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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.

Biology 202 2004 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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getting started
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2004-01-06 16:30:12
Link to this Comment: 7591

Welcome to the Bio 202 course forum area. This is an interestingly different kind of place for writing, and may take some getting used to, but I hope you'll come to value it as much as students in other courses have.

The first thing to keep in mind is that this isn't a place for "formal writing" or "finished thoughts". Its a place for thoughts-in-progress, for what you're thinking (whether you know it or not) on your way to what you think next. Maybe simpler, imagine that you're not worrying about "writing" but instead that you're just talking to some people you've met. This is a "conversation" place, a place to find out what you're thinking yourself, and what other people are thinking, so you can help them think and they can help you think. The idea is that your "thoughts in progress" can help others with their thinking, and theirs can help you with yours.

So who are you writing for? For yourself, and for others in our classes primarily. But also for the world. This is a "public" forum, so people anywhere on the web might look in (and might even add their own thoughts in progress, though that doesn't in fact often happen).

That's the second thing to keep in mind here. You're writing for yourself, for others in the class, AND for others you might or might not know. So, your thoughts in progress can contribute to the thoughts in progress of LOTS of people, particularly if you do the best you can to be clear to lots of different people. The web is giving increasing reality to the idea that there can actually evolve a world community, and you're part of helping to bring that about. Glad to have you along, and hope you value/enjoy sharing the activity.

To get things started, how about a few thoughts about what you particularly bring to this conversation? What kinds of background/experiences/perspectives do you have that might be different from those of others in the course, and so provide insights that might be useful to them? On the flip side, what particular questions/curiousities/puzzlements are you bringing to the course that might help to challenge the thinking of others and shape the directions we take?

Remember, no "formal writing", no long essays, and no "last words". Just a few sentences, a few thoughts to help get the conversation started. Why should one study "neurobiology and behavior"? What do you think you know about it at the outset and why? And what would you like to know that you don't and why not?

Name: Dana Bakal
Date: 2004-01-19 08:43:30
Link to this Comment: 7619

Neurobiology, studying the brain, is the only way to understand human behaviors, thoughts, and motivations, minus putting it all down to a diety and forgetting about it. Its how we examine what conciousness is, what seperates humans from animals- type or degree? or is there a seperation?

I think this course examines a lot of controversial and unanswered questions within the frame work of the physical brain. How is the phisical brain linked to the mental self?
I would like to delve into the nature of conciousness, of what constitutes a person. Are animals people? can they be? or personalities at least? is there some level of complexity in brain tissue required to make something a person? if so, what level? is it a hard line or a spectrum?

Name: Brad Corr
Date: 2004-01-19 20:38:26
Link to this Comment: 7623

Although we have yet to attend our first class, I feel I can safely say I can provide a unique "voice" to our conversations. 1) I am a male 2) I am a postbac. I have already graduated from college and spent some time out in "the real world." I have chosen to come back to school for the better part of my life and become a physician. In my future studies I know I will study the biological connections of the nervous system and study much of the latest research of the mind. I would like to get a start on this and solidify a nice base of knowledge in an anotomical and biological perspective. However, I am not just curious in what is happening, but why it is happening. Human behavior and the mind are highly evolved and it is interesting to me to find out the connections between the physical and psychological processes occuring.

Hello world
Name: Chelsea Ph
Date: 2004-01-19 21:35:16
Link to this Comment: 7624

It's an interesting question, what experiences have you had that will enable you to bring a "unique" perspective to this course- I think the best answer is that we are all here. We're cognizant, we've been living in the world- experiencing it in and through our neurobiological makeup, reacting to, behaving instinctively (or perhaps not?) to those people and things around us which make up our "reality."

As far as I go on an individual basis; well, I'm not planning to pursue a path which would typically require a neurobiology course (in an academic sense)- but maybe that's an oversight. The very fact that I do, in fact, have a brain and do, in fact, enjoy using it would seem to me excellent qualifications. Beyond that, I enjoy classes structured around engaging with others both in and out of the classroom, and think learning for learning sake is always best.


Name: Elissa Set
Date: 2004-01-19 23:39:11
Link to this Comment: 7625

What I can contribute to Bio 202:
1) My ideas/views/opinions/beliefs. I'm usually not intimidated to say something in class, even if it goes against the tide of the general opinion.
2) Some science background. I'm a pre-med bio major and I've worked in a research lab studying genetics, including a lot of genetics that were related to neurobiology.

I love classes with lots of discussions, especially discussions that involve different points of view. I don't know how this may play into our discussions, but often times at Bryn Mawr, I feel as though people shun conservative points of view and the liberals dominate the conversation.

I'm excited about the things we may learn in class, like why some people feel and express emotion differently, or to touch on recent cases, the Teri Shiavo incident and what was the neurobiological reasons for why people argued that she was or was not in a permanent vegetative state.

Cheers to a good class,

Name: Liz Powell
Date: 2004-01-20 00:55:45
Link to this Comment: 7627

My first interest in neurobiology and behavior came when I read the book Descartes' Error in my CSEM class. In this book, the author incorporates biology, psychology, and philosophy to explore the relationship between mind and body. After reading this book by Dr. Antonio Damasio, I wanted to explore further this relationship. I see this class as an opportunity to explore questions in a discussion format and also learn some science behind what we will be discussing. This neurobiology and behavior class offers the integration of multiple disciplines that as a biology major and philosophy minor, I usually explore separately.

Name: Amanda Gle
Date: 2004-01-20 08:56:52
Link to this Comment: 7631

A few years ago I spent a summer at Cambridge and one of the classes I took was about the Brain and Behavior. While I wasn't too interested in the technical side of the class, the philosophical side was quite interesting. Then when I read about this class, I thought it would be a good addendum to what I have already learned. The unique thing about the class I took before, is that it was in England. Science, and most subjects, are approached differently there, so this will supplement and complement what we are addressing here.
I'm looking forward to the class and what everyone else will have to say. I think one of the most important things is that we all come from different backgrounds, but we've all experienced part of Bryn Mawr's environment, which ties us together as well. It will create a unique combination that always provides some interesting discussion.

Initial Post
Name: Natalie Me
Date: 2004-01-20 09:42:08
Link to this Comment: 7633

Why should one study 'neurobiology and behavior?' I think any social scientist as well as biologist is concerned with these phenomena. As long as we have developed intelligent inquiry we have been interested in discovering the link between the mind and body, between the society and brain. What connects our external world to the scientific processes going on in our brain? The fact that we have known so little about the causes and exact brain functions has led us to be quite philosophical about the nature of thought. This is why I am interested in studying neuriobiology and behavior. Our history of and ideas about how those things are connected vastly indicactive of our notions of humanity and science. It is tremendously important to understand these things in order to make sense of the world around us.

Trauma and Memory
Name: Debbie Han
Date: 2004-01-20 11:31:39
Link to this Comment: 7635

I'm a postbac, and I'm really excited to be a part of our discussions over the next 4 months. After spending the past year working on the redevelopment and revitalization of Lower Manhattan after 9/11, I hope to contribute another perspective on behavior following traumatic experiences. In addition, my sister was in a serious accident less than a year ago and has no recollection of the events leading up to and following the accident. I'd like to better understand trauma, memory, and even hypnotism.

Finally, a class on the brain!
Name: Emily Haye
Date: 2004-01-20 12:33:43
Link to this Comment: 7636

I've been captivated by all things brain-y since the sixth grade. I'm so glad to finally be in a class where I have free range to explore everything I've been thinking about since then. Thanks to Dr. Grobstein for giving us so much freedom and responsibility!

Right now, I'm most interested in how the brain gives rise to the mind. How does a mass of specialized cells create the inner and outer realities unique to every individual? And how, at the same time, is there a common reality, the external one, that we all share, when none of us experience or perceive things the same way? It's fascinating and amazing to me that we have no real, direct contact with the external world, that we can experience it only through our nervous system, and so everything is, to a sense, second-hand. We truly do create our realities. The reality of a schitzophrenic is as real to him as the "real" world is to someone "normal."

Along these lines, there are specifics I want to look at this semester: I'm intrigued by color. Since I was little I've wondered whether what I see as "blue" is what you see as "blue." Maybe my "blue" looks like your "purple." I recently read a chapter from Oliver Sacks' book An Anthropologist On Mars about an artist who lost all knowledge of color in a car accident. He didn't just become red/green color blind; he lost all perception, sense, and memory of color. After doing some experiments, Sacks and a colleague deduced that the patient was seeiing in wavelength, but his brain no longer tagged these wavelengths with color. It was a fscinating story. I'm also interested in the neural.biological basis of spirituality: the fact that as humans, we are wired to seek meaning. What does this mean for religion? Is God a lie if our search for meaning is biologically inherent? Or did a Divine Being create us and just hardwire us to seek Him/Her/It? I'd love to debate this, so if you have any ideas, please post them!

meditation for the mind?
Name: Hannah Mes
Date: 2004-01-20 12:54:32
Link to this Comment: 7637

I am interested in neurobiology- but my background is in politic science and fine arts. I am interested in the effects of meditation on the mind and learning the different ares of the brain that can be consciously stimulated. (I practise Vipassana meditation and am interested in the neurological effects it may have on an individual.)
At this point, I have many more questions than answers that I can contribute to class discussions and am eager to learn more from others that do have a biology background.

I focus on the culture, politics, and languages of the Middle East- but would like to broaden my academic horizons...

Reasoning and Functioning
Name: Kimberley
Date: 2004-01-20 13:59:16
Link to this Comment: 7641

The cerebral cortex and reasoning ability has made it so humans do not have to adapt to their surrounds but can manipulate their surrounds to better suit them. How is that this grey matter can separate us so distinctly from any other known being?

I am interested in environmental factors that can cause brain damage over short periods of time such as asphyxia, and things that can impair brain functioning such as sleep deprivation.

I am also fascinated by the unconscious movements our body performs, as I type this I am not consciously focusing on what key I am pressing yet I can form typed words and sentences with no perceptible effort. However someone with Cerebral Palsy might find this activity very challenging if not impossible. I am often amazed at the complexity of the central nervous system and the way, despite all the things that can go wrong, most of the population functions with little or no difficulty. I am excited to learn about all of the intricacies of the brain and it's control of behavior in higher-level thought processing as well as motor functioning.

There is also a website that I find very easy to use. It provides basic brain anatomy and function.

Rambling about neurobiology
Name: Jean Yanol
Date: 2004-01-20 16:41:39
Link to this Comment: 7643

WARNING: this contains endless rambling about research I did so feel free to skip over my long explanations because I tend to write a lot about it due to the fact it was the main part of my life for two years.

I feel that I can add an unique approach to some of the topics that might come up in class mainly because of my past experiences. I conducted research at Columbia University for two years on the gamma secretase complex. This complex is known to be a key factor in the formation of neurotoxic amyloid beta-42 and the amyloid beta-42 forms the senile plaques associated with familial Alzheimer's Disease. Specifically, I transfected :

a known component of the gamma secretase complex(presenilin 1 placed into a red fluorescent protein, four forms of a gene[APH-1 in a green fluorescent protein ( there are two variations APH-1a and APH-1b that were used,but I also used mutants of these two variations which had a glycine residue changed to aspartate)] that was thought to be in the complex, and another gene that was at that time questioned about its involvement(PEN-2, which was not ligated to a fluorescent marker)

into cells in different combinations and than used a microscope that could detect fluorescence emitted from the fluorescent proteins in order to determine if the components that were transfected into the cells were colocalized, which would implicate that they formed a unified structure, or if the components had shifted from the ER/golgi apparatus area, which would have suggested that a complex had been formed or maybe even that the components combined to form the gamma secretase complex if they migrated to the plasma membrane. There were many other steps used in this experiment [such as subcloning(which took forever)in order to place the components used into fluorescent proteins, and performing a western blot using the transfected cells in order to be sure I was expressing certain proteins] and all of these experiments along with reading previous journals concerning the topic took much of my time and dedication, but it created my passion for understanding the molecular processes that cause neurological diseases and disorders. I want to take this course in order to increase my understanding of neurobiology before I go back to conducting research on familial Alzheimer's during my college years and hopefully as a profession one day.
By conducting this research I have gained a background in some molecular neurobiology topics and also techniques that can be used to further inquire about the molecular and cellular nature of neurological diseases and disorders. Being in this class I hope not only the bring my previous knowledge to our discussions, but also to learn more about what behavior is typical of people with certain neurological disorders/diseases and maybe even correalate the steps in behavioral changes with the changes that can be seen on the molecular level.

initial posting
Name: Kristen Co
Date: 2004-01-20 16:49:58
Link to this Comment: 7644

I have a little background in both biology and psychology and I have always been very interested in where the two subjects overlap. I am quite interested in how the physicality of the brain affects us as unique individuals. How do all of these neurons lead to complex thought processes? I am also interested in how our thoughts affect us physically. What is the significance of a psychosomatic illness? Although there is probably no finite answer to my questions, I hope that studying neurobiology and behavior will help me to develop a clearer, more informed opinion.

Questions for this course
Name: Sarah Cald
Date: 2004-01-20 18:26:02
Link to this Comment: 7645

Hello all!

Usually my interests in biology lie in the technical aspects of how the body works and not in how it relates to society and behavior. Recently however, that changed. My sister is a pyschology major and has been studying and researching pain. After reading her paper (she made me) I really became interested in how pain is perceived in different individuals. More specifically, how different individuals perceive identical pain stimuli to different degrees. In addition, I have recently learned that there are studies (though not many) that study the effect of mental outlook on recovering from injury, illness or other trauma. One study at UPenn examined the difference in immune activity between optimists and pessimists, finding that optimists have a better immune system activity than do pessimists. I think it would be worthwhile to investigate these findings further, and I look forward to doing so.


Areas of Interest
Name: Nicole Woo
Date: 2004-01-20 19:16:25
Link to this Comment: 7647

One of the concepts I would like to learn more about while taking this course is how people perceive their bodies and what factors influence this perception. To be more specific, I'm particularly interested in the way both men and women are affected by eating disorders and how other anxieties (like Body Dismorphic Disorder) are caused by how people perceive themselves. I think it is interesting that while body image issues affect both men and women, often, it seems that women struggle with these types of problems more frequently (or at least their struggles with these issues are more discussed) than men.

Name: Amar Patel
Date: 2004-01-20 19:40:19
Link to this Comment: 7648

Hello reader,

Neurobiology and behavior...My studies in both biology & philosophy provides an excellent background with which to bridge the gap between the subjects. I feel as though both subjects are moving to a similar understanding and that understanding stems from the brain. In my first course on neuroscience, psych 101, I came to realize that the deeper we look into the brain the farther we fall into its labyrinth. This idea of a labyrinth can be exemplified by our lack of correlation between neuron synapses and human emotion. Although it is true that Neuroscience is very advanced and has mapped out the function behind structures in the brain, this work is limited to basic movement, and/or memory loss.

After combining Descartes philosophy and this "emergence principle" of biology (idea that feeling and thought comes from a collection of nerve cells), I am left still trying to gather physical evidence for the Cartesian dualism developed by Descartes. For those not familiar with this notion of Cartesian dualism it can be simplified to the idea that every human being is a mind and body. It was the use of this theory that led Descartes to meditate to the point of "cogito ergo sum" (I think, I am). Hopefully this course and its relevant research/discussion can provide a clearer basis for Descartes' ideas.

Name: Amy Gao
Date: 2004-01-20 20:44:03
Link to this Comment: 7650

Hi all,

Up to this point in my academic life, I have almost always been solely exposed to the physiology part of the nervous system. I would like to know more about the human behavior in the context of being influenced by the NS. It will be very interesting to engage in discussions with people from other disciplines and hear different voices.

welcome post
Name: K. Schwalb
Date: 2004-01-20 21:52:49
Link to this Comment: 7651

Hi all - I'm also excited about this course and happy for the chance to study in depth some of the subjects that interest me. One thing I'd like to study this semester is the "Mozart effect" - whether listening to classical music (or other kinds of music) can really affect other areas of the brain and subsequent behaviour as well as the overall effects of music on the brain. I've been playing musical instruments forever and also have taken some of the basic bio courses and it should be great to combine them. I'm also a foreign language major and am interested in studying the differences between the way adults and children learn language.
Obviously, the way we learned second and third languages in high school and college is much different than the ways we learn our first language as children.

