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Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities

Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities has 50 remote-ready activities, which work for either your classroom or remote teaching.

Neurobiology and Behavior 2003 Forum

Comments are posted in the order in which they are received, with earlier postings appearing first below on this page. To see the latest postings, click on "Go to last comment" below.

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Welcome and ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-01-21 14:17:34
Link to this Comment: 4220

Glad to have you here to continue/expand on our class conversations. As I said earlier today, please think of this as a place to pose questions/leave thoughts in progress/continue talking. Your thoughts in progress, whatever they are, are likely to contribute to other people thinking, and theirs in turn may be useful in your own.

Very much enjoyed our conversation this morning, pleased to have the diversity of backgrounds and interests we have. Pleased too to have your willingness/inclination to recognize some of the hard/interesting problems, like the importance for behavior of both "nature and nurture", of motivation/personality/aspiration/thought, of social/cultural interactions. And pleased to have both the theoretical and the practical concerns voiced: what IS the relation between mind and body, and how should one deal with issues of mental health (among other things)? Hope that, with everyone contributing, we can indeed keep the playing field large enough/rich enough to meet everyone's interests.

This week (as every week) you're free to write about whatever interests you (and as many times as you feel inclined). But if you need something to get you started, here's something to play with as a starting point ...

If you currently accept the idea that there isn't anything to behavior except the brain, explain why. If you don't or are fence-sitting, explain why.

Name: Erin Fulch
Date: 2003-01-22 20:44:20
Link to this Comment: 4230

In our initial discussion, I claimed to subscribe absolutely to the belief that nothing, in fact, exists beyond the brain. However, upon hearing the suggestion of a "soul" from another student, I quickly realized that I had been extremely hesitant to admit a belief in something considered far greater than the human nervous system: God. Curiously, I had more or less denied an integral part of my personal belief system. Since that discussion, I have given a great deal of thought to the reality that enabled my response and to the many years I have struggled to resolve science and religion. I typically comfort myself by suggesting that even if religion is simply a manifestation of the mind created for personal comfort, adherence to a moral code and a dogmatic system enhances my existence.
Of course, I have found the task impossible and do not expect to discover a definitive answer in a single semester. Instead, I agree with Richard Feynman's suggestion that, "I don't have to know and answer, I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is so far as I can tell." I also believe, as Feynman does, that science and religion can coexist. Regardless, I am curious to see whether or not I will be able to remain comfortable in my practice of faith while gaining insight into the physiological motivation of my actions and behavior.

is there anything other than the brain?
Name: Daniel Els
Date: 2003-01-22 21:28:42
Link to this Comment: 4231

I think that there isn't anything to behavior besides the brain, because I know you can control people's behavior to some extent by acting upon their brains through drugs. I think you could probably control a person's behavior completely if you knew how to manipulate their nervous system. On the other hand, I still believe that we have thoughts that are somehow not the same thing as what goes on in our brain, even though I think our thoughts are determined by our brains.

Name: Alexandra
Date: 2003-01-23 08:14:10
Link to this Comment: 4237

Although logically I think that the brain controls all behavior, for some reason I am still uncomfortable with that idea. While I think the brain controls most behavior, I am not sure that the brain controls all behavior. For example, some things we do are highly irrational, and I am not sure if the brain could account for that. Still the motivations behind apparently irrational actions may be too complex to understand, and the series of motivations may be hidden but still a part of the brain.

While I was browsing...
Name: Patricia P
Date: 2003-01-23 15:41:36
Link to this Comment: 4240

While I was checking out this site, I clicked on the word "fun" integrated into a paragraph on the right, and then from there, clicked on "Seeing More Than Your Eye Does." I was absolutely amazed at what I saw. The excersize takes you through a journey that shows just where your blind spot is, and then what your brain is capable of inferring about its surrounding even in the face of this spot that our eyes can not report bact to the brain. The fascinating part is that the brain infers things that are completely false! You stare at the screen and see things that are absolutely not there, and so while your brain is creating something, it allows you too "see" this imaginary object or color. For me, the excersize was a shocking realization, that at every moment that i feel i am veiwing something, my brain is innaccurately making up a very small part of it. I would love to learn what mechanism in the brain is in charge of creating this magnificent illusion! I just wanted to make sure that no one in the class passed the excersize by. It's worth your time and contemplation!

Baby wants food? I think not!
Name: Rachel Sin
Date: 2003-01-23 18:25:20
Link to this Comment: 4241

While we were discussing hypotheses today (in particular, the one in which we mentioned how if a baby cries, it probably wants food), it reminded me of a relevant real-life experience that I had over winter break. While working with toddlers at a local community center, I noticed that the toddlers did in fact did begin to bawl at the first signs of hunger. However, many other instances occurred in which they cried - not because they wanted a pudding cup or some mac and cheese, but because they missed their mommy and daddy. Even more often, these toddlers started bawling because they seriously needed a diaper change (fortunately, there were other staff members who were available to do this!).

The experience with toddlers served as real-life proof that hypotheses are a summary of disprovable observations. While these observations may sometimes aid us in evaluating real-life situations, they do not hold true in all cases. I noticed this when I fed one sad little guy pudding (hypothesis: feed an unhappy toddler and he will cheer up) and he still kept on crying...then I smelled his diaper, and instantly knew that my hypothesis had been false :)

Name: Michelle C
Date: 2003-01-23 18:31:25
Link to this Comment: 4242

The mentioning today of the Placebo effect is one that stimulated great thought. I have grappled with the reliability of many drugs due to the strength of placebos. Additionally, with the existence of things such as behavioral therapy and its often significant effects in the modification of learned behaviors, I have become very suspicious of the true nature of drugs as manipulators of human behavior. However, thinking along the lines of Prof. Grobstein's comment on the genetic information that our genomes have retained from our ancestors it is no wonder our body is capable of sufficiently healing itself. If the knowledge, insights, and strengths or our genetically connected ancestors is stored in our genome and you are a firm believer in Darwin's survival of the fittest.... what the hell are drugs really giving us that we cannot essentially do for ourselves? Our minds seem to dictate what our bodies are capable of doing. According to the effectiveness of the placebo...drugs are giving us just an idea of wellness which triggers our body's natural healing process.

Name: Cordelia S
Date: 2003-01-23 19:22:00
Link to this Comment: 4243

I tend to disagree somewhat with Michelle in the above posting. Drugs can be exraordinarily powerful in their effect on the brain and behavior. This is observable in the success of drugs like Prozac, which is an amazing tool in lifting depressive illnesses. It is also observable in any methadone clinic, where patients' are trying to piece together lives torn apart by the effects of heroin on their behavior. Drugs can cause people to take risks, to calm down, to have energy, to be immense number of behavioral changes can be created by drugs. Placebos also affect people's behavior, but not nearly so much as drugs. Taking a placebo causes some change in the brain as well. It is calming when you are sick to think that you have taken something that will make you better. But drugs alter the brain in much more elaborate ways. I just worry that underestimating drugs could perpetuate the stigma already on people who take drugs for mental illness. Therapy is important, perhaps as much or more so than psychiatric medication in some cases, but many people depend on drugs to maintain their ability to function in daily life.

Name: Danielle M
Date: 2003-01-23 19:24:34
Link to this Comment: 4244

The question(s) I find interesting is: what are the boundaries of the brain? Can we imagine them? If the brain regulates activities of which we're unconscious, such as digestion or temperature regulation, what other, perhaps intangible, unrealized functions could it perform? If someone claims to have the unconscious ability to sense the intangible, say, the future or ghosts or God, is it possible that they've accessed some unconscious area/function of the brain that others haven't? Or should those people and ideas be dismissed as silly or attention mongering?

Name: Zunera
Date: 2003-01-23 20:40:56
Link to this Comment: 4245

Note: this was supposed to be posted on the 29th...but it wouldn't go through. Here it is anyway.

During our initial discussion, when we either agreed or disagreed whether there was anything besides the brain to behavior, the first thought to my mind was...well, that seems logical, but what about external factors- ex. environmental factors, other people, drugs, abuse, etc? For instance, if a healthy and moderately well off person who lived in a wealthy suburb with all the "necessaries"- house, food, water, heat, etc was put into a situation where he/she was left in a dark basement in another country without clothes, water, and food they may begin to behave differently, or the same person was subjected to some type of abuse repeatedly, be it verbal or physical, their behavior could also become different from what it was before the abuse...but, if you think about it, everything surrounding you can affect you, your body, and your brain. Therefore, I feel that the brain is the underlying medium for behavior, but sometimes it would require/ or be faced with things that can influence and can impact the brain. The brain would then interpret that stimulus (or stimuli) to elicit a response, which could be exhibited in the form of a certain behavior, or change in behavior.
One other thought. I also believe that religion and science coexist, go together hand in hand, especially since I feel that my religion supports a bond between the two. Therefore, accepting the idea that "yes, the brain is everything and the brain=behavior," while also believing that there is a God that controls everything from above does not seem unfeasible...but that's a whole other story.

Name: Clarissa
Date: 2003-01-24 22:46:33
Link to this Comment: 4247

There isn't anything to behavior except the brain, true or false? What about inner strength, the ability to fight the bad things which happen in our lives? If there is nothing except the brain is our total "self" ensconced in that five pounds of flesh? I am struggling with the idea that all of my behavior can be summed up with THE BRAIN. While writing this I am thinking about all of the ways in which my body is being regulated in order to keep me alive. But at the same time I am interested in my brain's ability to regulate emotion. Which brings me back to my original question. Besides inner strength what about love, faith, compassion, and creativity. The things that are difficult to measure but what I consider important characteristics. If they do infact originate somewhere deep inside our brain. Then how did they get there? And why do some people have them while others don't?

Name: Clare
Date: 2003-01-25 12:33:02
Link to this Comment: 4249

When we first voted I was "fence-sitting." However, after reading some of the comments and thinking about it more I've slowly been convincing myself more and more that there isn't anything to behavior except the brain. To me it's all about proof. And because we can't prove it one way or the other, I know that there will always be a part of me that remains open to the idea of a soul or other aspect controlling behavior. The question at hand deals with one tangible and one intangible thing; however, we can obviously collect more data on the tangible thing, the brain. That's why, as I think about the more and more possible things that we have shown the brain can control- how you feel, what you think, how you react, how well you do or do not do things- it becomes easier to believe that the brain is all there is to behavior. Although the brain is a tangible thing, it can control intangible aspects, such as emotion, by regulating tangible chemicals in your body. At the same time, however, it is impossible to show or disprove what those intangible things, such as the soul, that might control behavior are capable of doing and, therefore, they lose significance, in my mind, in their role in behavior. I know that some philosophers, like Socrates, Aristotle, and Descartes, have tried to "prove" the existence of the soul through deduction, reasoning, or the existence of God. Yet, these still lack the tangible significance that the brain gives as evidence to its control in behavior.

Drugs vs. Placebo
Name: Amelia Tur
Date: 2003-01-25 16:24:33
Link to this Comment: 4250

When I was looking over the comments that my classmates have already posted, I was particulary interested in Michelle and Cordelia's comments on the uses of placebos and drugs.
I do agree with Michelle about the power of the brain in the use of placebos. The brain and body can do remarkable things in healing itself, especially when the person is taking something that she believes will help relieve her suffering. I know from experience that I have been able to fight off colds and other infections by willpower (and extra sleep) when I could not afford to become ill. Placebos and other remedies that do not have proven healing powers are attributated healing powers, when in reality it is most likely the brain that is affecting the body.
However, I do agree with Cordelia as well. The placebo affect and convincing oneself not to get sick do not take the place for drugs. I know from personal experience what antidepressents can do. From my experience in my anthropological studies, the human body as a whole does not evolve into a perfect entity. For example, in adopting upright posture, the body sacrificed a certain degree of joint health in the knees and a certain degree of back health. Because walking upright outweighed this drawbacks, we remain an upright species. However, knee and back problems are very common.
I also disagree with Michelle in her comment that the brain should be able to provide all of the healing powers for the body by itself. There are many examples in the animal kingdom of animals, especially higher primates, who self medicate with plants and such for diseases and other problems. If other animals feed the need to medicate themselves, why should we be so different?

classlist available
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-01-25 17:49:41
Link to this Comment: 4251

Check out the tentative class list. If you're among those on the enrolled list and have changed your mind about taking the course, please email me as soon as possible so students on the waiting list can be accomodated. Thanks.

Name: Shanti Mik
Date: 2003-01-25 23:10:35
Link to this Comment: 4253

I would like to comment on what Clare wrote earlier about believing that the brain is all there is to behavoir. While I do agree that the brain is capable of regulating much of our emotion, I don't think that there can just be the brain. While I do think that it is because of the brain that we are able to conceive of things like the soul and spirit, I think it is because those things can exist outside of the brain. The poem that we were talking about earlier characterizes the brain as something that contains everything else. But just because the brain is what perceives the outside world or sky, that doesn't mean that those things do not exist independently. If a person dies, those things don't go away, it is that the person is not capable of perceiving them. Clare also mentions that since it is impossible to disprove the existence of intangibles that they lose their significance in terms of behavior. I disagree because one of the biggest things that control behavior is love. If you were to ask someone to prove that they loved someone, the only way they would be able to do it would be through their behavior.
There is no imperical way of measuring emotion and the closest thing we have to measuring them is through actions and behavior. We can't say that these ideas have been proven absolutely because science itself and the tangible things that we have measured aren't absolutes either. It is my belief that those tangible things such as chemical pathways aren't anymore absolute than the notion that the soul exists outside the brain and controls behavior.

work in progress..
Name: nicole jac
Date: 2003-01-26 13:24:14
Link to this Comment: 4254

I was one of the people that agreed with Dickinson and believed that the brain and behavior are the same thing. Nevertheless, I do believe that there is something more to existence. It is a rather depressing thought to view people as robots that act and react to their environment. Free will and personal responsibility would not exist. I think there is something more than the brain – like a soul that also influences behavior. But it is possible that the brain can create a soul, in a manner similar to the way that it creates thoughts. However, if the brain invents the soul that means that when the person dies, the soul dies too. So this is problematic. I'm still trying to analyze the idea of something similar to a soul being carried through genes and being passed from generation to generation. This seems feasible, however, it assumes that this collective, ancestral knowledge is only passed down within a species (which may not be compatible with ideas on reincarnation. And I haven't thought about reincarnation too much.) Behavior is incredibly complex and hard to predict. The environment influences behavior, but there is an emotional, irrational side to it as well. Somehow I am trying to resolve the idea of a soul and place it within a framework of being controlled by the brain or genes or something else. If anyone has any thoughts let me know.

Name: Jen
Date: 2003-01-26 15:26:47
Link to this Comment: 4255

I would like to briefly comment on Shanti's posting which encompassed the belief that there is another component and she utilizes the emotion of LOVE to demonstrate this point. I would like to say that I had never thought of love as being a factor that controls behavior. I am unsure how to comment or whether I agree or disagree with this notion; however, I feel that it will add insight and shape my previously defined relationship connecting the brain and behavior. I have always believed that there is a strong correlation between the brain and behavior due to the fact that doctors can alter behavior by manipulating aspects of the brain (and nervous system). I never questioned how emotions played into my simplistic correlation. I guess I haven't reached a point of clarity in this posting but I have begun to question the definition previously known.

From A Fence Sitter...
Name: Nupur
Date: 2003-01-26 15:52:53
Link to this Comment: 4256

During class, I was reluctant to vote one way or another for my complete lack of knowlage about the subject. Being interested more in the humanities than in the sciences, to make a decicison on an absolute such as brain=behavior proves to be a daunting task for me. Unlike the humanities, the sciences contains actual right and wrong answers, concrete examples and a proving or disproving of observations. Consequently, to agree to something such as brain=behavior would, I feel, make it an absolute, to deny the existance of a soul, as mentioned in an earlier posting, or the implications of a god, mentioned in yet another posting. And yet, to disagree that brain=behavior could be wrong. Even after class, I am still unsure as to wether or not I believe brain=behavior.

Name: Nicole Meg
Date: 2003-01-26 16:58:54
Link to this Comment: 4258

I agree with Zunera's earlier posting. I think it is very important to take into account the importance of an environmental stimulus when discussing brain and behavior. The brain and resulting behavior are molded by experience and surrounding conditions and vary between people of different environments/backgrounds/experiences. Without an environmental stimulus, there is not brain/behavior reaction. One of the books that Prof. Grobstein posted, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness by Antonio Damasio seems to further explore this notion and so I intend to check that out for some more ideas. I'd also like to note that I found it interesting to partake in a class discussion that centered around broader concepts in supplement to the pure scientific reason that is typical of a biology class. I tend to think of bodily functions/behavior in a purely physiological manner and am glad to have an outlet to explore other aspects.

Name: Tiffany Li
Date: 2003-01-26 17:09:56
Link to this Comment: 4259

At this point in the class I do not feel comfortable saying that brain = behavior and that the brain is all there is. Obviously this idea has already caused some controversy with people who have religious beliefs since it would disprove the fact that there is a spirit or a soul within us. I personally do not believe that there is a difference between the mind/brain/spirit/soul, yet I still have trouble accepting the fact that the brain would be entirely responsible for our behavior.

The brain certainly plays a large role in people's behavior since medication can change someones mood and even help people emerge from states of depression for example. But where my skepticism lies is when factors such as creativity, aspirations, curiosity, emotions enter the scene. How can neurons be responsible for such abstract notions? I feel that these feelings cannot simply be caused by the nervous system. Therefore I cannot say that brain = behavior.

While thinking this question over, I was also wondering how much genetics had to do with behavior. How much of our behavior is caused/controlled by our genetic makeup? I have no concrete answer at this point, although I am sure that some of our behavior is genetic which would go against the idea that our behavior is simply caused by our nervous system.

not sure
Name: Luz Martin
Date: 2003-01-26 19:40:15
Link to this Comment: 4261

After reading some comments about the brain and behavior, I couldn't convince myself that only the brain is responsible for behavior.
I agree with Tiffany and the idea that creativity and emotions may not be the product of the nervous system.
If my brain is the one in control, then it makes me doubt the importance of my emotions. I'm not sure I can agree that brain=behavior because I still have not been exposed to enough information or data that supports this.

substitution to the equation
Name: priya
Date: 2003-01-26 20:24:05
Link to this Comment: 4262

I believe that the brain=behavior science is rooted in several divisions- biology, philosophy, religion, and psychology to name a few. Since ours is a more neuroscience class, I want to examine the equation using a neuroscientific methodology. Perhaps one of the reasons why neuroscientists are reluctant to account for the "mind" or "soul" is because these factors cannot to measured or quantified, something absolutely essential to scientific approach.
I still do not completely agree that the brain=behavior but rather that it plays a complementary role in the determination of behavior. For example, the equation brain=behavior could be replaced by- Brain:Behavior :: Structure:Function.
The Brain/Bahavior form a sort of cause and effect relationship. An example? The "subtraction" of a piece of the brain either due to experimentation or injury causes some observable aspects of behavior missing in a person. When the frontal portion of the brain is altered or manipulated, people who have perfect vision suddenly for some unforseen reason have visual impairment. Nevertheless,although the brain definitely plays a crucial role in behavior outcome, I think factors like environment, ecology, culture, and just human evolution need to be equally considered before reaching any solid conclusion.

how would individuality exist?
Name: Neesha Pat
Date: 2003-01-26 21:36:21
Link to this Comment: 4265

In the beginning I did not agree with the statement that brain=behaviour, however, after reading through some of the web articles and the comments posted by other students, Im fence sitting now.
Numerous experiments have shown that damaging a part of the brain causes changes in behaviour linked to the damaged region and the adverse effects of drugs can be traced to physiochemical events in the brain. Considering this I would say that brain= behaviour, however many students have brought up creativity, emotions, inner strength that cannot be traced to any 'region' of the brain. Clarissa questioned how some people had more of certain qualities such as inner strength while others didnt.. if brain truly = behaviour, then everyone should have the same character. How would individuality exist if there was nothing more than the brain?
Iv read many articles which have spoken of the positive effects of spirituality and meditation- how would spirituality play a role in changing personality if there was nothing to behaviour except the brain?

Name: Annabella
Date: 2003-01-26 22:41:56
Link to this Comment: 4266

I began to write this essay as an argument aimed to prove that the brain is not behavior. However through the course of my argument I found that I had argued my self into the opposing camp, ending with the conclusion that brain is behavior. Below is the original essay, up until the point where I realized my error.
****In class we have been exploring the idea that the brain is behavior. At this point I take the stance that the brain is not behavior. I do believe that the brain dictates our biological functions, and reflex reactions. I define behavior as the result of empirical knowledge and personal experience. Biological factors can only take us to a certain point, from then on behavior come into play. To explore this opinion further, we must look at a human behavior, and label where the brains programmed reactions stop and unique behavior starts. If you were walking through the woods and saw a bear, the brain would begin to induce physical reactions. Your viscera would clench, adrenaline would be produced, and heart & breath rate would increase. At this point your brain dictated reactions would be poised on the narrow precipice between fight or flight, awaiting your decision. This decision is where behavior comes into play. Here behavior, previously defined as knowledge and experience, comes to the fore. If you happen to be a bookworm or an avid watcher of the Discovery Channel, you would know that neither fight or flight would get you out of the situation alive. An adult bear can easily overtake, and over power your average human. Therefore, take a page from the Dog Obedience School Book, and play dead. However, some people might make be unable to think rationally and give into the brains initial physical response to run. Running is caused by the brain, the rational 'play dead' reaction is behavior. ****
At this point in the original essay I realized that I my argument had one huge flaw from the very beginning. In my very definition of behavior, I give a great reason why brain is behavior. I defined behavior as learning. Isn't learning part of the brains function? Our knowledge is stored in our brain. Does this mean that our personality predetermined by a bunch of cells? Or do those 'cells' only provide us with the canvas upon which we build our life masterpieces? Until I can reach a conclusion I leave us with words of William Shakespeare: A man in all the world's new fashion planted, /That hath a mint of phrases in his brain.

My thoughts and questions
Name: Alanna Alb
Date: 2003-01-26 23:38:09
Link to this Comment: 4267

I was one of the people who couldn't decide whether Emily Dickinson's comparison between the brain and the sky was legitimate...well, after giving it some serious thought, I believe she is right. To me, the brain is bigger than the sky. I think that we probably know more about the sky above our heads than we do about everything that goes on inside our heads. No matter how dig we deep into the brain we will never ever be able to determine all. We can study the anatomy, but studying the creativity, perceptions, and learning processes is a completely different ballpark. There are still so many puzzling mysteries about the brain that researchers have not yet been able to figure out. Take our dreams and nightmares, for example. How exactly does the brain figure out what images to take from our daily lives and create a dream, which may cause us to either have a restful or sleepless night? Do our dreams really possess those certain meanings that we read so often about in books and magazines?

Also, the discussion of the baby and food created another question in my mind, although it is a bit random: if you observe a baby while sleeping and see it smile, is the smile the result of a quick reflex or the reaction to a dream that the baby is having? I ask b/c this example comes straight from my own personal experience. Is it possible that a baby wakes up crying in the night because it had a nightmare?

Still don't buy the equation...
Name: Grace Shin
Date: 2003-01-27 10:39:11
Link to this Comment: 4268

Yeah, I just can't buy the equation of brain = behavior...

Although I agree that brain controls many of our behaviors, in considering our moral decisions, I feel like there has to be more than just our brain playing its part. Imagine the lil angel and the devil sitting at your shoulders, or just think about our conscience. When our "brain" is telling us two different things, how do we choose? With WHAT do we choose? If our brain made all the decisions, I feel like being the selfish and stubborn people that we are, we'd all be living for ourselves. But if that was the case, where do our religious views come into play? Especially for Christianity?

This class is going to be interesting to see how our views may or MAYNOT be altered as the semester goes on... =)

Name: Maria
Date: 2003-01-27 10:44:29
Link to this Comment: 4269

I am not sure if I agree that the brain is all there is. I know the brain and nervous system are in control of everything mechanical in our bodies, but the fact that brains create behaviors in humans that are not conducive to survival and serve no clear purpose makes me doubt that it's all there is to humans. That explanation seems too simple considering what people are capable of; of course the best explanation is often the simplest one, so I know I could be wrong.

I am also intruigued by the placebo effect which we discussed in class. I wonder how our brains are capable of simulating the effects of a drug. How do we create from sheer belief processes in our bodies which should require the introduction of a foreign chemical to occur? I hope we talk about this in greater detail in class.

Is behavior retarded if the brain is?
Name: Kelvey Ric
Date: 2003-01-27 11:12:31
Link to this Comment: 4270

I have never really thought about the statement that the "brain=behavior and there is nothing else'" but since both 'brain' and 'behavior' are words that encompass a scope of complex interactions that most things can fall within (and the existence of those beyond the scope are debatable), I do not greatly doubt it. Instead, the proof of the statement is what is of greatest interest ot me. The idea that the changing of the brain results in the changing of behavior is the theme I have focused on while reading 'Flowers for Algernon' by Daniel Keyes and watching 'I am Sam' starring Sean Penn and Michelle Pfieffer. In 'Flowers for Algernon'', Charlie undergoes an operation to make him 'smart' . The operation raises his IQ to the level of a genius but it also affects how he behaves towards others as he realizes the difference between being laughed at and laughing with a person. In addition, the behavior of others towards him changes as he is seen as a threatening 'smart person'. Sam's mental limitaitons become an issue once society takes an interest adn intervens after judging his behavior. The interactions are all based on a perception that is an action by the brain and is relayed to a behavorial response. Behavior is not only derived from an internal source but is clearly a reaction to external stimuli. In addition, the effect of the mind on emotional behavior is the case of either a 'normal' or 'mentally challenged' person is apparent in 'Flowers for Algernon' and 'I am Sam' as in both cases the simple minds of the protagonist is able to display complex emotions simply. Similar to a blind person who has a heightened sense of smell, a mental deficiency can heighten an emotional awareness. Not focusing on the complex interactions (by not understanding) can allow for a more instinctive reaction to a situation. Sam's fatherly behavior concentrates on expressing love. By having an altered mental state, the behavior is different and yet the beauty is that it can be seen as a skill or gift as opposed to a retardation. Due to the direct relationship between brain and behavior, the question that arises in 'Flowers for Algernon' is if indeed an operation to change the brain and make it 'smart', creates behavior that is actually 'smarter' than the simple-minded person who looked at the beauty in people and did not know how to judge.

Name: geoff
Date: 2003-01-27 11:25:59
Link to this Comment: 4271

The topic of brain=behavior always runs me in circles, and I will probably contradict myself plentifully (hopefully en route to fulfilling my being wrong quota for the week).
I wanted to respond to a trend in many of the comments to forfeit certain basic functions of the human mind over to the brain while keeping others mysterious such as creativity, spirituality, inner-strength, and of course love.
I have been raised to think about certain concepts as being out of our grasp, inexplicable. I will pick on love, my favorite. Most people I speak with today, do not still argue that there is something magical about love. I feel like it is almost accepted that "love" starts out with pure animal attraction, or some kind of compatibility between two people.
When the excitement dies down, the two people have the possibility of working on their relationship and becoming an important part of each others' lives. This may or may not happen, and I think that partners who never find themselves satisfactorily a part of their significant others' life may be able to stay "in love" longer. I do not want to say that working with someone on a healthy relationship is not exciting or worthwhile, but I will say that it is not the "love" that I have been told to look out for.
And as far as not being able to explain it in any other way than the divine concept we have been given, I don't see the problem. Between my personal experience and what I do know about science I feel like I understand enough to at least hold the very real possibility that there is a "love center" in the brain (right up there with a creativity on and a spirituality on and an inner-strength one). It would not look like any kind of center and would not have a neon flashing sign above it, but would be an intricate system of synapses connecting neurons from all over the brain and the rest of the body as well (hormones, etc also playing their roles), like many other centers of the brain. It would have a functional role that can be explained through evolutionary psychology, along the lines of individual and species goals.
A response may be, "but no one has ever found a working theory, it is still a mystery!" And to that I would say that other than reading Hemmingway I get no indication in my life experiences that love is anything of the mystery that we were told it would be (and isn't it convenient that all these fictional lovebirds die before finding that out themselves), and since no one in science has ever misled me on the topic, I'd rather go with the biological explanation.
I would also like to add that no matter how much I claim to be the faith-less scientist or try to explain away the world rationally, I don't think I would ever get out of bed in the morning if I didn't have a faith that there was more, that today I might just fall in love.

Name: Neela Thir
Date: 2003-01-27 15:10:22
Link to this Comment: 4273

"Soul" remains confusing to me because I have yet to hear a substantial definition of it. It seems to be used as a spiritual marker of individuality and the primary cause/code of our behaviour and existence. It is placed outside the realm of the brain and mortal body. Yet, the soul, as a concept, is a human creation, and I'll have to agree that it may be a subcategory (or perhaps a spiritual equivalent) of what the brain may be. However, thinking of any being in purely biologic terms undermines and ignores what exists beyond the confines of science. You can't determine a potential criminal by pysiognomy, a future life by genes, or behavior by the nervous system. The brain holds more than the sum of its physiological contents, but what that extra something is remains a mystery to me.

Spiritual world contain the sky, you...and the bra
Name: Stephanie
Date: 2003-01-27 17:15:09
Link to this Comment: 4275

I do believe that, in a sense, the brain=behavior, but only in the way that my computer=my school work. Almost everything that I write for my classes comes off of my computer. If (for some reason) I was invisible and you could only see my computer, it would look like my computer was writing this paragraph and all the other papers I've written. But just because the computer is the mechanism that I use to produce my papers, it doesn't change the fact that the computer is not creating the essay, I am. I see the brain as the control center of our behavior, but not the thing that's in control. Psychology textbooks are filled with MRI's showing brain activity . Yes, schizophrenics show less activity in certain areas and some types of depression result from low seretonin levels, but what if those are just the effects of something else? The manifestation of things we can't see? I believe that God invented the brain, so the new discoveries that are being made about the correlation between the brain and behavior don't make God, souls and the spiritual world in general any less important. It just makes us rethink how the whole thing works.

altering behavior
Name: Cordelia S
Date: 2003-01-27 17:28:36
Link to this Comment: 4276

I wanted to talk a bit about how people are finding the idea that brain=behavior depressing. On first glance it we have no control in our lives? Are we at the mercy of our genes? Can we never move beyond whatever limits our brain holds for us? Are we just vessels for our genes to get into the next generation? I definitely believe that the brain=behavior, after taking evolutionary psychology and genetics. I have ceased to be depressed by the idea, and now am rather empowered by it. Genetics and the brain are not maps of our lives, and do not control our destiny. They do have a massive impact on our behaviors, but many of our genes adapt to the environment. The thing is, if we want to change negative behaviors that are universal (homicide, depression, war, oppression...etc.) we must first come to terms with the fact that the brain is controlling them. We have evolved as a culture much faster than we could ever possibly evolve physically. Thus, certain behaviors that are dominant in the animal kingdom are considered immoral by human standards. Take for example rape. In NO way am I advocating rape, but we can understand an evolutionary reason for its occurrance. It occurs in other species as well; those who can't find consensual mates use force to get their genes into the next generation. However, rape is completely immoral in our society. In my opinion, to stop behaviors like rape, we must acknowledge where they come from as opposed to simply locking up people who are rapists. How else can we prevent behaviors like this before they happen? This is why I find it comforting that something tangible controls our behavior. If we did not know where behavior comes from, we could have no hope of ever altering it. Not that I know how to alter it now, but the fact that we know where it comes from lets me be optimistic.
Just a thought.

Name: Laurel Jac
Date: 2003-01-27 17:42:33
Link to this Comment: 4278

I agree with Stephanie?s posting. I do not believe that the brain is all there is. I believe humans possess souls that cannot be explained or explained away scientifically. In my opinion, behavior is the result of a combination of circumstance and brain functions. For instance, the definitions of abnormal behavior differ across cultural boundaries because abnormality is generally defined within a specific situation. The brain controls unconscious functioning of our bodies such as pulse and breathing. Behavior does not directly maintain or halt heartbeat.

I also share Nicole?s feelings of refreshment for the new perspective through which we are examining science. It is nice to think things through from a philosophical standpoint, too.

On the Fence for the Moment
Name: Elizabeth
Date: 2003-01-27 19:07:54
Link to this Comment: 4279

Since I don't have any previous experience with neurobiology, or any scientific subjects, really, it's hard for me to form a definitive idea regarding the brain = behavior question. Initially, I would have thought that behavior stems from so much more than the brain. Outside sources, such as society and education, seem to determine so much of our behavior. In addition, the highly irregular nature of human behavior would lead me to believe that our actions don't all orginate from our heads, given that all humans have similar brains. However, without the brain to process and "select" a form of behavior, would humans do anything at all? One can't really exist without the other, but, for me, it remains to be seen whether their mutual dependency is exclusive.

Name: Sarah Feid
Date: 2003-01-27 19:24:12
Link to this Comment: 4282

(( Strangely, I came out of our first week of NB&B discussions feeling only a small bit of confusion, and that had nothing to do with the brain=behavior question. It was confusion as to the significance of the Dickenson poem. The first stanza seems to simply say that the brain contains an impression of the sky "and you beside." Isn't this the same as a photograph? To me, this poem doesn't address behavior at all. If anything, it could point to a subjective reality viewpoint, where the sky "and you beside" only exist as a perception inside the brain. Taking Emily literally seems to say more that brain=reality than brain=behavior. ))

Right now, I think that any given aspect of behavior can be traced to a certain chain reaction in the mind-bogglingly complex systems of processes in the brain. For now, I joyfully embrace the idea that there is a distinct cause and effect for every blink and smile and twitch and conclusion reached. Far from empty, it seems exciting. Imagine the complexity, the jaw-dropping minute and interwoven nature of our brains!

But you know, every aspect of computer function can be traced to a certain chain reaction in the mind-bogglingly complex systems of processes in the hardware. Still, if you put together the materials and forms needed to make that hardware, and sent the right amount of electricity pulsing through it, would it run? No. Nothing would happen, except electrons would glide their merry way through the circuitry. Why is that?

Because hardware DOES NOT = output.

A computer will not work unless it has software, programs, a guidance system. It needs something to tell it how to run. It's not a wheel that will just roll on its own, it's far more complex -- and it requires instruction to work right.

I can imagine that some would say genetics fits this description nicely. But what is a genome but raw code? If you give a computer raw code, it still won't work. That's because code needs to be compiled: it needs to be packaged in a way that makes it usable for the computer. It doesn't influence the computer without first being influenced by... the programmer.

I realize that this is a potentially confusing and awfully long analogy, but it's really the clearest thing I could come up with on the spot to really explain what I believe. In summary, I believe in a human soul that influences the brain to create and effect behavior. I think that behavior can be traced back to the brain's commands, and the brain's commands can be traced back to the soul.

Name: Kathleen F
Date: 2003-01-27 19:48:32
Link to this Comment: 4286

The brain=behavior dilemma still has me wondering. When we talk about the brain's singular role in determining behavior, does this include certain kinds of psychological conditioning? (i.e. neglected children who begin to hide food in the homes of new foster parents or the behavior of abused pets, etc.) Are these behaviors related to the brain because they are psychological, or is personal experience something different?

irony and onward
Name: Ingrid
Date: 2003-01-27 20:48:11
Link to this Comment: 4288

Just a note.. I recommend using the cut/paste method of posting rather than typing straight in.. I just lost my posting.

Isn't it a fabulous irony that the brain, the tool we use to understand, can't comprehend (or hasn't comprehended so far as far as anyone knows) what exactly it is? The brain understands other body parts, but because we associate brain not only with material matter, but with transcendant qualities. The only conceivable "thing" that could understand the brain, is the brain. To me this is a wholly solipsistic notion, because self is brain.

solipsism [f. L. sl-us alone + ipse self.] The view or theory that self is the only object of real knowledge or the only thing really existent.

Behave, the word, comes from a reflexive sense of have, as in "to have (bear) oneself." Then it follows that behavior is concerned (linguistically at least) with self, which is brain, which supplies one argument for brain=behavior, there isn't anything else. Because we don't know everything about the brain, and because the brain is involved in every discipline, there is widespread material about it. It is the ultimate, self-supplied mystery. Not confined by the existence of right (provable) answers, there is tremendous room for creativity in thinking about the brain. This feels like a cicuitous argument because, in the last sentence, there are four terms for what I have said is the same thing (existence, creativity, thinking, brain).

I wanted to comment on external factors of behavoir; many people brought up drugs and environment as examples. I started to think about mind control and brainwashing. Brainwashing is an enormous affront to self, but is it more so than the tools it uses (drugs, environment, suggestion)? Mind control alters behavior--external factors, changes the landscape of the mind--internal factors. Although we associate brainwashing with a kooky cultish fringe, aren't we constantly subject to it by virtue of mass media/ advertising?

I recast my vote from fence sitting to pro-Emily.

Name: Kate Tucke
Date: 2003-01-27 21:52:22
Link to this Comment: 4291

Personally, I find it very exciting to think that the brain equals behavior! I don't find it depressing in the least to consider the brain the sole origin of our behavior. Think of the wonder of it! We have this complex instrument which reacts to outside stimulus, processes genetic instructions, and learns from experience. Somehow this great mass of neurons is able to direct all the complex behavior that we witness.

We cannot separate ourselves from the brain. The emotions we feel and the actions we perform are all part of the brain. The brain doesn't have to be logical. Just because humans (and other animals) can act quite irrationally at times doesn't mean that the brain isn't the root of this behavior. I think perhaps people associate the brain with science, and thus with logic. Much of science does follow a certain logic, but that does not mean that the behaviors we produce must be logical. The logic of science and the logic of society are two very different things.

Many people have said here that they don't like the idea that the brain is all there is. I don't see why a brain=behavior theory has to cheapen that behavior. Just because the brain is the root of my emotions, doesn't mean that they have any less significance to me. I am not aware of how my brain processes the inputs it receives, but that doesn't mean the process is any less awe inspiring.

One last thought...I am not a religious person, but it seems to me that a theory of brain=behavior could be entirely compatible with a belief in God. If God created people, then he created the brain. I find the brain fascinating and I could certainly see how a deity that created it would be worth worshipping.

The Brain and Behavior
Name: Nia Turner
Date: 2003-01-27 22:28:36
Link to this Comment: 4294

Initially in class I was indecisive about the question. After thinking critically I still do not assert that I know the right or wrong answer, but rather I suggest a possibility. The brain is similar to a computer, because it has intricate structures that correspond with different functions. Both the computer and brain interact with an exterior agent. The brain interacts with the environment, and the brain responds to stimuli. Behavior is the brain's language for communicating with the world. The brain and behavior are co-dependent.

Brain = Behavior ?
Name: Melissa Os
Date: 2003-01-27 22:37:21
Link to this Comment: 4295

After our first discussion I wasn't convinced that brain and behavior were the same thing. While I understood what Emily Dickinson was saying about the brain encompassing everything, I felt that there are other reasons for behavior. I was thinking that if we merely claim that brain equals behavior than are we missing something? It seems to me that nuturing and one's environment may also play into one's behavior. Although that being said, I'm not so sure that all of these outside factors are not processed by the brain and thus behavior is encompassed by the brain. I guess that I'm still not sure what I think, if anything our discussion led me to more questions. If the nervous system is the origin of behavior then can all our behaviors be explained by the workings of the brain? Are there any behaviors that stand on their own or can be attributed to other factors? I feel like I need more information to answer this question and to see where I stand on brain equaling behavior.

more on the brain and behavior
Name: lara
Date: 2003-01-27 22:40:26
Link to this Comment: 4297

Possibly the best argument in favor of there being more to behavior (or human nature in general) than just the brain that I have ever come across was probably the one made by Descartes in his Second Meditation (from Meditations on First Philosophy). He states that the existence or nature of everything material or sense-related, including the world and one's own body and brain, can quite plausibly be doubted; however, by virtue of the fact that these doubts exist, that someone or something - mind, soul, essence, whatever you like - is having these doubts, one's existence itself cannot be doubted. According to Descartes, the claim that the brain stands in direct causal relation to behavior and human nature in general could not possibly be true, because the nature and very existence of the brain is not definite.

I generally have agreed with the statement "brain = behavior". Descartes' argument, unlike any others of its kind, very nearly had me convinced that there existed something which I will call "mind", and that the brain thus could not be the sole source of human nature or behavior. However, there is a serious problem that makes it impossible for me to agree completely: the fact that, after having made this argument, one cannot subsequently give a meaningful characterization of "mind". Descartes says it is "a thing which thinks". This is the only characterization of "mind" that is at all possible in light of his arguments - however, in light of his arguments it is impossible to say what "thinks" means. At the most basic level, humans understand abstract concepts such as thought in terms of sensory experiences of the material world (this can be best demonstrated through observation of the way infants, toddlers, etc. learn things); if those sensory experiences are unreliable, abstractions become meaningless. Thus the argument for the existence of "mind", in order for it to be successful, requires us to take its nature for granted. I, for one, refuse simply to accept that mind is without being able to understand what mind is. At the moment, however, I am unable to understand the nature of mind, and thus stand by my original position. Until, of course, I am convinced otherwise. (I would like it if anyone in whom these arguments trigger some sort of reaction would tell me their thoughts on the matter.)

Placebos vs. Drugs
Name: Christine
Date: 2003-01-27 22:54:25
Link to this Comment: 4298

I actually brought up the question our first day about the relationship between the mind and the body. It's something I've long wondered about. Specifically, the argument between drugs versus placebos interests me.

I have read the book , "Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient" where Norman Cousins describes the effects placebos have had on patients. I have to agree with his reasoning that the placebo is only a tangible object made necessary in a society that is uncomfortable with the intangible-specifically I see him meaning that society today cannot see a cure for an illness without a physical antedote. It seems that people need that physical cure for a visible answer.

I still do believe that drugs provide a cure but its definitely highly possible in my opinion that the drugs are unnecessary. Placebos, or actual natural remedies can accomplish the same results. Antibiotics represent one example of something the body actually can surely benefit from. This is of course as long as the body really needs it and does not abuse it to become then resistent to several antibiotics. This would only be putting the body at further risk by needing to find another antibiotic remedy. But basically I think that natural remedies, or a shift in the mind's belief and power, can cure many of the illnesses that people are becoming so accustomed to relying on drugs for.

Another example of the mind's power I witnessed in an episode of CSI:Crime Scene Investigation. There was a daughter whose mother had died but a few months beforehand, the mother had left leaving the daughter to take on the household roles that mom held up while she was them. Psychologically through taking on mom's role, she fell romantically in love with dad and felt like she had fully assumed mom's role. So in an interview with the police investigating the later death of mom, the daughter started lactating because she made herself believe that she was pregnant-even though nothing ever physical happened between the daughter and dad.

So I really do find the mind an amazingly powerful force over the body. What are its limitations? I don't know...maybe it has absolutely no limitations, as Emily Dickenson described in her poem relating the mind to the sky. I would love to further invest some thought in this topic.

Name: andrea
Date: 2003-01-27 23:34:49
Link to this Comment: 4300

I disagree with the statement that behavior is exclusively a function of the brain and of genetic makeup. The brain cannot force us to act in certain ways, but only predispose us to certain reactions when exposed to environmental triggers. If behavior were based solely on environmental factors, then all people faced with similar conditions would act in the same way. I don't believe that behavior can be separated into categories of "brain" or "environment" or "soul," but that these factors are inevitably mixed. I therefore disagree with the propositions that the dependence of our actions on our brains somehow destroys the notion of a unique personality, and that we are slaves to our genetic makeup with no free will. I believe that when the brain creates the mind it endows it with both certain natural reactions to environmental triggers and the power to overrule these inclinations. or whatever.

placebo and vets
Name: Enor Wagne
Date: 2003-01-27 23:34:54
Link to this Comment: 4301

After reading Michelle Coleman's and Cordelia's opposing comments with regards to the placebo effect, I find my opinion lying somewhere in between the two. Studies have proven that using a placebo in the place of an active drug often produce similar results. I conducted an experiment in 7th grade on preschoolers wherein the children were each timed running 30 yards. Then I brought out a pile of 'magic shoelaces' and retimed them each running the 30 yards. Only the children who believed that they were magic ran faster, while the children who were more cynical about the power of the shoelaces ran either the same speed or slower. The placebo cannot solely be dependent on its nature to be effective. Instead, the amount of belief an individual mind has in the pill or shoelace will most often be directly proportional to its rate of its success.

On the subject of the soldiers in Vietnam who suffered from heroin addiction, I wanted to point out that drug addiction is not completely dependent on chemical addiction, but also on psychological conditioning. It should be noted that of all the Vietnam vets who were addicted to heroin while in war, only close to ten percent relapsed once they arrived back in their home environment. The mind had associated the drug with a certain environment, but once taken out of its known habitat, it was no longer as desirable. This is why I tend to agree with Michelle, that drugs cannot always alone cause change the state of the mind, it also depends on other contributing factors. For example, Cordelia pointed out that Prozac changes the mind's state, making those who take it feel happier and less depressed, however, I wonder, what would happen if they did not know that they were taking it? Would the drug render the same results or would people remain in their depressed states, since their minds have been conditioned to function that way. I understand that there exists serotonin in Prozac and that the it alters the chemicals in the brain, thus helping them to achieve greater happiness, but can their entire state be accredited to serotonin, or does their outside knowledge of the drugs effects contribute to that state?

On the opposing side, I agree with Cordelia in that there are drugs which alter the mind, with or without the knowledge that they have been ingested or injected, such as GHB – the date rape drug, or IV drugs when a patient is unconscious – such as morphine. Whether or not they are aware that the drug is entering their body, the effect remains the same. My question is – what is the range of reactions? Does the mind take react more intensely or dramatically once it is aware that it has entered the human system?

placebo and vets
Name: Enor Wagne
Date: 2003-01-27 23:36:07
Link to this Comment: 4302

After reading Michelle Coleman's and Cordelia's opposing comments with regards to the placebo effect, I find my opinion lying somewhere in between the two. Studies have proven that using a placebo in the place of an active drug often produce similar results. I conducted an experiment in 7th grade on preschoolers wherein the children were each timed running 30 yards. Then I brought out a pile of 'magic shoelaces' and retimed them each running the 30 yards. Only the children who believed that they were magic ran faster, while the children who were more cynical about the power of the shoelaces ran either the same speed or slower. The placebo cannot solely be dependent on its nature to be effective. Instead, the amount of belief an individual mind has in the pill or shoelace will most often be directly proportional to its rate of its success. On the subject of the soldiers in Vietnam who suffered from heroin addiction, I wanted to point out that drug addiction is not completely dependent on chemical addiction, but also on psychological conditioning. It should be noted that of all the Vietnam vets who were addicted to heroin while in war, only close to ten percent relapsed once they arrived back in their home environment. The mind had associated the drug with a certain environment, but once taken out of its known habitat, it was no longer as desirable. This is why I tend to agree with Michelle, that drugs cannot always alone cause change the state of the mind, it also depends on other contributing factors. For example, Cordelia pointed out that Prozac changes the mind's state, making those who take it feel happier and less depressed, however, I wonder, what would happen if they did not know that they were taking it? Would the drug render the same results or would people remain in their depressed states, since their minds have been conditioned to function that way. I understand that there exists serotonin in Prozac and that the it alters the chemicals in the brain, thus helping them to achieve greater happiness, but can their entire state be accredited to serotonin, or does their outside knowledge of the drugs effects contribute to that state? On the opposing side, I agree with Cordelia in that there are drugs which alter the mind, with or without the knowledge that they have been ingested or injected, such as GHB – the date rape drug, or IV drugs when a patient is unconscious – such as morphine. Whether or not they are aware that the drug is entering their body, the effect remains the same. My question is – what is the range of reactions? Does the mind take react more intensely or dramatically once it is aware that it has entered the human system?

A powerful argument that the mind is not just the
Name: Andy Green
Date: 2003-01-28 01:24:44
Link to this Comment: 4305

In class we have quickly discussed a very complicated question, namely "Is the mind the brain?" Prof. Grobstein's answer to this question (along with that of Emily Dickenson) seem to be a very definitive "yes." But, being a philosophy major, I've already had a chance to read about and discuss these problems from a philosophical standpoint, and I've learned, if nothing else, that the answer is not so simple. If all you scientists and other philosophy haters will excuse me, I think I might be able to offer an argument which throws a nicely crafted wrench into our friend Prof. Grobstein's machine. (I haven't been able to find who originally formulated this argument, but it appears in an article by the philosopher Frank Jackson entitled "Epiphenomenal Qualia.")

The thought experiment is as follows: Suppose a girl grows up in one room which she can never leave, where she spends her time watching tv, reading books and otherwise gathering information about the outside world, although she never has first-hand experience of that world. Now this room she is in is very special, and the girl herself is also very special: In fact, everything in the room, the books the girl reads, the tv she watches, the food she eats, is all totally black and white. The girl herself also happens to be black and white all over her body, such that she has never seen color before. In this black and white world, the girl grows up learning about the world from all her black and white sources, and in fact reads everything there is to know about color in every scientific book ever written on the subject about how color works in the world and in the brain. But despite this universal knowledge about everything about color which is scientifically reducible, when she leaves the room on her 21st birthday and sees color for the first time, we cannot doubt that she experiences something new.

What she gained in leaving the room, what Prof. Grobstein and Emily Dickenson have trouble dealing with, is called by philosophers "Qualia." It is subjective experience. It cannot be reduced to anything physical and objective, by which I mean we cannot say "the experience of color is nothing but certain physical processes in the brain." If color were a reducible physical brain processes, the black and white girl could read a black and white book on neurobiology and understand it. But the fact that she learns something upon leaving the room proves that there is an aspect of color, like all qualia, which cannot be reduced. We thus cannot say that the mind, with its capacity to experience things subjectively, is merely the brain, a physical object. If the mind were the brain, every aspect of it would publicly observable like other physical objects. But because that subjective experience is accessible only to the experiencer, (when he/she walks out of the black and white room and looks at color for the first time, so to speak) the mind cannot be totally physical.

This is only one of many arguments for the split between brain and mind, but I have no space for more. In the meanwhile, what have you got to say about it, Emily Dickenson? Huh?

Name: Stephanie
Date: 2003-01-28 18:35:41
Link to this Comment: 4311

Last week I was fence-sitting regarding the claim that brain = behavior, but now I feel inclined to say that it could go either way. By this I mean that while our brain does control our behavior, our behavior is often the result of an external input. For instance, we are often influenced by what we read in the newspaper or in magazines, and also by other people's opinions. In this sense, I don't think it is specifically the brain that dictates our behavior, but whatever it is that affects us. I think the question we are discussing (whether there's nothing more to behavior than the brain or not) may become a question of the extent to which brains affect each other.

Name: Tung Nguye
Date: 2003-01-29 02:02:51
Link to this Comment: 4318

I have to admit that I am a bit uncomfortable with dealing the topics of the central nervous system and how it relates to behavior through the use of cause and effects (or at least it seems for now that this is the path that we are on). But I also admit that these topics, although laced with uncertainties, are extremely fascinating especially since we are trying to gradually build our understanding of the CNS and behavior by starting out with the simplest model and working forward so that our knowledge can be "progressively less wrong."
In my own opinion, the idea of CNS=behavior is very shaky. In one perspective, it is easy to see behavior as the result of the CNS and considering the evolutionary and genetic aspects. In another perspective, a very abstract one, there seem to more to it. What accounts for thoughts, dreams, ambition, and faith?

Name: Danielle M
Date: 2003-01-29 20:10:12
Link to this Comment: 4323

I agree with Stephanie's comment that external stimuli have an impact on behavior, but I disagree that this idea indicates that behavior has less to do with the brain and more to do with the environment. Elements of our environment which affect our behavior--other people, for example--don't directly affect our behavior. The fact that another person is present doesn't change how we behave; it's our perception of that person's presence, through sight, sound, smell, etc., which produce an affect after being perceived by the brain. Without the brain, we'd be unable to receive environmental stimuli--the perceptions would have no destination and no interpretation. So in that way, the brain is still responsible for behavior as the receiver and interpreter of environmental stimuli.

interesting article
Name: Sarah Feid
Date: 2003-01-30 02:33:49
Link to this Comment: 4326

I came across this article while I was working at the ops desk, sorting printouts. The headline caught me, and I stayed late to read it. I thought I'd post it here for you all to enjoy:

I find a few things interesting about this article, which essentially documents a journalist's participation in a neurological experiment aimed at inducing a "vision of God." A complex series of electromagnetic pulses are sent through a specific area of the brain, an area which is supposedly responsible for sensing the presence of onesself and others. The scientist (and to some extent the journalist) conclude that this may be an explanation of "God" -- nothing more than a human vocalization and rationalization of a neurological perception. He even touches on a theory that this perception is residual genetics from ancient humans whose minds were less sophisticated.

I am particularly interested in the way that the journalist addresses the fact that many theistic people would have no problem believing this, because "God created the brain, of course that's how it would happen." He says, "Who among all the churchgoers and alien fiends will let some distant egghead... spoil their fun?" This seems to be inherently dismissive of a non-disprovable point of view. I personally agree with that statement -- I believe that this experiment is simply revealing a mechanism, one that I believe God designed and uses.

Of course I can't prove that. But really, science isn't supposed to prove, remember? Science is interested in disproving things. So shouldn't we be less interested in, "I don't believe that because you can't prove it," and more interested in, "That's not something we could ever disprove"?

week 2
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-01-30 11:47:11
Link to this Comment: 4328

As always, you're free to write about whatever you found yourself thinking about from class or readings or whatever this week. But, if you need something to get you started, how about ...

Different organisms behave sort of the same but sort of differently; their nervous systems are sort of the same but sort of different; their nervous sstems look more and more similar at smaller and smaller scales ... does this make sense? does it make you think differently about the nervous system? about behavior? what new questions/issues does it raise?

crickets and sexuality
Name: Rachel
Date: 2003-01-30 16:52:10
Link to this Comment: 4329

Today in class, we discissed the fact that there is an area of the hypothalamus called the SDN, and learned that this area is substantially larger in males than in females, and that its size has an effect on our own sexual orientation. On Tuesday, we spoke of how some female crickets, when placed near a speaker emitting sounds of male cricket songs, would turn towards the speaker. However, other female crickets, rather than turning towards the speaker, would turn away upon hearing the male crickets' songs being played through the speaker.

These two things led me to wonder: Do homosexual crickets exist? Do crickets even have a sexual orientation? And if so, is it determined by the size of the SDN area of the hypothalamus of the cricket? While the female may have turned away from the speaker due to the Harvard Law of Experimentation (under controlled conditions, an animal will behave as it pleases), could it have done so because it was a homosexual cricket? And do homosexual crickets even exist? Just curious...

Name: Nicole Meg
Date: 2003-01-31 00:40:48
Link to this Comment: 4331

Today's discussion about how if behavior is different, the brain is different made me wonder how you explain different behavior among members of the same sex. In class it was noted that men and women have differences in their brains which result in different behavior but what about between members of the same sex? Are these differences in brain structure observed between humans of the same sex that have different behavior, like some women have higher metabolisms than others or some men may have more aggression (due to hormone levels) than others? Have these different behaviors yet been linked to different structures in the brain? I think they would be but how much is really known at this time? On a side note: Last week's discussions about the relation/dependence of brain and behavior have heightened my sensitivity to the subject in daily life. One brief example was that today in ballet class, my teacher corrected the class on their pirouettes (turns), explaining that "your brain can't shut down while you are turning...It must keep thinking while you are in mid-spin." The thought of the brain telling the brain to keep paying attention is interesting to me. The notion of your thought in your brain (rather than a sensory nerve input) telling your brain what to do is something I've never thought about before. What my teacher was saying, was that we should continually have a picture in our brain of what we want to do and consciously tell the brain to replicate that image through movement. If this is true, then the input and output originate and manifest themselves in the same organ (albeit different locations)--the brain!

Name: sarah
Date: 2003-01-31 01:15:53
Link to this Comment: 4332

I am slightly confused by Rachel's message. I thought Prof. Grobstein said that that section of the brain had to do with "menstrual behavior," "cycling behavior." Did I hear him wrong? Or am I missing something?

An article about "Parasomnia"
Name: Andy Green
Date: 2003-01-31 20:49:19
Link to this Comment: 4338

I'm sorry to ignore Prof. Grobstein's question, but I just read an interesting article in NY Times Magazine entitled "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Deer." Here's the link:

This article describes a group of patients who suffer from what scientists call "Parasomnia," in which they unconsciously perform waking actions in their sleep. Besides a lot of very entertaining and sometimes very frightening descriptions of what these patients do during their blackout periods, the article raises the question "Do these events arise from subconscious desires and conflicts created by life experiences, or is the problem simply one of neurological disfunction?" The answer, given in the article, seems to be that in almost every case, the answer is anatomy, not psychology. But I would be a very bad student of this course if I didn't ask the question, what is the difference in the two? How do experiences and memories which give rise to psychological problems differ from merely anatomical anomalies that cause similar problems?

Seems Walt agrees with Emily.
Name: Sarah
Date: 2003-02-01 00:07:53
Link to this Comment: 4339

And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul? And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?
~Walt Whitman "I Sing the Body Electric"

What factor does "Anatomy" play in "the way we the
Name: Michelle C
Date: 2003-02-01 11:37:53
Link to this Comment: 4340

In class on Thursday we explored the various types of brains and looked for characteristics that made them similar and different. We ended with the idea that most brains were essentially the same, and all began with a simple component, the cell (neuron). We however, did not consider environment or anatomy of each specific species. For years we have tried to uncover why even cave men of different origins had somewhat differing brains (larger/ smaller, etc...). We concluded however, that this had to be due to their environment, the way that they lived in order to survive, and the way that their bodies had adapted to the necessary environmental hazards. *When glance at these brains in class of different species, should we be in fact keeping this in mind? For instance, the cross indent on the brain of the raccoon mentioned by Prof. Grobstien is characteristic of that animal due his specific paw motors behavior which is characteristic of his environment (due to his spinal cord configuration it would be more comfortable to walk on all fours), and additionally, due to his feeding habits walking on all fours and have fine motor skills in all paws is helpful).

What I am trying to propose through all of this information is the idea that environment may effect our behaviors, leading to changes in the structure of our brains and therefore the appearance of our brains. A good example of this scenario can be seen when we consider the story of the Wild Boy (the boy who was left out in the wild to be raised by animals in an uncivilized manner). While, the researchers who investigated him suggested that he might have Autism, they at the time did not have the technology to clearly determine whether or not he had structural or visual differences in his brain compared with other humans.
(I think that his probably did).

Please feel free to add your ideas and questions in regard to this posting.

Nervous System
Name: Elizabeth
Date: 2003-02-01 12:41:39
Link to this Comment: 4341

It's hard to find a link between the various sorts of nervous systems and behavior each type of animale has, mainly due to the close similarities yet important differences we have discussed in class. Although the behavior of different animals may seem similar, little quirks prevent scientists from being able to define behavior in a concrete fashion. The same frustrations apply to individual nervous systems. The diversity between types of animals and their behavior makes me wonder if there is a distinct gap in behavior from one animal of a species to the next. Of course, each human behaves differently in situations, but does this mean they lack a uniform behaviorial response?

Name: Shanti Mik
Date: 2003-02-01 16:05:19
Link to this Comment: 4344

It seems that while we are analyzing the brain of humans and other animals we're falling into the trap of trying to be too specific. Of course every human has a different brain as do all animals. The similarites that connect all living things are very vague and at best we can hope to understand only a small piece of it all. Just because we are all human doesn't mean that we share identical brains. But we do all share the identical organ. What is different between all of us isn't the brain itself, it is the outputs and thought processes of those brains. We all have identical brains in that they are all connected to the rest of our bodies and all of our neurons share the same biology. while we keep saying all of our brains our different, it seems that we should really be saying that our behavior is all different. It is the behavior that individualizes us, not just the brain. I think a certain respect is demanded from us as we cannot hope to fully understand the brain, at best we have at present a summary of observations that seems to make the most sense, but does that mean that it is necessarily the best summary? I think there are other things at work in behavior that we wouldn't agree with due to lack of proof but are we sophisticated enough to understand all of the many things that go on in our brains and bodies?

Name: Kelvey Ric
Date: 2003-02-01 16:06:38
Link to this Comment: 4345

The relationship between brain and behavior and why behavior differs between individuals seems to be based on the fact that behavior is a reflection of how a person perceives a situation. That perception, in turn, is based on individual experience and characteristics. A color blind person may run a red light, which for the pedestrian crossing the street, a random behavior is witnesses. Emotion is based on a perception of a situation and often a reflection of previos experiences. Individuality is created as a template of a brain is organized and the boxes are connected in particular ways due to a complexity of factors that reflect a perception which is unique to an individual.

A factor that is difficult to understand within 'brain=behavior and there is nothing else' and the current model, but possible to observe is that of preminitions. Behavior, an output that is external to the brain, whereby no obvious external input but rather an internal input is apparent. Why does someone tell a loved one not to board a plane that crashes 2 hours later? We observe an action, there is a change in behavior but how does the brain receive an input from the future? I guess that is really a question for the funtioning of the brain?!

