Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Week 12 - Neurobiology and Behavior

Paul Grobstein's picture

Generalized control mechanisms ... mood, emotion, feelings, dreams and the I-function/story teller?  Thoughts about all this, and/or whatever else is on your mind/brain this week?

secaldwe's picture

What Dreams May Come

Some Shakespeare quotes to think about (ref.

"We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life/Is rounded with a sleep." -The Tempest

"For in that sleep of death what dreams may come / When we have shuffled off this mortal coil. " - Hamlet

This man sure sounds like he knew what he was talking about - what does it mean that the Bard himself played with the idea of waking sleep in many of his great works? In his dealings with dreams, there are premonitions, apparitions, omens and even murderous trances - this is a huge range, it would seem, of the I function and its ability to generate such a variation of patterns in our unconscious states. So sleep is merely an ideal condition for the I function to regain control from our obstinate bodies when we can't control our every move? Would Shakespeare agree that it isn't really us dreaming, that dreaming, in itself, is an act of trying to reassert control over the body's activities? He certainly used altered states of consciousness to his advantage in staging drama. And isn't drama a distillation and a dilation of everyday life? Curious. Very curious...

Cayla McNally's picture

Dream Questions

The discussions in class concerning sleep have been very interesting, but there are still so many topics that we haven't touched on at all. One of these topics, which interests me greatly, is reoccurring dreams. I often have dreams that involve situations that are pretty much the same. How is it that the brain keeps repeating basically the same thing over and over again, at intermittant spaces of time? Is it similar to deja vu, which I've heard is when the brain slips up when registering info? Or is it just another thing that we'll never know the source and location?

Claire Ceriani's picture

A Dream Theory

The dream theory that most appeals to me is the idea that the brain uses REM sleep to run system-checks, to go over recent memories and lay down the tracks for them.  But the higher areas of the brain, the interpretive parts, attempt to apply meaning to this neural static, creating an illogical story that seems perfectly valid when we’re still asleep.  I can’t see how dreams themselves serve any purpose.  It seems most logical to me that they are the byproduct of other neural processes.  This may also explain why certain dream themes are so common in most people.  Certain memories (such as actually forgetting a test) and certain practical real-world fears are thought of frequently, and therefore have strong memory tracks.  When the brain attempts to apply meaning to its own meaningless signals, these “well-worn” tracks are often used as the basis for the story created.

michelle's picture

Some more thoughts on Dreams

I really like this theory and I was trying to get at it today in class, but couldn't quite elegantly explain it the way you did above. It seems to make the most sense to me and seems to descibe my dreams the most accurately. I think it's cool that we are still some what cognitive during our dreams and still trying to make sense of our neural static. I wonder what would happen if our interpretive part could actually realize that our dreams weren't making sense and could interfere to try to make more logical sense of them. Also, why does taking cough medicine before bed make my dreams a lot more illogical? I guess its because it may amplify the static and create more nonsense.

However, I have to disagree with your suggestion that dreams serve no purpose. In class today, we illustrated a number of ways in which dreams have fueled creativity. I especially liked Dr. Grobstein's comment about dreams making us surrender standard ways of thinking in order to explore more creative realms. I also think that dreams can bring to consciousness ideas that have been suppressed. All we can hope for is to be able to remember our dreams when we wake up so that we may be able to make use of the static.

James Damascus's picture

two points

Two things came up while thinking over last thursday's class.

First, we were discussing sleepwalking as an activity not controlled by the i function when Paul mentioned that this brought up an interesting legal issue. Although the issue was mentioned in passing, the general opinion given was that there should be a separate category for "sleepwalking criminals", or in other words, those individuals whose bodies engaged in criminal actions without input from their ifunction. While I would definitely agree that a separate category should be used when sentencing, I think it's important to realize that such individuals represent a special danger to those around them, and further that, on average, those individuals convicted of crimes while permanently or temporarily insane (without proper mediation of activities by their i functions) spend comparably more time confined in mental institutions than individuals convicted of the same crime spend in jail. If, in fact, the offenders could not adequately control (to the extent that they did not engage in criminal action) their bodies through their i function (they could not prevent themselves from committing crimes, and as far as they are concerned, they did not commit crimes), then who's to say their ifunction will be able to prevent future criminal activity ("sleepwalking murder" was brought up in class)? It seems that, without control of their body through the ifunction, that a 'criminal's' actions are non-predictable unless the underlying condition is treated (is this something that can be done with success?). For this reason, we should have some sort of confinement facility at least nominally for the purpose of correction (this term is loosely refers to correctional facilities as they exist).


Second, I was thinking more about neuron plasticity as it relates to learning and memory, and ultimately, to personality (students made the point that our tendencies were the way that people define themselves). If in fact our experiences and memories change and condition us (permanently alter the structure and interface of our neurons) to exhibit personal tendencies, beliefs and personality traits, then shouldn't we consider the ultimate source of these things-neuron plasticity- to be the thing that 'makes us who we are'? Further, if we can remove the cumulative effects of neuron change over time and experience, shouldn't the person lose all vestiges of their personality and memory? I realize some aspects of behavior are inborn (the fear response of mice to cats, and of other species to stay still in times of fear and perceived danger, for instance), but the defining features of individuality (in the context of being some distinct person/personality) seem to be linked ultimately to neuron plasticity and accumulated changes to ones neurophysiology with experience over time.

Shayna or Sheness Israel's picture

Earth's I-function, Counter-natural?, Lucid Dreaming

This is a very interesting post and it has answered some questions that I have had for a while such as how are we able to discern between awake states and sleep states?

Rebecca's explanation of lucid dreaming helps answer the above question for me.

This also helps me explain how psychics and those who meditate walk in and out of sleep and dream states. They say they can move in and out of dream states of REM by creating higher awareness. Well that can also translate to mean that they strengthen a particular area of the frontal lobe so much so that the lobe automatically or on call, lets the "Self" know that it is sleeping.


Secondly, in class Paul said that usually the I-function is what we associate with the "Self" when he was making the example of being drunk or sleep walking. So it makes me wonder if Earth has an I-function. To further the analogy, she may not be cognizant of all the things happen inside of her such as global warming, pollution, war, sex, and art, but she could have a consciousness that she believes to be her "Self." That is just something to think about. I always take a specific thing I learn and blow it up. I also deflate too.


Lastly, it was very interesting that in the Delta stage of sleep when the I-function is off, the body is most at peace or on one accord. When the I-function turns back on, then the pattern looks more chaotic and random. What are the implications of this? Is this saying that there is a natural pattern for beings and the I-function messes it up? Or maybe the I-function brings it under control? But under control of what or who? Ourselves? Or something else?