Some of the ideas others have put out in class today and on the forum also sound fascinating, and i'm looking forward to learning from the rest of you as well.

neurobio interests
Name: Ghazal Zek
Date: 2004-01-20 22:07:42
Link to this Comment: 7652

Although I am a Biology major, I have yet to formally study anything in the realm of neurobiology and behavior. While browsing serendip, I came across the interactive "seeing more than your eye does" exercise ( I was surprised to see my own blind spot in action! I was even more surprised to see that the human brain actually makes up an image to cover the blind spot. Although I can be aware of my thoughts, I know that my brain is carrying out a lot of functions that I'm utterly unaware of. Furthermore, I am interested in learning about what happens when the brain is unable to carry out a certain function, and the effects that this may have on the individual.

As a human, I think it's hard NOT to be interested in how or why the brain works a certain way, and why animals (especially people) behave as they do.

some thoughts..
Name: Lindsey
Date: 2004-01-20 22:30:03
Link to this Comment: 7657

It seems that the brain and the field of neurobiology is one of our last "frontiers"—so it is appropriate to ask what kind of progress we have made towards understanding how we process experiences, thoughts, emotions, etc. Can we ever truly understand the brain or quantify it on a chemical or biological basis? I'm intrigued by sleep and dreams and how these processes are vital to our personality development as well as our subconscious expression. Also, what is the implication that we have all this extra brain matter that we don't use (as a result of leftover evolutionary adaptations?)—and what would happen if we were able to utilize the entire brain?

Aside from the fact that everyone carries their own unique insights, I've always been interested in finding the overlaps between the abstract and concrete. I'm an English major, but I've taken various science courses as well as philosophy. I think it would be interesting to see if we can find a (necessary) middle ground between the two.

1st thoughts
Name: Eleni Kard
Date: 2004-01-20 22:48:40
Link to this Comment: 7659

I am interested in neurobio and behavior in both the contexts of science and education. As a possible future high school teacher, I think it would be interesting to understand how children learn the same material but think about it in different ways. Also, over break, I saw this interesting story on 20/20 or Primetime which showed a person receiving a form from a man behind a desk, filling it out, then returning it to the man behind the desk. The viewer was asked to remember as much about the person filling out the form as possible. While I was concentating on the person filling out the form, I failed to notice that the man behind the desk changed from time to time. That was the trick and most people didn't notice the change even when a man wearing a different colored shirt replaced the original man! I think it would be interesting to discuss the implications of this-- of what you are told to look at or see and what you then in fact see.

Name: Jenny
Date: 2004-01-20 22:51:27
Link to this Comment: 7661

I'm a bio major, and premed. I think a course that explores the relationship between biology and behavior would be interesting because there is still so much that is unknown. A lot of premed classes seem to have absolute answers, and absolute methods of problem solving and testings. This course appeals to me because it will allow us to think and interact differently while exploring an area of science that still baffles scientists and interests students of all areas of study.

A brief response
Name: Ginger Kel
Date: 2004-01-20 23:12:49
Link to this Comment: 7664

Greetings All,
I'd like to begin by giving a few tidbits about my background. My current home lies in Alabama, however I'm not really from anywhere. Most of my childhood was spent moving, but it allowed me experience a variety people and perspectives. At Bryn Mawr, I am a biology major/pre-vet. Therefore, I come to this class with a science background and lots of animal experience. My prior knowledge of neurobiology is limited, but am drawn to the subject. The brain is amazing to me-- it is the only organ that is aware of itself after all. The brain allows us to think, to learn. Thereby, I find it to be one's duty to explore how it accomplishes its vast functions.
As far as personal interests in neurobiology and behavior, I would like to know more about human instincts, and how they are related to those of animals. The vet in me prevails in this domain I guess.

Name: Shirley
Date: 2004-01-20 23:15:23
Link to this Comment: 7669

am a psychology major with an NBS concentration, therefore I will be able to contribute many interesting issues that I have been wondering about. It is important to study neurobiology and behavior so we can have the opportunity to understand what is occurring inside our bodies. This will lead to the question of what causes what to occur. Does or physiology cause our behavior or vice versa. The latter sounds like an interesting topic to discuss in class. Maybe the answer is already out there, but I just don't know about it!
I am interested in learning what occurs physiologically when people pray or meditate, since when involved in such actions one immediately relaxes. Further, I am interested in discussing the issues related to consciousness and subconsciousness. How do people differentiate these two phenomenons? How does an individual know that he is in a subconscious state? What happens neurobiologically?
Anyway, I have read most of the postings and this class seems like it is going to be a lot of fun.

Name: Maria S-W
Date: 2004-01-20 23:23:21
Link to this Comment: 7670

The only thing that I know I bring to the table is a sincere desire to learn more about how the brain works, how the mind processes info and how one can distinguish between the brain and the mind. The brain as an organ is somewhat standard in that every brain is in structure similar to most others. And yet the brain is also the house of the mind, of one's personality and all the things that make us individuals. I suppose I've always been fascinated by the brain. I remember as kid trying to hold an image in my head and then trying to figure out WHERE it was that I was seeing it. I was always fascinated by the idea of our conciousness, our awareness of ourselves, if we think in a specific language, why we couldn't will oursevles not to feel bad, or sick...that sort of thing. My father is a neurologist and was for a time a Medical Prof and I've grown up hearing about the brain. Sadly, as he is a doctor, most of what I hear is all the many many many ways the brain can go wrong, get sick and get hurt and generally malfunction, but it also impressed upon me the fact that there is nothing in our human lives that we feel or sense of touch that is not experienced through our brains. It is where we live more than any physical place our bodies might happen to be. It seems to me that there are few things in the range of human experience that would not be better understood if one had some knowledge of the human mind. I think it's often difficult to grasp that we really ARE our brains. You can switch hearts and livers and god knows what else, but the mind is what makes us unique and what makes us function. It's so strange to think that all the beautiful sights and sounds that we love so much exist only so long as our brains allow them to. At any rate, I would really really really really love to participate in this class, I think it looks great.

Name: Erica
Date: 2004-01-20 23:32:32
Link to this Comment: 7671

My experience with aspects of neurobiology comes from a psychological perspective, given the courses I've taken in previous years. I guess I am interested in exploring more about the ways in which certain neurological processes relate to the ways in which people percieve situations and the world around them.

Brain, Behavior, and Identity
Name: Shadia Be
Date: 2004-01-20 23:45:22
Link to this Comment: 7674

I guess I was first awakened to the relationship between brain/behavior/identity a few years ago when a friend I thought I knew inside-out became a paranoid-schizophrenic. Suddenly I became hypersensitive to the behavior/moods of those around me in an attempt to pre-empt their (possibly dangerous) actions. I had never really realized how we use the behavior of those around us as cues (and clues) with which to respond. Your behavior is your identity and if your behavior stems from your brain, are you, simply put, "just" your brain? This question is one I'd like to explore throughout this course.

Over break I started Carl Sagan's book, "Broca's Brain" and was struck by his view on the subject. Sagan finds the preserved brain of Paul Broca (who first discovered that the brain is compartmentalized into functional regions and later located the area responsible for speech) in a dusty jar of formaldehyde, forgotten within the shelves of a French museum. He asks himself, "How much of that man known as Paul Broca can still be found in this jar?"

I found a paraphrased version (not written by me) of Sagan's answer intriguing:
"If you possess a religious nature, the answer is probably "nothing." However, if you follow modern studies of how the brain functions, there is the fascinating thought that since memories seem to be stored in proteins, it may be theoretically possible to "recreate" a dead person by manipulating their memory proteins. Such thoughts could also be used to argue in favor of life after death, in that we live on if our protein patterns live on. The soul of a human could then be considered as a permanent record of these patterns, that are continually updated as a person generates new memories."

Name: Akudo Ejel
Date: 2004-01-20 23:52:19
Link to this Comment: 7675

I am the type of student who loves to learn new and interesting things, especially on topics that I gave little knowledge on. I am really interested in learning about the how the brain and nervous system responds to drugs and alcohol use and abuse, especially when some people's bodies are able to hand these things than others. I know that illegal drugs (crack, etc) and hardcore alcohol are not good for you, but why is marijuana prescribe as a medicine to some people and why is a galls of wine good for you during dinner. Hopefully I can get more info than just the conventional response of say no to drugs and alcohol.

Name: Michael Fi
Date: 2004-01-21 00:11:03
Link to this Comment: 7678

My principal interest in regards to this class is the functionality of behavior and its evolution as such. Behaviors are manifestations of organism function. In aggregate, behaviors can form a personality, a family or a society among other things. I am intrigued by the function of individual behaviors and the aggregate function of a series or group of behaviors. I am also interested in the way that an animal or a person can be merely a conduit for a series of behaviors which may have a grander function, perhaps with an grand evolutionary basis.
I hope that some of my interests can be addressed by the course.

Name: Erin Okaza
Date: 2004-01-21 00:34:56
Link to this Comment: 7680

I think that the study of behavior transcends many different academic areas find that the different approaches are very interesting. As an economics major, I love seeing how people's behavior, their preferences, their desires and their reactions, to different situations is characterized in the context of the market system. I am excited about how this class approaches behavior from yet another angle and incorporates a mutual exploration of how behavior is related to nervous system function. I would like to specifically explore how material things -- specifically money -- drive people to irrational behavior. In particular, I find it fascinating how money might have an impact on the nervous system – driving people to such behavioral extremes as murder, suicide, great acts of philanthropy or others. I would find it really interesting to explore the possibly of such a connection and what leads to or occurs during such emotionally driven episodes.

First Class Comments
Name: Millie Bon
Date: 2004-01-21 00:53:28
Link to this Comment: 7681

Like many of the people in this class I am not a biology major. However, this class appeals to me because it approaches topics that are completely relevant to all of our lives. As a political science major I am particularly interested in neurobiology and how it relates to policy making. As Elissa Seto mentioned situations similar to Terri Shiavo's are difficult to solve. I have copied the Philadelphia inquirer's archive of articles on this case if you want more info. I am not very computer savvy so you have to copy the info and put it in your browser.|&p_product=PI&p_theme=realcities&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_text_search-0=Terri%20AND%20Schiavo&s_dispstring=Terri%20Schiavo%20AND%20date(last%20180%20days)&p_field_date-0=YMD_date&p_params_date-0=date:B,E&p_text_date-0=-180qzD&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&xcal_useweights=no

Name: Chevon Dep
Date: 2004-01-21 00:57:34
Link to this Comment: 7682

My interest in this course is to become more knowledgeable about the disorders of the brain. Particularly, I want to learn about the causes of epilepsy. By being aware of the causes, I hope to better understand why there are some many different degrees of the disorder. It is also important to examine what steps are taken to treat the epiletic patients. This is just one of the topics I wish to explore in this class.

Personal Response
Name: Mridula Sh
Date: 2004-01-21 11:32:54
Link to this Comment: 7691

What are the interconnections between mental processes, physical behavior, human experience and environmental conditions? What roles do they play in making us a constantly evolving unique species? What factors determine whether the human mind and body can endure and recover (or not) from trauma and what brings upon post traumatic stress disorders? These are some of the questions I'd like to think about in this course.
In the biology courses I have taken so far I have viewed the human mind and body solely as a unique biologically functional entity. The brain to me is very intriguing. I would like to gain knowledge of it not solely from a neurological perspective but also from a behavioral point of view, enabling me to create links between what goes on in the brain and environment to the way we act, feel, respond, behave and ultimately survive.
Our class is wonderfully diverse in terms of academic backgrounds and interests and I look forward to hearing peoples' perspectives on various topics.

brain and its discontents
Name: Mariya Sim
Date: 2004-01-21 11:37:15
Link to this Comment: 7692

I first began to be interested in the brain/behavior when my fascination with philosophy and my background in religion led me to become aware of the level of isolation of humans from each other and the world. Our knowledge of the world (as has been mentioned in the forum already) is largely secondhand, and I believe that philosophers and laymen alike are increasingly uncomfortable about it. After all, most of us assume that we share the same reality with other "normal" people around us, and when this assumption is challenged we tend to become frustrated, disoriented, even angry and despairing. Recent Western philosophy and literature alike explore the feelings of alienation that plague the modern civilization (mostly from the perspective of the alienated person himself), but they rarely see this inherent divergence of perspectives as something positive. On the contrary, I have always felt a kind of happiness and perhaps even gratitude for the fact that all of our experiences are distinct from others. My specific interest in Russian philosophy (I am a native Russian speaker) proved to me that there are others who not only share this view but also go well beyond lamenting our differences in finding new ways of defining individuality and its relationship to the world outside.

I am looking forward to exploring this issue from the neurobiological perspective. After all, all philosophy and literature is created by and through this interesting thing, the brain (so is it the brain that becomes uneasy with its own uniqueness? why?). It would be partucularly interesting to observe (to the extent possible) the changes in my own ways of perceiving and comprehending reality as the course progresses. I am also looking forward to exploring the relationship between our consciousness and unconsciousness, of whose dialogue I was dimly aware for as long as I remember. In general, I think that we (the students in this course) will become increasingly more interesting to ourselves and to each other as we go on.

background comments
Name: Sasha Grei
Date: 2004-01-21 12:25:33
Link to this Comment: 7693

As a senior Anthropology major, my primary interest has been the consideration of how people make sense of the world around them. Most of the approaches I have been exposed to have been concerned with how the individual's experience is influenced, or downright constructed, by cultural or social realities. What's more, the current epistemology in Anthropology is that all knowledge is subjective- relativity reigns.

When I go home and talk to my Dad and brother (a sleep specialist and a neuroscience student, respectively) our conversations always get deadlocked in the same place: how much we should attribute to culture vs. "hard-wiring". I don't expect this class to provide me with any conclusive answers to this huge question, but I really would like to have the vocabulary and analytical skills to navigate the question. Hopefully by the end of the semester I won't have to abandon the conversation everytime The Question inevitably arises. Also- I'm currently writing my anthropology thesis on how sensory experiences of place are reflected in cultural works (specifically architecture).

Mind-Body (physiology-psychology)
Name: Aiham Korb
Date: 2004-01-21 14:34:42
Link to this Comment: 7694

I believe this course will enable me to explore what I am really passionate about: the relationship between human physiology and psychology ... and how they interact to produce disease. This is one of my main interests in persuing a career in medicine (and maybe later psychiatry), and I believe that this class will be a great step before medical school. I hope to learn about the human nervous system and its structure. And from there, I could better understand its effects and interactions with emotions, stress, and the immune system ...
I am very enthusiastic about this !

Name: Ariel Sing
Date: 2004-01-21 15:01:12
Link to this Comment: 7696

Although I am not majoring in biology, I do love it. When I took Bio 101 and 102 I found that two things were the most interesting to me, one was genetics and the other was the nervous system and neurobiology. I am hoping by taking this class I will be able to expand my knowledge of the topic. This is also especially important to me because I am hoping to focus my major on medicine in Classical times and in Ancient Egypt. One of the truly interesting topics within that focus is how ancient people perceived behavior, and what they believed to cause certain behavioral traits.

If there is time, I would love to learn about how theories on neurobiology and behavior have changed throughout history. I also find how genetics effect our nervous system to be a really interesting topic.

Name: Tanya Coop
Date: 2004-01-21 15:51:36
Link to this Comment: 7698

Although I am neither a biology or psychology major, I have always had an interest in how the human brain primarily works. We are such complex individuals because of our bio-chemistry. I have long been fascinated by what motivates us to behave as we do. Why do we have certain likes, dislikes, habits, or vices? Is it truly a combination of the natural and nurtured, or does our neurobiological make up exclusively dictate the outcome of our behaviour. I am especially interested to find out about the links between creativity and depression as well as the role that different parts of the brain contribute to both aspects of the human condition. I have the ability to entertain ideas that I may or may not agree with. I think my open mindedness is what I can contribute to this class.