The nervous system
Name: Tiffany Li
Date: 2003-02-01 16:33:34
Link to this Comment: 4346

I was thinking about professor Grobstein's comment, that the behavior and the nervous systems of different organisms are sort of the same but sort of different. Yet if you look at their nervous systems at smaller and smaller scales, they become more and more similar. This makes sense to me since all organisms are made up of cells and cells are essentially the same in all organisms. Following this idea one could say that their behavior should be the same since they have the same neurons. I feel that the difference in their behavior arises from the way the neurons are connected rather than a difference in the neuron structure. Therefore it makes sense to say that neurons are the same in all organisms, but that their behaviors and nervous systems differ.
I was also intrigued by Thursday's discussion on the activity of an isolated nervous system, for example the brain kept in a jar. Does it think? I agree with the "autonomy"model of the nervous system where no sensory input is needed to work, but I don't feel the type of activity would be thinking. How could the brain think if it has no sensory input? What would a brain think about if it couldn't see or hear or feel anything? Would the brain have any information to think about? I believe that the activity would simply be the one of keeping itself alive, therefore metabolizing glucose and performing other functions to work. I do not think that there can be thinking if the brain does not know anything in the first place. I guess I am just not sure what type of activity an isolated nervous system could have. I hope that further discussions in this class can clarify this for me.

Name: Amelia Tur
Date: 2003-02-02 13:21:28
Link to this Comment: 4347

During our discussion on the differences in brains between different species and within the same species on Thursday, I started to think about the nature/nurture question. I am interested in the different environments that an animal can be raised and the effect of those environments on the central nervous system. For example, I believe that scientists have shown the effect that excessive amounts of alcohol can have on a fetus while it is developing in the womb. While the genetic structure of the brain of that fetus could be very similar to another fetus that developed without the influence of alcohol, the CNS of fetus that was exposed to large amounts of alcohol could have serious problems that the normal fetus could not have.
On a different tact of the same issue, I remember reading for a class or hearing on a Discovery Channel program that when a baby is born it has the capability to learn all languages and when babies begin to babble, they actually make all of the sounds in every language around the world. However, the baby's parents only respond to and reinforce the baby when it makes the sounds included within their native language. As certain sounds are made by the parents and reinforced by the parents when the baby makes them, the baby's brain selectively reduces the number of sounds that baby makes and can distinguish between. I believe this is why scientists believe that is favorable for children to learn other languages as young as possible as is difficult to regain the ability to make those sounds after it is lost in early childhood.

Name: Clare
Date: 2003-02-02 15:29:06
Link to this Comment: 4349

I'm also interested in the nature/nurture issue that exists in talking about individual brains. How much of individual brains are different as a result of genetic programming and how much are different as a result of social and environmental influences that have altered the way your brain processes inputs and outputs. It seems like your brain is initially set up in a way that is similar to everyone else's, just as DNA codes for all hearts to pump basically the same and all lungs to breath basically the same. However, at the moment that you are exposed to conditions outside of this, even in your mother's womb, which of course varies from person to person, and this interacts with the different traits passed on to you, your brain, unlike other organs in your body, takes these varying inputs and reorganizes and forms connections that make you the individual brain that you have and continue to form. Moreover, I would say that environmental and social influences have the more important role because they can make you the individual that you are- more so than your genes can. If you think of all the experiences and thoughts and images that you encounter that affect who you are and how your brain thinks and reacts, these seem far too numerous to compare to the traits that you inherit. Although, I honestly can't quantify the individual traits you inherit. It also seems like you can counteract or subdue these inbred traits with environmental and social conditions that train you otherwise. However, it seems much more difficult to unlearn something that you have learned by nurture. For example, it seems easier to train a wild dog from birth to be domestic rather than to take a domestic dog who has lived in the wild all his life and try and return him to domesticity.

Date: 2003-02-02 16:47:41
Link to this Comment: 4350

The fact that nervous systems become more and more similar the closer we look proves that there is an inherent similarity between living things. Just as all matter can be reduced to identical basics (electron,proton, and neutron), the NS of living things can be reduced to analogous structures. However, these fundamental likenesses do not necessarily translate to absolute behavioral likenesses. For example, if the primary structure of two proteins are identical but they have different quaternary or tertiary structures (perhaps due to their environments), their interactions and activities will be different. An organism's behavior depends not only on the small-scale building blocks, but how these blocks are assembled. The assemblage of the nervous system (and theoretically behavior) seems to depend on the aggregate of factors such as environment and past experiences (which can be inscribed personally, genetically, etc).

Name: Neela Thir
Date: 2003-02-02 16:50:11
Link to this Comment: 4351

Sorry, Anonymous is me

Name: Nupur
Date: 2003-02-02 17:14:50
Link to this Comment: 4352

I think I agree with Shanti in the sense that we are being too specific about the brain and its effects. Yes, the brain is biologically similar, but the fact that there is no one person that is exactly the same (in terms of behavior) shows us that environments play a much larger role in who were are and how we act, more than the biological structure of the brain itself.

Name: Grace Shin
Date: 2003-02-02 17:34:30
Link to this Comment: 4353

The illustration about the brain still functioning without the actual body is believeable... but is that what brain was meant for? i mean, if the brain "functions" without doing anything... if there really are things being generated inside the brain without input/outputs... i feel like there needs to be a new definition of "functioning". To me, even if the brain is "generative" if it has no purpose (or output), then it is not really doing it's thing (whatever THAT may be...). I feel like this makes us question what exactly is the purpose of the brain? i mean, if it is merely to be "generative", i don't know... but that just makes me uncomfortable. I've been trying to figure out all weekend why that makes me uncomfortable... but I haven't quite figured it out yet. Does anyone ELSE feel like this? maybe the idea that we are controlled by our brain, and that this brain is just merely an input/output box, that when left in a "jar" can still be generative... i want to believe that there has to be more.

Thinking about that, i was watching the movie AI this weekend, and if we are truly controlled by this input/output box, and if brain = behavior is true, then we'd also all have to believe that there is some higher being who creates and controls this box... (like the science behind the little boy in the movie). We are just like robots being controlled by some higher being. What do you think about this then?

Furthermore, if we do say that the box in box in box theory is plausible, and neurons make up the smallest of these boxes for all vertebrates, then it's pretty crazy how much variation there is in the way they are all put together!! I mean, we are all so different from each individual who are all different from every different animal. I think I still need to digest things, but there are just so many different thoughts going on in my head that i'm really curious to see what else is ahead in this class!

interesting article
Name: Grace Shin
Date: 2003-02-02 17:42:21
Link to this Comment: 4354

as i was reading this, i thought of this class... maybe some of you would like to comment on this... =)

autonomy model
Name: Kathleen F
Date: 2003-02-02 20:39:27
Link to this Comment: 4355

I'm with Tiffany regarding the whole isolated nervous system conversation. I understand the autonomy model and why it doesn't rely on sensory input.. but I became confused when someone asked in class if the whole leech phenoma was similiar to the movements animals' bodies make after they've died (twitching, the whole "chicken with their head cut off" deal, etc.) Isn't this just adrenalin in the muscle tissue causing convulsions? Is this at all related to the whole autonomy model or am I wrong for the week?

the debate goes on...
Name: priya
Date: 2003-02-02 21:04:23
Link to this Comment: 4356

I agree with Clare's comment...just because it has been proven and scientifically concluded that a particular gene has a vital influence on a particular behavior it does not imply that the gene is solely responsible for that behavior. For example, I am not a science major so please correct me if I am wrong, but is it not true that the same combination of genes may produce completely different behaviours for a person in different environmental circumstances. In my opinion, in higher organisms like the human race,the environment and geographic population around you play larger factors; these in addition to the genetic make-up determine the role of learning in the development of behaviour in these organisms. Pretty vague? I agree. Just a thought I am still working around.

songbirds and sexual preference
Name: nicole jac
Date: 2003-02-02 21:10:25
Link to this Comment: 4357

Last class we discussed the idea that in order for there to be different behaviors, there must be diversity in terms of the brains that people / animals possess. One example used to demonstrate this was songbirds. The brain of a male songbird is structurally different from that of a female songbird, and that is to be expected. A male produces a song in order to court the females of the species. Therefore, this particular area of the male songbird's brain is large and highly developed, and the same region in the female songbird is substantially smaller. Experiments have been done to examine the learning of species-specific songs. The male songbird listens to the vocalizations of their fathers and other males of the species. The process of hearing their species-specific song occurs during a critical period. Animals that are reared in isolation or deafened during development produce a highly degraded song. This leads me to my question. What happens to the brain of a male songbird that is deafened during development, reared in isolation, or never hears the songs of the males within his species? Does this particular song center of the brain atrophy like muscle? Do you need to use it, otherwise you will lose it? Does it become more similar to the brain of a female?

This leads me to open a potential can of worms. There have been many studies performed examining the brains of heterosexual and homosexual individuals to determine whether or not there are any differences. If male songbirds do not hear the songs of other males in their species, their behavior is different from the behavior of normal males in the species. This suggests that their brains are different from normal male songbirds. It seems possible that if humans are not exposed to certain sex-specific input from individuals of the same sex that their brains may be different which can lead to same-sex sexual preferences. If this is true it does mean that homosexuality is not a choice, but it could be a manifestation of the environment that a person is in during a critical period in their life (one where sexual preferences are being hardwired into the brain). I haven't really done any research on this but I did find a link to someone in neurobiology and behavior that did a web paper on this particular topic. It's just a start for anyone that wants to know more about this.

some comments
Name: A.J.
Date: 2003-02-02 21:23:00
Link to this Comment: 4358 of the questions that really struck me last week was "are nervous systems different if behavior is different?" I don't entirely agree with that, because I was thinking about behavior differences among the same species. Humans don't all act the same way, but that doesn't necessaily mean that their nervous systems are different. All humans' nervous systems are structured the same way. Any kind of injury, stresses, or malformations inflicted on the human nervous system can certainly damage the nervous system and cause behavioral abnormalities (as opposed to what is considered "normal behavior"). So yes, in this scenario, even though the behavior is different from the norm, the person still possesses the nervous system that every other human has.

neocortex and emotions
Name: Jen
Date: 2003-02-02 21:34:27
Link to this Comment: 4359

As a result of our class discussions this past Thursday, I have been perplexed as to the exact function of the neocortex in the scheme of evolution and development of neural pathways and its relationship to emotion. Britannica encyclopedia suggests emotion activated by discrimination of stimulus features, thoughts, or memories require that the information be relayed from the thalamus to the neocortex. Hence, the neocortex can be associated with neural pathways that I perceive as more complex. Does anyone know if the thickness of the neocortex has increased with the evolution of man? And is it just to assume that if an animal does not contain a neocortex that it cannot experience thoughts or contain memories?

Variations on a theme
Name: Annabella
Date: 2003-02-02 23:04:43
Link to this Comment: 4361

I remember learning in my High School biology course that there was
only a miniscule (1%- I think) difference between the DNA of monkeys and humans. From that I assumed that there were general similarities in the brain systems of different creature, in essence I believed that all living things were variations on a theme. In our Thursday lecture, as we compared different Nervous Systems, I wondered what the point was of so many organisms having like brains. Nature is never whimsical nor superfluous. We can assume that through evolution, creatures whom had certain neurological traits survived, accounting for the cross-special traits identifiable in Nervous Systems. One would assume that that would make everything similar and dull. But look at what a 1% difference in DNA structure leads to! The manner in which we viewed the Nervous System on Thursday, is comparable to viewing Monet painting from afar: all you see is a nice picture. However, if you get a little closer you begin to see a wealth of unimaginable detail- - whirls of dizzying color and strokes that seem so alive, you take a step back just to clear your head, and from that distance all you see is a deceptively simple picture that disguises another world.

Name: Adina
Date: 2003-02-03 00:44:25
Link to this Comment: 4363

For the past two weeks, we have been discussing whether brain=behavior. As of late, though, we have been assuming that the two are in fact the same during our discussions. This assertion led us to say that since different animals have differently shaped brains, they must have different behaviors. This claim seems true enough since frogs behave differently from squirrels. But what about two brain specimens of the same species? People pride themselves on being unique, that there is no other person who is exactly like them. This seems like a valid statement when moving even just one seat over in a classroom changes your whole experience and perception of what is happening.

People continually respond differently to the same situations. Now, if we are to continue with our previous line of thinking, this means that no two people have identical brains. My question now is, if you dissect two human brains will there be obvious morphological differences? We already learned that men and women have differences in their brains; so let's suppose that we're examining two brains of people of the same sex. Now, for argument's sake, let's suppose that the two brains we examine have no physical differences. Does this necessarily mean that the brains have no differences, thus making the two people identical? Or can we say that not all of the differences between two distinct brains are physical?

order, complexity, differentiation
Name: Katherine
Date: 2003-02-03 11:00:25
Link to this Comment: 4366

For the past several days I keep coming back to the idea of organization vs. chaos, illustrated by the grid of dots that we looked at the other week. The image of 'order' emerging from 'chaos,' and the ability of simple patterns to combine into a complex system, is fascinating to me.
I was actually discussing this with a friend the other day, and we started talking about what could be at the foundation of these models--perhaps a set of operating systems that allow for the patterns to be organized and performed. In the grid-of-dots example, there was a specific algorithm, based on a set of simple rules, that the computer applied in order to determine its action. Maybe, then, could there be algorithms in the brain of humans (and other creatures) that determine action? Such algorithms would of course be very complex--but perhaps still quantifiable, if we were able to deal with the massive amount of information involved. If a computer can model the flight of a flock of birds, it seems that more complex models could also be possible.

But--what is the consequence of this to our idea of free will? Does free will disappear if everything is hard-wired? Or is our ability to make decisions only something we perceive to exist? (this question seems to tie into some questions raised earlier in this forum...) and, how does the formation of life systems fit into the theory of entropy?

Just to add a final thought, it seems to me that this movement from simple to complex, and from chaos to order, has a lot to do with biological differentiation. the formation of membranes. maybe the need for boxes??

(also, Sarah, thanks for the reference to W.W.)

Name: Luz Martin
Date: 2003-02-03 13:23:50
Link to this Comment: 4367

During lecture Thursday I had no problem accepting that a difference in behavior implies a difference in nervous system. What makes me unsure about the discussion is that some behavior in humans is very different and yet I assume that the nervous system is the same in all humans. So, what behavior is explained by the nervous system?
When I compare humans and other animals I am impressed with the amount of information that humans are able to store and what they do with the information compared to other animals. Maybe this has to so with the difference in behavior within the human population.

a brain w/out a body...
Name: geoff
Date: 2003-02-03 14:28:56
Link to this Comment: 4368

i really like thinking about this idea of a brain in a jar. what would it think? would it matter what it was thinking? would those thoughts count for anything? when we had the diagram in front of us of the nervous system and decided we would have inputs and outputs, someone mentioned that the outputs should be able to back in as inputs. i agree, and more than that, the way i have always seen the brain (or since i learned what i feel i know about how it works) is a cyclical system. there were no circles in that diagram, everything for the most part goes from left to right. so what happens when one side (the input) gets cut off? it would seem that everything in the middle shuts down.
we actually have a model for this, and we use it every night, without putting our brains in a jar. from what i have understood from sleep/dreaming reading (Hobson I believe is the neurologist who has done the most extensive work with this, though i don't discount Freud's work by any means) i have done, as soon as we enter sleep (not all of sleep, but especially REM, when we are dreaming) ALL external output does get shut out, and what we experience as we dream is a creation of the mind. that is maybe common enough knowledge, but the interesting part is that while all inputs are shut off, your the part of your brain that normally interprets inputs (the cortex) is fully functional and doesn't know that you are not awake. in fact our outputs need to be cut out as well, lest our bodies would be interacting with objects and people that are not really there and we could hurt ourselves. so we stay still, but inside our brain we are fully conscious, it is not that there is just a dreaming part of the brain that occupies you during the night while the rest of your brain gets rest. your eyes moving in REM sleep are a good example. they move because there are receptors in your eyes acting as if they are receiving input and interacting with that input, but instead of coming from a light source outside, that input is being produced singlehandedly by your brain.
one might say that dreams are odd and when you wake up you open your senses up to reality and can tell the differences, but i would not be so sure. what about hallucination? people who are hallucinating, and may be for any number of reasons, experience those hallucinations as if they were the reality, and they have no reason not to. because the place in your mind that you experience those images is the same no matter where the input is coming from. and there is nothing pure about the input you get from your outside world, we have all just learned to put the official stamp on that and disregard any others. and moreso the input you are getting from the outside world would be a jumble of electrical information without the imagery and other mechanisms making sense out of it, the same mechanisms that create dreams. the people who claim that life is nothing but a dream may not be so far off.

i also wanted to comment on some of the assumptions that we are making in class. i am ok with believing that songbirds have different brain mechanisms between the sexes, but that i am not sure that we know enough about the human brain to start making those distinctions in us. it makes me uncomfortable to read students' entries who saw that diagram showing a yellow or gray patch that was sizably different in two brains and now believe that we know something about the female and male sex differences, when i don't think we are close. however valid that study (showing the area that is thought to control menstral cycles?) may be, i bet i could find at least two or three more that refute it openly and can claim the opposite.
i personally would tend to agree with scientists who claim that there are differences (like the one that "seems" to facilitate menstral cycles), but i have also read enough research articles to have come to the conclusion that functionally speaking, we don't know the first thing about the brain.

genetics, brain, and behavior
Name: maria
Date: 2003-02-03 16:07:36
Link to this Comment: 4370

the discussion in class about different brains producing different behavior lead me to think of twins. if monozygotic twins are genetically identical, then their brains would be physically identical, at least at birth, carrying, if prof. grobstein is correct, experiential information from ancestors as well as memories from the womb. i wonder how, if brain=behavior, two people who begin life with essentially identical brains, can develop into individuals as mentally different as twins can be? is it just their different experiences in life that create differences in their brains, leading to different behaviors? do identical twins really start out life with identical brains?

Name: Kate Tucke
Date: 2003-02-03 17:40:51
Link to this Comment: 4371

I think it makes a lot of sense that organisms with sort of different brains have sort of different activities. The key factor here is (most likely) environment. Different organisms are exposed to radically different environments. Even when organisms co-exist in the same environment, they have some sort of difference in their activities or specific location that is different from other species. So they act differently. Even though the brain struture may be remarkably similar, different organisms are in different situations, and this is what leads to different behavior. The question this then brings to mind, is to what extent is it possible to change behavior in an isolated setting? If an organism has never lived in its natural environment, is it possible to make it behave more like another organism, one more adapted to live in a different setting?

Name: Laurel Jac
Date: 2003-02-03 20:43:06
Link to this Comment: 4374

In class on Thursday, I must admit, that when the topic of brain autonomy was first brought up, I tuned out for a little bit and began thinking about chickens. My great grandmother used to tell me stories about "back on the farm" they'd catch the chicken, slam it down on the block, and knock its head off. She didn't beat around the bush much. I am sure you all know that chickens run around after their heads have been cut off. Does the chicken die when its head is removed? Does it die when its headless body collapses? Why does it run around? Why doesn't it just stand up or dance? Does it run around because in its last communication with its brain, the brain was telling it to run away? Do the nerves remember the command to run? Just curious...

nature, nurture, twins, and suntanning
Name: Cordelia S
Date: 2003-02-03 21:15:18
Link to this Comment: 4375

The nature/nurture debate has probably fueled all of my favorite classes in college. Thus far, I think the professors that I agree with the most are the ones who address the topic not as nature vs. nurture, but as nature and nurture, and how they work together. Having one without the other would be like walking with one leg, but people (maybe especially academics) get very defensive about the side they take on things and seem to have trouble recognizing the delicate balance life falls in. I agree with Priya about one gene's ability to cause different behaviors or states in different environments. One clear example of this, and an example of nature and nurture working together, is suntanning. Suntanning is an adaptive response that our skin has to extra exposure to sunlight. It does not somehow change one's genome, but is a function of genes that have a little leeway in their control on your skin's behavior. This lets you get enough vitamin D when there is not much sunlight around, but also gives you some protection from UV rays in intense sun. This is a really simple example, but this should be transferrable to more complex and consciously controlled behaviors. Genes are NOT a destiny, NOT a program that makes you a robot. They have limits, but also extensive leeway. You cannot act outside of the limitations of your genome. However, judging by the immense range in human behavior and the striking similarities in our genetic makeups, these limitations are just not very limiting. Perhaps this explains why twins, who have identical genomes, can be so different. From the beginning, even in the womb, they are in different environments. One could have more space in utero, or get more food. The tiniest differences could cause huge impacts on their behavior. These differences signal the genes to cause certain behaviors or states that are adaptive or useful in some way. Thus, completely different people emerge. I personally think it is most interesting and, in some ways, beneficial to look at the differences in environment that cause extreme behaviors. For example, crime is highest where income is lowest. Do we think that people make less money because they have more criminal natures? Or do we think that people are driven to crime because of their poverty? I think (hope?) most people would lean toward the second answer. So then, in trying to diminish crime, should we simply dispatch all of our police force to poor neighborhoods and try to put as many low income people in jails as possible? Or should we strive toward a system in which resources are spread more evenly throughout the population? As you may or may not be able to tell, I'm in favor of number 2. We CAN determine, somewhat, what seems to increase the risk of certain behaviors. Should this obligate us to do something to prevent the risky ones?

Name: Arun
Date: 2003-02-03 23:09:30
Link to this Comment: 4379

I think that Cordelia makes a really interesting point on how twins, although they are brought up in a similar environment, with the same parents, etc., can turn out to be so different. If we were to answer this using that "balance" between Nature and Nurture, we could see how various experiences in utero as well as out in the real world can potentially cause the genes to react a certain way; thus the reason for any individuals person's behavior or way of thinking.

The problem with scientists allowing themselves to continue the debate on Nature versus Nurture is because we, as humans, want to know about the unknown. We want concrete answers which bring peace of mind and to suggest that "various factors from both ends, nature and nurture, affect an individual's behavior" is too general and evasive for us. This brings me to my question: Why must we know everything?? what in our brains/behavior makes us have this feeling of discomfort if we are unsure about our whereabouts, schedules, anything at all.
~ if anyone has any further information/articles on psychological tests of this sort which are done on twins.... please do post or email me about them because this specific focus seems very intriguing.

external stimuli
Name: Christine
Date: 2003-02-03 23:48:45
Link to this Comment: 4380

It is true that each nervous system looks more and more the same the closer it is examined, but external physical attributes have nothing to do with how the brain processes things internally to know how to react/behave.

I want to agree to a certain extent with Stephanie's comment on external stimuli having an effect on behavior. While I do believe that it is up to the brain of each individual to interpret things differently, I think that the environment has a lot to do with it as well. It has been seen even among us that people behave in a certain way, at least as a result of their specific parental upbringing and exposure to different culture and natural surroundings. I know that I personally see life differently as a result of abroad experiences, politics in our country, the culture of my family-basically everything in life changes the way we behave, the way we live.

Sure it's the way that the brain interprets things that determines how we behave, but I can't limit it to that. I think so many things have a factor in how we react to situations. I also think that I'm still sitting on the fence on the brain=behavior. I'm still so undecided but trying to work through it.

On a separate note, I often wonder how multiple personalities can be explained and the differences seen in each behavior. I had a professor who shared with my class a documented case study on one person who had 9 personalities. This same person had 8 personalities that were deathly allergic to vitamin C. However, the 9th personality craved it and could not live without it. How can this be when the vitamin C, as the scientific world would try to explain it, should have the same effect over its body regardless? It must be the mind controlling such reactions in the body. That story really amazes me and makes me realize the power the mind can have over one's body. How the brain might equal behavior in this case is something that has definitely stumped me.

altruism in primates
Name: viv
Date: 2003-02-04 00:08:03
Link to this Comment: 4381

In class we discussed how the nervous systems of different species look more and more similar the smaller the scale and we've also discussed what can account for macroscopic differences and how these differences are connected to varied behavior in different species. Traveling up the evolutionary tree towards the branching of primates lead me to think about the concept of altruistic behavior displayed in primates vs. less evolved or "simpler" creatures. I watched a discovery channel episode on altruistic behavior. A monkey fought to protect the life of it's offspring at the threat of it's own while an injured water buffalo was stranded by it's herd at the threat of preying lions. Though monkeys and humans have different brains what about the primate brain gives rise to specific behaviors like altruism?

Immediate Change
Name: Kat McCorm
Date: 2003-02-04 00:28:59
Link to this Comment: 4383

While reading comments posted in the forum, I noticed that many people are commenting on the unique aspects of human behavior: humans who, at least in appearance, have very similar brains. Our unique behavior, according to the brain=behavior theory, indicates that each human brain is different. As the forum evolved, people began bringing up points about nature vs. nurture, particularly with respect to twins. This lead me to thinking about something I heard over winter break: when you have a good conversation with someone, you are both changed before it is over. This idea of instantaneous change to a person intrigued me- when a person is "changed" by an emotional experience or the like, is this immediately reflected in the brain? And is this change physiological?

Wolf Children, Frog Humans
Name: Zunera
Date: 2003-02-04 00:38:28
Link to this Comment: 4384

So, different organisms behave similarly, but sort of differently; their nervous systems are the same, but also sort of different, and their nervous systems look increasingly similar at smaller and smaller scales. I agree entirely with the idea that all organisms' brains are, for most of the part, essentially the same; in that we have the same basic components of the nervous system- a brain, nerves, neurons, connective tissues, etc. Because brains are so similar, but also different, organism's can therefore have similar behaviors. Being's that usually act one way, can thus "regress" back to a more basic behavior, or to the behavior of a "less advanced" organism. What I'm trying to say, is that if a certain life form is placed under a certain stress, or in a different setting, for an extended amount of time, it's behavior could change—due to the ability/need to adapt in order for survival, or its behavior will change because it could not fully adapt to a certain setting/environment.
Therefore, contrary to what Michelle stated about the example of the Wild Boy [that he had "different structural or visual differences in his brain compared with other humans"], the Wild Boy example just shows that under certain circumstances (a different environment, with different external inputs, etc) an individual can behave differently because of the various inputs the brain is receiving=different outputs, which could be displayed externally through a certain behavior. The environment has an important role in shaping our behavior; however, in the end it is the brain that dictates how we will act. To me, the example of the Wild Boy just shows how environment can play a part in modifying a creature's behavior [to fit in with the behavior of organisms that are natural to the certain setting] by causing the brain to receive certain input, which would be expressed in "different" behavior than the "norm."
As an example, take the case of the two Indian children living with a wolf in its den (in 1920s). One was 8 and the other was about 1 and a half. Both had hard calluses on their knees and palms from going on all fours. Their teeth were sharp edged, they moved their nostrils as if sniffing food, and they ate and drank by lowering their mouths to the plate. They also ate raw meat, howled, and slept rolled in a ball on the floor. Speaking was difficult to both. Thus, to Kate Tucker's question, "to what extent is it possible to change behavior in an isolated setting? If an organism has never lived in its natural environment, is it possible to make it behave more like another organism, one more adapted to live in a different setting?" I think, yes it is a certain extent. As to whether you can make a frog act more like a human...

Brain Structures and Behavior
Name: Melissa
Date: 2003-02-04 00:39:05
Link to this Comment: 4385

The aspect of the nervous system that I thought was the most interesting was the idea that an actual physical change in one's brain can account for changes in behavior. The example given in class was that an Alzheimer's Patient was missing parts of the brain that were present in a healthy brain. This made me think is this always the case? Does a physical change in the make-up of a brain always equal a change in behavior and if so can this help us predict or cure certain disease. The concept could also be applied to the neo-cortex being a structure that is present in most mammals' brains, but does this lack of a cortex directly relate to a behavior. In other words, can the presence or the lack thereof of structures in the brain account for specific behaviors?

Another thought/ question I had was pertaining to Parkinson's Disease. I wondered how the disease affects the nervous system and if patients are missing structures in the brain or something else that accounts for their behavoir.

organization of nervous system
Name: alexandra
Date: 2003-02-04 01:36:49
Link to this Comment: 4388

It makes sense that on smaller and smaller scales, nervous systems of different organisms look increasingly similar. This seems like it would tie into the definition of what a nervous system is and if the most basic components of a nervous system were not alike or the same, it might challenge why the term nervous system could encompass them all. To understand this more, I tried to come up with an analogy which might help me understand or visualize the situation. Hamlet and an Italian manual on how to operate an outdoor grill share the exact same alphabet, however, the varying organization of letters between them makes all the difference. Nervous systems, like books, may be made up of the same "alphabet," or fundamental components, but the differing organization of this "alphabet" can explain the differences in behavior between Professor Grobstein and a cricket.
Also even if nervous systems are very alike, even "identical," that does not seem to imply that the behavior will be the same. In particular I was thinking about how people only use a small portion of their brain. Therefore, even if the structures of two human brains were arranged along the same lines, different parts of the brains may be in use. The difference between which exact part of the brain is used, or which particular neurons are used, for a given activity or at a different moment in time, might translate into differences in behavior.

Name: Sarah Feid
Date: 2003-02-04 01:46:22
Link to this Comment: 4389

While reading through the forum, I was struck by many thoughts; one of them had not already made it into the weekend's postings. Hopefully my thought process is traceable:

Let's say for a second that the entirity of behavior/personality/personhood is contained in the physical brain (through its recording and processing of whatever internal and external influences it may have.) Then, any human with an active brain possesses behavior/personality/personhood. As a corrolary, one could ensure a body's possession of personhood by ensuring brain activity. Thereby, ending the brain activity of a body would end its personhood/life.

So what does that say about euthanasia and abortion? This whole brain activity theory would call into question the positions that a fetus (with brain activity) and a comatose individual (with brain activity) are 'not really people.' Earlier postings referred to experiences in the womb, and how they influence brain development to begin making differences in behavior. If an active, unique, behavior-influencing brain a person makes, how is a fetus not a person? Similarly, how is a comatose person "not there anymore"?

It's interesting that, in both of these cases, the individual whose brain activity is observable but whose behavior is harder to see, often resolve the question themselves: many fetuses, given time, provide ample evidence of personhood (though some die.) Many coma sufferers, given time, come out of their comas (though some die.) Is it possible that they were not 'really there' before, but are later?

Not if Emily is right... If Emily and Walt and Paul are right, then a living human with a brain is a person. Period. So where does that leave us?

different brains
Name: Enor Wagne
Date: 2003-02-04 02:26:44
Link to this Comment: 4390

After class on Thursday I had a couple thoughts regarding the brain's role in human existence. One thing that perplexed me was Professor Grobstein's statement about the brain still functioning when separated from the body. If the central nervous system allows human beings to process regularly, then how would it be possible for the brain to still remain operative in a jar when detached from the spinal chord? Having a background more rooted in the humanities, thus leaving me with a less scientific concept of the nervous system's functionality, I have many theoretical questions concerning the implication for the very thought processes of mankind. If the possibility existed for the brain to act when isolated from the spinal cord, leaving only reflexive action and impulsive movement under the control of a central nervous system, would human thinking remain as complex as it is at this point in evolutionary history?

Another component of our discussion raised questions for me. Ignorant as it may be, I have always correlated brain size with level of intelligence. The dolphin brain in proportion to the human brain seems to be massive, yet the dolphin possesses less cognitive abilities than does the human being. However, the dolphin is one of the few sea creatures that classified as a mammal. I was wondering first - what is the feature of the brain that indicates the level of attributed intelligence? Furthermore, I have yet to discover any explicit or direct evidence of the relationship between the mammalian kingdom and intelligence. I am curious to discover whether or not the evolutionary encephalization of biological organisms can further elucidate the complex correlation between the physical and intellectual capabilities of animals.

an idle brain
Name: efulchiero
Date: 2003-02-04 03:36:53
Link to this Comment: 4392

Beliefs concerning the brain have been brought up on the forum as well as in class, which span from biological considerations of animated chicken bodies to the ever-present concern with a distinction between behaviors dictated by nature and those developed experientially. I'm completely overwhelmed! Although it may be a failure of my own to rely so heavily on scientific evidence, I need more factual, tangible support for an understanding of the relationship between human cognitive abilities and the brain itself before I can reach any conclusions relating to the origins of behavior. I hope that we continue addressing the biological and evolutionary nature of the human brain. I still remain puzzled as to the physiological basis of intelligence and the variability of animal (including human) behavior stemming from biological differences. It seemed in our last class that some relationships between the cerebral cortex, its foldings, and the increased surface area of the brain due to those foldings are being developed. I look forward to investigating those aspects of the brain, with the hopes that they can give some indication of a formalized relationship between behavior and physiological reality. More than that, however, I maintain a somewhat childish/idealistic hope of seeing holes in that relationship where human beings can remain more than a vehicle for a collection of gray and white matter.

deviant behavior
Name: viv
Date: 2003-02-04 08:33:28
Link to this Comment: 4395

We spoke in class about the differences in brains of creatures of the same species - a healthy human brain vs. the brain of a human with Alzheimer's - and its impact on behavior. We can consider socially deviant behavior. This kind of behavior clearly 'deviates' from the norm or the behavior exhibited by a mainstream, 'upstanding' specimen of our species. If brain=behavior does this imply that some people are inherently deviant or programmed for deviant behavior? If so, does this compromise sociological research that points mainly to environmental factors as to blame for socially deviant behavior? I guess all this behavior discussion keeps leading back to nature vs. nurture.

Name: Andrea
Date: 2003-02-04 08:47:58
Link to this Comment: 4396

It is my understanding that all brains differ physically, even those of identical twins, which were formed by the same genes. Although the behavior of twins may be very similar—even in different environments -- their brains go through different processes to arrive the same results (Robert Sapolski, A Gene for Nothing, Discover, Oct 1997). These differences are evident not only in the location of metabolic activity but in the physical structure of the brain itself.

brain sex
Name: madeleine
Date: 2003-02-04 09:01:38
Link to this Comment: 4397

From a Darwinian standpoint it is advantageous for a species to have distinctly male and female behaviors (roles). In ancient times when the males hunted and the females gathered food near the home & cared for the children, were brain areas sharpended to enable each sex to carry out their job? As women increasingly seek to do traditionally male behaviors, or males behaving like females, are the distinctions between the male and female brains, such as size of the preoptic hypothalamus or shape of the suprachiasmatic nerve of the hypothalamus, going to become less apparent?

Name: Tung Nguye
Date: 2003-02-04 09:58:06
Link to this Comment: 4398

While it is a struggle for me to explore and try to understand the concepts and notions of the CNS and its relationship to behavior, I find it equally hard and frustrated with the terminology that we use to understand and define those concepts. Like what Professor Grobstein said in class, what define a complex or advance organisms? What is intelligence and how can we measure it? What interest me the most from our last class discussion was the idea that the leech's nervous system was still generating electrical signals even though its removed from the body. What terminology can we use to describe this?
Aside from this frustration, it seems to me that there is much correlation between the NS and behavior because as it seems to me you can not have one without the other. However, I'm wondering whether this holds absolute truth? Are there any situations or instances that might contradict this notion (can't have one without the other)?

Personality as an innate quality
Name: Marissa Li
Date: 2003-02-04 15:52:46
Link to this Comment: 4399

I was wondering what others thought about the issue of brain=behavior in terms of newborn babies. Since I was little I have always thought that personality (behavior) is innate in most people, and after living for nineteen and a half years, I have concluded personally that such is the case. Of course there is the issue of environment and circumstance having an effect on individual's development, and also extraneous other issues such as brain damage as well. However, being seven years older than my younger sister, I have had the opportunity to see her grow into herself, and as far as I can see, her base personality, behaviors, and reactions are identical to what they were, practically the day she was born. I am making the assumption that genetics carry some sort of personality gene, and that innate initial base personality is strengthened and affected by upbringing and experience. For example, my sister as a child was very outgoing and strong willed, and she continues to be even now. You can witness the identical facial expressions and behaviors today that we can see in her in old family videos at her second birthday. Looking back upon my own life so far, I also see certain things that I learned at an early age still apply to how I approach things in life today. Of course, I recognize that parents are a large part of this process and I also can see how much similar to my mother I am, so obviously her influence has had an impact on me. I really feel that a lot of my behaviors and reactions and the way my brain functions is somewhat innate in my genetics, and would love to hear what others thought of this as well. Do we just run on human instinct as babies, or is there something else already in our genetic makeup that makes us the way we are?

regarding madeleine's brain sex
Name: gshin@bryn
Date: 2003-02-04 20:44:03
Link to this Comment: 4401

It wasn't always that the males hunted and females stayed home. In some civilizations (even in the past), I know that females played the dominant role. I don't know if their behavior was more innate or just plainly determined by their environment.

Philosophy's Part?
Name: Patty
Date: 2003-02-05 00:03:54
Link to this Comment: 4407

I can understand why it is compelling to feel significantly moved by the fact that we have "sort of diffrent but sort of similar" nervous systems in comparrison to other living organisms; that our nervous system is extreamly complex, and that we inturn, are extreamly complex. I also note all of the evidence that shows how the brain is changed by, before, or possibly after certain external, environmental, or random things. But it is the excessive generalisations and comparisons to other undefined things and concepts that is not allowing this concept of the brain = behavior to hold any substancial weight for me.

Strangely enough, there are some philisophical beliefs, however, that do help me to respect this theory, although still disagree with it. It may seem slightly too broad, but it does apply. William James believed in monoism; the belief that the universe is a whole organism. He explained that we collectively make up the "absolute mind." There is nothing outside of creation that "creates" creation. God, is in turn, creation. God is internal to the universe as the universe is internal to God. Descartes believed that we could not prove anything outside of our own minds, but began with the idea that one could not disprove "I think I am thinking," or "I think, therefore I am."

These concepts of James'and Descartes' would be able to translate to this problem of brain and behavior in this way: If all behavior is simply a direct result of our nervous system (leading some to question free will,) we must also acknowledge that we only see the brain through our ability to rationalize and identify, we only touch it through our senses, which are often wrong, and we know it to exist only with the assistance of thought. Thought ( a behavior) must exist within us long before the brain. And with philosophy seriously questioning what we can really know outside of our own minds, I feel that the mind is provable long before the existance of the brain. Although I do not doubt the existance of the brain, I think we can find a great and well supported "summary of evidence" for the mind existing seperate to that of the nervous system.

Name: Rachel
Date: 2003-02-06 12:46:39
Link to this Comment: 4451

In class today, we learned that Christopher Reeve does withdraw his toe when it is pinched, yet if someone tells him to move his foot, he cannot do so. This is due to the fact that the input and output are located in different areas of his CNS: input in brain - and foot-moving output in the caudal end of the spinal cord. Because the connections between these two regions of his CNS were severed, Reeve can only respond if the areas stimulated are in the same region of the CNS (he withdraws his toe (input generated in the caudal end of the spinal cord), since the same caudal area of the spinal cord is stimulated to yield an output).

If Christopher Reeve's toe is pinched, and someone ask him if it hurts, he does have the ability to say no. Then it would make sense that the input and output areas for processing your words and his own pain response are both located in the same area of the CNS. In addition, the fact that one tells Reeve to move his foot, yet he cannot do so but RECOGNIZES that he cannot do so demonstrates that the recognition of his lack of foot motion is indeed an output from the same area of the CNS (the brain) as the input (his processing your words telling him to move his foot). He cannot, however, move his foot because this output is not from the brain, but rather from the caudal end of the spinal cord.

week 3
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-02-06 13:42:46
Link to this Comment: 4453

As always, you're free to write about whatever the course has caused you to think about this week. If you're in need of something to get you started ...

Have a look back at our current "model" of the nervous system. That model seems to be able to account reasonably well for two aspects of the behavior of quadriplegics (Christopher Reeves, for example): the observation that pinching the toe leads to food withdrawal, and the observation that when verbally asked to move her/his foot a quadriplegic says she/he can't.

Two additional relevant observations are: the quadriplegic reports an inability to move the foot at all, and reports no experience of having the foot pinched. Can we make sense of these additional observations using the current model? If not, what modifications to it might make it less wrong?

defining the self?
Name: Katherine
Date: 2003-02-06 16:52:45
Link to this Comment: 4458

It is very interesting—Reeve reports, "I cannot move my foot"—but his foot does move— So, what is this mysterious "I" ?

These observations seem to mean that that there is a distinct and limited definition to what Reeve—and other people—consider to compose the 'self.' The idea of self in this case seems to depend upon the detection of input into the brain, rather than to the lower parts of the spine.

Does this then explain the requirements for consciousness? Reeve is not conscious of the feeling of motion in his foot. He does not attribute the caudal region of his spine to 'self,' because even when motor neurons caused his foot to move, he claimed not to have caused this movement. He was not aware of making a decision for movement.

The attribute of 'self' in this case seems to take on a privileged place in the nervous system, since not all parts of the system are included. First, the 'I' seems to live in the brain and not the spinal cord. Second, it seems to require a distinct decision making process to occur that is somehow different, or at least perceived differently, than a process in the spine that results in the same behavior.

Could the boundary between what we consider 'self' vs. 'non-self' be simply the interface of brain and spinal cord? That seems too simple to explain everything. And what about 'consciousness'— we might say that this is just the brain's ability to make decisions and to be aware of this decision-making process. but again this explanation seems too simplified, and leads to yet more questions (i.e., what does it mean to be 'aware' does this apply to sleep, dreams, etc...)
When do we as humans acquire this perception of 'I', and which other organisms possess it-- ?

Name: Tiffany Li
Date: 2003-02-06 19:12:08
Link to this Comment: 4465

I thought today's discussion about quadriplegic, Christopher Reeves, was very interesting. I had no idea that quadriplegics were able to move in any way, even when pinched. I was quite suprised although it made sense once we went over how the nervous system functions.
I think that it makes sense that a quadriplegic reports an inability to move his foot when asked or to feel a response when pinched. The nevres that connect the brian to the spinal cord have been severed. Therefore quadriplegics are unable to make their foot move since they cannot send the message down the motor neuron responsible for the movement of the foot. Nor can they feel the pinch since the sensory nerves are no longer able to transmit the message back to the brain and allow it to feel the pinch. Hence I feel that the statement is correct according to our current model of the nervous system. There cannot be an output if the boxes that generate the output are not accessible to the box that is initiating the action.
This discussion concerning quadriplegics also led me to wonder how their bodies are able to function if they cannot feel what is happening to it below their neck. For instance how does homeostasis work if the quadriplegic cannot feel temperature changes? Is the body still capable of knowing it has eaten without feeling it? I wonder what type of body functions a quadriplegic is capable of maintaining on his/her own, if any at all? Is the brain still capable of regulating the body if it recieves no input of changes within the body?

The Power of Suggestion
Name: Elizabeth
Date: 2003-02-06 23:20:26
Link to this Comment: 4468

I work at a coffeehouse, and the other night we ran out of regular espresso right before closing. Since there wasn't time to get more coffee, we served decaf espresso to customers instead without telling them the difference. As I had read that the effects of caffeine are mainly controlled by the power of suggestion, I was interested to see how people would react to the switch. As expected, not many people noticed the difference. Could it be that our brains can control how our nervous systems react to chemicals? It doesn't seem possible, but I've read many "scientific" accounts of people controlling their health through placebos and even such things as positive thinking. Surely, the connection between the brain and the nervous system is much more complicated than I had thought.

Name: Neesha
Date: 2003-02-08 15:21:29
Link to this Comment: 4481

This is a question regarding last weeks discussion that I had been pondering over. As I couldnt add this to the previous forums, Im adding it to this week's postings.

Its really hard to beleive how "fluid" the brain is and how closely connected brain and behavior are. Never before had I thought that peoples brains could be different. One of the examples someone mentioned from class was that of a serial killer. I can beleive that a part of the brain could change if a normal person became a serial killer, but what if the serial killer after years of committing crimes, decided to become a good person. Would the brain undergo some change again? Maybe back to its original state?? This would imply that the brain is always changing, right?

An Emergent Property
Name: Andy Green
Date: 2003-02-08 17:32:09
Link to this Comment: 4482

Katherine's discussion of how parts of the body can be split from the "self," and the ensuing questions about the physical location of the "self" and "consciousness" in the nervous system grabbed my attention. The question of where consciousness exists is a huge problem of philosophy. Descartes said it belonged in the pineal gland. (so he's obviously given his wrong answer for the week) Many modern philosophers who consider the question believe that consciousness cannot be reduced to a physical object with a location.

The philosopher John Searle writes of a thought experiment that tests the sort of bizarre, extreme version of Christopher Reeves's unconscious toe movement. He posits a situation in which a person's brain is replaced part by part with pieces of silicon that function exactly as those parts did. Now after the brain has been completely siliconized, what happens to the man's consciousness? There are three options: A. It exists just as before without change. B. It no longer exists C. It exists, but in such a state that the it is totally epiphenomenal, hovering somehow outside the brain with no causal powers.

The most likely proposition seems to be letter A, that the consciousness is not effected, because it seems that, despite Descartes' ridiculous ideas, there is no specific part of the brain that contains consciousness. It is an "emergent property": mental states seem to arise somewhat magically from a collection of physical objects in a certain configuration. But at the same time, certain functions of the nervous system can indeed be cut out of the realm of consciousness, as Mr. Reeves's foot shows us. Thus, the question becomes, from what set of elements in the body does consciousness "emerge"?

Name: Danielle M
Date: 2003-02-09 09:18:58
Link to this Comment: 4483

Looking at the example of Christopher Reeve and the ability to move his toe when pinched, maybe the input/output model we've been examining could be revised somewhat to accompodate instances such as Reeve's.

If our model shows behavior as an input which travels through different boxes in the brain to be discharged as a resulting output, what accounts for reactions like Reeve's toe-jerk which don't or can't reach the brain? Maybe the model should include subsidiary boxes which follow the input/output theory, but operate outside of the brain.

These boxes would have direct paths from the input to an intermediary box outside of the brain (in Reeve's case, the box would be at the caudal end of the spinal cord) and out as an output back to the source of the stimuli. These boxes would be like closed-loop circuits designed for quick reaction to inputs which are dangerous enough to require reaction more quickly than could be given if the information had to be transported all the way to the brain, processed, and sent all the way back.

free will...
Name: geoff
Date: 2003-02-09 11:50:12
Link to this Comment: 4486

I am still stuck on the idea that serial killers have different brains than the rest of us. why do i believe that assumption so strongly (i do, don't i?), when there has been no real evidence on the matter? as far as i can see, it because i don't want to think of the alternative. it is scary as anything to think that my brain may be exactly the same as ted bundy's. i also would like to think that i have free will, and that because i know the difference b/w "right" and "wrong" i will stay on the straight path my whole life. but here is an example that gives me a lot of trouble:
it is easy to demonize serial killers in our society, and say that there was something wrong about them (chemical imbalance from birth, or bad family problems, some trauma that set them off), that i don't have to worry about in myself. so what do i do when i find this ugliness in "normal" upstanding citizens. i am not talking about ted bundy, who except for instances of killing women in brutal and disgusting ways, was known to be a pretty straight up guy.
i am thinking of various examples of war studies i have read (this comes from the book, 'Male Fantasies' by Klaus Theweleit). the one that stands out is a story of senator bob kerry. i don't like politicians as a rule, but kerry is generally thought to be a good guy, and may be a presidential candidate in the upcoming election. the book (theres a bunch of internet articles on it too, i just found this one: talks about how during the vietnam war he was involved in one of the many slaughters of a civillian village, much like the 'my lai massacre', but less well known. this was not an uncommon occurance during vietnam (from what i gather), nor has it ever been during any war by any side of the fight (allies do terrible things even when they are fighting against nazis). there are many of examples of men doing things that are as terrible as that which ted bundy did, but during a time of war.
what i like about the kerry example is that he comes back and is a war hero and lives a normal life. we can say that he had trauma during the war that changed his brain to allow him to do something so terrible, but how then do we account for the fact he returned and has lived a life since that puts him in line to run for president?
what i am trying to say is that i don't necessarily see our brains as having THAT much to do with our behavior on any kind of relevant level. i undertand that we each have a different makeup when we look close enough, but then shouldn't we be able to react to situations like kerry's differently? and every now and then, someone does, but for the most part, men are predictable in war time situations. the man who didn't participate in my lai or spoke out about it after was an exception, and for that we don't know about most of the instances. put a given number of drastically different brains in that environment and you don't end up with a drastically different number of behaviors.
maybe war is a bad example because i can point to the intensity of the situation and say it is not real life. so then i look at haverford or bryn mawr, and at a larger level are we all doing that many different things? i know technically we belong to a different set of clubs or sports teams or choose different majors. but how relevent is that? is that the free will we keep talking about, that we each have chosen our own major study? because on a less drastic level, i see us as being very similar to my analogy of a war time situation. put a given group of students (selected to be diverse) together for four years and you will come out with basically predictable results. if it were not so, our colleges could not run as smoothly as they do.
if our bio class did not have a make up where a few people speak and most stay silent, and where the professor controls the pace of the class (and subsequently my free will) and we follow accordingly, it would not run very well. at the same time, we spend class time telling ourselves that the brain is a mystery because of this idea of free will?
it makes sense to me that i still believe in free will, life would not seem very worthwhile if i did not believe i had some say in it. but what is the free will we are talking about? i get it that we have very different nervous systems, but if we all go in with that and in any given environment basically play a given role, what does it matter?

Name: geoff
Date: 2003-02-09 11:55:14
Link to this Comment: 4487

sorry for writing so much, and now for more, but i wanted to post up this website we were given in my perception class. click on the links on the left to see the illusion (there are instructions). my favorite is the koffka ring, b/c unlike the illusions about our blind spots (where we make a dot disappear or connect a line) or the ones where you stare at an american flag that fades quickly, i can stare at a ring that i know is always the same color, and it will never look the same to me. the world is not what it seems...

Name: Amelia
Date: 2003-02-09 14:22:21
Link to this Comment: 4490

I've been thinking about the Christopher Reeves example of the nervous system since class Thursday and been mulling the idea over the weekend. After reading the postings of my classmates, I thought about the situation some more and came up with a few ideas/questions. Reeves' spinal cord was severed and therefore the signals that come from his brain cannot be sent below his neck and the signals that come from below his neck cannot go to his brain. If we believe that the seat of consciousness is in the brain, Reeves is correct when he cannot feel his foot being pinched. The input cannot travel to his brain and say, "Hey! Someone just pinched my foot!" However, as the somas of the nerves in his foot are based in the caudal end of the spinal cord, the signal goes to them and in an involuntary response, Reeves' foot pulls away.
I've been thinking that if the seat of consciousness is in the brain, it can be fully true that Reeves can say that he cannot move his foot. He cannot think and make his foot move, consciously or unconsciously. His foot can only move in response to outside stimuli, and not stimuli within himself.

Name: Kate Tucke
Date: 2003-02-09 14:23:13
Link to this Comment: 4491

I can certainly relate to the need to put serial killers in a different category than the rest of us. I feel much better about myself if I know that I am in some way biologically different from someone who murders people. Its an interesting twist on free will. I would imagine that even people who believe very strongly in free will still want to hold onto something more than serves as a separation. One of the things that I thought was interesting about our discussion in class about people who have different brain chemistries is that we made a point to distinguish between different groups of people who display different behaviors, but I wonder if the differences in brains are really large enough between different groups that they would even be detectable. What I mean is, we have all agreed that each one of us in this class has a different brain. But are the differences in our brains ones that we could detect and study? And do things that we perceive as great differences in behavior translate to great differences in the brain? I was reading a Scientific American article earlier "Why? The Neuroscience of Suicide" which mentions at one point that early childhood experiences, such as child abuse, can lead to altered brain chemistry. (Just so you know, that's not the main focus of the article, but it is interesting so I put the link up...) It seems very plausible to me that although people are born with different brain structures, the main differences may result from changes that have occured over the years. Although serial killers' brains may be different from mine, perhaps some change could take place in my brain from some event I experienced that would induce me to go on a killing spree. Well, I'm not sure I believe that...but its possible.

Name: Nicole
Date: 2003-02-09 15:12:26
Link to this Comment: 4493

Geoff's statement: "put a given number of drastically different brains in that environment and you don't end up with a drastically different number of behaviors." got me thinking.
It is true that few humans share the same or even nearly similar environments on the scope of the entire planet, and over the span of human history. Still, cultures and standards of acceptable or normal behavior do tend to exist among people of similar environments, for example taste in food, clothing, lifestyle, livelihood, choice of leisure activity, language and manner of interpersonal relationships are some examples of behavior that can be more common among members of one environment/region than another (like from a hot desert of Africa to a freezing tundra of Alaska to the busy streets of New York City). However, within one of these environments, almost no two humans really do share the same perspective/environment. Differences in upbringing, even within the same household, can drastically impact future behavior of a person. This sets up the scenario that all humans will behave differently since they all have a background of different experiences on which to base their current behavior even when faced with the same situation. To an extent, I think this is true but on larger scale events, like Geoff's example of a war, even these people from different environments/backgrounds exhibit similar behavior. Behaviors overlap and are shared among very different people. Although at first it may seem to contradict it, these ideas support our model that similar brain structure=similar behavior because humans all have similar looking brains (more similar to each other than to say a monkey's brain) which would suggest shared "human instincts" and other similar behavior, yet on a micro level, it may be possible to detect minute differences in the brain or chemical makeup which would support differences in behavior between humans. With more class and forum discussion of examples, and after looking into Scientific American articles about brain mapping and genetic brain imaging, I feel that our the model of similar brain structure=similar behavior is becoming less wrong each week, as the model is still able to explain how humans can share similar behaviors at times while also exhibiting very different behaviors.

functions of neurons
Name: Jen
Date: 2003-02-09 15:21:16
Link to this Comment: 4494

As a result of our class discussion, we have learned that the neuron is the functional unit of the nervous system and is specialized for transmitting signals from one location to another. I have begun to ponder the possible alternatives that could occur due to blockage or maybe some type or variation of damage in the synapse region. I refer to the space between the presynaptic and postsynaptic membranes as the synapse region. I also ponder if there are any particular environmental reasons that could affect the effectiveness of the chemical synapse. The last question that I pose is how a doctor or scientist could diagnose a blockage or destruction in particular neural pathways.

RE: Functions of Neurons
Name: Michelle C
Date: 2003-02-09 16:28:48
Link to this Comment: 4496

The idea of pinpointing a specific mal-function or blockage at the synaptic clef is a bit far thrown. While there are existing forms of receptor pharmacology, we have yet to zero in on any specific neuron. What many scientists have done and continue to do, however, is look at the larger pattern of behaviors of neurons in a specific area. By using drugs which act similar to the messages passed between neurons (Neurotransmitters and Hormones) and tracking it's specific journey through the clef, we can speculate on how normal messages might be transmitted.

I think the idea of environmental (outside world) stimulus effecting neurotransmission is very likely. If our Central Nervous system is composed of the many boxes we have proposed we might expect environmental stimulus to have a domino effect, reaching and affecting every box. I think that the larger question here however is which effects which more or less, or if there is a one to one relationship between the anatomical/neurological environment and the outer-body environment in regard to behavior change.

Name: Clare
Date: 2003-02-09 19:41:35
Link to this Comment: 4497

One thing that we discussed in class that really bothered me was the idea that there is something in a serial killer's brain that is different from mine and that explains why his behavior is different. I am not arguing that this is untrue. However, didn't we already state that every individual's brain is different and therefore every individual's behavior is different? Then how can we look in a serial killer's brain and say- ah ha! THIS is the part in his brain that is different from everyone else's so it MUST be what is making him be a serial killer. In fact, since everyone's brain is different, this could just be another difference that makes him the individual that he is and has nothing to do with his serial killer behavior. But then again, in other mental illnesses, if that's what you could call them, even though every individual is different and acts differently, there are always similarities in the way that they express certain illnesses, such as depression or eating disorders. Therefore, even though our brain and our behavior ARE different, since I do believe that the foundational way that brains work are similar, does this mean that you CAN open up a brain and find within different brains similar similar conditions related to these illnesses despite the various environmental, social, and biological factors that play into causing these illnesses?

serial killers, morals and such
Name: Cordelia S
Date: 2003-02-09 21:13:15
Link to this Comment: 4498

Hmm. Well, while it may be nice to think that serial killers are BORN with different brains than the rest of us highly moral folk, I tend to think that environment alters brain chemistry to a point where something like murder becomes a viable option for people. There was a point in the seventies when amygdalectomies were performed on prisoners to calm them down. For people that don't know, the amygdala is a tiny part of the limbic system attached to the end of the hippocampus that is thought to control many things, namely emotional memory and anger, fear, and rage. It is thought that the frontal cortex puts a sort of check on the emotionality of the amygdala, and keeps organisms from being fearful and enraged constantly. This is why when damage is done to the frontal lobe, people's personalities change to be more aggressive and violent, and less friendly; they no longer have this check. Experiments where the frontal cortexes of monkeys have been damaged have found the monkeys to be fearful, violent, and ready to attack. Likewise, experiments where only the amygdala was removed found the monkeys to be extremely people-friendly, fearless, and tame. Anygdalectomies are not performed on people anymore (at least not in the US, legally ??) but for a time were thought to be a great way to "reform" criminals. However, this surgery has some pretty serious side effects; in Intro Psych we watched a video featuring a woman without an amygdala, and she just was not entirely there. Emotion, including anger, rage, and fear, is normal and necessary. So what is it that makes it get out of control in people with "normal" frontal cortexes who seem to have all of the components necessary to behave in a way that our society finds reasonable? I think it is environment. Geoff says that he knows he will walk a straight line for the rest of his life. But, come on, can he really know that? I can think of situations where people are driven to kill, and I can also think of situations where people seriously believe that killing IS the right thing. Geoff also says that he knows the difference between right and wrong. But how? What if someone else also knows the difference between right and wrong, but knows something completely different from what Geoff knows? Who is right? We've evolved from animals who do not jail one another, who do not have the complex moral boundaries that we have created. Trust me, I'm not advocating going back to some primitive system without laws or limits. But can we really expect that in every conceivable situation these somewhat arbitrary moral boundaries will be accepted as "right"?
Also, so many people who are serial killers believe they are killing for some higher power, some force greater than themselves. I don't believe in God, but I can imagine that if I did, and I thought that the creator of everything in the universe wanted me to kill some people, I might do it. Religious devotion or faith can make people do extreme things. Usually these things fall into our society's boundaries of what is acceptable, which is why we can say that we let everyone practice their own religion. Well, belief in something intangible is something pretty hard to argue against. So if someone really, truly, wholeheartedly believes that God wants them to kill a few people, what do we do with them? Are they crazy? Are they right? They certainly think, as Geoff does, that they know the difference between right and wrong. But if they do what they think is right, they will end up in jail. What is it in our brains that defines right and wrong for us? Is there some universal human moral code ingrained into our brains (or at least those of us who are "normal") that says killing other people is wrong? Or have we completely invented this idea? Or is it just a feature of some tit-for-a-tat altruistic principle?
Sorry to write so much, but it's much more interesting to ponder human nature than to do my Spanish workbook exercises.

Name: Sarah
Date: 2003-02-09 22:15:45
Link to this Comment: 4499

Does anyone else feel overwhelmed?
If every single behavior is determined by the pattern of synapse activity in a given brain, it's mind-blowing to try to comprehend the complexity of it all. Imagine a piano, with 10^12 keys. Can you begin to fathom the number of different pieces of music that piano is capable of making? And now imagine that there are billions of pianos, and every one of them has the keys arranged differently. The same piece of music will be different on each piano.
The unfathomable variety of human behavior seems only logical when you think that each nervous system, made up of the same notes (neurons) in different orders, is capable of completely unique behavior, perception, interpretation...
Why is it difficult to believe that serial killers are neurologically different from everyone else? All it takes is that particular combination of keys/neuronal pathways, that particular 'song'/pattern of synapse stimulation to create a unique behavior, a song radically different from ours.

emergence, also
Name: Katherine
Date: 2003-02-09 22:29:44
Link to this Comment: 4500

The 'emergent properties' comment from Andy reminded me of the grid of dots from the first week, where a simple set of rules could lead to an unexpected and organized outcome. In the grid, patterns were shown to emerge from randomness, without the need for a single creator of those patterns. It seems plausible that models based upon this idea could be applied to consciousness and the brain's role in it.

Name: Luz Martin
Date: 2003-02-09 23:15:31
Link to this Comment: 4502

I agree with Sarah. I am overwhelmed by the pieces that make up the nervous system and the way that neurons can have different arrangements that produce unique behavior. I am also very taken back by the ability of the nervous systems to interact with its environment even when there is a problem with the communication within the nervous system like in the case of Christopher Reeves.

Inspired by Defining the Self
Name: Annabella
Date: 2003-02-09 23:56:46
Link to this Comment: 4503

Katherine makes an interesting remark in her comments, stating: It is very interesting –Reeve reports, "I cannot move my foot" – but his foot does move—So what then is this mysterious "I"?

This "I" can be indicative of many different effects. Katherine attributes this "I" to be part of the definition of self. My question is what is this self. Is it the part of us that dreams, hopes, and aspires? Or is it simply neural pathways connecting the brain and spinal cord? Is this "I" indicative of the human soul?

Many define the soul as the thing that separates a single person from mass of others. Psychologists say that we only gain a sense of individuality when we reach a certain maturity of consciousness. Is this true?

Any maternity ward nurse could argue this statement. Looking at newly born infants some are fussy, others are more serious, and those whom are content. The variety is endless. What do these varieties hint at? It would be very simple to write them off as genetically structured differences. But in Reeves case, when the body is functioning properly—what does this say about the intangible mind?

the overbearing brain
Name: Marissa Li
Date: 2003-02-10 00:31:50
Link to this Comment: 4504

I thought that Sarah's mention of the overwhelming complexity of the nervous systems and its many functions and capabilities was very much a feeling that was familair. I find it difficult to sort through my own brain and its basic activity, let alone recognizing the processes behind its functions and actions. In the first week of class I was still trying to come to terms with thinking about the brain as its thoughts, but now adding on its process has taken up another realm of possibilities that just makes things more complex, and makes my "mind??" work harder.

