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mmg's picture

Just a bunch of neurons and all that

Hi I am Malli, a freshman at BMC. At this point I am toying with the idea of chemistry major with a creative writing minor. I live in Bombay, India and I am a Bengali. My family’s moved around within India and I have been to six different schools. Among the things I love are Indian food, beaches, sleep, my cat, plane rides (any journey actually) and discounts.   

 In my senior year I had to write a paper about the extent we agree with Chomsky’s quote - “... we will always learn more about human life and human personality from novels than from scientific psychology.” I love reading and it has always fascinated me how novelists portray human characters and thus behaviour. I remember the dreams the protagonist has in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and thinking about how much that says about his psychology. In any case, my love for reading developed in me a fascination for human behaviour and my interest in neurobiology. I feel that the brain has very many interesting things to teach us and part of the reason it is so fascinating is that it is after all, just a bunch of neurons! Just a bunch of neurons controlling the world, our world.

 

Questions

  1. If Brain = behavior, my question is how can other external factors be corporated into this equation? What of individual culture, class, family upbringing, education and so forth? Are we what our brains are, or what our brains make of these factors? Also, what about two people who grew up in exactly the same external environment, but have completely different identities? How is it that their individual brains respond differently to the same external factors?
  2. I saw in a movie recently that a pregnant lady was listening to Spanish tapes because she’d read that the child can start grasping language inside the fetus. Given that she wasn’t entirely making this up, how does the brain begin to grasp and comprehend language at such early stages?
  3. I am fascinated by repressed memories. How does the brain decide which memories to repress and lock away? What makes some childhood memories extremely vivid?
  4. I heard that out of the eight hours that a normal human adult needs to sleep, two hours is deep sleep and the remaining six are just REM. What does the brain do at this time? On a slightly different note, is it possible to do away with dreaming – what is its significance in our lives?

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