Name: Allison
Date: 2004-01-21 16:47:23
Link to this Comment: 7699

I have always been interested in trying to figure out why human beings react differently to similar situations and the fact that different people have a capacity for different things. I am interested in exploring the question of how the human brain helps us function in everyday life with respect to how the workings of our brain affect reactions such as happiness, fear, etc. Although I am a double Art History/Italian major, this is an important topic for anyone in any discipline and will be interesting to explore.

Name: Katina Kra
Date: 2004-01-22 00:29:14
Link to this Comment: 7707

After looking through the many comments posted by the members of this class, I am pleasantly happy to see how many people are thinking of so many new perspectives in this field, and wanting to expand their own horizons towards understanding of the mind and body, more specifically, neurobiology.

As the daughter of a psychologist and a scientist, I was always caught between the two debates of nature versus nuture in the development of children and behavior. From this, I've gained more then a desire to figure out what truly causes behavioral differences within humans. Also, as a newly developing (Freshman, yes!) science major, my major interests lay in the inner working of humans themselves; genetics and the pyschology of the mind and how the neurological sytems function to make us as people, as successful as we are now. What tiny malfunction of the NS or even brain disorders could have made humans anything but what we are today?

My mother, in attempting to gain her second Ph.D planned to study neurological functions in the brain in relations to mental disorders in patients, and I myself find this extremely fascinating. And with the confliction views I was brought up with, I'm more then able to think on varying perspectives of many issues.

See you Thursday!


thoughts on neurobiology
Name: Emma Berda
Date: 2004-01-22 08:46:52
Link to this Comment: 7709

It seems like most people in this class are interested in human behavior but I personally am more interested in animal behavior. I think I could contribute to this class by looking more at animal behavior which would provide a nice counterpoint to human behavior. I am interested in both invertebrate and vertebrate behavior and I think both would be interesting to compare with human behavior.

Neurology and Trauma
Name: Michelle
Date: 2004-01-22 09:38:01
Link to this Comment: 7710

I am a chemistry major/pre-vet student and like most people in the class, I have studied neurobiology mainly on a physiological level. A few years ago, I watched a program about the reactions of humans undergoing extreme trauma (i.e. animal attack, car accidents, falls). What was most interesting to me is that the human body began taking steps to either heal itself or to conserve energy in the damaged part of their body. Cases showed that when medical help was applied, the body would react negatively to the unnatural sensations by shutting itself off systematically towards death. Are there ways to study similar cases to find a point during a body's downward spiral where medical assistance would be more effective versus another point? How much control does the brain have over this? Is it purely involuntary?

In response to Emily Hayes-Rowan
Name: debbie han
Date: 2004-01-22 09:51:53
Link to this Comment: 7711


I'm glad you brought up color blindness. I have been thinking about red/green color blindness for quite some time. I wonder what color the color-blind person sees when he/she sees red or green... if there are different shades of those colors, if he sees a totally different color like the "normal" blue, the confusion that goes along with everyday life (like traffic lights). I try and imagine myself in the mind of someone who is color blind, which is difficult; therefore, I'd like to learn more about this subject. That's awesome that you brought it up, and I hope to read the book you mentioned. Thanks!

Name: Laura Silv
Date: 2004-01-22 14:50:58
Link to this Comment: 7715

I was thinking about what was said in class today about how behavior is influenced only by the brain - that's it. And I started thinking, what exactly does the brain then consist of? The brain is the intellectual center of the body, and is probably tied with the heart for the physical center of the body as well. But what do I keep in my brain? Memories, lessons learned, past experiences, things read and seen in books, movies, life, et cetera. Do all these things stay kept in my brain? How do I know that I must behave differently at a former dinner than at a drive-in movie? What makes me behave differently when around my parents than when I'm around my friends? The answer here to me seems to be "experience", but then where does experience fit into the brain? Is it seperate, joined, connected, contained?

My point is, if someone had asked us outside of this class "What influences behavior?", we might have answered with numerous variables. "Education. Childhood. Emotion. The weather. The setting. The people. The past. The future. Et cetera, et cetera, and so forth." But how do these things tie into the brain? Does the brain contain all these things, and if it does, can we then rightly (or less wrongly) say that it is the brain and only the brain that influences behavior?

Over and out.

Date: 2004-01-23 13:53:49
Link to this Comment: 7717

I am interested in the existence of ideas. What are mental images, and if they are physical,where and how do they exist in the brain? WHen I have an idea of say, a purple mountain, that mountain exists somewhere in my brain I suppose, or does it? Even if you can trace all of the physical states that correspond to my image, there is still a level at which the mountain itself exists, not just as any kind of chemical in the brain, but more than that. Or not?

Name: Maryam
Date: 2004-01-23 13:58:59
Link to this Comment: 7718

Sorry, I accidentally submitted too soon above. I also wanted to say that the way we think about neurobiology has huge philosophical consequences, and vice versa. Is consciousness a singular entity, with each person possessing a unique and distinct consciousness? I suspect consciousness is more like a conglomerate of physical phenomena that taken individually might not seem obviously associated with consciousness. The answers we accept or rule out can help us ask better questions about who we are and what we are like.

Name: Anjali Vai
Date: 2004-01-23 14:11:12
Link to this Comment: 7719

I was thinking about what Laura Silvius wrote, and then got an idea walking back to my room that seemed so important at the time I had to immediately scribble it in the margin of a notebook... Let me see if I make this thought a little more coherent than my scribble turned out to be.

I was thinking that a lot of your behaviour is dictated just by memory- experiences translate as memory, so much of the time. Or, well, not all experience- sometimes your responses to a situation are more deeply ingrained than long-term memory, some learned responses don't leave you even if you lose your memory. But so much of how you behave, so much of who you are, is decided by the memories you carry- defined by the memories you carry. And since those memories are stored by the brain- tied to this material, deeply fragile object, I think it can be said pretty definitely that memories aren't at all separate from the brain. They can be lost if your brain is damaged- or, I guess more accurately, the ability to access them can be lost very easily, which amounts to the same thing.

And so... It's intriguing- when so much of who you are is memory, and the ability to form new memories, what are you, really, without all of that? Do you lose yourself if your brain is damaged? Or can you really say that there's a self to be lost, if all that your "self" is is a bundle of memories and impressions and sensations... Unless that isn't all the self is- unless your self transcends the brain, which is a much more comforting way of looking at things in a lot of ways. Which is, perhaps, why people often prefer to see it that way- simply because it's more comforting. I'm sorry, I'm just typing as I'm thinking, here. I know it's not terribly coherent.

It makes me think of another story by Oliver Sacks- he wrote about a patient of his who had lost all memory of his life after the age of 20 or so, and had also lost the ability to form new memories. It makes you really wonder what that would be like- to be alive, to be able to feel, to be perfectly healthy and able to function in all other respects, but have no memory of events after periods of more than a few minutes. To be living, in effect, in one ever-changing moment, with no memory of what came before.

Modern Identity: Integral to, and changing as a re
Name: Emily H-R
Date: 2004-01-25 13:00:26
Link to this Comment: 7737

I'm posting this as a response/continuation/future jumping-off-point to the conversation Dana and I were having in class on Thursday about identity. It's interesting because it talks about how the individual, a specific "identity," is the most important thing in current social networking (AIM, email, mobile phones, etc). This, I think, begs the question Dana was asking about the formulation, validiity, and origin of personas that one puts consciously into the world via technology. The author of this blog brings up an interesting point in this post, that relates to the social aspect of behavior: That something has been lost in the direct contact phenomenon of recent technology. How does this relate to identity? How do we "know" that the person we're speaking to is "real" (that it is this person's main persona)? If not, is the persona with which we have direct contact any less "real"? How is this redefining the social aspects of behavior, both in the behaviors themselves and in how we look at them? It seems a bit of a stretch, or at least something that I haven't yet found the words for, to relate this to neurobio...I have to think more about it. But it's a very interesting post nonetheless.

Name: Emily H-R
Date: 2004-01-25 13:13:47
Link to this Comment: 7738

I hadn't read all of the previous comments before I posted on technological identity (above). I want also to continue along the thread established by Laura and Anjali, and to tie in Michelle's thoughts about neurobio and trauma:

I think that, in the conversation started by Laura and continued by Anjali, that it is important to acknowledge that not all behavior is conscious or voluntary. There are many things we do without thinking about them: we breathe, our heart beats, we get angry or sad or happy. Emotion is a particularly interesting involuntary behavior. And it ties directly in with what Michelle was saying about trauma. I'm reading a book called The Myth of Sanity by Martha Stout, Ph.D.. Dr. Stout is a trauma specialist, working mostly with victims of childhood trauma: severe abuse or neglect, tragic circumstances. The book examines the "reality" of sanity by applying the themes of trauma-indcued dissociation to "normal" people in every day life. Essentially, she says, we all experience some dissociation, mostly not of the trauma-induced kind. But we are not always "here." And yet, sometimes, like those with dissociative disorders, we continue to function, to behave even when dissociated from ourselves to varying degrees. We may lose track of time and place when engrossed in an interesting project. We may go through an entire day distracted by something, going about our normla routines, but not really conscious of what we're doing. Obviously, the routine is behavior. But what of the dissociation? Is that behavior, too? I think so. It's happening only in that unobservable internal universe. But it is just as important in the consideration of "behavior" as a whole, and its residence in the brain, as more physical, observable behaviors. Perhaps it is more important, because it shows us that behavior can exist only within the brain, or the internal world created by the brain (are these two different or one and the same??), totally distinct from the outside world. Is this not direct evidence that the behavior resides in the brain and the brain alone, even if it at times seeps out into the world around us?

after the first week - matters arising
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2004-01-25 15:26:27
Link to this Comment: 7740

Interesting beginning, thanks all. See blue box on last week's course notes for my noticing/thinking something I hadn't thought about quite that way before. Hope you all had at least one such moment, and looking forward to hearing about them here.

Mine had to do with the thought, related to Emily's thoughts above, that if Dickinson et al were right, that the self is in the brain, and if it were also true that the brain is always changing, that suggests that the self may also always be changing. Which, of course, in turn relates to one of the general questions I suggested for writing about here .... what DO you think of the "brain = behavior, there isn't anything else" notion, and why do you think whatever you do? It would be worth leaving some thoughts here at the beginning of the semester so we can look back and see what's changed (if anything) at the end.

Another thing you might want to write about that we talked about this week is the science as "getting it less wrong" instead of determining Truth idea. What's your reaction to that?

A couple of other issues that stuck in my mind from last week:

"unobservable consciousness"
Name: Maryam
Date: 2004-01-25 19:05:54
Link to this Comment: 7741

It seems misleading to say that we observe the "effects of consciousness". If we find we cannot observe consciousness directly, a likely explanation could be that there is no one thing that is consciousness there to be observed. If we can give a physical account for all the phenomena we associate with consciousness, but feel unsatisfied because this complete account doesn't comprise a definitive thing that we feel comfortable calling consciousness we would have occassion to revise our intuitions about how our brains work. As far as we may be from a satisfactory, let alone complete, physical account of mental activity, I think we can be mislead by preconceived ideas about what we are looking for.

The goal of science
Name: Sarah Cald
Date: 2004-01-25 19:58:01
Link to this Comment: 7742

I think the point raised in class regarding science as seeking to prove theories wrong is an interesting one, and one worth debating. If we look back at one of science's most pivotal discoveries, the structure DNA, it's easy to see how the use of science to deduce the structure of DNA proved valuable. How many models were concluded to be wrong before the actual structure of DNA was found. In fact, if you think about, the current structure of DNA may not even be completely accurate. This, I hope, demonstrates the point that science deals with studying the uncertain. We never really know what the right answer is. Accordingly, science can't say with 100% certaintly what is... it can only say what isn't.

brain=behavior? Not always
Name: Kimberley
Date: 2004-01-25 20:28:36
Link to this Comment: 7743

If one were to look at simple movements as behavior one would first have to discuss reflexes. The simplest reflex in humans is the "knee-jerk reflex" or patellar reflex. Most people should be familiar with this reflex because it is generally tested at a doctor's visit. The doctor has you sit so that your lower leg dangles freely and taps just below the kneecap where the patellar tendon is located. This tap causes a neural response that is processed solely in the spinal cord with no brain involvement. The sensory neurons contact motor neurons in the spinal cord, which will activate a reaction in the quadriceps muscles causing the lower leg to kick. I think this is a clear example of the brain not equaling behavior.

I think this is important to note especially when thinking about neural systems in less evolved organisms. An organism such as a hydra has no centralized nervous system, certainly no "brain." However, it moves, takes in food, are these not behaviors?

A question I would like to look into from this point is "how complex must a behavior be to involve the brain?"

1. Mathews, G. (1998) Neurobiology: molecules, cells, and systems. Malden, MA. Blackwell Science.

Name: Eleni
Date: 2004-01-25 20:31:08
Link to this Comment: 7744

A few words on brain=behavior: if brain=behavior and thinking takes time as discussed on Thurs, then the behavior my not show up right after the brain responds to something. If one develops a phobia, it may not show up right after the event takes place (it may take time for the brain to react to the event and connect that event with fear). Here is a somewhat funny example from my childhood. When I was about 3, I was sick and threw up all over the back seat of my parents' car. My parents pulled over and ran out to make sure I was ok. My younger sister was in the car too, strapped in a car seat screaming while my parents ignored her for a couple minutes and tried to help me. When she was 4, my sister develped a fear of getting sick and throwing up, and we think it may have been caused by my throwing up in the car that day. If that was in fact the root of the phobia, it is interesting that the phobia didn't surface until a few years later. I would be interested in looking further into this "delayed" effect of behavior.

Chemical Man and the Subjectivity of Consciousness
Name: Michael Fi
Date: 2004-01-26 09:57:55
Link to this Comment: 7748

In my opinion, one of the most important things to consider when reasoning about ideas of consciousness and sentience, is the predominance of chemistry in the function of the brain and nervous system. To a certain degree we functionally are all just aggregates of a number of reactions which take place within our bodies. We are prisoners to the constraints of physical matter in what we often concieve to be our metaphysical palace.
My functionalist take on consciousness is often contested by the idea of "free will," that you have the ability to perform acts and deeds at any time which are unexpected and novel.
I do not debate this idea, but I would like to point out that animals, generally not seen as sentient enough to have free will, do things like this with similar frequency. Every action is new, every moment just as unexpected as the last, regardless of species or specialization or so-called sentience.
There is a subjectivity to consciousness and our reasonings surrounding the issue. We cannot comment on the consciousness of other beings and animals because we are physically limited to make judgements as to the fitness, nature or ability of another's consciousness.

Name: Kristen Co
Date: 2004-01-26 10:01:59
Link to this Comment: 7750

I love the idea that brain=behavior. It is fascinating to think that humans have evolved from the first unicellular bacteria to become such complex thinking creatures. The question I wanted answered by taking this course is how the brain physically affects behavior. After doing some reading on the subject, I realized that this is not the way in which most scientists seem to think. The way to get answers is not to ask the big picture questions, but to focus on more detailed observations. Scientists have made observations about how the athlete's brain seems to unconscientiously operate on probability and statistics or how those who practice juggling have enlargements of certain areas of the cerebral cortex. All of these observations fit the idea that brain=behavior. In order to get answers, we must look at the little pieces and try to fit them into some bigger puzzle. However, there really is no getting answers, there is only making observations and asking more questions. I really like the concept of "getting it less wrong" because science is more about disproving than proving.

Brain, consciousness, Nabokov
Name: Chelsea
Date: 2004-01-26 14:36:36
Link to this Comment: 7751

I want to throw out another literary moment to tie in with Emily:

"How small the cosmos (a kangaroo's pouch would hold it), how paltry and puny in comparison to human consciousness, to a single individual recollection, and it's expression in words!"
-Nabokov. Speak, Memory. 1967.