I thought that Sarah made a good point about serial killers. If there are so many parts to the process, than I do not doubt that one or several of the nuerons may be a little off. There are so many complexities that any sort of damage or alteration, either caused by physical impairments or ones that have developed through the thought process seem completely likely to me. That is, of course somewhat frightening as well to classify a human being as having an inclination to kill and it being innately physical, but is it not also possible that the brain can develop "wrinkles" that combat such behaviors over time as well?

Christopher Reeves
Name: Melissa
Date: 2003-02-10 00:33:13
Link to this Comment: 4505

Since the last class I have had the same question in my mind about Christopher Reeves. What if his foot was above a fire would he react to the heat? I don't think he would. It seems to me that the pinching is a given input relates to a specific muscle in his foot that reacts almost like a reflex.

I understand that if he doesn't pull his foot away when asked because his brain does not have anyway to give that signal to his spinal cord- since they were detached. The fact that he can't feel it may be attributed to the fact that the brain deals with feelings not the spinal cord.

But all of this makes me think that maybe the spinal cord can work on its own to produce certain behavior and maybe that is why Reeves can move his foot. Maybe the spinal cord reacts to its own inputs with specific outputs. All of this leads me to believe that there is something missing in our model of the nervous system- though I'm unsure exactly what that is.

Name: Alanna
Date: 2003-02-10 09:48:40
Link to this Comment: 4507

The question posed about Christopher Reeves on Thursday has me a bit stumped, but I'll try to make an educated guess. If you pinch his toe, and ask him if it hurts, and he says no, that makes sense b/c only the brain can tell the body if it is feeling pain or not -- and Mr. Reeves' brain is disconnected from his spinal cord. He also says that he cannot move his foot. This is because auditory processes (such as asking him to move his foot) are controlled by the brain, but the brain cannot pass this message along to the rest of the body. What I find interesting about these observations is that the nervous system is still able to find a way to function despite the disconnection btwn the brain and spinal cord. It is like each part of the nervous system has its own little department, and each of these various departments are connected in some way, so that a message is sent from one part of the body to the other. If one of those connections is cutoff or disrupted in some way from dept. to the others, then each department continues to work within itself and with the other departments it is still connected to. The disconnection just means that the message won't get all the way through. That is why Mr. Reeves' body doesn't function as it should. The nervous system appears to have its own backup system so that it may function as much as it is able, even when something goes amiss.

'Natural' Movements
Name: Kelvey
Date: 2003-02-10 09:56:53
Link to this Comment: 4508

My thoughts have been similar to Melissa in terms of what happens when a quadrapalegic puts their hand on a hot wire and when it starts burning them, will they pull their hand away? If so, by how much? What is the instinctal/natural movement? For Christopher Reeve, when his toe is pinched, his toe moves away without his brain telling bim to move or him even being concious of the fact that there was pain or movement. The natural movement of the foot is to pull back. Now in the case of the hand, the 'natural movement', being defined as the closed circuit from the muscles in the hand to the spinal cord without the direction/input from the brain, may be to curl the hand, and if it is a small object the person will simply hold the wire tighter. For example, without being paralyzed, a person may grab an electic wire after being shocked by it. It seems thatlike Christoper Reeves toe movements, to close the hand is natural and is confined within the closed circuit of hand and spinal cord and therefore the response is made before the brain can influence the reaction and rationalize against instinct.

Name: Grace Shin
Date: 2003-02-10 10:13:00
Link to this Comment: 4509

I think the C. Reeves situation is quite interesting. I actually never knew that if you pinched the toes, that there actually is a reaction. This actually makes me think that the boxes in boxes in box model is quite true. However, to redefine the limits of the final outside box. So, before we said that the big box was the nervous system, which included the brain and the spinal cord. However, it seems that the two, brain and spinal cord, needs to be in separate boxes. Because in this case, even when there is one input to one of the two, mis-wiring could result in this situation with C. Reeves.

So, maybe the big box is not the central nervous system but something bigger which contains the two... which would mean brain does not equal behavior. But i feel like i need to be continually listening and reading to really validate my idea.

Name: viv
Date: 2003-02-10 13:55:50
Link to this Comment: 4510

This is pretty off the topic being discussed in the forum right now but I'd just like to contrast the approach to brain=body we've taken in class, which is based on western views and understanding to that of a different culture. Many east-asian cultures are deeply rooted in various forms of holistic training. Holistic practices such as yoga and tai-chi are based on the connection between mind and body and focus on strengthening and centering the mind through training of the body. As I see it then, such cultures have had a deep understanding of Dickinson's concept of brain=body for quite some time now. One particular form of training that I am more familiar with is the art of Gi Gong, a korean form of yoga. According to the holistic practice behavior must be restricted to strengthen the mind- not only in the sense that you should abstain from drug and alcohol use but every part of your body should be kept in prime condition to optimize the workings of the brain. The key to many such forms of training is a focus on strengthening the abdomen, which is considered the energy center of the body. This brings me to the concept of the enteric nervous system, the 'other' nervous system that resides in our gut. Maybe it deserves more attention than we paid it in class. With a population of 100 million nerves that transmit and process messages, the enteric system seems to me equally complex or at least significant as the spinal cord. The fact that the CNS and enteric systems both originate from the neural crest during fetal development tells me that it shouldn't be discounted as a lesser part of our nervous system. And since many asian cultures seem to me to have a heads up that spans centuries on understanding the connection between the brain and the body maybe a closer look at the enteric system wouldn't be a bad idea.

memory vs. reality
Name: maria
Date: 2003-02-10 14:44:05
Link to this Comment: 4511

This comment might not be immediately related to what we have been discussing in class, but I was reading over the postings, and someone mentioned how supposed predictions of events fit in with the question of whether or not brain=behavior. That led me to wonder about moments of deja vu, those times we see something and are certain we have seen this exact thing before. How are such impressions created? What is it that tells us that we have experienced some event before when that is not realistically possible? I have also been wondering about memories. Where on a neuron is information stored? Do specific neurons hold specific information, or do we have a sum of knowledge in our brain that is just in constant motion? Perhaps false memories are created by improperly connectioning of certain pieces of that information to create something novel which we are convinced actually ttok place. Any thoughts?

Coffee Comment
Name: Nupur
Date: 2003-02-10 16:55:59
Link to this Comment: 4513

Biz, I thought it was interesting that you served decaf with out telling people, and that not many noticed. However, I am not surprized. To a certain extent, I believe that there are times that we are told things, or do things that make us feel better or feel differently, had we known the truth. The coffee example is one, anotther, is the use of medication. I'm not talking about heavy medication, but the use of tylenol or advil...I do think that there are times that the act of taking a pill makes more of a difference than the pill itself. I have friends that dont like taking pills or medicine and do just fine, and yet the moment I think a headache is coming on, I take two tylenols for good measure. I know that this is wrong, but I think that I have made myself believe that with out pills, my headache will not go away. Had I not taken those pills, I know I would have my headache for much longer.

10% Myth
Name: Arun
Date: 2003-02-10 19:19:14
Link to this Comment: 4515

This is obviously off the topic, but I just thought I'd post this up because I was curious as to how the myth "That we use only 10% of our brains" started after hearing one of our colleagues ask that question in class. I found from a website that the 10% statement may have started from any one, or combination of these observations and comments. A misquote of Albert Einstein or the misinterpretation of the work of Pierre Flourens in the 1800s. It may have been William James who wrote in 1908: "We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources" (from The Energies of Men, p. 12). Perhaps it was the work of Karl Lashley in the 1920's and 1930's that started it. Lashley removed large areas of the cerebral cortex in rats and found that these animals could still relearn specific tasks. And like all myths, after popular media kept repeating the false statement, soon, everyone began believing the statement regardless of the evidence
If any of you want to learn more about this myth or other REALLY interesting facts about neurobiology, I suggest you check this site out. It is directed towards kids, but by simplifying things, you can grasp the ideas a little better.

So beautiful.
Name: Sarah
Date: 2003-02-10 19:47:46
Link to this Comment: 4517

Neuroscience Art Gallery

Name: Sarah
Date: 2003-02-10 19:49:01
Link to this Comment: 4518

ok, I'm not sure what happened to the HTML in that previous posting, my apologies.

Name: Neela Thir
Date: 2003-02-10 20:56:29
Link to this Comment: 4521

I was intrigued by Katherine's, Andy's, and Annabella's discussion of the placement of "I" within (or outside of) the brain and behavior. In normative thought, we tend to separate the body (NS) from certain behaviors. Instinct (unlearned, untaught, and perhaps unconscious behavior) is made distinct from the behavior of free will (the conscious "I"). The human conception of "self" seems to stem from our unlocated consciousness. However, if we conceed that brain= all behavior, then the sense of self should be located in the nervous system along with our other more innate behaviors. Perhaps self is controlled by an emergent biological aggregate, or perhaps it is controlled by an experience - more of a psychoanalytical moment.
Playing the devil's advocate, maybe Annabella's example of newborns' differing personalities isn't really a display of a child's expression of "I" (or soul). Maybe they are merely behaving unconsciously out of instinct located within the nervous system. Freud claims that subjectivity and consciousness emerge from a temporal and environmental occurance a bit later and it not a direct result of natural biological right (but Freud seems to have had plenty of his share of wrongs).

Name: Shanti
Date: 2003-02-10 22:31:45
Link to this Comment: 4522

After looking at some of the postings on the forumn, I am getting the impression that people are uncomfortable with the idea that maybe our brains aren't that much different than a serial killer's brain. We resist that idea in the same way that we resist the notion that no free will exists. We'd like to think that as moral and rational beings that we are capable of choosing our own destinies and that we are aware of what is right and wrong. But are we? How different are our brains from serial killers? I agree with what Clare said that maybe what is different about a killer's brain is what makes him an individual rather than being what makes him a killer. I think that we feel that our brains' must be different because if they weren't than what prevents us from being serial killers too? Similarly, I think that we feel that we must have free will because that is essentially what separates us from animals, along with the more complex thought processes which go along with free will. But how different are we really from animals. Aren't humans just another, higher form of an animal? There is a very small difference between a human's DNA and an animals, but we try so hard to look at the differences that we don't see the similarities. It is true that people's brains are different, but in many ways we act the same. I feel like the question we should be addressing is that how is that we are capable of such varied behaviors when so much of our brain is the same? Can one subtle difference make us such completely different people? Or is it that while we are all different, we are not as different as we would like to believe. Would it bother people to think that maybe we're not quite as different as we think we are?

conjoined twins
Name: madeleine
Date: 2003-02-10 23:11:16
Link to this Comment: 4523

A feature on the Discovery Channel about conjoined twins forced me to reconsider the idea of brain=behavior. The show journies into the lives of several conjoined twins, of which one pair, Lori and Reba, are cariopagus (skulls conjoined, two bains fused). Although the girls share a common prefrontal cortex, the anterior portion of the fronal lobe that has is very important for the determination of personality and other higher cognitive function, they are unique individuals. Reba, who also suffers from spina bifida, is more assertive and aspires to be a country singer; Lori is hoping to get married and have children. If the girls have only one prefrontal cortex, how is it that their personalities, emotions, and bahviors are different?

Date: 2003-02-10 23:12:38
Link to this Comment: 4524

I meant craniopagus. Oops.

consciousness and unconsciousness
Name: Alexandra
Date: 2003-02-10 23:54:29
Link to this Comment: 4526

I wanted to discuss something different from what other people have written about. Hopefully we'll be able to cover what I'm writing about later. I was wondering what other people thought about the "cusp of consciousness."
Today I had an Inca archaeology class at U Penn, and I kept nodding off during the slides because I was very tired. In the middle of my notes about pre-Inca civilization I wrote about swimming. I just finished my swim season, so I guess it is still on my mind. I had no idea, however, that I was thinking about it at that point. Also can the word "thinking" be used to describe something that is unconscious? What could that mental process which generated the word "swim" in the middle of my class notes be called?
Writing while very tired or while falling asleep has led me before to write about topics which I had no idea I was "thinking" about. I guess the existence of outputs such as unconscious writing would necessitate inputs. These inputs, however, can be very hidden, and it seems like their hidden-ness would be an example of the extreme complexity and often concealed nature of inputs. In addition to the idea of the secretiveness of inputs, the idea of a boundary between consciousness and unconsciousness interests me. Because of behavior such as my note-taking being able to define the divide between awareness and unconsciousness seems problematic.

Christopher Reeves
Name: Christine
Date: 2003-02-10 23:56:52
Link to this Comment: 4527

As I was looking into Christopher Reeves' condition online, I stumbled into a page assessing the benefits to cloning. Among others like human stem cells that can help repair the body and conditions like cystic fibrosis and liver/kidney failure, cloning can works wonders on spinal cord injury.

According to the site:
"We may learn to grow nerves or the spinal cord back again when they are injured. Quadriplegics might be able to get out of their wheelchairs and walk again. Christopher Reeves, the man who played Superman, might be able to walk again."

Looking into other sites, I've seen that people believe that they are spared their own life, like we have seen with Reeves, because of the power of their mind. So many of his abilities were taken away in an instant. Faced with the desperate nature of his circumstances, he no doubt questioned why and whether or not life was worth fighting for. Incredibly, he saw that those significant people close to him needed him and he chose to live.

So right now it seems that we're at somewhat of a standstill-there is much interest and foreseen benefit in cloning to aid the human body, yet so much controversy remains. As of now, the lucky ones who have the strive may just be the ones who will survive such a tragedy. Maybe it's their mind that saves them.

Name: Kat
Date: 2003-02-11 00:19:35
Link to this Comment: 4528

I come from a family FULL of dorks. Because of this, we often sit around the dinner table discussing the difference in varying people's behavior- mostly because my dad deludes himself into thinking that people my age are subject to a generational illness which causes laziness and complete lack of ambition. In our discussions, the nature vs. nurture debate is a frequent subject. Almost no one believes it is either one or the other anymore; rather, most people believe it is a mixture of both. My brother likes things black and white and so he confines this mixture to a percentage: say 60% nurture and 40% nature. I disagree with his analysis ( read: simplification) of the basis of human behavior vehemently- rather than the "mixture" he believes, I envision the factors that influence behavior in overlay, and the factors are not merely limited to "nature" and "nurture", but include structure and function of the brian, free will, and many other factors that have entered into our class dicusssions. It's gratifying for me to hear Sarah's analogy of pianos that introduces infinite variation and complication, yet at the same time, I realize that trying to understand and talk about something that is so complicated can sometime seem futile and obselete. Is the model of the brain that we have been evolving in class getting us anywhere nearer to being able to talk about behavior in a way that is not an oversiplification and yet is still manageable?

consciousness and unconsciousness
Name: Alexandra
Date: 2003-02-11 00:23:55
Link to this Comment: 4529

I wanted to discuss something different from what other people have written about. Hopefully we'll be able to cover what I'm writing about later. I was wondering what other people thought about the "cusp of consciousness."
Today I had an Inca archaeology class at U Penn, and I kept nodding off during the slides because I was very tired. In the middle of my notes about pre-Inca civilization I wrote about swimming. I just finished my swim season, so I guess it is still on my mind. I had no idea, however, that I was thinking about it at that point. Also can the word "thinking" be used to describe something that is unconscious? What could that mental process which generated the word "swim" in the middle of my class notes be called?
Writing while very tired or while falling asleep has led me before to write about topics which I had no idea I was "thinking" about. I guess the existence of outputs such as unconscious writing would necessitate inputs. These inputs, however, can be very hidden, and it seems like their hidden-ness would be an example of the extreme complexity and often concealed nature of inputs. In addition to the idea of the secretiveness of inputs, the idea of a boundary between consciousness and unconsciousness interests me. Because of behavior such as my note-taking being able to define the divide between awareness and unconsciousness seems problematic.

serial killers
Name: Enor Wagne
Date: 2003-02-11 00:35:38
Link to this Comment: 4530

Our class discussion on Tuesday enticed me to do some research on serial killers. It was alleged in class that the frontal lobes of serial killers are typically damaged or appear to be different than those of less/non violent people. I researched serial killers online and read through a million web pages but still came up short of any statistical information with regards to the damaged frontal lobe common among serial killers. However, thinking along the lines of brain = behavior, I would like to assert that there is definitely a correlation between the damaged frontal lobe and serial killers. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of exceptions, I'm sure. Although, as Cordelia has said, the frontal lobe plays an enormous role in suppressing a person's aggression (I believe it is important to keep the monkey experiment in mind). When the frontal lobe is damaged, it has been proven that a person will act with more aggression, and less judgment. What I think is important to point out though is that serial killers who have damaged frontal lobes are not typically born that way – in the majority of cases, head trauma has been directly related to their less than adequate minds. According to a number of sources, that head trauma was often the result of physical (most of the time parental) abuse.
Other behaviors have been found typical in the childhoods of serial killers as well. Psychologists refer to the early warning signs and commonalities among serial killers as the 'dangerous triad'. The triad consists of three tell tale signs of a disturbed child – bed wetting, fascination with fire (arson), and animal abuse. Although not every child who can be categorized as practicing the characteristics of the triad becomes a serial killer, is it merely a coincidence that most serial killers fit this childhood description? Scientists and Psychologists have thought that the triad (each part) is representative of a greater danger. Bed wetting typically signifies a poorly raised child who suffers from either neglect or abuse, and can also be associated with the lack of self control. Arson implies an either sexual or aggressive need. Fire is used by angry children who need release. As for animal torture, psychologists have thought that the urge to torture and kill feeds a young mind which is sadistic and merciless. The questions in my mind are – is this triad merely the signs of a problem child who may or may not grow up to be a serial killer? If not all serial killers suffer from a damaged frontal lobe, then what accounts for the behavior of those who do not? And, is it only problem children who grow up to be serial killers? I believe that the environment affects the brain (literally, in some cases, and figuratively in others) and that changed brain is responsible for behavior, which encompasses all consciousness, beliefs, judgments, and thought process.

Name: Zunera
Date: 2003-02-11 00:47:42
Link to this Comment: 4531

wow. i was just reading over my last comment (in the last forum) and i realized i made NO sense whatsoever. in any case, i retract the statement that the brain of the wolf children/wolf boy are not different from "normal" brains in structure.

as discussed a gajillion times in class, if brain-behavior then all brains must be somewhat different (structurally), because no two people are exactly alike, even identical twins.

Name: Adina
Date: 2003-02-11 02:44:31
Link to this Comment: 4534

As Elizabeth said in her message people who do not know that they are drinking decaf coffee will not realize the difference between their usual regular coffee and the decaf that they are now drinking. This is very similar to the examples of people feeling "high" because they think they've taken an illicit drug, when really they've only taken an aspirin. Also, many times when a person is depressed or stressed, he or she will feel nauseated. And let's not forget hypochondriacs... they imagine that something is wrong with them and their bodies respond by actually developing a feeling of sickness. These psycho-somatic examples seem to imply that the brain has a great power over the body, perhaps even greater than even external stimulus. However, this seems to makes sense when using our description of the brain, because isn't external stimulus received by receptors that carry the stimulus to the brain? It would seem reasonable then that the brain would be able to alter its interpretation of the stimulus. This, however, is still a magnificent feat and I am constantly amazed at its awesome power. The apparent fact that the mind (using mind and brain interchangeably here) can control what the body experiences and can even trick itself boggles my mind, and I wish that there was much more knowledge about the brain than there is today.

brain plasticity and repair
Name: Erin Fulch
Date: 2003-02-11 02:47:08
Link to this Comment: 4535

I recently read a study, which claimed that Christopher Reeve's brain has remained receptive to signals from the paralyzed portion of the body, even though the majority of those signals were interrupted by his injury. This particular study noted that several animal studies suggest that repairing the spinal cord would have little benefit for injuries such as Reeve's because the brain effectively "gives up" on the paralyzed portions of the body and is altered so that it no longer is able to process those signals. In that I remain only marginally aware of the capabilities and mechanisms of the brain's functionality, I am curious to understand what sort of reorganization process that system can potentially utilize in response to trauma.
In a study conducted by Dr. Maurizio Corbetta, a neurology researcher at Washington University, an MRI was used to map the patterns of brain activity in response to touch and movement. In this study, Reeve followed the video image of a tennis ball and indicated its direction with either his tongue or the movement of the left index finger. Throughout this activity, the MRI detected the active parts of the brain and monitored its responses to specific actions and sensations. The results of the MRI were then compared to identical tests conducted on a healthy young man. The results would have seemed baffling to me only weeks ago: only slight differences were recorded. Reeve's brain was apparently quite normal as it indicated by the sensory maps of the MRI. It was found that he had feeling in both his foot and hand. Apparently, the areas of the brain which normally control the hand had been taken over, to some extent, by those areas which control the face. However, the brain circuits linked to the foot were normal. A new awareness of the plasticity of the human brain and the extraordinary capability of the human nervous system to "evolve" behaviorally through a solely biological process has left me questioning what possible distinction could remain between brain and behavior.

Name: Shanti
Date: 2003-02-11 12:24:24
Link to this Comment: 4539

I found the following link today and I thought that it might be interesting since we had been talking about serial killers.

The article talks about making a death row inmate sane enough to execute and the issues that arise from that

Trying to work out the I- Function
Date: 2003-02-11 12:42:24
Link to this Comment: 4540

I believe that we are all born with the capability to harm other human beings under certain cercunstances. Someone in class talked about how we are all subject to rage and anger at times and through evolution these emotions have served us so that we may at times protect the species and continue to exist. While presently we may not need the extreme case of these emotions, e.g. multiple murders. We do however need these emotions still, in order to be emotionaly healthy human being. The point is they are there. They have a capacity which we may or may not use depending on the individual. Something stops us when we feel we have gone overboard. Social controls are probaly one factor, as well as a properly functioning frontal lobe, but what about the I-function? Could the I-function be another form of checking agression?

According to Proffessor Grobstein (I am loosly quoting here) "the I-function requires the conclussion that thereis a box which is rostraly locatedto the nervous system and reports internal states and articulates it externally (output)". The example today was the I-function with relation to the motor or sensory system. I would like to try and find a relation between the I-function and the part of our brain which enables us to act on other people and feel emotion.

So to recap. I think all brains a different but have important evolutionary similarities. Therefore the I-function is different but has some important evolutionary similarities. Is somehow the I-function supposed to impact us emotionally? e.g. I feel sad. I feel angry. I feel like killing.I think it filters what we are thinking and feeling and translates it into the "self". Maybe?

Name: Clarissa
Date: 2003-02-11 12:44:15
Link to this Comment: 4541

I forgot to put in my user name. I wrote trying to work out the I-function. Oppps!!!

What tune does your brain play?
Name: Michelle C
Date: 2003-02-11 17:16:02
Link to this Comment: 4545

The extensive discussion we had today in class about serial killers really forced me to critically think about what the real difference between normal persons (non-killers) and serial killers truly was. Clearly we are in no position to answer this question with a collective and agreed upon answer, however there were various ideas posed today that I certainly had not considered before. In regard to the environmental factors that effect behavior, I found an interesting article on info track today that supports "one" of the many possible influences on violent behavior.!xrn_1_0_A20425397?sw_aep=have19984

In reference to the psychical differences in brains, I suggest the following idea: We have all agreed that animals that have "similar" behavior should have "similar" brains. So, if the brain of a normal and a serial killer are at the least similar, maybe it is not the organization of the brain that differs, but the neuronal patterns that determine specific behaviors. If each behavior that we display is caused by a sequence of neuronal output (like a melody), maybe there are distinct melodies for distinct behaviors. If your brain doesn't play the melody "kill...kill" then you are not likely to display this behavior in any situation. Maybe this is what differentiates normal persons from serial killers.

*I know that this sounds a little off the wall but it's just a thought.

i'm interested...
Name: Grace Shin
Date: 2003-02-11 23:22:19
Link to this Comment: 4548

Today's discussion in class really opened my eyes to several topics.

(1) If indeed, brain=behavior, and we could indeed know what details of the brain causes someone to be a serial killer (serial killer open to all motives and what not), I still don't think that the justice system could let that person go free in court. And so, this makes me re-think... do we REALLY WANT to know what difference or similarity causes someone to be a serial killer? Maybe there is a reason why we can't know such things... otherwise, these convicts may go free just because "they can't help it"... and that is scary!

(2) Wow... the discussion on "I" really opened my eyes today. Although I was one of the people who raised her hand for DISAGREEING with Emily Dickinson, and i was so sure that I would not be easily persuaded by this class into thinking this, I can honestly humble myself at this point and say, I need to know more! The idea of the box "I factor" really made me think about what it means when "I MAKE" a choice, "I DID" something, etc. I'm just really stumped at this point because I am not comfortable with the material presented. The pronouns and simple words like conscienceness that we used so freely before is no longer such a simple topic.

(3) So, WHERE IS CHRISTOPHER REEVES?? Well... C Reeves is in that "I" box when he regards himself... but now that brings up the point that to an outsider, Christopher Reeves is not only that one "I" box, but also the entire brain and behavior that he exhibits. So even this issue of identity is not so simple anymore! So to answer the question "IS HE PARALYZED?"... well, to C Reeves himSELF, he is because he can't move his body. But from an outside perspective, he really isn't paralyzed (what IS paralyzed anyway?) because we can see that he moves his foot!!

WHOA... too much to think about at once...

Date: 2003-02-12 01:19:12
Link to this Comment: 4549

With further observations, reasonings, and discussions we have so far came up with the current model on the nervous system. Thus, working with our current model, the idea of quadriplegics such as Christopher Reeves to be able have a reaction or reflex of being pinched yet at the same time unable to sense it is acceptable. According to our model, it is possible to have an output as long as there is an input within the box that produces the output. Since our boxes are interconnected, similar to the complexity of the brain, there must be a disruption between the sensing "box" that let you sense the feeling of being pinched and the reaction "box" which produces the effect of reflex when pinched. Even though there is a disruption this does not mean that since the sensing 'box' has no output then the reaction 'box' has no input or the resulting output. As long as the reaction box has an input, it does not matter whether there is any inputs or outputs in the sensing box, there will be an output. This was the case for Reeves.

Name: Tung
Date: 2003-02-12 01:20:07
Link to this Comment: 4550

Anonymous above is me Tung.

Name: Kelvey
Date: 2003-02-13 08:27:08
Link to this Comment: 4565

To me, the discussion about Christopher Reeve became a issue on semantics and a simple laziness in the use of the English language to reflect what is happening. Since we defined the "I - Function' as the box that can 'initiate output' then 'He' is 'I' by definition of a pronoun (since I am not Christopher Reeve, I must refer to him as 'he' not I). Then when talking about Christopher Reeve and saying "He can not move his foot" is a correct statement as is "His foot can move". In lazy English communication it is common to say "He can not move his foot" without further clarification. It is the quick way of saying it and understood that he can not conciously control the movement of his foot. If someone grabs his foot or moves it or creates a reflex, it moves but 'he', the part that controls output, is not connected to the foot.

moving towards randomness
Name: geoff
Date: 2003-02-13 17:55:05
Link to this Comment: 4585

today i was waiting for the blue bus and noticed a strangely stacked pile of snow, maybe a foot or two high that had been left from shovelling the sidewalk. my first impulse was to kick it over and ruin it, and i stopped and thought to myself how violent that thought had been. my second thought was that my kicking over the pile was just me fulfilling my natural drive towards randomness like all the other dots in the square that i exist in. the violence was a judgement i had superimposed over an act i had no control over, nor had any kind of "want" for...

we have before related the variability in minute structures to the actions that are eventually the result of those structures. how strong are the links b/w our behavior and the patterns of movement of our smallest building blocks? it may be a stretch, but does it seem so far off to say that as a people, we also move towards the greatest possible randomness?

thinking about the randomness made me think that maybe what we see is not randomness at all, but the greatest form of uniformity. each molecule moves randomly but together they make a perfect composition. if i saw a pile of snow like i did, but on a morning where everything was still covered in snow (ie uniform), i would not have wanted to step in the snow, let alone kick over a pile of it.

it is scary for me to think about this, because it suggests a much great force over us. if those molecules could think, they would surely see themselves as moving randomnly, thats all the computer has them doing, and their life span may not be long enough to see it any other way, but they are playing a part in a greater composition.

could this have something to do with our production of serial killers in society? are they deficient in being able to feel the uniformity that "normal" people are in line with (unconsciously), or maybe they play their part a beautifully uniformed pattern we would see if we were able to step back?

week 4
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-02-14 15:03:00
Link to this Comment: 4605

Want to talk some more about randomness? Or about serial killers? Or about action potentials and neurons? Or about .... ? Whatever's on your mind is fine, but if you need something to get you started:

This week we introduced the idea that somewhere inside the nervous system is a smaller box that we called the "I-function". Is this a well-founded concept, in terms of observations? Is it a useful one, in terms of suggesting approachable new questons about the nervous system? about behavior? About the relation between the two?

Name: Shanti
Date: 2003-02-15 15:58:35
Link to this Comment: 4612

I've been thinking about what we've discused so far serial killers. I feel like we're groping for answers that would help us feel as though that there must be an extreme difference between us and serial killers because we all are positive that none of us would be capable of killing. Yet I don't like how we've been thinking about it. It seems that we need to identify them as so different and that they must be mentally disturbed or insane to perform these acts. In our legal system, a defendent can please mental insanity. If killing stems from insanity why is it that not all of our serial killers about being committed? Why are there so many who are found guilty? If they are lacking something, why is it then we treat them as though they were fully aware of their actions and intentions. It is because you don't have to have a damaged brain to make decisions that hurt others. I believe that a number of serial killers are calculated people who not only have the intelligence but also a sense of right and wrong. We want to say that we all have free will since all humans inherently have this. Then if we are all make our own choices, why do some choose to kill, because with this argument, they are choosing this. I'm not saying that some people haven't been damaged by their environment and past experiences, but you can't blame all actions on a person's background and things happening to them. Are we so incabable of molding our own lives that we depend on things happenening to us? And on that note, what about being held accountable for your actions?

Serial Killers
Name: Elizabeth
Date: 2003-02-16 14:58:03
Link to this Comment: 4619

There seems to be social links between specific serial killers which may either stem from having suffered similar brain damage or which may transcend that idea altogether. Often, serial killers live an isolated life, are of a comparable age when they begin killing, and share obsessive tendencies. Also, many serial killers are white males. Of course, these general traits are not true in every instance. For example, a serial killer from my hometown was married and appeared to live a "normal" life. And, of course, there are plenty middle aged obsessive white males who live alone and are not serial killers. I just found it interesting that the majority of serial killers can be linked by a common behaviorial thread beyoned their compulsion to kill.

Serial Killers
Name: Elizabeth
Date: 2003-02-16 14:58:11
Link to this Comment: 4620

There seems to be social links between specific serial killers which may either stem from having suffered similar brain damage or which may transcend that idea altogether. Often, serial killers live an isolated life, are of a comparable age when they begin killing, and share obsessive tendencies. Also, many serial killers are white males. Of course, these general traits are not true in every instance. For example, a serial killer from my hometown was married and appeared to live a "normal" life. And, of course, there are plenty middle aged obsessive white males who live alone and are not serial killers. I just found it interesting that the majority of serial killers can be linked by a common behaviorial thread beyoned their compulsion to kill.

Name: Amelia Tur
Date: 2003-02-16 15:59:19
Link to this Comment: 4621

I've been thinking about the serial killer issue and have been trying to relate it to what I've learned in my anthro classes; I don't know if this has any relavence or is correct or not, but here it goes. Humans are social creatures and live in social groups. As we live in communities, we must either choose to follow the rules, laws, and customs of those communities, or not follow those rules, etc. and face the consequences. Most humans will follow the rules, etc. of their particular community or incur only minor infractions. With serial killers in American society, though, the killers do not follow the rules, etc. of their communities. I don't think that there is a hard and fast rule about the differences between serial killers and "normal" Americans; some might have differences within their brains that would lead them to kill, while others seem to simply choose to kill people and have no apparent differences withing their brains.
I know that I cannot make across the board assumptions about other cultures and their views on serial killers, but I have done some research into the Fore of New Guinea who have been known cannibals in the past. I know in their society, they did not go around killing people simply to eat them. Eating the dead was a ritualized act; they would eat their enemies which they killed in battle to gain their power. They would eat dead family members to honor them and show them respect. While the human flesh did add a valuable protein element to their diet, they viewed cannibalism as a ritualistic practice, not something to be reviled.

Name: Tiffany Li
Date: 2003-02-16 20:36:38
Link to this Comment: 4628

After having done the eye/finger experiment in class, I agree that somewhere inside the nervous system there is an "I-function" box. It was obvious that the nervous system was capable of accomplishing outputs that we could not or that our "I-function" could not. Therefore there must be a net distinction between what we do and what our nervous system does on its own. I think that this is somewhat frightening because it becomes more difficult to determine what part of our behaviour is really caused/controlled by our own selves. If our nervous system is capable of performing complex outputs without us realizing it, is our normal behaviour really the result of what we want it to be or a mixture of our I-function and the rest of our nervous system? Are we who we think we are or are we simply the product of our nervous system? The traditional understanding of responsibility is that we are directly responsible for our voluntary actions and indirectly responsible for things that happen to us. If our behaviour is not completely controlled by our I-function, people could blame their abnormal behaviour on their nervous systems and no longer be held responsible for any of their actions. Where does responsiblity lie if we are no longer liable for our behaviours?

serial killer
Name: Rachel
Date: 2003-02-16 22:24:01
Link to this Comment: 4630

Upon hearing the following statement mentioned in class, I became rather skeptical:

"Compare your brain with a serial killer's brain, and you may find it to be very similar or almost identical to yours."

On a gross scale, our brains may look the same as those of serial killers. Even a serial killer's amygdala, where aggression is rooted, could prove to be almost the exact same size as ours. However, it seems to me that it would be a bit of a generalization to assume that our brains are similar or identical to those of serial killers when taking the small-scale factors into consideration: How do we know for sure that the chemical compositions inside of our brains are comparable to those of the serial killers? How does one even begin to measure the precise chemical composition of a serial killer's brain in comparison to ours without some degree of uncertainty? I am just not convinced that we have the technological capability today to be able to measure the chemical compositions of 2 brains and say that they are very similar or exactly alike.

Civilization and Serial Killers
Name: Annabela R
Date: 2003-02-16 23:49:18
Link to this Comment: 4632

I find it very interesting to trace the parallel between the development of civilization and serial killers. If you conduct some rudimentary research it becomes eerily apparent that the most civilized societies have the highest rate of serial killers. The United States on average has 30 serial killers 'operating.' Serial killers first became an apparent phenomenon in the Renaissance. Commonly, most serial killers come from the upper class. The more notorious serial killers are usually the wealthiest, or most intelligent members of society. What does this say about society, or man? More importantly what does this imply about the development of the brain.
As man, and thus civilization has progressed so have certain portions of the brain. Essentially this development of brain areas is what puts the human animal at the top of the food chain. Could it be supposed that what has spawned the greatest works of man, is also responsible for the more gruesome urges of man? If this is so, what separates us from a serial killer? It seems not much.

more serial killers.
Name: Kathleen F
Date: 2003-02-17 01:24:23
Link to this Comment: 4633

The serial killer debate has me running around in circles. A serial killer's behavior is different than mine. Therefore, if brain = behavior, a serial killer's brain is different than mine. Because a serial killer's brain is different from anyone else's brain, just like their behavior differs, and brain = behavior, no decision making, "free will", or rational can change the state of a serial killer's mind (whether they're born that way or received head trauma in childhood, etc.) So what does this mean regarding the legal system and it's treatment of serial killers? Someone in class said, "Are we just supposed to let them run around killing people?" which, of course, is ridiculous, but should they be put to death or imprisoned for life because of something that's completely a propos to the brain, something that can't be controlled by free will?

Name: Luz Martin
Date: 2003-02-17 11:29:08
Link to this Comment: 4635

I have to say that I don't have a problem putting myself in that same category as serial killers; at least I don't think that I have seen enough evidence to suggest that my brain is completely different. The way I see it is that if Christopher Reeves can move his foot when you pinch his toe and he says his foot didn't move, then how do I know what my nervous system is capable of if my I-function can't detect it? As for free will, I don't think I have seen enough of the nervous system to know what it is capable of and to know how independent the I-function is.

Name: Andrea
Date: 2003-02-17 11:38:05
Link to this Comment: 4636

Brain Scans Reflect Problem Solving Skill

Name: Maria
Date: 2003-02-17 13:57:05
Link to this Comment: 4638

I've been wondering about the development of an I-function in humans and how it relates to the idea that the brain contains the sum total of human consciousness. Why would the brain create an identity that is totally unaware of some of the functions the bosy is performing, like Christopher Reeve being unaware his foot is moving? I know his brain sustained significant trauma, but the same thing occurs on a smaller scale in all humans. What purpose, if any, does this serve in furthuring our species? Does it really assist in our survival, considering all the complications that arise in human civilization as a result of consciousness and self-awareness? Maybe the I-function developed in humans to deal with those issues that have nothing to do with our immediate physical survival.

Name: Clare
Date: 2003-02-17 15:28:13
Link to this Comment: 4640

Even after this whole discussion about the "I" function, I still feel like I cannot fully grasp how it works exactly. When I think of consciousness and free will, these concepts are not tangible to me. However, if we are to think of the "I" function as our conciousness and free will etc. and as part of the nervous system and, therefore, as a set of interconnecting nuerons connected to the rest of the nervous system, then again I am confronted by the conflict between tangible things controlling intangible things. I guess the whole concept of the "I" function still seems pretty vague to me. For example, in Christopher Reeves' situation, even though his foot moved without him doing it on his own or acknowledging it happening, there was obviously a break in the connection between this signal and the signal that went to tell his brain what was happening or a disruption where he could send out the signal to make his foot move. But does this necessarily imply that his "I" function was disconnected and is ultimately the center of all free will and consciousness?

The New Box
Name: Marissa Li
Date: 2003-02-17 15:42:33
Link to this Comment: 4641

I thought that the whole concept of the I-function was quite interesting, and made a lot of sense. Though I do find weight in what Elizabeth was saying regarding us not wanting to be the same as serial killers, the whole notion of the I-function is that there is yet another difference in every persons brain.
In discussions on brain and behavior, we have decided that their interconnection may be physically similar, but stimulus, lifestyle, and genetics have had individuals affects on every person. I the I-function is another box within a box, than its just an elaboration on everything we have already discussed. It is just another reason to believe that the brain's activity vary among different people.
I consciousness even traceble. If the nervous system controls everything anyways, than how are we aware of our conscienceness in the first place. The I-function to me, us just another contributing part of the nervous system that we cannot fully understand because by "knowing" what it is, we are deciphering it through our own conscienceness which is exactly what it controls.

I function
Name: Cordelia S
Date: 2003-02-17 17:16:10
Link to this Comment: 4642

Here is my problem with the I-function. It seems a little drastic to separate one's consciousness (I-functio) from the rest of one's body and actions so completely. Whether we are talking about Christopher Reeve consciously moving his toe or having his toe moved by another person, it is still his toe that is moving. So how can we say he is not moving his toe, when in one sense he so obviously is? If an animal to whom we do not attribute the phenomenon of consciousness does something, are THEY not really the ones doing it? When bugs gather food, THEY are gathering food. However, would we say that they have such a complex thing as an I-function in their miniscule nervous systems that let THEM actually consciously control their movements in the way we do when we move our feet?
Also, humans have some behaviors that are not conscious, but that we still attribute to ourselves, even to our brains. How can we ignore the phenomenon of dreaming? When we dream, WE are dreaming. This is the only possibility, since no one else can dream for us in the way that they can move our toes. We call these dreams something that WE have, and yet the I-function can have little to do with them. This brings me to my point of confusion: are we possibly just arguing semantics when we talk about the I-function? I think it is possible that there is no inherent compulsion that makes us use language in a way where "I did this" means one thing and not the other. Therefore, when Christopher Reeve denies moving his foot as he watches HIS FOOT moving, is this not merely a product of the language he has been taught, as opposed to some definite line between "I" and "not I"?

Split "I"s?
Name: Sarah
Date: 2003-02-17 19:57:35
Link to this Comment: 4644

I think Cordelia makes an important point. It seems that by "I-function" we simply mean "the part that speaks." I am doing my web paper on split-brain consciousness -- I'll say a little bit about that here.

One of the most interesting phenomena associated with people who, for medical reasons, have had the two hemispheres of their brains separated, is that those hemisphere act completely independently of each other. The right side of the brain controls language; the left side is mute. If a split-brain person sees something only with his right eye (left side), he cannot say what it is. Even more interesting is, if you cover his left eye, show him a lock, and tell him to pick up the object associated with what you've shown him, he will pick up a key. But if you ask him what he picked up, he will say he doesn't know. The left side obviously knows; the right side obviously doesn't. This makes sense the same way Christopher Reeve makes sense: the language center, the part of the brain capable of answering, receives no information from the side that saw the lock and picked up the key. So it can't comment on that.
But did he pick up the key?
Does he know what he picked up? Obviously, because he had to associate it with a lock in order to pick it up to begin with. But can he say anything about it? No. Where is the "I" in this case? By "I function" are we really just referring to the part that talks? And if we are, are we saying that the part that talks is the only determiner of consciousness?

Name: alexandra
Date: 2003-02-17 23:19:49
Link to this Comment: 4645

While I found the concept of the "I-function" very valuable, I wondered about the location of this function. The existence of this function seems plausible because there are many activities in which people definitely feel a responsibility for or an awareness of and also activities, which are in some way or another separate from this consciousness. To me these conscious activities seem like they register with the "I-function" through a connection to the I-function box. For example, while the activity of the typing this forum response connects to the "I-function" box or boxes, the activity of dreaming does not activate the connection to the function. Although the dreamer claims that he was the one who was dreaming this lack of distinction is more a problem of language than a problem of the lack of differences between the two experiences.
Anyway to get to my problem or question, I was wondering where the location of the "I-function." Is there only one box for the "I-function?" What would happen if that location on the brain were damaged? Would the consciousness and sense of self of that individual disappear? Because this seems like an uncommon occurrence, it seems likely that there must be several locations of the "I-function."

Name: Nicole
Date: 2003-02-17 23:21:13
Link to this Comment: 4646

I've been taking some of this extra time due to the snow day to catch up on outside reading...To any who have not yet read Descartes Error by Antonio Damasio, you should check it out. It covers almost every topic we have discussed in class thus far and will clarify some of the scientific reasoning behind many of the questions raised in the weekly forum and in class! Related to our discussion about serial killers, Damasio writes, "We need to understand the nature of these human beings whose actions can be destructive to themselves and to others, if we are to solve humanely the problems they pose. Neither incarceration nor the death penlty--among the responses that society currently offers for those individuals--contribute to our understanding or solve the problem. In fact, we should take the question further and inquire about our own responsibility when we 'normal' individuals slip into the irrationality that marked Phineas Gage's [subject of a study in the book] great fall." Some classmate have expressed similar ideas and it was interesting to see them in print and backed up with case studies.

Name: Christine
Date: 2003-02-17 23:39:26
Link to this Comment: 4648

The I-function making up its own box is an interesting topic. I believe that it's quite possible for it to be set aside from other function boxes in the nervous system. The example with Christopher Reeves is a great one since while it is he who is moving his toe, he is not at all aware of the fact that it is happening. There seems to be some kind of missing link in the signals there.

I think that it's important to acknowledge this I-function box in order to realize the significance of words like "consciousness", "self" and perhaps the meanings behind the intentions that some people have. Cannot the I-function then be held somewhat responsible for temporary insanity, as is seen as a plea for some serial killer/criminal cases? Many people are aware of their "self" and can usually distinguish dream from reality. Maybe this incontinuity between boxes, somehow not touching the I-function box, can explain lapses in judgment and what is considered to be conscious action of an individual.

Collective Consciousness
Name: Tung
Date: 2003-02-18 01:45:26
Link to this Comment: 4649

Ever since the introduction of the I-function into our model of the nervous system, I have alot of questions in mind. Although we have barely touched the topic of the relationship between the I-function and the so call human's consciousness, I was very intrigue to know whether there is any relationship between the two. My question currently is more specically whether consciousness is an advance form of the the I-function. I have research the internet for various perspectives on what the human's consciousness is. In doing so, my hope was to see whether any relationship existed between the I-function and consciousness. Well, my research so far have led me to an even more interesting topic: the collective consciousness. This site gives a very informative background for the initial understanding of the collective consciousness that I would like to share with you all: Just paste and copy that site onto your browser and it should work. I've also stumble upon another website: This site is about a global research project that is trying to "measure" the collective consciousness in/of the world by collecting responses and emotions of people, representatives for certain part of the world, to specific events (ex. 9/11). With further research, hopefully I can share with you all any substantial informations on this topic.

I think, therefore I am???
Name: Erin
Date: 2003-02-18 04:30:20
Link to this Comment: 4650

I am grateful to Nicole for reminding me of the extraordinary case of Phineas Gage! Although I have not read Descartes' Error, I am aware that the author suggests that Descartes' mistake was his belief that the mind and body are separate entities. Damasio suggests, instead, that the collaboration between mind and body is essential for consciousness and individuality. Phineas Gage's accident (wherein an iron rod violently passed through his frontal lobe) resulted, not in physical malfunction but rather in extreme personality alterations. After reading Nicole's comment and a bit about Gage, I decided to investigate the regions of the brain purportedly responsible for emotion. I discovered that specific cortical and subcortical forebrain structures, often referred to as the limbic system, play a significant role in mediating emotional and motivated behavior as well as memory storage. However, as lovely as it is to have discovered the name of this system (which would seem to be intimately connected with the I-function), I still have many, many questions and many concerns. If there are portions of the brain, which exist as identifiable representations of human emotion, can these portions be stimulated by non-traumatic occurrences? Without such realities as trauma or physical abuse that may lead to personality disturbances and emotional illness, are there inputs that can account for such phenomena as serial killers? I hope not to take Damasio's beliefs as definitive, but the equation of brain with behavior certainly does seem substantiated and exemplified by such a case as that of Phineas Gage.

Name: enor wagne
Date: 2003-02-18 05:42:20
Link to this Comment: 4651

Although we have discussed the input / output system in accordance with brain function, we have only discussed controlled input partially. What accounts for the differences seen in behaviors when an input is no longer merely a natural input unaffected by substance? When an input is mixed with something chemical such as a drug (prescription or other) or alchohol, often that substance will affect behavior. For instance, when driving a car without having ingested chemicals, a deer running out into the road normally would cause a sharp reflex sent from the brain to slam on the breaks. However, when a chemical substance has entered the body, reflexes may be slower, and may cause a person to hit that deer. If the brain did not affect behavior, than why would a chemical whose effects can be traced inside the brain affect the actions of a person. Another example we talked about in class was seratonin. It is often given to chemically depressed people who cannot produce enough to keep their brain chemically satisfied, however the effects of the drug can be easily seen through their behavior. They appear happier, they sometimes become less isolated or suicidal, their emotions are less easily brought out. The fact that chemicals which affect the brain commonly affect behavior aswell should represent a bridge of evidence between the brain and behavior.

Name: enor wagne
Date: 2003-02-18 05:42:28
Link to this Comment: 4652

Although we have discussed the input / output system in accordance with brain function, we have only discussed controlled input partially. What accounts for the differences seen in behaviors when an input is no longer merely a natural input unaffected by substance? When an input is mixed with something chemical such as a drug (prescription or other) or alchohol, often that substance will affect behavior. For instance, when driving a car without having ingested chemicals, a deer running out into the road normally would cause a sharp reflex sent from the brain to slam on the breaks. However, when a chemical substance has entered the body, reflexes may be slower, and may cause a person to hit that deer. If the brain did not affect behavior, than why would a chemical whose effects can be traced inside the brain affect the actions of a person. Another example we talked about in class was seratonin. It is often given to chemically depressed people who cannot produce enough to keep their brain chemically satisfied, however the effects of the drug can be easily seen through their behavior. They appear happier, they sometimes become less isolated or suicidal, their emotions are less easily brought out. The fact that chemicals which affect the brain commonly affect behavior aswell should represent a bridge of evidence between the brain and behavior.

my thoughts this week
Name: Kate
Date: 2003-02-18 22:30:11
Link to this Comment: 4666

Everyone keeps referring to "the" I-function in the human body. However, from the evidence we have observed, it seems quite apparent to me that there cannot be only one. If the I-function is defined as something which can report an internal state and possibly use this information to create outputs and/or actions, then Mr. Reeves must have some kind of I-function in the lower part of his body which observed the pain in his toe and "decided" to move the foot. I do not think the issue is speaking but rather some type of internal reporting mechanism. The conventional thinking on this topic is that his reaction was simply a reflex requiring no thought, but working from the definition of the I-function as I understand it now, it fits the criteria.

This idea is also supported by Sarah's post about split-brain function. There must be at least one separate I-function in each the left and right side of the brain when they are split. The left side of the brain, although it cannot verbally voice it's processed thought, demonstrates and communicates its I-function by picking up the key. What is the difference between the function that moves the big toe, the function that picks up the key, and the function which is able to speak? These each seem like very distinct functions to me, and it seems that some I-functions must be able to reach a greater level of sophistication than others. Perhaps there could be some sort of hierarchy of I-functions to sort out the vagueness. This raises the idea that there may be a supreme, ultimate level of consciousness and awareness. Nirvana, maybe?

And how many I-functions are there in the human brain? If the nervous system is not cut off or broken apart do separate I-functions still exist? Does this mean separate identities? Do people with multiple personality disorder channel into completely different I-function boxes at different times?

The eye tracking experiment also made me think about another facet of behavior in relation to the I-function. There are clearly some actions (like smooth eye-tracking) which exist without going through an I-function box. There are times in which we truly do not have control over ourselves. We must breathe, we must react. But wait, isn't breathing and reacting caused by some sort of observation and reaction which is an I-function, albeit perhaps a much less sophisticated one? I am very confused on this point. Where does reflex end and self begin?

My last thought is about the serial killer debate. The way I visualize the situation is this. A person is standing suspended on a board above the water. Jumping in the water is like make the decision to kill. All of the factors like brain damage, environment, abuse, etc. are piled on top of the person. The weight can become so heavy that jumping off would be a an extreme relief, but the person still makes the decision about what he or she will choose to endure.

But I also can visualize the situation in which there is no choice. The weight could become so heavy that the board supporting the person breaks, the I-function is bypassed, and he or she helplessly drowns. This to me seems to support the view that our criminal justice system has things right...some murderers may have been criminally insane, but others did make a cold-blooded decision to kill.

The article about metal buildup in the brain being a very important factor in creating aggression was very interesting, but I can still see how it would fit into this scenario. The book I am reading now (Awakening the Buddhist Heart by Lama Surya Das) describes every thought, attitude, or action as creating an imprint in the mind. Repeating the action creates a deeper groove, until eventually there is a deep channel of habit connected with a certain attitude or course of action in the process of thought. I can see how if certain channels are nurtured and grow in a person that certain chemicals like lead or whatever could tend to buildup by way of certain channels in the neurons. I feel the same way about many mental diseases...depression, etc. I am not proposing that environmental concerns do not matter, or that in every case people make decisions which lead to mental disorders, but merely that I hold on to the notion that each of us has a great deal of freedom in shaping the chemistry of our own brains.

I Function Location
Name: Patricia P
Date: 2003-02-18 23:31:24
Link to this Comment: 4667

It seems very understandable that so many of us would tackle the "I- function." I think that many of us, at least from what I have read in the forum and what I think myself, are concerned with mapping a location in which our truest identity can exist. If the "I-function" exists in the nervous system, and we believe that a reasonable summary of observations leads us to believe it is above the spinal chord, then it must be even more identifiable than that. Therefore, if we can locate this "I-function" which exists within the nervous system, and then destroy that section of our nervous system, are we now completely diffrent people? Do we have no "true" identity? Is the "stuff" that makes us feel like the center of the universe contained in one myriad of neurons in the nervous system?

I know this question has been tackled many times in science, psychology, and philosophy. How much of a person can you remove or replace before you view them as a diffrent person? Where do you draw the line? It may be a question of symantics, but I feel that it is a lot more than that. I'm not quite sure why, but placing the "I-function" within the nervous system threatens and unravels ones faith in a soul or in any sort of "I". It challenges the idea of heading to an after life. If everything that we are can be found within the nervous system, then there is nothing greater waiting for us, no rainbow after the rain, and no other level of existence beyond death.

And so, I guess the question of the "I-function" is what I find most perplexing, because each time I see the "I-function" inside our "Input-Output box," my vision of immortality, (which I think most people who believe in something after death posses) becomes immediately threatened.

However, this question of the "I-function," as silly as this may sound, has inspired me to sincerely treat my body better. A lot better, in fact. What if all we are is within our nervous system? Why does that threaten me so much? That isn't even such a bad alternative to the prospect of a soul, it is still individual and within us. I think while I continue to grow as a spiritual being, I will stop placing my conception of the afterlife on a pedestal so high above my blood-pressure, my eating habits, and lastly, my body.

The question of the "I-function" demands so much of a person's collected beliefs on life, that I feel we must discuss its' placement inside the nervous system first, even if we arrive at the conclusion that we must chalk it up to symantics.

Name: Ingrid
Date: 2003-02-19 03:45:14
Link to this Comment: 4668

Yesterday morning I was listening to a program about addiction on npr & I couldn't help relate it to the "I" function. Addiction is a behavior where the "I" function seems rendered helpless. Although the addict knows that s/he performs the behavior and can feel the consequences (unlike Reeves and his toe), s/he cannot control that behavior (more like blinking, breathing). Yet "I" function does have some part in addictive behavior--experience, personality, the intangible stuff of individuality all contribute to addiction. What is more, a person can overcome an addictive behavior. A person can retrain the trigger for the addictive behavior output, but not every person does so successfully (so can they?).

Sarah writes: "By "I function" are we really just referring to the part that talks? And if we are, are we saying that the part that talks is the only determiner of consciousness?"
Can we trust ourselves and use our internal "I" functions, for observations? How does do "I" know anything about "you"? Any observation of another person's "I" function must involve communication. I don't think this need be limited to speech/oral communication; writing, body language, facial expression, gestures/movement, can all indicate there is an "I" in there somewhere. When a person chooses not to communicate, or perhaps cannot help but not communicate, does this mean their "I" function is gone? No. We have interior monologue, and know that other people have it also; we admit to thinking things we don't speak.

The addictive bit of the "I" function--where is control? Is control voluntary or involuntary? Is control pathways that have been trained to carry out impulses a certain way, what we deem the "correct" way, and is absence of control/ aberrant behavior impulses carried out a different way? So where do serial killers, exhibiting aberrant behavior, fit? And isn't it interesting that we keep looking at exceptions, special cases, post-trauma accidents, whatever is not normal, to try to figure out what is normal? Does "normal" get under anyone else's skin?

Phantom Limbs
Name: Patty
Date: 2003-02-19 17:55:00
Link to this Comment: 4677

I know that I was told we would discuss this later, but I got to wondering what implications this phenomenon (phantom limbs) might have on the "brain (or nervous system) = behavior." Our mind is capable of experiencing something that the nervous system does not. Can this be explained with similar rational used for the existance of a dream, or does the existance of phantom limbs begin to collect evidence in favor of the mind being seperate from that of the nervous system? I feel as if people who have, for example, a leg amputated due to a battle wound, show us that the mind and the body can completely disagree with one another, and in this way supporting that they may be seperate.

I also wonder how we would handle this situation when relating it to the "I-function." If a person has a pain in their leg, only they no longer have that leg, do "they" still have a pain in there leg. This is basically the opposite of the Christopher Reeves situation, but yet it aises interesting questions because it can be treated in 2 ways; by psychological therapy OR with medicine (some tests show improvement with actual medication, and others with placebos.) I just want to understand if this posses an even greater problem with our Brain=Behavior and our "I-function" within our nervous system.

Name: andrea
Date: 2003-02-19 20:23:34
Link to this Comment: 4682

Our bodies are perpetually sending demands to our brains which are fulfilled without our being aware of it and there is no way that "we" could handle the continuous actions of our nervous systems. Similarly, Christopher Reeve withdrawing his foot is an immediate natural reaction that needn't (and shouldn't) require the approval of the "I" function. I don't think we have to worry about loss of free will just because our nervous systems have control over some things that we ourselves do not.

potential, and traveling ions
Name: Katherine
Date: 2003-02-19 20:47:38
Link to this Comment: 4683

The I-function idea generates so many interesting thoughts and questions! What I've been thinking about is the energy and "wiring" that enables such a function to exist. For neurons to fire, electrons must move; for this motion, there needs to be a potential difference—a battery—that will supply energy...

But where is the beginning of the batteries, where is the initial potential? Our nervous system is sending electrical signals; And—we talked about how it is not "matter" that is being transmitted, but "information."

My question right now is in figuring out where we can draw the line between "matter" and "information." Are we talking about a "tangible vs. intangible" issue, where matter is tangible and information is not? This would introduce interesting questions about the connection of mind and body, raising again the voices of Descartes and Phineas Gage.

But, it seems that any "information" being transmitted (as opposed to "matter") is actually an informative electrical signal consisting of traveling ions. Aren't ions material? (Maybe, though, it is not the actual ions that move, but only their POTENTIAL that travels). However, it seems that this traveling information must have some aspect of matter because it relies upon the body's topography and upon complete connectivity of the nervous system in order to relay successful messages-- (ie, the I-function of Christopher Reeve did not get the message because a connectivity had been severed...)

Electrical signals also take TIME to be transmitted. Does this then point to a certain materiality?

Name: Neela Thir
Date: 2003-02-19 21:03:33
Link to this Comment: 4684

Kate's question about the I-function and multiple personalities caught my attention. The disorder lends one to beleive that because multiple and distinct "I"s can control one nervous system, there must be more than one I-function, or perhaps, the I-function has more than one set of perspective possibilities. Does one personality have different neural pathways than another? Perhaps we all have the potential for multiple "I"s or I-boxes, but we supress them, thus limiting or blocking certain behaviors and brain activities.

Name: Kat McCorm
Date: 2003-02-19 22:53:47
Link to this Comment: 4688

I really enjoyed patricia's post on the spiritual development of a person who is evolving to treat their body as if it contains thier personage and soul- this idea seems to coincide with another of the observation (by Erin) about Damasio's book Descates' Error wherin Damasio implies that Descartes error is in separating mind and body so fully.

Just to bring another interdisciplinary note to the "I" function discussion, I was thinking about a course in poetry I took last year and how the class had a discussion over the "I" presented in poetry, and its relationship to the "you" of poetry, and how these two intities are sometimes intersecting and sometimes seperable from the intities of "poet" and "reader" and the relationship between them. "I" does not necessarily equal "poet", and sometimes these two entities may not even be related within one poem. Because the "I" is a creation of the "poet", it represents only a selection of what she chooses to present of herself. In this equation, I suppose that the "poet" of this model is best represented by the "I" function of our discussions. So then, where is the subset of the "poet", the "I" presented in our discussion? Just another thought on multiple selfhood.

serial killers and free will
Name: nicole j
Date: 2003-02-19 23:01:59
Link to this Comment: 4689

I do not mean to bring up serial killers again, but I think that the example is a little bit extreme. I do feel that there is a difference between the brains of normal people and the brains of serial killers. Furthermore, I strongly believe that the difference is not related to a serial killer structure or a certain imbalance, but rather the lack of a filter. (I mentioned this in class). A different analogy would be a comparison of how different people react to frustrating situations while driving. Imagine travelling down Lancaster Ave and some other person does something annoying that potentially puts you at risk. Some individuals may yell, others may honk their horn, and others may give the person the finger. I think all of those behaviors are reasonable. I personally just yell obscenities in the car because I do not think that giving the finger is appropriate or necessary. The response that a person displays is a function of what they think is an appropriate and acceptable response to the input that they received. Depending on the environment that a person was in while they were growing up, different responses are appropriate. However, there are individuals that feel that horn honking and other outlets are not enough. These are the individuals that display road rage and may tailgate a person, follow them to their destination, or occasionally pull out a gun and try to shoot the other driver. In all cases, one person is clearly frustrated, but the responses differ even though the emotions experienced may be similar. Some individuals may have a properly functioning filter that prevents the emergence of certain unacceptable behaviors. Nothing really new here, but I just wanted to take it down a level.