Ian Morton's picture

First or Third Person Dreaming?

Do we tend to dream in the first person or the third person?  I cannot remember most of my dreams, but I seem to recall that I have dreamed in both a narrative and first person format, but is one more frequent than the other?  What mechanism controls whether we will dream in the first-person or as an observer?  It seems that first person dreaming reflects our subjective identity, while in third person dreaming is indicative of our mind’s ability to represent our Self as an object.  Does how we dream then reflect our state of mind?  That is, does a first person dream suggest that one is accepting one’s place in a situation, while a third person dream suggests that one is analyzing and trying to make sense of one’s place in a situation?  Do different forms of dream narrative correspond to different kinds of dreams/different situations in the dream? 

Meera Seth's picture

What Might Freud Say?

From the psychoanalytic perspective of his book 'The Interpretation of Dreams', Sigmund Freud conceives of dreams in a starkly different light. According to Freud, the various questions you are asking cannot only not be directly answered, but also do not address what is truly at the heart of the material content of dreams. Instead, Freud claims that dreams are fundamentally based on the fulfillment of wishes, whether they be conscious or unconscious.

Granted, Freud did enough cocaine to kill a small horse (as Robin Williams puts it), however I believe he has good sense to define dreams in these terms. It is the essential split between the id and the superego that results in the suppression of the content of dreams. One may, however, avoid such content suppression. By Freud's account, one's actual dreams are comprised of various cryptic symbols which can, in turn, be interpreted and made sense of. For example, an object may represent a thought or multiple thoughts; a thought or thoughts can be rendered as a visual image or images; a symbol can take the place of a person, place, thing, or idea; etc.

Perhaps we shouldn't be asking what dreaming in the first person or the third person means or reflects, but rather what each dream in its entirety says about the fulfillment of our wishes.

RachelBrady's picture

When looking over my notes I

When looking over my notes I came across two statements that drew my attention: “there are certain tasks that cannot be accomplished unless the brain has a representation of itself as an object” and “with damage to the neocortex one may lose the ability to perceive and will movement”. With all the suggestions of imagination and ‘filling in’ it got me thinking; I have a distinct idea of myself, as an image and/or feeling that may not be indicative of my present state/body. How is it that I came to for this image in my head? It’s not a direct result of sensory input because I can be looking directly at some part of my body, and have a completely different perception of what I’m actually seeing. I can also picture myself actively moving while sitting here typing this blog, however I sometimes fid it difficult to imagine myself doing a particular act while actually producing the same motion. This self-image or corporeal awareness can obviously be independent of sensory perception, but how then do we go about creating this image, which is constantly changing. Furthermore, if self-image were completely independent of sensory experience why are those images bounded by our perceived reality and not totally outlandish? I can’t say this with any certainty, but the very question suggests that the body/self image is most likely bounded by sensory input, possibly in that the functions that allow us to create an image of ourselves, independent of the ‘outside’ world, were initiated by sensory experience. Therefore what ever comes from those functions must be bounded by what could possibly be perceived. It’s my theory, and this is based on very little, that we begin to develop a corporeal awareness at infants when we mimic the movements and gestures of others.

As for the second citation from our notes, “with damage to the neocortex one may lose the ability to perceive and will movement”, what would be the implications of ones self perceptions with damage to the neocortex, would ones corporeal image permanently change? 

eden's picture

Last night I had the strangest dream...

Just to play devil’s advocate, I started poking around the internet for information about precognitive dreams. Honestly, I wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t had the experience once myself. I was surprised how much there was out there about premonition through dreams, and it makes me wonder where the dreams come from. As a scientist I raise a skeptical eyebrow at the idea of paranormal intervention, but I thought I should look into it anyway. Are all the stories just coincidences? Is everyone, including me, just lying to you? Or did the dreamer piece together WAY more during their wakeful state than they thought they did, and the “unconscious” knowledge of the likelihood of the event was only able to surface during sleep? This last idea seems most feasible, but it doesn’t really explain people predicting natural disasters or plane crashes a week before they happen, because these events have few to no indicators beforehand. ALSO, if dreams do involve information we have pieced to together without realizing it, I suddenly feel like I should put a lot more stock in dreams. If we pay enough attention to our dreams, will we be able to make more informed decisions? Are we really able to “predict” events based on things we see in our dreams because our brains register a lot more than our conscious mind is aware of? In that case, I personally recommend that everyone keep on the lookout for killer turtles, hostile aliens, and possibly raptors… just in case.

AriannahM's picture


I wrote my last paper about dreams and I was fascinated by what I found out. I think it is amazing that each of us have such different waking lives but surprisingly similar dream lives. “Although the variability of dream content is large, typical dream themes that occur quite often and are reported by many people can be identified (e.g. being chased, falling, flying, failing an examination, being unable to find a toilet or restroom)” (Ciric). These are the most common dream themes but themes also differ across gender. “Some major findings…have been: women’s dreams contain more explicitly mentioned emotions, more dream characters, especially familiar dream characters and show a higher incidence of indoor settings, household objects and references to clothing. Men’s dreams on the other hand, are characterized by more physical aggression, sexuality, achievement themes and the occurrence of weapons. Another gender difference is the proportion of male and female dream characters. Whereas male characters dominate men’s dreams (67%), the ratio is balanced in women’s dreams (48%)” (Piel). Although there are obviously differences, I am surprised at how similar they are. We are taught to think that we are unique and different, but how different can we really be to have similar dream states?

LS's picture

Storyteller 1, Storyteller 2

There is a story teller in my brain; actually I think there are two.  I am familiar with the bipartite brain and that the neocortex is telling stories to the rest of my brain.  This other part, the rest, is interpreting my surroundings but doesn’t have a story to go with them, the neocortex then steps in and helps to make up a story and associations and fill in the blanks.  Okay 1 storyteller, so where is the second?  All this story telling is going out with out me knowing it, sometimes, okay most of the time, my brain is making associations based on the story the neocortex is telling me.  Yet part of me is me and part of me makes up stories and I know about it, the I function.  I really find this fascinating and curious.  How these two story tellers work together how do they decided who does what or are they really the same…just different parts of the same story teller?  I am also curious about whether we will get to the I function, I believe in it but we are ending the end of the semester and we really haven’t talked about it!

biophile's picture

Storytelling and dreams

It boggles my mind that we so rarely see sleep as the utterly bizarre thing that it is. This comic describes it perfectly for me:

I often wonder what is going on in my brain when I go to sleep, how much control I'm giving up. While the I-Function is active during REM sleep, most of us still can't control what we think or see (and no one can control their movements, since we can't move at all). How can only part of the I-Function be active? How can the I-Function be turned off? It seems almost impossible to conceive of, since we generally have such a cohesive experience of reality. How can we be fractured and broken down in this way, in terms of patterns of action potentials in the neocortex? But that's how it is, amazingly enough. How in the world did this type of system emerge? How did the storyteller come into play, in a system that emerged with no guidance?