Nabokov seems to be getting at the same idea expressed in "The brain is wider than the sky." The question then is, what is consciousness? Obviously there is more in the brain than consciousness. Also, the brain in brain=behavior is not literally "the brain" but the entire nervous system. See course notes. Also, I wanted to agree with Maryam- there is certainly a danger in saying "the effects of consciousness," as the behavior/effect which is observable likely dervies from many different places/experiences/memories/feelings, of which the person expressing may not even be aware. This references what Eleni said about her sister and being afraid of getting carsick- was her sister aware of why she felt that way? Probably not. In all likelyhood, that memory was completely lost to her-without other witnesses to make the connection for her, she would never know where it came from.

Name: Jenny Stun
Date: 2004-01-26 14:40:46
Link to this Comment: 7752

When we discuss the idea that brain=behavior, who is asking these questions? Who is mediating the thoughts with in our own heads? Is it our brain, our background, our neurochemistry? We all have different ideas, perspectives, life histories... and all come to different conclusions, or no solid conclusions. Perhaps there is a part of the brain that is the mind, maybe they aren't the same, but one is contained in the other. Is there a section of our brain that works solely as our interpreter, bringing data together and assembling it for us? And if there is an interpreter, a mind, soul, whatever we choose to call that part of us that actually does the thinking, could it be visible? Maybe we just haven't reached an advanced state yet where we could cleary compartmentalize our thoughts and actions.

The mind vs. brain debate is really interesting to me, especially in regards to the use of psychological medication. Were psychoanalysts completely wrong in thinking that talking could help patients? Or did the dialogue between doctors and patients somehow create a change in the brain similar to the change now achieved by taking an SSRI? If the brain is the self, and the self changes through psychoanalytical therapy, then the brain is ultimately changed. Similarly if the brain receives more serotonin and a person's mood is uplifted, the self is changed by changing the brain. Is it a two way street of change? Or are they the same, and alterable from a number of pathways?

Just my random thoughts...


PS I read Girl, Interrupted over break, and there's an interesting chapter "Mind vs. Brain" that discusses some of the issues we've discussed in class. It's a really interesting book.

Behavior or Personality ?
Name: Aiham Korb
Date: 2004-01-26 18:36:58
Link to this Comment: 7756

The discussions here are very interesting, and I have my own thoughts about our last class topics.

Because of certain questions and comments raised last time, I ought to recommend a psychology course (at least an intro level). It is very helpful in finding out how we/brain perceive, recognize, evaluate, store, and retrieve information. This could help clarify how the mind/brain evolves and grows.

Otherwise, I must ask myself the following: When we say "Brain=Behavior", what "behavior" are we talking about? I think that many of us are quick to accept this "Brain=Behavior" formula because we seem to discuss it as though "Brain = Personality". This is maybe because our discussions are human-centric.
How about those certain species which do not posess a brain, nor by that an organized nervous system (maybe ants? or certain bugs? or snails? -- I maybe wrong here). We all agree that these species DO indeed have observable behavior, and maybe unobservale too (although, I won't argue about them having personalities). My point is, if this "Brain=Behavior" formula is universal, we should question it a bit more. In my opinion, this formula is too exclusive, and I believe that more variants affect and contibute to behavior in a species.

Time magazine
Name: Elissa Set
Date: 2004-01-26 20:41:17
Link to this Comment: 7758

On the subject of brain and behavior, Time magazine's January 19th issue was a special issue devoted to the topics of love, sex, and health. One of the articles in it that I found particularly interesting was one titled "Your Brain in Love". There was a study done at SUNY Stony Brook to see how the brain worked in people that were in love. They showed the subjects pictures of their beloved, and scanned their brains, and then they would show neutral photos and then scan their brains. The pictures are really cool, but I can't find them online. Different parts of the brain were found to be stimulated when the results were compared. What was also interesting regarding the pictures of their beloved is that in women's brains, most active parts of the brain were related to attention and emotion, while men's brains were more active in areas related to visual stimuli and sexual arousal.

I think that this and other studies can be used to indicate how brain has so much control over behavior. So is there a neurological reason that women tend to be stereotyped as the emotional gender, and men are the stereotypes as more easily aroused? Just curious. It's a great article, I highly recommend people reading it if they have a chance.

Name: Brad Corr
Date: 2004-01-26 22:08:13
Link to this Comment: 7760

I believe that Brain=behavior. We have already mentioned the idea of the continually changing brain (which I also agree with) that helps account for changing personalities as well as behavior. I currently define behavior as the thoughts, both subconscious and conscious, and actions of an organism. I believe that brain=behavior because it is the chemical and electrical workings of the nervous system that comprise behavior. An excellent example was brought up by Elissa, in one of the latest Time issues. One example the article talked about was the levels of the Oxytocin hormone released in men and women. This hormone has multiple affects on behavior, one of which is the desire to stay with and "cuddle" with your partner. It is released by such activities as holding hands. It has been shown that the levels of this hormone released to men and women are different. Hence, causing one of the behavioral differences in men and women. I believe that it is reactions like these which are the underlying factors of behavior. Reactions such as the patellar reflex do in fact further this theory because it is an electrical signal sent through the neurons of the nervous system which cause the reflex. The signal may never reach the actual brain (I don't know if that is true or not), but it certainly travels through the nervous system.
Aiham brought up the idea that brain=behavior is too exclusive. So I tried to think what it could be excluding. I couldn't think of anything. All of the examples he gave do have nervous systems, but he is right, there are organisms with no organized nervous system. I do agree that this belief must be universal to have validity, otherwise you question where do we draw the line? So basically I want to know if anyone can think of things that this theory may be excluding, because that may in fact prove my whole thought process wrong. Thanks.

Modern Identity
Name: Brad Corr
Date: 2004-01-26 22:31:48
Link to this Comment: 7761

The whole idea of modern identity is related to a persons comfort level. Everybody feels different levels of comfort around different people. In front of a respected superior many people actively think about their responses and actions more because they are less comfortable than when sitting around with their closest friends, or family. The same has to do with online personalities. It increases a persons comfort level because they feel there are no repercussions. It doesn't matter if you become a societal outcast on the internet, because you can become a whole other identity. Emily talks about these varying personas with the "real" main persona. I don't view them as separate personas or that a person has a "real" persona. They are all part of one persons behavior (see my posting on brain=behavior). It is the comfort level that a person feels which determines how much of each personal characteristic is presented. I think that it is merely different characteristics of a persons persona coming out at different times, not that they are separate personas. This relates to identity because identity is how you view yourself or how others view you. Due to the different characteristics, your identity is going to be different to almost every single person you meet, including yourself. We can relate this to neurobio by determining what signals or chemical affect a persons comfort level. What chemicals or electrical signals make you feel it is ok to take your shirt off and dance with a chair at a party among your peers and not in Roads (sp?) cafeteria among strangers?

scientific method
Name: Erin
Date: 2004-01-26 22:53:56
Link to this Comment: 7762

My comment pays particular attention to the scientific process as proposed during class and the standard method. I think that the process involving the continual analysis of observations with the main goal of "getting it less wrong" is rather universal and is the foundation to all inquiry -- scientific or personal discovery. But I suspect that it might be harder to generalize the scientific process when it comes to making macro-type contributions to society as the integrity of the results/conclusions needs universal validation. I think that the notion of "getting it less wrong" implies certain conclusions about the path of discovery, thus implying the need for a rigid scientific method. For example, a person who observes through various analyses that people wear black to funerals and white to weddings arrives at a conclusion that is "less wrong" than an initial assumption of red to funerals and yellow to weddings. However, if his/her observations were to be tested by another individual in another country where the opposite is true, the universality of the first person's conclusion would be broken.

In effect, I think that the true nature of the scientific process, making observations and analyzing them, should be the process initially taught in schools. In this way, children will learn early on how the true nature of any inquiry is applicable to everyday realizations. Once that personal nature of scientific inquisition is established, the standard scientific method will make more sense – creating an avenue for others around the world to follow their intuition and contribute to the already observed phenomena that help make things "less wrong."

Brain and Behavior
Date: 2004-01-26 22:54:37
Link to this Comment: 7763

Personally I think that brain equals behaivor for the simple reason that any behavior has to be dictated by the brain. Perhaps looking at the brain cannot explain certain behavior but it is certainly the root behind it. without the brain there can be no behavior but without behavior there is still a brain. I think what Elisa said is very interesting about different parts of the brain functioning in response to two similiar objects(the picture of the random person and the picture of the beloved). I think it would be interesting in general to see how the brain registers emotion.

Neurobiology and relativism?
Name: Natalie Me
Date: 2004-01-26 23:17:14
Link to this Comment: 7764

These discussions and posts remind me of a class I took last semester called Relativism: Cognitive and Moral. I found the class quite a stretch in terms of conceptualizing theory and knowledge and defining values. I found it quite difficult, but also very interesting, to attempt to justify actions as moral ir immoral in the perceptions of different cultures. I found myself asking in this class on Thursday how much culture shapes our behavior. I'm a sociology major and so this is a very important question in my field. Communities and institutions and small groups impact dramatically the individual's responses and actions but to what extent? And what can be said to explain deviance? In some cases that too is a socialization problem, but when is it brain chemicals that force someone to violate norms? I'll continue to keep this in mind throughout the class because I think it is a question we'll be asking for years. When does society end and the brain begin? When does the individual begin to distinctly seperate from their social grouping?

Name: Amanda Gle
Date: 2004-01-27 00:02:52
Link to this Comment: 7766

Last Thursday I was one of the few people who raised my hand to say I was uncomfortable with the idea that the brain is always changing and that it is bigger than the sky. While I understand that both must be true, i do not like the idea of that. Dickinson et al state that the self is the brain. I (and this is sappy) believe that the self also has to do with the soul and the body. The brain may register and process the information, but it could not be without the body, heart, senses, and all other body parts. I also understand that the brain and self are always changing. I do not like the idea though that I am changing every second. I believe that the core of me stays the same. I don't want to think how I change and am thus not myself. This is a very personalized opinion. It is not about the theory, but about me.

personas, stable self?
Name: Lindsey
Date: 2004-01-27 00:04:42
Link to this Comment: 7767

I don't think the self is a stable entity. We are always changing on a very fundamental basis (neuron synapses are generated and destroyed, etc.) as well as adapting to various sociological, psychological and physical influences. The brain's ability to manifest various personas is what in fact allows us to survive and adapt. Even if we lived in a vacuum in which we were entirely devoid of any external influences, we would still be undergoing transformation. I DO feel that in some ways our self is the accumulation of everything that has happened in the past—but living in the present is either a reaffirmation of past behaviors or a new adaptation to our environment. Ironically, our environment can act as an agent of both conformity and change. We always been coerced to behave consistently in order to maintain some notion of self, but we do have a free will that will result in dramatic changes when this self is threatened. Rather than searching for one singular, real self, I think our "different" personas are overlaps of each other in which some personality traits are more dominant than others.

brain and behavior
Name: Liz
Date: 2004-01-27 00:09:05
Link to this Comment: 7768

On the subject of brain=behavior, I wanted to provide a story about Phineas Gage. Phineas Gage was a railroad construction supervisor in Vermont. In 1848 an explosion projected a steel rod into his skull. The rod transversed the frontal part of his brain and existed the top of his skull. He lost consciousness momentarily but could walk and talk by the time he was taken to a doctor. Months later, people began to observe changes in Gage's personality, mood, and behavior. He became extravagant and anti-social and could no longer hold a job or plan his future. His friends said that he was no longer himself.

I first read this story in "Descartes' Error" a book by Dr. Damasio (as a mentioned in a previous posting). I found this case so interesting because it seems to suggest a relationship between behavior and the anatomy of the brain. Though I am not ready to say that all of self is contained within the brain, I thought that this case may be valuable for future discussion.

Brain and Behavior
Name: Chevon Dep
Date: 2004-01-27 00:10:03
Link to this Comment: 7769

The discussion on brain and behavior during the last class really intrigued me to think about the various ways in which the brain influences certain types of behavior. In some ways, I feel that the relationship between the brain and the behavior does not always represent a direct correlation. I believe that there are other factors, such as one's environment, that lends to certain behaviorial patterns. In this instance, behavior is not limited to the brain activity of an individual.
I am not discrediting the argument that there is a connection between the brain and behavior. Behavior can be translated both internally and externally. Since it is much easier to observe the external than the internal, I sometimes treat behavior and brain as two separate entities. However, it is important to be aware of the fact that the internal activity actual reveals the reason why brain=behavior. The mental processes such as dreams, thoughts, and emotions all help develop behavior and are stored in the brain. If the processes no longer existed in the brain, the behavior would not exist. It is ironic that I can draw more of a parallel between the two when it involves the internal processes rather than the external. Hopefully by the end of the semester I will begin to see the connection using external behavior.

Name: Ghazal Zek
Date: 2004-01-27 00:16:27
Link to this Comment: 7770

I think that on a rudimentary level, we can definitely assert that the brain dictates behavior. As Elissa and Brad mentioned, there are many chemicals in the brain responsible for making us feel a certain way. To me, this is was a pretty convincing argument. However, I think that Natalie has raised some really interesting questions that perhaps interfere with the notion of brain=behavior. Specifically, I'm drawn to the question, "When does society end and the brain begin?" I think that bringing society or social interactions into this picture really complicates things. I don't think society can be used to explain how we behave, but it may tell us some things about WHY we behave as we do. There's no doubt that where you grew up, or where you live will, and who you're surrounded by impact your behavior (and thus your brain?).

On a similar note, I'm curious how much genes affect a person's behavior. Behavior is certainly not 100% genetic, but how much of that percentage belongs to genes? I have noticed that I possess certain personality traits that are very similar to my father's. I find it odd that I would be prone to behave like one parent over the other. Additionally, I don't like the notion of genes dictating behavior... it's a very trapping feeling.

To wrap up... how much of our behavior comes from within? How much is influenced by the outside world?

fairly vague and random ramblings...
Name: Maria[h] S
Date: 2004-01-27 00:26:33
Link to this Comment: 7772

I don't think whether or not the "brain=behavior" is really an arguable statement. The brain does determine our behavior and there isn't any way around that. Yet, I think that many people are mistaken in thinking that this means that the brain and behavior relationship is a simple one. I don't think it's just a one way street from the brain to the body that determines behavior. I think that new information is constantly going in and out and being scrambled around and reconciled with old information and tested out in day to day life and then accepted or rejected etc. I mean, we were all doing that before we were really concious (like the baby and crying thing) so it must, to some degree, take place at a subconcious level. In terms of nature versus nurture debate, it seems incredible to me that anyone would argue that both one's nature and the environment in which one is nurtured (or *not* nurtured) are not BOTH responsible for how one behaves and the way that both thier mind and brain function. It doesn't really matter how good a child's nature is, you ship them off to Sierra Leone and they will come back a bit damaged. I personally see the difference between the mind and the brain as being the difference between the concious and the unconcious and I think that most things sort of float up from the unconcious, which is why it's so difficult to change behaviors even when one conciously wants to. I don't think that we conciously learn behaviors, whether they are obvious ones such as mannerisms or more subtle ones. While the brain might control behaviors, the way that brains work would be (I imagine) impacted the experiences of the individual.

Name: Shirley Ra
Date: 2004-01-27 00:27:50
Link to this Comment: 7773

I feel that brain= behavior is a theory that allows many people to be comfortable with issues of the brain and behavior. If that theory was to be true then a lot of things would now have explanations. Further, brain=behavior might be true to an extent, the brain does direct behavior, but there has to be something else. We are all complex individuals meaning that the brain needs to attain some help from other parts of our body to produce behavior (chemicals etc.). If research one day does prove that brain=behavior then it will show that the brain is extremely powerful. I am intrigued to learn more about this brain=behavior relationship.