And on a completely different note. I think I am becoming a non-believer of free will (Courtesy of talks with Kelvey). I do think it's a little depressing that what we call choices may simply be a response or output that occurs as a result of a tremendous amount of input. I guess I find comfort in the fact that the amount of input needed to make a choice, display free will, or assert our autonomy is so great that we cannot be reduced to a computer that just reacts to the world around it. However, since input can be generated inside the box, I guess there is more to life than just reacting. I think there may be a bit of fiddling with semantics to feel better about that which we don't fully understand.

abnormal behavior and mental illness
Name: Cordelia S
Date: 2003-02-20 20:18:11
Link to this Comment: 4734

I was somewhat baffled today in class to hear that so many people think that all people are responsible for their own behaviors. I would like to argue that there are disorders which a large percentage of the population suffer from that drastically affect behavior (since they affect the brain), and that these disorders, and thus behaviors, cannot justly be considered the fault of the people that have and do them. I am speaking from experience: I have a mother who suffers from bipolar disorder, who spent my entire childhood behaving irrationally. And, for most of my childhood, I hated her for it. Because I could not see that she was physically ill, I felt that she had control over her behaviors. This is a common theme in our society's perception of the mentally ill. We do not blame someone with cancer for being tired and in pain, but we're quick to call someone with major depression selfish, whiney, or lazy. The separation between what we consider "physical" and "mental" illnesses, however, is an extraordinarily fuzzy line. We CAN see physical symptoms in sufferers of many mental illnesses, but these symptoms are inside the brain and not on display. I treated my mother's illness like a character flaw. Trust me, her behavior WAS frightening and abnormal, and since these behaviors were her symptoms, I couldn't see that there was something biological causing her to behave so hurtfully. I won't go into some of my more painful memories, but she tried to buy a house in France during one manic episode (we live in Pittsburgh and do NOT have money or a need for a house in France), and accused me of having an affair with my father when she was depressed. After she got electroshock therapy, she forgot who I was for a couple of weeks. And for those of you who suggested in class that mental illness has some connection to income or intelligence, my mom has an MD and a PhD from Harvard, and is now a psychiatrist after a decade of teaching history at Rice University. Her IQ and her position could not protect her from what happened to her brain, however. It has taken me years to realize that she did not do these things on purpose. She was in treatment and doing everything she could be doing to get better, and she just wasn't. It was NOT HER FAULT. I use my own experience as an example of how out of control behavior can get. This was not some sort of character flaw of my mother's. It did not happen because she was weak. It happened because of genetic factors and chemical imbalances. Unfortunately, mental illness is so stigmatized in our society that most peple don't understand that. Most people also don't know that there are 280,000 people with major mental illnesses (schizophrenia, bipolar, major depression, etc.) in jails and only 70,000 in hospitals. About 26% of diagnosed schizophrenic jail inmates have access to ANY TYPE of treatment for their illness. When these people have delusions or hallucinogenic episodes, they are frequently put in restraints or solitary confinement. Neither of these "treatments" are very helpful for someone going through the hell of a schizophrenic episode. Want to talk about serial killers? Fine. Jeffrey Dahmer was put in jail in '88 for molesting a child. However, despite the concern of his family and several mental health professionals about his mental health, our system decided he did not need treatment. Dahmer spent the next few years killing, dismembering, and eating at least 17 people. Perhaps if we acknowledged the severe impact of mental illness on behavior, we would provide people like Dahmer with the treatment they need, and prevent such behavior. However, because so many people are willing to treat mental illness like a bad excuse for doing something wrong, we get nowhere in our prevention attempts. So, who do I think should be held responsible when people who are severely mentally ill commit terrible crimes? Us. Our justice system, our attitudes toward the mentally ill, our unwillingness to provide cheap and accessible treatment, our HMOs that carve out their mental health coverage to companies like Magellan, who keep people in treatment for about as much time as it takes to explain why you're their. Until we can actually provide for our sick, we can't morally hold them responsible for behaviors which are caused by their illnesses. Don't believe that the behaviors ARE caused by these illnesses? Check out the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Or read Kay Jamison's An Unquiet Mind, or Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. These extremely intelligent women do a really effective job of showing just how much control a mental illness can take over your life.
Having a mental illness can be life threatening, ostracizing, hellish and terrifying. Perhaps the worst thing about it, though, is having to deal with the majority of the world thinking it is your fault.

on depression and ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-02-20 21:21:32
Link to this Comment: 4735

Having experienced several significant depressive episodes in my own life, I can personally testify to the reality of their being states of the brain over which one does not in fact have immediate personal control. And to the importance of having around one at such times people who understand, sympathize with, and are able/willing to help in such circumstances. As Cordelia (and others in the course) have noted, there is a need for a widespread change in attitudes toward "mental illness" (cf. Depression ... Or (better?) Thinking About Mood, in addition to the resources Cordelia lists). We'll get back to this later in the course, when we'll have the needed better handle both on mood and on the I-function (yes, action potentials and related things are relevant). I look forward to thinking more about these issues together, and would be pleased if we can collectively help in their being better understood not only among us, but in the population at large.

The I-function
Name: Alanna (or
Date: 2003-02-22 11:32:22
Link to this Comment: 4752

The concept of the I-function is extremely intriguing, yet still difficult for me to grasp. After our class discussions, I came to the conclusion that it is a "box" within the nervous system which contains and controls our consciousness, thoughts, feelings, etc. that is connected to all of the other boxes in the nervous system which control motor and sensory function. Okay, sounds simple enough in that sense. However, when I really think about it, I don't really believe that the range of our thoughts, emotions, and consciousness can be completely contained within that little box, the I-function. It just can't be -- it seems too darn limiting. Even if the I-function exists, I think that there is much more to it then we now think. To me, it seems ridiculous that the nervous system would store such information in the I-function and only keep it there, because if it (the I-function) were to be damaged or destroyed, then where else would our existing consciousness come from? There has to be another place, or many more places where such information is stored. Humans are not robots or computers - our awareness of existence and consciousness cannot possibly depend entirely on one little box in the brain. A computer, for example, depends entirely on its CPU to function and process information. If the CPU doesn't function properly, then neither does the computer -- unlike a human nervous system, a computer has relatively few or no resources to readjust itself to such damage so that it can still find another way to function. Once its system is down, it is down. The human nervous system is so intricate and complex that it can find other ways to function as normally as possible even when part of it is damaged, even if the supposed I-function is damaged. I know this all may seem very roundabout and vague, but my point is this: if there is an I-function responsible for consciousness and thought, then we really need to reconstruct our image of it--I think that there is so much more to it than we realize. On the other hand, if the I-function isn't really there, then something else is responsible for our consciousness. Exactly what that is, I couldn't even begin to describe such a phenomenon. I just feel that in terms of I-function and consciousness, there is something "more".

one more thing
Name: Alanna
Date: 2003-02-22 11:58:04
Link to this Comment: 4754

Cordelia Stearns' last comment holds a very important message that I think anyone and everyone who sees it should read it. And if you're just skimming, at least read the very last sentence. She sums it up right there. She stated what I at this time cannot, for the most part because it is sometimes too painful to talk about with other people. I have been (and still continue) to go through similar painful experiences with some very close family members of mine. Yes, mental illness is still indeed misunderstood and looked down upon by society. Those who haven't walked in your shoes and/or just don't understand will blame the suffering individual for abnormal behaviors that just cannot be helped. I often don't share my experiences as testimony to others, because of the negative responses that I have often gotten from people when I did share my story in the past. Yes, in general, people are responsible for their own actions -HOWEVER, when an abnormality in the brain causes abnormal behaviors that just cannot be helped, then it is a completely different story. They cannot be held responsible for what they are incapable of controlling. In conclusion: give Cordelia's comment some good thought.

Name: Alanna
Date: 2003-02-22 12:02:36
Link to this Comment: 4755

Sorry, one correction to my very last comment: if you're skimming, at least read the last couple of sentences of Cordelia's comment-she pretty much sums it up right there.

Name: Shanti
Date: 2003-02-22 14:31:24
Link to this Comment: 4757

I feel like the discussion of accountability has been interpreted in a way that I did not intend. I am fully sympathetic to the fact that mental disorders cloud one's judgement and that I believe that you can be truly impaired from seeing what is right and wrong. I think mental illness is not very well understood, but I am not one of those people who thinks that a person is lazy if they are mentally ill. Two of my closest friends at Bryn Mawr are bipolar and I fully understand the ramifications of such a disorder. What I am saying, however, is that in our previous discussion of people committing crimes, it is not enough to say that because a person's brain is different, they should be allowed to act in a certain way. If someone were to come in to your home and hurt you or one of your family members, your first thought would not be, "I should excuse his actions because his brain is different from mine. He must have had a traumatic childhood or the chemical s in his brain are messed up." You're thinking, who is this person who thinks he/she can hurt my family and you want him/her to be punished for their actions. Even if you were to find out later that he was ill, you want him to be held accountable. I dont' believe that all people SHOULD be held accoutable, I believe that all people ARE held accountable. The consequences may not come just from the law but can come from your family, your friends, or in future events. Accoutability isn't something that is regulated, some people get away with major crimes while some people get nailed for minor ones, but the accountability will come from somewhere. Being held accountable doesn't neccessarily mean that the person should go to jail, but being held accountable also includes getting help. Accountability isn't just a harsh reprimand. It is unique to humans in that we have the capability to rationalize and that we recognize what was good or bad in our actions. because we can be held accountable, it allows us to change our actions and hopefully make us better people.

Name: Rachel
Date: 2003-02-22 15:38:01
Link to this Comment: 4758

This is a movie review site for Fritz Lang's "M", a German film about serial child-killer Franz Becker (who is obviously mentally ill- note the maniacal picture of Becker on the page!). I think that the last sentence of the first paragraph of the review sums up my opinions on this issue nicely. In a direct reference to Becker's verbal assault from townspeople in a kangaroo court, the end of this paragraph states: "...when he is finally cornered, human nature disintegrates." Although Becker is mentally ill, these townspeople hold him accountable for his actions.

In situations involving serial killers, our society appears rather quick to point fingers when fingers should not be pointed. True, it is difficult to determine what the exact line is that separtates sanity and insanity. However, I don't feel that it is moral to attack those who could truly benefit from some good mental rehabilitation. In my opinion, it is much easier to scorn someone who needs help then to actually go ahead and find them the help that they need. Perhaps then society is taking the "easy way out" by brutally accusing and abusing the serial killers who have been diagnosed as being mentally ill rather than looking for a means to help them.

I wonder...
Name: Sarah
Date: 2003-02-22 21:33:19
Link to this Comment: 4759

Thank you, Cordelia, for that awesome posting. My question is, can we define "mentally ill"?
Many of us would like to find any brutal murderer to be "mentally ill" simply because s/he brutally murdered someone. It doesn't seem like any "sane" person would do anything that horrific. But are they? Do those murderers suffer from diseases like bipolar/depression, schizophrenia, or brain tumors? Do they all have a validly diagnosable condition?
The idea I'm trying to convey is, so many people plead "mental insanity" in court, that these days our society tends to roll its eyes and say, "Yeah, right." This is probably one of the reasons the system is in such bad shape. So how do we differentiate between the defendants who are truly ill, and those who are plea-bargaining? What if they have valid diseases that we can't test for? And what constitutes a "valid disease" anyway? What about blinding fury, crimes of passion? Should they be sent to anger-control therapy instead of jail?
All of this is on my mind as I try to think of how the court system could be reformed so that those truly in need of help are not left in a cell to be devoured by their diseases, while those who commit crimes in cold blood are not let off the hook. Can we always tell the one from the other?

Name: Nicole
Date: 2003-02-23 15:40:36
Link to this Comment: 4763

I was just reading through the postings and was already planning to post an idea very similar to Sarah's. I was thinking about court cases where a person may plead "not guilty by reason of insanity" and how this defense has been so overused that few people take it seriously, or at least they doubt it, when it is used. The problem is categorizing what "insanity" or mental illness is. Yes, it is hard to fathom any normally functioning person committing a murder but is it possible to not be mentally ill and commit such a crime? Not all murders can be excused by saying that the person was mentally ill and using that defense when it is not true is morally unjust because they are decreasing its validity when someone who really is mentally ill is on trial. The current system needs to keep that more in check but that is hard to do when there is a very blurry line when defining what constitutes a mental illness or even "temporary insanity" (I would like to look into what that is).
On a side note, I'm surprised by how many people in this very class alone have experience with close family/friends whom are mentally ill as I can name at least 3 in my life, but for their sake would rather not discuss it on an internet forum. I thank Cordelia for her bravely and eloquently stated account of her experience with mental illness and for setting it straight that people with mental illness really do not have control over some of their actions. I also agree with many who have said that some of the problem is that society does not understand mental illness and so does not know how to best react for their own and the afflicted person's benefit. It is probably difficult for some people to accept it because it is scary to come to terms with the possibility that someone can simply not have control over their actions. Everyone in society is affected by mental illness, indirectly or directly, so it is surprising how uncomfortable people are to even talk about it. I believe that the more that is understood over time, the better society will be prepared to accept it and deal with it and that this will be a gradual process.

Murder on the Mind
Name: Marissa
Date: 2003-02-23 15:52:57
Link to this Comment: 4764

We have basically decided that all of us are different. Though our brains and nervous systems may look similar, each individual encounters different things in their life and comes from a variety of genetic codes that help determine the workings of each individual's brain. Obviously, I only have my own brain to really compare to anything else, so I do not know if others feel similarly. Since my first knowledge of murder I never understood it. I cannot comprehend how one human being can kill another in cold blood. Realizing that there are such things are revenge and defense, I can account for those as motivation, though I still cannot comprehend taking the life of another. Therefore, in my own brain, unable to fathom such things, a lot of wants to believe that there is definately a chemical imbalance or mental problem with those that do kill, especially those without motivation. In response to what Nicole said about the insanity defense, I agree that it is overused and that there must be guilty people that are not insane, however I also htink that they must be unbalanced in another regard, even just temporarily. When I see stories about temporary insanity and such, I always tell myself that there is no excuse for murder, especially if a person does not have "legitamate" mental problems. However, as Cordelia mentioned, there are so many people in the world that go un-diagnosed, and really thats not shocking to me at all.I agree with Cordelia that the justice system must be worked with before we can determine these things. And, what about those people that are not "insane?" Are they just rotten people that are willing to kill? Is that not a mental problem??? I have a cousin with anger and violence tendencies that has recently gone in for therapy for what they are trying to diagnose as schitzophrenia. She does not and has never appeared to be violent, but her behavior is erratic and she definately has problems, and just knowing her, if she commited a violent act, I would not be able to judge her, because I have seen how little control she has over her own behavior. What can be done for people that cannot control themselves?

Mental Illness
Name: Elizabeth
Date: 2003-02-23 20:05:00
Link to this Comment: 4768

I thought it was interesting to read Marissa's choice of words in her post regarding her cousin's mental difficulties. She mentioned that the doctors were "trying to" diagnose her cousin as a schizophrenic, which I think speaks volumes about the narrow way our society and even the medical community views mental illness. It seems that this subject had been so taboo in past generations that we have been prevented from confronting the myriad forms of mental illness and from learning as much as we can about what causes which disorders and why. Instead, doctors tend to mold a patient's mental illness to a previously determined standard. In the future, I hope we can gain an understanding of the many different types of mental illness, and collectively we can deal with this very common problem.

Name: geoff
Date: 2003-02-23 21:06:07
Link to this Comment: 4773

i feel like our old friend "free will" is rearing its ugly head again, disguised as the word "control." do killers have control over their behavior? what about depressed patients? these are valid questions, but i am still unsure as to what baseline we are working with. to ask those two questions (and assuming i am not in a depressed state or a killer), don't i have to assume that i DO have control over MY behavior?

i can make that assumption as long as my behavior doesn't put me in one of our "legitimate" mental disorder categories. if i claim to have control when i am on a psychopathic rage, i will be in trouble in more ways than one. but i wouldn't because that wasn't a pleasant time and so i see it as being out of my control. but when society tells me i am in good shape, and i feel good, i KNOW that this is MY doing.

so my question to whoever it applies is, did you have control over your actions when you ate to much the last time you were in the DC? im not talking about gorging yourself, but just eating too much i know that i didn't. with this food, i always go in with the thought that i should eat as little as possible, always. i usually leave feeling a little guilty because i have eaten too much of the not-so-nutritious food.

i use this example hoping some of our class can relate, and because it is a part of my everday behavior that i am supposed to have lots of control over. its not a major disorder, its human. ah, thats the word i was looking for, "human." it is still "human" to eat more than you wanted to at meals. that is a luxury, because in another time period it may be considered "wrong" in a serious way. if that were the case, i could honestly claim that i just don't have any control over it but i am sure no one would believe me, because i would say it in a very cold and abstract way as if it wasn't that big of a deal to me or as if i didn't think there was anything "wrong" with it. whether i enjoyed myself in the act or not may come into play as people made moral judgements, but it shouldn't because i really have no control over my actions.

i understand the judgements in the context of our society we have made about the "bad" acts that people sometimes commit, but i am bothered that the question we are looking to ask is whether or not they had control of what they were doing. decisions may or may not seem like "conscious" decisions to those making them, but consciousness does not equal control (i am very conscious of eating my meals, but i have a hard time slowing down at the end). maybe if we made people conscious or in another way put them through therapy, they would have control and then would not commit these "bad" acts anymore?

who decided in the first place they were bad. mother nature did not. if we want to base this on the "norms" of society, i understand that killers do not fit, but you know who else is "abnormal"? mother theresa, and saints in general. because it is not human to be that "good" or else we all would be capable of it. and more than that, some serial killers have quite a bit of "good" in them except for when they are killing and mutilating people. since mother theresa spent all of her time helping people, and not much time being evil, does that make her more "abnormal" than a serial killer. by our judgment system, yes it does.

i would like to make the point that we can not go around, even if the justice system were in good enough shape to concentrate on this issue, curing "abnormal" people and making them "normal" like the rest of us.
they are a part of society, and they didn't decide these norms any more than we did, but maybe we are the lucky ones because in this time period our behavior makes us college students and theirs makes them social deviants.

without serial killers we don't have mother theresa. that abnormality is a result of us being really dynamic creatures and having great potential for creativity and genius that requires defying the "norms" set up by society.

Name: Amelia
Date: 2003-02-23 21:55:59
Link to this Comment: 4775

In her posting, Shanti summed up what I've been feeling about the accountability issue. While some people should not be held responsible for their actions, in the example that we've been using in the forum the mentally ill, all people in our society ARE held responsible for their actions. In class in Thursday, I was thinking about George in Of Mice and Men, but did not have the opportunity to bring it up. George didn't know his own strength, inadverantly killed a woman, and was in turn killed for his actions. Was he responsible for his actions? I don't think so; George was unable to comprehend the enormity and consequences of his actions.

I also wanted to bring up the topic of the Honor Code. Both Bryn Mawr and Haverford have one, and we, as undergraduates, agree to live by it during our time here. We are expected to be responsible for our actions at all times; even if we are intoxicated, we are expected to be accountable for our actions.

Us and Them
Name: Annabella
Date: 2003-02-24 11:08:34
Link to this Comment: 4785

In class we were asked whether or not we believed that our brain controls our behavior. It was a question to which we were only able to answer with a yes or no. Because of this I believe that many misinterpretations of the answer 'yes' occurred. I agreed with the statement that you are responsible for your behavior. When I answered this I meant that we are all responsible for our behavior in most conditions. This is not to rule out the fact that there are definitely cases in which a person does not have control of their behavior. The most blatant example of this is mental illness. It must be understood that the brain is prey to emotional, and chemical/hormonal imbalances. Just like any other part of our body, our brain can be sick. As we all know, when you are sick there is absolutely nothing that you can do about it. That said, I would like to look at the originator of this argument.

Should a person who has committed a serious crime (murder etc..) be held responsible for their actions? In most cases I believe that yes, most criminals are aware of the crime that they committed—before, during, and after the act. While there are crimes that are committed as crimes of passion, this is an aberration from the normal criminals activity. It is definitely an uncomfortable thought, that there is no differentiation between the average person and the average criminal. Nonetheless, when you look at a serial killer they reek of wrongness. How can one say serial killer and normal in the same sentence? The disturbing truth is that most serial killers, are not insane nor were/or are they suffering from a mental illness.

This is when Cordelia's comment that 'in terms of I-function and consciousness, there is something "more",' is applicable. Is it this "more" that she talks about the motivator behind most criminals? Or is it just a comfort blanket that we hug to ourselves, in hope that the line between us and them is not quite as thin as it seems?

Honor Code & Morality and more......
Name: Michelle C
Date: 2003-02-24 13:56:18
Link to this Comment: 4786

I think that Amelia's comments about the Honor Code spark the idea of morality. Where is it in the grand scheme of things? Is morality a inhibitory function of the brain or is it somehow a part of this "I" function that we have grown so fascinated with? Does our society make us morally conscious? And if so what does it mean to be morally conscious? If morality is something that we all have, what happens to the molar consciousness of those of us who commit horrible crimes? Do they have more or less morality? Do you think that morality is something that can even be measured?

I believe that uncovering the answers or proposing answers to these questions is essential to understanding human behavior. Supposedly, our behavior is a function of our environment. For the most part, our environments do have an elaborate moral system governed by rules, laws, and consequences. So....if all of this exist, why do people still constantly disobey and break these rules and laws? Even here at BMC and HC, we have offenders of the Honor Code. Are they less moral than the others who do not, but have thought about the possibility of breaking the rules? Can Honor Council measure a student's morality when they are asked to appear in a hearing?

Name: Kate
Date: 2003-02-24 18:37:19
Link to this Comment: 4789

I am struggling with Shanti's comments on accountability. Yes, in our society, people are generally held accountable for their actions regardless of their mental state. I mean this in the context of every day life. As a student, I am expected to attend class, participate in class and do the assignments. But what if my mental state prevents me from doing so? Can I then go to the professor, tell he or she that I was depressed, and expect to be excused from the assignment as though I had the flu? And should I still hold myself responsible for fulfilling my duties, even if I was incapable at the time? This is something I frequently wrestle with. I have never in my life attempted to explain to a professor that I couldn't do something because of depression. But the plain truth is that sometimes depression prevents me from coming to class or completing an assignment. Do I have control over my actions? Do I have free will in this situation? To some extent, yes...but also no. And should this be excused? I honestly can't answer that. How do you think authority figures would react to that kind of situation? Mental illness is viewed with such skepticism in society. How many people would believe that a person was really incapacitated by depression? How many would think it was an excuse to cover up laziness? What do you think?

Thomas Szasz
Name: Laurel Jac
Date: 2003-02-24 19:55:35
Link to this Comment: 4792

In class on Thursday, someone mentioned the idea that mental illness does not exist. I couldn't hear the name that the person mentioned, but I immediately thought of Thomas Szasz. Szasz wrote The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct, amoung other books, arguing that "mental illness" is merely a label that has no basis in science, and leads to the oppression of the public.
Not everything he says is untrue. For the most part, we don't know what are the specific biologic processes of many psychiatric diseases. There are variants in every individual who suffers from them. People are diagnosed with a disease when they exhibit a certain amount of observed symptoms associated with the disease. But I disagree with Szasz. Just because we don't know the specifics, does not mean the disease does not exist. There are several diseases, non-psychological, which are still mysteries to the medical profession. That doesn't mean the patients aren't afflicted.
My aunt is the chief of medicine and psychiatry at Mississippi State Mental Hospital. She's often said that she would like to put Thomas Szasz in a room with a 250 male diagnosed with schizophrenia who experiences violent hallucinations. It's true that not all diseases are understood, but instead of stating that they don't exist, more effort should be applied to research exploring the biological backgrounds.

Name: Neela
Date: 2003-02-24 21:26:13
Link to this Comment: 4797

Psychological disorders such as chronic depression do have neurobiological explanations, and there are medications such as Xanax, Zoloft,and Prozac that combat these illnesses on a biological level. However, outside of the scientific community, they remain misunderstood mainly because their symptoms are recognized as emotions, which are seen as controllable and therefore voluntary.
Geoff's comment about the unsettling categories of "normal" and "abnormal" provide interesting backdrops to this subject. What if a person has a melancholy, thoughtful and solitary temperament in a society of driven social butterflies? Surely this person would seem "abnormal" and maybe even ill. Because this person's behavior probably has a biologic function, it probably has a psychopharmaceutical solution. Would medicating this person (who might have excelled in the Victorian era) and thus changing this person's biology and behavior be ethical? Indeed, how do we define normal and when is medication appropriate?

Name: Melissa
Date: 2003-02-24 21:33:48
Link to this Comment: 4798

I thought our discussion last week about accountability was very interesting. If what we have been saying is true that brain equals behavior than we are accountable for all our actions. While this may be true, for serial killers as well as other individuals, this does not been that people should be punished for those actions all of the time. If someone murders someone they are accountable for this action, but because something in their brain like a mental disabilities causes them to have that behavior maybe they shouldn't be punished for that behavior in the same way. I think the other problem with our class discussion is that we did not define accountability; if we had we might have been able to clarify our arguments better.

The I-function was another topic of interest. People were arguing that the I- function can operate with its own output. Therefore, the I-function can work separately. This was, to many in class, maybe the source of some of the abnormal behavior. The thing I was thinking was what Emily Dickinson said about the brain being bigger than the sky. Even if the I-function works own its own it is contained in the brain. Therefore we are back to our original concept that brain equals behavior, so we are accountable for all our actions even the ones that we do subconsciously.

Name: Danielle M
Date: 2003-02-24 21:57:01
Link to this Comment: 4799

In response to the question of how we determine who's "mentally ill," I have two thoughts:

--One of the key features of mental illness is distress. That is, if abnormal patterns of thought or behavior cause substantial distress, unhappiness, or discomfort in the afflicted, they are termed "abnormal" and treatment should be sought in the interest of the person's well-being. Clinical depression is an excellent example of a form of behavior that causes significant and prolonged suffering and is thus treated as a mental illness. In contrast, mild, transient forms of depression ("the blues," "my cat ate my hampster," etc.) aren't placed within the category of mental illness because of the relatively low levels of personal distress involved.

--Another significant point in determing what mental illness is is whether it causes significant distress to others who come in contact with the afflicted person. Here we could use the example of a sociopath, who feels little distress herself, but causes quite a bit in those around her. Sociopaths who kill, rape, abuse, and generally flout social law do significant, prolonged, often irreparable damage to others and are therefore classed as mentally ill and in need of treatment.

mental illness
Date: 2003-02-24 23:32:24
Link to this Comment: 4801

I feel like mental illness is so complex. People can have serious depressions (where the brain is powerless to correct the problem). Usually in these cases, medication is needed. However, there is also seasonal depression. Is it possible that a traumatic even and the lack of sun can cause depression? I find that to be a little odd. I can understand why the traumatic even can lead to depression but,...the sun?

Then there is self-induced depression or people who choose to be depressed - such as "cutting". Although the person may be aware that what they are doing is wrong, they still choose to continue this destructive activity. Even when treated, the person may hide their cutting from family members. So why is it that some people want to be depressed (at least it seems that way to me).

To some of you that don't know about cutting, here is a link. Please don't go to this webpage if the sight of blood makes you sick. These pictures are very disturbing. click on pictures/art - on the right
click on self-injury pictures

Name: alexandra
Date: 2003-02-25 01:03:35
Link to this Comment: 4807

Because of the web-paper I forgot about having to post on the forum. Anyway, I think the word "depression" is over used, although depression is a very real illness, the actual word seems to be misused and applied to too many situations now. Also another interesting way to think about depression is that although the scenery of life remains the same, when one is depressed it is as if that sky over that scenery has become overcast. Although the day-to-day surroundings and activities is the same as before, it is as there is nothing lighting up these activities. Without this "sunlight" experience while not fundamentally changed can just becomes flat.

Virginia death penalty and metal retardation
Name: vivian
Date: 2003-02-25 01:06:19
Link to this Comment: 4808

Morris Mason, a young, black man from the Eastern Shore with a lifelong history of paranoid schizophrenia and a mental age of 8, was the first severely mentally handicapped prisoner executed by Virginia post Furman. Morris was killed on June 25, 1985. The most recent execution of a mentally retarded prisoner was that of Walter Correll, Jr. on Jan. 4, 1996.

Virginia allows the executions of the mentally retarded, the severely brain damaged and the mentally ill. 7 executed inmates have been documented mentally retarded in Virginia. How does Virginia define mental retardation? This raises questions of the significance of how we define mental illness and how this definition is implemented in legislation. Both houses of the General Assembly have passed legislation to outlaw executions of mentally retarded felons, but the two bills contain different definitions of mental retardation. Under Senate bill, the court would rely on a clinical definition of mentally retarded and base its decisions on evidence provided by mental health experts. The socio-economic status of an inmate then, could influence the legitimacy of the clinical diagnosis. On average, poor inmates don't have the benefit of hiring outside doctors to evaluate their mental condition and rely solely on the states evaluation, which may be skewed by public sentiment or special interests. Under the House version, the court would also have to determine whether the retardation "substantially impairs a person's capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct." What does substantial mean? This seems like an improvement on the definition but there's still subjectivity and personal discretion involved. Without clear boundaries, the gray area of borderline cases swells.

death penalty
Name: Maria
Date: 2003-02-25 09:43:54
Link to this Comment: 4826

How could a state execute the mentally retarded, but the insane can be acquitted of murders based on their mental deficiency? How different is the impairment caused by mental retardation from that of insanity? If the insane are exonerated of responsibility for their actions based on their inability to know if what they are doing is wrong, I wonder why someone whose mental disability prevented them from doing just that would not also be acquitted. But maybe I'm making the two things more similar than they really are. How different are the brains of the mentally retarded and insane?

week six
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-03-02 09:25:49
Link to this Comment: 4889

As always, feel free to reflect on anything we've talked about, you're read about, you've been thinking about this week. But, if you need something to get you started:

The nervous system "signals" by way of action potentials, which in turn reflect ionic movements, ionic gradients, and membrane proteins which establish and vary the permeability of the membrane to particular ions. Does this make it easier or harder to accept the idea that brain=behavior? In what ways does it help to better understand behavior? What new questions does it raise?

Still skeptical
Name: Tiffany Li
Date: 2003-03-02 16:03:58
Link to this Comment: 4892

The fact that the nervous system functions by ways of action potentials, ionic gradients et cetera, has made it easier for me to understand the idea that brain=behavior. It has been especially helpful in understanding certain mental illnesses such as depression. If there is a change/decrease in membrane permeability to certain neurotransmitters such as serotonin, it makes sense that ones behavior would be affected by it. Therefore I do agree to a certain extent that brain=behavior since I believe that an imbalance in ionic gradients or membrane permeability can lead to a change in behavior. My skepticism lies in behavior that is more abstract. I still don't understand how the nervous system, which simply consists of action potentials generated by changes in ionic gradients, can affect a person's curiosity, creativity or aspirations. It seems impossible that such behaviors could be linked to our nervous system. I suppose I need a bit more convincing before I can truly believe that brain=behavior.

brain=behavior chemically
Name: marissa
Date: 2003-03-02 20:56:59
Link to this Comment: 4898

I do think that this idea of signals does further increase my reliability on brain=behavior. Because it is a more physical assumption than any others we have already made, I feel like it finally confirms that our brains and nervous systems do control everything. I think that we are raised with such notions of "the heart" and "the soul" that we have difficulty accepting the physical explanation that "the heart" and "the soul" either do exist but not in the realm of what we refer to it in terms of love, etc., or do not exist at all. I agree with Tiffany that this helps me see the greater connection between behaviors like depression and such with this explanation, but I think that the idea of curiousity and such as being unrelated is just something that completely related but shows up in many different ways and is affected by many different things from person to person.

Name: Melissa
Date: 2003-03-02 21:03:32
Link to this Comment: 4899

I was thinking about the discussion we had a couple of weeks ago about depression. It was amazing to see a room full of hands, of people that either knew someone with depression or have dealt with it personally. Yet, it still remains such a taboo topic, an illness that is surrounded with much mystery and confusion. I think this is interesting since mental illness affects so many people. I think it is hard for society, in general, to understand and except what we can't see. The brain is not visible to us, we don't see when something is broken. The only thing we see is the results- the behavior that was caused by the malfunction in the brain. I know this from personal experience, dealing with a family member who battled depression. There were many days when I wanted to tell that person to just get up and snap out of it. For me, it was hard to recognize that the depression was just as much a sickness as cancer or the cold.

Another aspect of mental illness that seems interesting to me is that there has been much said about overcoming illness with good thoughts. People have claimed that the brain or at least thinking positively has helped people cure disease or made them feel better. It is a wonder then that mental illnesses may be the most complicated and misunderstood illnesses, because the very thing that can help you overcome disease is sick.

Name: Luz Martin
Date: 2003-03-02 21:50:15
Link to this Comment: 4902

My abnormal psychology professor introduced antisocial personality disorder to us and I realized that we do integrate people that could be labeled with a mental disorder just like serial killers.
If there are people who are still successful in society and can be clinically diagnosed with a personality disorder, then what happened to serial killers with mental disorders? I have to admit that maybe I am responsible for how well adapted the successful people with a mental disorder are, as well as for how poorly adapted the serial killers are. I uphold ideas that are socially acceptable, so I am part of a system that builds people into what they are.

Starting in the Box
Name: Andy Green
Date: 2003-03-02 21:53:05
Link to this Comment: 4903

The idea first introduced on thursday that action potentials can begin within an axon, not a product of external stimulus, but a a product of the nervous system itself. This idea, that stimulus can begin "within the box" strikes me as extremely important.

I am always hesitant to assume that a property of the brain equals a property of the mind, but I have come lately to maybe be persuaded that the mind ontologically supervenes on the nervous system...that the mind is dependent on the nervous system for its existence, and every change in the nervous system affects the mind. (This does not mean that I'm persuaded that mind = brain...Grobstein hasn't won yet)

If the mind supervenes on the physical nervous system, then the fact that signals can start within the nervous system must have strong implications, although what those implications are, I haven't figured out yet.

Does this prove the existence of "a priori" (prior to experience) faculties of the mind, like Kant theorized? Does it help with an argument for free will, since it allows for a sort of self-stimulation? (no giggles, please) Or is it merely a complication of the issue with no real answers for the fundamental philosophical problems of neurobiology? I'm not ready to make any claims yet about the answers to these questions, but I am sure the stimuli which start "within the box" need to be included as a focus of the mind-body debate.

veil of brain and behavior
Name: Annabella
Date: 2003-03-03 00:28:09
Link to this Comment: 4904

Like Andy, I am hesitant to agree that a 'property of the brain, equals a property of the mind.' Although our recent study of the neuron in class has definitively explained that the changes of chemicals affect our mood, and thus our behavior—I still cling to the idea that there is more to human behavior than impulses affected by chemical changes.

To support this theory I look to the ideas of Descartes. He purported that there is a medium, or veil, between mental and physical perceptions. For example, your senses process data that your mind then applies inferred fact to. Through this process you perceive the physical world. This is not to say that the mind and body are not closely intertwined. With that said, what affects the body effects the mind. Therefore, chemical changes do influence us both mentally and physically, because they control our physical bodies. Can the reverse be true—does our mind influence our body? Can the brain control physical processes? One answer to this can be seen in the effects of placebo on medical patients. In a most cases placebos work just as well as actual medications. This can have interesting consequences in the field of mental illness. Is it really mental?!

autism... helped with chemicals
Name: Grace Shin
Date: 2003-03-03 03:56:45
Link to this Comment: 4906

"Autism is not curable but can be helped with behavioral treatment and sometimes medication." This is a quota from CNN today... article
As I was reading the articles on like I always do, I ran into this article and found it rather interesting. I honestly do not know much about autism but through this class, i've been more aware of brain disorders and thus this article peaked my interest. The above quote especially peaked my interest with this brain=behavior idea. Maybe I am over-analyzing because I do not know much about autism, but i thought it was interesting how though not curable, autism can be helped with behavior treatment and medication. granted it read many times in the article that there are still great number of mysteries dealing with this disorder, but maybe in our topic of discussion, this medication is related with changing the ion concentrations in the body... and THUS changing their behavior. if brain=behavior, then simply stated, these medications (if treated correctly) could indeed alter the chemical balance of the brain and thus show improvements in their behavior.

Name: Kelvey
Date: 2003-03-03 09:50:59
Link to this Comment: 4907

The transfer of a signal by altering the ion balance along the membrane of neurons through the permiability of a membrane helps to shows how easily a the origin or transfer of a signal can be altered. If a signal can be altered, then it is not hard to make the next connection between brain and behavior. Not only does the number of neurons show the probability of differences between individuals but the mechanism also provides a means whereby the nervous system and the transfer of a signal can be altered which, would ultimatly explain the similarities and yet differences between individual's behavior. Behavior is an action that takes place after a certain period of time, the time it takes for a signal to travel to and from the nervous system, with a number of variations possible along the path resulting in unique outputs. The question are: What stops the signalling? How are permenant pathways created? Where exactly are the points where variations in signalling can take place within the nervous system besides membrane permiability?

Controlling Disorders and Injuries
Name: Arun
Date: 2003-03-03 15:59:06
Link to this Comment: 4909

Ahhh!!!!!! I feel like these discussions have opened up so many possibilities that it makes my head spin. I'm responding to an interesting thought that Melissa had about overcoming illness with good thoughts. I realize that this may be naive, but I feel even today, that most people can control their actions if they REALLY wanted or needed to. Obviously, certain advances in medicine have allowed us to live healthier lives and speed up the healing process from physically debilitating injuries, but I've never been able to get a grasp on the concept of psychological or neurobiological illnesses. This is definitely because of the social stigma that comes with people who are depressed, etc. since we can't actually can't see why they are not acting "normal".

I personally am not someone who has never been too fond of taking medicine. I feel like the act itself is a sign of weakness in our minds, and that the only thing it can due is make us build a resistance, both physically and psychologically to the drug – that if we took one pill for this injury, I must need two or three pills for another injury.

Many times, including yesterday, when I play basketball, I get "injured". But what exactly does that mean is a very interesting question since I typically forget about the pain during the game because my adrenaline is pumping since the bigger priority to me at the time is win the ballgame. In a way, its saying that mentally, if I'm distracted or if I "just don't care as much", I won't feel any pain. I think that similarly, someone with a neurobiological disorder CAN alter their behavior according to the situation. I don't mean to offend anyone by making such a bold statement since there is no evidence of this, but I honestly believe that someone who can typically not perform normal functions due to psychological problems, can in fact overcome their disability under the right set of circumstances. For example, if they saw someone they were very close to, in danger, then I feel a lot of them would react to it in a way that they normally "couldn't". Now its very possible that the response won't be the same as what other people would have, but that's because the illness has built such a strong level of resistance over time that the particular individual may have actually forgotten how to control their behavior.

What I think I'm trying to say is that we have seen a dramatic increase in neurobiological illnesses (i.e. autism) over the past few years and that the issue needs to be approached not in terms of "finding a medical cure", but instead a change in society and how we live our lives. Times have changed as everything in life seems so fast paced that people can easily feel lost and alone. If we could provide people with outlets (sports, music, etc.) and constant support for one another, no one would feel those impulses in their brains that eventually can develop a neurobiological illness.

Amidst all my rambling, I hope people realize that I remain quite skeptical on whether the property of the brain equals a property of the mind. Scientists and pharmacologist develop and sell us these drugs/vaccinations that are suppose to balance our internal chemistry but its just too hard to believe that there is such a simple solution to any illness or injury, especially one involving brain and behavior.

Name: Elizabeth
Date: 2003-03-03 16:08:32
Link to this Comment: 4911

I found the article in Grace's post about autism extremely interesting. Like many mental illnesses, doctors can't say with confidence what causes autism or think of a consistently effective way to treat the disease. But unlike many other mental disorders, autism does not have the stigma associated with it that manic depression or bipolar disorder do. Is this perhaps because people who suffer from autism are so different from "normal" people? I think one of the reasons why we find other mental illnesses so troubling is because a person who suffers from these illnesses can appear "normal" except for periods of strange behavior. Perhaps that makes others fear that they are only a step away from mental illness, while they feel more removed from autism.

Name: Laurel Jac
Date: 2003-03-03 17:38:52
Link to this Comment: 4912

I must admit that I am a stubborn person who, although open to hearing other opinions, does not usually let those alternate opinions sway my own. I still maintain that brain does not equal behavior. There seem to be too many possibilities of factors which affect behavior outside of the nervous system. Genes expression is not merely another function of the nervous system. Personal choice--although people have predilections to make certain choices, I believe that environment plays a significant role that cannot be explained away. I'm still not convinced.

others's mental disorders
Name: geoff
Date: 2003-03-03 17:50:01
Link to this Comment: 4913

When professor asked if we feel comfortable talking about mental disorders, i thought to myself, "yeah, i do." i thought more about this and realized i have indeed become very comfortable talking about mental other people. even as i write this, i know that i could not talk about myself. and i wouldn't want to, i don't have a diagnosed disorder, i am still part of the "we," though i can testify through experiences with family members. "we" are all fine with pointing out that we have members of our family or friends who are affected, and i would not encourage anyone to out themselves in a class of our size, but it is interesting to me to think about how i view myself in relation to "those" people. there is something very condescending about my sympathy and understanding, and something very relieving as well.

as we are now breaking down the functional properties of the brain, it makes sense to me why i am so afraid of giving any credit to my possible deficiencies there. if i know that 99 percent of my actions come from within, then that is all i am working with and that does not leave alot of room for blame elsewhere. if i find that some of that 99 percent is not functioning properly, then i am already not working with a full set (now that i know we use more than 10%), and there is nothing to fall back on. if the "normal" person i measure myself against is working with a full set, that makes me less of something. less able? less in control? less human? i can give support to someone else and say that they are not less of anything, but the one thing i am the most scared of is becoming them.

the way i deal with this fear is by piling so many things on my plate all the time that i can't possibly do them all. when something goes wrong, i always have a quick scapegoat. i think its funny that however dynamic and confident i claim to be, the one part of me i have never examined or questioned, and the part that makes up 99 percent of who "i" am, is the most important. but as long as i see that "normal" person out there walking around, i will avoid asking the question, so that i may also continue to be normal. but, if i don't ask that question, what am i setting myself up for?

Name: Clare
Date: 2003-03-03 19:33:55
Link to this Comment: 4915

From the comments above, it seems like most people are not convinced that brain=behavior because of things like creativity, curiosity, the soul etc. But to me, all of these things seem like they are based on one's personality- what you like/dislike, what you can/cannot do, and whether you are an outgoing or quiet or well-meaning or kind person. Aren't these likes and abilities and characteristics just programmed in each person through their genes or stored in their brain through experiences and encounters? Maybe I'm not really sure what a soul is... But as for those parts that are stored in our genes (a dislike of classical music or the ability to write creatively), aren't they expressed through actions of your brain? For example, it is your brain that enables you to express your dislike of classical music, to interpret how it sounds and allow you to express your distaste... and it is your brain that enables you to take into account experiences, knowledge, and other writings and turn this into words and phrases that form a story or poem... at least in my opinion. It is your brain that interprets what you sense and, based on your personality, signals whether what you sense is something you would like to find out more about (curiosity). As for free will, what does that mean anyway? The ability for "you" as an individual to decide something or for your individual brain which is "you" to decide something. I guess it is hard to think that all there is to "me" is what is in my brain, but at the same time, your individual brain is so complicated and its actions are far from ever being fully understood that what is so menial about saying that ALL there is to "you" is your brain?...

Name: Shanti
Date: 2003-03-03 20:11:31
Link to this Comment: 4916

As humans, we make a big deal about being in control or keeping things in balance. Your body is constantly trying to maintain an equilibrium, where if something is being produced in excess, it tries to correct itself but producing something else. Your brain also has this property and so do our minds. In our society, we seem to want to keep correcting things: behavior, appearance, thinking. If someone is mentally ill, or suffers from autism, or is just slightly depressed, we constantly want to "correct" these things as though they are bad. There is a fine line between helping someone because they are harming themselves and trying to alter a person's chemistry.
The more medicated a society we become, the more we seem to want to fix everything. Do you have ADD? take ritalin, are you depressed? take some prozac, overweight? here are some appetite suppressents. How come we don't stop and think that maybe nature has a reason for making some people have these different disorders. Just like we believe that no one's brain is different, doesnt that mean that no one's body is the same also? I guess what I mean is that, with all these disorders that we've been talking about, we keep going to the idea of trying to help people or trying to make them fit into society, but maybe that's part of life. That not everyone is thin, and not everyone is happy all time. I don't know if its natural selection or just the diversity of all living things but I think we would learn something if we stopped to figure out why we are so anxious to "fix" everything.

cultural perspectives on mental illness
Name: Alexandra
Date: 2003-03-03 20:16:30
Link to this Comment: 4917

In class when we were discussing how our society is uncomfortable with the existence of mental disorders, I thought about something my dad had said that contradicted the class's belief. After med school he worked as the one psychiatrist in Togo. Half in jest, he has said that psychological illnesses in particular depression increase with the amount of psychiatrists there are in that society. While this is obviously not prove-able or necessarily true, it is interesting to think about how different cultures treat mental illness.

While it is partially romantic to think about societies that are less developed as ours, as happier, there may be a grain of truth to this thought. For example, schizophrenics, while they have or had difficulty fitting into our society, may have been able to have been shamans or medicine men. Thus, they would be able to play a functional and very important role in certain societies.

While I do NOT want to underplay the harshness and reality of mental illness (bipolar disorder seems to be a favorite among my family and friends) I think that we expect that we should be happy all the time. Possibly because of this it seems that a huge amount of people are on medication for depression or consider themselves depressed in the U.S. Since I have only lived here and not other countries for extended periods of time, it would be interesting to know more about how mental illness is treated elsewhere.

Name: nicole
Date: 2003-03-03 20:40:06
Link to this Comment: 4918

I agree that people do view physical illness and mental illness differently and that there is a stigma associated with mental illness. However, I am also concerned with a medical model of mental illness. I think if we just addressed mental illness in terms of a structural difference, or chemical imbalance the actual treatment of the illness may not be particularly successful. In terms of taking pills to combat mental illness, there are a variety of factors that reduce the probability that a patient will adhere to their regiment. Additionally, I feel that the mental health field is already being screwed by insurance companies because they prefer to address the problems with a quick diagnosis and a prescription. There are also other approaches that don¡¯t really aim to ¡°cure¡± a mental illness, but rather they mask it so that a person¡¯s illness doesn¡¯t interfere with normal functioning. Clearly, the mental health field is fighting to stay afloat. Insurance companies are not working with mental health providers to improve the quality of care, society has not fostered an environment where the majority of the people are even comfortable talking about mental illness.

I do think it is interesting that mental illness is socially constructed and that different cultures have different views on what is categorized as mental illness. I think that as we try to define ourselves we categorize something (a behavior or person) as different or abnormal and quickly attach a stigma to it.

Medication and mental illness
Name: Cordelia S
Date: 2003-03-03 21:04:45
Link to this Comment: 4920

Yes, there is no magic label to tell us if something is "abnormal" enough to need treatment. Many people do feel that we as a society are overly dependent on psychiatric medications. However, we are quick to medicate a person with a physical illness that impairs their ability to function or lead a happy life. In fact, it is illegal to deny children and dependents medication in the case of cancer and other such physical illnesses. This has been a subject of debate in many trials of Christian Scientist parents who do not wish to treat their children with medications. However, there are no laws that guarantee the same medical treatment to those with mental illnesses. Despite massive amounts of evidence about the success of SSRIs, ritalin, and other psychiatric drugs, there is still a huge stigma attached to using them or giving them to your children. Yes, it seems that in some cases (especially with ADHD) doctors are quick to prescribe drugs. However, numerous people go without helpful treatment because of the predominant feeling that there is something wrong with being medically treated. No, a child who has a little bit of extra energy should not automatically be put on ritalin. But, if you look in the DSM IV, you will see that the criteria for diagnosing a disorder like ADHD are extraordinarily rigid. Perhaps some doctors do not follow these guidelines as they should, but they are there, and the mental health field does not deserve to be portrayed like a gang of pill pushers. Medicine is simply the best proven treatment for most mental illnesses.

Name: Kate
Date: 2003-03-03 21:34:05
Link to this Comment: 4921

I think it would be helpful to say that I absolutely believe that brain=behavior and the things we have been talking about in class are exactly why.

I want to respond to Arun's comments about overcoming an injury through "willpower". I think the analogy to basketball is an interesting one, but it leaves a lot out of the equation. That adrenaline that runs though your veins is what allows you to finish the game. It dulls the pain (I don't know the exact mechanism, but it has to do with neurotransmitters). So, although we may think of it as the desire to finish the game, its actually through a change in brain chemistry that allows us to continue to function. The difference with the physical injury is that the adrenaline ALLOWS you to ignore your pain. Sure, it is partially a response to your desire to win the game that makes you keep playing. But its also made possible because of a change in your brain chemistry. So its really all about brain chemistry. Brain does equal behavior.

I absolutely reject the idea that people with mental illnesses can change their behavior (in respect to their illness). I'm not saying that a person's perspective on the situation won't change things, but that alone is not enough.

the brain and life: complexities and secrets
Name: Tung
Date: 2003-03-03 22:03:26
Link to this Comment: 4922

As we are trying to explore the relationship of the brain and behavior, the understanding of the action potentials as result of separation of charge and electrochemical ion gradients makes it more convincing that behavior originates from the brain. Just like the existence of life has its foundation in the atoms, the most simplistic infrastructure of the brain can be say to consist of these ions concentration gradients. Thus, mental illnesses and other unexplainable actions, such as a spontaneous movement of a limb that has been paralyzed, are easier to explain and to grasp.

These ion channels may be at the baseline of an extremely intricate and complicated system, thus, a mistake somewhere in the system or a defect in a structure that maintain and operate that system may be account for the behavior produce. This analogy seems tto be saying that the brain is the control center of a complex machine, in which the brain is ultimately itself a complicated machine. I do apologize for using this anology because I fervently believe that theres more to the brain but it will ease the discussion that we've been exploring so far.

Getting back to the anology of the brain as a machine, a defect in the system no matter what it is and where it is gives rise the behavior and the mental illness. So getting back to the accountability of people whose actions they can not control because of some abnormality in their brain, I believe that they are indeed not accountable for their actions. Just like a machine, when the brain malfunctions because of some mistakes or defects it should be treated or fixed as so. I can understand someone who thinks that an intoxicated person should be held accountable for their actions because they choose to drink and be potentially intoxicated. The important implication in this example is that they get to choose an action that give rise to whatever consequences they gotten themselves into; however, with mental illness, how can you choose to be born with a mental illness that give rise to consequences that you are unable controlled? Your brain send signals that maintain and regulate every muscle in your body. However, if you are born with structures that somehow do not maintain and regulate these signals normally then is it valid to say that you are held accountable for hitting someone who was in your way?

Furthermore I would like to stress the tremendous influence our society have on our behavior, possibly as much as the brain. It seems to me, in one of our earlier discussions about similarities and differences between the different brains and different behavior, the brain and behavior have an influence on one another. So if society is shaping the way we behave and act day to day, especially in a time when the media is more powerful than ever, the chemical properties and maybe physical properties of our brain are affected as a result. Thus, society could be a cause of the growing trend of mental illness that are described today.

I find it particularly interesting that the brain, in its complexities,has somehow evolved and acquired the ability, ever since the beginning of its existence of life on earth, to learn and to adapt, and to be able to change its chemical and molecular basis to accomdate its external environment. So in a way the brain feeds on what we see, hear, and feel. And, like food, what it takes in may have an effect on its composition. I can understand that the chemical property of the brain is influenced by behavior and vice versa; however, I'm still unsure whether the physical properties (such as size and shape) of the brain is also affected by behavior and vice versa.

Name: viv
Date: 2003-03-03 22:26:30
Link to this Comment: 4925

From the posts in the forum it seems like people are still drawing a distinction between behaviors that we can pin down and identify as physical or the direct result of afflictions of the mind and behaviors they see as rooted in emotion and independent thought like creativity and curiosity. I guess this seems like a natural reaction to have since the functions of action potientials, ionic gradients etc of the nervous system are very identifiably physical functions-we can study how they work- and we can more easily connect them to behaviors that are identifiably physical like moving an arm. I think this goes back to the idea of control and free will, maybe people find reducing all behaviors to "signals" of the nervous system threatening of that freedom we believe we possess. And i don't know if you can really believe brain=behavior half heartedly. If they are one in the same you can't omit 'abstract' behavior from the equation. I think it is more convincing evidence that brain=behavior but makes it no easier to accept.

Name: enor wagne
Date: 2003-03-03 23:21:29
Link to this Comment: 4926

Like Marissa and Tiffany, our recent study of action potentials has further convinced me that brain = behavior. The actual anatomical truth of the brain's engineering serves as evidence in an otherwise intangible concept. However, if we decide to adopt this theory, are we validating epiphenomenalism? Are essentially accepting mental states as a byproduct of greater physical events? While brain may = behavior, I find it implausible to reason that every event or state which occurs in our mind is substantiated by the brain's physical work. Otherwise, no one would have a soul, no one could practice free will, and every human being could genetically be programmed and chemically balanced to be exactly the same. If brain = behavior does that merely account for physical behavior or does it account for mental behavior as well such as thoughts, beliefs, and artistic differentiation? Where is the line drawn, or is one even drawn at all?

Name: Nicole
Date: 2003-03-03 23:33:22
Link to this Comment: 4927

Some of the comments mention society's discomfort with discussing or accepting mental illness as opposed to a better understood illness/malfunction such as cancer. When a disorder affects the brain, fear, ignorance, and mystery surround the source of the resulting abnormal behavior thus isolating the affected person. I must say I agree with classmates' ideas that some of this fear of mental illness is the result of not being able to see or identify the source, the frustration in believing that someone could just "snap out of it if he/she really wanted to", and the fear that something like that could happen to themselves. Why would someone with a mental disorder be considered freakish, especially if they were once normally functional or even superiorly intelligent? Why would we fault them for faulty function of their brain when we do not fault a child or someone with a healthy lifestyle for getting cancer? Maybe some people strongly associate brain and behavior with a person's identity and so a malfunction of the brain becomes a negative reflection of the affected person as a whole, while a person with cancer is considered to be the same person only with a tumor in a specific part of their body that makes them ill yet it is does not define the person's entire identity. Is it the fear of the unknown that attaches a stigma to the mentally ill? I think fear and ignorance play a large role because as I learn more about the biological causes of mental illness it becomes almost impossible to blame the ill person. Of course, in many cases, environment contributes to those changes in brain and resulting behavior but can environment always be controlled? Not always. It is important to examine each type of mental illness and each patient on a case by case basis.

mental disease and the soul
Name: Kate Shine
Date: 2003-03-04 00:08:30
Link to this Comment: 4928

I did my web paper on autism, and I find so much of what everyone is saying relevant to my thoughts lately. I have to agree with some of Arun's sentiment. When people say that mental illnesses like depression are nothing more than a random or genetically determined imbalanced amount of neurochemicals I get very uneasy, because I feel that this thought completely ignores many of the actual causes of something like depression. I feel guilty talking about this, because it seems like I am trying to blame people who really feel that they cannot control their behavior.

But in our society I feel we are so quick to look for an easy solution without looking at the real causes. We just want to say, "there is no reason, it's just physical, pop a pill, it will go away." But that reminds me of so many distopian novels full of overmedicated, numb people. I am definitely not saying that people classified with mental illnesses are weak and inhuman. I think the concept of mental "illness" has so MUCH to do with society.

In America I feel like we share this ideal and dream that everyone should be happy almost all of the time. We watch Friends or Will and Grace and think thats how life should actually be. Why is it so shameful that you don't feel able to attain this goal? Life is a struggle, for everyone. And struggles teach so much and are so enriching in inspiring actual thought and growth.

I am not saying that society completely creates differences that are often very genetic. But the pity and the stigma that is attached to mentally unique people is destructive and exacerbates what we see as their problems. There is nothing wrong with being different. We should appreciate unique people for the perspectives they bring to the human experience. This reminds me of a quote from a movie (called Molly) about a girl with autism I put in my paper:

"In your world, almost everything is controlled....I think that is what I find most strange about this world, that nobody ever says how they feel. They hurt, but they don't cry out. They're happy, but they don't dance or jump around. And they're angry, but they hardly ever scream because they'd feel ashamed and nothing is worse than that. So we all walk around with our heads looking down, but never look up and see how beautiful the sky is."

There is so much repression associated with mental illness. People who are classified with it feel the need to hide, and we need them to hide their differences in order for us to feel normal. If we all didn't have an idea of what normal was, we wouldn't feel such a need to gear our society towards one type of (bland) personality and to label so many people as pitifully incapable. They may not be capable in the ways that we are, but are our ways the "right" ways? Why do we have to fix them?

If we accept the concept of brain=behavior,as well as the idea that we can create our behavior to a large degree(which I think most of us are far from abandoning), then we have to accept that we can change our brains, and that means our brain chemistry. Genetic predisposition to traits is real, but it works hand in hand with environmental factors.....which are often the results of personal, group, or societal actions. There is no such thing as "just physical," because the brain and the soul are intertwined.

states of mind and body...
Name: Katherine
Date: 2003-03-04 00:17:35
Link to this Comment: 4929

I also related to Arun?s comment about basketball and the mind?s connection to the body during athletic events. My experiences have been with cross-country running, and the extremes of physical and mental functioning that can be accessed during situations of racing or during intense interval sessions. It has definitely been true, in my experience, that the mind can reach a different state in these situations, and that this state can enable the body to perform things that would not normally be feasible. I am also convinced by the fact that, to a certain extent, the endorphins produced by exercise can have an effect similar to anti-depressant medications.

In terms of Kant (as mentioned earlier), it is an interesting idea that the ability for signals to start from ?within the box? could help to justify his idea of ?a priori? subjectivity. It doesn?t seem to work completely, however, because it is still unclear to me where the possibility for ?choice? exists and does not exist, and how this relates to prior experience. It seems that, although a signal from ?inside the box? is independent of external experience, it could still be linked to a certain INTERNAL experience, related to the I-function, which would necessarily differ for each person and would thus not be ?universal? as Kant intended.

And, to be honest, I am still very worried about free will? does this mean that am I stubbornly trying to grasp the mirage of ?decisions? and ?choice? and ?free thought? while my brain chemicals merely watch and laugh, tricking me into a false sense of control?

Name: Neela
Date: 2003-03-04 00:53:41
Link to this Comment: 4930

In reference to Alexandra's comment, it seems that the prevalence of an illness increases with the amount of the population anxious to diagnose it as such. For example, ADD was a hot topic in the media, schools, and doctors not too long ago. After the disorder became popularized, accepted, and medicated, the number of young children with it shot through the roof. Perhaps in our overzealous attempt to homogenize behavior, we create disorders where there are none. (However, to underplay the existence of medical illnesses as a whole would be irresponsible.) Now, it's being shown that many children on Ritalin do not have a particular illness but they have irregular sleep patterns which interfer with their ability to concentrate. Our society and the environment in which people live surely have an affect on our behavior as well as our brain (abuse has been shown to affect neural pathways). Should we treat such changes as biologic, psychological, or merely personal "problems"?

Name: Kat
Date: 2003-03-04 01:01:26
Link to this Comment: 4931

Shanti's post got me thinking on another subject: What qualifies someone's behavior as "disorder"? Assuming brain truly equals behavior, and everyone behaves slightly differently, therefore everyone's brain is slightly varied. But how far does a brain have to be from the "norm" in order to qualify as abnormal? There must be a range of deviance that is considered "normal" within the psychological community and the society at large. But because a mind (or some behavior) falls outside of this range, does this mean that the person in posession of the mind should medicate themselves in order to fall within the range of "normal" deviance? Perhaps our societal assumptions have more implications then we care to examine.

medical benefit vs. societal cost
Name: E. Fulchie
Date: 2003-03-04 01:10:24
Link to this Comment: 4932

As I read my classmates postings, I find myself dismayed at how seemingly jaded our generation has become with regard to the supposed epidemic of overmedication in our society. Although statistics reflecting the enormous numbers of people afflicted with depression, ADD, ADHD, and obesity seem abnormally high, and diagnosis often seems excessive, I cannot help but believe that these statistics and diagnoses are not signals of an impending homogenization of society nor of a systematic eradication of those attributes which define unique personalities. Rather, I believe that they are the beneficial consequences of advances in medical technology. Human mood disorders such as depression are effectively treated with drugs, which specifically block the reuptake of serotonin into the presynaptic axon terminal. The resultant enhanced serotonin activation brings about a cascade of events ultimately resulting in a reduced sensitivity of presynaptic autoreceptors for serotonin and reduced serotonin synthesis. Meanwhile, Methylphenidate, a central nervous system stimulant enables children and adults with learning disadvantages to improve their performance and increase attention spans. I am certain that we would not be critical of diabetics for taking insulin, of paraplegics for using wheelchairs, nor of the sufferer of a common cold for relieving symptoms with an aspirin. Similarly, prescription drugs utilized to treat those for whom biochemical depression or genetic predisposition to being overweight decrease quality of life are simply devices for providing normalcy and stability, and potentially healthier lifestyles. Anti-depressants do not provide an artificial happiness for otherwise normal human beings; rather, they enable depressed individuals to achieve a level of physical, mental, and emotional functionality similar to other healthy human beings. How fortunate we are that there exist such tools to minimize disadvantages caused by such diseases and disorders. Regardless of potential misdiagnose and over-treatment, there can be no end to the benefits reaped from a society in which science can provide remedy for the failings of nature.

Name: Adina
Date: 2003-03-04 02:33:44
Link to this Comment: 4934

A hot topic in the forum seems to be the way our society treats mental illnesses. There seem to be conflicting views about wether or not altering the chemical make up in the brain of someone with these illnesses is actually a good thing or a bad thing. I think that over-diagnosing is a serious problem in our society. Of course, that is not to say that there are no serious illnesses that require attention. There are people who are genetically pre-disposed to severe depression, but then there are also others who just do not want to deal with their problems and their lives. Instead they choose to take drugs that "help them deal." I became quite depressed last semester, I experienced what is commonly called the "sophomore slump." I was used to living with at least three other people in my room last year, but now, i was all alone. My two best friends live in other dorms, and i'm not really good friends with any of the other people who live on my hall. This new isolation would keep me up at night, which is the loneliest time when you spend all day alone. The lack of sleep at night would cause me to sleep through my classess the next day. And missing classes can turn into a viscious downward cycle. After missing a week of class, one is reluctant to have to talk to the prof. and explain that she is just a slacker. This lack of wanting to deal with problems then in turn leads to missing more and more classes, which just becomes even more depressing. However, I decided that I did not need the help of drugs to overcome this. Instead I just needed to grow up and face the problems that I myself had created. I didn't even dream of seeing a counselour. I did not want to have to tell my parents that i could not handle my problems on my own. They are European, and were raised in a totally different fashion from any of us who were raised here in America. ADD and depression were unheard of. If the kids did poorly in school, they would have to deal with the wrath of their angry parents. That was motivation enough to pay attention. If someone was unhappy, too bad, that was life.

