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bpyenson's picture

Electrochemical Change=Behavioral Change?

In discussing potentials this week, I had one group of ideas that came up:

Like many natural systems, the nervous system remains very very complex.  With newer technologies, the investigations of the nervous systems seemingly reveal more complexity and subtlety to processes that we perceive from a technologically-banal perspective as simple.  For instance, the knee-jerk reflex that we're all familiar with at the doctor's office now seems to involve many many parts and mechanisms, not to mention my conscious response of viewing my knee jerking.  Specifically, the reaction would involve the use of polarization/depolarization of neurons with resting and active potentials, and then the connection between that action potential to the motor neuron (output) to stimulate a reflex.  Undoubtedly, many of these physical effects (e.g. potentials) result in an effect on behavior, however, what is the value of a physical effect on a behavioral result? In other words, does the magnitude of polarization/depolarization have a correlatively effect on behavior (e.g. a strong depolarization having a strong muscular reflex)?  Or, should we follow the stimulus-response model in that every (physical) input, even if it is the consistent, may have a completely random (behavioral) output?

I guess professional neuroscientists spend their life trying to elucidate those patterns, and the consistency or lack thereof of order.

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