I've heard it suggested that dreams are the brain's way of making sense of random signals induced during sleep. The storyteller in us acts even during certain times of the sleep cycle to make sense of what input we receive (both from the sensory system and input generated within ourselves) to make a coherent case. Where does that drive come from? Why do we put so much of ourselves into describing and rationalizing the world?


urbrainondrugs's picture

What's the point?

What are the biological functions or uses of this type of fracturing of the I-function? How does this type of development advance us? As hominids homo sapiens, we have a larger brain case and larger brain than earlier homonids. Does this mean our ifunction is able to act more and more independantly and in more fragments as we develop? Do animals have the ability to dream just like us? When we see a dog twitching or moving his legs, we say "aww he's chasing a rabbit in his sleep." Is he really dreaming? Is his i-function active during his rem sleep also or is it just the body emitting excess inputs that the body receives during sleep? I would like to know how any and all of this contributes to our further evolution.

Alex Hansen's picture

Emotions and Smoking

I posted previously on depression but i read this article on smoking titled The Claim: Acupuncture Can Help You Stop Smoking, that seemed rather interested and could be applied to mood and emotions in a sense.  O'Connor states, "According to those who endorse it, the technique helps stimulate the release of endorphins and other brain chemicals, blotting out cravings and easing the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal."  However it is not always effective and he later states, "And because the effects of different techniques vary from one person to the next, most scientists recommend combining interventions, particularly those that involve behavioral modification and nicotine replacement."  However, what about the mental addiction that is apart of it, the mood that people who smoke are placed in when they engage in the act, that they become addicted too, the emotional involvement of smoking, how do you break that part?  How do you break the emotional component of addictions?  We all can understand things chemically and intellectually, but how about the mind and how about emotionally?  What role do our emotions play?  Are we controlled by our emotions and the particular moods that come about from different activities?  How do we deal with this control if it is in fact true?  How do we learn to take control ourselves and not let our emotions, our emotional addictions prevent us from stopping something that we know is harmful?

 If you want the link I'll paste it below:

Lauren Poon's picture


I read a study that compared brain activity when a person views isolated right hand movements, body movements, and expressive gestures. Each type of gesture stimulated different section so of the brain relating to perception. Though perception occurs on both hemispheres, certain sides are more stimulated than others depending on the gesture. Expressive gestures, in particular, involve emotional and social perception.

After reading this study, I noticed how in depth the study discussed expressive gestures. The neural activity was much more intense and wider spread in the brain. I supposed it makes sense how complicated it is to properly interpret a person’s physical gestures. Body language can sometimes be easy and natural to interpret while other times it becomes more difficult. Do people who have difficulty interpreting gestures have the same amount of brain activity, but do not consciously process it?

Communication is extremely strenuous on the mind. Learning a new language involves not only understanding of the foreign words but also of the gestures. Different cultures have unique gestures to portray a certain type of feeling or opinion. How does the brain react when in a foreign country and trying to communicate?

On the other hand, there are universal forms of communication such as laughter. Laughter has a positive connotation as does nodding the head. A head shake from side to side implies a negative or oppositional stance. How does the brain handle the similarities and differences of communication across cultures?

Differential cerebral activation during observation of expressive gestures and motor acts
Neuropsychologia, Volume 44, Issue 10, 2006, Pages 1787-1795
M. Lotze, U. Heymans, N. Birbaumer, R. Veit, M. Erb, H. Flor and U. Halsband


emilie's picture

Do dolphins sleep?

A few weeks ago, I was at the zoo with my friend and somehow the topic of how dolphins sleep came up. Because dolphins and whales are mammals, they are required to breath oxygen and therefore surface the water often in order to breath. So, how can a dolphin or whale possibly be able to sleep if they constantly have to surface? This is really fascinating! Apparently, dolphins only sleep with half of their at a time. They will shut down half of their brain along with the opposite eye. The other half of the brain is awake, but at a reduced level of alertness. This allows the dolphin and whale to be able to watch for predators as well as rise to the surface for air. It has been estimated that after two hours, the dolphin or whale will swap sides. Little is known about whether these sea mammals have REM sleep, but in the pilot whale, it was estimated that it had about six minutes of REM sleep in a night.

Sarah Powers's picture

Depression in Society

After class on Thursday, I was having a conversation with a fellow classmate about the role of depression in society.  She said that now it's chic to suffer from depression, that it's often glorified in our culture.  I had never looked at it in that way.  There have always been the moddier/darker characters in literature and film/television (anyone watch House?).  The image of the depressed or manic starving artist continues to flourish. (She suffers for her art [or music, or theatre]. Don't mind him, he's an artist.)  I live with two people who suffer from depression; my sister was just recently diagnosed. For me, depression is something you deal with on a daily basis.  (Take your pill with breakfast.  What kind of day are you having today?) I've never really considered it within the bigger picture of society.  It's true that depression does have a societal stigma surrounding it. Being depressed implies some sort of failure on the part of the depressed person. (Why can't you just feel better?) In reality, it's just a chemical imbalance in the brain.  Even the term imbalance has stigma attached to it--implying that something about the brain is abnormal, but if the brain changes its chemical balance from outside the range of 'normal' I think there has to be some reason.  At the same time, that could just be me trying to assign to much purpose to a highly organized bundle of neurons.  The science of depression is facinating, but the role depression plays in society is even more so.  If you have any thoughs on culture and depression or the culture of depression, let me know.

michelle's picture

It's ok to be sad

So this has nothing to do with depression, because I know depression is a serious condition and I don’t want to offend anybody. But I have come up with this theory about the natural tendency of people to feel sorry for themselves. We all feel sorry for ourselves at times and I think it is an evolutionarily learned mechanism to acquire needed attention. From birth, we cry to get fed, to get changed, etc. As we grow, we learn that when we cry, people pay attention to us and try to meet our demands. Evolutionary it seems quite advantageous to pity oneself. However, we also love to pride ourselves in meeting our own demands and needs. Therefore, we tend to pity ourselves as a last resort- when we’ve tried everything and failed to meet our needs/wants.