I realize that things do not work that way anymore, especially in this country. A parent cannot threaten his/her children in order to make them pay attention in school. However, I do not think that drugs are the best or only answer. E. Fulchiero said that "there can be no end to the benefits reaped from a society in which science can provide remedy for the failings of nature." This reminds me of the society created by Aldous Huxley in "Brave New World" where there are no real experiences anymore. Instead, life is a drug-altered stupor that seems pointless to someone who was not raised in that society. It seems to me that our society is headed in that direction. "You've got a problem? We've got a drug that can take care of it." Drugs may be the answer to some of life's problems, but it is not the answer to all of life's problms.

Creating new disorders to treat?
Name: Christine
Date: 2003-03-04 02:44:17
Link to this Comment: 4935

As I was browsing the internet, I came across a BBC article titled: "Myth of 'female impotence' created" in which the writer talks about how it has become more and more common to try to treat sexual dysfunction in women, since so many men have been treated already.

Here's the link:

Since Viagra has been so successful in sales, drug companies are looking to recreate that kind of market among women. However, it is entirely possible that this "sexual dysfunction" in women is due to natural changes in their sexual feelings which may happen after childbirth or being with the same partner for many years. There is probably also just a disinterest among many women, not necessarily indicating that there is something medically wrong with them. By producing a drug to "solve" this problem, it creates a mentality among women that says "Hey look..there's a drug out there that is geared to help you with this, you should take it if you have these 'symptoms'..." However, instead it might be better to look into other factors in the everyday life of these women to get a complete overview of what might be really wrong.

This is not to say that I do not believe that medication does help with chemical imbalances and in general some disorders/illnesses. However, I think that this article may shed light to the idea that some disorders can be cured without pharmaceutical medication by looking elsewhere. So while I do believe in the power of the drug, I sometimes feel that they become so commercialized and relied upon that it becomes more of an issue of sales than concern of the human body's condition.

Diagnostic criteria of ADHD
Name: Jen
Date: 2003-03-04 08:51:41
Link to this Comment: 4937

In regards to Cordelia's posting, the diagnostic criteria of AD/HD which can be found in the DSM-IV can be ambigious and require more observation than the medical/ psychiatric community is willing to give to the child being diagnosed. By ambiguity i am simply stating that the diagnostic symptoms of AD/HD are extremely similar, if not identical, to a gifted child. If the acting out is specific to certain situations, the child's behavior is more likely related to giftedness; whereas, if the behavior is consistent across all situations, the child's behavior is more likely related to ADHD.
However, i think that it is hard to diagnose what we can not see (such as a broken arm, wrist, etc.) or maybe what we do not fully understand. I think there can be individual variation in the way that a child acts, her behaviors, i would like to think are unique and i don't think i could feel confident diagnosing a child with AD/HD. I think that it is hard to understand something that we can't physically see, other than behaviors exerted by the child.

Name: nicole
Date: 2003-03-05 22:12:01
Link to this Comment: 4958

I agree with E. Fulchiero (her posting) that medicine can be beneficial if not abused. However, medicine is often used as a solution to a particular medical problem. For example, there are many obese individuals with high blood pressure. Doctors often recommend a healthy diet, incorporation of exercise into a person's life, and also prescribe medicine. Some individuals don't make any lifestyle changes and instead depend on the medicine to control their high blood pressure. This also holds true for some individuals with mental illness. E. Fulchiero compares diabetics, paraplegics, and people suffering from the common cold and state that they are not frowned upon because of their use of drugs or medical equipment because it improves their quality of life. I think this is reasonable assertion. But this is different from someone who becomes dependent on the medicine. I think all of the above examples are different from someone who had knee surgery and continued to take vicodin or percaset long after pain medicine was necessary. It is different from the depressive patient who relies on anti-depressants rather than seeking medical help to improve their quality of life. Ultimately it is the choice of the patient suffering from a mental disorder to decide if they want to take medicine or live with the symptoms of their mental illness. In my opinion, they should either use the medicine in conjunction with other methods to improve their quality of life (behavior modification or some other form of psychological treatment), or live with their illness, rather than rely on medication to "cure" their disease. The reality is that the medication is not a cure. It's a temporary solution that may ease the burden of living with a mental illness, but unless other techniques are used in with medication, the illness will reappear as soon as the person stops taking their medication.

Date: 2003-03-06 01:47:42
Link to this Comment: 4965

There are people who can lower their blood pressure by using meditation. If that is true, then that means that we can change the signals being sent out by the brain. If we can change the brain, then we should be able to control many other biological processes in our bodies. Can you think of all the possibilities? It is mind boggling. So how does the power of suggestion work? How does it affect the brain - chemically speaking?
From my own experience,... I have suffered from panic attacks. They were absolutely ridiculous. They made no sense. For example, I would be swimming the in the pool and I would starting panicking about the presence of a shark in the pool. I tried all types of rational thoughts, such as: the pool is chlorinated you dumb-ass. How could a shark survive in this environment? Not to mention that it would make no sense for Bryn Mawr College to add a shark to their pool and watch their students being torn to pieces.
Nothing worked. It took months and months of "quite time" for me to grab control of this debilitating illness. Why would my brain signal my respiratory system to breath faster? Why would my heart rate go up? My panic was based on colorful imagination rather than my behavior, or visual input.
It seems like I have a lot of questions and very few answers. But look at the bright side: what if one day we could control the brain through the power of suggestion. We could potentially cure cancer and HIV!!!

drugs-- are ther benficial?
Name: Grace Shin
Date: 2003-03-06 14:54:44
Link to this Comment: 4974

In regards to many of the student's comments on medication being the cure-all: Medication is indeed a source for help for various cases, both physical and mental illnesses. However, I'm reluctant to agree to E. Fulchiero's comment "there can be no end to the benefits reaped from a society in which science can provide remedy for the failings of nature." Similar to what Adina and Nicole said, I feel that medication is a supplement to our own efforts to improve our quality of life. It is a scary thought when you think about a life controlled totally by the medications we take.

In some aspects, i feel like people turn to medications (especially for some of the mental illnesses aforementioned) more because they want to give the control over to the hands of someone or something else (ie. doctor, medicine) instead of taking the responsibility upon oneself to want to overcome this obstacle oneself. Sure, we can say that some people are just not capable of taking this initiative and what not, but I think that's just all an excuse. Working in an elderly nursing home for over 4 years, I've seen people who basically turn to medication more because they have given up trying than because they seriously want to help themselves. Medication helps... and yes, there are just amazing benefits that we have and will reap from the medicinal technology. However, the problems arise when people turn to their doctors and ask for prescriptions merely because they just can't bring themselves to the point where they themselves want to make that difference.

I know someone mentioned obesity, and i agree that some people are predisposed to obesity. However, too often you see these college students, who are obviously not taking care of their body (ie. exercising and eating healthy) and then complaining that they have a weight problem... going on pills to lose weight. When I see that, I want to just shake them and say "Just exercise and quit eating three apple pies every meal!" I know a HANDFUL of friends who always try these diet pills thinking it'll help them control their appetite and what not... but sometimes, you really need to just take control yourself. I know the class hasn't fully decided yet whether we have control or not... but til we do, I am still prone to say that we do have some control over our lives and that free will does exist. And we ARE able to make choices for ourselves without the alterations from pills in our heads...

By the way, this class is getting pretty interesting... and I'm glad that people are being so honest with their opinions!!

Name: Sarah
Date: 2003-03-10 21:51:35
Link to this Comment: 5001

February 11, 2003
State Can Make Inmate Sane Enough to Execute, Court Rules

The federal appeals court in St. Louis ruled yesterday that officials in
Arkansas can force a prisoner on death row to take antipsychotic medication
to make him sane enough to execute. Without the drugs, the prisoner, Charles
Laverne Singleton, could not be put to death under a United States Supreme
Court decision that prohibits the execution of the insane.

Yesterday's 6-to-5 decision is the first by a federal appeals court to allow
such an execution.

"Singleton presents the court with a choice between involuntary medication
followed by an execution and no medication followed by psychosis and
imprisonment," Judge Roger L. Wollman wrote for the majority in ruling by
the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Judge Wollman said the first choice was the better one, at least when the
drugs were generally beneficial to the prisoner. He said courts did not need
to consider the ultimate result of medicating the prisoner.

"Eligibility for execution is the only unwanted consequence of the
medication," he wrote.

Judge Gerald W. Heaney, in dissent, said there was a third choice. He would
have allowed Mr. Singleton to be medicated without fear of execution.

"I believe," he wrote, "that to execute a man who is severely deranged
without treatment, and arguably incompetent when treated, is the pinnacle of
what Justice Marshall called `the barbarity of exacting mindless vengeance.'
" Judge Heaney added that the majority's holding presented doctors with an
impossible ethical choice.

Mr. Singleton killed a grocery store clerk in Arkansas in 1979 and was
sentenced to death that year. His conviction was affirmed in 1981 by the
Arkansas Supreme Court.

In 1986, the United States Supreme Court held in an opinion by Justice
Thurgood Marshall, that the execution of the insane was barred by the Eighth
Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

Mr. Singleton's mental health began to deteriorate in 1987. He said he
believed his prison cell was possessed by demons and that a prison doctor
had implanted a device in his ear.

In December 2001, he wrote to the appeals court to inform it that he did not
believe his victim was dead and that she was "somewhere on earth waiting for
me - her groom."

Based on extensive medical evaluations describing Mr. Singleton as
psychotic, his lawyers have argued that he is mentally incompetent and thus
cannot be executed. Drugs alleviate his symptoms, however, and Judges
Wollman and Heaney differed yesterday on whether they rendered Mr. Singleton
sane or merely masked his psychosis.

The Supreme Court has held that prisoners may be forced to take
antipsychotic medications in some situations. Prisoners who are forced to
take medications to ensure that they are competent to stand trial are
entitled to a hearing to consider the medical appropriateness of the
treatment, the risk the defendant poses to himself and others, and the
drug's effect on the defendant's appearance, testimony and communications
with his lawyer.

The Supreme Court has not ruled on whether prisoners may be medicated in
order to make them competent to be executed.

Over the years, Mr. Singleton has sometimes taken antipsychotic medication
voluntarily and has sometimes been forced to take it. Arkansas officials
argued that Mr. Singleton must be medicated because he posed a danger to
himself and to others.

Mr. Singleton's lawyers responded by saying, in Judge Wollman's
characterization, that forcible medication "becomes illegal once an
execution date is set because it is no longer in his best medical

The majority decision yesterday said Mr. Singleton's interest in being free
of unwanted medication must be balanced against society's interest in
punishing criminal offenders. It overturned a ruling by a three-judge panel
of the court, which had commuted Mr. Singleton's death sentence because he
could not understand his punishment without being medicated.

Judge Heaney, in dissent, noted that the majority's decision gave doctors
hard choices.

"Needless to say," he wrote of the majority's holding, "this leaves those
doctors who are treating psychotic, condemned prisoners in an untenable
position: treating the prisoner may provide short-term relief but ultimately
result in his execution, whereas leaving him untreated will condemn him to a
world such as Singleton's, filled with disturbing delusions and

Judge Heaney's opinion was joined by three other judges. Judge Diana Murphy
dissented on a different ground. She said the record was not clear on
whether Singleton was psychotic and that it was premature to take up the

The American Medical Association's ethical guidelines prohibit giving
medical treatment that would make people competent to be executed, said Dr.
Howard Zonana, who teaches psychiatry and law at Yale.

"You can't treat someone for the purpose of executing them," he said.

Jeffrey Marx Rosenzweig, Mr. Singleton's lawyer, said that he was
considering asking the United States Supreme Court to hear the case, which
he said presented an important question of constitutional law.

"To what extent," he asked, "can a government take invasive, involuntary
action using medical personnel who are sworn to heal, save and treat when
the result of their medical application and experience is not healing,
treating and saving but instead has the result of causing execution?"

Kelly Kristine Hill of the Arkansas attorney general's office, who
represented the state, said the court's ruling was limited and correct.

"The ethical decisions involving doctors are difficult ones," she
acknowledged, "but they are not ones for the courts."

Name: Annabella
Date: 2003-03-11 00:50:21
Link to this Comment: 5002

I am very interested in the discussion on whether medication is an effective tool to use for mental diseases, because your vantage point all depends on if you believe that mental disorders are psychological or physiological. Often I have heard the opinion that people with mental disorders can find the root of their disorder in the circumstance of their life. For example, a highly traumatic child hood, a devastating action – and the list goes on. Others opine that we can trace the root of all mental disorders to a chemical malfunction in the brain. Therefore it can be treated with a medication. Is this true? Is happiness just a pill away?

Oddly enough both arguments can find sufficient evidence in today's scientific findings. People who are given placebos do get better, and it is entirely because they fool themselves into it. No chemical balance was restored. However, just as many times those who have been mentally ill for several years are miraculously cured by the latest wonder drug. What then is the correct way to treat the mentally ill? Many doctors today blend a regimen of pharmaceutical and psychological therapy to help their patients achieve balance in their lives. This begs the question, what defines balance? The greatest creators of our history can all be classified as mentally ill. What Einstein's, and Mozart's have been turned into this societies definition of balances individuals? The definition changes daily.

sk, again.
Name: Kathleen F
Date: 2003-03-11 13:22:17
Link to this Comment: 5003

I hate to bring up the dreaded issue of serial killers again, but I think what bothered me most about our conversation in class this past week is that whenever the issue of rehabilitating serial killers comes up, a kind of cynicism sort of sweeps the room. Part of the responsibility of being an educated, conscientious citizen is being objective. Just because something is as it is ("they wouldn't be accepted back into society", "you'd feel differently about trying to help them if a member of your family was killed by one") doesn't mean that's how it should remain. Dismissing the idea as idealistic is a mistake.

more meds
Name: E. Fulchie
Date: 2003-03-12 03:05:35
Link to this Comment: 5004

Grace stated in her posting that "medication is a supplement to our own efforts to improve our quality of life. It is a scary thought when you think about a life controlled totally by the medications we take."
I feel that this statement addresses the very question initially posed in this course: is there a difference between brain and behavior. I personally find it to be the single most important question that exists today as we are learning to treat a wide range of illnesses. Furthermore, I find it fascinating that we are so able to treat diseases of the brain, which lead to diseased behavior or abnormal behavior (I am disregarding the fact that normalcy is a societally defined term here due to lack of a more accurate vocabulary.) Certainly, I think there is an essential piece of the brain=behavior puzzle missing, which is necessary to illuminate the role which we play in controlling mental health. I have been considering the treatments used for clinically defined depression and have come to no conclusions. I have, however, discovered several facts. First of all, there are several medications available for treating depression. These differ in mode of treatment physiologically and have variable degrees of efficacy for different individuals. I can only conclude that this is further evidence of the differences in brains within groups of patients. Also, I have considered the very active role which patients take in treatment of depression, and I believe that Grace has another very good point: the act of taking an antidepressant is not always enough to provide for its relief. Therapeutic means of dealing are often paired with drugs, which leaves me wondering what exactly is being treating via therapy. What element of the brain is being treated (altered?) by means of that therapy? I also wonder just how important the very act of simply taking a medication to treat depression is in deciphering the human role in determining happiness. Is not the act of taking an antidepressant a very conscious, controlled decision made by an individual? Once again, I am stuck reaching for a distinction between the individual and the brain, which may not be valid to make.

News on Reeve
Name: Sarah
Date: 2003-03-14 10:52:44
Link to this Comment: 5012

I thought this was interesting medically, and while it doesn't really pertain to NB&B, it is about one of our favorite examples, Christopher Reeve.

Here is a NY Times article, posted below so you don't have to sign in:

Reeve Smelling the Coffee Again, and More

CLEVELAND, March 13 — The actor Christopher Reeve, who can breathe on his own for 15-minute stretches after experimental surgery to implant electrodes that stimulate the muscles in his diaphragm, told reporters today that he had just had a remarkable experience.

Breathing through his nose, instead of through the hole in his throat required by his ventilator, Mr. Reeve was able to identify various smells — an orange, a chocolate-chip cookie, a mint and coffee — for the first time in the eight years since a horseback riding accident left him paralyzed from the neck down.

"I actually woke up and smelled the coffee," he told a news conference at University Hospitals of Cleveland, where the operation was performed on Feb. 28.

During another 15-minute session off the ventilator, he said, he asked his support staff to turn off the machine so he could enjoy the silence. That was when he heard the sound of his own breathing.

"That meant a tremendous amount," he said.

While his doctors say they hope he can wean himself permanently from the respirator, Mr. Reeve still needs it for most of the day, and he used it throughout today's news conference.

"This necktie I'm wearing is not my favorite," he said of the tube hanging from the hole in his neck.

Two of his doctors, Anthony DiMarco and Raymond Onders, the surgeon who performed the operation, told reporters that its full effects would not be known for two to three months. In that time, Mr. Reeve will undergo conditioning exercises several times a day to retrain his atrophied diaphragm.

Every time the electrodes stimulate his diaphragm to contract, Reeve, 50, said, he feels a sensation like "a mild little flick of the finger," which is not uncomfortable.

Mr. Reeve plans to incorporate the exercises into his overall physical-therapy regimen, which includes water therapy and working out on a special bicycle. The program has enabled him to wiggle his extremities, to sit up partly by himself and, before he had the implant, to use his neck muscles to breathe for short periods without a respirator.

But he will continue to need critical-care supervision 24 hours a day.

"It is an exciting moment but also one that has to be put into perspective in terms of what rehabilitation really is," he said. "It's a process. It takes discipline and it takes time and it also takes a tremendous support system." He continued, "No one knows when or even if this will be successful," he continued. "But I'm a pretty determined individual."

Name: Sarah
Date: 2003-03-14 10:59:51
Link to this Comment: 5013

I question Prof. Grobstein's assertion that brains are not like computers, simply because every neuron is a CPU (Central Processing Union). To me, that seems to make the brain a supercomputer, not a non-computer. It increases the complexity a millionfold (10^15-fold!), but it really doesn't seem to make the analogy invalid.

Name: Sarah
Date: 2003-03-14 11:00:57
Link to this Comment: 5014

woops... CPU is central processing unit, not union.

Name: Alanna Alb
Date: 2003-03-15 14:13:27
Link to this Comment: 5016

The action potentials of the nervous system do make it easier to understand and accept that brain=behavior. Action potentials, membrane permeabilities, and ionic gradients are responsible for coding membrane proteins by DNA. Since we know that DNA and genes do influence our behavior, then the action potentials of the nervous system must influence our behavior as well. Therefore, it should be obvious that a dysfunctional mechanism within the action potential system will ultimately affect behavior. The more severe this dysfunction is within the system, the more drastic the change is in the behavior of the person. For example, a disruption in action potential signals could severely affect nervous system output, such as walking or another motor skill.

getting back in gear
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-03-16 19:07:14
Link to this Comment: 5017

Welcome back. Hope everybody had a good spring break AND kept thinking about brain/behvavior. Happy to hear whatever you've been thinking, but here's the challenge I left you with the last time we were together ...

We've pretty much got straight the fundamental properties of neurons and their ways of talking to one another (action potentials both triggered and autonomous, integration of currents due to permeability changes, sending of signals via chemical intermediaries, etc). And we know there are LOTS of them organized by both anatomical and chemical specificities. So ... is that ENOUGH? Can we get all of behavior and human experience out of that? What would we need to do? What stands in the way?

Name: Danielle M
Date: 2003-03-16 19:56:33
Link to this Comment: 5018

What I'd like to get a better grasp of is where personality fits into the model. If our brain is where behavior is generated and behavior is controlled by neurons with all their membranes, ionic gradients, neurotransmitters, etc., how are our personalities formed and expressed? Are we pre-programed with certain membrane permeabilities that translate into, say, naturally chipper dispositions? How are our neural behavioral mechanisms affected by environment? If we're raised to suppress a natural giddiness and subsequently display a very austere personality, have our neurons or their patterns of operation been altered?

Name: Amelia
Date: 2003-03-16 20:13:09
Link to this Comment: 5019

I would like to say that there something more in the human experience than what can be explained by neurons and how they communicate with each other. Since I am taking this class to learn more about this subject, I don't know that much about it, but I would like to know more about creativity and creative reasoning and how that fits into neuroscience. I do know that about 40,000 years ago (if I'm remembering correctly - it could be a bit longer ago than that) there was a creative revolution among our species. Until this point, we were using the same technology as the Neanderthals and unless archaeologists find some human remains, there is no really good way to determine whether the site was habitated by humans or Neanderthals. Then, 40,000 years ago, the "creative revolution" hit and archaeologists and anthropologists are able to see a marked differentiation between the technology, etc. of the two species. Maybe, about 40,000 years ago, a creative type of human was selected for.

magnetism and the brain
Name: Kelvey
Date: 2003-03-17 10:45:23
Link to this Comment: 5021

I realize that a question about the existence of magnitism has been brought up in class so I found it interesting to learn that one of the most rapidly developing non-invasive tools for studying the human brain is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS provides a pulsed magnetic field which creates current flow in the brain and can temporarily excite or inhibit specific areas. Some of the interesting points that were made in the July 13, 2000 Nature article on TMS was on brain plasiticity and that there appears to be a constant battle for the control of each neuron among its various inputs. My question is what determines the winner of the battle between neurons. Besides action potential, what controls the passage of a input and in what areas can that input be disrupted?

Name: geoff
Date: 2003-03-17 12:24:37
Link to this Comment: 5022

we haven't talked much about memory yet, but this short article is worth a look. its about watching memories being formed in the neurons of a mouse. its creepy that now we can look at memories being formed. there is still something missing though from the physical changes we can observe to the cognitive sensations we experience.

Name: geoff
Date: 2003-03-17 12:26:55
Link to this Comment: 5023

when you get to the site, scroll down under "letters" and click on R&D to get the article.

personality and reactions
Name: marissa
Date: 2003-03-17 16:47:21
Link to this Comment: 5032

Well, I think that I have possibly written on this topic before, but Danielle's mention of personality, behavior, and the affects of our environment is very interesting. I thought her point that people are "pre-programmed with certain membrane permeabilities that translate into naturally chipper dispositions" was something that struck me as very likely. The idea that people may hinder their own behaviors and reactions in accordance to the way they have been "trained" to is very common. Maybe not as permanant as other behaviors that are considered to be more common or reflexive, but still similar. Whether or not that is innate, a chemical, or a physical change is really my question. We have discussed in other forums that certain mental illnesses may be chemical disruptions or actualy physical differnces in th brain or neuron patterns. If reactions are trained, but tanglible, what is the actual change that is taking place?

Name: Neela Thir
Date: 2003-03-17 21:31:09
Link to this Comment: 5038

The question of whether our current knowledge of permeabilites and action potentials is enough to understand the brain and behavior seems like one of those questions that begs for a negative response because of all of mysteries of the brain that go unanswered despite science's explaination (such as pre-cognition). I can understand how what we discussed explains personality and other such aspects of behaviors, but it is the spontaneous actions of the body that remains a bit unsettling. Action potentials, changes in permeability, and changes in ionic concentration which cannot be traced back to a source are like biologic I-functions. These independant actions should be the result of another layer of biologic coding, but if they are not, then perhaps there is a an aspect of behavior not dictated by the brain. All of my statements in this posting could easily be explained away if I knew more information on the source of seemingly independant actions of the brain. If the answer was discussed in class and I just didn't catch it, my repsonse to the question would be that I don't think we have enough information to explain behavior as a sole function of the brain.

Can the brain explain it all?
Name: Stephanie
Date: 2003-03-17 22:36:44
Link to this Comment: 5039

Whether of not permeablities and action potentials can explain all of human behavior, I don't know. But I do know that it is exciting to see how much it can explain. I really liked seeing how our senses of sight, smell, and hearing can be connected to permeability.

I liked a phrase that Marissa used: "trained, but tangible", this is pretty much the key to using neurobio to explain behavior. The brain does not act on its only on its own, we see this through receptor potentials. I makes sense that things other than biology have an effect on our actions. What I really want to know about if how susceptible the brain is to modification.

explaining personality change
Name: alexandra
Date: 2003-03-17 22:41:23
Link to this Comment: 5040

When thinking about how personality is controlled by brain, it is interesting to think about how personality changes. Would the dying of neurons explain how personality changes? Or would change be interpreted as new pathways between neurons that have some how arisen or started. In understanding how personality can be a product of the brain, it is important to still appreciate how experiences or choices (even though based on the brain's "decisions") can in turn create new neuronal pathways. These new pathways could influence behavior such as personality. For example, I'm sure my decision to go to Bryn Mawr must have affected my personality. I think I am more open-minded now than I was in highschool. Although this increased open-mindedness may be a product of the brain, the change in the brain would have stemmed from a change in environment.

Name: Laurel
Date: 2003-03-17 23:04:07
Link to this Comment: 5041

My 8-year-old cousin was recently diagnosed with petit mal seizure disorder. Although her diagnosis came a few days ago, she's probably been suffering from seizures for years. Her parents (now having guilt issues) told me that they noticed she would "space out" for a few moments before "snapping out of it". Within the past few weeks, these episodes have come more frequently. I have been looking into the subject on the internet, and I came across this article which I find very interesting from a biological and anthropological point of view. The concept that the functioning of the brain can be altered by diet is one that I had not considered carefully. Does the disorder occur more often in cultures emphasizing low-fat diets?

Back to the drawing board
Name: Andy Green
Date: 2003-03-17 23:07:07
Link to this Comment: 5042

In last week's forum, I asked whether the idea of an independently functioning action potential might be able to explain free will in any way. I've decided since then that an independent action potential doesn't really help the resolution of the free will controversy. Although the independent action potential might seem self-controlled, it really is just as determined as any other part of the brain. An action potential that fires without stimuli is still determined by genetics and an infinite collection of other physical causes...The fact that it starts within the body doesn't indicate any sort of real agency. So, sadly, the problem of free will reappears as strong as ever.

Now that I'm back where I started, I guess I have to settle on the boring conclusion I'd come to in my web paper: free will is epiphenomenal.

Name: vivian
Date: 2003-03-17 23:26:50
Link to this Comment: 5044

questions are being raised in the forum about how changes in the brain-physical, chemical, changes in our preprogrammed(?) membrane permeabilites- affect behavioral changes. i've been looking into dual diagnosis lately and it seems to be connected to the questions raised. dual diagnosis is the concurrance of mental illenss and substance abuse. one point that seems clear from articles i've read is that the etiology of these problems is really not known and questions of how the disorders affect one another and of whether shared biological vulnerability plays a role are pretty much unanswered. one line of research that i thought was really interesting suggests that physical changes inside the brain take place after developing either a mental illness or substance abuse problem, increasing vulnerability to the other- so if our membrane permeabilities are preprogrammed can they be reprogrammed and how do environmental factors like treatment and medication affect change in our programming?

Name: Christine
Date: 2003-03-18 00:00:23
Link to this Comment: 5045

In response to Dr. Grobstein's question, I don't think that necessarily changes in neuronal pathways can be completely accountable for behavior. I do think however that those changes can affect personality, as Alexandra suggests, yet not completely. I still believe though that environments have a strong impact on behavior-including upbringing, culture, and regional backgrounds. Can shifts in neuronal pathways be solely responsible? I don't think so. While signals sent and lost could account for changes in behavior, I do believe that it could very well be a whole combination of factors that have such an effect.

Name: Nicole M.
Date: 2003-03-18 00:17:56
Link to this Comment: 5046

In response to Prof. Grobstein's question about whether we can get all of behavior and human experience out of the properties of neurons and their ways of talking to one another, I agree with Alexandra when she said, "Although this increased open-mindedness may be a product of the brain, the change in the brain would have stemmed from a change in environment." I have been thinking about the extent which environment (experience socially and physically; exposure to certain climate, chemicals, or diets; type of culture; upbringing; traumatic events etc...) influences the properties of neurons and their ways of interacting, and if it has any influence at all. Is the manner in which each person deals with the environment set before them the result of pre-programmed neural properties or does environment alter these properties or do both components of environment and neural interaction rely upon each other? I wonder how the personality of one person who had been raised in one lifestyle would differ from the very same person raised in a drastically different environment. It is highly unlikely that the same human would develop the same personality traits and human experience, which would suggest that environment does influence neural functioning, if in fact behavior can be attributed to neural interactions. I guess one could say that environment can affect predisposed properties of neurons and their interactions which in turn, dictate all behavior and human experience, but I am not yet comfortable enough to make such an affirmative statement.

mental illness and substance abuse
Name: maria
Date: 2003-03-18 07:52:21
Link to this Comment: 5052

I was interested in Vivian's comments about the link between mental illness and substance abuse. The idea that changes in the brain caused by one of these 2 disorders could increase susceptibility to the other intruigued me. I confess that while I have always had sympathy for those people with substance abuse problems, I have never really considered them to be diseases. This talk of brain chemistry, etc. makes me wonder just how much control people with addictions have over their problems?

is it enough?
Name: nicole
Date: 2003-03-18 09:55:56
Link to this Comment: 5056

In response to Professor Grobstein¡¯s question ¡°Is that enough?¡±. I that the brain can control behavior. If there are 4 nitrogenous bases that can create a tremendous amount of diversity in and across species, I think that action potentials (triggered and autonomous), permeability changes, and chemical intermediaries can somehow produce all of human experience.

Name: Patty
Date: 2003-03-18 18:10:39
Link to this Comment: 5066

I am curious to understand what we feel is being taken away from us in the acceptance of brain and behavior as one. I think, to answer Paul Grobstien's question, what is missing is our ability to include free will. Maybe, if free will does not fit within our summary of evidence,and if we have compiled this summary of evidence in a way that seems logical and rational to us,then we should not be afraid to entertain the idea that we have no free will. Abandoning the need to "include" free will may allow us to develop those things we understand as the brain and those things that we understand as behavior into one cohesive "box." Even in a science that seems to be the polar opposite of Neuroscience, (Behavioral Psychology,) they too have an extreamly hard time defending free will. Our own behaviors, even if they are displayed partially independant from the brain, we agree are contingent upon other things (i.e. phylogony, ontogony) and those place huge contrictions on our conception of free will. If we find more evidence to discard free will than we do to keep it, we should encourage ourselves to look at the possibilty that there may not be any such thing as free will.

Name: Shanti
Date: 2003-03-19 19:26:03
Link to this Comment: 5107

I found what Nicole wrote to be very interesting. It is true that we find many facets of behavior are directly influenced by our environment, however, I would like to pose the idea that some behaviors and actions rise neither from conditioning nor environment, and that they in fact arise spontaneously. We are tryin to find where in our brain we can account for creativity or personality. Maybe those things arise independent of what we see and hear around us. I believe that as much as a person can be conditioned, we can resist conditioning as well. No person is merely a mixture of genes and environment. We know this because no two people are the same even if they live in the same town or come from the same family. Maybe this is because of independent thoughts that our brain is capable of generating. Or maybe we are just not sensative to those thoughts just as we are not sensitive to propioceptors. There are many things in the world that humans are not aware of because we do not have the proper sensors for them. I think that maybe creativity and personality could be two of those things. As we look at our neurons, we don't seem to be able to find the answers to those questions but maybe we would if we just looked at them a different way or learned to hone our senses so that we start perceiving the things that are not immediately obvious. I think its time that we take a fresher approach.

Name: Clare
Date: 2003-03-22 13:28:21
Link to this Comment: 5129

In response to Shanti's comment, however, even people from the same family have a different genetic makeup and even identical twins that live together encounter different experiences. Therefore, can't these account for individual differences rather than spontaneous differences in personality? It's hard for me to imagine anything other than genes and environment accounting for personality or how behaviors and actions would arise spontaneously. Is this referring back to the idea of free will or a soul or are you suggesting something completely different? Also, it's true that an individuality's personality can form by resisting conditioning as much as by yeilding to it, however, isn't the former as much of a response to environmental conditions as the latter? Without some sort of environmental or biological stimulus to resist conditioning from, it seems like this part of an individual's personality could not form. I guess I have no problem believing that my individuality simply comes from my individual genetic makeup and experiences. I feel like these are special things that no one else can claim for themselves and even though it may seem like it leaves me with little control over my individuality, I believe that it does. Just because my biological instinct tells me to do one thing, I can learn from my own individual experience to do something else. Maybe I did not get to "choose" this previous experience, but I had it, and it is mine, and I am choosing to learn from it.

getting there?
Name: Paul Grobt
Date: 2003-03-22 15:55:44
Link to this Comment: 5130

Whatever last week made you think about ... as always. Including the attack on Iraq, though that might get a broader audience if you post it in The Place of the US in the World Community.

If you need something neurobiological to get you started, how about:

We've discovered

Which of these change (or seem likely to change) how you think about behavior and why? What new questions do they raise?

conjoined twins
Name: Lisa
Date: 2003-03-22 20:23:05
Link to this Comment: 5133

i have a psychology paper due soon and it is on conjoined twins. i have found countless amounts of website pertaining to thier physical development, but what i need now i any information on thi cognitive growth and develpment. can anyone help me locate this information?

Name: Amelia
Date: 2003-03-23 20:44:52
Link to this Comment: 5138

The fact that we have sensory inputs that we are unaware of makes a lot of sense to me now that I think about it. If we had to consciously think about everything our body does, or if we knew everything that our body was doing, I think that we would have problems functioning with anything outside of all that we would have to do to keep our bodies functioning. I think that if we were actually knowledgable of all of the inputs which our nerves were taking in we would suffer from information overload. I think it is our bodys' way of allowing us to function; since we don't need to know that a certain nerve is firing in the small intestine to tell a muscle to contract so that food can be transferred to the large intestine, we don't recieve the input that the nerve is firing.

Name: geoff
Date: 2003-03-23 21:14:30
Link to this Comment: 5139

Something is missing in my conception of what proprioceptors do. I understand that there is a whole section of our nervous system that is responsible for internal functionings, rest and digest (sympathetic?), but i feel like proprioceptors are more than that? so what are they?

professor said that they give us a sense of ourselves in space. the example was of picking up the mouse with his eyes closed. i don't buy it, and i don't think we have a very good sense of ourselves in space without our normal sensory inputs. picking up the mouse is a function of memory, and maybe the central pattern generator, which makes sense to me. but if one of us had to get up from our seats and walk across the room to pick up the mouse, we would have a hard time. how well we did would depend on the sensory input we were able to gather along the way (in addition to the initial memory of the room's layout): the slope and texture of the floor, maybe the sound of the students or computer, even the air brushing by our skin giving us an idea of velocity. i don't think we would have very much idea of where we were outside of these things.

what i was thinking about when professor was picking up the mouse was how, when you turn the light off in a room and move around for a few minutes in the pitch black (before your eyes adjust), you make all kinds of mistakes that my idea of proprioceptors would not allow. your steps are too small, even though your body tells you they are bigger, and when you go to stretch out your arm to touch a wall, if you can't see its outline, you will usually be way off as to how stretched out it was. when you touch the wall you realize you hadn't actually stretched out your arm at all, though your assumption was different.

so what exactly do these guys do? does it just take practice to get them into use? i understand the idea of a loop that helps the body make use of the senses it has and provides us with smooth, continuous movement, so is that all they are, a mediator between the sensory and motor neurons? i understand that they do not give a sensation, but i don't understand what they are giving me since my automatic assumptions about my body when i am not able to key in on other senses are usually way off.

forum 7 question
Name: Alanna
Date: 2003-03-23 23:26:04
Link to this Comment: 5140

No! Physiology alone is NOT ENOUGH to explain all of human behavior and experience. Yes, we have discussed how the intricate makings of action potentials, neurons, and the like have a huge impact on our behavior -- we have also discussed how disruptions in the physiology are likely to lead to abnormalities in behavior. However, we still have not discussed and accounted for changes in behavior that CANNOT be attributed to any sort of physiological mishap. Therefore, there must be something more going on inside the brain -- I don't know exactly what it is, but I do know that it is something that is neither tangible nor physiological. How do you account for the "soul" or "free will" physiologically in terms of brain and behavior? The point is: you just can't. I don't think it possible. Our inability to completely understand the inner workings of the brain, those that cannot be studied under a microscope, stands in the way of being able to explain what lies beyond the physiological.

Free will
Name: Annabella
Date: 2003-03-24 00:23:34
Link to this Comment: 5141

While I agree with the statement that 'physiology alone is not enough to explain all of human behavior and experience,' I cannot find the thread that joins it to the idea purporting that it hinders our ability to 'explain what lives beyond the physiological.' If we can explain what exactly our physiological processes do, then we have narrowed down a wealth of things that our free will is NOT accountable for. Using our research and acquired knowledge to sieve through human existence, we will have a much clearer idea of what free will IS accountable for. However, this is not something that can be accomplished in a single college class. This class is the stepping-stone that will help guide us towards a lifetime of questions—and eventually an answer. Before we ask the question, it is imperative that we define what free will is, and then ask, "What is free will?"

A quote to remind us all to be careful in our reasoning.

Reasoning is full of tricks
And butterfly suggestions,
I know no point to which she sticks;
She begs the simplest questions,
And, when her premises are strong
She always draws her inference wrong.
- alfred colchrane

without senses
Name: marissa
Date: 2003-03-24 15:51:48
Link to this Comment: 5146

Geoff's point about not being completely aware of oneself regardless of proprioceptors made me wonder about what happens to proprioceptors when a person loses one of their senses. For example, when someone becomes blind or deaf at some point in their life, they adapt to their new situation and are able to utilize their other senses still available to them to a much greater extent. Does that mean that their proprioceptors are more activated, and that those of us with all senses just do not utilize them to their greatest capacity, or is this an entirely different function within the nervous system?

Uncomfortable Chair
Name: Laurel
Date: 2003-03-24 19:21:35
Link to this Comment: 5149

During class on Thursday, Professor Grobstein made the point that none of us was aware of the sensory receptors in our "derriere" sending messages to our brain until he mentioned that they were doing so. What is the importance of not realizing them? We can't be aware of everything at once. Such obsessive behavior can hinder quality of life. There is such a thing as a neutral existence in which we don't care about the chair in which we sit. Although the sensory receptors are sending the information, it's not something that triggers thought unless it differs from the neutral state -- if the chair is particularly comfortable, we might realize it, or if the chair is particularly uncomfortable we will most likely realize it, and shift until we find a position that is closer to neutral. As I ruminated on this, my thoughts shifted to habit. It's odd how certain behaviors are so commonplace that they seem almost unconscious. Can such habits become a product of the nervous system not triggered by external stimuli?

free will
Name: Cordelia S
Date: 2003-03-24 20:59:11
Link to this Comment: 5152

I guess when I break free will down to its bare minimal meaning, I think of it as the ability to choose not to do something one is physically capable of doing. When I think of it that way, I come to the conclusion that it must not take some extraordinarily magically complicated system to produce free will. Infants have free will: they can refuse to suck if they are not hungry. My dog has some types of free will: when he sees a deer, he chases it...when my family goes on vacation he'll chew something to get revenge. And yes, I guess I believe that computers and machines can have free will, though I don't think the one I'm typing this on does. Maybe even it does, in its own way. I guess I think there are some limitations on free will in everything that posesses it....maybe the name free will is misleading. I think that one of the reasons it is hard for us to concieve of free will being constructed of neurons is that this construction gives some of us (me) a feeling that we are being controlled by our bodies. But then, we are our bodies, so it is a sort of strange feeling. Examining the neuron on its own has really given me a sense of it being a separate entity from the rest of the body, though I know that is not really true.
So here are some semi-coherent thoughts on the topic. I DO believe that the nervous system is able to somehow provide for free will. I DO NOT understand exactly how. I also think that other types of systems, as in machine, artificial intelligence type replications of the nervous system can provide for free will. I'm guessing they do this in a similar way to however the nervous system does it.
I'm assuming everyone has seen them, but if you haven't, there are some really interesting (quite detailed) posters on artificial intelligence, consciousness, free will, etc. in the hallway in Park by the computer science offices. Worth taking a look at, definitely.

Name: Jen
Date: 2003-03-24 21:20:19
Link to this Comment: 5153

Ok, i am having issues making the connection of how nuerons and synapse areas can explain different emotions. I can understand how an individual with nuerons that fire rapidly might be prone to exhibit a personality with hyperactive qualities. However, i don't see how our model explains emotions such as happiness or sadness in an individual. I feel as though emotions that an individual exhibits are univerisal, such as a smile or a frown, yet the intensity at which they are seen vary? Would this differentation in intensity be attributed to the strength of signals?

Name: Elizabeth
Date: 2003-03-24 21:35:41
Link to this Comment: 5154

I share some of Jen's confusion regarding the origin of emotions. I also have difficulty seeing how to explain happiness or sadness in terms of neurons and other biological factors, especially regarding the intensity of these emotions. Often, it seems that our state of mind is primarily dependent on outside events. It's interesting to think about how external influences change our moods, although I am uncertain of how these influences take place biologically.

Name: Neela
Date: 2003-03-24 22:05:47
Link to this Comment: 5156

Annabella makes some great points. Before we can say that physiology does not encompass explain the "soul" and "free will," we must ask ourselves what those concepts mean. The problem seems to be that they are ill-defined and elusive to begin with. (Personally, I don't believe in "souls" because I could never get a handle on what they are supposed to be; debates still continue with only fuzzier results.) A soul, as many feel exists, could be a general label of some undefinable (by the limits of our understanding and language) product for which we created a term. It's sort of like the example of many blind people each experiencing a different part of an elephant: the tail, the trunk, the ears and the foot. Each of them may describe these features as completely different from what they are and may associate what they felt as distinct from one another. But, that does not mean they weren't all parts of the same creature which they never understand as a whole. What I'm trying to get at is that perhaps what lies behind concepts like the soul is not something greater and non-neurobiological but merely a muddled term that is a poorly fragmented representative of a greater picture which we are reaching for. Perhaps the problem isn't physiology's incapacity to explain the soul but our incapacity to grasp the physiological totality by the set indicators available to us. I think it may be too easy to just say that certain concepts do not originate from brain when the concepts themselves cannot be pinned down let alone be attributed to other explainations.

Sensory Inputs continued...
Name: Arun
Date: 2003-03-24 22:17:34
Link to this Comment: 5157

I understand the possibility of there being sensory inputs which we are unaware of and I do realize (by such examples as the sensory receptors in our derriere) that at times, we are unaware of receptors working and inputs traveling up the nervous system. But I agree with Laurel how certain inputs travel up the brain and that they simply reach a stage of neutral existence which makes us unaware of them.
What I'm wondering is that once we have built up these actions to a point of neutral existence or comfort zone, that we can actually improve these same receptors and how they respond. Take balance for example. We can actually improve our balance by using controlled destabilization. This sharpens the neuromuscular reflexes and is becoming a new form of training for professional athletes. One product, the Jumpsoles 4.0, actually claim to have "proprioception capability." So if these sports psychologists are stating that we are sharpening our neuromuscular reflexes when we work on our proprioceptors, can't we just categorize all sensory inputs that we are unaware of as reflexes? The nervous system builds these comfort zone so that it doesn't have to work on that input, allowing it to be most efficient -- sort of like having as few programs running as possible on a computer so that it continues to process stuff quickly.

Name: alexandra
Date: 2003-03-24 22:40:23
Link to this Comment: 5158

Learning about proprioceptors suddenly made me able to imagine how the brain can control behavior more clearly. The effect which proprioceptors must have on the brain in telling it where the body is so that it can effect the movement or "motor symphony" makes the concept of "motor symphony" easier to grasp. After accepting the importance and existence of proprioceptors, I started to think more about them and there nature. Do certain parts of the body contain more proprioceptors than others? Would having more proprioceptors make that part more aware? Since people are different, do they have differing amounts of proprioceptors and would this change how conscious they are? How would this effect athletes? Would elite athletes have more proprioceptors than average people? Anyway that's a lot of questions but I thought they were interesting.

Name: Luz
Date: 2003-03-24 23:40:11
Link to this Comment: 5159

Some of the comments about emotions made me think about what goes on inside the brain. If neurons pass along information and our output affects our input, what about how we interpret the information? Is this where emotion comes in? Most of the time the person next to you is experiencing the same situation in a totally different way, but they are made of the same neurons. I'm feeling comfortable with neurons, but I feel as if our conversations about them make them sound too simple to explain all behavior.

Name: Christine
Date: 2003-03-25 00:03:05
Link to this Comment: 5160

Central Pattern Generation is really quite an interesting topic for me. I think about many activities in everyone's daily lives and come up with examples like bike riding, playing tennis, driving a car-many things that are acquired skills, or learned central pattern generations. It makes me wonder: Are there any activities that are fully learned central pattern generations? Or do they stem a great deal from genetics? Experience plays a large part into having learned central pattern generation, however, can it really be the only factor taking away any possibility of it being a programmed response? These questions fill my mind right now. I am more inclined, however, to deduce that central pattern generation has to do with both genetics and learned experience and not solely one or the other.

Name: Michelle C
Date: 2003-03-25 00:08:41
Link to this Comment: 5161

The idea of proprioceptors as helpful modifiers of the CNS is an interesting concept. In addition, I was equally amazed at the seemingly unresponsive nature of these receptors when stimulated, but the severe consequence of motor function ability when they are completely abolished. I wonder where this system evolved from, is it distinctive of just human anatomy or do lower class animals and/or insects have similar receptor systems, and how Christopher Reeves proprioception functions now that he is a paraplegic.

the heart
Name: maria
Date: 2003-03-25 00:57:55
Link to this Comment: 5162

how would proponents of the theory that brain=behavior explain the fact that the heart is not dependent on information(pattern generation) from the brain in order to function and can continue to beat even after an organism is brain dead?

Name: Kathleen F
Date: 2003-03-25 01:00:08
Link to this Comment: 5163

Ok, I'm with Geoff on proprioceptors. The idea that the mouse experiment relies on memory, not about some mystical sense of body in time and space, was running through my head too. This is what I think I know about proprioceptors:

They control muscles and are "sensitive" to the position and movement of the body. ("Sensitive"? Whatever that means.) And they detect the movement of a muscle and send messages to the spinal cord. There are two main types called Muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs. What these do is another story. I haven't the faintest.

Name: e.c. fulch
Date: 2003-03-25 01:51:09
Link to this Comment: 5164

As a scientifically-minded person with tendencies to overanalyze and question concepts proffered as absolute by even the most notable experts, I have found it necessary to seek documentation and illustration, which will remove my unfounded doubts regarding proprioception. Although it is neither a theoretical nor philosophical concept, in order to solidify my comprehension of that physiological reality, I have sought out tangible demonstrations of proprioceptive activity. The process I followed in my personal investigation began with a review of what I have been explicitly told to be true in class and by valid sources of biological information. It has been scientifically concluded that muscles are controlled by proprioceptors, which are receptors sensitive to the position and movement of the body. These proprioceptors detect the stretch and tension of a muscle and send messages to the spinal cord to enable it to adjust its signals to the muscles. There are two main types of proprioceptors. One type is muscle spindle stretch receptors lying parallel to the muscle. When a muscle spindle is stretched, it sends a message to a motor neuron in the spinal cord, which in turn relays a message to the muscle signalling it to contract. The human knee-jerk reflex exemplifies muscle spindle proprioception. Golgi tendon organ proprioceptors are located in the tendons at either end of a muscle and act as brakes against excessive contractions by inhibition of spinal cord motor neurons. Simplification and restatement of these concepts in familiar terms has allowed me to grasp what initially seemed to be a very nebulous concept.
During my internet exploration, I discovered a very accessible article addressing a medical investigation into the relationship between afferent innervation, muscle spindles, and proprioceptive performances as illustrated by joint position sensation and stability. This article from the Australasian Journal of Podiatric Medicine has certainly elevated my understanding of physiological awareness and neurofunctionality, and alleviated my initial tendency to question a confirmed biological mechanism. The article can be found at
I hope that anyone else struggling with similar questions and confusions find this and the myriad articles regarding the same topic in some way beneficial.

Name: Nicole
Date: 2003-03-25 02:50:00
Link to this Comment: 5165

In response to Maria's posting: Although not "voluntary" or within one's conscious control, a heart beat is stimulated by pacemaker cells that are in a sense responsible for starting the blood pumping rhythm. I find it hard to believe that the origin of the pacemaker cells' stimulation has no relation to the brain and so would disprove the brain=behavior theory as Maria suggests. Rather, an already transmitted signal may be received and transmitted by the pacemaker cells shortly after death thus responsible for a short period of post-mortem heartbeat, even if the brain is not actively generating new signals. I am not sure if this is the cause and would have to look it up again because it has been a while since I read about it but I am not convinced that this argument disproves the brain=behavior theory. A heart beat can be traced back to the brain.

Name: Nicole
Date: 2003-03-25 03:00:15
Link to this Comment: 5166

After reading over my post, I realized I hadn't made something clear. The pacemaker cells that spontaneously start a heartbeat are not reliant on the nervous system directly. But, other components of the resulting behavior (a heartbeat) are related to the brain. The rate set by the pacemaker cells may be altered by nerve impulses from the autonomic nervous system or by chemicals such as thyroid hormones and epinephrine, and this may mean the lack of such impulses or chemicals (whose origins are related to the brain) could alter the pacemaker cells as well. All I am trying to say that, although not directly linked/wired to the brain, the heartbeat behavior or some portion of any other physical behavior can be related to the brain in some way.

input output brain behavior
Name: enor wagne
Date: 2003-03-25 03:46:50
Link to this Comment: 5167

Since we have recently discussed sensory inputs which we are not aware of, it has made me wonder if we have brought brain=behavior to a new level. Of course there exist sensory inputs of which we are not aware that cause noticable, tangible outputs, but do there exist outputs which we are also not aware of? Or are there sensory inputs that cause no sensory outputs? For instance, when we twitch in our sleep or breath or maintain a heart beat, we are for the most part unaware of the input that causes these outputs, but can inputs occur within us, unaware, and cause no output? When one thought triggers another thought, which one is the input and which is the output? Or are they the same thing? What about a series of thoughts? Is the mental to mental link an input output link? When I think of behavior, I think of some sort of motor symphany or action, not mental events, but can brain = behavior also mean mental behavior aswell?

brain=behavior & multi-tasking
Name: Stephanie
Date: 2003-03-25 08:13:10
Link to this Comment: 5168

I agree with what Amelia said in her post about how it does make sense that there are sensory inputs or outputs that we are not aware of. If brain truly does equal behavior, I think it's necessary that there must be some things that we are either unaware, less aware of, or not able to control (either because we're unaware or just incapable). For instance, what about multi-tasking? When trying to do more than one activity at a time, there's always one activity that gets less attention than the other, but you still end up being relatively successful in completing both of the acts. I was eating cereal this morning while reading the forum, and although I knew I was eating cereal, I wasn't particularly focused on the act of eating since I was concentrating more on reading the forum. I think certainly there are some mechanisms (like memory or rehearsal) that allow for this. I think this can also be applied to similar scenarios like talking on cell phone while driving a car, or reading email while talking on the phone. If we were completely aware of everything occuring both inside or brains and outside in our environment, I don't think it would be possible for us to do different activities at the same, which, depending on how you feel about multi-tasking, might make us less efficient as humans.

equilibrium; free will
Name: Katherine
Date: 2003-03-25 10:02:32
Link to this Comment: 5170

First of all, I am very glad that we are discussing free will to the extent that we are in the forum, as the question of its existence in the brain=behavior model has been worrying me since the beginning.

Also, I have been thinking about the brain's ability to "filter" information, as brought up by Laurel. During our daily lives, we are put into contact with so many stimuli that it is essential to be able to filter through these stimuli, in order to function efficiently. The Brazilian writer Luis Borges has written a beautiful story related this, called "Funes the Memorius," in which a man is plagued by his inability to forget. Instead of being able to filter images and consolidate them, Funes remembers every image at every individual moment and is not able to collapse these images into a continuum. His memory is so vast and so precise that no detail of any perception he has is ever lost to him. The patterns of clouds in the sky at 8:05, for example, would be absolutely distinct and disconnected in his mind from the way they looked at 8.07. Being unable to filter, he finds it difficult to even think and sleep. One can see how this could cause torment and a fear of infinity.

However, there is something about the mind's ability to subconsciously filter and order information that makes me uncomfortable. To state a recent personal experience, I was sitting on the moon bench yesterday, noticing the large trees along senior row. I noticed there was something tied around the trees, but it took me several minutes to consciously acknowledge that they were yellow ribbons tied there. We are so used to filtering out extremities like construction tape and excess, that the intentional yellow ribbons were hidden, at first, from my view.

Finally, I think about the idea of equilibrium. It seems that these ideas of "filtering" come back to this, and this relates to Laurel's comment of the "closer to neutral" idea. Our bodies are continuously in the search for equilibrium. We find this to be true throughout many physiological processes which go on even without our knowledge. These processes are essential to our life and health.

However, isn't there something fundamentally disturbing about this constant equilibrating? Our bodies equilibrate so that we cannot even feel the seat we are sitting on. There must be some distinct reason why the body is doing this. Yet, in this search for equilibrium, is consciousness being negated? Are we being dulled? It seems, actually, that what allows for consciousness is a certain type of pain, and this implies imbalance. Therefore, I am not comfortable with the notion of equilibrium as the singular goal.

Perhaps this is the lure of free will, as it allows for the choice to offset equilibrium.

Central Pattern Generation
Name: Grace Shin
Date: 2003-03-25 15:45:08
Link to this Comment: 5172

Today's discussion on the Central Pattern Generation (CPG) was VERY interesting to me! So we learned that crickets and crayfish have a genetics that allow for their CPG, but humans, now that's another story... or is it? Couple things came to my mind during class and I thought I'd put them up on the forum and see what you guys have to say about it.

(1) The CPG via experience as PG stated in class is unconcious. And I stated in class that some people do have the "genes" that allow them to be more athletic or more muscially talented. But if these CPG is unconcious, then maybe these genes are not really coding for people who are musically inept or just unathletic. Rather, people who cannot generate these CPG as well as others, maybe are less able to switch to their unconcious states... meaning, they hold onto their "I" function more. This sounds vague I'm sure, but maybe the key to being a good musicain or athelet doesn't necessary start with physical training but mental training.

(2) Someone mentioned in class today that learned more about these unrealized inputs (and outputs) will be helpful to us to better understand why we behave the way we did. I was saying this to my friends over lunch after the class and couple of them were saying that much of the problems that we see now a days ARISE from people always wanting to know more. "Ignorance is bliss" kinda mentality. They were saying that many of the neurological diseases or even habits may be better left alone... so maybe one of the problems in our society is that we are unwiling to go into the unknown? Why do you think that is?

the unknown
Name: tung
Date: 2003-03-26 01:18:09
Link to this Comment: 5178

It is very interesting about what Grace have said about the CPG. Although, I understand the concept of the CPG and its role, I still feels that there countless of processes that are involved and interacted with one another to produce a characteristic behavior. Its unfortunate but I am more curious about the whole picture rather than small clips.
Also, it strucks my curiosity when Grace question about people fear for the unknown. I have always been curious about this aspect in humans and in other animals. Fear for the unknown seem to play an important role in our interaction with others and the environment and in how we developed our behavior. These two ideas are very interesting and I sure hope that our class discussion will sometime lead into this topic (our fear of the unknown).

CPG/genes, unkown
Name: Rachel
Date: 2003-03-27 00:46:41
Link to this Comment: 5190

Thinking about the CPG and its role in shaping our abilities made me think: is it more genes or the central pattern generator that makes us musically talented or athletically inclined? I can't help but think of Venus and Serena Williams (and their father), and Judy Garland and Liza Minelli: they obviously have genes which shaped their talents, but do their central pattern generators play a larger part in forming their talents than their genes did?

as for fear of the unknown, perhaps society feels that neurological diseases are better left alone because there is always the chance of failure: failure to properly diagnose, failure to find a cure. Somehow, it seems that whenever the potential for medical setbacks exists, the public shies away from the issue. This seems natural, in that it is frequently our natural instinct to desire to be correct 24/7 (which we learned is, of course, not possible)

corollary discharge
Name: tung
Date: 2003-03-27 20:42:15
Link to this Comment: 5196

Today's lecture struck my curiosity. Before the introduction of proprioreceptors, I was awared of their existence, although I could not explained them in great detailed and understandings. I also realized about the existence of the motor symphonies and the central pattern generator, and again not in much details. However, the understanding of the corollary discharge is a very new concept for me. It's amazing that the nervous system have neurons that tell the NS events that are occuring within the NS! It's so incredible that the nervous system have so many pathways and mechanisms for regulations and functioning.
I find the topic on the phantom limb to be particular interesting. I have always been so curious about such phenomenon, whether its what people actually feel or a psychological problem or even an act. Now I kinda understand why people do experience such feelings from their missing limb. However, I would like to discuss more on what people think about phantom limb and whether corollary discharge is the and maybe the only explanation. As for me, although corollary discharge did bring some comfort and understanding to this particular mystery, I feel that there is more to this (as always right!?). If the answer is corollary discharge, where did those inputs come from?

Recent news
Name: Sarah
Date: 2003-03-27 23:48:37
Link to this Comment: 5200

This article addresses the same phenomenon my webpaper did:
Time to Think?

Missing Limb...
Name: gshin
Date: 2003-03-29 16:59:54
Link to this Comment: 5206

I have a story I thought I'd share... we discussed in class about a person missing a limb can "feel" it's presence and know it's position. I have a family friend who lost 2/3 of his right index finger when he was like 13 while he was climbing a ladder and the ladder collapsed on his finger. So his right index finger only has a "stump" of the last third of the finger. Now... in our families, we use chopsticks often to eat meals... and I remember how he had a hard time regripping his chopsticks after the accident. He KNEW that the part of his finger was missing and yet when he tries to grip the chopsticks in the new way (to accommodate for his finger), he'd grip it as if the finger was all there... and get a bit frustrated that it wasn't... i thought he was just being stubborn... but the class discussion helped me realize that maybe its the part of his brain that is being stubborn... unable to realize that the finger is missing!

recap/new questions
Name: Clare
Date: 2003-03-30 14:29:41
Link to this Comment: 5208

In talking about outputs that we are unaware of and of some that we can never become aware of, this sort of puts a cap on free will, doesn't it? Because if we're not aware of certain outputs, how can we control them? Second, I strongly agree with Neela's comment and I think it summarizes exactly what I've been thinking about free will, that maybe it isn't physiology that is limited in its ability to explain free will, but our inability to explain what free will is and to fully comprehend all of the functions of our brain. Furthermore, what is the big deal if our brain does control all of our behavior- it's still our brain, our experiences, etc. As Cordelia stated, "we are our bodies"- right? Third, some people seemed to have trouble explaining how emotions can be explained by neurons. I've been doing some research on love, actually, for our next paper and what I've come across so far is that emotions we feel reflect the level of certain chemicals in our body. These chemicals are released based on the inputs that we receive through out neurons. Moreover, their release is triggered by neurons. Hence, our emotions are controlled by our nervous system and, what types of inputs we choose to expose our selves to. These choices, in my opinion, are based on memory/learning from experiences stored in our brain and genetic information. Here's a question then, how does genetic information get transformed into an individual's personality? And what is the brain's involvement in it?

Sensory Inputs and Missing Limbs
Name: Melissa
Date: 2003-03-30 19:54:24
Link to this Comment: 5209

I was interested in two aspects of the nervous system being discussed in the forum this week. First of all, I found it extremely intriguing to discover that we have sensory inputs that we are unaware of and that in turn we may produce outputs we are unaware of. On many levels it seems logical to think that we are not conscious of many of the functions of our body. On the other hand, it seems rather amazing that we don't recognize some of these inputs and outputs and yet when we were discussing missing limbs our brain seems to falsely assume that the limb is physically there when in fact it is not. To me it is extraordinary the amount of power the nervous system has over our existence (although this may seem obvious). In many ways this missing limb example, which sort of makes the argument that the mind is stronger than our physical existence, asserts that maybe mental illness including depression can be the hardest diseases to overcome merely due to the power and all encompassing aspects of the brain.

forum 8
Name: Alanna
Date: 2003-03-30 19:54:50
Link to this Comment: 5210

The central pattern generation idea really grabs my attention, b/c it would account for the mysterious ways in which the CNS is still able to continue functioning even when a part of it is damaged. I find it amazing that the NS is structured so that it ALWAYS finds a way to do what it's supposed to do. Another plus is that it is independent of many other functions, like the reafferent loop-for example-when we discussed in class how one is able to still pick up the remote control without having to look at her or his hand.Indeed, the central pattern generator is a prime example of how the NS has many different ways of getting the same job done.

Name: Kathleen
Date: 2003-03-30 22:49:01
Link to this Comment: 5213

The idea of fear is very interesting to me also. Fear and the brain have such an strange link. When I think about animals experiencing fear, there seems to be multiple reactions that manifest themselves in the body (which, obviously, must be triggered by the brain.) So in animals, like a cat, there's the arching of the back, hissing, crouching low to the ground, etc. These reactions seem instantaneous, and seem to be the brain's way of preparing the body for a struggle - or any basic means of defense. I wonder what these brain signals are parallel to in the human brain, and if proprioceptors have anything to do with it.

Name: Amelia
Date: 2003-03-30 23:48:24
Link to this Comment: 5214

I was intrigued by the discussion of fear in this weeks forum. When Kathleen mentioned the reactions that fear causes in the body of a cat, I was reminded of when I watched a movie with one of my friends over Spring Break. We were watching Scotland, PA, which is a take-off of Macbeth. When Duncan was killed in a very unexpected way (he was accidently pushed head first into a fryer), both my friend and I jumped and made noises as we were very startled. Kathleen's comments reminded me of this and something that I remember hearing about back in high school - the fight or flight response. If I'm remembering correctly, when an animal (or a human) is startled, they recieve a rush of adreneline that readys them to either flee or fight.