My reaction to the statement that science means "getting it less wrong" is very accurate. The research process is so complicated that arriving to a definite right answer is very difficult to do. On the other hand, arriving to a definite wrong answer is very probable, but this allows us to make the right changes to guide our research interest in the correct direction. Every time you work on your project you are less wrong. This was an interesting factor to get cleared out since many people think that when you are a scientist you have to derive to the right answer.

Brain = behavior?
Name: Shadia
Date: 2004-01-27 00:32:57
Link to this Comment: 7774

I tend to find the conclusion that brain is the root of all behavior a logical one; our brain compiles all the input it receives (internally and externally) and our behavior is simply one of many outputs. Because the "inputs" are constantly renewed, so too is our behavior, resulting in the ever-changing self we mentioned in class. I have to say that seeing these thoughts expressed as brain=behavior "bothers" me—maybe because my mathematical side converts this to behavior=brain and thinks no!
In any case, I've been racking my brains trying to think of a situation where behavior didn't stem from the brain. Kim, thanks for drawing our attention to reflexes. Can it be argued that the brain does control the sensory and motor neurons that are reacting and that in our best interest, they are directed to send the impulse to the spinal cord in order to ensure a speedier response? I also remembered reading in Christopher Reeve's autobiography that during those first few months after he was paralyzed, he experienced a lot of spasms at night and that when his arm would suddenly move he hoped that it meant his brain was controlling those movements and that he was "getting better". I'd like to see the brain's role in reflexes and spasms explored in class...

neuro thoughts
Name: amar
Date: 2004-01-27 01:34:24
Link to this Comment: 7776

Just in regards to an article I read in an old, 1997 Scientific American. It was about monkey's and their neurobiological response to fear (entitled "Neurobiology of Fear"). I'm not planning on going into any detail about this article. But after reading this piece, and thinking about our class, I began thinking about how we say that the brain=behavior and the brain contains the sky.

In the article's analysis of the most basic emotion, fear, they were able to distinguish certain portions of the brain that triggered a chemical response to the observed stimuli. The idea is that this trio of the amygdala the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex are all involved in the assessing and processing of fear. These organs eventually trigger the hypothalamus to trigger the adrenal gland to pump out hormones to give the "fight or flight" syndrome.

The question I pose to the class is how many of you can really relate your emotions to chemicals in your body. When one thinks of the sky, do you think that picture you hold in your head is really in fact some sort of molecule which is a compound of some organic molecules that trigger your hypothalamus to envision a sky? This correlation is simply to clear to me. I think this adds to the discussions we've seen about how science cannot seek truth, but rather less falsity.

I hope someone can grab some idea from this...

Name: amar
Date: 2004-01-27 01:50:48
Link to this Comment: 7777

But I have a little more to add. I wanted to clarify the second to last line in the last paragraph "This correlation is simply NOT clear to me."

I wanted to emphasize that based on the lack of evidence between memory and some biological aspect of the brain, I have to side with Descartes about the notion of a dualistic Soul/mind from the brain. The brain as I understand it is something that is composed of chemicals and organs which reacts in a very mechanical manner. Although we may know the organs involved in memory and emotion, I think that this abstract idea of a soul/mind is in fact the missing link between these feelings and the scientific aspect.

Being a religious person, I find it interesting to see how ancient religious texts (such as the Hindu Gita, or even the Bible) can still clearly relate to people. Whereas science, which is a fairly recent field (in comparison to religious texts), is constantly struggling (proving and disproving theories) to understand people.

Name: Mridula
Date: 2004-01-27 02:43:52
Link to this Comment: 7778

I am not entirely comfortable with the theory that it is solely the brain that determines behavior. I believe the way one acts, thinks and feels is the outcome of a combination of conditions that could be genetically determined, neurological and environmental.
The brain possesses the machinery needed to assimilate, organize and essentially make sense of the numerous inputs it receives from various sources leading to behavior. I don't think we can entirely discount these sources and say that that it is the brain that is exclusively accountable for behavior.

Brain = Behavior
Name: Maja
Date: 2004-01-27 03:57:41
Link to this Comment: 7779

The vast majority of research points to the idea that the brain is the central and most crucial aspect of behavior. The question that we are all struggling with, however, is whether or not this is all there is to the equation.

In having moved throughout different countries, cultures, and language zones, at a young age, I have had an opportunity to observe, experience, and blend into a number of different cultures. This places me at an interesting viewpoint in being able to observe several different cultures but as an insider in each. Each individual person has their own behavioral characteristics and ways of dealing with issues; however, in the broader scheme of things, it has been observed that certain aspects of behavior are greatly influenced by one's culture and the society by which they are surrounded.

I feel that without the many other things that play into behavior, the brain alone can not accomplish the task at hand, though I do believe that it is the central coordinator and regulator.
For example, speaking a language is a behavioral characteristic. When a child is born, any existing language can become their native tongue. We are predisposed to learning the language, and the process takes place via the brain. However, someone who is locked away in solitary confinement from the day of birth will not miraculously learn to express themselves in the form of spoken language. For this behavioral task to work there needs to be collaboration between the surrounding environment and the individual's brain.

brain=behavior is less wrong and the connection be
Name: Allison
Date: 2004-01-27 04:41:19
Link to this Comment: 7780

The concept of "getting it less wrong" seems to sum up the debate surrounding the validity of the brain=behavior equation. Agreeing with Kimberly, reflexes are obviously physical behaviors. These behaviors result from stimulating portions of the nervous system, though not necessarily the brain itself. Therefore the equation, brain=behavior, is proven incorrect when utilizing these involuntary reflex behaviors as tests. As stated in many other postings, physical behaviors do not completely encompass the vast realm of behavior in general. Behaviors are construed in the brain through various chemical, biological, and psychological processes. From my perspective, the majority of observable behaviors are the concrete products of the brain's ability to intertwine the different elements of one's environment, whether these elements are realized or not, with one's acquired knowledge gained from their reactions and experiences to/in their environment. In this case, behavior is totally dependent on the brain, but I would not go as far as to say that the brain is totally dependent on behavior. Yes, behavior shapes the brain, but it appears the brain does not need behavior to function. An example of this relationship is, the brain of a person in a coma. The brain is still functioning even though the person is not exhibiting any observable behaviors. The phobia of getting sick is an example of the brain's ability to process as well as interconnect oneself with one's environment. This angle proves brain=behavior equation to be true, because behavior is a direct effect of the functioning of the brain. Therefore, the equation isn't right, but it isn't completely wrong either, making it simply "less wrong."
The ever-changing brain and self debate intrigues me as well. Continuing with the outlined reasoning above, frequent changes in the brain are facilitated by one's constantly changing environment. The chemical, biological, and psychological changes in the brain enable the self to be constructed, annexed, and altered. The self is another product of the brain, and in my opinion cannot be modified without an analogous change in the brain. The self transforms through psychoanalysis, but this transformation is caused by the brain's interpretation of the dialogue between the doctor and the patient. This dialogue is a component of one's environment.

Dating 101
Name: Akudo Ejel
Date: 2004-01-27 09:04:31
Link to this Comment: 7782

To start off my response in regards to Chevon's comment about if social interaction affects the brain behavior and how one think that themselves and others. I would think that the interactions that one has in society is affected by they see things, are use to and how their brain accepts or rebuttal these things. For example, let's say that I am walking down the street and a guy is approaching me. Since I have an indication of what the guy is going to ask me because of my previous interactions with the other guys, the brain and body automatics outs up a defense mechanism and I start to analyze the guy up and down, from what kind of shoes wearing to the way he is walking. So by the time the guy approaches me, I know what to say if he asks me a question like having us get to know each other (wink, wink). Sometimes my interpretation is wrong and all he wanted to know is where is the closest bus stop but due to previous encounters with other guys who assume that they have the right to mack to me, I have to choose no other than to set up a fortress around myself. I don't know if this ism my on behavior or if this is what my brain as already observed and has equipped itself to make me act this way. Although some of my actions and responses that I have come from my brain, I do have the choice to go along with it or refuse it. Like instead of being having this fortress, I could have convinced myself to hear what the guy has to say and not judge his intentions automatically.

Maybe that is what I am always Home Alone 1, 2 And 3 : )

Self, Brain, Behavior
Name: Tegan
Date: 2004-01-27 09:18:02
Link to this Comment: 7783

While I can sympathize with individuals who are hesitant to acknowledge the brain as the source of all behavior--citing society's influence on behavior, for example--I am unable to make sense of the issue any other way. No matter what the "external" influences we would like to credit with creating/altering/informing our behavior or our identity, we have to consider what these influences are influences on: unless we want to go with Descartes, and create a kind of extra-sensory, ephemeral "Mind," then these stimuli are all influencing the brain. (And even Descartes had issues with his own theorizing: if the Mind is external and immaterial, how exactly does it physically alter the brain?)
For some people, it isn't pleasant to cite the brain as the final source for all of our actions. The debate becomes even more emotionally charged when we attempt to delineate identity. For my two cents on the issue, I am inclined to believe that we are what we do. The series of actions and processes that individuals perform in their day to day lives is the only indication we and they are given of who they are. (Individuals here counting as bodily continuous and most imporantly brain-continuous, because how else can we count individuals? We have yet to identify much less quantify alledged souls or minds.)
As far as I can tell, those who wish to cite other sources for behavior and claim them as "not brain" do so out of a desire to say that Human Beings/the Mind/the Soul is greater than the sum of bio-chemical-neurological parts, that all these great things can not be contained in so small a physical and temporal space as the individual brain. But we are just beginning to understand the brain, to map out its spaces... Perhaps with greater understanding, fewer people will be hesitant to think that Brain and Behavior are one and the same.

Name: Ginger Kel
Date: 2004-01-27 09:34:10
Link to this Comment: 7784

The brain is a powerful organ. One could argue that in addition to being the master of our bodies, it is the source of behavior. I, like other people, have trouble rationalizing that all the uniqueness of humanity is solely a function. However, I am not claiming that the brain isn't involved in behavior. The way I rationalize the two is to look at the brain's involvement in the human body. It regulates the other organs of the body, but could not maintain homeostasis in the body without their presence. I equate that to the relationship between the brain and behavior. The brain may process and output behavior, but it could not do it without interactions, cultures, and the external environment.

Name: debbie han
Date: 2004-01-27 11:39:59
Link to this Comment: 7786

I have been thinking about Brain = Behavior since last Thursday's class. I was one of the people who raised my hand and agreed with Emily Dickinson. Not too long ago, I saw a television program on sisters who are Siamese twins connected at the head. They share a brain. One sister wants to vacuum the rug and watch television while the other sister wants to become a country singer. Their interests rarely overlap. They share the same parents, home, and brain. What explains their different behaviors?

Name: Dana Bakal
Date: 2004-01-27 13:21:02
Link to this Comment: 7789

Of the brain=behavior, doubts are raised about the xistance of the outside wrld, of persons other than ourselves, and of shared experiences. Theoretically, a correctly functioning brain would interperet things in much the same way other brains do, but people nonetheless have differrent views, ideas, and perspectives on what seems to be the same experience. This makes me wonder how much of that experience is within the brain and how much is some recording or reflection of an actual event ouside.

Neurobiology of the Cricket Song
Name: debbie han
Date: 2004-01-27 17:21:10
Link to this Comment: 7790

The Scientific American article entitled "The Neurobiology of the Cricket Song" by Bentley, D. and Hoy, R. is from August 1974 (not May 1974), in case anyone was interested in reading it. Enjoy.

Name: Aiham Korb
Date: 2004-01-28 10:37:06
Link to this Comment: 7798

Yesterday, Michael said something interesting about "behavior" of the environment. This got me thinking again about the differences between human behavior (which we seem to concentrate on), and the behavior of other living organisms, and even non-living entities (wind, weather, large bodies of water ... )
Is it ok to say that these inanimate bodies "behave" ? After all, they too are governed by physical laws of matter, just as our own bodies are. They too are subject to order that springs out of disorder (example --hurricanes?). This makes me ask myself the basic question "What is life?". Where do we draw the line between living and non-living? and where do we draw the line between behavior and non-behavior?

Again, I am resisting a bit the mater-based view we seem to be taking as our departure. I think it's important and essential, but not complete. With that, I am more in agreement with Amar.
When we speak of the Brain-Mind-Self relation, we can maybe see it as the following analogy of wine in a glass. The Brain or NS (the glass) contains the mind or self (the wine). If we shatter the glass, then we would lose the wine as well. However, from this alone, we can not conclude that the Container=All, and there is nothing else.
This seems more philosophical than scientific, but I think the reasoning hold, no?

Name: Michelle
Date: 2004-01-28 12:37:48
Link to this Comment: 7799

I agree with Tegan's logic. We are what we do. I think views diverge based on how people see the effect of society's influence. I see society's influence affecting one's environment. The environment is broken down into observations (inputs) unconsciously and consciously taken in by the brain and as a result specific behaviors (outputs) arise. Different people behave differently based on how their brain takes in its environment. The environment affects the brain, which then dictates behavior. Our behavior is a collection of learned observations of the brain as a result of our past and current environments. We have not learned enough about the how the brain works, for example, how certain brain pathway functions interact and affect other pathway functions to falsify the equation brain=behavior.

More on Brain = Behavior
Name: debbie han
Date: 2004-01-28 16:22:18
Link to this Comment: 7802

Continuing the discussion of Brain = Behavior, does that mean that the brain leads to behavior? Does that also mean that behavior leads to the brain? I read a study a few years back that said that a person who is angry or sad should smile and laugh. According to the study, the act of laughing and smiling can trick your mind into thinking you are happy and actually lift your mood. In this circumstance, your behavior dictates your thoughts. Hmm...

more on brain
Name: Amy Gao
Date: 2004-01-28 19:05:57
Link to this Comment: 7806

When one's body is in starvation mode and there is no intake of nutrition of any kind, the individual first starts utilizing glycogen, which is converted into glucose. However, this source is used up quickly and the body goes to fats and proteins to maintain the blood glucose level. In this process, fats are decomposed into fatty acids and glycerol. In order to preserve the glucose available for work for the brain, fatty acids are employed by other tissues as a source of energy to avoid drawing on the glucose that is vital to the brain. In other words, any glucose produced in the body, no matter through which biochemical pathway, goes to the brain first. This only begins to show that the brain is the most important organ in the body because it is most responsible for what we are.

I also believe that behavior can be strongly influenced by a lot of outside factors, which I don't think can be fully observed in a laboratory setting. Some say that these factors cannot be observed and therefore there is no correlation and that behavior is solely controlled by the brain, but I would like to raise the example of quantum physics. Basically, in this field of science, if anything fits the equation, then it's a good theory. No one has been able to physically prove the existence of black holes (frankly, I don't think we would know even if we are in one) and the theory of overlapping galaxies and universes, but it doesn't mean that they don't exist. But it doesn't prove that they exist, either. They are very good stories that fit in the greater picture. People win Nobel Prizes for these things. For imagination, the sky's the limit (or should I say the universe is the limit?;).

Name: Jean Yanol
Date: 2004-01-28 19:35:19
Link to this Comment: 7807

In response to Debbie's comments, I think that the brain alone induces initial behavior and drastic permanent changes in behavior, but environmental surroundings and the behavior of others can induce certain responses in the brain which then effect the person's behavior immediately after. Initial behavior has to be started in the brain because it exists before we can fully comprehend our surroundings and the behavior of other people/things.The brain is also the only thing that controls drastic permanent changes such as with many illnesses such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer's Disease (both familial and sporadic), and Bipolar Disorder just to name a few. For example, we know accumulations of Abeta and tau proteins are associated with the neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's Disease, and it is speculated that AKT-GSK3beta signaling is involved with certain types of mood disorders because it is what lithium(which is used for some treatments) targets. However once people can have behavioral responses because some they love is hurt and that triggers changes in the brain of the initial person. So while the brain does respond to outside stimuli, in the most fundamental sense the brain leads to behavior.