I thought of this the other day when talking to my sister who always feels sorry for herself. As a child she’d start bawling every time we got into a fight and sure enough, Mom and Dad took her side, and I always got punished. But then I wondered why is it that I never pulled that trick. But then I remember calling my grandma last week and complaining of my workload and how I’ve lost all motivation to do work. And of course grandma responded very empathetically. And so I realized that we know who is most likely to respond to our dramatic episodes and factor that in when we become sad. My friend Tsega is the go to girl when anyone has problems because she’s willing to listen patiently and respond sympathetically. None of my friends come to me because they know I don’t respond well to drama and don’t give them the desired attention they need.

What one also has to factor when utilizing this advantageous mechanism of self pity is not to overly use it or you’ll end up as the “Boy who cried wolf”. No one will take your seriously when you do have a serious issue you need to discuss/let out.

In conclusion, it is important to feel sad and express yourself when you need something. Emotions can be a tactful resource into fulfilling your needs and wants. However, when it comes to be an everyday thing, I’m sure one is leaning toward the realm of depression, which I know little about and abstain from commenting on.

Alex Hansen's picture

continuation on depression

I was reading this post and I found it pretty interesting, especially how depression was referred to as chic in current society.  I strongly agree that it seems that the number of people who are diagnosed with depression is higher than it was in the past, and this indeed could be because it is glorified now in our culture and the connotations of such, however, although the number of people marked as depressed is larger, we have no way of knowing if in fact that the number of depressed people has increased because of the bias that is present, making people of the past not accurate responders.  A lack of acceptance and admittance could have lowered the numbers in the past for it was not as "accepted" to have such an emotional disorder and therefore less people would tell of their depression and the disorder would go unmarked.  However, although the recorded number of those with depression is lower, the actual number of those depressed is still the same.  It is the societal impact toward the disease which can alter the accuracy to which the disease is actually present, for the numbers will be insufficient.

However, the idea that those of the past did not admit and accept their depression in the same sense as humans do presently, could actually have altered the number of those who were depressed.  If we follow the notion that women are more depressed than men, for many possible reasons, but for one important reason, that while women ruminate about their depression and continually want to talk about their emotions, men will often ignore it and distract themselves with another activity, which actually helps to rid the person of his depression.  Distraction and activity can be a form of a cure for depression.  Therefore, if we look at the manner in which the people of the past dealt with his or her depression, it was often ignored and such can be compared to these men who use the notion of distraction and other engagements to solve their problems.  Thus, the number of depressed people of the past may have in fact been lower than the number of depressed people currently, because the societal influence forced them to deal with the disorder in a certain manner which has proved effective in curing depression.  However, such societal influence is not intentional, and thus, we will never truly be able to answer that question.

 Also, when you started talking about House and how the image of the depressed of manic atist flourishes, I began to think about ER, which is a television show more from the past, and Abby's mother who is manic depressive, but she does not flourish on the show.  So, it was just an example of hoe the societal acceptance of mental disorders has changed and can be seen in the media.  And although we see the acceptance as a good thing, and I completely agree that it is good, I wonder if a lack of acceptance can be just as good for it serves almost as an indirect cure.It is kindoff a wierd thought, but it seems to work as a possible explanation that goes in agreement with the recorded number of those with depression.  I know that studies has shown that it is the current teenagers and young adults who are the "population" with the largest number of depression, especially in comparison to our grandparents.

Also, I wonder if people rely too much on medication currently, and if it is more the idea that a pill is the answer that makes them better, as if mentally taking medication is the answer.  For example, could the patients just take placebos and still be ok and say that they feel better.  Does society play any role in this idea that medication is the answer?  I feel that if someone is truly depressed that medication cam help, but should not remain the sole method aimed toward ridding the person of depression.  What would be the most beneficial society in terms of helping those who are depressed?

Jessica Wurtz's picture

Additional depression stuff...

I don't want to get into this big debate about depression that seems to be going on, I just wanted to talk about two people that I know that have/had depression and the differences between them. I am sure that clinically there are many differences, but these two people have such different outlooks on their depression that I thought was very interesting. One person was aware of her depression and went to therapy and agreed to go on a course of low doses of medication after discussing it with her therapist, even though she wasn't too wild about it because she didn't want to just medicate it away. However, she was aware that it can be a help, so she agreed. After a time, she and her therapist decided that at certain intervals she could decrease her dosage until she was weaned from the medication and eventually the therapy. She was so determined to beat it that she did all this and today is feeling much better and is in a better mental state. The other person I know who struggles with depression is pretty much the opposite. He has been to therapy when he was younger but only briefly because he didn't like it and didn't think it helped (probably because he didn't give it much of a chance). He has also been given medication without any therapy, but again he only takes it for a few weeks and just stops because he doesn't think it helps. Again, a few weeks isn't really enough time to let the drug do its job, and since it is not backed up by therapy, it probably won't be as effective anyway. The point is that these two people have such different attitudes about their depression. One wanted to get the heck better and fast, and the other seems almost resigned to the way he feels and does not believe it will get better, that its just the way he is, and he functions and deals on a daily basis. I wonder, aside from clinical differences in these two people, what could be the cause (if any) of this difference. Is it anything to do with the I-function? It almost seems to be a matter of will power on the part of the person. I know that willpower alone probably can't get a person out of profound depression, but since depression is associated with a sickness of the mind, how does the I-function of wanting to get better factor into all this? Maybe it doesn't. I don't pretend to know a lot about depression; just what I have learned in a few psych classes and casual observation. I hope no one reads this and gets upset, I just want to know about any relation between what happens in the brain during depression and the elusive I-function.

x's picture

I'm Coming Out

After reading this post, I'm compelled to out myself as someone who has been diagnosed with depression. Honestly, I am offended by some of the things you wrote. I don't really understand what you mean that depression is "chic." Are you talking about the "goth/punk rock" image? If so, then you have a very superficial notion of what depression really entails. I don't think insomnia, anxiety attacks, and intense bouts of hysterical crying are remotely close to "chic."

It is a myth that women are more frequently diagnosed with depression than men. I actually explored that topic in my first webpaper. Honestly, I think it is a mark of a patriarchal culture that comes out in some of what you said - there are a lot of women who use activity to distract themselves from their feelings, and a good amount of men who talk about their emotions. You state those reactions as if gender defines how a person responds to depression! Which is absolutely not the case at all. It may be for some people, but definitely not everyone.

Lack of recognition of depression would definitely not be a "cure" for it. That is a very dangerous statement, and I still don't understand how you think it is at all valid. If science did not recognize cancer as a legitimate disease, would it go away? Hardly.