Name: Annabella
Date: 2003-03-31 02:45:06
Link to this Comment: 5215

As the class' comments on free will continue, it seems that there are two camps to the issue. First is the idea that we do have free will, and that our study of physiology furthers our knowledge of it. Second is the idea that our Nervous System is responsible for all of our reactions and free will does not exist. However, the fact that we argue about free will, and choose to study our physiology is a strong point in favor of the existence of free will.

A world without free will is a world without choice. Through the demonstration of our opinions is it not clear that humans have a capacity to generate a cornucopia of different ideas? Just as with any other species, humans all have the same basic physical structure. This means that the basic structure of the NS is the same in every one of us. For example, we all have nerves that lead from our spinal cord to our brain, that then branch out through the rest of our body. If our physiology is so similar, the fact that we are all so very different is proof of free will. If the human species were lacking free will we would all make the same decisions. As you look at your classmates and see the diversity of style, expression, emotion, and opinion – how can the existence of free will be doubted?

Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-03-31 07:52:16
Link to this Comment: 5216

The forum seems to have taken on its own momentum this week, as it frequently does. But, in case you need a reminder of what we were talking about in class last week:

We now know that interconnected circuits of neurons can constitute pattern generating circuits, that these may be coordinated by internal corollary discharge (efference copy) circuits, and that the latter can affect as well the interpretation of sensory input. What aspects of behavior generally might this help us to better understand? What new questions does it raise?

Genes and CPGs
Name: Laurel
Date: 2003-03-31 19:24:12
Link to this Comment: 5220

Rachel?s posting on the question of genes vs. CPGs made me think about prodigies. A prodigy is generally defined as a child who by age 10 displays mastery of a field usually undertaken by an adult. For the most part, scientists agree that intelligence is inheritable. But not all smart kids are prodigies. What are the biological differences in a prodigy? Is it the recruitment of different systems within the brain, or recruitment from different areas of the brain? I have heard that PET scans indicate that prodigies tend to make use of episodic memory and long-term working memory, as opposed to the general populations? use of short-term memory. Is it the ability of the child to concentrate on a topic, not to be distracted by irrelevant circumstances? If so, are the specific pathways of concentration directly related to central pattern generators of thought? Perhaps genes predispose someone to be a prodigy, but there has to be more to it than genes...

Name: Danielle M
Date: 2003-03-31 21:06:29
Link to this Comment: 5221

In our little poke-ourselves-in-the-eyeball experiment, we learned how our being aware of the source of sensory input effects how we understand it. That is, if I jab myself in the eye, the world looks like it's "jumping around;" however, if I follow my finger as it moves back and forth against a stationary background, the world seems still and it's the finger that's moving. All this despite the fact that in both cases the image of the world refracted onto my retina is sliding about. All right, fine. So the difference is that in the first case my eye isn't orchestrating its movement and doesn't tell my brain to expect the world to jump around. But why can't I (ie, my "I-function") tell my brain, "Okay, I'm poking myself in the eye now, expect the world to move around," and thus prevent the world from seeming to jump, as in the case of having my eye do its own moving? In both cases I'm controlling the movement of my eye, why can't I just tell my brain that my finger's making my eye move? I know it, why doesn't my brain?

Name: Neela
Date: 2003-03-31 21:44:01
Link to this Comment: 5222

A very provoking question Danielle. It seems that our eye-function (ha ha yeah) does not have input into certain CPG circuits and therefore can't directly effect/control certain sensory interpretations. Despite our cognitive knowledge of our eye being pushed, this knowledge cannot be translated or communicated to the part of the brain that controls the automatic adjustment. While this seems to be a weakness of the system (or a potential site of our evolutionary progression into superhumans), it's reasonable that our I-function should remain distinct from other functions. If we were capable of controlling certain functions of the brain, who knows what sort of trouble we'd get ourselves into. The possibilites for unmedicated highs seem endless. We would probably flood our brains with toxic levels of happy neurotransmitters and eventually just burn out as a species.

Name: Jen
Date: 2003-03-31 22:34:50
Link to this Comment: 5223

I have to admit i am intrigued by the current model that explains the various series of actions as a motor symphony. It seems that our current explanation of utilizing inhibition in the pathways or possibly the disruption caused by corrollary signals (involved in coordination) helps explain the multiple symphonies that we can exhibit. Does the illustration that motor symphony adjustments can occur demonstrate or portray the concept of 'choice'?

I think that corrollary discharge helps explain why we all percieve things so differently, but what triggers the discharge still remains unclear to me?

Name: Sarah
Date: 2003-03-31 22:54:09
Link to this Comment: 5224

Danielle makes an interesting point. Why can't our I-function inform the rest of our NS of what's going on? It seems that our I function cannot make use of the various chemical pathways that other parts of our NS use. It can't fake corollary discharge -- but it also can't affect heart rate, it can't restore homeostatic temperature, it can't detect imbalance of chemicals in our blood stream... It seems we aren't really in control of everything, are we? Our I-function seems to be at the wheel of a car, generally "controlling" things but helpless when it comes to the underlying mechanisms. Maybe this is one reason brain=behavior isn't so hard to accept, but brain=me is.

At the same time, psychosomatic effects are sometimes shocking. I remember in middle school history, learning about some queen who managed to convince herself that she was pregnant. She believed it so completely that her stomach actually began to swell. Like the hypochondriac who believes he is sick and so starts having symptoms, or the placebo effect, the I-function can sometimes do strange things not usually within its realm. So what unusual pathways can the I-function affect, and which can it not?

Name: Christine
Date: 2003-03-31 23:28:49
Link to this Comment: 5225

The eye-jabbing experiment does pose an interesting question. Why aren't we (using the "I"-function) able to control the way our eyes will react to such a stimulus? As I sit at this computer, I see trying to explain the difference between your finger simply moving and your eye actually being attacked and thus reacting without any control. Yes, the difference exists in effects seen from either affecting the body physically or stimulating it externally, by not actually doing anything physical to the body. So in mistreating our bodies we see this lack of control in the eye's response. Should this same idea be used in trying to explain the effects in other parts of the body? Suppose I'm out jogging one day and trip over an incredibly short fence even though I see it coming in the last second. And say my foot for some reason goes into spasms. There is no way that I will know exactly what is happening in my foot to determine what should definitely be occuring to control it. I can't see a possible way to associate the way we always want our body to respond with how it actually does. We are only conscious of so much of what really happens in our body. Our body takes care of the rest. I can't tell the nerves and muscles in my foot to not spasm or likewise let my eye know that it shouldn't be distorting its visual capacity-they've both been injured. That's why we do need to have this lapse in connections between everything that's going on and our I-function. Neela's right, otherwise we might burn out by trying to control every single reaction ourselves.

regarding prodigies and talents
Name: marissa
Date: 2003-03-31 23:41:13
Link to this Comment: 5226

After reading both Laurel and Rachels analysis on talents being somehow innately within someones genetics, I was swept back into my previous postings regarding brain and behavior. In weeks passed, it has continued to intrigue me that it is possible that certain persons may be more blessed than others in mental capacity or artistic talent in accordence to their genetic history. I definately believe that traits such as "prodigal" behavior and musical talent can be passed on from generation to generation without having it enforced within ones upbringing. As a personal anecdote to display such a notion...I am somewhat of a singer. Nothing super impressive, but my voice is not difficult to listen to either. I wasn's at all aware of having any sort of vocal talent my entire life until one day I was just playing around with some Christmas carols at a holiday party and somebody noticed. I was not trained to sing, and although I have minimal background in piano and violin, I never tried to use my voice beyond singing along with the radio. When I realized that perhaps I had a voice, a lot of people around me were shocked because I was never trained and neither one of my parents sing. When confronted with this, I realized that in my family history there turns out to be a family member or two involved in opera conservatory. I did believe that there are inherent genetic talents, but they all get mixed into the mesh of DNA that creates every single one of us. I also believe that such inclinations can be altered by ones environment, but not sufficiently enough to completely destroy them. I do think that there is involvement on behalf of the CPG in bringing about someones behavior and talents, but that depending upon genetics, the passing down of whatever it may be might be limited or altered by the CPG itself.

more about the I-function
Name: alex lippm
Date: 2003-04-01 00:01:22
Link to this Comment: 5228

First of all, I would like to say that I was excited when PG gave us an example of how central-pattern generating circuity might actually work. It suddenly made a lot more sense to me.
Also, however, I was wondering why people who experience the phantom limb phenomenon often feel pain? Why would they feel pain rather than pleasure or some other sensation? This also struck me as odd since I know that for me I often don't feel pain of having, for example, scraped my leg until after I notice blood. This would imply that the realization plays a strong part in the perception of pain and since this consciousness is connected to the I-function, the perception of pain would also be connected to the I-function. The only reason that I can think of that might explain why the correllary discharge signals would send out a signal for pain in the amputated limb would be that the brain might be "worried" about that limb. Since it hasn't received sensory input from the limb in a long time, generating the sensation of pain in the limb(or rather non-existent limb) might be a way to force the body to check up on that limb even though it is not there anymore. Although this does not quite make sense it is the best explanation that I could think of. The feeling of pain in a non-existent limb might also imply that much pain that we perceive is actually not based in physical reasons, but I don't really buy into that. Also I was wondering if people suffering from pain in non-existent limbs can tell the pain to go away? The answer to this might indicate if the I-function or the correllary discharge signals is "more powerful."

two year old brain
Name: geoff
Date: 2003-04-01 00:23:28
Link to this Comment: 5229

in doing some reading for another class i came across the claim that the brain of a two year old child has twice as many synapses as that of an adult. to say the least it is counterintuitive, and i don't get it. it goes against the way that i have learned about brain development and how i have thought, in our discussion, about central pattern generation.

my concept of brain development always had to do with forming new circuits, as well as strengthening certain ones, but never killing off others. the point was being made (in the reading where the fact was) that brain mass or density does not necessarily imply intelligence, as we have found with our own examples (einstein's brain being relatively small).

what does this say about central pattern generation and what we are or are not born with? my first thought would be that we are born with some standard central pattern generators and that those can be either ignored and die out or fine tuned from repetitive use. i would like to learn more about how we learn and how a central pattern generator is formed or maintained in terms of synapses, that might account for this massive overhaul of synapses as we mature.

Name: Nicole M.
Date: 2003-04-01 01:26:01
Link to this Comment: 5230

I don't mean to get off topic but I was thinking more about the experiment we did in class earlier this week where we were told to synchronize our clapping. It didn't take long before the entire class was clapping in unison. This reminded me of a discussion I had with a European friend who said that in some places in Europe, an audience claps in unison after performances. He tried to explain to me that this wasn't necessarily a culturally dictated custom but that everyone just does it because it is natural. However, if simply told to clap without the instruction to clap in together, our class would not have clapped in unison. We had to be told to do clap together which engaged our corollary discharge function—the processing of input in the brain-- and yielded the resulting motor output. Why do we (in the U.S.) ignore the clapping rhythm of others while some other cultures engage their corollary discharge function so as to clap together? My suspicion is that cultural values, like being self-conscious or sensitive to the actions of others, being more socially conservative, or valuing order or equality, may play a role rather than explaining clapping in unison as the natural way to clap.

Also, I recall trying to teach VERY basic dancing skills to a group of guys in high school. I asked them to synchronize a step-clap motion with the rhythm I set. You would think that a basic step-clap rhythm would engage the corollary discharge function, thus yielding a room full of guys moving in unison BUT it was simply not possible! They could not all match the rhythm of others! This makes me wonder, when actions are complicated by adding multiple movements, are some people better at synchronizing the signaling needed to match a rhythm? If so, is it a learned skill or inherited trait? For example, are those more musically inclined better at matching their body movements to rhythms because they are trained to be more sensitive to rhythms? Are both factors responsible?

I'm guessing that I am not making much sense because I'm just using this posting as a place to lay out my thoughts (which are a bit tangled)! So I'm sorry if you read this and your head spins uncontrollably and explodes.

I-function and PGCs
Name: Tiffany Li
Date: 2003-04-01 01:26:37
Link to this Comment: 5231

It makes sense to me that our I-function is unable to control/affect certain pattern generating circuits even though we might be conscious that something is occurring to our body such as the eye poking. The reason it makes sense is that the body performs many vital functions that we are unaware of. It is impossible for our I-function to control all these functions. As Sarah said previously we cannot tell if our hormone levels are changing or whether our blood glucose levels are high. These are things that must be controlled without our control, otherwise we would be constantly ill because we would forget to regulate some sort of function such as our heart rate because we were distracted. So I think that it is normal that certain PGCs occur without our control. Despite this fact, I do think that the I-function still plays an important role in our PGC even though it can’t affect all PGCs. We are able to regulate the pace at which we walk, eat, or write.

New votes for Emily?
Name: erin
Date: 2003-04-01 01:55:20
Link to this Comment: 5233

As we continue to investigate those neurological mechanisms, which contribute to human activity, we must recognize how very close we are to decisively equating the brain with behavior. We are rapidly discovering that even an external environment is not prerequisite for human behavior: central pattern generators produce self-sustaining patterns of activity, which are independent of sensory input. The body's ability to coordinate and manage a variety or motions depends, instead, upon complex neural organization, which enables the delegation of responsibilities to distinct networks of nerve cells. This extraordinary ability demonstrates, not a dependence of behavior upon the brain, but a true unification of the two. Activities, ranging from breathing to running are controlled by specialized circuits, central pattern generators, which steadfastly execute those actions again and again without conscious effort and without the involvement of the I-function. However, I am still anxiously awaiting a more explicit link between perception and patterned activity. What properties define an action as one coordinated by these neural circuits? Furthermore, at what point does the acquisition of a skill governed by CPG's occur? Although a human being is able to breath immediately after birth, walking is postponed until the skill is well practiced. I would be sincerely interested in discovering more about the development of such (eventually) repetitive behaviors and the mechanisms by which repetitive skills are learned. Finally, I hope to better understand the generation of rhythmic neural signals. Although there are intrinsic cellular properties enabling the production of rhythmic signaling, there are also interactions between cells, synaptic properties that produce action. In what way can the combination of these generation two strategies become efficient?

Name: Kat
Date: 2003-04-01 02:13:57
Link to this Comment: 5234

I was reading amelia's posting that made slight reference to the "fight or flight" response in a fearfull situation, and it reminded me of a paper i read several years ago. I cant remember the article's title or author, but I do remember the general idea. It suggested that children who grew up in situation that are fear insipiring, such as an abusive home, but are constantly exposed to the situations such that they become habituated and come to regard a scary situation as a typical environmental stressor are likely to carry the "fight or flight" response into other stressful situations, regardless of whether they involve something that is typically fear inspiring.
I began to wonder how this could be explained in our terms of discussion: Does the "response" have to do with the typically messenger pathways of the NS? Are these pathways innate, or are they made automatice through use?

Neurons should not gossip about each other
Name: Andy Green
Date: 2003-04-01 02:40:25
Link to this Comment: 5235

The discussion at the end of the last class, regarding phantom limbs, left me with some questions. Prof. Grobstein told us that phantom limbs are created by the residual sensation amputees feel due to corollary discharge from neurons in other parts of the nervous system. However, I'm still confused as to why other parts of the body would be telling us about the specific location of our limbs. Why would the feedback from a limb not originate only in the limb with which it is concerned? I can understand why a limb would want to be able to communicate its status to other parts of the body, but I can't imagine why other parts of the body would want to communicate that limb's status to a third party. Obviously, this sort of "gossip" by neurons about other neurons can cause problems when the limb's neurons are amputated, but it seems that the unnecessary complexity of the system could also cause problems in more standard situations. If amputee patients imagine their arm being raised when it doesn't exist, there must be a system of neurons sending arbitrary signals about that arm. Why don't those signals conflict with the arm's actual location before the arm is amputated?

Name: Adina
Date: 2003-04-01 02:57:36
Link to this Comment: 5236

Earlier today, I watched the movie "Psycho" in which a man kills his mother, who had been the greatest influence in his life. Then, after having killed her, he recreates her personality in his own mind, often times "becoming" his mother in order to maintain her influence in his life. His multiple personality becomes like a phantom limb, or a phantom personality, so to speak. A part of his life was missing, so his brain created this shell of another personality within itself. How can a second or third or even fourth personality be seen in a neurobiological sense? Can these other personalities be seen as separate boxes within the big box? What causes these additional boxes to form? If a person were to be diagnosed with multiple personality disorder, how would his/her brain be physically different, if at all, from that of a non-disordered brain? Why would the brain bother to make separate boxes for personality traits, that could just as easily be part of the big box that controls personality? Maybe this is something I should look into more.

twins v. amputees
Name: enor
Date: 2003-04-01 03:37:57
Link to this Comment: 5237

This may be unfounded or completely off base, but I have heard that often when one person in a set of twins gets hurt the other one will feel similar pain. If this is true, does it have any connection with the amputee phantom limb syndrome? I understand that corollary discharge from neurons causing an after effect, however, it seems that the brain plays a similar role in the two phenomena. I was wondering if the I function may play a part in not tangible pain. Perhaps when one twin gets hurt and then tells the other, the other remembers something that never actually happened in a way that could be linked to the incident. However, it seems that there may be a connection if both phenomenas hold true. I feel that I don't know enough about the twin-pain theory to discuss it without further investigation, but having thought about the two areas lacking substantial neural trauma makes me suspect a correlation.

musical talent and limb pain
Name: Cordelia S
Date: 2003-04-01 08:14:13
Link to this Comment: 5238

Marissa's discussion of genetic factors in musical talent is something I definitely think is valid. I transferred to Bryn Mawr from New England Conservatory, a music school in Boston. It was a fairly intense classical music program, and all of the instrumentalists had practiced since they were about 5 years old between 3 and 10 hours per day. In classical music, you are judged in 2 categories; technique and artistry. Technique, though it certainly involved speed, and other things that must have some genetic factors, is mostly something that can be learned. Technique is what comes from practicing. But artistry is just there - it cannot be taught. So many people that I knew at school were at a dead end because they just were not musical enough. They did not feel music in the way that makes people want to listen. I think that is something we are born with. You just cannot copy someone else's interpretation of music, there are no rules to follow, no magic hints to learn. You just have to be able to do it yourself. I'm not exactly certain where this hightened sensitivity fits in the brain; is it extra connections? More action in one part of the brain?

On a completely different topic I found Alex's comments on pain in phantom limbs interesting. Pain is supposedly one of the most difficult feelings to conjure up when it is not being experienced. So how can a pain, not triggered by sensory input, be the same as pain that is? Could it be some constantly relived nightmere of losing a part of the body, or is it the same type of pain that we feel on our attached limbs? It is interesting to note that there is a disorder where people cannot feel pain at all....the majority of people with this die young, not from the disorder itself, but from not noticing some sort of dangerous, painful thing that any of us would easily know to walk away from. Perhaps pain is such a valuable adaptation that it cannot easily stop happening when a limb is lost. Maybe proprioceptors that are aware of the limb being absent are somehow able to trigger pain??

Name: Kelvey
Date: 2003-04-01 08:29:29
Link to this Comment: 5239

As the model for the nervous system becomes increasingly complex, I begin to wonder how all the connections are made in the correct order that allows for the corollary discharge. One interesting article I recently read in USA Today (March 11 edition) is that in order for the nerve cells to recognize each other and form the right connections, a third 'matchmaker' is required. The matchmaker is able to organize the synapses. This added component to the nervous system, allows for yet another location where the signalling can be sent off track. As the model for the signalling within and to the nervous syustem is designed, I begin to wonder which outputs are a result of which variations in input and model design. How does corollary discharge adapt to changing circumstances?

Date: 2003-04-01 08:59:37
Link to this Comment: 5240

I find it interesting that when a person loses a limb, they still feel that limb and even some pain in that area. I am curious as to why the nervous system does not register that it is missing part of its nervous system. Obviously there are some signals being sent to the brain. But how is that possible given that the limb no longer exists? Where does the signal come from?

phantom limb & intelligence
Name: Stephanie
Date: 2003-04-01 09:00:36
Link to this Comment: 5241

In response to Alex's post about why people who experience the phantom limb phenomenon often feel pain ... I think it may be a psycho-somatic response. If a person has a finger amputated (or an arm, leg, etc.), they remember what it was that made that operation necessary, so when they look at where their finger should be, they may think, ouch, that must've hurt, or, that did hurt. Furthermore, I would imagine that having a limb removed is probably a rather traumatic event. In the aftermath, you have to deal both emotionally and physically with that loss and how you'll function without that part of your body. I think Alex may be right in suggesting that amputees who feel pain may be reacting to realization - to their realization that their limb is missing.

Also - there have been a number of posts about prodigies. This made me wonder about the difference between precocious people who show their talents early in life (like in middle school) and who, as a result, are called "gifted", and people who are less precocious, but show talent later (like in college) -- by talent, I'm mean something like being a talented writer. Is this just a matter of intellectual maurity ... like, your ability to think in a sophisticated way? I mean, I think genetics and just raw talent do have something to do with it ... but what about beyond that -- how much does one's intelligence have to do with genetics?

Name: andrea
Date: 2003-04-01 09:42:09
Link to this Comment: 5243

I was just wondering about the permanence of central pattern generators. It seems that some of the most complex tasks, once learned, can be performed forever, while the simplest ones, such as muscle movement, will atrophy if not in use. For the past few weeks, I have been unable to bend my leg, and I seem to have forgotten how to flex my quad. Only after several days of electric stimulation which forced my muscle to contract was it "re-educated," allowing me to move it on my own. I would understand if the muscle simply became less responsive from lack of use, but forgetting completely how to move it at all when I can contract my right leg so easily, really threw me. This is just what I was thinking about.

Name: Clare
Date: 2003-04-01 12:43:48
Link to this Comment: 5245

In response to the idea of the phantom limb that we've been talking about in class, one idea that helps me understand how people without a certain limb can feel its presence is the experience of one's hand or limb "falling asleep." I'm sure everyone has experienced this at one time- waking up in the middle of the night to find that you can't "feel" your arm because you've been sleeping on it. Yet at the same time, you still know that it's there and that it has a certain shape, but for some reason you're not receiving input as to its exact whereabouts or presence. It's a little different, but it sort of parallels what it might feel like to think that a body part is there even though you are not actually receiving sensory input from it. Also, in talking about the difference between boys and girls, it is important to consider that differences may be caused by their different personalities/brains that may be unrelated to their sex-- unless of course a commonality has been established within the sex.

Sleeping Limbs
Name: Elizabeth
Date: 2003-04-02 21:27:21
Link to this Comment: 5256

I think the discussion about not being able to feel your limbs while they have fallen asleep is interesting, although I don't quite agree with the description of it. When my feet or arms "fall asleep", they may seem numb to the touch, but I still have sensation in these limbs. Therefore, I don't think this phenomenon serves as a very good example of phantom neuron transmissions, although I agree with the logic behind the argument.

Name: Shanti
Date: 2003-04-05 17:05:14
Link to this Comment: 5272

I feel that if our brain was able to register every thing that happened in our bodies or that if it were to let us know about everything that we perceive, that would would go crazy. We are to some degree very ignorant about what goes on in our bodies and are only alerted when we feel pain, hunger, sleepiness, or our body is trying to tell us something. I think the topic of free will is interesting because while we feel that we have free will in our actions, we don't have complete free will with our bodies. Whether we know it or not and whether we want it to or not, our body performs certain functions that we have no control over. We explain some things by saying that the person can't help that it is occuring, and I find it very interesting that while we try to control so many things in our lives, we can not help but do somethings like snore, burp or fart. It is these things which "humanize" us and remind us that, while everyone is different, and some people are more successful or pretty, even movie stars fart sometimes:-)

Odiferous starlets
Name: Danielle M
Date: 2003-04-05 20:21:23
Link to this Comment: 5273

I like Shanti's bit about farting stars, and think it has an interesting implication. The idea that involunary bodily activities like farts, burps, etc. are considered humanizing implies that those who could control such little faux pas would be the opposite--somehow super-human. Our culture tends to see our idols as someone utterly in control of everything about their body and behavior. Does this mean that we place a value on having complete control of our bodies, of having exclusive will power over each and every function? Do we implicitly imagine that such control is a reflection of desirability? If we value such an extent of self-control, is it because we dislike the lack of that control in ourselves? If we can control every aspect of behavior, does that imply some sort of superiority of intelligence, of having an I-function more in control of the brain?

Name: Rachel
Date: 2003-04-06 13:52:00
Link to this Comment: 5279

I agree that the involuntary motions we often exhibit are humanizing, as much as we don't always want to exhibit these actions. It seems that in our frequently conformist society, we are constantly being expected to act in a certain manner and perpetually be in control of our actions - and it seems that the I-function is largely an outgrowth of that fact. This consciousness of the self then can be interpreted as sort of a conformist mechanism that we feel we must have in order to be accepted by society (eg - our I-function tells us not to belch at the opera house, etc etc etc)

On the subject of prodigies, we have discussed how genes and the central pattern generator come into play. After watching the movie "Rain Man" several years ago and discussing autism in class, I wonder how an autism patient is affected so as to display a certain talent. My brother has a high-functioning form of autism (Asperger's), and is an amazing pianist. No matter how much I practiced, I could not match his skills. I wonder then, is it more the central pattern generator that causes him to be a musical prodigy, or is it another factor related to autism?

Name: Clare
Date: 2003-04-06 19:46:44
Link to this Comment: 5283

To respond to Danielle's comment, I definitely think that our society places value in having self-control. Not just with involuntary actions but with mental illness, as we've talked about before. I know many people who refuse to ask for help because they need to feel like they are in control. And yet even though I say that it is okay for other people to get help, I become offended if someone suggests that I need help- that for some reason or other, I do not have control over a part of myself. Our society is so concerned with being independent and self-sufficient that we feel sorry for the elderly who cannot take care of them self and fear becoming that old and reliant on others. This also seems to be one reason why people deny that brain=behavior- they think that it signifies some kind of lack in self-control.

Name: Clare
Date: 2003-04-06 19:46:44
Link to this Comment: 5284

To respond to Danielle's comment, I definitely think that our society places value in having self-control. Not just with involuntary actions but with mental illness, as we've talked about before. I know many people who refuse to ask for help because they need to feel like they are in control. And yet even though I say that it is okay for other people to get help, I become offended if someone suggests that I need help- that for some reason or other, I do not have control over a part of myself. Our society is so concerned with being independent and self-sufficient that we feel sorry for the elderly who cannot take care of them self and fear becoming that old and reliant on others. This also seems to be one reason why people deny that brain=behavior- they think that it signifies some kind of lack in self-control.

phantom limb
Name: Alanna A.
Date: 2003-04-06 20:56:52
Link to this Comment: 5285

I can't help but wonder if people who experience the phantom limb sensation only experience it because our brain/NS is pre-programmed to send information to all parts of our bodies. Even if a limb is missing, the NS most likely does not know this, so it continues to send signals to the location of the missing limb-that is probably why we feel as if there is a limb actually still there. But then the problem arises of how we can actually still feel a limb when the signals cannot possibly extend into the arm (or other body part) that isn't there....could this possibly indicate that the phantom limb sensation is really just "all in our heads?" Is it just an overwhelming psychological desire to want to have our missing limb back? Does such thinking eventually convince us to feel as if there is still a limb there to make us feel whole and complete again? Or is it just the physiological workings of the NS alone causing such sensations?

pleasure and pain
Name: nicole
Date: 2003-04-06 21:50:56
Link to this Comment: 5287

I find it very hard to believe that pain is purely of figment of our imagination. I guess it makes sense from our discussion of phantom limbs (pain must be made in the brain if a body part that isn't physically there can still hurt), but pain seems very real and localized. So if pain is all in our heads, I guess that must mean that pleasure is as well. Which I guess I can also believe since often a woman's inability to have an orgasm is rooted in some problem in the brain (such as a need to be in control at all times). I found some articles that discuss pleasure and pain and how some of the same centers in the brain are activated in the perception of both pleasure and pain. What I'm curious about are the properties of the input that could be responsible for the differentiation of pleasure and pain if all that the body does is send action potentials. The action potentials cannot be different because it's an all-or-none phenomenon and they can only differ in frequency. So how do we perceive pain and pleasure as two distinct sensations if we are sending identical signals that arrive at the same part of the brain?

"phantom sensation" and hemineglect
Name: cordelia s
Date: 2003-04-06 23:34:56
Link to this Comment: 5290

A quick response to Nicole's above posting, then on to my own. I don't think anyone ever suggested that pain is just a figment of the imagination. Though the saying "all in your head" has that connotation, what actually happens in your head is probably the closest thing to real we have in explaining ourselves. Yes, the "feeling" of pain is localized in your arm if your arm is held above a flame. There are an abundance of reasons for that to happen, foremost because your nervous system is telling your arm to get away from the flame. But take out the activity that is "all in your head", and your arm would burn painlessly. Not so good. Also, as we've discussed in class, the vast number of different neuronal pathways account for different experiences, such as pleasure and pain. Why do pain and pleasure feel different? They ARE different, sent through different neurons and synapses. Yes, the method by which the action potentials travel and the ions penetrate the membranes is the same, but the differences in paths account for the incomprehensibly immense array of human emotion, action, thought, etc.

OK, now on to what I was originally going to talk about. I am doing my second paper on hemianopia, a phenomenon that most frequently occurs after a stroke, in which a lesion on one side of the brain causes the person to lose the opposite field of vision. Not lose sight in one eye, but actually LOSE that side of things when you look at them. So, for example, one woman only put lipstick on the right side of her mouth; give someone with this disorder a plate of spaghetti and they will eat the right half of it and swear up and down that they ate it all. This disorder is sometimes accompanied by complete paralysis of the half of the body opposite the lesion. The reason I'm talking about this in the forum is because both of these disorders are often accompanied by anosognosia, which is a disorder that seems to have causes similar to those of the phantom limb sensation. In anosognosia, the patient does not recognize their paralysis or visual neglect. They insist that they are moving their bodies normally, even while they are lying perfectly still. In one case a woman SWORE she was touching her doctor's nose and kicking her leg, when neither her arm or leg were moving at all. PRETTY STRANGE, I think. So, like with phantom limb, some people think this is just plain denial of the condition; the patient doesn't want to admit their limb is lost, doesn't want to admit they are paralyzed. BUT, a theory similar to the one that Dr. G talked about last class with phantom limb holds up with anosognosia. A motor signal goes to the target muscle but at the same time goes to a monitoring area (apparently in the parietal lobe, I'll cite this at the bottom). The brain gets no return signal from the targeted limb to tell of its position, and the patient doesn't register on that half of the body visually. BUT, the monitoring area has gotten the motor signal, and thinks the motion has occurred normally. So the brain can't distinguish intent from action. The conscious image of the self is just plain wrong. So, could this or something like it maybe occur without a lesion?
OK, even stranger is a different, less frequent phenomenon that can also occur with hemiparalysis. This one is called somatoparaphrenia. Patients with this disorder insist that the body parts on the affected side belong to someone else (most frequently the doctor, just because they're there). Maybe this is for a similar reason; if the visual information (an unmoving limb) given to the brain conflicts with the motor information given to the monitoring area, the motor information is trusted before the visual info (this would make sense, the visual world more frequently offers us illusions not to be trusted, right?).
Sorry for the length of this, but I think this is really interesting stuff, especially in relation to the phantom limb discussion.
I got most of the info for this from
this is a grad student project, has a lot of good info on just plain phantom limb stuff as well

Name: Amelia
Date: 2003-04-07 00:52:11
Link to this Comment: 5291

As I was scrolling through the comments tonight to see if there was anything that someone had mentioned that I would like to elaborate on, Clare's message jumped out at me. It was exactly what I had been keeping at the back of my mind as I was reading everyone's message. American society places high value on self control and self sufficiency. We are raised to expect to do things for ourselves and not to have to fall back on others. I remember feeling that one of my best friends in high school was just plum weird for choosing to stay in our extremely small town to live at home and stay close to her family, instead of moving to California and getting a tech job when she had the chance. I still have trouble grasping the fact that she was willing to give up that opportunity to be independent and support herself, to stay at home. I was the ultimate home body in high school and most of my life expected to go to college relatively near home; instead, I felt the need to get away from home and be independent my senior year of high school, so I ended up here, 3000 miles away from home. I feel that especially since we are in a college environment, there is a heightened pressure on us to be independent, break away from our parents, and exert control over our lives.
I guess this is a round about way of saying that I've been slightly uncomfortable with how we've been talking about free will. I've been uncomfortable with how others in the class are uncomfotable with the fact that we aren't in complete controll over every little aspect of our bodies. CPG's and collorary discharge aren't really giving me a problem with the amount of control I have in my life. I like the fact that I don't have to worry about controlling my digestion or remembering to breath. Yes, my nervous system is doing things that I'm not aware of and generating inputs and outputs that influence my behavior in subtle ways. But I don't think that affects the fact that I have free will. I make decisions based on my entire sensory package; both inputs from outside and inside of my body. I just have to acknowledge the fact that my body and nervous system is aware of things that my I-function isn't, and get on with my life.

Name: Kathleen
Date: 2003-04-07 20:57:10
Link to this Comment: 5301

Since we're sort of jumping around with topics, I want to talk about this experience I had last night. I went back to my parents' house for a visit, and ended up watching television a lot. I haven't got one at Bryn Mawr, so I binged myself on cable and true hollywood stories, etc. What struck me as so unsual was that I was having INTENSE emotional responses to most of the programs I was watching.. I watched a documentary on the Central Park Jogger, and also a show on teenagers with eating disorders. I was in tears through each one. I thought back to a time where I watched television regularly.. and I thought about how I was rarely moved to tears by anything I watched. But last night, even when I knew that things were -obviously- aimed to be sappy or "moving", I still cried. I thought how I had been conditioned to not respond emotionally to "sad things on tv" when I watched television all the time. Then I started thinking about what was physically going on in my brain to allow this to happen. Due to regular exposure, parts of my brain that identify with human suffering or empathy of some sort were being affected. Some signal was obviously getting blocked. Obivously, this wore off.. but this whole phenomena struck me as terrifying.

phantom limb
Name: Jen
Date: 2003-04-07 21:16:32
Link to this Comment: 5302

I was reading up about the pleasure/pain sensations that can be felt as a result of this 'phantom limb' phenomenon. I found this article that states:

"When a lesion is made such that an adult animal loses sensation from a particular area (by removing regions of the skin or ablating regions of the retina), the region of the cortex innervated by these missing nerves loses its input. However, after being silent for weeks, this cortical region becomes active again, being innervate by other axons, often from those adjacent to the lesion. Axons sprout from the neighboring nerves, and some pre-existing synapses, which had been below the activation threshold, are now activated (Darlan-Smith and Gilbert, 1994; Das and Gilbert, 1995). With the inhibitory active axons removed, these other axons can function. This reorganization of the sensory cortex is thought to be responsible for the "phantom-limb" pain, the pain perceived to be at the end of a limb that had been amputated. Here, the intensity of the pain is proportional to the amount of cortical reorganization seen in scans of the patients' brains (Flor et al., 1995). Thus, the brain has reorganized itself after the injury such that neurons that were responsive to the missing inputs become responsive to remaining inputs. Even the adult human brain is able to reorganize due to changes in sensory activity."

I really enjoyed hearing a possible physiological reason for the sensations that are felt by a person that experienced pain after a limb was removed. I think that society can easily accept this explanation because they can try to 'fix it'; as opposed to a psychological explanation that society would not accept as readily if at all.

Some other sites I found of interest were:

all in the head
Name: geoff
Date: 2003-04-07 22:04:12
Link to this Comment: 5303

i am also having some trouble imagining that all the pain we feel occurs solely in the brain. i understand that the sensation is mediated by the nervous system and that the delay in pain comes from the voyage from the sensory input to the brain. but the next part i am stuck on. the complexity of pain we feel does not seem to me like it could occur all in the brain. when you have cut or bruise, the pain we feel is dynamic. the pain is specified exactly to where the damage is, and it varies with distance to and from the damage and the type of agravation to the spot. with the spatial limitations that the brain seems to have, i can not imagine the brain constructing and then holding onto all those sensations.

on the other hand, i suppose these limitations would be the ones that show when we are have more than one pain at the same time and we only feel one at a time. still, i think there must be synapses firing in those specific spots (where the pain is being felt).

other than the truly physical pains we feel, the stomach gives me alot of trouble here, because we feel all kinds of emotions in our stomach. if the brain held all sensations, why would we feel negative emotions like guilt or fear or anxiety in our stomachs? there are some that i definitely feel in my brain, like euphoria for example, i can almost feel the synapses firing during euphoric sensations, so why doesn't all our emotion get felt there?

i suppose the answer to that question is because we need to distinguish our emotions from one another. cordelia says that pain and pleasure would each have their own set of neurons and axons and synapses, and if they did, i don't think we feel anything in our stomach, they could all be distinguishable in our brain. i think many sensations we feel come from the same source, and go through the same circuits, but are distinguished by context (and then travel to different places like the stomach or a wound, etc). did we know what it meant to be hungry before we ate something for the first time and felt a satiation to the pain we had before eating? no, we just felt a general pain in our stomach, that could very well have been ameliorated by comforting hug from our mother (if it had been anxiety--as it was the hug would have done nothing). we learn to distinguish the same sensations from one another, but we are still not perfect at it. we may feel hungry if we are depressed. eating won't make the hunger or the depression go away, but we still feel that urge. pain that feels pleasurable is learned as well. an athlete will enjoy feeling a burn in his or her legs after a good run, it will feel euphoric, while the same circuit may trigger that pain in a different context and promote anxiety or just extreme discomfort.

Name: Neela
Date: 2003-04-07 23:22:44
Link to this Comment: 5307

In reference to the discussion on control, I agree with most of what has been said but I think that the desire to control our behavior stems from a more basic need to differentiate ourselves from our bodily functions and from other animals. Humans generally share the illusion that we are somehow special primarily due to our "superior" brain abilities. That elusive thing called consciousness - our ability to know, determine, and function cognitively - is therefore valued more than other biologically given attributes like instinct. Instinct or inherited behavior becomes trivialized because we are not aware of it; it is not consciously learned/given by the I-function and therefore contains an aspect of the uncontrolled and the animalistic. However, controlled behavior and uncontrolled behavior seem connected at many points. Some instincts must be honed and learned to be effective just as many controlled behaviors could be products of inherited abilities.

mechanic humans
Name: Annabella
Date: 2003-04-07 23:57:42
Link to this Comment: 5308

Recently I have been doing research on different government programs, and have found some fascinating statements that demonstrate just how much our society values control. For example many agencies purposefully train their operatives to enter into a voluntary socio-pathological state. They can turn their emotions off but still operate normally as if they were taking the dog for a walk, when they were in reality preparing to an assassination. These people are the epitome of control, the erratic heart rate, sweating, tremors, and frantic eyes that are the trademark of a person about to commit a murder are systematically 'switched off.' Allowing them to operate in extrem conditions. The same effect is naturally seen in children that have suffered abuse all of their lives; they develop a method to distance themselves from the situation. Many times in the past these people have been diagnosed with having split personalities. After all, how could the school bully be the same child that hides in a closet to escape an abusive parent?

To me this demonstrates that in extreme conditions a person can control just about anything. Even a burp can be controlled, and this control is what separates man from the beasts. We are able to organize and direct our attention to specific tasks. I like Shanti's idea of a super-human defined by their level of control, because it is demonstrated to be true in everyday life. It seems as if the more control you have, the better off you are. The ease with which I can admit this is terrifying in its implications. Are we really moving towards a mechanical future where humans ape machines in their cold, calculated actions? Or is there a tenuous thread of hope to be found in the erratic nature of our free will?

the necessity of inhibition
Name: Alexandra
Date: 2003-04-08 00:10:55
Link to this Comment: 5309

Reading about the inhibition (or in this case) disinhibition which Kathleen talked about in refereference to television reminded me about something one of my friends from highschool had told me recently. This weekend he tried foxy-methoxy, a drug which was recently made illegal. While on it, everything seemed much more intense. Although all senses were affected, sight seemed to be especially affected and all colors were of a brightness that he had never experienced before. At the beginning of his trip, however, everything was so intense, he had to lie on the ground hiding under a comforter. The lack of inhibitory firing of neurons seemed like it could explain the effects of the drug. Without, or with less, neuronal inhibition, the body seems like it cannot deal with all the input which it is receiving. By trying to imagine how overwhelmed people can become without inhibition, it is possible to understand and appreciate the huge importance of inhibition to behavior. Without sufficient inhibitory firing, people would be too amazed to function and would not be able to take anything for granted and be able to move on with any tasks. Also the constant excitation seems like it would be too exhausting to handle.

"Like" gender differences
Name: Arun
Date: 2003-04-08 01:39:27
Link to this Comment: 5311

I was talking to Kate today and she was telling me how this speaker came to her Semantics class to talk about how a discourse particle, such as the word "like" is used. She explained that people use the word "like" to undermine their view or idea. Any phrase that follows it isn't so fixed in reality or truth – it could be completely true, but there is some room for possible variation from what is being stated. Most importantly, there is the invitation for the listener to supply feedback or to fill in w/their own interpretation

One part of the discussion that really caught my attention was how women are known to use "like" more than men. Now maybe its just me, but it never crossed my mind that people who speak very slowly and with lots of "ums" and "likes" actually use the word unknowingly because they have been natured and nurtured over their lives to be not necessarily sure of the facts because they realize that others will disagree, and thus they wish to not step on anyone's toes by being too assertive.

A point she made was how a room full of women can have a dialogue that respects each others feelings, letting others in on their thought process and willing to mold their opinions according to what they hear. But when you insert even one or two men into that crowd, they tend to be overconfident and dogmatic in their views.

Now I am aware that at times people use such discourse particles because the person is unsure of the proper sentence formation, with their thought process being slower then their actual rhetoric. Studies have shown that the more time a person takes before to plan an answer before responding, the fewer number of likes they will use, assumedly because they will be or at least seem more sure and definite about what they are saying. Even so, this is a very intriguing notion to the discrepancies between men and women. Amazing how such an insignificant word can actually spark such a discussion.

Self-awareness and its limits
Name: Andy Green
Date: 2003-04-08 01:51:56
Link to this Comment: 5313

I've been thinking about proprioceptors and self-awareness a lot, mostly due to a philosophy course I'm taking which has begun to discuss theories of self knowledge. If we take a materialist approach, it seems that it's difficult to distinguish between proprioceptors' function of telling us about the placement of limbs on the one hand and the mental processes of our brain on the other. But if proprioceptors were to make us aware of our mental activity, this would imply what philosophers call the "luminous" theory of mind. (i.e. all thoughts are "illuminated" in our minds, and we are aware of them) Gilbert Ryle points out that if the "luminous" theory of mind is true, it leads to an infinite regress, as we become aware of the awareness of the awareness of the awareness etc. of our thought. So the questions become (1) Do proprioceptors give us knowledge about our mental states? and (2) What is the limit to that knowledge, so that an infinite regress is avoided?

"like", conflict, control
Name: Kate
Date: 2003-04-08 03:00:50
Link to this Comment: 5315

Ok, first I just want to clarify my views on what Arun said. I don't really think that people are trying to "undermine" their own views when they use the word "like" (as in: "that is, like, enigmatic"), I think it is more of a buffer. Perhaps women tend to be more open to the possibility that truth isn't always absolute, and that many factors undoubtedly will come into play. It is not necessarily a fear of being aggressive but rather this comprehension of complexity and the ability to let others in on their own thought processes. I also realize that is not only women that use this word at all, but rather it is a tendency marked in the sex that could be very much a product of environmental/cultural factors. But the relation of this observation to Prof. Grobstein's story about his son's brashness at a young age compared with his daughter's hesitant and thoughtful planning is very intriguing to me.

Proprioceptors and corollary discharge circuits could play a very large role here. It has been very enlightening for me to realize that we aren't in fact in control of our own perceptions, and that it is these perceptions that inevitably at least partially lead to our outputs and actions. It sheds new light on the whole serial killer thing for me...but that's a whole other can of worms.

So maybe I should be more sympathetic towards guys...maybe they really just don't get it the way I do. That's what I've gotten from all of this.
I do think we can all understand each other...but it may be necessary to consciously reshape our perceptions. As much as is possible, anyway. That could be instrumental in solving all kinds of conflict in the world.

Of course what can and cannot be controlled by the I-function is also very crucial. Is it only what one would call a sort of low-level behavior like heartbeat or eye movement that we cannot control? Or are the implications much greater than that?

Date: 2003-04-08 05:42:04
Link to this Comment: 5316

perhaps i have the wrong conception of what propriaceptors are, which might nullify my question, but i was wondering how our body distinguishes between sensations we need to pay attention to and those that are not an essential part of our awareness?

Name: vivian
Date: 2003-04-08 06:40:53
Link to this Comment: 5317

this is in response to stephanie's post. she suggests that the cause for pain in a phantom limb is psychosomatic. not to say that this couldn't be part of the reason amputee's feel pain, but people who experience a phantom limb that is a result of congenital defect feel this pain as well. the nervous system of a person with a congenital defect develops in the same way as that of a person without a defect who loses a limb somewhere down the road. i'd speculate that the cause for pain in both scenarios would be the same-that the corollary discharge signals expect certain sensory inputs from the limb and the discrepancy between the model of expectation and the actual inputs results in pain.
i think this leads into a lot of the questions and ideas geoff posed about the dynamic of pain. during our last class i wondered why we feel certain types of pain in particular areas of our bodies at different times and how this relates to that discrepancy of expectation. if the corollary discharge signals have a fixed model for what they expect then is the variation in the pain we can potentially feel exclusively related to variation in the sensory input? somehow that seems to simplified....

I feel like, I don't know, maybe?
Name: Sarah
Date: 2003-04-08 08:34:35
Link to this Comment: 5318

Shanti's comment that if we consciously registered every input our brain had, "we would go insane" jumped out at me. That seems correct (I feel like I'm going crazy now, and I have to worry about 4 classes, 2 jobs, my future and my relationships; let's not add digestion and breathing!) but why? Is it because the I-function is a small part of the brain and can't handle that many signals?

I was also intrigued by the "like" discussion. The desire to undermine ones views and seem less self-assured is a phenomenon I've often wondered about. It touches me personally because I seldom do it, and the results often confuse me. Ever since high school, people have complained that I think I'm always right. That can't be further from the truth, and I think that anyone who has ever taken enough time to understand my mannerisms realizes that. But as I've investigated over the years what it is that makes so many people react that way, I've narrowed it down to my speech. I don't usually attempt to sound as if I'm unsure of my opinions, because I often know exactly what my opinion is. That is not to say I think it's absolute truth, and everyone should agree -- only that I'm sure it's what I think. (If I'm unsure, I say so, and I don't get a negative reaction.) Apparently, this is a threatening or otherwise offensive way of speaking. But why?? If one holds an opinion, shouldn't one simply state that opinion without jumping through verbal hoops to convey that one isn't insisting that that opinion be universal?

In a room full of Mawrters, it's true that you will have almost every person in the room prefacing sentences with, "This is just me, but..." using "I feel like" instead of "I think", and interjecting, "I don't know" into the statement multiple times. Why? Can't we decide what we think and then say it? Are people really that threatened by self-assuredness? I'm wondering what this may have to do with neurobiology, particularly proprioceptors. Is it possible that a simply stated, assuredly held opinion signals to others that s/he is a threat? If so, what could that possibly be touching on?

Name: Michelle C
Date: 2003-04-08 08:58:23
Link to this Comment: 5319

Thinking of pain, something that we all have become so well affiliated with, as merely a conflict between our expectations and our inputs seems to be a little extreme. While I was certain that our psychical actions could simplified into basic neurological events, I never had I imagined that "pain" would have an explanation through the corollary discharge system. It is interesting to think about pain, however, b/c it like many other activities are not completely reliant on outside inputs. As we may have all speculated over our lifetimes, pain may arise from internal sources, which makes it an fascinating topic given our exploration of internal inputs our the nervous system.

women aren't so stupid, you know
Name: Kate
Date: 2003-04-08 13:14:36
Link to this Comment: 5323

I find it very ironic that in class today we all managed to criticize our culture for its need to control, and in almost the same breath to criticize women for admitting to a certain lack of control over the words they use to express their thoughts in informal discourses. I do agree that at times we are too willing to concede the in the example with the tennis game and all the apologies. And I'm sure that this is to some degree a value that is reinforced by our culture and limits women. Girls should always give in, that kind of thing. But I also do not think that we should so quickly dismiss the possible value to a trait that may be, if Prof. Grobstein's example about his children is to be believed, a beneficial evolutionary trait acquired by our half of the species.

Take the example of the word "like" we used earlier. Again, girls have been shown to use it more frequently. When I say, "There are like 5 paths I could take," I mean exactly what I said. I'm expressing my thought in the best words possible. There may be five paths I could take, possibly more or less. I could say "there are several paths I could take", or "there are many paths I could take," but I don't mean quite that. I think there are probably five. Maybe not, but that's what it seems like to me. I, of course, could say, "about 5 paths." That is closer. But it expresses more doubt, I think. "Like" leaves room for the word to be exact, even if it might not be. This use of the word serves a function in our language that to me seems very obvious and necessary, but it is in fact a very new use of the word.

In certain subcultures even in America girls may not use this word, and many guys also use this word. I understand those things. But the fact that its creation arose from a female population, and that it is still used more frequently by the female population still has certain implications about the way the female mind may work.

Why wasn't a word such as this in the lexicon before? It seems to me that the word is not always or even often used when a person is ignorant of their own thoughts, but when they are aware that a certain word may not express their meaning completely. They are in fact admitting a certain amount of inability to control, but it may be the result of the limitations of language rather than the speaker. Or maybe the word they want is out there, they just don't know it. But does this mean that all men have larger vocabularies than all women? I don't think so. The fact that a speaker is aware of the possible ambiguities of what they are saying and can express this seems to me an intelligent sense. They get across more than they might if they attemped to be definite. In class we've learned we must be wrong all the time, it is a good thing. Maybe girls tend to be more comfortable with this. We were quite willing to criticize ourselves in class.

I agree that women should overcome the stereotypes that exist within our culture and learn to be more assertive,and that many women let others walk all over them. Perhaps men have taken advantage of our natural inclinations for a certain passivity (although I do not think that is the right word) throughout history. But while we are attemping to overcome the "passivity" that we detest about our femaleness, I hope we do not lose the thoughtfulness we possess, and feel free to throw in a "like" or two if it is helpful, even in a room full of men.

Name: priya
Date: 2003-04-08 19:51:56
Link to this Comment: 5330

The class discussion on consciousness and its relation to the brain was very interesting. I believe there is a strong correlation between consciousness and brain processes. I also believe that the former, if you will, is evident in the patterns of biological evolution. While lower level organisms like fish and insects may act or live on minimal consciousness and maximum instinct, higher level organisms like apes and humans have the added neurological capabilities that expand the boundaries of consciousness.

Not all species or specimens within the same species experience consciousness the same way. For example, in a football game, the same rules apply to all players but the individual players may or may not choose to abide by those set rules. In this case, there is a co-existence of a) one neurological process corresponding to a universally accepted state of consciousness and b) the individual, with his/her varying personal consciousness. How can we explain this dualism? Why did that one player not abide by the game rules? I can agree that consciousness is a property of the neuronal interactions. Perhaps, memory, visual perceptions, learning, and time and space all form components that constitute this so-called consciousness.

However, I still find the explanation/definition of it vague. Sometimes I wonder why we probe so much into the brain to find every single explanation for an occurrence. As of now, I believe consciousness exists within us. But whether it is something that's reducible to studying the brain processes or if it is something that is caused by the brain processes is still ambiguous. At this stage, I feel what we know about the functioning of the brain does not give us enough assurance or hints to distinguish which brain processes serve as consciousness and which ones do not. Consciousness to me is in this indecisive phase- it is the source of unusual and unpredictable events that have not been registered in the brains as unconscious actions of knowledge; events that are yet to be coded in to our genetic memory. It is also one of the reasons that makes us so unique to the rest of the biological species.

Name: priya
Date: 2003-04-08 19:53:47
Link to this Comment: 5331

The class discussion on consciousness and its relation to the brain was very interesting. I believe there is a strong correlation between consciousness and brain processes. I also believe that the former, if you will, is evident in the patterns of biological evolution. While lower level organisms like fish and insects may act or live on minimal consciousness and maximum instinct, higher level organisms like apes and humans have the added neurological capabilities that expand the boundaries of consciousness.
Not all species or specimens within the same species experience consciousness the same way. For example, in a football game, the same rules apply to all players but the individual players may or may not choose to abide by those set rules. In this case, there is a co-existence of a) one neurological process corresponding to a universally accepted state of consciousness and b) the individual, with his/her varying personal consciousness. How can we explain this dualism? Why did that one player not abide by the game rules? I can agree that consciousness is a property of the neuronal interactions. Perhaps, memory, visual perceptions, learning, and time and space all form components that constitute this so-called consciousness.
However, I still find the explanation/definition of it vague. Sometimes I wonder why we probe so much into the brain to find every single explanation for an occurrence. As of now, I believe consciousness exists within us. But whether it is something that's reducible to studying the brain processes or if it is something that is caused by the brain processes is still ambiguous. At this stage, I feel what we know about the functioning of the brain does not give us enough assurance or hints to distinguish which brain processes serve as consciousness and which ones do not. Consciousness to me is in this indecisive phase- it is the source of unusual and unpredictable events that have not been registered in the brains as unconscious actions of knowledge; events that are yet to be coded in to our genetic memory. It is also one of the reasons that makes us so unique to the rest of the biological species.

Name: priya
Date: 2003-04-08 19:56:03
Link to this Comment: 5332

sorry about the repetitive comment, dont know what happened...

Pleurobranchea: Bad choice for study of choice
Name: nicole
Date: 2003-04-08 21:09:47
Link to this Comment: 5333

I am uncomfortable with our discussion of choice in class today. It seems that we were basically re-naming a behavior a choice. This is problematic because I don't think the 2 are equivalent. And what is a choice anyway? What does it mean to make a choice? Do we really make a choice, is it something that happens between the thought of initiating a behavior and making that behavior, or is it something we use to explain our behavior after the fact?

Additionally, I don't think that the pleurobranchea is the most useful model for the study of choice. When the pleurobranchea is chewing and is poked, it makes no response. However, if it is just moving around and is poked then it retracts the proboscis. In this model we are defining the stimulus or input as the poke, but I don't believe that it is that simple. Our current definition of input seems a bit restrictive. The input is the poke in the presence or absence of other sensory input (sensations from the mouth while it is eating). If we simplify things a bit, the pleurobranchea retracts the proboscis when it receives only sensory input from the poke, but when it is receiving input from the poke and from its mouth it doesn't retract the proboscis. I think that the inputs that the animal is receiving in both cases are very different. Each input leads to two mutually exclusive responses. Therefore, the animal cannot make a choice.

Researchers have done similar conditioning studies in psychology. I'm not sure exactly what the procedure would be called, but one thing that is similar to it is called occasion setting. It seems that an occasion setting procedure might be a more reasonable account of choice behavior in animals. In an occasion setting procedure you have at least 2 types of trials: (1) Stimulus B (let's say white noise) is presented in the presence of Stimulus A (light) and after a certain amount of time, the rat will receive a food pellet. (2) Stimulus A (light) goes on and after the same duration has passed, no food is delivered to the rat. After repeated trials the rat learns that when A and B are presented together it will get food, and that when A is presented alone that it won't get food. This learning shapes the rat's behavior and the learning theory asserts that when both stimuli are presented the rat anticipates the delivery of food and starts to respond (by pressing a lever). When the light is presented alone, it knows that food will not be delivered and will therefore not make a response.

The main question is: will the rat always make the same choice? The answer is no. While the rat often makes responses when it expects the delivery of food it can and does respond at other times. So yes, the rat is capable of making a choice. In this experiment I would not say that the light is the only stimulus used by the rat to "make the decision". However, the rat responds with the highest frequency when the light and noise are both on.

And on another note, it seems like you can also discuss choice using the phenomenon of habituation and sensitization. I don't know what Professor Grobstein would say about this situation, but I do not think that the animal would "make a choice". After repeated presentations the meaning of the stimulus may be lost, which would influence behavior. But I won't babble anymore on this subject unless it continues to be addressed in the forum.

Date: 2003-04-09 02:48:33
Link to this Comment: 5336

Here is an interesting thought. If women were so unsure about their opinions, or if they want to leave room for uncertainty, then why is it that when they write an email or a paper they don't sprinkle the paper with the word "like".

I have a few friends who use the word "like",... a lot!!! However when they write an email they don't use it. I think that it is the inability of the person to express themselves concisely. Maybe they just can't piece together an answer faster than they can speak; so they give themselves extra time by inserting this word. Maybe the fact that they are unsure of themselves plays an important role, but of for the most part,... they just can't piece together complete sentences without using the word "like". They can't control it.

I used to use the word myself until I got a really nasty comment from someone (called me a bimbo for speaking that way). So I made it a point to stop saying it. Now I rarely use it but I am finding that people are criticizing me for the same reasons Sarah was/is criticized. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. However, control is very important in our society. I would rather have people think I am too assertive than be unable to control my speech.

lack of self control
Name: Grace Shin
Date: 2003-04-09 23:14:45
Link to this Comment: 5341

I really enjoyed reading the comments made by everyone so far. However, talking about lack of self control... many people seemed to be offended almost by what some people are saying. I hope that's not the case because everyone is supposed to put in their opinions. Much of the problem that seems to be discussed is due to the fact that we all keep trying to generalize people (and even relate people to animals...) but the truth is, we are all different and same at the same time. Some guys say "like" alot while some girls never say it. We really just can't generalize and say that using the word "like" always shows something about the person's assurance or lack there of. Yes, much of it is our culture but there is more to a person than just culture (i'm sure we can all agree).

My conclusion for tuesday's discussion is that everyone trying to generalize this way and disagreeing with people, etc just shows once again how many people just try to take control over all or many issues in our lives. I thought it was interesting when in class, PG asked "Who wants to be in total control?" i was not alone in raising my hand saying that i do NOT want to be in total control. The direction of the discussions sometimes makes me feel like everyone wants to be always in control. But I don't... =)

So is lack of self control an issue? Maybe, if this makes you do things you do not want to do, from simple issues like peeing in your pants or on a graver note raping people. However, as humans, we learn from our mistakes and being in total control always will make us... gods. Besides, if there is full control always, life just wouldn't be as exciting.

unfamiliar actions
Name: Marissa
Date: 2003-04-10 01:42:39
Link to this Comment: 5343

After the discussion in class on Tuesday, I have thought a lot about my personal awareness of my body. For apporximately the hour or so after class, I was picking up on as many actions my body made as possible and becoming aware of them. Though I recognize that most of these actions were noticed as an afterthought,however I personally, beyojd driving myself crazy also noticed that I am fairly often of a lot of my movements that I did except to be so aware of. For example, I am left handed, but do most basic things (except writing) with my right hand. The focus of most things tends to fall on the right side of my body and I have always felt more in tune with my right side as well. This got me thinking about when Prof. Grobstein had us instanteously raise our hands in class. Most everyone agreed that they didn't consider what they were about to do before they raised their arm in the air, however I definately did. Though typically I should have shot up my left arm cause it was the one with focus on it already having pen in its hand, but instead I had a quick brainflash that told be to use my right arm because it feels more comfortable. I wonder if this is conditioning, or that perhaps my automatic reactions take one more connection to complete?

Other standpoints?
Name: Patty
Date: 2003-04-10 05:39:38
Link to this Comment: 5344

In respect to what Kate has spoken about in the forum, I also wonder what control is to someone who is not a woman and who is not American. Being both, I can not imagine this, but I find that your concept of control plays a huge part in what we are willing to conceive of our own body and awareness (or lack there of.) I find that I am extremely reluctant to admit that certain things I do are done completely without thought. I feel like there must be a place in my mind that I am less conscious of, but that is still a part of my thought, as it is making these split second decisions for me. However, at the same time, I am not a firm believer in free will, which I would expect to make me more comfortable with the idea that my "I-function" may control less than I think it does. These most recent class discussions have made me realize, or at least hypothesize, why different countries handle the sciences very differently. Although many questions in science have very unwavering supports, much of scientific exploration and application is integrated into our social and philosophical comfort levels. I find topics such as "free will" and "control" to be most interesting because I feel people of different societies would contribute to our class discussions in a very different way.

Name: Shanti
Date: 2003-04-13 00:46:14
Link to this Comment: 5358

I find it very interesting that while we all can admit that we may be a culture that is overly obsessed with control, when we are all asked if we can make choices without thinking or unconscious decisions, we so fervently insist that when we are asked to raise a hand, that we had time to think about which hand to pick. While it seems obvious that we would in most cases, think about our actions and behavior, and in most cases to a greater degree than is neccessary, i think that it is equally obvious that there are times that we make unconscious decisions as well. I had brought up the example that when you are sleeping and your alarm clock goes off, you turn it off and later, in the morning, you realize that you're late because you forgot to turn it off. Someone had said that it isn't that you didn't think about it, but that you don't remember thinking about it. However, I really don't think that you wake up in the middle of the night, or early in the morning and actually spend time thinking about whether or not to turn your alarm clock off. If anything, that is counter productive. If you were thinking about turning it off, then you would have realized that you turned it on for a reason in the first place, and that reason is that you have to get up. Therefore, you would have realized that the best thing to do would be to leave it alone and get up. You have previously thought about it and decided that the best thing to do would be to set it. If you still turned it off, doesn't that mean that maybe you turning it off wasn't thought about? I feel like this should be fairly obvious. Yes we all like to be in control and think that we think about everysingle action. But is that possible, and more to the point, isn't it a waste of time? We can't all think about everything no more than we can control everything. If we thought about every action, then how come there are times we say" i didn't think about that" or "I wish i had thought about that" the truth is that we don't think about everything and if we did maybe we wouldn't as people have so many regrets. Also, if we think about everything, i'd like to bring up the point about accountability. barring a brain disorder, if people think about everything and every action, then shouldn't they be held accountable for their actions? Then shouldn't a killer be held accountable for his actions as well. Since we believe that we are in control, than that means that we know what we are doing since we've thought about it. Maybe we need to think about what this means and the resulting implications.