Name: Prachi Dav
Date: 2004-01-28 19:56:05
Link to this Comment: 7808

The discussion in class about the degrees of separation between the self and the brain, arguments that the self as a construction of the brain and continual changes of the self reminds me of the kind of language Plotkin (an evolutionary psychologist) uses to discuss intelligence. Perhaps the "self" could be thought about as a form of intelligence for he asserts that intelligence is an adaptation providing organisms with a mechanism with which to track their environments. The self, if useful in understanding the environment and one's relationship to it, must change continually to keep abreast of any developments or changes in the surroundings (for example, during social interaction) as a way to adapt to the world. Therefore, if intelligence arises from the brain, the self may also.
Also, the self or conceptions about the self are likely to be affected by cultural differences and since we are not necessarily dealing with the truth but ideas of what may be the case, these differences may be worthwhile to look at.

Name: Eleni (Ell
Date: 2004-01-28 21:24:15
Link to this Comment: 7809

I thought Debbie's story of the Siamese twins who share a brain was very intersting and relivent to our discussion of the brain=behavior question. Perhaps looking at Siamese twins who share a brain could aid our answering of this question. I am wondering that if the two twins share the entire brain (is this measurable?), yet answer the question "What do you want to do right now?" differently, then it appears that brain does not equal behavior. Could this type of study answer our question? It seems too easy.

Name: Ariel
Date: 2004-01-29 01:54:55
Link to this Comment: 7811

I agree with Ginger's comments earlier. I think that behavior and the brain are overlapping concepts. I don't believe that they are identical features, or that one creates the other, nor do I think that they are entirely separate. It seems more likely that they function in tandem, perhaps the brain is more in control of the purely mechanical aspects of behavior. In this way both behavior and the brain can be effected by environmental factors, and the results, while related might not be identical.

Just as a side note (I have not had the chance to get my hands on the article) in the cricket experiment, where different environmental stimuli used when testing whether or not the male crickets would sing? I thought it would be interesting to know if the amount of light had any effect on their singing.

Name: Emily
Date: 2004-01-29 21:29:08
Link to this Comment: 7832

Since I'm posting at the end of the week, I have a bunch of random things I want to touch on:

First, is the question Amar posed to us: "The question I pose to the class is how many of you can really relate your emotions to chemicals in your body. When one thinks of the sky, do you think that picture you hold in your head is really in fact some sort of molecule which is a compound of some organic molecules that trigger your hypothalamus to envision a sky?" I want to devote my life to exactly this question, in various guises: How does the brain create the self, reality, dreams, memory...and as a starting point, I think that I have to say I DO think that all of these somehow arise from the physicalness of the brain, which at the most basic level is the chemicals. I have no idea how this happens, how I can "see" images in my mind, when I'm obviously not using my eyes and I don't even know what my "mind" is. There just seems to be a projector on the inner surface of my skull, one big enough, as Dickinson said, to contain the sky. And there are "boxes" of memories and emotions and facts, some of which I can't open or find or even know exist. As a scientist, I somehow feel that I must start with the assumption that this all arises from the physical. But I must also admit my total lack of understanding of this; I don't even have the right questions to ask yet.

Second, I'd like to exand of Aiham's question of "what is life?" In our quest to discover what is human, do we perhaps have to start with life, first?

Finally, I'd like to put something out into our little universe: "In traditional personality studies, raters try to infer how much of a given trait a person 'has' by observing that person in a laboratory. But in a classic text called Personality and Assessment, originally published in 1968, researcher and theorist Walter Mischel showed us that personality traits are mostly suppositions on the part of the laboratory observer, rather than real attributes of the person who is observed." (The Myth of Sanity, Dr. Martha Stout) This idea blows my mind! It begs the question: If we spent our entire lives alone, would we have personalities? I know that humans not raised among humans have grave developmental problems, such as not ever being able to fully acquire language. But what about personality? And what does this say of the self? Would we have no selves without others? If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound??

Random thoughts
Name: Allison
Date: 2004-01-30 15:47:23
Link to this Comment: 7838

I feel that this week's classes brought up many interesting topics that have been brewing in my head since. I agree with the idea that brain is equal to behavior, and therefore we have to have different equipment. I found the discussion in class about the difference in behavior of males/females as well as humans/animals extremely fascinating. I also like the idea that everyone's brain is unique-- which leads to the obvious conclusion that this is why humans are capable of such different things.

after two weeks ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2004-01-30 16:39:31
Link to this Comment: 7839

Enjoying thinking about/learning from our conversations. Hope you are too. Seems to me this past week jacked up the "brain = behavior?" ante a couple of notches.

Does the model we worked our way up to on Tuesday make one any more or less comfortable with the b=b idea? (remembering that "brain" should really be "nervous system" and that everything "outside" (experience, culture) can affect behavior by acting on the nervous system?). What observations/intuitions about behavior still aren't dealt with successfully by that version?

And what about Thursday's notion that all that's in the input/output box are smaller input/output boxes themelves made of smaller ... all the way down to neurons? And that the neurons are pretty much the same from one box to another and from one organism to another?

And what about ... any other thing that might have come into your head this week?

Boxes, Brain, and Behavior
Name: Katina Kra
Date: 2004-01-30 22:17:32
Link to this Comment: 7842

When we began discussing in class, the example was about the brain and nervous system and other components being "boxes," with others housed within a continually spreading system, I began to think of paintings by Monet. In pointallism, the artist uses a series of small points of different colored paint to create a whole piece. When one examines the work closely, they see the individual dots, while if one observes from farther away, the dots and colors blend together, creating a painting.

From this, a metaphor can be taken away; the brain and it's compents are a painting. When one exams the contents and actions superficially, all that can be seen is what is expected, or what we want to see. However, when looking in depth, the true aspects (i.e. paint within paint, boxes within boxes) are visible to us, and things such as why and how the brain and behavior are linked are more obvious.

But again, what defines behavior? Is it the impulse reactions, stimulated by external forces, such as heat or noise? Or is it the implict actions we create in our minds? By using the idea that part of the many parts of the nervous system and self, we can begin to visualize how we has human function and behave.

Name: Liz Powell
Date: 2004-01-31 13:19:36
Link to this Comment: 7844

One question I had after listening to this week's class is how experience plays in shaping behavior. Do the inputs that we receive throughout life change our brains and/or our behavior? One specific example that I am thinking of is identical twins separated at birth, and ended up choosing the same profession independently of the other, in this case, firefighting. This example would seem to indicate that we are born with certain behaviors that lead to decisions we make later in life. Though this seems to indicate that our brains are largely unchanging at least when it comes to choosing a profession, there may be examples of identical twins who choose different professions and who are influenced by experiences throughout the course of their lives. I guess my question is, if inputs from the environment do change behavior, how does this change occur and what determines if inputs affect outputs?

Just random thoughts...
Name: Nicole
Date: 2004-01-31 16:47:33
Link to this Comment: 7849

In this week's lectures, we all pretty much agreed that each of our brains were unique. However, while the uniqueness of our brains is indeed influenced by our cultures, experiences, etc., are their differences in our brains that are manifest even from birth? I think it would be interesting to monitor brain activity in infants just to observe how (or if) they reacted differently to the same experiences, if they were all raised in the same environment.

Also, I think Debbie's story about the Siamese twins is quite interesting. The fact that they share the same brain, yet have different personalities, shows that there is more to the self than merely the brain...which brings us to the idea that humans have something, like a soul, in addition to the brain and body.

Name: Erica
Date: 2004-01-31 17:05:10
Link to this Comment: 7850

I agree with Nicole that there has to be more to the self than just the brain. I don't think that it is possible for the brain(which we have designated to mean the nervous system) to be completely responsible for all behavior. I can understand that there exist some internal processes that occur within the nervous system that influence or cause behavior, and I can also believe that things such as experience and culture have the ability to influence the nervous system, which will in turn produce a reflexive behavior of sorts. However, I don't think that everything "outside" acts on the nervous system because that, in essence, leaves the individual out of its own behavior. I think that people have the ability to think about, reflect on and cause their own behaviors, particularly when they are not in response to anything, therefore not really acting on the nervous system. I simply believe that somehow, some way, thoughts can produce behavior independently of the nervous system.

Name: Ariel
Date: 2004-01-31 19:12:08
Link to this Comment: 7853

I thought that the analogy that Katina Krasnec made about pointillism was very interesting. When I think of the "box within a box" theory, that's exactly how I think about it. The only problem that I have with the theory is that I want to know what the final box is, is it the neuron, or is it the nucleus of the neuron, or is it even smaller? And if there is no way to tell what that final box is, I feel that the theory is not as useful as it could be.

Another point that I thought was interesting was how everyone's brain is unique, this seems like a viable theory, but I was wondering how genetics are related to it. Is one's brain more similar to their parent's brains? Or is everyone's brain similar until they begin to have experiences, and thus would our experiences be the only force shaping our brains?

Name: Erin
Date: 2004-01-31 19:19:34
Link to this Comment: 7854

I think that the organization of the "brain" – from the very specific and detailed neurons to the readily observable behavior level – is much like watching a sunset. When the sun sets, unless you are looking really closely, you don't really notice it getting dark, until you look up and become aware of the last bit of light setting over the horizon. Similarly, we have the notion that the brain is made up of cells (with neurons being the smallest input/output box). As development progresses, more and more input/output boxes form within others, further complicating the input/output responses of the "brain." In the end, just as the sun is setting, we look up and we have "the brain" evidencing itself through varying observations and notions of behavior.

We can draw rather sound observations as to what is happening during the physical (observable and tangible) process of a sunset or the physiological aspects of the brain. However given the concrete structure of the brain, it seems harder to assess why specific organizations of neurons create specific responses, how the boxes integrate, why the organization of a frog "brain" creates certain responses, that may or may not be evidenced in other animals with similar characteristics. And, within the organization, what constitutes what we see? What defines a 'set' sun (i.e. when it is completely dark, or when the moon is out, or when it is still light but the sun has disappeared over the horizon). Similarly, when do we recognize specific neuron organizations to be significant? When do the organizational differences become significant enough to account for a defining change in behavior?

emergent systems
Name: Kristen
Date: 2004-01-31 19:34:45
Link to this Comment: 7855

I really enjoy the idea that all of these different brain systems are composed of the exact same neurons at the most basic level. I think it would be fascinating to study the development of the brain. How do these neurons combine to form different brains in different organisms? It is an interesting evolutionary question.
I also like the idea of emergent systems. Every organism has neurons which must follow a set of simple rules, but somehow when they act together, these complicated thinking systems develop. I played that life game and others like it numerous times over the weekend and I am fascinated how each time out of randomness, some kind of ordered system develops. This idea of emergent systems can also be seen on the level of culture. Every individual has their own unique set of rules that they follow, but when you put a bunch of individuals together, complicated systems of culture develop.

On Single-Celled Organisms and Freud...
Name: Aiham Korb
Date: 2004-01-31 19:41:37
Link to this Comment: 7856

Nice discussion here. I have some questions of my own, and I do want to comment on certain opinions being made.

I must admit that I understand now that Brain (NS)= Behavior is a good starting point. We can start with the material/physical aspect, which we can observe directly and indirectly -- the Nervous System.
However, I still want to ask the questions about the "lower" species, especially those that do NOT have an organized NS. When I brought up the question last time "what is life?", I wanted to make sure that all living organisms are agreed to "behave" -- process energy, reproduce themselves... etc. All organisms that have DNA, and are able to copy it and "multiply", are alive. We established on Thursday that the differences in behavior are due to differences in the nervous systems, which are due to differences in the organization of neuron cells. I ask again, what about those species that do NOT have "neurons". I am sure they exist, and I would like to know: 1) If we all agree they have behavior? and 2) How do we account for that behavior (if B=B) ?

As for the comments about the interactions of the "outside" (environment) with the NS, I think that we should be careful when talking about the "personality" (it deciding, making outputs by itself ... etc.) This is because Brain=Behavior does include personality within the NS. In other words, the "personality" needs the NS to perceive, react and act ... etc.
This makes me think of Freud and his theories about the Conscience, Pre-Conscience and Unconscience, and Id, Ego and Super-Ego. These ideas would be difficult to combine into the Brain=Behavior theory if we insist that these entities should be localized in certain neurons or "boxes" of the NS. However, if we think of "boxes within boxes" as both a physical and a metaphorical organization of the NS, we could then maybe reconcile the physical NS (Brain=Behavior) with other existing (metaphorical) notions about behavior of the human mind.

siamese twins and medication vs. therapy
Name: Anjali
Date: 2004-01-31 22:51:21
Link to this Comment: 7857

About what Debbie said, about the siamese twins: I'm going to have to disagree a little. If they were connected at the head, that didn't necessarily mean that they had the same brain- and having a connection between two brains isn't the same as sharing a single brain. Sometimes information can pass back and forth between the two brains- they can almost share thoughts with eachother- like with the siamese twins who shared the same body and each controlled one half of it, and they were able to coordinate their movements with eachother. But they have distinct personalities simply because they have separate brains. Connected brains, but still two of them.

And also, if more than one personality does exist within a single brain- like with multiple personality disorder, the brain scan for the person differs significantly from personality to personality. Which again, I suppose, supports the theory of brain=behavior...

A couple more things- I've sort of been accumulating comments all week.

I've been thinking a lot about something Jenny posted on Monday- about how therapy and medication can ultimately lead to the same chemical changes in the brain (or at least, that's what I got from it- sorry if I misunderstood). That idea has so many implications- some kind of disturbing implications, for me. I don't like the idea that medication can help with something like depression just as well as therapy can. I mean, it makes sense. If all that depression is, at the most basic level, is a chemical imbalance in the brain, righting that chemical imbalance with medication is a logical solution.... And I know that medication is used, that medication does help. But something in me seems to really react strongly to the idea of replacing human contact and assistance with pills. Let me think how to put this in words... I think I can accept that personality, that behavior, that the self, all somehow have their root in chemical interactions in the brain. But sometimes that isn't a useful way of looking at things.

It's very easy to assume that the theory that all behavior has its root in chemical reactions in the brain implies something mechanical about behavior. Kind of in the same way that saying something similar about the self- that consciousness has its root in connections between neurons, makes it somehow less real. If all you are is chemical reactions, if each thought in your head can be traced to the physical, and the "self" is constantly changing- then it kind of makes you feel less real... Kind of makes you wonder how much your "self" is an illusion- whether consciousness itself is something of an illusion.

But I don't think there's anything purely mechanical about the brain- nothing truly fixed or predictable- it's beautifully dynamic and complex. It feels as though, theoretically, any mental illness could be treated by seeing it as a material problem, as (in some cases, anyway) a simple chemical imbalance. But that feels too much like seeing the brain as a machine that's broken and needs to be repaired. It would be like trying to fix a broken spider web with your bare hands. The human mind may have its root in the physical brain, and medication may help to some extent... But no medication, no chemical could ever be found to replace the healing power of human affection, of love and caring. Even with disorders like schizophrenia- which most definitely can't be treated with therapy alone, but has to have medication, a supportive family's been shown to help so much. Something that's forgotten too often.

I don't know. Just a thought.

More on Brain=Behavior
Name: Michelle
Date: 2004-02-01 10:30:59
Link to this Comment: 7860

I have been studying the neurobiology of parasitic nematodes, specifically host-seeking behaviors, for the past 2 years. Chemotaxis (response to chemicals) is among the necessary behaviors critical for worms to find hosts. For example, worms are attracted to sodium chloride, otherwise known as table salt, a large component of human sweat. Using laser ablation, a single neuron of a worm can be eliminated. Ablated worms' behavior is then studied to examine how that neuron contributes to each worm's behavior. The ablation of the ASH neuron eliminates the worm's ability to sense salt gradients. This lost ability changes the worms' behavior when presented with a salt gradient environment. The worms' behavior prior to the removal of the ASH neuron cannot be reproduced after ablation. Therefore a change in the brain=change in behavior supporting the idea that brain=behavior.