Medication for depression does not work for everyone, you're right. But it has helped SO MANY people (myself included), that I think it is shameful and disrespectful for you to suggest that it is merely "the placebo effect." Clearly, you have not done your research on antidepressants. First off, a patient who's diagnosed with depression isn't automatically put on a drug. She may go through a lot of therapy first before drugs are even considered. Second, there are many types of drugs that have different affects on different people, which means that usually, with enough patience, someone can find a drug that will help her. Third, people with depression NEVER only take the drug they are prescribed. You have to take the drug AND be in therapy at the same time. You are also told to do physical activity as often as possible, since, as you noted, this can help ease some parts of depression.

I am really disturbed by a lot of what you had to say, particularly at how misinformed you are about mental illness. What can you do to help people who are depressed? Do some research before making broad-sweeping generalizations! Don't make claims about science you don't know about! Don't treat mental illness as if it were a fad! In light of how mentally ill the gunman at Virginia Tech was, I think now is an important time to get the RIGHT information out there about depression and not rattle off snarky presumptions that help no one.


Alex Hansen's picture

In response

I actually have been suffering from depression for a very long time along with other disorders which I would rather not get into, and your response was just as hurtful. You definitely misinterpreted some of the things I was saying first of all, when I said the word chic I was referring to the person ahead of me who stated it, and for me I used it more in terms of people being ok accepting depression now rather than in the past, that it isn’t as shunned as it once was. I only quoted the word chic. Secondly, I did a 45 page research paper specifically about gender differences in depression, and what I said about how woman deal with depression versus men is in fact true, and is a common explanation for why depression is higher documented among women. Thirdly, cancer cannot be compared to depression, because depression has an emotional aspect which cancer does not, and there is research proving that distracting oneself from thinking about their own depression does in fact help the person in solving their depression. Maybe cure was not the right word to use, because I know how it kind-off puts a negative aspect on being depressed, which I would never say, because I like you have been diagnosed. Forthly, my thoughts on medication was only my own hypothesis, because I have been on medication, and there are times when I do not take it for a while, and I do not notice any difference, and sometimes I feel like the idea that taking the medication and telling yourself that you wont be depressed is what actually helps. If you tell yourself you won’t be depressed and do activities and whatever else you need to do to convince yourself of this, that it does help, from personal experience. So maybe, for some people to be convinced that they will not be depressed, the idea of medication can help. However, I know that it can also be helpful because of the chemical unbalance, I never said it was not, so I was never disrespecting you, it was more an idea that I had thought about. Also, I said that medication needs to be taken in concordance with therapy because of the emotional piece. And yes, I have been on several different medications and know that some work better than others, but sometimes, I do feel like psychiatrists rely too much on medication, maybe not in your experience, but I have been to many and my mom is a psychologist and I just have had a lot of experience with it. I have done a lot of research on it besides my 45 page research paper, and I was hurt by your comments. Mostly, I was talking about how society influences people’s attitudes toward depression, and how therefore, the number of people diagnosed has changed over the years, but that the number of people diagnosed, does not equal the number of people who actually have the disorder. From that, I was just thinking about it and coming up with some hypotheses, that I was never saying are actually true, just some ideas about how I could look at it all. Depression is a serious issue to be concerned with according to me, and I never said it wasn’t or else I wouldn’t have said anything. I know a lot about depression, I have spent my whole life around it, and it is pretty obvious that the gunman did have a mental disorder, and in a way I wish he was still alive so we could do tests on him to maybe find out more information about disorders to help us with them and help those who are affected. So next time, please don’t go accusing people of knowing nothing about the topic and telling them to do more research, your words were just as hurtful, and I never attacked you as you did me.

x's picture

alright already.

I don't feel comfortable continuing this conversation on the forum. I think it's against the honor code to confront someone this way. So please, if you want to continute this dialogue, let's meet up in person.

leigh urbschat's picture

On the topic of memory, I

On the topic of memory, I found a very interesting article in the NY Science Times called "When a Brain Forgets Where memory is." I'm sure all of us have heard of amnesia, which usually results from a physical neurological problem. Dissociative fugue, however, has the same symptoms as amnesia, without the physical problem. People who experience fugue, usually are going about their daily routine when they suddenly wander off, forgetting everything that they were doing only a moment ago. They do not realize that they have forgotten anything until they are asked any biographical questions. However, once asked they realize, they have not only forgotten their families, their jobs, and their addresses, but also who they are. Dissociative fugue can lasts from a few hours to a few months and usually restores memory as suddenly as it was taken away. The condition has no physical cause and usually results from severe stress or after a traumatic event.

I've come to understand that our brains take in and filter out a lot. They even fill in the missing pieces of our reality. I am completely fine with the idea that my reality has been fixed in some ways by my brain, and that it may be slightly different from the person next to me. I am, however, very uneasy with the idea that it is possible for my brain to shut itself off when it is emotionally overwhelmed. Should we be worried about the reliability of our brains?

Stacy Blecher's picture

function of REM and Dream

I am a very pragmatic person.  If something exists, it must exist for a reason, it must be serving some purpose.  I can think of a reason for the existence of nearly everything.  The heart exists to pump blood throughout our bodies.  Boots exist so that our feet don’t freeze off when we trudge to class in through the snow.  Movies exist so that directors, actors, screen writers etc. can make a living (and as a side note, sometimes they are also entertaining). 

Dreams, however, seem to serve no necessary function.  Sure, they might be entertaining while we sleep, but many times we don’t even remember our dreams two minutes after we wake up.  There are theories that dreaming and REM is our brain’s way of sorting and storing the memories of the day.  I have a real problem with this theory because it seems way too abstract.  First of all, memories are not physical things that can be sorted, second of all, even if they could be sorted, why would doing so produce these images in our heads?  There is simple too much unknown and too much speculation for me to accept this theory. 

A theory of dreaming that I am more comfortable with is David Maurice’s REM sleep theory that suggests rapid eye movement supplies oxygen to the cornea of the eye.  Essentially, the rapid eye movements stir the aqueous humor behind the cornea which brings the oxygen to the cornea so that it does not suffocate while we sleep.  This makes sense because when we sleep, our eyes are sealed shut and deprived of oxygen which our corneas need to survive.  Our eyes are also sealed shut and experience REM when we are in the womb.  Why would a fetus need to process memories?  What memories could it possibly have?  Fetal REM does not make any sense under the first theory, but it is sensible to hypothesize that the sealed fetal eyes rapidly move to supply oxygen to the cornea.

