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cschoonover's picture

Moving Forward

 After class on Thursday, I feel as though we have many of the tools that are needed to make sense of the human brain and human behavior. We know how action potentials are generated (either within neurons or by events outside the nervous system) and how they propagate. We also have an understanding of how signals interact with each other and how neurons communicate with each other. At the end of class we used the analogy of a computer to describe neurons: they take in a lot of information, they integrate the information, and then release the information, and this whole process is constantly altered by its own activity. However, we said that the brain is not a computer, because it is changed by the past. This means that learning and memory are a fundamental part of activating this entire system. Given this notion of how the brain functions, I feel we still need more tools to evaluate the human brain, and thus human behavior. I’m sure we all know that learning how to ride a bike requires a lot of practice. But once we get it, we can do it all the time and it becomes almost second nature. I wonder how we get to this place. Is it all muscle memory? And what about the other activities, such as sports and hobbies, we all enjoy? Certainly that can’t all be the result of muscle memory. So what else is going on in the brain when we learn to do these things? Memory also seems to be pretty complicated. We can’t remember the first few years of our lives, but we definitely had learning experiences then. And why do certain parts of the past get fuzzy after some time has passed? Why can’t we remember everything with a high degree of accuracy? This inability to remember everything may be due in part to information overload that would occur if this were possible. But what is going on in the brain with the things we do remember with such clarity? I wonder if the neuronal connections involved with memory degrade over time or if there is some other mechanism at work. In sum, I guess I feel as though we still have a ways to go in understanding the human brain, but I think with our understanding of action potentials we have a great base from which to move forward. 

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