"box" theory
Name: amar
Date: 2004-02-01 13:12:10
Link to this Comment: 7861

hello again,
I hope everyone is well. I just wanted to make a comment regarding Prof. Grobstein's box theory, and in particular its expansion to the smaller box inside a box notion. This is also similar to Katina's comment. When one takes this box notion down to the neurons, I think it's interesting to see how our basis to our nervous system is only input/output function. I wonder at what point in this box system we can actually move from the simple input/output function and into making our own inputs for the benefit of our own outputs.
Another thing I would like to add relates to the box theory, I would like to know how something like "Freudian slips" come into play. For that manner, how does any subconscious thought relate to the conscious behavior? (in terms of the box, would it be the box that produces its own output from internal input?)

Name: Emma
Date: 2004-02-01 13:48:37
Link to this Comment: 7862

This is just something that has been bothering me for a while so I thought I would post on it. I was thinking are we really one organism or a community or organisms. Are our cells really ours or do we just live with them. There are many organisms that are communities such as the man of war and sea sponges. This idea occurs to me because we don't seem to have any concious control over many of our cells and I wonder if we have any unconcious control over them. Cells do many of their daily activities such as metabolism, dividing, and dying without us controlling them. I know many of these things are programmed into their DNA and that is why they do them but to mean that does not mean we have control. We share the same DNA as all of our cells but I still can't shake the possibility that we are not one organism. Another possibility is that we are a parasite that lives off our body. Are we one organism or many???

box theory
Name: Eleni (Ell
Date: 2004-02-01 14:34:44
Link to this Comment: 7866

I like to think of the "box in a box" theory of input/output boxes containing smaller and smaller input/output boxes as folding a peice of paper until you can't fold it anymore. (I think you can only fold any size piece of paper 7 times). Then you get to a point where you can't break it down anymore, just like you reach the neuron, the smallest input/output box. I think it is fine that you can only get down so far-I mean that the neuron is the smallest box and that all brains come down to them. It is fascinating how smiliar all the brains of the animals we looked at on Thurs were. But it makes sense and I agree that it must be the arrangement of these boxes (all made up of neurons) that account for the differences between different animals.

Name: Maryam
Date: 2004-02-01 18:56:41
Link to this Comment: 7873

Tegan mentioned that Descartes himself questioned the workability of dualism, wondering how two substances of different kinds could interact. Actually, Descartes did have a theory for it- he believed the mind and body were connected in the pineal gland. (I think he picked the pineal gland just because it was centrally located.)
The boxes inside boxes model we looked at in class hints at the near impossibility of linking outputs to their causal imputs on a purely physical level. I am wondering if the idea that brain=behavior implies that for every (what we call) mental state there need be a specific, identifiable physical state that corresponds. Could mental states have causal properties? Would they supervene over corresponding or roughly corresponding physical states? Also, does acceptance of brain=behavior in fact call for a rejection of the existence of mental states altogether, and would we be better off not even talking about our beliefs and desires, replacing "I feel happy" With "I feel an abudance of serotonin" or something?

Name: Tanya Coop
Date: 2004-02-01 19:26:58
Link to this Comment: 7874

I never read the Time article that Elissa talks about in an earlier posting about the brains response to being in love. However, I did see a similar documentary on Discovery Health that was quite riveting. What interests me about this experiment is it further makes me ponder the question or theory of brain=behaviour, and if this is the case, is behaviour truly gender specific. In class on Thursday we discussed how the brain of every animal is different. Could we go further as to say that because we are all individuals, each of our brains has different wiring that is not yet detectable by science?

Name: Dana Bakal
Date: 2004-02-01 22:56:14
Link to this Comment: 7887

Regarding the differences in gendered behavior we discussed- I believe this is a major subject with which the nature vs nurture idea has been tested, and come out rather on the side of nature. I refer particularly to a case where twin boys were born but one had his penis destroyed in a circumsicion incident. They decided to give the child surgery and to raise it as a girl, but (s)he always felt male. Here: .
This shows that behavior and brain are the same, or at leat closely linked. Depite the input from the child's environment encouraging 'her' to be female, something in the brain asserted the maleness of this person. This also raises questions about gender identity disorder, transexualism, etc. Its very possible then that their brains are ocnstructed in such a way that they are indeed of the opposite gender, although their body is not. It seems that an individuals brain can take the same input and translate it to different output based on the individual

I also found this article abou the brain and sex drive that I thought was interesting:

something new to think about
Name: K. Schwalb
Date: 2004-02-01 23:16:34
Link to this Comment: 7888

One thing that's struck me while perusing the posts this week relating to brain and behavior is the relationship between accountability for one's behaviour and the brain=behaviour argument. We've mainly talked about behaviour in terms of personality, but what about things like delinquency and criminality? Can these actions also be blamed, whole or in part, on the brain? If you don't think someone is capable of changing their personality (because it arises from the brain), can you legitimately say that someone is capable of changing their tendency towards criminal behaviour? And to what extent can you hold someone responsible for actions arising out of their brain, criminal or otherwise?

Conflicting arguments to tbe brain being responsible for delinquent behaviour are all around us - criminal behaviour arising out of poverty, poor parenting at the root of juvenile delinquency - and i'm sure we can all think of more specific arguments as well. On one hand, you could avoid the conflict by saying that things like poor parenting or poverty are capable of changing the brain and thus changing behaviour. Another reasonable solution could be that we're all born with the capacity to be criminals but a sort of "trigger" is needed to turn this capacity into something more tangible.

One final comment: people who are unable to morally tell the difference between criminal and non-criminal acts (or right and wrong) are sometimes described as legally insane. Likewise, an insanity defence is based on the premise that an individual should not be punished for a wrongful act that he/she cannot appreciate the criminality of. Would this be an example of brain=behaviour in an entirely pure sense - your behaviour is not at all affected by the morals and laws of the outside world and instead would seem to come only from the brain?

What do you all think?

Name: Ginger
Date: 2004-02-02 02:09:29
Link to this Comment: 7893

In class on Thursday, the idea of the "brain=small boxes" immediately carried me to my Developmental Biology class the day before. We had just learned how all anatomical and physiological diversity existent within the adult body comes from undifferentiated cells during gastrulation. The artistry of the body blows me away... In a trite example, our bodies manage to sculpt a "David" out of Play-dough! I admit that it is an amazing feat. But I still beg to question, why did it take scientists so long to buy into this theory? Everywhere in life there are examples of simple forming the complex: a house after all is only the representation of many smaller pieces. Did we refuse to think of our minds on a basic level because it made us appear primitive? Is complexity revered by our society more than simplicity?
I was also enthralled by the comparison of animal brains. On the neuron level, we are sheep (somewhat literally). This information allowed me to see why instincts exist. If brain=behavior, it is logical that we would have common behaviors among organisms.

The box theory
Name: Mridula
Date: 2004-02-02 02:38:26
Link to this Comment: 7894

When we first started talking about the nervous system using the "box" concept, my first reaction was one of skepticism. However though the model is slightly abstract to me and leaves some questions unanswered, it comes up with a credible observation. The understanding that at the most rudimentary level we're composed of the same kind of cells and that it's the organization of these basics that is the key to the difference between species, individual organisms and I guess individuals themselves to me is an amazing result.
One of many examples that helped me corroborate the "box within a box" idea is the observation that damage to specific areas of the visual cortices impedes color perception while judgment of shape and movement remain flawless. The proper working of each box is integral for the "correct" discernment of the output. What is remarkable and puzzling is how this hierarchical organization coordinates and integrates the inputs and outputs of the individual boxes to produce a final output that is a consequence of a summation of each of them.
This model gives us that big picture that we can work with to examine the individual pixels that make it.
I'm beginning to appreciate the idea of brain=behavior a lot more!!!

Name: Dana
Date: 2004-02-02 12:18:00
Link to this Comment: 7898

Today in psych class, we were looking at coding in the visual system, and we learned that certain types of cells recognise only lines going in one direction, and of a certain width, some recognise entire faces and only faces, and etc. These smaller boxes (the cells) each do a very specific thing, and these different responses meld to form the picture we "see."

As an example, we looked at a caricature of Bill Clinton, which, although made of simple lines, can be translated and recognised by the interaction of the boxes, and a pointilism painting, made up of tiny inputs that result in a single picture.

This implies to me that the smallest boxes- neurons- muct have some boxes within, so that they have differences, and sense different things. Its also interesting how the interaction of the small boxes- neurons- interrelates with the big box -vision

Response to Emma/ Consciousness and Genetic Predet
Name: Michael
Date: 2004-02-02 17:24:14
Link to this Comment: 7902

I think that the conception of an organism as a motivated community of cells is valid to an extent. There are systems of control which can make that argument seem incorrect, but lets ignore that for now. An important theory which has been put forth and expounded upon in recent decades (by Trivers, Wright and Dawkins) is that which suggests that our bodies (brain included) are really just machinery generated by our genetic predisposition with the intent of being the best possible autonomous machine for passing on its genes.
By this logic, we are one organism, but one which pursues two goals. Our genome (which is determined before the actual organism is functional) wishes to build a survivable vehicle, whereas our cells wish to concertedly procreate and maintain themselves as a serviceable vehicle.
To relate this explicitly back to the subject matter, I believe that consciousness, and all that can be related to a brain or soul are merely tools which have evolved as being the most effective means for maintaining a survivable procreation machine.

wired brain?
Name: Amy Gao
Date: 2004-02-02 18:14:21
Link to this Comment: 7903

This is perhaps detracting somewhat from the current discussing thread, but I noticed that people were bringing up articles they'd read in newspapers and magazines in relationship to our discussion on brain and behavior, so I thought I'd contribute my two cents' worth about what I read in the press.

There was this article in Newsweek (or maybe it was Time, I cannot recall correctly as it has been a while) on a study of brain activity in relation to praying. I believe they found out that across people of all faiths, praying seem to stabilize brain activity. The question of whether the brain activity stabilized because of repetitive chanting or are our brains genetically pre-programmed to stabilize upon praying was raised by the conclusion of the study.

I personally thought it's interesting that the different prayers of the different religions in the world that are rooted in vastly different histories and cultures would seem to have a common effect on brain activity:)

Problems with the Concepts involving Neurons
Name: Jean Yanol
Date: 2004-02-02 20:29:29
Link to this Comment: 7909

I was thinking about the notion of smaller and smaller input/output boxes until you reach the level of neurons and it seemed only have true. I mean if you think about it there are organelles which receive input and then output something [i.e. the ER complex gets information from RNA (the input) and then it forms the basic structure of a protein(output)]. I therefore think that in many cases we must look into intracellular processes in order to find the smallest input/output boxes (depending on your idea of "input/output"). Also I think we must re-examine the concept that neurons have no variation. The nuclei of all neurons houses DNA among other components (i.e. proteins) and even though not all of this DNA is expressed, the DNA is not exactly the same in all organisms. While some sequences may be highly conserved across species it does not mean they are exactly the same, or the sequence may code for homologous genes, but we must remember that homologous does not mean the same. Therefore you can say that neurons are similar in different organisms, but you can not say neurons are the same in all organisms because their intracellular components contain variation.

Some thoughts here and there
Name: Sarah Cald
Date: 2004-02-03 00:09:07
Link to this Comment: 7915

Hello all,
I've been giving some thought to the comments posted thus far and am left with the following ideas:
1) If the brain is modeled according to our class discussion, the "box-within-a-box" format then where do we define our basic unit. Is it the neuron? Scientists to date would argue that yes, the neuron is the basic "unit" of the nervous system. I'm here to ask whether that's true, if we stick to our model of box-in-a-box, then whose to say that there aren't smaller boxes within the neuron? Maybe we just can't see it...that's a cool possibility.
2) In response to the idea that the brain is not equal to the self. While I think this idea that a person develops from more than just their brain is interesting, I feel such a theory needs more. If the brain is argued NOT to define the self (as was argued with the siamese twins) then what parts of the brains are? How are we to distinguish between the various functions of the brain to the extent that we can identify the characteristics that define the "self?" Simply put, I struggle with where to draw the line between "brain" and "self" if they are, indeed, not the same.

Name: Shirley Ra
Date: 2004-02-03 01:00:23
Link to this Comment: 7920

It is really weird to think that we are made out of boxes but when the professor discussed it in greater detail it made sense to me. Basically it all comes down to the neurons, it seems as though they are directing our behavior since every box leads to neurons. Does it come down to neurons in all organisms? If it does- than it is interesting that despite the fact that we are so different at the end we are compose of the same cells.
Also, the notion that the "outside" affects the nervous system is something that is very debatable. It is the notion of nature vs. nurture, does the nervous system and our genes effect behavior or does behavior effect our genetic makeup. I personally think that there is balance. We start off genetically equipped, but our culture and experiences have the ability to act upon our nervous system—at least this is the way I want to think about it! I wonder what others think about this nature vs. nurture debate.

box within a box system
Name: Maja
Date: 2004-02-03 01:09:00
Link to this Comment: 7922

The idea that an arrangement of simple things can create something very complex is often overlooked and taken for granted. However, all around us, there are tangible examples of such a setup. Even society, for example. There is only so much that each individual can do, however, when they are considered from the larger perspective of a society, a combination of all these individuals is what makes up the complexity of social scenes, ideas, conduct, etc. I like the idea of the box within a box system. It's logical and makes sense. There is so much information that needs to be processed, that compartmentalizing and subdividing the various processes would make it possible to accomplish everything in the grand scheme of things. However, despite the fact that I agree that behavior is the result of brain activity, I'm still uneasy with the idea that this is all there is to the equation.

box overload...
Name: Lindsey
Date: 2004-02-03 01:09:57
Link to this Comment: 7923

The "boxes within boxes" model may be abstract, but it presents an attractive logic in that it allows for exceptions and flexibility to exist within a system of order and directionality. I liked Mridula's comment about the visual cortex and its integration of inputs and outputs. To expand on that, a great article in Scientific American (Crick & Koch, the Problem of Consciousness) mentions neuronal coalitions (which form the basis of what we see) as the result of many neurons firing simultaneously and in parallel. Within this "box," neurons are arranged in a rough hierarchical system that together, orchestrates our sense of vision. However, within this "box" correlating to visual awareness, smaller boxes (neurons) interact in different combinations to accommodate and generate different responses. It seems appropriate to keep this model on the abstract level, because it would be impossible to map some of the brain's complex processing that involves indefinite (?) permutations of inputs. I wondered if this model would still hold true if we said that no two inputs or outputs were the same? It would seem that the brain couldn't support or reinforce past experiences if it encountered a different input every time (resulting in a different output?). Indeed, there is a certain degree of order in the "boxes w/in boxes" model, but this order is always rearranging itself in order to accommodate different inputs. What do we think about the model as more organic—one that is either destroyed and recreated with each input, or one that somehow rebuilds upon past integrations? It seems reasonable to say that we can superimpose the model on b=b because if the order of boxes is always changing in response to different inputs, then we can account for the incredible diversity of behavior that one organism is capable of.

Dot dot goose
Name: Chelsea
Date: 2004-02-03 01:11:30
Link to this Comment: 7924

I really think Katina has hit on something very useful with her Monet analogy. Not only is it useful when describing the "box-within-a-box(-within-more-boxes?)" model, but it also is descriptive of the way our brains truly work.

We don't always see the things we can perceive- does that make sense? The brain fills in gaps for us, drawing on information already gathered by the brain. There are even games on serendip to illustrate this point ("Seeing more than the eye does," etc. at

Similarly, when we look at a Monet or a mosaic, we are capable of looking beyond the individual components to see the "whole picture;" only it's NOT the whole picture, it's the picture with the holes filled in.