Yet, while this theory does offer a convincing explanation for the function of REM, it lacks a solid justification for dreams.  Although I hate to admit it, I might just have to accept that dreams exist simply for our entertainment….at least for now.

Antonia J's picture

dreams- mystical or pragmatic

I have to admit that I, also, am unable to see the practical value of dreams. I would like to know if they serve a purpose. The idea of dreams being a venue for working out things that are worrying you.... that interests me. And, I hate to admit it, but Freud's unconscious, etc. also seems plausible. I like the idea. (Although I'm not so sure about some of the desires that he talks about, or the idea that particular dreams symbolize certain things).

I heard once that this guy claimed he never dreamed, and that it was the belief of his (religious? spiritual? ethnic? group... I can't remember) that those who didn't dream were those who were at peace with themselves. I don't know if this has any kind of basis in fact, but I thought it was interesting.

And on an entirely practical note, I have wondered about naps for a while. Why are power naps considered useful? How many minutes are good for a nap? What's the least amount of sleep you can get in a night, and still be able to function the next day? (I think in class we said 70 minutes.... someone else told me that it was 1 1/2 hrs... 3 hrs...  4 1/2.... 6.... you get the idea). I guess from a college student's point of view, all of this would be pretty useful information, particularly since finals are coming up and I anticipate a few days with very little or no sleep.

Darlene Forde's picture

Master violinist plays to a rush hour crowd and goes unnoticed

I recently came across an article in the Washington Post (reprinted in the Kansas City Star online): "Joshua Bell plays in D.C. rush hour crowd and goes virtually unnoticed".

Bell, a noted virtuoso, played some of the most provocative and profound music. Instead of the $1000 a minute which Bell normally commands as a performer and his recently won title as the Avery Fisher best classical musician in America prize, Bell received scant attention. Children represented the only consistent group of people who stopped to pay attention to the violinist. "Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away."

Of the thousands of people that shuffled through the station only about 40 seem to even recognize that he is there and even less remember his presence later when questioned. Only 1 person seemed to recognize Bell and only a handful stopped for more than a a few seconds to appreciate the music.

I was intrigued by this phenomenon. Thousands of people are receiving the same input, but the only group which can consistently stop to knowingly and appreciatively make use of this input is children. Even if we account for the fact that many people are busy and on their way to work, this effect cannot be fully explained. What about our society teaches children to ignore these inputs? We learn to appreciate music only within a certain context otherwise it is ignored. Essentially context matters.

But what important aspects of life and world are we missing when we divide up our lives into these arbitrary contextual portions? How does society dictate and inform these contexts, is there a process by which individuals can redefine these processes?


eshuster's picture

An Ending is only the Beginning



With this week’s topic on emotions, feelings, dreams, and the way the mind works, I can’t help but think about my second paper topic, the placebo effect. I always wondered why they give placebos, knowing what it was, but I never fully understood what the placebo effect was so that is why I chose that topic. I learned about how one’s mind associates a pill with a specific response, like feeling better, even though the pill has no medicine. I find it interesting how one’s mind believes when in reality there is nothing there. It makes me think more and more about how the brain does what it wants to whether something is present or not. I have been following many questions that lead to other questions over the semester and the conclusion I have found is that the brain dictates what we believe whether it is there or not. In the class, Prof. Grobstein has showed us things that I would never have believed existed: Phantom Limb, seeing yellow is not really seeing yellow, a rose to one is not the same as a rose to another, our brain fills in the blind spot with something that is not there, and most of all believing that a pill, a placebo, has an affect only because it is a pill.


In many of my posts I have questioned reality, thinking, and perspective but what I didn’t question was the brain. All three thinks I have been questioning are all manifestations of the brain. They appear real to me because they are manifested by my brain. And this grueling semester of roundabout questions has brought me to Day 1 of Neurobio and Emily Dickenson’s poem. “The brain is wider than the sky.” It is our imagination and our thought that makes the sky. This brain, our thought, makes our reality and similarly the reality of society. We all are different and therefore possess some type of disability, in that we are different. That is our only disability and everyone has it. We are all different and so is our reality. If we think about emotion, feelings, moods, dreams, we are all characterized by a different summation of all of these aspects that boil down to manifestations of the brain.


The first week of class I accepted that the brain is wider than the sky but I didn’t think about why? I wanted to accept it because I have always been taught to accept what I have learned but never question it. This class has taken me on a journey of questions that lead me to the same starting point and yet it is like a different world. I accept not because I was taught to believe what I want to believe but I have questioned many aspects of this class and yet it brings me back to the same point. We manifest our own reality, something that is never the same for two people because the brain is never the same for those two people.


We have said that society feeds on disability but we manifest society and disability because human differences are our disabilities. Our manifestations/realities make us different and enable us to form societies with our own feelings, moods, auras, emotions, realities, thought processes, astrological signs, personalities, ethnicities, and most of all our brain (CNS).

A.Kyan's picture

unrealistic dreams

Rebecca, thanks for the informative and interesting info on dreams.  You mentioned that dreams are a time for the brain to sort and store memories.  However, most of my dreams do not involve things that have ever happened to me before.  I was wondering if you (or anyone else) have came across research that may explain why dreams are so far from reality for some people like me?  I mentioned in an earlier post that my dreams are full of things that I never thought possible.  My boyfriend teases me for thinking I'm a superheroe because that's what I am in my dreams.  I'm often flying through the air, vanishing from danger, fighting off demons while saving people, and living in magical worlds.  Maybe that's why I look forward to sleeping every night.  It's definitely a fun escape from "reality".       

katherine's picture

Computers and Emotions

I wrote my second web paper on the impact of computer use on children’s neurological development.  One of the reasons that experts are concerned about children’s increased computer use relates to our discussion this week about emotions.  Computer games or even subliminal images cause neurological reactions in humans.  Chemical responses to fear, anxiety, or excitement occur unconsciously in all humans and are impossible to control.  Hormones or chemicals such as adrenaline cause increased heart rate and muscle changes for the fight or flight response.  These responses can become an ingrained physical habit if one is repeatedly exposed to computer games--even educational games.  This is not just a problem with computers.  Our society is being inundated with technological developments each year.  It wasn’t that long ago that ipods didn’t exist, it was a novelty to have a cell phone, and the internet was new and exciting.  Because this technology requires humans to use different parts of their brains and triggers different chemical responses, I can’t help but wonder: How will this technology change how our society functions?   

kjusewiczh's picture

Weather and your Mood

After our class on Thursday, I started thinking about mood and what controls it. I have noticed that weather seems to be a very strong control on people's moods. From the time I was young, I always associated the sun with happiness and rainy/cloudy days with being sad or upset. Maybe this was something I was taught or maybe it was something I just sensed on my own, I honestly don't remember. But, when I think about it now, I still connect these feelings. When it is rainy/cloudy or cold people tend to wear dark colors and seem to sulk around. And I have often heard people say that they were so upset it was rainy and that it put them in a really bad mood. However, a visible notice can be observed on campus when it gets sunny. People sit outside in bright colors and have fun. Everyone seems happy and it seems like everyone is smiling. Connections between weather and peoples mood seem to be apparant everywhere and everybody seems to be able to sense this connection. It has been observed that in northern regions where the sun is not visible for months at a time, the suicide rate is enormously higher than in other places. What is it in our brains that senses the change in weather or sunlight and adjusts our moods. Is there an actual connection between the weather and our moods...or is it a learned connection that we all adhere to?

