truth" to our students. Maybe we need to start with redefining the word truth. It should not be an issue of "TRUTH VS. LIE." Maybe an alternative is to teach it as "TRUTH= a better story or less wrong." This concept allows us to change and adapt the definition as we find better stories. This may make it easier to present to our children. I think that the phrase "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" should really be said "Truth/reality is in the brain of the beholder." I think this definition of truth encourages thoughtfulness and diversity as apposed to creating confusion and fear.
Bruce Williamson's picture

removed inhibition

Sometime check out miketheheadlesschicken.com
Bruce Williamson's picture

education

I reaffirm that our education system works, not just for students that are predisposed, but for any that participate in it. My evidence is that children who are deprived of education are usually in a difficult situation for a long time. But when provided the opportunity for an education things turn around. A second factor that seems to be rising, especially in the suburbs is that the value of the 12 grades of school has changed in some parents minds. The HS diploma may not have the "currency" that it used to. The result is that a small, but sadly a growing, number of parents see HS as a hurdle, just a gate in the way of getting into college, instead of having any value of its own. These parents have started supporting their children in cheating, and getting grades changed to A's just by complaining loudly enough even for very poor performances. Their view seems to be that getting the high grade is the only advantage, that there is nothing of value to learn there. Bruce
Bruce Williamson's picture

education

I reaffirm that our education system works, not just for students that are predisposed, but for any that participate in it. My evidence is that children who are deprived of education are usually in a difficult situation for a long time. But when provided the opportunity for an education things turn around. A second factor that seems to be rising, especially in the suburbs is that the value of the 12 grades of school has changed in some parents minds. The HS diploma may not have the "currency" that it used to. The result is that a small, but sadly a growing, number of parents see HS as a hurdle, just a gate in the way of getting into college, instead of having any value of its own. These parents have started supporting their children in cheating, and getting grades changed to A's just by complaining loudly enough even for very poor performances. Their view seems to be that getting the high grade is the only advantage, that there is nothing of value to learn there. Bruce
Paul Grobstein's picture

to think more about ....

Two (of a LOT) of the questions/ideas that came up this morning that seem to me worth thinking more (a LOT more) about ...

Are kids who get through 12 years of school more successful in later life because of things they got during those twelve years, or are they kids who already have things that both help them complete 12 years of school AND be successful in later life?

Do we want "success in later life" to be our criterion for successful education? It presumes that we think culture/society (what kids are going into) is the way we want it to be. Maybe we should define successful education as that which enables kids to be meaningful changers of society/culture in later life?

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