Name: Clare
Date: 2003-04-13 13:41:07
Link to this Comment: 5359

In response to the discussion about women being less assertive in conversation and using "like" more than others, I agree with the first comment from Kate that although this may be true, why does this have to always necessarily be a bad thing? Why does allowing room for suggestion have to be looked down upon? In fact, we have learned in this class that you cannot ever prove anything and that there are many different ways to look at issues and that often there is neither a right or wrong answer but a difference in opinion. Moreover, I have always been able to have better discussions with people that are not concretely set in their ways but are willing to see things from another side. People who state and argue their opinion as if it were the only one that is right I have found difficult to discuss with because they are not willing to learn new ideas or change. I am not saying that women are one way or men are another, I am just saying that I think there is value in allowing leeway and that it does not necessarily mean that you are any less confident or strong in your beliefs. I think that this is an even stronger quality because you recognize that this is just one opinion among many and you are willing to learn what these other opinions are and possibly alter yours if necessary.
Also, in response to Shanti's comment, I do agree that it is possible that people are hesitant to say they did not have control over something because that want to believe that they did. However, I don't think it's fair to flat out dismiss what people have said they have control over just because you may not. I know that I wake up to my alarm and consciously turn it off practically every morning. I even quickly calculate how many more times I have to hit the snooze button before I actually have to get up. Then I go back to sleep. In my opinion, people who hit the snooze without realizing it are not getting enough sleep and probably do not completely wake up when they hear their alarm.

Spirituality, Language, and the Experience of Pain
Name: Nia Turner
Date: 2003-04-13 22:24:06
Link to this Comment: 5361

I am interested in the relationship between pain, language, and spirituality, and as a result I explored the internet for further information. Dr. Nathan Koller suggest that pain is the language that our bodies use to express that a significant change is occurring. What would life be like if pain were absent from the human experience, whether it be physical, emotional, or mental? Furthermore, there seems to be a connection between spirituality and pain. Researchers at Georgetown University School of Medicine found, that 80% of studies suggest that spiritual or religious beliefs have a beneficial effect on health. Spirituality appears to provide hope which in some cases could be a contributing factor in healing. Dr.Francis J. Keefe suggest, "understanding the daily spiritual and religious experiences of patients is an important key to understanding their experience of their disease." My perspective of Science in general has been, that it lacks a connection to spirituality. It appears to me that in many cases scientists do not acknowledge or intergrate spirituality into research or methodology. What would science be if pain and spirituality were used as teachers?

Burping, Repression, and Control
Name: Zunera
Date: 2003-04-13 23:07:16
Link to this Comment: 5362

I believe we are NOT in control of every little thing in our lives. Is that such a bad thing? If I had to think about everything, to remember to blink, open my eyes, "oh Zunera, your food is digested you should go to the bathroom now," your tired-sleep, move your thumb and finger together to hold the pen... I would go insane.

Yes, we are conscious animals. We have "superior" brain capabilities. Or do we? I mean, I agree with Neela- we all might just be under the "illusion that we are somehow special primarily due to our "superior" brain abilities" (Neela). This whole needing to be in control and having free will could be due to a combination of factors. For one thing, I feel that the United States places a lot of importance on independence and that independence and self-sufficiency could be equivalent to free will and control.

However, other countries do not hold these values on the same pedestal. Instead, staying close to family, helping with the care of the elderly and the youngest, and being reliant on one another are ways of living. Does this make those societies incapable of free will? Is that why whenever we see women at home, bearing children, helping their elders, all "against their will" in other countries where women are likely to stay home, where they feel that having a reliability on another human is not such a crime, we cry, "repression!"

Our views can be due to social conditioning. Society determines just how much importance should be placed on self-action and control. Some countries/societies find burping at the table rude. In other places, or in other families, burping at the table is sign of appreciation- that the food is delicious. Therefore, "controlling" a normal body function, such as burping, would not be seen as a positive or desired characteristic.

Free will (as an idea) and control (in general) can take on many forms. Our idea, the one fed into our minds by our government and society is just one way free will can be expressed.

Second, some people just feel the need to put themselves above "other animals"—justify their standing and hierarchy over all other organisms. If there is any doubt shed on "free will" and "consciousness" there is a whole group of adamant protestors. To some degree, all animals have an ability to make a choice, to be in "control" to exert "free will." We are just seemingly able to make a variety of choices at one given time.

corollary discharge and such
Name: Alanna
Date: 2003-04-14 00:05:10
Link to this Comment: 5363

I was recently contemplating corollary discharge and the issue of whether or not we have to think in order to actually make a choice. I think that memory plays a significant role in this issue. For example, what about responding to an emergency, like a fire alarm? Do we respond to such without thinking b/c we are used to the memory of past fire drills when we learned over and over how one was expected to respond to a fire drill, or just b/c it is merely an instinctive response to the sound of the alarm? What if we didn't have the memory of those past fire drills? How then would we respond "without thinking"?

Also, it was said in class that corollary discharge circuits do help to account for the idea that Choice does not equal Free Will. I do not agree with that. Aren't choice and free will the SAME thing? Doesn't the very definition of free will mean the ABILITY to CHOOSE one thing over another?

determinism and free will
Name: priya
Date: 2003-04-14 15:25:47
Link to this Comment: 5366

This goes along Alanna's last comment...I think we can look at "free will" through several angles. First of all, what is the most convincing definition of free will? If we split the word into two, then we get- "free" and "will". The will is the power that we have to bring ourseleves to action and the "free" or freedom is the power to act or not act as the will decides. Does this mean that there is no such thing as a "free will" when there are alternatives to a single action?

If "free will" does exist, then I think there are definite obstacles that can confuse us about the existence of free will. One that comes to my mind is that of determinism. We often hear and use the Sanskrit word, "Karma" in our daily conversations. Having taken Hindu philosophy classes for years, my understanding of Karma is- the law that all good and evil is a natural consequence of choices in the previous incarnation. "Karma is simply the hand one is dealt; one can play it badly or well." There is essentially a cause-effect relationship. The question to ask ourseleves is whether we have the free will to determine our future or whether our future is already consciously or unconsciously determined?

I feel like free will isnt some kind of loose term that is given to us from an external source but rather a concept that is built into our system internally. I think we have a blend between determinism and free will. Our past is unalterable but our future lies in the action of our choices.

I am not sure if free will and freedom of action are one of the same things. For example, a paralyzed person cannot move his/her limbs. The free will in this case is in trying to (or not) move his/her limb. Here, isnt our free will restricted by an action that has already been determined? From a determinist approach, one can argue that our perceptions, emotional, and cognitive processes are all results from our past experiences, which inevitably guide our future choices. So although, you have the power to choose between a mango and pineapple milkshake, your past experiences of having an allergic reaction to the pineapple one, may lead you to choose the mango one. In this case, do we experience a free will or an already determined action?

a house for free will
Name: Annabella
Date: 2003-04-14 21:49:26
Link to this Comment: 5371

I find the question that Priya suggests, whether free will and freedom of action are the same thing, to be very interesting. At first glance it seems as if free will and freedom of action are one and the same. However, freedom of action can be separated into two very different types of 'action.' For example, there is the freedom to move a body part, and the freedom to speak a thought. Can both of these actions (mental and physical) be categorized under the mantel of free will? If we say yes, then is it possible for our choice to think to be paralyzed like a leg can? Is this, maybe, what a coma patient is experiencing, a paralysis of the mind? Can they then be rehabilitated through therapy like Christopher Reeves?

A coma patient is fully functional on a physical level, but not 'awake' on a mental level. Just as a paralysis patient is physically incapable, but mentally conscious. If we are looking for a place that free will is housed, could this indicate that the brain is the place for it? Or is there even a physical place that free will can be found? Many a time free will is an amorphous aspect of the soul. If we give it a physical presence will free will still be free, or prey to the biological functions of the human body?

Control and awareness
Name: Alexandra
Date: 2003-04-14 21:52:56
Link to this Comment: 5372

While I do not want to have self-control at all times, it is important that we take the time occasionally to realize and think about our actions. Although thinking about all behavior all the time before enacting it would be ultimately paralyzing and even ridiculous, an increased consciousness of our actions seems like it would lend more significance and meaning to our behavior.
Although most of us cannot be bothered to actually think about all of the movements that are involved in walking, coming closer to this knowledge seems like it would lend more significance to the act of walking (even while done thoughtlessly). Although I myself have not truly experimented in "controlled walking," I can imagine a little what it must be like. In a comparative religion class I took in high school, we watched a movie about Buddhism, which ended with a long-shot of Theravadin monk walking ever-so slowly across part of a temple. He seemed to be aware of every movement he made, and through this extreme self-control, it seemed as if he must have gained the knowledge of what it truly is to walk.
At the high-pace of our lives moving always with the awareness of that monk would be hugely inconvenient. Still, it seems important that, even if we act thoughtlessly or out of habit, we are more aware of the meaning, or essence, of our actions. Thus trying what it must be like to enact a behavior or action in a more controlled manner at least once would translate into the knowledge of the significance of that action even when performed perfunctorily.

Name: Amelia
Date: 2003-04-14 22:43:07
Link to this Comment: 5376

I've been thinking about free will, and I think that a certain amount of what constitutes free will is the fact that we are consciously aware of our actions and can consciously consider the consequences of our actions. While we may not think about what hand we're going to raise when we're asked to do so, we are definately going to think about, or should think about, larger decisions in life, such as where we're going to go to college or if we're going to marry someone.

Also, in thinking about Alanna's example of the fire drill, I would think that our response of leaving a building when a fire alarm sounds is a conditioned response. All the times in the past that we have heard a fire alarm, we have responded by leaving the building. So, when we hear a fire alarm being sounded, we automatically leave because that is the behavior we have been trained to respond with.

Name: Rachel
Date: 2003-04-14 22:43:37
Link to this Comment: 5377

I agree with the idea that it is impossible, even ridiculous, to exert self-control regarding our actions all of the time. I am typing this email in the forum, and since the current discussion topic is self-control, I happen to be thinking, "Yes, my fingers are typing on my keyboard". However, I have actually never thought this when typing in the forum area before - it would be absolutely silly to do so - has anyone else actually thought about the action of their fingers while typing in the forum? ;)

When we are in class, we raise our hands, yet do not take the time to think "perhaps I am bending my elbow too much in the hand-raising process?", and frequently we raise our hands without thinking that we are doing so (we instinctively do so because we have a question or intelligent comment to make). However, the hand-raising example can demonstrate that some self-control is crucial to our proper functioning (for example, we must control the height of our hand, i.e., raise it high enough, so that the professor can see it in order to answer our question)

Name: Michelle C
Date: 2003-04-14 23:34:25
Link to this Comment: 5380

The idea of women using fillers as a method for pacifying their commentary was one that I have often considered. Though the common usage of the word "like" seems to be more a part of a popular mainstream culture. In thinking of just why we find these commonly occurring fillers in speech, I was forced to consider the idea of interactional synchrony, something that most of us do. For instance, I often find myself asking my listeners "Do you know what I mean?". It seems at times that I am looking for some sort of approval from them. Or, I might be expressing a form of courtesy. Maybe, these periods of fillers are courteous opportunities for the listener to interject smoothly without interrupting a thought that is trying to be expressed. Maybe the whole concept of self-control does not apply to this type of instance at all.

Corollary Discharge, Free will, and Control
Name: tung
Date: 2003-04-15 03:12:12
Link to this Comment: 5390

After reading everyone comments, it seems to me that everyone is pulled into different directions in regard to free will, corollary discharge (no choice), and control. It seems to me that there is a point where these three topics converge. Please excuse me as I try to make sense out of this and hopefully my English will not be in the way.

The brief exposure to corollary discharge has significantly improved my understanding of the functioning of the brain. Its amazing to realize that not only does the nervous system, particularly the brain, set up a network of connections (between neurons) that enable it to communicate far without the boundary of the body but it also creates a structural framework within to relay messages from part of the nervous sytem to the other. Thus, the notion of corollary discharge brings to mind the autonomic activity as evidence in the example of the pleurobranchea (sensory stimuli is inhibited once the pleurobranchea is feeding). This idea imply that some of our actions are automatic without any conscious choosing. For instance, in the example of the hand raising. I think that it is mostly automatic requiring no conscious choosing. Why? Well like what Prof. Grobstein said, the reaction is simply too fast to require any thinking. However, this does not imply that hand raising is all automatic. For some people, depending on the condition and circumstances of the moment (ie, the position of the arm or the condition of the hand --like holding something) there may be some thinking behind the hand raising. Here, I see as Prof. Grobstein had introduced a struggle between the I function and the rest of the nervous system to be in control.

Thus, the issue of control is raised. If corollary discharge part of the NS is in charge then there is no choice or free will; rather, the reaction or behavior is autonomic. However, if the I function is the one in charge then there some sense of choice and free will. I know that there are exceptions to this but to generalize, are these observations make sense so far? If so we can continue further...

Therefore, it seems to me that by saying that in striving to be in control, we really want our I function to be in charge of the behaviors we used as examples in class to discuss about choice and free will (like burbing). Can we all agree that in some situations by having to choose our behaviors, danger is inevitable? Such situations are emergency circumstances in which the difference between life and death is within seconds. Thus, our nervous system was built in such a way that this is taken into consideration. So assuming that the person doesnt want to die, when it comes to survival I think that free will and choice become less important. However, we know that free will exists. So is there a defining line between what we can choose and what we cant? I think that at some point there is overlapping, and here is where we want our I function to be more and more in control. What does everyone think?

The "I Can't Sleep, so I might as well Post" Post
Name: Zunera
Date: 2003-04-17 04:12:46
Link to this Comment: 5432

What definition of free will are we looking at? Free will can also mean, "done willingly rather than by compulsion" (Encarta, 2001). If this is true, then how does choice play a role (in this definition of free will)? If one is doing something willingly...suggesting a CHOICE could have already been created, is he/she is just going happily going along with the choice already made/created for them (by someone else, nature, environment, etc), rather than being coerced and strong-armed into an action/behavior, etc that they do not agree with? Or, does willingly mean that because the person made the choice by themselves, he/she will be more likely to follow through, than if someone else made a choice for them?

I know we discussed that corollary discharge circuits are support for the idea that Choice does not equal Free Will, but I'm just not sure where I stand on this, especially if Free Will is only supposed to mean the act of making choices as an autonomous being.

Also, where does predestination fit into this model? Do we even believe/agree that it exist?

Maybe I'm reading into this too is 4 am...

Name: Laurel
Date: 2003-04-17 14:51:16
Link to this Comment: 5436

This site describes a new surgical procedure that's being explored in patients with age-related Macular Degeneration. Those with Macular Degeneration have scars on the part of the retina that processes images for things in the center of the vision field. In other words, people with AMD can only see the periphery. This miniature telescope enlarges the angle of light reception, much like increasing the depth of field in a photograph, so that the vision field no longer has a black hole in the center.

As seen on Oprah...
Name: nicole
Date: 2003-04-17 16:53:25
Link to this Comment: 5438

This afternoon I was watching Oprah and it was an episode that discussed teenage dating abuse. It wasn't too relevant to class but one sentence stood out in my head. The dating violence expert said, " Love is not a feeling, it's a behavior." I never really thought of love as being a behavior, but it does make sense. I don't think I would go as far as saying that it is not a feeling, but these feelings are expressed through our behavior. Earlier this semester we discussed love, hate, creativity, and other things were difficult to place in our brain = behavior model. Perhaps some of these things can be considered behavior and analyzed in such a way. I know that experiments have been done with dolphins where the dolphins are reinforced by performing a novel act ( they get food when they do a new trick rather than something old). This type of situation produces novel behaviors in the dolphin. The argument suggests that dolphins are creative animals. It does seem strange to attempt to quantify and objectively analyze creativity rather than viewing it as an internal process that some people possess. However, what is creativity if we cannot observe it? Would we say that an artist was creative if he never painted? I think that most things that we view as highly emotional or internal are manifested in our behavior.

week n-1
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-04-20 17:41:52
Link to this Comment: 5446

We've moved into new turf, the input side of the nervous system. And ... ? You're free as always to write about whatever you've been thinking about. Here's a starting point, though, if you'd like one ...

What are the implications for understanding nervous system organization of observations on the blind spot of the retina? For understanding behavior? What new questions do they raise?

Extrasensory perception
Name: Tiffany Li
Date: 2003-04-21 14:32:45
Link to this Comment: 5452

Thursday’s discussion brought some new insights into my understanding of the nervous system and its association to behavior. I was particularly intrigued by extrasensory perception. I was surprised to find out that we acquire information/knowledge without realizing we acquired it. At first I was hesitant about accepting this concept, but once we put it into practice using the blind spot as an example it made sense. The blind spot on our retina is supposed to produce a black spot in the images we perceive, but the nervous system creates an image for us. The nervous system invents/creates an image, which it believes, would normally be there. It is capable of making us perceive images differently than what they really are. Although the nervous system is capable of doing this, I found that in my case, its capacity to create images was somewhat limited. When I did the experiment with the red dots and the single yellow dot, I only saw red dots as my blind spot hit the yellow dot.
Therefore the nervous system seems unable to generate images that are too complex.What I found most intriguing is the fact that the nervous system generates outputs which we associate to our I-function. We think we perceive things the way we see them, but in fact it is our nervous system which is helping us create what we see. So how much of our perception of the world is controlled by our I-function if the nervous system can affect it without us knowing? Is that where hallucinations come from? If our nervous system can affect our perception of the world it seems plausible to assume that it can control our behavior as well. As the course is evolving, I feel increasingly comfortable with the fact the brain-behavior.

Name: Danielle M
Date: 2003-04-21 17:30:25
Link to this Comment: 5455

If we've seen (ha ha) that our sight is in part fudged by our nervous system without our I-function's knowledge, how about our other senses? I particularly wonder about taste--one chapter of Eric Schlosser's book Fast Food Nation talks about how chemicals are used to produce flavor. On a visit to a chemical lab, the author is handed a vial filled with a chemical mixture that gives him the striking impression that he's smelling hamburgers on the grill. It's that chemical additive that gives otherwise bland, frozen, over-processed food its good flavor--the chemicals (bear with me, my memory's fuzzy on the specifics here) release into your nasal cavity, triggering your sense of smell, which in turn relays its impression of smelling a grilled hamburger to the palate, which interprets the chemical's smell as a certain taste. Or something along those lines. Point is, in heavily processed foods, the food itself bears little relation to the flavor you're tasting--your sensation of taste isn't originating from your tastebuds, but from your sense of smell. But your I-function doesn't know this--it assumes that burger tastes like a burger, cause, well, it's a burger. Not because it's been decked out with chemicals. So how far can we trust our senses? Why isn't our I-function let in on all this conspiratorial fudging among the senses?

if you can't trust your senses...
Name: geoff
Date: 2003-04-21 21:03:58
Link to this Comment: 5457

danielle asks how far we can trust our senses. if we can simulate a certain smell with a chemical or mixture of chemicals then what is real? i have noticed this disparity between the I-function's analysis of a situation and something more base that may control some pretty heavy emotions (you may still feel hungry and salivate even though you know in your mind you are just smelling chemicals). we assume quite a bit about what is real and what is not.

maybe someday we will be able to have the full sensory experience of chewing the hamburger without putting anything in our mouths. this reminds me of studies that i think are still going on at Penn with drug abusers. we have all learned that drugs manipulate our behavior by interacting with the receptors in our brain, maybe causing a rush of dopamine in a synaptic cleft or blocking its reuptake. but these Penn studies have shown that you do not actually have to physically take in anything for you to experience the effects of the drug. it sounds like the placebo effect but it is a little bit different. the study has drug users who are off the drug (usually crack or heroine), watching videos of the neighborhoods where the drugs are sold or shown pictures of the needles and other equipment. the study found that this stimulus was enough for the subjects to experience being high, at least the initial stages of it. it is not that they felt withdrawal in anticipation of a hit, as i might have guessed, it is that the body was already making them high, just assuming that the drug would be coming. makes me wonder what the use of the drug is then, if the brain can make itself high. In theory the drug would not even be necessary if the I-function could convince the brain enough that the drug was there.

Name: alexandra
Date: 2003-04-21 22:18:56
Link to this Comment: 5463

Although I knew that everyone has a blind spot in their vision, I was surprised at how sophisticated the masking of this fact is. The great extent in which we never notice that we do not see disturbs me a little. It seems like that would indicate that much of what we see or experience may be simply a product of our nervous system and have no basis in reality. That our eyes move around so much soothes me a little because if our blind-spot is always in a different spot, then reality seems like it would take over from the illusion which our mind had created.
Thinking about the variation in blindspot size or location also interested me. Do people have on average the same size of blindspots? I know this to be false because my father has told me that he has very large blindspots. Is size generally uniform though? Does the size of the blindspot change with age ever? Does the existence of larger eyespots actually lead to a decreased awareness of the world around them?
It seems to me that people must have different sizes of blindspots, which may or may not (I think not, for some reason) change with time. I doubt, however, that the halibut is ver gooo

different inputs
Name: Grace Shin
Date: 2003-04-21 22:46:57
Link to this Comment: 5464

I think it's really interesting to think that what I perceive as one thing may not be what others perceive it as. I was reminded of a movie (can't remember the title...) but I remember how in the movie the character always sensed things a bit different than everyone else and other people just thought he was weird... but after thinking about it, the simple truth that what i perceive as being yellow may not be the same yellow that you perceive! I guess our different inputs also make life interesting!

Regarding geoff's comment about tasting hamburgers one day without actually eating one takes into account the taste... but i think the joy of eating a hamburger comes from multiple inputs... i know for myself, the appearance of the food has a great impact on how it tastes, if i knew that my sister (who cannot cook...) made the food, i also would be more hesitant to say that it tastes good... so i don't know if that kind of technology (?) is possible... joys of eating without actually eating...

completely unrelated topic
Name: Nicole
Date: 2003-04-21 23:02:08
Link to this Comment: 5466

I'm sorry to get off the subject but since I was unable to attend both classes last week (because I was having an absolute blast in the health center), I can't comment on class discussion this week. Instead I'll just talk about some topic that has always baffled me. I am soooo embarrassed to admit this but while sitting in the waiting room at the health center, I watched part of a talk show hosting parents of dangerously obese (like 200lbs) children/toddlers. One of the issues was that the parents admitted that they enjoyed gorging their kids with excessive amounts of food, loved watching their kids pig out, and liked the attention that it brought them. I just had to wonder WHO would get enjoyment out of something so sick? This also applies to another disturbing illness, Munchausen syndrome, where a parent (usually the mom) will continually poison their child or fake illness so as to elicit attention. Typically Munchausen people don't show any symptoms of any other mental illness and are usually otherwise intelligent. It seems that attention and pity are the goals of these sick and abusive behaviors but why do these people lack the judgment, self-restraint, compassion etc. that would keep someone else from ever giving into such behavior even if they were to have some urge to do it? What causes such a warped desire to harm someone for attention or whatever other need they believe such abuse brings them? Why do these people pick children as their mode for attention when there are so many other ways to get noticed? Can their behavior be excused as a simple neurological imbalance or other biological problem? Even with the most detailed medical explanation, these behaviors would still perplex me. Sorry, this was probably the most non-sequitur post of the entire semester. Go back to talking about class discussions now.

Name: Laurel Jac
Date: 2003-04-21 23:06:13
Link to this Comment: 5467

In regards to Alexandra's posting, I know for a fact that the amount of blind spots in vision increases with age. Does this mean, however, that the brain compensates for this loss, or the person just cannot see a clear picture anymore?
Also, in regards to our class discussion on Thursday about what is seeing, it made me think of an interesting story. My great-grandmother lived with my family for years. Even at 95, she still had her wits about her, except that she was considered completely blind, only being able to sense some light variation. She had problems sleeping, and one of the pills that her doctor prescribed her gave her hallucinations. She would tell us about the little children that were sitting at the foot of her bed, watching her as she fell asleep. She wasn't really bothered by them, just a little confused. My dad couldn't help but break up laughing: "Grandma, you're BLIND. What do you mean you SEE little children?" And she answered: "I know I'm blind, but they're there, and I see them." What part of her brain was producing the image that she "saw"? If it had nothing to do with light receptors or pupils or lenses, how did she "see"? Is it still sight if the real image is not actually there?

Name: vivian
Date: 2003-04-21 23:11:58
Link to this Comment: 5468

along the same lines as danielle's comments i've been thinking about the gaps in our various senses and how the nervous system fills them in without our i-functions knowledge. so there's ourself and the idea of ourself that the nervous system has and clearly they don't always coincide. prime example goes back to the phantom limb concept in which case the gap between the reality of the self and the nervous systems idea of self is very the point where you could feel pain in a limb that doesn't even exist. that's pretty impressive. i've also been giving some thought to proprioreceptors. i kind of imagine the reafferent loop as our nervous systems sense of self - or at least that our proprioreceptors contribute in large part to the idea of self that our nervous system uses to fill in gaps in our perception, but if there is a gap in the information our proprioreceptors are relaying similar to our retina's 'blind spot' where does the nervous system aquire the information to fill it in?

Name: Kathleen
Date: 2003-04-21 23:27:28
Link to this Comment: 5469

Since we're on the topic of how our brain can sometimes trick us through toying with our senses, I'm reminded of last spring when my grandmother got glasses for the first time. She couldn't believe that my mother had "gotten old", that her own house looked slightly delapidated, and that she had as many wrinkles as she did. Her deteriorating vision had acted as a sort of safeguard for her, shielding her from some harsh realities. Her vision wasn't necessarily a "trick" or function of the brain, but it might as well have been.. as it affected her behavior so drastically.

what is vision?
Name: Annabella
Date: 2003-04-21 23:43:29
Link to this Comment: 5470

Laurels question "what is vision?" is very interesting, especially when the implications of its answer are examined. Normally, vision is a referral to the sense of sight. But what about blind people that can "see" color? This is not the same type of vision that a person with 20/20 sight would have. Is this a hallucination? If so, can hallucination be a type of 'vision.' We've all heard the story of a stranded traveler 'seeing' a cool oasis, only to realize (after a mouthful of sand) that they were prey to illusions. From this we can understand that vision is not wholly reliant on our eyesight, but more on our "mindsight."

Interestingly enough, a new advance in the medical field helping people see, is to attach a machine that is able to process pictures, almost like a very tiny camera. This machine would be 'hooked' to the vision centers, and stimulate the brain to 'see.' Many blind parents, whom have blind offspring refuse to have this procedure done claiming that being blind is not a disability. They can still see, but not in the traditional sense. Which brings us back to the original question —what is vision?

Name: Neela
Date: 2003-04-22 00:02:35
Link to this Comment: 5471

The discussion on the manipulation of the senses (seen naturally the blind spot or unnaturally in the case of the additive food chemicals) seems to compromise the level of trust we place in them and our nervous system as a whole. I think realizing that our perceptual abilities are limited and can be changed is valuable because we open ourselves up to possibilites, and perhaps behaviors, beyond those primarily dictated by our senses. Throughout the course, we've witnessed the power and influence of the brain; the more we understand it and the more we are able to control our nervous systems through conscious actions and science, the greater the capacity of the I-function becomes. I do realize that the statement is problematic because our I-function can never truly understand or control the total complexity of "the brain" (this borders on the much discussed topic of free will), but we've been attempting to do so for centuries; Science is the externalized product of our collective I-functions' attempt to comprehend, control and perhaps ultimately conquer that which we cannot explain within the nervous system and that which we cannot explain through our senses. In the recent age of technology, the focus seems to have shifted from understanding to controlling - we alter and create. These processes mirror the production of compensatory images our brain creates in order to create fill in our blind spot: they both seek a greater and more complete picture of what is "truly" present and make one up to do so.

Blind Spots
Name: Melissa
Date: 2003-04-22 00:21:33
Link to this Comment: 5473

I found it particularly interesting to learn that we have a blind spot, in which our nervous system compensates for and creates an image to replace the absence. This brings up many interesting questions about the source of our behavior in terms of I-function. If we can experience or perceive things without the I-function maybe we have less control over our behavior than we think. It makes me wonder about how and what we perceive to be reality if our brain is capable of recreating or creating images. While this is an amazing function of the nervous system, it is also alittle scary/interesting to think about the other things that the nervous system is replacing or creating.

implications of a blind spot
Name: enor wagne
Date: 2003-04-22 01:09:05
Link to this Comment: 5474

A couple different things came to mind after class on Thursday. In response to our class experiment (the cross and the big colored in circle on the piece of paper), I found it amazing that the brain could create information which was merely a facade. What are the implications of that? First of all, there definately existed a specific distance wherein the mind switched from its willingness to see the dot in its peripheral vision to allowing the dot to disappear, replacing it with information based on conceptual intuition.
Is this exact distance true in other cases as well as this dot experiment? Is there a point when our brain fills in information that our senses can no longer obtain? Is that what accounts for people's more accurate hearing when they go blind? Does the mind fill in created information that we are not even aware of? After all, the information it filled in during the experiment seemed completely accurate in terms of its capability to replicate.

Perception and the influence of other inputs
Name: Arun
Date: 2003-04-22 01:32:37
Link to this Comment: 5475

I think that Anabella makes an interesting point on how vision seems to be more "mindsight" than "eyesight". This is an interesting notion as it brings about the question of what really is reality?

As I started considering the implications of this "created world", I realized that I was ignoring that in cases of 'perception', visual input is only part of the entire stimulus that enters our brains. I know the experiment we did in class was relevant to primarily visual inputs (as is the blindspot we have while driving) but in other instances, audio, tactile and other forms of inputs may help influence.

I was exploring the internet on perception by the brain and input senses and I actually came to a neurobiology and behavior discussion from a few years back where one girl talked about a study which happened in UC Santa Cruz a few years back. The scientists developed a computer animated character called "Baldy" which they have enabled to speak with extremely accurate lip movements. With Baldy they were able to do experiments in which they program Baldy to move his lips as if to say one phrase, but put it together with a recording of him saying something else. When they do this, they have found that the experiment subjects do not understand what Baldy is saying, indicating that perhaps there is more to understanding to speech than an audio input. This validates the idea that some of what we are talking about as "made up by the brain" may be a result of other impulses from other senses.

Name: Zunera
Date: 2003-04-22 01:51:59
Link to this Comment: 5476

The idea that the nervous system can add, manipulate, and incorporate information within and around us makes me wonder how this could play into memory.

I know that people can have "false memories" and that most of our memory is actually inaccurate (over time). How does this play into our every day functioning? We always try to take people at face value, when they say they "remember." Just today, while I was working at KoP, a woman came up to me with a dress, asking me if it was in any other size. She told me that she "remembered seeing a small...somewhere." After checking the rack she claimed to have seen the dress, I ended up looking in every rack and hold room (about 2 hours of pointless searching). The woman kept insisting she had seen the dress in another size, and began describing what other dresses were next to it, and what color those dresses were, etc. In the end, her daughter reminded her mother that she had seen the exact same dress in another store, and must have gotten confused.

How about in criminal cases, where witnesses are asked to "remember" the events? How much of that is actually real, and how much of it is a product of our nervous system generating its own output? There have been cases where young children, pressured by adults and other figure models (police, teachers) have falsely accused others of crimes simply by "remembering" actions/behaviors that turned out to be false.

The more time we spend on discussing how much the nervous system is capable of, the more I see the brain=behavior, especially if the nervous system can alter one's perception and understanding of the world around him/her (enough to make the person think/believe that the sensory input and output's created are real and "accurate").

Red meets yellow
Name: Christine
Date: 2003-04-22 01:57:07
Link to this Comment: 5477

I found the test, with the yellow dot surrounded by the red particularly interesting. While it seems that the blind spot should remain in fact yellow, it seems to be red to us. Why does this happen? The logical explanation seems to be that the brain takes all of its surrounding input and says "hey, look...there's a lot of red polka dots throughout...let's fill in the last dot with red to make this complete" Such a specific pattern where the color is uniform in all but the center convinces the mind that it should in fact be red since there is no other obvious pattern incorporating that yellow elsewhere. Perhaps if the square pattern for the test were larger and had more yellow dots in it, the brain might have a chance of actually wanting to have that middle dot be yellow, but as it stands, it wants to be red. The brain can thus be easily influenced/manipulated into believing certain things, yet there may not be sufficient evidence for it. The brain can quickly be influenced, leading to misinterpretation among many, often even resulting in confrontation/argument. This seems to be what often causes tension and disagreement among people, especially when everything is not taken into consideration and assumptions are made based on what the brain is programming itself to believe.

"Made-up" continuity
Name: Andy Green
Date: 2003-04-22 02:29:23
Link to this Comment: 5478

The idea that our brain can artificially fill in the hole created by the optic nerve's entering the eye seems to me to be an example of a situation in which continuity that doesn't exist in the physical world exists in our minds. Another compelling question in this genre is "How does the brain created continuous experience from discrete mental events?" In both cases, when the brain creates a sensation of continuity spatially and temporally, there might be a case to be made that this difference in the sensation and the actually physical process is evidence that the mind cannot be the brain. An article that might be useful in this discussion can be found at It is entitled "Illusions of Experience," and it attempts to deal with these problems for materalism.

FOOD and Flavor
Name: marissa
Date: 2003-04-22 02:40:44
Link to this Comment: 5479

I thought the idea of chemicals and fast food and flavor was very interesting. I myself am a very finicky eater and immediately when I smell certain things, regardless of what they may be, I will not consume them. However, I love junk food, I love fast food, I cravbe fast food. The comments on the clueless I-Function in reference to what is actually being consumed, not only startled me in terms of what my body is consuming, but also made me question why in the world I eat certain things that I know are totally artificial. Another thought I had was in regards to Astronaut's food in space, which is basically fake, chemically enhanced "food" products and or basically frozen goods. Are astronauts truly expereincing a flavor when they consume whatever is in those packets or pills, or is it all in their sense of small and their brain telling them that it tastes a certain way. I know myself that it is possible to make yourself abhorred to certain foods, but is that a function of the senses or the oblivious I-Function?

Name: kat mccorm
Date: 2003-04-22 02:43:18
Link to this Comment: 5480

As we talked in class and the conversation has continued on the forum, it has become evident that we percieve things of which we are not aware, and our illusion of awareness can lead us astray. The examples have been plentiful: chemicals that smell like hamburgers, women who think they have seen dresses which are not there, ect...
All this talk of our deceptive senses reminded me of the beginnig of Descartes' Meditations, in which he claims that we should disregard all that we know on the basis that our senses are faulty. Although I had formerly only thought of this claim of Descartes' in a philosophical sense (ha), I have since begun to wonder over the neurological support for the separation between what we physiologically percieve, and the perceptions of our I-functions. Does Descartes have more of a point than I give him credit for?

mind vs. brain
Name: Adina
Date: 2003-04-22 04:04:44
Link to this Comment: 5481

In his posting, Andy mentions that the brain creates a continuity from discrete mental events, and how this must make the brain different from the brain. I found this particularly interestin since I, too, have been thinking about the brain vs. the mind for some time now. In my view, the mind is the I-function; it is made up of all of our ideas and feelings. I used to think that it was just the mind that controled behavior, since whenever I thought about the mind, it meant the same thing to me as the brain. However, upon taking this class we have learned about all kinds of different ways in which the brain and nervous system do things that the I-function is completely unaware of. This new example of our eyes covering over our blind spots so that we always see something, without our being aware of it, is just another peice of evidence that, in fact, mind does not equal brain. I now see it situation as being two concentric cirles. The mind is a part of the brain, but the brain is also made up of much more that the mind has no part of. Now, I think that the mind is a great factor of behavior, but the rest of the brain, the parts that we are unaware of, are also involved in every decision that we make. This idea leads to another question. If there are factors that we are unaware of, and that we cannot change, in our decisions, are we really free? Personally, I like to think that free will and freedom do exist, but the more I learn about the brain, and the more I think about it, the harder it is for me to think of myself as free. I still "feel" free, but that is just because I am an optimist, and I like to think that new evidence will arrise that will support the idea that I believe in. However, the more I learn, the more shaken my faith gets.

blind spot
Name: Jen
Date: 2003-04-22 04:11:46
Link to this Comment: 5482

The blind spot poses an interesting point because we don't even see that we don't see at this point because our brain automatically fills it in. This demonstrates that the brain favors the process of completion, an extremely complex ability of the visual system, which has far reaching consequences for the entire perceptive system, is dependent on the context of the picture. Our brain seems to patch the hole caused by the lack of receptors in the Blind Spot with information it gleans from adjacent receptors.

The completion process can in other areas of our perception where we might also fill other holes. We are, however, always dependent on the context. For example, if one leaves out the letter 'e' in the rst of this sntnc, you ar still abl to undrstand what th sntnc mans. This proves the important point that completion is usually a very useful mechanism, but it doesn't always function correctly with respect to reality. I compare this phenomenon to that of a magic trick because the process of completion resembles an illusion.

Name: Stephanie
Date: 2003-04-22 06:37:11
Link to this Comment: 5484

I think it's interesting that we talk about how our I-functions are tricked, because we able to fill in a blind spot or make apiece of cardboard taste like a hamburger. but that even when our I-functions know that there is a trick involved the result are still the same. I know we've talked about this before, but think it is amazing that the human mind is able to use it's knowledge against itself. Another human brain figured out how to make that probably barely edible pattie taste like a hamburger, or a series of still pictures look like a smooth action (animation). Don't a lot of medicines work on similiar principles of fooling the brain into believing something that isn't true? Even thought we know this, the illusion is still successful. It reminds me of the character in the Matrix who knows that the matrix isn't real, he knows the steak he is eating isn't steak, but he would rather enjoy that than the harsher realities of life. As science becomes more advanced and we kearn how to fool the mind more and more, it suppose we will have to make a similiar decision.

Baldy Exper. and Corollary Discharge
Name: Michelle C
Date: 2003-04-22 06:38:57
Link to this Comment: 5485

Arun's idea of the Baldy program raises interesting ideas about our ability to perceive. Thinking critically about the mitch-match between visual lip movements and the actual auditory sound they emit provides a basis from which we might re-explore ideas of corollary discharge and its role in audio-visual perception. In many cases of Schizophrenia, auditory hallucinations are said to occur from deficits in the corollary discharge system, where patients are incapable of distinguishing thought (covert) from spoke (overt) speech.

Could the Baldy experimentations be simply providing a secure argument for the existence of internal monitors for perception such as the corollary discharge system?

Date: 2003-04-22 07:15:42
Link to this Comment: 5486

I recently wrote my web paper on the notion of change blindness, a phenomenon in which we essentially fail to be aware of alterations in an observed object or environment when "looking" is interrupted momentarily by saccade, both real and artificially created. This occurrence is incredible in its demonstration of the capacity of our sensory systems to be absolutely governed by the brain alone. Change blindness has been demonstrated repeatedly in both experimentally designed situations as well as everyday occurrences. For example, many people who have been in car accidents describe having simply not seen another vehicle or having been entirely unaware of the presence of a large object in their path. Although these may seem like excuses or the results of carelessness, the processing of the human brain legitimates these claims by occurring in such a way that changes in objects or surroundings which are "physically" observed can be deleted from visual short term memory under certain conditions and neglected entirely by our visual perception. My investigation of change blindness has certainly increased my belief in the brain=behavior notion. The very act of seeing which we believe to be almost entirely under our conscious control appears to be almost exclusively dependent upon the functionality of the brain. And yet, the documented dependence of visual perception upon directed attention to an object or environment leaves plenty of room for the members of our class to insert the concept of free will... Many interesting links are available on the Internet to give demonstrations of the effects of change blindness. Here is a link to a particularly well-organized one. Change Blindness Demo.

Change Blindness
Name: Erin Fulch
Date: 2003-04-22 07:19:55
Link to this Comment: 5487

My posting regarding change blindness is directly above this one. Sorry.

trusting ourselves
Name: Cordelia S
Date: 2003-04-22 08:14:29
Link to this Comment: 5488

The notion of whether filling in the blind spot and being change blind should make us more wary of "trusting" our own brain is really interesting to me. It would be pretty depressing if we completely gave up on trusting our senses. I guess we couldn't survive if that were the case. But I went to Erin's change blindness site and tried some of the experiments, and failed pretty miserably as I was supposed to. It is really difficult to deal with that kind of failure. I wrote my last paper on people with anosognosia, who did not know that they were paralyzed or had left side visual neglect. One man totally denied his left neglect until occupational therapists used a virtual reality game with him simulating street crossing. The man frequently had "accidents", since he did not notice cars coming on his left side. The "accidents" in the game were accompanied by huge crashes and noises and flashing lights. For some reason, this made it finally click with the man that he could no longer trust his own perception. His response was described as extraordinarily emotional and tragic. And how could it not be? We have these few windows with which to experience the world. Certainly they can be tricked, but they do manage to do their job amazingly well most of the time. I just thought of another example. In Dr. Hollyday's class, she told us that if you cut the optic nerve of a frog and rotate the eye in its socket, the nerves of the eye will reattach to the correct parts of the tectum. However, since they are dislocated, this will cause the frog to see everything "wrong", so if a fly is at 5 o'clock in reality, the frog will send its tongue to 11 o'clock. It NEVER learns not to trust its vision, and eventually will starve to death.

Name: Kelvey
Date: 2003-04-22 08:28:39
Link to this Comment: 5490

Today the radio hosts began discussing if there was a difference between addiction and obsessive compulsive. They were trying to think if maybe one was from birth while the other was environmentally induced. Is there a distinction?

Is mental illness often teh result of the minds attempt to make sense out of otherwise nonsensical inputs and in order to do that certain behavior 'surface'. To fill in the blind spot seems to be the brains way of making sense out of something that would otherwise be just patches of information. Blending things makes it easier to absorb rather than seperate inputs. If everything was split into distinct inputs without any connection there may be constant sensory overload- as seen in autism.

Date: 2003-04-22 08:55:14
Link to this Comment: 5491

I don't understand how the brain makes up information to make up for the information lost in our blind spot. I never thought the brain would make up information (unless you are crazy). And how does the brain know what to put in that spot? I realize that it takes information from the surrounding environment, but still..... Very interesting.

Name: Katherine
Date: 2003-04-22 09:30:06
Link to this Comment: 5493

Our comments this week about "what is real" really start to shake the foundations of things as we perceive them. We often assume to take sense perception as a starting point and as the basis for organizing the rest of our world. But if sense perceptions cannot be trusted, what does that mean? Despite my consistent concern for the uncertain place and existence of free will, I am not overly surprised by the "tricks" of the senses, after thinking for a bit about this phenomenon. What, afterall, is the place of art? The production of art, as in painting or writing for example, ultimately serves as a means of "translation"—translation of perception from one mind to another (and to itself). This act of translation is something we are doing all the time, even without realizing. We are constantly transforming aspects of the world into forms that might fit into the machine of our brains. And, as we have mentioned, everyone's machine is different. This means that even after an image is transformed from its world-form into the language of our brains, it must repeatedly be transformed again in each different brain that it encounters.

What were Monet and the impressionists saying when they began painting unfamiliar and blurry images? They were translating what they claimed to see, and were indirectly demanding that others question their own automatic and familiar translations. I believe that the world can remain viable only on the basis of continued questioning. It seems that the uncertainty of sense perceptions can act as a reminder to include these questions.

As it is, we realize that we must deal with the gap within our own brains (between the I-function's reality and the nervous systems's reality), just as we must deal with the eternal gap between different human minds. We have ways of mediation and bridging the gap, of course, like voice and art and inquiry, and it seems to me we have a responsibility to employ these means. The whole situation though reminds me of the final lines of Milton's Paradise Lost, where the two characters walk away from us, and "...hand in hand...took their solitary way." It seems that, at least to some extent, those two characters have found a workable balance between the gap. Perhaps we can do the same.

lateral inhibition network
Name: tung
Date: 2003-04-22 20:54:23
Link to this Comment: 5499

So in today's class we learned about a very interesting concept of how the brain interpret the external world: lateral inhibition network. The idea is that although the eyes leave out alot of substantial inputs, the brain can still produce a very clear and defined world. Thus, the implication here is a very significant one: the eyes partially registered the inputs in the world while leaving much work for the brain's interpretation to fill in the missing gap. As a result, everything looks different the eyes of each person. This raise a very interesting thoughts: since this is a variant caused within the nervous system, how different are our visual perspectives? And was this variant an intentional property in development or was it more a mistake within the networks of the nervous system? However, in order for us to communicate with one another, our visual perpspective of the world must be very similar. And whether or not its intentional, I'm not really sure but it seems that it play an important aspect to our survival as it is dictated by evolution.

Name: Nicole
Date: 2003-04-23 19:42:32
Link to this Comment: 5506

When Grobstein put up the side by side pictures—one of a white background with a grey/black box in the middle and the other with a black background and a grey/black box of the same hue in the middle—and asked us which grey/black box was darker, we all answered that they were the same even though the one on top of the white background looked so much darker because we KNEW that he was only showing them to us to demonstrate that they were the same. Still, as much as we knew that the "correct" answer was that they were the same color boxes, by just looking they appeared very different. Like Stephanie said, "Even when our I-functions know that there is a trick involved the results are still the same." In this case, possessing the afore-knowledge that the boxes were identical wasn't sufficient to counteract the results of lateral inhibition and its resulting signals to the brain. It is pretty interesting to finally begin to understand how these optical illusions work. This also makes one question how accurate input other than optical illusion tests is and how much of what we see is actually the correct intensity/color/shape etc.

Name: cordelia s
Date: 2003-04-23 21:51:42
Link to this Comment: 5508

Something I find interesting about the idea that giving up control is so hard for us is the fact that drug use is so rampant in our culture. The use of drugs is of course accompanied by a loss of control, and drug users frequently acknowledge that this loss of control is exactly what they are seeking. Alcchol, for example, is often used as a way of reducing inhibitions. Our generation is soooooo dependent on alcohol as a way of easing the tension of, um, "hooking up". Not to mention, a way to forget about the papers and tests and things we haven't done and just relax. So, sometimes, at least, we really like to be out of control. And certainly some people like it more than others.
Which makes me think about the placebo effect. Ever seen someone who thinks they've had more to drink than they actually have act way more drunk than they possibly could be? So are drugs just an excuse to ACT like you're out of control even when you are not?? At least some of the time?? I think so.
But why is this so acceptable in some circumstances and not in others? The societal rules of drug use seem so would seem like society would want to restrict anything where people would lose control over themselves, but high people seem a lot more in control than drunk people. I also know a lot of people who would argue that drugs like speed enhance self control (also production, another thing our society values) so why are these not acceptable?
I'm confusing myself here really, because in my last posting I talked about how tragic it would be not to trust one's nervous system, but now I'm talking about situations in which we don't want to trust our nervous systems. Any ideas?

Name: Laurel Jac
Date: 2003-04-23 23:37:55
Link to this Comment: 5510

Cordelia's question "are drugs just an excuse to ACT like you're out of control even when you are not??" made me think of 2 people who I know who have substance abuse problems--one drinks too much, one smokes pot everyday. Both of these people have very stressful lives and --even without drug influence--they seem out of control. Instead of stepping up to bat and taking responsibility for their lives, they use their substance abuse as an explanation for being out of control. I wonder what genetic factors are present that predispose some to run from a problem, and some to confront the problem (fight or flight). Substance abuse offers a tempting way out. Don't have to worry about the real problem, and can completely ignore the messages from the nervous system--dulling the conscience (I-function?).

Name: Kelvey
Date: 2003-04-24 17:51:16
Link to this Comment: 5518

Why are men most likely to be color blind? Why is there a ratio of men to women of 3:1 or 4:1 in the diagnosis of autism? Why do men have difficulty multi-tasking? To me, there seems to be a common factor between these traits and it is the ability to inegrate information that is presented to the nervous system and make a logical story. If there is a genetic difference that makes a part of the brain different, then the integration of information will be different. This may be a fundamental difference between man and women. As mentioned in class today, color is the filling in of the space. A child who is autistic is unable to integrate all of the incoming information and therefore can not make a picture that will dull the senses. In order to control the onslaught of information an autistic child needs to focus on one thing in particular. For some people it is a math problem or the wheel of a car. Could this explain why certain people tend to be better at math (often men)? Have they developed the ability to focus on one particular thing in order to prevent a sensory overload due to the fact that they can not integrate the information. Multi-tasking is trying to coordinate a collection of activities into one game plan. If a person has difficulty integrating, then they can only handle each activity individually. They will focus on that one project, do it very well because they will make sure nothing distracts them (can't handle it) and then move on. The minds ability to integrate and control inputs can result in different qualities considering it produces a different perspective on reality.

Name: tung
Date: 2003-04-25 02:39:08
Link to this Comment: 5519

Cordelia's comment has raised alot interesting issues about societal influences on our behavior. It is strange that society seems to allow alcohol abuse as more acceptable than drugs. But again it just depends on the society to set up and govern its social rules. For instance, in many countries in Europe, drugs abuse is just as accetable as alcohol abuse. To Europeans in those countries, this concept is not so strange. Another example is prostitution, while some countries fine it unacceptable and immoral, other view it as not so bad. So I think society has alot of influence on how we behave and how we view ourselves and others.

In terms of control, Cordelia made a good point about alcohol abuse as a way for alot of people in America to be out of control and relax. I think that it is true that our western society and cultures put alot of emphasis on control, much more than the east. I remember when I first came to the US, I have alot of problem dealing with time. In Vietnam and most of Asia, people are pretty flexible with time and being five or ten minutes late is understanable. In the US on the other hand, when you are a minute late for an interview or meeting, even with friends, you get branded and judged right away before you even open your mouth. So in terms control, it is interesting to realize that people often use alcohol abuse as a way to be in less control of themselves. I have a friend who is like that numerous time. One time we even give her just plain juice and told her that it has alcohol in it. She turned out to behave as if she was completely drunk and acted wrecklessly. Her life is very controlled and organized. She is a perfectionist and so is her dad.

I think that we desire control because our society has place so much emphasis on it. But we have to agree that with control and organization we have achieved much in the progress of our civilization as a species. Without the control of our knowledge and such we would have not accomplished some of the breakthrough in science and in other fields that are so important to our progress. But sometime, our human nature of being wild and free just have to break through our sense of controlling it. Thus, we use alcohol as an excuse to relieve the tension that has built up.

Also, I've noticed that in countries where alcohol is restricted and controlled, alcohol abuse is more prevalence than those countries that are less strict. This further support the ideas just presented

Name: Clare
Date: 2003-04-27 12:58:24
Link to this Comment: 5523

I agree with Tung that drugs have a much more negative stigma in our society that alcohol. This is understandable because alcohol, unlike illegal drugs, is legal at a certain point. However, I don't understand why alcohol has more of a negative stigma because in many cases, alcohol can be just as detrimental and addicting. To me, alcohol is acceptable only because it has such a historical role in society. People have been drinking alcohol and using it as a social drink for hundreds of years. In addition, one thing that I have noticed about drugs/alcohol and behavior is that in addition to people drinking/doing drugs to lose control, many people do it because it is such a bonding experience. I've noticed that it's hard to become friends with a group that either drinks a lot or smokes a lot because if you aren't engaging in these activities with them then you miss out on these bonding experiences where people can reveal a lot about themselves. Moreover, even when they aren't under the influence they are talking about different kinds of drugs or alcohol, or things that happened when they were under the influence. Therefore, I think a part of the attractiveness in losing control is also that you can reveal yourself more easily to others and, thereby, form a friendship bond with them.
Also, I was really interested in the activities we did on Thursday that involved how our nervous system uses the different signals it gets to "paint" the best picture it can by including all of these signals. It was strange to think that what our nervous system tells us we see is not actually what either of our eyes our seeing. In fact, it is a combination of the two, somewhere in between. Moreover, the idea that color itself is not necessarily a distinct thing makes me feel somewhat lost in a world that does not seem as physical and concrete as I had once thought. To me, sight is my most trusted and revealing sense. To know that even my own sight deceives me makes me realize just how controlled we are by our nervous system.

Name: Kathleen
Date: 2003-04-27 14:04:43
Link to this Comment: 5524

Clare said, "To know that even my own sight deceives me makes me realize just how controlled we are by our nervous system." This concept, no matter how many times I think about it, always strikes me as being super creepy. How interesting that not only does our brain have this blind spot, but the brain is smart enough to fill in the space with a sort of camouflage, not just a white space. As some one who likes to be very much in control, it makes me feel strange to know that there are so many tricks up the brain's sleeve. It makes me reassess the nature of control, free-will, and just about everything that I was so sure about before.

Name: Kathleen
Date: 2003-04-27 14:11:57
Link to this Comment: 5525

ooh, I also want to talk about Tung's comment, "In terms of control, Cordelia made a good point about alcohol abuse as a way for alot of people in America to be out of control and relax." After living in London for a year, I couldn't believe how lax their rules regarding alcohol consumption are. When I would take the tube home from school, there would be 11 year old boys in school uniforms drinking cans of beer. The age for legal alcohol consumption is 16, but it seems rarely enforced. Also, drinking in public is totally legal and a-ok. What's going on in American where these concepts would be considered completely shocking and just wrong? There's an air of forbidden fruit wavering around alcohol consumption in the States, therefore people feel the need to go completely nuts when it's finally available. Our insanely high drinking age coupled with conservative attitudes is doing more harm than good.

Name: Amelia
Date: 2003-04-28 13:26:22
Link to this Comment: 5532

I accidently pressed the reset button when I went to post, so let's see if I can remember exactly what I wrote about. I was thinking about the photoreceptors and the ganglian cells in our eyes and how the photoreceptors report the light that they take in more faithfully than the ganglian cells do, but it is the ganglian cells that pass on what we see to the brain. I began to think about this in relation to collorary discharge, where our I-function (for lack of a better term at the moment) is not aware of all of the input that our body is sending to the brain. I was thinking that is is quite possible that the brain has evolved the "see the outlines and fill in" way of seeing so that it doesn't have to deal with the great deal of information that the photoreceptors are taking in. Kind of like sifting through a ten page paper and cutting out of the unnecessary information to make it a two page paper.

Name: tung
Date: 2003-04-28 13:56:54
Link to this Comment: 5533

Expectation plays a very important role in the functioning of the nervous system. A few weeks ago, we were introduced to this unique notion of the brain: a particular respond is produced out of what the brain expected the sensory inputs should be. To elucidate this thought, pain was used as an example. When a sensory input from the toe is triggered and sent to the brain to report a certain disruption of "normalcy", the brain then responded by telling us that the pain is in the toe and so the the appropriate reaction is engendered. Thus, pain does not originate from the toe, rather it is from the brain perceiving and expecting what the sensory input is. In this view, the nervous system is exactly similar to a computer, where everything is already pre-programmed. In our current discussion, the idea that the nervous system fills in the gap that is resulted from the eyes' blind spots further support this view of expectation. When our blind spot produces a gap or a hole within our visual perception of an image, our nervous system automatically make an "informed guess" of what the gap should be by cues from the whole picture. Thus, the resulting perceived image is complete without any holes or distortions. In other words, from environmental cues, the brain filled in the gap what it expects the "missing" visual inputs should be.

Expectation of the nervous system, thus, plays a major role in our perception of reality. As a result, many of us, including myself, find it very uncomfortable to know that our perception may be "deceiving" as Clare has mentioned. I don't know about others in the class but prior to this course, my impression of the nervous system is that it helps us to interpret reality and the external world. Now, I feel as if our brain is our only reality. In this context, what is the difference between us who are considered "normal" and those who are perceived as mentally ill? Here, I don't see much of a difference, rather, the issue in term of acceptance is more prevalence. Take for example, homosexuality. Just a few years ago, homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Now, homosexuality is no longer listed in the manual because it is accepted by our society as a normal sexual orientation. This make me think alot on what our society means by "normalcy."

thoughts on control
Name: Jen
Date: 2003-04-28 16:04:28
Link to this Comment: 5534

I would like to contribute some thoughts to the great conversation that Cordelia has begun regarding the concept of control in relation to society and the individual. I agree with my fellow classmates that there exists a social and individual realm surrounding the area of addiction to any drug that presents the opportunity to lose control. I would like to highlight two concerns in a social learning theory that can aid in understanding behavioral characteristics that I see at play in this scenario: control and self-control. Control can simply refer to an individual's ability to do what she wants to do, unobstructed by external forces or obstacles. Whereas, self-control refers to her ability to overcome internal forces or obstacles and refrain from doing something that she wants to do. With regards to addiction, I agree with Cordelia and Tung, respectively, that alcohol abuse is a way for a lot of people to be out of control and that "we desire control because our society has placed so much emphasis on it". Because our society is built on the notion of an individual maintaining self-control and constantly being 'in control' of our actions, I think that we must displace the blame of our 'actions' onto a substance. This concept of displacing or shifting blame reminds me of when I played the clarinet in middle school. I remember that it was the normal response to blame the instrument for playing the wrong note, when in fact it was me who made the mistake. I would displace my failure on the instrument thereby, not admitting a loss in control or an inability to perform to my classes standard. I think that our society requires us to be very posed with extreme self-restraint and the admittance of a loss of control without an 'escape' (use of addictive substance) would result in condemnation by our society. I think that we use the 'addiction' as our instrument to displace our need to be a rebel with our blatant disregard for what is deemed acceptable in our society.

self control, alcohol and nitrous oxide
Name: Rachel
Date: 2003-04-28 19:30:30
Link to this Comment: 5538

I agree with everyone with regards to alcohol seeming to be a means to have a legitimate 'excuse' for uncontrolled behavior. If we know that someone is under the influence, we tend to excuse them for actions which would be inexcusable in our society if the person was sober. Often when people we know act in ways that display a lack of self-control (for example, gesticulating and screaming at the top of their lungs on Merion Green), we would probably laugh it off if they were drunk. If they were sober, however, we would most likely look down upon their behavior.

In some circumstances where we may NEED a lack of self-control, however, our desire to be in constant control of our own actions prevents us from losing control. When I was going to have my wisdom teeth pulled, the maxillofacial surgeon had originally wanted me to be awake during the procedure, and gave me nitrous oxide. He warned me that I would probably feel "totally out of control" once the gas was administered. Sure enough, I really didn't take too well to the laughing gas mask, and asked to have it removed. After he took off the mask, he told me that many people before me had felt the same way, and that they too gained discomfort from their newfound lack of self-control. It seems that we are so used to being in control that a sudden loss of self-control may make us uncomfortable.

Freedom and Control
Name: Enor wagne
Date: 2003-04-28 21:49:55
Link to this Comment: 5540

Do we all have secret psychological cravings to lose control of ourselves? Tung's comment about his friend who acted drunk without having ingested any alchohol was very interesting. I too, have been witness to such a charade. I saw this girl drinking Odouls, but she thought it contained alchohol. She was fumbling all over the place, slurring her speech and behaving as if she had no inhibitions at all. It was pretty funny actually. But her actions bring up a lot of interesting psychological or maybe even neurobiological questions. First of all, was it an act? Perhaps she felt alchohol excused her from maintaining control of herself. Whether or not she felt chemically intoxicated, is a question we will probobly never know the answer to, unless someone plays this trick on us. However, if she did, then the alchohol would have had a sort of placebo effect on her. Her state of mind beleived she had consumed alchohol, so her body reacted that way. The placebo effect, in terms of evidence, definately supports the notion that brain = behavior. However, another possibility exists. She may not have felt any sort of chemical reaction from the alchohol. She may have had a subconcious or even concious desire to act out and lose control which overpowered her sense of wishing to behave soberly. Cordelia's comment about Americans and their control issues holds a lot of water. Americans are so obsessed with control that some may crave to release pent up energy by any means possible. Ironic, since we're supposedly the land of the free, yet a lot of us feel obliged to bottle up any true sense of freedom.

control or lack there of
Name: Annabella
Date: 2003-04-28 22:20:57
Link to this Comment: 5542

I think it very interesting that society considers the loss of control 'o.k.' if an external substance causes it (alcohol, drugs, etc). But is this really true? Rarely is it the case that a person uses alcohol or drugs to the extreme of which they use control, without prior knowledge that it will cause them to loose control. So do we really think 'it is the beer's fault that John Doe was drunks last night,' or do we say it is 'John Doe's fault that he drank to much beer and was drunk last night'?

If we say the latter, then we are no longer blaming the loss of control on an external cause, but we are still condoning the loss of control. This is rather ironic judgment for a society that covets control.Bringing us to the question – is it really control that we want? Or is control a smokescreen covering up an even greater need?

control and alcohol
Name: marissa li
Date: 2003-04-28 22:41:02
Link to this Comment: 5543

Of course this discussion in the forum about alcohol and Americans needing to let go or control themselves, struck a note in me like everyone else. I never understood American's obsessions with alcohol and the drinking age. As a younger person my parents never made a big deal about alcohol, never made it appear taboo. I spent a lot of time in Europe, so my "teenage" exposure to alcohol was in Europe sans the taboo. The best excuse I ever heard for the age 21 to drink law came from a small town in New Hampshire. Basically the idea was that when the law was age 18, it was 16 year olds faking IDs and getting in...but with the age at 21, it was 18 year olds and therefore, not minors to prosecute. Otherwise I never understood Americans obsessions with alcohol and control.