Pleiades's picture


It seems as if this may be associated with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Patients with SAD have problems sleeping, overeat, and suffer with bouts of depression and anxiety among a slew of other emotional and behavioral problems. This depression, however, is seasonal. It’s normal onset is in September and it lasts usually until June (I believe we discussed this in class). It is intriguing to me what you said about weather affecting mood. Its sort of like a short term SAD. For some people external cues of rain and darkness seem to become internalized unconsciously and affect our behavior. However, I’m the opposite. I love the rain; it makes me happy when it’s raining. What does this mean about my internalization of these cues? Obviously they are going in the same, but there is some difference in my unconscious processing that makes me behave in opposition to the majority of people. What is it, and why am I not standardized with most everyone else?!??!

Holly Stewart's picture

Autonomy and Creativity

This week’s discussion sparks new ideas for me about mood, emotions and feelings. Each of these generalized control mechanisms have a substantial input on my behavior and can operate on micro or macro scales. In my own personal life I go back and forth about whether my emotions are wholly in my control or something which my body subjects me to and really doesn’t involve any personal input. Of course, as with many things in the body there is a middle ground or gray area. In each of these generalized control mechanisms the I-function does and doesn’t participate. Does the degree of participation depend on the kind of activity or person? I think these generalized control mechanisms have huge implications toward examining human action, an example of this would be in looking at crimes (as we discussed briefly in class). I especially think the act of creativity in all of this is also very interesting.

I believed that mood and emotions had a lot to do with the chemicals in your brain. It seems to be a common practice these days for doctors to assess the levels of specific chemicals in your brain and then make a conclusion about your mood state or the emotions that you are capable of feeling. This process has always sat a bit uncomfortably for me. Granted, I don’t experience depression, but even within Diabetes I know that certain chemicals (specifically the presence of ketones) can affect my mood and emotions. But still, there is something more. Mood as a generalized control mechanism means that we have coordinated nervous system activity. But in what way and what does that really mean? Does the coordination for ‘being angry’ look different from the coordination for ‘being happy’? And furthermore, we recognized in class that it isn’t just about coordinated nervous system activity, there is a fundamental feature of a degree of autonomy.

Autonomy: what does this word even mean any more in the context of what we have learned over the last semester about the nervous system? How can we maintain autonomy when we can’t even recognize if there is an “us” distinct from our nervous system? Sometimes with mood and emotions there is I-function input and sometimes there isn’t. When there isn’t I-function input you don’t recognize that you are having an experience since your experiences don’t manifest themselves under conscious control. How can we really maintain this ‘autonomy’ when most of our behavioral mechanisms and responses are byproducts of nervous system action and dialogue? I believe that we can bring these generalized control mechanisms out of their current state of lack I-function input by incorporating creativity. When you are creative, you are channeling your mood and emotions into a physical media, whether it is painting or music you are bringing seemingly “uncontrollable” nervous system activity and doing something with it. I think this is why art therapy can be so beneficial to so many people: it allows them to channel their emotions and bring them into their conscious activity so they feel as though they have some semblance of control about what is affecting their behavior and interaction with the external world.

These generalized control mechanisms have a large impact also on how we view people’s behavior. We briefly discussed the idea of intoxication as an example for showing that the conscious activity and unconscious responses are in a constant dialogue with one another. Drunkenness is supposed to act as an example for us about how personality is not exclusive to the I-function, but is in part associated with it. I think this is a fine example, except it calls to question many of the other activities we participate in on a daily basis: exercise (releasing endorphins), sleeping (I know we discussed this in the context of dreams and sleep states), eating and many other activities that may warp our personality within our context. I wonder if there is some sort of “core” of ourselves which is relatively unchanging in the I-function and then the details about how it manifests itself is filled in by the context of our environment. As with most weeks, more questions…

Meredith Sisson's picture

Choice with a Capital 'C'

In response to the questions Holly posed here, I searched through a couple of the discussions across the Serendip site which mused over the topic of emotion and its source. It appears, however, not at all surprisingly, that all of this discussion lends itself to little, if anything, in the way of conclusive evidence about emotional control. No one appears ready to give us the Choice (yes, with a capital C) to feel... perhaps in fear of what the consequences might be?

Long before I entered a class which delved into (and gave name to) my brain's I-function, I'd always understood emotion to be defined by it's spontaneity. Perhaps it was because, in a family coping with several diagnoses, I'd been told from a young age that "my feelings were not my fault." Emotion, to me, never required any justification. Reflecting now, I see that despite this belief, other influences along the way must have taught me otherwise. If I truly believed I had no control over my emotional state... would I pay to sit on someone's couch one a week to hear what she had to say about the way I'd been feeling over the past seven days? Or would I just swallow the handful of pills she instructed me to take every night before I collapsed into bed and not ask any questions?

Ask any MD, psychiatrist, or psychologist, and they'll say that the best treatment for anyone suffering from any mood or personality disorder is a combination of psychotherapy and medication. However, where this line lies remains fuzzy.

No matter, it seems to me that a dichotomy must exist here. But how would this dichotomy be defined? Could it even really be defined? Is talk therapy really just that... talk? Or is the placebo effect plaguing our medicated society? It seems that almost any study can deem any treatment "ineffective".

And returning to the broader question of autonomy... Is there any mechanism by which to determine when and if our I-function were to be consulted over certain emotions in certain situations? Could control over emotion be fluid? Could we have control of an emotion... lose it to our unconscious for a time... and regain it again? Is there really any Choice in the matter of emotion at all? And is the more frightening proposition to lack the control... or to have it?

Yes, more questions... Apologies.

jpena's picture

I think it's very

I think it's very interesting to question the meaning of autonomy in the context of this course. I feel like everything we've learned this semester has challenged my previous understanding of autonomy. It seems like our brain is in control of every action we take and every emotion we have. I wanted to believe that we have complete control over our actions but both of my web papers indicated the opposite. My first one on addiction demonstrated how emotions and actions are heavily dependent on chemicals in the brain. My second one discussed the inhibition of certain behaviors by parts of the brain. When, if ever, are we autonomous. The idea of creativity contributing to our autonomy is very encouraging but I can't help but question it. When we talk about dreams I think of them as being primarily composed of memories of real life experience and thoughts created by the brain. I would like to believe that these thoughts are created by us autonomously but I still think of them as analagous to the blind spot demonstration. Our brain fills in the hole in our vision that is created by the blind spot. Similarly in our dreams, it seems that if our brain strings together memories to create a story, our brain fills in the holes of the story with its own thoughts. So maybe it comes down to whether we feel autonomous or not as opposed to whether we are autonomous or not.

Rebecca Pisciotta's picture

Dreaming, lucid dreaming, and waking states

I recently did a bunch of research on the difference between dreaming and waking states, so I will share the essence of what I learned and attempt to answer Adityas question about why we can behave logically in the illogical world of dreams.

As we learned in class REM sleep is the deepest stage of sleep, characterized by the highest sensory thresholds and lowest motor output. It is also the phase of sleep when dreaming occurs. The brainstem is responsible for stopping the motor signals sent by the brain from being reaching the body. It also (according to the current research) generates random sensory signals. These signals do not seem "weird" to the brain because all sensory signals get relayed through the brain stem when we are awake. The brain is dupped into believing that these internally generated signals being produced by the brainstem are real signals being relayed from the outside world. This is why dreams feel, look, sound, and smell so real. These internally generated sensory signals pass from the brainstem into the forebrain. The forebrain needs to make sense of this input, so it weaves it into a story. This explains the narrative nature of dreams. The brainstem generates a picture of a monster, sends it to the forebrain, the forebrain says "ah monster, run away!", it sends motor signals to your legs to run, and the brainstem intercepts and stops the motor signals.

The logical behavior in our dreams can be attributed to the story building role of the forebrain. The forebrain is no dummy, if it is sent a picture of a bike and a monster it will have us jumping on the bike and riding like theres no tomorrow. This is because in dreams we have access to pretty much all of the faculties that we do when we are awake. We still know what our school looks like, or that biking is faster than walking.

One crucial area of the brain that is inactivated during dreaming an area of the frontal lobe responsible for autobiographical knowledge and judgement. This explains why we do not question the bizarreness of our dreams. We lack the capacity to pass judgement on our surroundings ("could a dog really have three heads?"), and we lack self knowledge ("my dog doesnt have three heads, so this cant be real").

This theory is supported by research on lucid dreams, a lucid dream is a type of dream where the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming. Lucid dreamers report that they often obtain lucidity by realizing that something in their surroundings is too bizarre to be real. They are able to pass judgement and realize they are in a dream state. The onset of lucid dreaming is characterized by high levels of cortical arousal and activity in the area of the frontal lobe that is usually inactive.

I like this model of dreaming/lucid dreaming/waking states, and their relationships. I also am tempted to believe that sleep is a time when the brain reorganizes, sorts, and stores memories, and that dreaming is a product of this memory sorting. It would explain why my dreams always contain images from the previous day. I'm not sure how that theory could be reconsiled with the previously explained theory. One idea may be that when the memories are getting sorted some pop into awareness, and we literally relive those memories as they flash before our minds eye, and maybe the brain stem creates the relevant sensory input to match that memory? Just an idea.

I know this post is long but I hope it provided some useful background info on dreams. 

Aditya's picture

logic + dreams..

This was really interesting, thanks!

Aditya's picture

Dreams + I function + nervous system

We discussed in class today that the I function is active during dreams, and that personality is encompassed in the I-function but also in other parts of the nervous system.

 When I dream, what I would normally consider bizarre things, occur. At one instance, I will be in one place, and then magically and all of a sudden the next instance I will be in a completely different scenario with different people. Furthermore, the people in my dreams are sometimes really random in that I don't really know this person well or practically at all, or havent seen this person in a very long time. And also, I would never be in that situation with those people, e.g. my dad sitting in class with me. These are illogical, senseless, things that occur in my dreams, and if they ever occured in my reality I would instantly question them. But in my dreams they seem completely normal to me. It has to be until after I wake up to realize how ridiculous my dreams seem. Does that mean that logic is in a different part of the nervous system that is not being activated.

But wait, in my dreams, I'm still acting somewhat logically e.g. I had a dream when I was younger that someone was chasing me and I started to run but saw my bike available and stopped thought to myself that the bike is faster and hopped on my bike. So there is logical behavior in my dreams. How come we very rarely question the abnormalities (relative to the waking reality) of our dreams, while we are dreaming?

Also, we have to have knowledge of the concepts of the things we dream about. I can't dream about a bike, or being in a house, etc. unless I know what these are and have seen them. So I'm wondering, people who have been blind from birth, what are their dreams like? They must be different because they do not have concrete concepts of what things look like? Or am i wrong? Does this mean their I function is different, works in a different way?  

Another characteristic about dreams is that sometimes if their are sounds in the surrounding environment of where I am sleeping, like a train whistle, they get incorporated into my dreams as something else. This is an illustration of how our nervous system and I-function are intertangled, and also that how our I-function is making up a story from reality. Expanding on this interaction between I-function and nervous system, today in class we discussed how our personality is located not only in the I function, but in the rest of the nervous system.

 I think that we each have patterns of motor symphonies, and innate central pattern generators located in our nervous system apart from our I function. I say this because distinct personality traits are seen as early as birth. Some babies cry much more than others. Or even in kindergarten, some kids talk more, or laugh more, get scared more easily etc.  I think these patterns stay stable over the course of a lifetime and that explains why our personalities our so consistent. It is our I function that is constantly evolving. Our I-function is in control of what aspects of our personality are active,  capable of monitoring how we are acting, capable of being in control of changing the way we act temporarily.

However, given these central pattern generators in the nervous system, and theyre stability, is it possible to change who we are? For example relating personality to walking, I feel like I have a baseline speed of walking, and I walk at this laid back speed when I am not consciously thinking about walking. However, i could temporarily increase or decrease this speed if I chose to, but at the end of the day, when im not thinking about walking Im back at baseline. Is there a way to change this baseline?