In terms of Americans "letting go" through alcohol consumption, I agree with that in some respects, however I beg to differ in the case of many true alcoholics. Alcholism, like eating disorders can be a way for people to "control" or at least think they are controlling their lives. It is an interesting dichotamy that some people use alcohol as a release and others as something to supposedly control in their lives. I wonder what triggers some people to want to just lose themselves ? Regarding Laurels comment on genetics, is this just another example of what shes trying get at?

Name: Neela
Date: 2003-04-28 23:22:35
Link to this Comment: 5544

The fact that our brain fills in gaps and creates images that may not actually exist seems surprisingly reassuring to me. If our nervous system was not able to compensate for our ingrained weaknesses, we would be left with actual blind spots, and our ability to function would be correspondingly compromised. We have mechanisms to correct for lapses in our brain's ability to perceive, and this seems like an inherently beneficial trait. Even though it suggests that what we sense may be "imagined" rather than reflections of a definitive "real," I feel that this supposedly false perception is a good thing because it serves as another method of creating subjectivity. Subjective perception should not be considered any less valuable that an objective and universal mode of perception because our very ability to see things differently (and think of them differently) allows us to learn, change and perhaps even progress.

illegal drugs and self-control
Name: Alexandra
Date: 2003-04-28 23:24:04
Link to this Comment: 5545

I wanted to talk about the perception of drugs vs. that of alcohol in reference to history and control. It is interesting that Clare said "To me, alcohol is acceptable only because it has such a historical role in society. People have been drinking alcohol and using it as a social drink for hundreds of years." While it is true that alcohol has played a large role in western (and other) culture for hundreds of year, other drugs have also played roles.

Although I do not know very much, it does seem like this information has been suppressed from the learning of history. Not only did Coca Cola used to contain cocaine, but it also still contains an extract of the Coca plant which, although not a stimulant, contains its particular flavor. This extract is probably listed under the "natural flavors." The popularity of this drink then and now may indicate a higher social acceptance of cocaine in the past. Thinking about drugs as either "new inventions" or as substances which have always been illegal seems like it would be common among the average American. I used to think this way and felt very surprised to learn about the importance of hallucinogenic frogs, mushrooms, and other drugs in Maya culture (which was the particular society in which I first learned about in connection to drugs). Learning about Maya drug-use made me think about possible drug-use among other societies. Although the non-tropical climate of the U.S. limits the amount of plant species and hence the amount of psychoactive plants, there seems like there must be a more definite history of drug-use (and abuse) that is not presented in normal American history classses.

If more of the history of illegal drugs were known, it would seem like drugs and alcohol, which is in fact a drug, would not be placed in so vastly different categories. An argument for the difference between alcohol and most drugs is that the intensity of alcohol can be monitered whereas the intensity of drugs can often not be. Also the fact that people can talk about the different bouquets of a wine may justify its legality and purpose while no one can talk about the quality in taste of magic mushrooms or, even more absurdly, of ecstasy.

Also as an aside, it seems counter-intuitive and ironic that people may take tryptamines and then talk about the excellence and importance of self-control (at least with lower levels of the drug) since it allows them to control their trip and envision what they want to in a manner similar to a lucid dream.

An aside...
Name: Zunera
Date: 2003-04-29 00:13:23
Link to this Comment: 5546

In response to Tung's example of Homosexuality being considered "normal" I disagree. The reason as to why the DSM stopped listing homosexuality as a disorder had absolutely nothing to do with what society deemed normal. It had more to do with what is the actual definition of a psychological disorder.
For a mental condition to be considered a psychiatric disorder, it should either regularly cause emotional distress or regularly be associated with clinically significant impairment of social functioning. These experts found that homosexuality does not meet these criteria.
In addition, according to Dr. Jon Meyer (see Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 4th ed., eds. Kaplan & Sadock), "...this change reflected the point of view that homosexuality was to be considered a mental disorder only if it was subjectively disturbing to the individual. The decision of the APA Board...took place in the context of new sociological data, biological inferences, and de-emphasis of psychoanalytic observations. It also took place in an atmosphere of confrontation. Beginning in 1970, various gay activist groups APA meetings. At issue was the conceptualization of homosexuality as an illness..."
Moreover, our present DSM-IV (1994) does not include homosexuality per se as a disorder, but still permits the diagnosis of "Sexual Disorder Not Otherwise Specified" for someone with "...persistent and marked distress about sexual orientation."
Otherwise, I feel that Tung has a relevant point. What does separate "normal" from mental disorders and abnormality? I have my thoughts, but it's still weird to think that "normal" one day can be "abnormal" the next.

Name: Stephanie
Date: 2003-04-29 00:23:49
Link to this Comment: 5547

Marissa commented on the "interesting dichotamy that some people use alcohol as a release and others as something to supposedly control in their lives." I think that both cases are control issues. A few people mentioned that they had friends who used drugs and alcohol to relax and forget about the stresses of their lives. I think this often comes from the helplessness that people feel in the midst of their circumstances. For example, the issues that we've talked about in this class almost led us to the point of denying free-will. When one really looks at his or her circumstances, the idea that one has no control can be overwhelming. Using substances that lessen the control that you have over your actions gives you control over your lack of control, if that makes sense. If you are purposely losing control, at least you can make sense of you lack of control. So this dichotomy between release and control is false.

Name: tung
Date: 2003-04-29 00:38:13
Link to this Comment: 5548

Thank you Zunera for the clarification on my comment earlier regarding homosexuality. I didnt do the necessary research and hastily used homosexuality as an example to express my point. Sorry if there was any confusion...

Male/female differences in integration
Name: Kate
Date: 2003-04-29 00:50:22
Link to this Comment: 5549

I found Kelvey's comments about a prevalence of males being affected with certain disorders such as autism and colorblindness very interesting. I have always wondered what caused such differences, and the recent discovery that females may in fact be able to integrate more variables at once does seem a possible solution. I recently read an article that said women are more susceptible to pain and also have more and better mechanisms to deal with it than men. Could this be for the same reason, that they are simply letting more pain in or feeling more stimuli at once? The article can be found at:

This all leads me to wonder what other disorders may be due the same mechanism, including female disorders. And if we do believe that brain=behavior, this difference in integration must have a very specific physical cause. Where is the difference found in the brain, and is it in one place or many? Although culture and environment may exacerbate these traits, it seems to be that there must be certain genes which contribute.
And the thought returns from my previous post... what are the specific evolutional benefits of these differences between men and women?

Name: Adina
Date: 2003-04-29 00:59:39
Link to this Comment: 5550

Earlier in the forum, Cordelia and Tung brought up some good points about alcohol and drug use as an excuse to lose control. I think that many people often get tired of being totaly in control of themselves and their actions, the way we have been taught to do. For example, I know from experience, that being drunk is a very good excuse for hooking up with someone without having to worry about being thought of as an easy girl. The, "Oh, I was really drunk, and I don't even remember exactly what happened last night," excuse works for just about every occassion. Being drunk or high is a great way to do what you want to do, without having to face the reprecussions of those actions. The theory goes that you can't be held responsible if you were intoxicated, even if you did something that you really wanted to do while you were sober, but couldn't because it might be seen as a lack of control. Intoxication can also soften the blow of rejection. For example, if you ask someone out while sober and they reject you, you have to deal with the fact that the person doesn't find you attractive, plus, everyone around you will know that you've been rejected. On the other hand, if the same thing happens while you are drunk or high, you can always say, "I don't even know why i did that, man was i wasted last night!" Then you can play it off like ha ha, wasn't that funny, or i must have been rejected simply because i was too drunk or high. Drugs are just a way of excusably letting go of the self-control that are standard in our way of life.

seeing thunder and hearing lighting
Name: geoff
Date: 2003-04-29 01:03:07
Link to this Comment: 5551

today in my psych of perception class we were told about a demo called the McGurk Effect. I have never seen anything like it. i agree that the blind spot is creepy, but at the same time it is part of our blurried peripheral vision and so is easier to forget about as soon as you are not doing the simulation. this is more troubling as well because it combines the auditory and visual senses. when you visit the site make sure you have some way of hearing sound (speakers or headphones). the web site is:

when you go you will see a video clip of a weird guy saying "da-da," a couple times. if the sound is on and you watch him that will be your experience. if you turn the sound off, you can watch his mouth mimicking the sounds "ga-ga," instead, and if you close your eyes or look away, his voice will say to you "ba-ba."

the effect comes from a visual perception of the guy's mouth saying "ga-ga," and a voice over saying "ba-ba." somehow between the two senses, we get "da-da." and it is clear. for most people, one can sit in front of this guy and the illusion never falters, you can even close your eyes in the middle and what he is saying switches.

i don't know what to do with this, but it reminded me of Professor Grobstein telling us that if we switched our circuits we could hear lightning and see thunder. i wasn't sure what that would be like, but this does not seem that far off. seeing this guys mouth move is enough to actually hear a different sound (that goes away as soon as you are not watching his mouth). talk about creepy, im gonna have nightmares tonight.

Name: Christine
Date: 2003-04-29 01:21:37
Link to this Comment: 5552

To add to Kathleen's comment about loss of control associated with alcohol abuse, I wanted to bring up the documentary by Michael Moore "Bowling for Columbine". For those who haven't seen it yet, please go out and do so. It gives an interesting perspective of what is really happening in the United States. Statistics like there being 11,000 gun-related deaths in the States each year compared to the 65 or so in Canada or 150 in England each year really make me wonder what is going on with our society that enables this to happen... I just have no idea. It isn't due to diversity, as M. Moore shows us that Canada is just as diverse, even more so than the States, yet this does not happen there. It also isn't due to music or television/movies since people are influenced by the same types of media that we are in the States yet the number of deaths still is so overwhelming. Is it maybe that as a society we try to find too many loopholes for everything? Is it really necessary to react so quickly to situations by taking someone out with a gun or bombing another nation? In his interview with a few teenagers in response to why there might be so many deaths here, they basically said that maybe it is because we're just too gun-happy and react without a second thought. Maybe they're right. Many people also apparently never lock there doors in Canada either. How interesting. Here, some of us have every means with which we can "protect" ourselves: heavy-duty alarm, guns, knives...whatever it may be. But are all of those means necessary? I guess it depends on the situation. What has happened that there seems to be such an integral thing missing, like trust or reflection in actions that we've come to this point? It's a great question that keeps me wondering. And maybe if we all, as a nation, did a little more reflexion, we could come up with an answer before everything just goes way too far...though for many, it already has.

Malleable Brains
Name: Andy Green
Date: 2003-04-29 01:23:06
Link to this Comment: 5553

In class last thursday we spent some time discussing how parallax depth perception works. We also discussed briefly the "magic eye" images, which are also called "stereograms." Prof. Grobstein took a survey of the class as to how many of us could see the three dimensionality of the images, and how long it took those people to see the effect. We concluded that only some people are capable of seeing the images, and for those people there is a certain amount of time necessary for their brains to interpret the unusual visual data. My brother, however, as a child, was fascinated by these images, and could see them with very little time lapse. Of course, he had spent lots of time looking at them, evening using computer programs to draw his own. What's interesting here is that his brain had adapted so thoroughly to the stereoscopic images that there was no more difficulty in interpreting them than for you and I to interpret this computer screen. Just a hint at the malleability of the brain's perceptual skills.

power in contradiction
Name: Katherine
Date: 2003-04-29 02:00:45
Link to this Comment: 5554

The idea of control is a very interesting one to say the least, and it resonates in many areas of experience. To follow from the ongoing discussion, it seems to me that it is really the CONTRAST between control and lack thereof whish really sparks our interest. It seems that we are living in a world of duality, where we want BOTH (control and non-control) or neither. A similar issue arose in class a few weeks ago when most of us claimed to want free will, but then proceeded to keep our hands lowered when asked if we desired to be in control all of the time.

The idea of contrast in our vision of control surfaces in numerous activities. I might point to the example in both art and athletics. Any type of discipline that requires practice, from training for a sport to playing a musical instrument, necessarily requires a distinct structure, self-control, and scheduled drill in order to gain the necessary skills and technique for successful performance. And yet the performance of athletics and art are distinctly two types of activities which bring with them a great amount of freedom for the creator. Ironically, the amount of freedom perceived by the performer/creator is often in proportion to the amount of training and work that has been put into the final product. Thus, greater control and structure has ultimately produced greater freedom. The Cause and the Cure are one in the same.

I was reminded of a similar idea when having a discussion recently about ambiguities and their importance. I was pointed to a painting by Paul Klee, who, I recently learned, would sometimes cut up his paintings, then glue them back together to create the final product. I think that this idea of breaking something in order to create it is a very interesting and important one, and its seeming paradox relates to the similar delicate co-dependence between control and its lack.

The idea of contrast is also important because I think it can tie into the "gap" idea. Contrast can be thought of as the "intermediate," as the space between the gap which allows for motion...and perhaps for free will. In this way, dualities and uncertainties are good. Neela made a valuable point when talking about the need to "create subjectivity," suggesting that differences of opinion can create a potential for learning and progress.
Indeed, there is much potential in contradiction.

Date: 2003-04-29 02:17:08
Link to this Comment: 5555

Although the conversation on the forum has come full force back to control, many of the comments have been concerned with drug usage as a way to lose control. I think that perhaps our societal obsession with control has become so great that the need to at least believe we are in control is automatic, and we are perhaps not even consious of our need to have that illusion. Is this not what the I- fuction is? As we have been exploring in class, what the senses report and what the brain records are two very different things. I am beginning to form a concept of the I-function as our natural adaptation to the need to keep an illusion of control.

I am reminded of the class a few weeks ago when PG asked us all to raise a hand immeadiately, and most of us were unwilling to admit that we did not think about which hand to raise. The fact that people are so unwilling to admit that we are not in control at every moment should be enough evidence to at least consider that the obession with control is not just a societal value, it is imgrained in human nateure.

Alcoholism and Control
Name: Arun
Date: 2003-04-29 02:59:28
Link to this Comment: 5557

I definitely agree with the Anonymous post in that some of these control issues are not just societal pressures but inborn. Having written a paper related to the nature versus nurture debate, I feel the topic of alcoholism and loss of control is quite mind-boggling because we've all been in the college social scene, and clearly noticed how some people only feel comfortable if they've had something to drink. This definitely has a lot to do with Adina's statement that being drunk or high is a way to do what you want, without having to face the repercussions of those actions. The actual desire to lose control though may be more innate than it appears. After all, there are genetic disorders about control and such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), so why can't there be varying levels for us wishing to lose control? We typically feel obligated to live under society's expectations, but when given the opportunity to act uninhibited, some individuals jump on the idea more quickly than others.

Although the issue of control can be discussed on various topics, I'd like to focus on the topic which has been going on for quite some time in the forum, alcohol. Alcoholism is actually defined as a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. Genetic factors... hmm. Although the environment you were born in surely plays a role of whether you find drinking acceptable, it seems that alcoholism also relates to a mental obsession that is built on a need for some of us to have more control than others, and vice versa, the ability to lose control – a physical compulsion to drink to reduce our inhibitions.

Choosing to see?
Name: Erin Fulch
Date: 2003-04-29 03:42:10
Link to this Comment: 5558

Last Tuesday, Professor Grobstein read a portion of my post in which I suggested that "the dependence of visual perception upon directed attention to an object or environment leaves plenty of room for the members of our class to insert the concept of free will." When asked where that room was, I found myself unable to answer. Further investigation into visual perception, both in class and as a part of my next paper, has lead me to the same conclusion: within the study of vision, we can find space and even necessity for free will in the nervous system. Regardless of the brain's seemingly dominant control over the way in which we perceive the world, there is an element of vision which necessitates active decision and directed effort and focus so that the process of looking can become one of seeing. And yet, again, even this apparent reality is deceptive. Even when we believe that we are controlling our vision, intentionally shifting our focus towards something specific, consciously making a voluntary effort to attend an object in our visual field, our brain may deny us that opportunity. Just as our brains allow us to see something that is not there by filling in gaps, they also allow objects which are present to go unseen. Change blindness is experienced by human beings because the brain does not care whether or not we are actively searching for an alteration in a particular object. If another object is encoded as more interesting or even temporarily distracting, a change in an object on which an observer is focusing intently can go unnoticed.
And yet, just when I began thinking that we might not have any control, that we might actually be without free will, I took a peak at the "disconcerting...but liberating" link on the class discussion page and saw the ambiguous figures, which we spent time in class observing. After the brain sees these images and processes and fills in and neglects and alters, isn't there still a point at which we choose whether or not to see a woman at a vanity or a skull, a hill or a valley, Voltaire or a Slave Market? I still do not know if this is free will's opportunity for entrance, but I cannot help but believe that within the study of vision, free will can be found, even if it is only for a brief moment to make a very inconsequential choice.

Date: 2003-04-29 08:45:59
Link to this Comment: 5560

in reference to the subjects of conscious choice and free will, what about the times we fall asleep without realizing it until we wake up again?

Name: Sarah
Date: 2003-04-29 09:20:27
Link to this Comment: 5561

Katherine touched on an interesting aspect of the control idea: it is only through control that we have freedom. For example, by controlling traffic with laws, we become free to travel effectively. If there weren't that control, there would be chaos and no one would be able to travel anywhere. Some control is vital.
I recently came to terms with a paralyzing tendecy to plan things. I scheduled myself into oblivion, and ended up being unable to carry out even a quarter of the plans I had made because I kept every detail of every plan for the next month in my head at all times. I gripped myself and my life with so much control, I ended up unable to do anything. I was not "free" at all. So apparently, some lacking of control is vital as well.
Balance is the key. Those of us who feel like we have no control raise our hands to say we wish we did, while those of us who feel like we have too much control raise our hands to say we wish we didn't. Could it be that we're really just after balance?

Name: Jen
Date: 2003-04-30 16:26:26
Link to this Comment: 5583

I really liked Katherine's idea that the contrast between control and lack of control can be thought of as the space between the gaps. What I find intriguing is that the idea of free will, which we have built up to, is demonstrated in the decision to use a drug. As has been previously discussed, I am aware of societal pressures and influences when making this claim. However, I think that it all boils down to a decision made by an individual. In most cases of a deliberating and acting, there is, a 'gap', or a series of gaps between the causes of each step in the processes of deliberating, deciding and acting and the subsequent stages. If I analyze this 'gap' I find that it is composed of many different segments. In our scenario, there is a gap between the reasons for the decision to consume drugs and making the decision to use them. There is a gap between the decision and the onset of the action, between the onset of the action and its continuation to completion. The gap is a feature of our conscious, voluntary activities. It allows us to believe that we have control over our actions. This would fit in with the notion that it is in our human nature to assume control over our lives and actions. However, this idea is exploited which the use of drug addiction because you lose control. I am wondering how many cycles in our voluntary actions does it take us to reach the point where we would be dependent on a substance. I think that it might be that our body might get used to firing signals in a certain way which makes the decision or gap seems not as prevalent in our decision making. Does anyone have any idea or knowledge about the neurotransmitter patterns in people with drug problems?

filling in visual input
Name: Nicole
Date: 2003-04-30 18:45:34
Link to this Comment: 5588

I've been thinking about a comment someone made in Tuesday's class about how they were disheartened by the knowledge that our brain fills in missing visual input, thus making us uncertain about what we are "seeing" is what is actually physically infront of us. She expressed concern about not being able to trust one of our most important senses for this reason. Then I was thinking about how we all are filling in that missing input when we look at the same object and so can be reassured that we are accurate in our perception by comparing our observation to that of the general consensus. I was thinking about how our brain is capable of learning to coordinate motor activity with visual input. For example, when one learns to coordinate movement of a bat to make contact with a baseball at the precise second and angle necessary for a good hit, the brain must be calibrating how much it can trust its visual input. Since some of the visual input must be filled in by the brain, the brain must learn how successfully it does this so as to send accurate signals to motor neurons to coordinate movement. What I'm trying to get at is that perhaps this shows how we adapt to/overcome our weakness of incomplete visual input and learn to gage how much we can trust our attempts to make up for it. Some people are probably more successful at this than others as some have better depth perception and coordination. How much does repeated practice contribute to this coordination and how much is genetically predisposed? Perhaps we shouldn't view our incomplete visual input as a weakness but rather a highly organized system that almost always successfully compensates for itself and is worthy of our trust.

reviewing ... to keep going
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-05-05 08:43:36
Link to this Comment: 5610

So, the semester is over but the thinking is not ... (hopefully). How about going back to the first week and your thoughts then about Emily Dickinson and the idea that there may be nothing to behavior other than the brain. How have your thoughts changed (or not changed) since then and why?

Writing about that is both a good ending point for the course and a good starting point for further thinking about the things we've been talking about (any other thoughts at the end of the semester are of course welcome). Many thanks to all for a rich and enjoyable semester together. Do keep me posted on your future inquiries/discoveries. And bear in mind Howard Hoffman's cautionary note.

review of class
Name: enor wagne
Date: 2003-05-05 11:17:49
Link to this Comment: 5611

In Forum One I posted about the effects of drugs on the body. I wondered if the mind reacted more dramatically towards a drug if it is aware that a drug has been consumed. Now I know that the body functions as a result of the mind. On the last class we discussed how coffee doesn't just wake up your mind, it wakes you up all over your nervous system. The I - funct is not a part of this process, though, it simply observes the changes. So, if this is the case. I beleive that when a drug is ingested, the awareness of that input does make the mind and body act more in accordance with the drug's typical effects. It must be the conscious is responsible for the added effects, since the I function only observes. I must say that if you asked me during the first few weeks of neurobio, I would have definately responded that I wasn't sure how, but that I was almost positive that the I - function had something to do with the drug - mind - body conundrum.

I really enjoyed our final class on the placing of free will. If free will in centered between the nervous system and the I - function, could that located gap help us to understand our capacity to practice free will more effectively? This was a question brought up. I wonder what the implications of 'more power over free will' actually are. Does this mean that we could learn to use more of our brain than the alleged 10% that we use? Would we be able to more effectively kick mental disorders all together? Instead of psychiatric help, people would attend seminars on how to better yourself through the using free will. Could free will control replace the need for uplifting medication? I think that there should be a neurobio II class the use of free will is examined, like a sequal to neurobio.

review of class
Name: enor wagne
Date: 2003-05-05 11:17:57
Link to this Comment: 5612

In Forum One I posted about the effects of drugs on the body. I wondered if the mind reacted more dramatically towards a drug if it is aware that a drug has been consumed. Now I know that the body functions as a result of the mind. On the last class we discussed how coffee doesn't just wake up your mind, it wakes you up all over your nervous system. The I - funct is not a part of this process, though, it simply observes the changes. So, if this is the case. I beleive that when a drug is ingested, the awareness of that input does make the mind and body act more in accordance with the drug's typical effects. It must be the conscious is responsible for the added effects, since the I function only observes. I must say that if you asked me during the first few weeks of neurobio, I would have definately responded that I wasn't sure how, but that I was almost positive that the I - function had something to do with the drug - mind - body conundrum.

I really enjoyed our final class on the placing of free will. If free will in centered between the nervous system and the I - function, could that located gap help us to understand our capacity to practice free will more effectively? This was a question brought up. I wonder what the implications of 'more power over free will' actually are. Does this mean that we could learn to use more of our brain than the alleged 10% that we use? Would we be able to more effectively kick mental disorders all together? Instead of psychiatric help, people would attend seminars on how to better yourself through the using free will. Could free will control replace the need for uplifting medication? I think that there should be a neurobio II class the use of free will is examined, like a sequal to neurobio.

change in perspective
Name: Grace Shin
Date: 2003-05-05 11:33:22
Link to this Comment: 5613

In the beginning of the year, i was pretty reluctant to agree to brain=behavior, and the quote by emily dickinson had me a bit puzzled. however, i must say that throughout the course of this class, i definitely have been exposed to so much more than i had expected! although i can't say that i agree with everything that PG would say or would imply, and i still don't think brain=behavior, i've experienced a change in perspective... in how i think, how i define words, how to have skepticism with logic... and it's been very rewarding to see myself question things and seek to find answers in not just traditional ways.

the issues dealing with mental health were the most interesting to me because i realized that i too fell in that group of people who were "uncomfortable" with things of the unknown. however, seeing how people were open to discussion and comments helped me to overcome my own discomfort in the "taboo topics of life". Issues of mental illness, which is almost as common as a cold, are not nearly as easily discussed. Hopefully everyon who took the class is now a bit more knowledgeable and will be able to make smarter conclusions regarding these topics!

the last day was an interesting lecutre, and i too enjoyed the tie in of free will, dreams, and creativity... however i feel like there still lacks much information to say that these are or are not related to the idea of brain=behavior. i'm still pondering on the lecture.....

never doubted
Date: 2003-05-05 16:25:45
Link to this Comment: 5614

Since my first posting, I never doubted that brain=behavior, the question was more like "can we prove that it does?" For whatever reason, throughout my life I have always envisioned peoples behaviors as a controllable device. I still believe that in many cases this still holds true and that the power of your own brain can convince your body of certain things regardless of whether or not the I-function is aware of it, or you are aware that the I-function is working. My main interest coming into the course was regarding certain persons inability to control much of their behavior in cases of depression and other similar conditions. A lot of me has always thought that depression can only be combatted by ones convincing oneself that they could pull themselves out of it, which though this may require other additional support, I still believe to be true. However, I was very curious about the brain=behavior issue with depression and that like, but knowing what we know now, I still believe that such is the case, just in a different realm with different affects on the individual. Though its a somewhat naive of me to dismiss outside causes for individuals issues, thats not exactly what I am saying. I have trouble articulating this point, but basically I think that the whole brain=behavior idea encompasses those outside sources, which is the eventual affect felt by each individual. Anyways, even at the end of the semester, though knowing more about the brain and nervous system, it still baffles me because the reality is that everything we have learned has stemmed from and been controlled by the same thing, the brain and nervous system.

Name: marissa li
Date: 2003-05-05 16:26:14
Link to this Comment: 5615

sorry that last comment was me!

Name: Amelia Tur
Date: 2003-05-05 16:45:30
Link to this Comment: 5616

In my first posting, I discussed the effectiveness of drugs and placebos. I still believe that the nervous system can be tricked into believing, for example, that a pill will alleviate the pain in the person's shin, when, in fact, that what the person was given was really just a sugar pill. A person can expect a certain result and I believe that the nervous system will produce that result to a certain extent. I do believe in the efficacy of drugs as well. It is my opinion that the human body is not perfect and outside forces can act upon it. Drugs can produce effects on the nervous system that it cannot produce on its own.

Like Grace, I am still rather reluctant to say that brain=behavior. In our class discussions this semester, there just was not that final piece of information that fit everything together for me and made me say, "Aha! That's it, that's why brain=behavior." I guess that I will just have to continue on with my explorations of the nervous system.

Name: Luz Martin
Date: 2003-05-05 16:54:06
Link to this Comment: 5617

At the beginning of the semester I wasn't willing to say that brain=behavior. Maybe my brain is much more complex than I thought it was. I thought that brain=behavior, meant that my brain was just a machine. But I have to admit that the brain is definitely functioning on more levels then I thought.
I'm glad that my 'I-function' is out of the loop most of the time. I don't think it would understand how much work the rest of the brain is putting into interpreting information.

concluding thoughts
Name: priya
Date: 2003-05-05 19:57:10
Link to this Comment: 5619

This course has definitely been a very interesting one and certainly different from any other class I have taken before...initially, I was one of people who was very pessimistic that the brain could supposedly equal behavior. I am still not sure where I stand with the equation. I however, have learned a tremendous amount regarding the close correlation between the two entities. For instance, over the semester, we discussed how there are different categories of the behavior. Instinctive behavior was much discussed in the context of evolutionary patters of life. Mammals such as human beings are obviously way more developed and advanced in the way they think, act, and react compared to reptiles and amphibians. The subconscious behavior we possess has enabled us to have automatic nervous system that controls our bodily functions such as digestion, blood pressure, and body temperature.
I think that because of our highly evolved neurological processes, the feelings of attachment, anger, depression, and so on that we have been talking about all along only boils down to explain that we are less rigidly controlled by our instincts. Instead, we have the capability of letting experiences from the evironment,culture, and outside patterns influence our brain activities thus influencing the ways we interact in society. I think i need more information and a clearer understanding to confidently answer the question, "does brain=behavior?"

Name: Tiffany Li
Date: 2003-05-06 00:38:47
Link to this Comment: 5620

My first posting on the forum dealt with brain=behavior. I had trouble dealing with the idea that our nervous system controls our behavior. Although as the semester progressed, my idea of brain=behavior began to change. The introduction of the I-function, the class experiments, and the web papers helped shed light on this concept. I slowly became more and more comfortable with the idea that our nervous system is responsible for our behaviour. I understand that we are capable to a certain extent of controlling our behavior, but that part of us that controls our behavior, our I-function, is still a part of our nervous system. Thus our nervous system controls our behavior.
I particularly enjoyed the last few weeks of class. I thought it was very interesting to discover that our perception of reality is in fact simply the creation of our nervous system. This was quite baffling to me although it makes sense in view of our class dicussions.
My webpaper on somnambulism also helped me understand to what extent our brain=behavior. I think it is amazing that our nervous system can make us perform complex actions which we are completly unaware of. This means that our nervous system rather than the I-funtion ( which a small portion of the NS) controls our behavior.
Overall I found this class extremely interesting. I learned so much about how our perception of the world is distorted. We are pushed to believe that we are responsible for all our behavior when it appears that our nervous system seems to be more in control of it than our I-function. This opens the door to so many more questions which I hope to encounter in my final paper.

Name: Neela
Date: 2003-05-06 03:36:26
Link to this Comment: 5622

At the start of the course, I was hesitant about making any definative claims about the relationship between the brain and behavior. I never felt any need to qualify uncertainty. Rather than seeking to enforce any sort of relationship, I was satisfied with thinking that behavior couldn't be dictated totally by the nervous system because "the brain holds more than the sum of its physiological contents, but what that extra something is remains a mystery to me." Unlike many others in the class, I held no strong notions about the cause of our behavior and related issues of consciousness, the soul, free will etc. Throughout the course of the class, however, I learned to question my own generalized dismissal of uncertainty. Our continued effort to map out a rudimentary relationship of the brain and its mechanics forced me to consider that which I've merely discribed as unknowable and therefore not worth exploring. The structure of the course presents various arguments that confronted my lassitude regarding the subject. I became more aware of the possibility of scientifically and philosophically exploring what relationship brain had to behavior and the intriguing questions and applications that stem from this problem. Our nervous system does indeed have a greater impact on how we behave than I had originally thought possible. More specifically, it has made me aware of the various elements that the nervous system is said to encompass such as the I-function (something many usually locate outside of the brain). Rather than resolving the question completely, it formed in me the the knowledge of its ultimate importance.

Name: Nicole Meg
Date: 2003-05-06 21:17:41
Link to this Comment: 5628

In my first posting I toyed with the importance of an environmental stimulus to brain function and behavior. I even ventured to state that, "without an environmental stimulus, there is not a brain/behavior reaction". Sometime later in this course I was shown that it is possible for the brain to function free of an identifiable exterior stimulus—that some stimuli may actually be internal. Also, I was shown that an extracted nervous system of a simple leech was able to swim without any environmental stimulus.
In that posting I said that I should check out one of the books that Prof. Grobstein posted, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness by Antonio Damasio. I actually did read that book and two others on the list and found that each one greatly augmented class discussions all semester long.
Lastly, I posted that I found the combination of conceptual and scientific reasoning implemented in class discussion to be very interesting. I must say now that I have learned so much more than I could have expected from a semester course. I enjoyed Grobstein's teaching style and his probing questions. His comprehensive website was a wealth of information to delve into even just for fun! I feel like I have come out of this class with my fair share of times being wrong but out of those previous misconceptions came a questioning of my conventional beliefs. In addition to the acquisition of scientific knowledge, I gleaned a better understanding of how to reason through new concepts and work off of the ideas of others. Thanks you Professor Grobstein for providing such a valuable learning experience!

Name: Cordelia S
Date: 2003-05-07 16:22:11
Link to this Comment: 5630

In my first posting, I wrote about the large impact that drugs can have due to the fact that brain=behavior. I am still convinced that there is nothing more to behavior than the brain, though now I know a bit more about both behavior and the brain. One thing that the course has helped me to do is to think about the nervous system as a whole, not just the brain, when I am thinking about behavior. I constantly catch myself in conversation somehow distinguishing between myself and my nervous system, and I think this course has helped me to realize what a strange phenomenon this is. In a way, I think that in equating the brain with behavior, we've separated it from the body a bit. This probably has to do with some sort of reluctance to admit that separating brain from body, we are able to once again make behavior some strange mystical phenomenon without denying that it comes from the brain. Of all of the things we've discussed, I find the I-function idea most interesting. When I was doing research for my web-paper on anosognosia, I found that the idea of an I-function really helped to explain some pretty strange occurrances. In terms of free will....ok, I'm not going to say that I don't believe in what we refer to as free will. But, I think that calling it "free" is pretty misleading. In some ways, we can make decisions and exert influence and control things. But, we are limited in our range of outputs by our bodies and our brains. The concept of freedom seems to me limitless, but we are only free within set boundaries. So, not sure how I feel about that.
At any rate thanks for the class and the forum everyone.

my decision.
Name: Kathleen
Date: 2003-05-07 17:44:16
Link to this Comment: 5631

In my first posting, the brain=behavior question got me thinking about psychological conditioning. After this course, I'm pretty steadfast in my notion that brain does, in fact, equal behavior. Our last class discussion regarding the I-function only solidified this for me. The I-function is pretty clueless in relation to the nervous system, so if we, as a collective I-function, are not aware of 75% of the goings on in our brain and body, how could brain NOT equal behavior? This class makes me feel more and more like a mechanism, not an individual.. which was pretty humbling! (But there is something to be said for the whole grain of sand in the ocean thing. It can be kind of comforting.) When Cordelia said, "I constantly catch myself in conversation somehow distinguishing between myself and my nervous system" , I could totally relate. I caught myself doing this frequently. This class iniated a whole new understanding for me regarding my brain and body. Thanks, everybody!

Name: Kelvey
Date: 2003-05-08 10:50:36
Link to this Comment: 5632

Since the beginning of the course I have accepted that brain = behavior so instead of focusing on proof for that particular statement, I have been interested in discovering how the brain effects behavior because of its perception of the world. Understanding where the brain has particular 'gaps' and seeing that they can be filled in an individualistic way has been a bit of a revelation. The size and location of the gap seem to be the determining factors in distincct behavioral patterns. Some people may embrace the area of grey by filling it will creative thought, some may fear it and fill it as quickly as possible trying to create a constant illusion of control while others may have many gaps in the processing of the nervous system and therefore be often lost and be termed 'mentally ill'. It seems to me that instead of focusing where the nervous system synapses with a direct link, it would be of greater interest to consider where the signals jump and leave areas for interpretation.

Date: 2003-05-08 15:42:13
Link to this Comment: 5635

I am still amazed by the fact that we know so little about the brain. I already knew this before I decided to take the class. I have to admit that I am a little distressed by this fact. I wonder if we will ever fully understand the brain.

Name: Christine
Date: 2003-05-09 16:14:56
Link to this Comment: 5643

I think that I feel much more comfortable in being wrong with even things that I once considered to be factual. What is a fact really? Something that some people invented to try to explain a certain phenomenon, right? And there isn't necessarily someone that can prove one thing wrong in one way or another.

I didn't really realize completely how much our environment and culture play a big role, serve as a grand input into how we react. And that these living conditions thus affect one's free will. If a society imposes a certain way of living, an individual would most likely respond to things under such limitations/restrictions. This seems so logical...yet it is something that I haven't really considered before.

Up until this last paper that I wrote I wasn't too convinced that I could equate brain with behavior. I don't know that I still can, probably because it's so hard to really prove everything. However, I feel more comfortable trying to associate the two together. I wrote about the effects of ecstasy and it's so interesting to me that this drug has a great capacity to change brain chemistry, thus having an overall affect over mood and behavior when the drug wears off. Depression is seen among many as a result of serotonin releasers being damaged and not enough being released to help someone be in a good mood. So while the drug is affecting the brain, it is directly affecting behavior as well. I mean, this is the case with many drugs. While it is not the situation for every case of depression, it helps give light to the possibility of brain equalling behavior.

Maybe brain really does equal behavior. Right now, I am okay with accepting this idea.

wrapping up
Name: Sarah
Date: 2003-05-11 08:01:29
Link to this Comment: 5648

It bothered me slightly that the course began with the question, "Is there more to you than your brain?" and yet we all immediately jumped on the I-function bandwagon. Instead of remaining skeptical, we accepted that the center of human consciousness was in fact a part of the brain, effectively undermining that original question. While we did see evidence for that subsequently, in the form of consciousness' being "fooled" by NS limitations, we didn't really wait for that evidence before accepting the I-function story.
I also found myself confused throughout the course by many of the examples presented. Often they didn't seem to adequately represent the concept being taught, they didn't explain it. They seemed like shots in the dark almost. These problems were likely the result of necessary oversimplification of the system in question, but it was often dissatisfying nonetheless. For example, I would have loved to see a neuronal mechanism to explain choice. But the withdrawal of the sea creature's feeding tube and the loop it described just didn't do it for me.
I thought it was very interesting that the course ended with such a huge blank. "The non-I-function NS randomly generates a response, the I-function decides yes or no and witholds action until it decides yes." What does that really tell us? It's just a description of choice with NS terms thrown in -- it's just saying, "How is choice a function only of the brain? Easy- our brain chooses!" Again, it doesn't do it for me. It was a little bit of a let down, but that's probably the result of my incorrect expectations, and my illusion that neuroscience had so much more info than that.

So, in light of this, I agree with my Forum 1 comments. I think that human behavior could, with sufficient knowledge of the nervous system and physical reality, be traced in the brain/NS. It's painfully complex, but it could theoretically be done. However, I still think that that is nothing more than a physical mechanism used by a non-physical thing. I still think there is a part of us that isn't composed of parts. We really are different from other animals. We share some behaviors, but others are so unique to humans that, to me, there just must be somethng more.
All that said, I really enjoyed the course. The conversation and the interesting, laid-back atmosphere was one of the highlights of my semester! Thank you all!

Name: Danielle M
Date: 2003-05-11 22:20:41
Link to this Comment: 5649

I was a "fence-sitter" when this course started--I didn't want to subscribe to the idea that the brain didn't equal behavior, but I also didn't quite agree that brain did equal behavior. To say that sounded as though there wasn't anything but the brain, that, like Luz said, we were some sort of machine. It sounded too arrogant to say that there was a single answer to every question, that no matter what, there was only the brain, there was nothing we didn't understand. What I realize now, though, is that our behavior does seem to begin with the brain, but that doesn't mean we have all the answers. In fact, we (our I-functions) are pretty clueless about quite a few aspects of the brain and our behavior. Saying, yeah, I think the brain does equal behavior, doesn't mean we think we have the answer to all the mysteries of our world or our behavior. It means we know where to begin looking for those answers.

Name: Jen
Date: 2003-05-12 01:44:27
Link to this Comment: 5651

I began the semester pondering questions about how certain behavioral characteristics could be explained by the nervous system. I set out to define the connections between behavior and brain. I had previously pondered some connection between brain and behavior; however, I never understood how it could explain free will and emotions. Throughout this course, I feel as though we have shed light upon some of these questions; sometimes answering them with biological information and other times theorizing models to explain these behaviors/characteristics.

Along with many of my fellow classmates, I was aware prior to the onset of this class that little is known about how the brain functions. In a sense, the only thing we known about our brains is that it is a mass of neurons, a careful distribution of ions, and a large box of uncertainty. If our brains fill in missing pieces of our sensory world, how can we be certain that anything is real? I think that this was the hardest concept for me to cope with because it stipulates the notion that I am not entirely in control of my actions.
However, I question whether anything is real because what we see and perceive is what we allow our brain to notice and focus on. I am still playing with the interplay of control (free will) and biologic function (filling in the blind spot). I agree with Kathleen that "this class makes me feel more and more like a mechanism, not an individual". This separation allowed me to understand the connection with more clarity. I think that it was easier to view the exhibition of behaviors mechanistically because that is how I have been taught to understand them through my academic education.

I think that as the semester concludes, I am more assertive and confident about brain = behavior. I would to thank everyone for the rich discussions that in both the classroom and on the forum.

Brain and Behavior
Name: Alexandra
Date: 2003-05-12 15:38:18
Link to this Comment: 5652

At the beginning of the semester I was one of the "fence-sitters," even though I was pretty skeptical that brain could equal all behavior. I remember thinking that that model could not explain why people would act in illogical ways sometimes if brain could be equated with behavior. The class taught me that the brain was so much more complex and powerful than I had imagined. Knowing more about how the brain functions and about the location of the I-function convinced me about how brain is behavior. Although I really enjoyed the discussions in class, I liked Paul's lectures even more since almost everything he said was something new for me. I feel like my background knowledge in science is pretty limited, so it was a refreshing change for me. His explanations always were straight-forward, so I never felt confused about what he was saying even if it was pretty complex.

Name: Nicole
Date: 2003-05-12 18:27:21
Link to this Comment: 5653

I was one of several people in the beginning to agree with the idea that brain equals behavior. I mostly picked that side because the human brain is amazingly complex and we are not even close to discovering and revealing all of its wonders. I'm not one to fence sit, so I was more willing to agree with the idea that the brain controls everything. I did have some issues that I couldn't resolve such as the idea of a soul and the idea of free will. I'm not sure that the class helped me tackled these 2 problems. I understand the I-function, but I don't think that it necessarily answers the problem of free will. There are so many functions that occur without the I-function, why is it that we feel that the I-function grants us free will? I think that we can get "free will"out of action potentials and I do agree with the idea that we can change behavior and influence others. I'm just not convinved that it is really free will. I still think that we are uncomfortable thinking that we don't have free will. I just think that there are so many possible inputs that we receive at any given instance that it seems probably that every response is a function of the synchronous firing of millions of neurons as a function of input from millions of neurons outside of the box that is the brain. I know that Grobstein doesn't want us to abandon free will, but at the same time I don't fully understand the importance of holding on to it. It seems that human behavior can be evaluated without a discussion of free will. Nevertheless, this is more of a philosophical argument and goes beyond this particular class. All in all, I am still comfortable with the idea that all behavior is a function of the working of the central nervous system and the class was able to bring up ideas that I had never really thought about even though I have a decent amount of experience with the neural sciences. Even though I hold the same position, the class was thoroughly enjoyable. Right as I thought I was beginning to understand something Professor Grobstein or a classmate threw in a little something extra to get me confused. It was a bit of a love hate relationship because I spent most of the time confused about my stance (and I still am)I look forward to learning more about the brain and how it alone is responsible for all sorts of behavior.

Changing my Mind
Name: Melissa
Date: 2003-05-14 00:53:27
Link to this Comment: 5657

I was one of those students who in the begining of the course was a "fence-sitter." I wasn't sure whether or not brain equaled behavior- I wasn't quite sure about Emily's assertion. While I do still believe that there is room for free will that within the "gap" between reality and perception there is that space for something else; I also believe more than ever that the brain does equal behavior for all intensive purposes. The thing that I learned is that the brain is involved with everything that we do and has everything to do with how we live in this world, how we see this world. The only thing that amazes me still is that Emily Dickinson all those years ago knew that- that the brain was bigger than life itself and yet it is in that very fact- in the largeness of the brain which still makes it such a mystery today. With all that we know about it- there are still so many questions about: how it functions, what can go wrong, and how to fix it?

The End
Name: Annabella
Date: 2003-05-14 15:00:03
Link to this Comment: 5670

Over the course of the semester I have grown to like this course more and more. I origionally went in expecting a typical science course, but I was soon proven wrong. The variety of students that we had in class really allowed for the growth of ideas and opinions. What was most fascinating was how the topics of neurobiology were related to everyday life. I had never thought to relate action potentials as a marker of free will.

The course forum was also a wonderful place to talk outside of class. As I read over my origional comments, on whether or not brain = behavior, the words I wrote hold more fact than they did then. I stand by my belief that while we have learned alot in this course, we have only begun to scrape the suface of the issues. I don't feel competent enough at this point to make a sweeping generalization that, yes! brain=behavior, because the scientific community it self is making new breakthroughs on the topic every week. But if brain does equal behavior, can we still have free will? Or can we really put limits on what the human brain can do?

The End...?
Name: Zunera
Date: 2003-05-15 21:19:35
Link to this Comment: 5692

After a semester's worth of discussion, I am convinced that, in the most basic sense, brain=behavior. In the very beginning, I was one of the fence-sitters. I did not realize what the phrase "brain=behavior" encompassed; whether or not, external factors (such as environment, drugs, etc.) and culture figured into this equation, and what part, if any, did they play into the brain=behavior statement. Since then, I believe that brain=behavior because with, or without, external factors the brain can steer a person's behavior, beliefs, perceptions, etc. Marissa's statement, "that the whole brain=behavior idea encompasses those outside sources, which is the eventual affect felt by each individual," sums up exactly how I feel on the brain=behavior argument. The I-function further supported the brain=behavior idea, especially when we discussed how the I-function can sometimes be unaware, or kept out of the loop, of certain decisions and actions, and how it (I-Function) can generally be aware of only 25% of the goings-on in the body and the brain. What about the other 75% of activity?hmmm... Anyhoo, thanks for all the thoughts, questions, and arguments, and have a great summer.

Confused, educated, and content
Name: erin fulch
Date: 2003-05-16 13:51:13
Link to this Comment: 5709

Having arrived at the end of our course, I am struck by the fact that my newly acquired knowledge is simultaneously interesting, enlightening, and confusing. Although I began the course with no absolute convictions regarding the brain and behavior equation, I was content with my indecisiveness because I was relatively ignorant of the nervous system and its functionality. I was only aware of the essential physiological components of that system and was oblivious to the true complexity involved in human behavior. In my examination of decision-making, I found myself frustrated by the holes present in scientific literature, the inconsistency in notions of brain and behavior, and by my own seemingly circuitous thinking regarding free-will, control, decision, physiology and neurobiology. However, I can return to my first post and learn from the thought quoted from a lecture by R. Feynman, and feel far more at ease and grateful, rather than disappointed, in my current state of confusion. Feynman said, "I don't have to know and answer, I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is so far as I can tell." Truly, it is a mysterious universe, and there are many things in it which I might never know or understand. With regard to the human nervous system, however, I feel blessed to know that in my state of confusion, I am armed with knowledge, theory, and curiosity. I am consciously aware that it is highly likely that my understanding is not entirely correct but that I can become progressively less wrong with time. I am grateful for the awareness that my behavior is dictated by my nervous system in many cases. I am also grateful for any extant gap that allows me to believe that I am more than my neurons. Regardless of the absolute reality of the nervous system, I am thrilled to be more informed in my confusion and curiosity than I was several months ago.

final post
Name: Kate Tucke
Date: 2003-05-16 15:43:19
Link to this Comment: 5712

I began this semester actually being somewhat puzzled to everyone's objections to the idea that brain=behavior. This is something that I have accepted for so long that it has been hard for me to believe that I am apparently in the minority. At the end of the semester, I still believe that brain and behavior are really the same thing. I think the brain is fascinating and I find no reason to look for any sense of "self" or "will". The more we know about the brain, the more we will see that those notions originate from the brain itself. This course has definitely opened my eyes to many different ways of thinking about this issue. As I said, I hadn't really given serious thought to this question in quite awhile and although my opinion wasn't altered it was an interesting exploration.

longest entry award?
Name: geoff
Date: 2003-05-16 23:50:33
Link to this Comment: 5724

The topic of brain=behavior always runs me in circles, and I will probably contradict myself plentifully (hopefully en route to fulfilling my being wrong quota for the week).
That's the first line to my first posting and an appropriate first line for tonight's posting.
For some reason, I feel sad tonight in putting down this last posting. Although I enjoyed reading many of the postings, I don't particularly like this mode of conversation. Something about it feels very static. I have put off the posting as long as possible in the hopes that I might be able to find some closure to a topic. But there is none and I think it makes me sad to have a departure and feel like something has to be left as it sits. Many of the postings felt to me like people appreciative of the addition of knowledge or for the new perspective. I don't' want the conversation to end!

Maybe this is why I have such a hard time finishing papers. We have been taught, or maybe worse led to believe that at some point we would be able to make sense of the world around us. that is what science is, no? summary of observations. My summary of observations up to the end of this lead me to believe that the world doesn't make sense. The tortured Salieri in Amadeus laments to god for giving him the desire to bring beautiful music into the world and then making him mute. I think that summarizes well my frustrations with neuroscience, and the middle-state of evolution I feel like we stuck in. My species has evolved to the point where I have 100,000,000,000 neurons all working simultaneously in my head, in perfect unison, to give me the complex perception that I have of the world around me and I am not even close be able to wrap my mind about what it means to have 100 billion of anything in my head.

I feel like professor Grobstein could have come into class at any point and said, "we have 100 billion neurons in our head. What does that mean?" and we could have sat out the rest of the semester in silence. it would have shut me up. But we don't stop there, that silence is not an option. I am driven to make sense of it, that silence makes me uncomfortable and so I pick a small piece I can attach myself to. From that small piece of terrain I claim, I often times feel very close, especially writing papers and having to create an argument in a structure that will make sense to someone else, convince someone else, gives me the idea that there is truth there. Every time I feel close I look back at some later time and, if I have picked up anything along the way, notice all that I was missing.

It not just the billions of neurons, and that has been the beauty of this class, the breadth of material we take in while still maintaining the context and questions we started with in front of us. the more we allow to pierce through, I think the better we are, but at a certain point we have limits, I know I do. It is so easy here to sucked into an idea that I understand what the world is about, or my role in it, and imagine at a certain point I will just give up trying to take it all in and form more solid beliefs that I can build a life around, I hope not, although when I get there I imagine it will be a nice place to be.

In the meantime I just read "unspeakable conversations" (you can get it in pdf from google). Gosh, what a story. That stuff really shakes me, because it attacks me right where I had an idea of what was what. I don't think I have ever heard (or listened) to such convincing argument from a disabled person about they are being cheated out of the possibility of being happy. There is of course the obvious, that they are being cheated, but I have always assumed it was the disability that was cheating them, that this society is the standard or that "healthy" is the standard. My rationale was that if it happened to me, I would deal with it the same way, but why should I? Why does it have to be that way? Asks Johnson.

What a great question. The answer is because I don't have to deal with her shit and so I will not go out of my way to think about how much better her life could be if my society appeared different. It is not that I am insensitive, though I may very well be, I have my own set of issues, things the people in MY life have had to deal with that HAVE affected me personally, and I carry that stuff with me everyday of my life and it eats at me and motivates me towards action. Maybe I just see myself as being closer to it? But I can't keep it all together and when I read the article I hate Singer, but I can't condemn him because I agree with him, and as soon I am out of this computer lab and have had a few more experiences I will again agree with him. The strange thing is that I think I could imagine myself having the same conversations and playing his role, and it is maybe just in reading the article from her perspective that I am able to depart from that chilling rationality.

Maybe it is just the effectiveness of the writing, but no one has ever made me think about disabilities in that way. My aunt had MS and I watched her go from walking with barely the help of a cane to being incapable of performing any daily activities. We helped and would have helped as much as she wanted, but it made sense when she opted for suicide that we would, as a family, support her in that choice. I never would have lobbied to a politician or even started the conversation to start looking at the way her life could have been better if her stigma had not convinced her long before the physical effects set in, that she was less than a full person. This all sounds really clichéd and I hate that, I am not taking up this cause, but I thought it related because it is this continual feeling of helplessness that it is impossible to attach myself to anything because there is always more, there is always a personal story. Singer's philosophy, that is what makes sense to me, but it holds no water, and it's the continual fight I have with all of this study of the brain and behavior, it is a continual jumping back and forth between the theoretical, philophical, biological, personal, there is no way to keep that perspective except to stand back and not take part, but that is too rationale, that's taking yourself out of the equation.

I just read over my first posting and what struck me about it was the anger in it. Its funny that I think I have quite a bit more emotion in this one and hopefully looking back on it after a couple weeks of good sleep I will be able to sort it out a bit more. What I see in the first posting is this idea that I have been misled my whole life, as if someone is playing a trick on me. But what gets me when I get a look at those old responses are how many assumptions I have to make just to become upset in the first place and how foolish it seems with some different perspective. As I write I know that I am doing the same thing now, and I don't really know what to make of it. As the class progressed I think I felt more comfortable and was able to listen a little more. Whenever that happens I am ALWAYS amazed at what I pick up. Of course it takes about a semester to warm up and now its done. Anyway, there were a couple things from this class to come to mind as being significant for me.

I think the biggest single hit I took in terms of shaking the ground I stand on, was that briefly noted fact near the beginning that we use most of our brain and not the 10% popularly thought. Am I the only one who was affected by this finding? I have gone comfortably along with the assumption that I always had some to spare. It sounds funny writing it, but I always had the assumption that there is 90% not utilized, it is easy to assign "everything" categories to physiologically mysterious mechanisms just sitting up there, maybe hidden underneath the 10% of cortex or less making up what we consider our consciousness. I took that hard, and it affected everything I have seen since.

Following right along and adding to the 100% percent of the brain we utilize was, and I suppose that is the merit of the biology side of it, was to stop talking so much about the brain as something independent from the CNS. I have always been aware of the CNS and thought of the brain as the driver of that system, but the Christopher reeve stuff, though beat to death, has so much to it. We are not less than all of our parts and they all play a pretty big role. Sometimes I just need it to be beat to death I guess, and I appreciate that.

But something else I take from rehashing this stuff enough, is that the problem may be just in attaching myself to each piece as the truth, as if there is some. I walk out of discussion about emergent properties or look up from reading a bit that seems to "put everything in perspective" and it is valid for about as long as it is on the tip of my tongue. When it comes down to it, my life is not lived in a conscious state. I might spend most of my time there, but any life I have is outside of it, maybe in the collective conscious of myself and whatever company or environment I am in, I don't know. My consciousness (or I-function?) has all kinds of ideas of how my life should by the discrepancies are not translatable.

Professor Grobstein said to me something along the lines of, beauty is found in the dirt and it should be looked for there. I would tend to agree, but my problem is that once I am down there in the dirt playing around I can't help stop and think about why it is so enjoyable. I'll keep at it, and if anyone has anything they want to throw around, you can be sure I will thinking about it. I apologize for the length but I think at this point most of the posting are up and so I don't mind as much rambling.

It was a good beginning in a lot of new directions, some solid challenges to the way I think about the world, and lots of new questions I will never answer but will lead to many more. I began with the first and ill leave off with the last line of my first posting,as valid now as ever.
I would also like to add that no matter how much I claim to be the faith-less scientist or try to explain away the world rationally, I don't think I would ever get out of bed in the morning if I didn't have a faith that there was more, that today I might just fall in love.

more patience and greater frustration
Name: tung
Date: 2003-05-19 01:27:30
Link to this Comment: 5727

In my first posting, I was acknowledging the fact that I was very frustrated with the discussion of the material, particularly how we were defining things. Although it was necessary to start from the bottom, I felt frustrated because it seem like we were getting no where. However,as the class progress I realized how important it is to get "progressively less wrong." Now looking back on that first two weeks of classes, I realized how very necessary it was to start from scratch. My expectation prior to taking the class that it was a class more on the biomolecular knowledge of the nervous system. I was expecting raw data, facts, and information. The material of class, therefore, was unexpected when sat down in class for that first two weeks. This surprise was very frustrating. However, as the class progress, particularly as we wrap up our discussions in the end, I have realized how wonderful that surprise was. Not only am I more interested in the brain, I am very excited to do some research on my own to learn as much as I can. The ultimate question that I have is the relationship between the brain and the reality that we know. As I have mentioned before, prior to taking the class my general impression of the brain is it is a tool that help us interpretate the world, the reality that we are in. Now, I'm not so sure of this. I have realized that although I have learned much about the brain, this knowledge was more than what I have when I first came into the class that first week. Before I thought my knowledge about the brain and the nervous system was satisfying. Now I feel that my knowledge is a very small and dim speck of light in a very big and unexplored cavern.
This class has pointed me to many new and different directions that I never thought were possible. Although I am more frustrated right now because my knowledge about the brain is very very limited, i have more patience that I will expand my knowledge.

wabi sabi
Name: Katherine
Date: 2003-05-30 12:21:06
Link to this Comment: 5738

My first posting dealt with free will, as I was worried about this from the beginning of the course. I was afraid that by assigning Everything to the pathways of the brain, our ability to decide and to think for ourselves would disappear. With this would disappear the ability to improve ourselves and our society, trapped in the box of predestination. This was a scary thought.

But, taking the idea and "problem" of free will through various permutations and structures, I am finally relatively satisfied with the "gap" idea, in that the existence of empty space grants the very space needed by the "will." I had been thinking about the gap for several years in various contexts, mostly in relation to the "suspended space" between contradictions, the space which actually dissolves contradiction and allows for communication and the vitality of paradox in the temporal world. Look around--you will see the "gap" everywhere--and increasingly it will be the place of wisdom and life, the emptiness which supports a type of kinetic stillness which is really the key to so many parts of life and thought. I don't mean to be unclear by my descriptions here, but the fact is that a certain amount of the "gap" IS unclear--and that is its beauty and importance and essence--it can be both sides of the mountain and also the top, it has the linguistics of sky, and it is One. When I use the term "kinetic stillness" I think that this can actually describe the goal and motion of biological processes, which are constantly in states of becoming, moving, equilibrating, feedback looping--and yet which aim for a certain stability and even-ness of existence. they want BOTH-AND. and of course-- because isn't this always what WE want, the "both-and," even consciously? To know and yet never to be satisfied. I don't think we really want to be completely satisfied, because then, really, we'd lose dimension, still trapped in the world but clouded and dead. Instead we must keep talking and asking, and finding the wise silences.

And, in regards to the uncertainty of things, I came across a line by Emerson which described it wisely:
"People wish to be settled. Only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them."

Seems applicable to brain, behavior, and life.
Thanks for the unsettled, helping us here and onward.

Simple Question
Name: Natasha
Date: 2003-08-01 00:13:37
Link to this Comment: 6259

It's my first post here.
I was so happy to find a site like this.
I just have a simple question.
Is it possible to 'think' bad thoughts, whilst still 'feeling' good?
E.g: After having consumed several tablets to treat depression and or stress, is it possible to have a blissful sensation whilst still thinking 'trigger' thoughts?
-Do the thoughts register?
-Can the thoughts 'overpower' the medication or 'natural' sensation?
I have been studing Brain and Behaviour for quite sometime and this was something that I havn't been able to find and answer for.

brain behavior and dreams
Name: Tripp
Date: 2004-03-14 20:44:08
Link to this Comment: 8738

I believe in the theory that people have thier own minds. I myself have had good thoughts while feeling bad and vice-versa.( im 14)

Date: 2005-02-06 19:08:02
Link to this Comment: 12575

Date: 2005-02-17 13:44:47
Link to this Comment: 12969

I AM AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I AM AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I AM AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I AM AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

the brain is that all their is
Name: shirley
Date: 2005-04-12 12:53:06
Link to this Comment: 14513

l have been a nurse for 35 years, l have seen many strange things the human brain body can do, heal itself, sedate itself, endure pain, control almost any body function and that includes blood pressure, when to die ect. l have also seen that the brain is somehow a receptor to the environment in such a way as to know when something is going to happen in the future. You can call the tissue matter the brain and whatever you call the soul is what l want to discuss. l was raised methodist, then catholic for most of my life and my father (who l never really knew) was jewish. l tell you this to show you l have some religious beliefs that fall somewhere across all the borders of religion. l do however have a very strong medical and scientific background that even as l write this makes me wonder what l am writing and how it will be perceived. l have had many instances in my life where l have known what was happening far from my physical rehlm and that can be presently or in the future. l have things happen that l don't understand at the time but come to learn the understanding at a later date as the event happens. l know we are all connected by some great force that you can call any name you wish. l know that the physical being is not all there is, something flows through us enabling us to have power, knowledge and abilities that are not explained by religion, medicine, science or that we can comprehend with our present dialogs. l have had things come to me in such a way that l didn't seek and these were best described as a peek into what was yet to come, sometimes they are profound and come to be in my own life with my family or friends, sometimes they are things that come to me that have not yet happened and l will read them later in the newspaper. The things that happen are not just a peek into the future but stay with me in such a way that is hard to explain and only when they come to be do l feel the release of my innerbeing knowing that this is what it was all about. lf you have never experienced this you have no idea of what l am talking about. l can only tell you the brain is not all there is, we are wonders to ourself. l have a peek into the future that is weighing heavy on me as l write this, with no where to go to report it and no proof that it will come to pass. l am just learning the computer, l am 62yrs old, l have owned my own businesses, been in very high positions in my career and am not weird in any sense of the word. l tried to look up a place to report some of this and all the sights l went to were weird except this one, l think this is where l need to be telling you what l am experiencing in my life right now, that affects all of us. You must leave yourself open to the fact that we are very primitive in our knowledge about the brain and even less knowledgable about the soul or whatever name you wish to put to the energy and force that flows through every living thing. Thank you for allowing me to state this and l hope it opens doors to show how important it is to leave the doors open to learn and receive the knowledge around us in any and all ways possible.

Name: samuel bro
Date: 2005-05-15 20:59:19
Link to this Comment: 15193

I am also refering to what rachel commented on in her message. I believe it is a proven fact that homosexuality is to do with a part of the brain-a series of neutrons in the hypothalamus. I am trying to find research information in relation to this area of the brain and its relationship to homosexuality in human beings. Thankyou, I look forward to finding out more.

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