Criminals, Free Will
Name: Tegan.
Date: 2004-02-03 01:23:15
Link to this Comment: 7925

In response to K.'s post about criminal behavior, in relating the brain=behavior issue to personal responsibility, she seems to imply that if our behavior is only rooted in our brains, then we—-as individuals-—must not have any kind of responsibility for our behavior. I don't think this is the case: deciding that the brain is the cause and creator of behavior is not saying that the world is wholly determined. It is only saying that our behaviors are rooted in our brains, that our brains are the processors of our actions and the keepers of our identities. And even if we were to say that the world is determined and that free will is an illusion—-again not necessitated by the brain=behavior principle—-that doesn't necessarily rid individuals of having to take responsibility for their actions.

If we are determined in our actions, then so are others: if I am pre-determined to be a criminal, say, then the rest of society is pre-determined to put me in jail. Might not be fair, in a sense, but it seems to be how it's working. (Determinism/Free-will is not a debate specifically for biology. But it's interesting.) Seems to be a case of playing one's part well...

On a final note, I think that instead of Brain=Behavior being a problem in the case of criminal behavior, or what have you, it could be seen as a plus. If criminal behavior is rooted in some sort of physical plane-—chemical balances, neurological structures, etc.-—then it is susceptible to manipulation, at least theoretically. We may not know how to do that, and we may not want to (has anyone seen/read A Clockwork Orange?), but it could be done. If criminal behavior is rooted in something not physical, though, if deviance is a product of an evil soul or perverse mind or somethng more ephemeral, then we have fewer tools with which we can approach it, and many of those are not what we would consider scientific. In treating the criminal or deviant among us, I'm a little more comfortable with mood enhancing drugs than with exorcisms.

Name: Maryam
Date: 2004-02-03 04:25:22
Link to this Comment: 7928

I suppose that predeterminism is associated with physical causes of behavior because while we are comfortable holding individuals responsible for their ambiguously mental traits and processes (lack of morals, careless or selfish decision making, etc) we are less comfortable blaming them for, say, neglecting to recognize and constuctively address a chemical imbalance. I think Tegan is right though, that if the two can be accepted as the same thing, our concept of free will need not be affected.

the self is a parasite
Name: Allison
Date: 2004-02-03 04:44:10
Link to this Comment: 7929

Emma's comment, "we are a parasite that lives off our body" made me think about the self from an entirely different angle than I had been. I think that 'we' is the self, our perceptions of the environment and of ourselves as well as our unconscious and conscious thoughts. Personality is a construct of the self, it is not the self, but one's personality is a marked part of the self. However backwards that sounds, it makes sense to me. From this standpoint, yes the self is a parasite that lives off of the body. The body serves as the host to the self by sustaining one's physical life through obvious means such as eating and breathing, but also by processing inputs from one's environment. How the brain processes these environmental inputs shapes and changes what I consider the self. Though debatable, one way to look at this idea of the self being a parasite of the body is what occurs after death. Some believe, the 'soul' of a person continues/lives after the physical death of the body. The 'soul' and the self are separate. From my understanding of what is commonly believed to be the 'soul,' it is not perceptions, processed inputs, the unconscious, or personality. All of these things are dependent on the body being alive. They are all dependent on change. I believe that death is the ending of change. Therefore I agree with Emma comment, the self is a parasite that lives off the body.

Name: Aashna Hos
Date: 2004-02-03 06:20:22
Link to this Comment: 7931

We've already determined that "brain=behaviour" vis-a-vis the "spaghetti +" box model...but how do we determine how much of our behaviour is nature, and how much of it is nurture? will this differ greatly from person to person, or will there be basic standards applied across the table?

And as far as the breakdown of the boxes do we determine whether or not it ends, i.e. whether the level of boxes continue to break down infinitely or if there is a point where it ends?

emma's post
Name: Elissa
Date: 2004-02-03 07:18:52
Link to this Comment: 7932

As a response to Emma's post about being one organism, or a community of cells, and I think that is really related to how the body works, as a system of boxes within boxes. It's similar to the idea of cells -> tissues -> organs. That's an example of how are bodies are systems of intertwining entities. Can parts of our bodies exist without the other? Not really. Like the boxes, it depends on how you want to look at our bodies in determining whether or not we're one organism or many.

Name: Amanda Gle
Date: 2004-02-03 09:01:55
Link to this Comment: 7935

One of the questions that Professor Grobstein asked in his write up was "Do we always need some kind of go-between to mediate from ourselves to the universe? (that could be either a priest or a brain?) My initial response was of course we do. But I see brains and priests as exceptionally different things. And what do we mean by the universe? Without a brain we would not be able to grasp the concept of a universe let alone think of what we want to communicate to it. But, I believe that we do not need such things as priests to communicate to the same universe. This becomes a religious debate about whether or not a mediator is needed to talk to God if we assume, in this context, that God and the universe are one and the same.

Name: Sonam
Date: 2004-02-03 10:12:59
Link to this Comment: 7936

Is god moving my finger?

I was raised as a Buddhist and one of my understandings about the practice of Buddhism is that while we are here on earth, we are given the tools to do what we want - good or bad or nothing at all. What we do in this life is upto us. Biologically, God has "fixed" how we are in this life based on our past life behaviour. So, "good" biological traits based on how "good" we were in our past life (our choices, actions) and "bad" biological traits reflecting how "bad" we were in our past life.

But again, if we are given "good" biological traits, we are still tested in this lifetime on whether we take advantage of these traits or if we can overcome the "bad" ones.

An emotion like jealousy - either being jealous or the degree of jealousy we may feel - which we feel that we have no control over, in Buddhism, the test is that you must recognise this and try to change this negative trait.

I think that's a really simple interpretation. But I just wanted to see what you all think about this idea.

# of Neurons in Perspective
Name: Michael
Date: 2004-02-03 14:53:49
Link to this Comment: 7945

One way to put the number of neurons in the human body in perspective. (10^12 neurons) are on the same order of magnitude as the federal deficit.

Name: Jean
Date: 2004-02-04 00:41:39
Link to this Comment: 7958

Disclaimer: In light of recent comments I am presenting ideas to consider in order to clarify the meaning of the certain religious aspects brought up into this forum . While religious beliefs are a type of behavior exhibited by people, currently they are not believed to explain the connection between the nervous system and behavior exhibited (except for the fact that religious behavior can stimulate a variety of emotions which can be caused by neurological changes).

In response to Allison's post, I must question the definition and implications of a "soul". This idea raises certain questions which (not only in the realm of this course) must be considered. Many religions believe in an afterlife (a plane where the soul is to be found after the death of the body) and the following questions are an inquiry into these religious beliefs: 1) How does the believed entity of a soul effect the biological makeup of the nervous system or initiate behavior? 2) What is the composition of the soul? If it interacts with the nervous system it would imply it was materialistic and if that were the case how would it survive after the death of the body (being that even inanimate objects breakdown after time? 4) What role would this soul play in someone's life being that the soul was said not to be involved with perceptions, processed inputs, the unconscious, or personality?
I would also like to find out about what is meant by the statement death is the end of change. Death can refer to the ending of a physical or cognitive state (by death of a cognitive state I mean something that wipes out cognitive ability such as a lobatomy). It also depends on your definition of the time period because it could be the events leading to this death, the instance you enter death, or the time after death has occurred. The term change has different implications at these different times periods (i.e. the body is still changing in the process leading to death, but in the minute time afterwards it is not changing).
In response to Amanda's post, I feel that the universe is the perceived environment around us, but even if it was referring to a divine power, we still need our nervous system to form ideas and interpret information among other things. In many religions as well they believe that you can pray by yourself directly to a divine being, which is a form of communication in which a religious leader is not need.
Finally, I would like to address Sonam's comments. By biological traits, It is implied that they are genes because the term traits usually implies inherited characteristics. Therefore if God has "fixed" biological traits that we have in this life time based on our behavior in past lives, the following must be considered: 1) Does this fixing of traits by a higher power imply that God effects what specific egg is fertilized by a certain sperm in order to select certain traits an individual will have? 2) If a person acquires a genetically inherited illness, does that mean that they were bad in their previous life? 3) By the testing described (" you must recognize this and try to change this negative trait"), does that mean that a person with a genetically inherited illness failed the test if they do not seek treatment?

Maybe this is just my warped way of interpretting these statements, but I hoped the raised interesting insights into the comments posted previously by others.

self as a parasite
Date: 2004-02-04 11:56:10
Link to this Comment: 7962

In response to Emma and Allison, I think that the self is less like a parasite, but more that the mind and body share a symbiotic relationship from which the self emerges. The mind and the body depend on each other to survive and through the task of surviving the self is realized

more on religion
Name: Katie S.
Date: 2004-02-04 22:42:52
Link to this Comment: 7972

I have a question about one of the points that was raised in class tuesday regarding the "stabilizing" effect of religion on the brain and brain activity. I think I remember someone saying that the study looked at people of different religious faiths, but does anyone know if this study looked at people with various levels of commitment to religion? Would you find different levels of stabalization among, say, an Orthodox believer (or someone that puts religion at the centre of their life) and someone who maybe just attends church services or what have you once a week? Does the amount of time devoted to prayer have any affect, or do you think it is just the more qualitative act of praying that makes a difference?

Language and Behavior
Name: Shadia
Date: 2004-02-05 00:25:49
Link to this Comment: 7977

I found Tuesday's discussion about parents changing the pronouns associated with characters in books and playthings in order to affect their child's behavior intriguing. I've often wondered about the powerful relation between language and behavior. As a native French speaker, I remember asking my parents why certain objects had a "gender" (e.g. "la table" vs. "le mirroir"). It is a difficult concept to understand if you speak a language (like English) where that isn't the case; I've noticed French students here often interchange "le" and "la". But what I find interesting is that although Arabic, like English does not ascribe feminine or masculine traits to objects, people in Morocco, where French is widely spoken, do not confuse "le" and "la". Rather everything is referred to in the masculine, even females! (i.e. "il est" will be used to refer to "She is"). To a certain extent I think this tendency reflects a lot about the male-dominated society I live in and I wonder if this is not a semi-conscious attempt to affect the people's behavior by propagating that belief....

Name: sonam
Date: 2004-02-05 01:30:40
Link to this Comment: 7981

this is in response to jean's comments above.


1) Does this fixing of traits by a higher power imply that God effects what specific egg is fertilized by a certain sperm in order to select certain traits an individual will have?

yes, i think that is what is implied...that god is a scientist. the whole idea of the body (or "shell") being separate from the soul is something central to buddhist beliefs. so, maybe it all depends on how this soul deals with the type of "shell" given to him by god.

2) If a person acquires a genetically inherited illness, does that mean that they were bad in their previous life?

i do think that some people interpret it this way: people who do "wrong" in their past life or lives may have disadvantages (not just biologically...can be financially or other ways). but another way to think about this, i think, is that a person with an illness may still be a positive-thinking person who tries to live the best life possible. whereas a person who does not have a disease but may be someone who is easily jealous of other may let this become a disadvantage in their lives.

3) By the testing described (" you must recognize this and try to change this negative trait"), does that mean that a person with a genetically inherited illness failed the test if they do not seek treatment?

well i guess it's not about seeking treatment but rather trying to handle this as best as you can. i put "good" and "bad" traits in quotes because, as i said before, the whole "test" seems to be that you have to overcome the "bad" traits and take advantage of the "good" traits. thus, blurring the whole "good"/ "bad" thing.

i know i sound like some bad talk show host right now but i'm just trying to understand these beliefs myself. but i'm glad you asked these questions because i do constantly question these beliefs (and as a result, horrify my pious mother). questioning definitely has streghtened some of my beliefs. again, since it's all about interpretation, i'm sure someone else could come up with a clearer/better interpretation or explaination. by bringing god and/or religion into this discussion, i'm thinking that we can inspect/question all areas in order to be "less wrong."

The "I Box": Not (good) enough
Name: Emily
Date: 2004-02-05 12:04:17
Link to this Comment: 7988

I think that the "I box" is useful. It certainly helped us to explain, in very simple terms, Christopher Reeves's 'paralysis.' However, it seems to me to be an oversimplification. Saying that what Dickinson meant by the YOU in "the one the other can contain--with ease--and you beside" is nothing more than the I-box implies that all of the higher mental functions of the brain, those illusive behaviors (?) are contained within this one box. I know that, like all of the other boxes in our model, the I-box must contain smaller and smaller boxes down to the neruon, but even this doesn't seem an adequate explanation of the mystery of consciousness and self. To me, the self/mind/consciousness/identity/etc, all of the unquanitfiable properties of the brain, are an incredibly complicated thing...i picture them arising from, but not being a physical part of, the brain. I see them hovering, kind of mist-like, above/around/within the brain, not residing in a specific box, no matter how commplex the organization of this box may be. I concede that perhaps this I-box is the neuronal circuit(s) that gives rise to this immaterial entitiy, but I cannot accept that the entire complexity of human identity is contained within a physiological pathway and nothing more.

This issue of the I-box also begs the all-important question of What Is Humanity? Before today, I thought of humanity, in large part, as the "I", the observing ego, self-awareness, the ability to know that we know. But considering that the I-box may reside in any animal with a neocortex throws this off. It kind of scares me. I am willing to concede that many of the "fuzzies" in the world have personality, distinct selves, and some very high intellect. And from a young age I've advocated that my dog is as conscious as my self. But as a scientist, I must admit that this is probably not the case, that there is something in our consciousness that is unique to humanity. Let's consider my friend's cat, Misty, again. Misty fell off the roof and broke her back. Doctors were able to reconstruct her spine, giving her fulll motot and sensory control again. However, the last inch or so of her tail didn't seem to make it through. Misty is all white, but the end of her tail is sooty. She won't clean it; it seems that she does not acknowledge it as part of herself. Now, if this is simply the result of the severing of the tip-of-tail-to-I-box-cable, then wouldn't that mean that Misty, with her I-box, is just as human as I am? I'm willing to admit her personality, her intelligence, etc, but to admit that a cat is as human as I am, that there is nothing special about humanity...this is just too much. Which is why I believe there has to be something more to consciousness and self than just the physical entity of the I-box.

Name: Dana Bakal
Date: 2004-02-05 16:26:07
Link to this Comment: 7992

In response to Emily- " then wouldn't that mean that Misty, with her I-box, is just as human as I am? I'm willing to admit her personality, her intelligence, etc, but to admit that a cat is as human as I am, that there is nothing special about humanity...this is just too much. Which is why I believe there has to be something more to consciousness and self than just the physical entity of the I-box. "

I dont think that the posession of an I-function box makes an entity conious in the same way humans are, necesarily. It means they have a major item in common- the sense of self- but there are other things which differentiate human minds from animal minds, like introspection, metacognition (thinking about thinking) etc.

Also, isnt it possible to have different types or degrees of I-box, so that a cat's box containes a sense of the body as belonging to the self whereas the human box contains that and more, or that to a higher level? And the interactions between the I-box and other boxes would also affect it.

Name: Jenny Stun
Date: 2004-02-05 20:11:24
Link to this Comment: 7998

I think the I-function (I-f) is a useful tool for understanding the integration of input and output, and coming to terms with the ellusive concept of self. Perhaps thinking of the I-f in humans as a more complex system of boxes within boxes would account for what we consider our humanity? A seemingly endless series of boxes could exist inside each box- accounting for our ability to think about our thoughts, then take a step back and ponder the concept of thinking about thoughts, etc.

Exploring the concept of I-f also could be useful when studying mental illnesses. Some individuals with depression claim that they aren't themselves. Who are they then? Is this lack of self a malfunction of I-f? Some even go to extreme measures to regain their to feel alive, or feel like themselves again. Self inflicted violence has gained widespread attention but is poorly understood (like anything worth studying) and is often seen as a cry for attention rather than a disorder. Yet the people attacking their bodies claim it makes them feel alive ( Is this a way of forcing the body to be included in the I-f? Do these people get a reawakening of the I-f by inflicting pain on the body that somehow makes them feel alive?

I'm quite interested in the idea of I-f. It may not be accurate, but it definetly raises many interesting questions.


the I-function?
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2004-02-07 09:23:31
Link to this Comment: 8004

As usual, you're welcome to write about whatever you've been thinking about because of class this week. Not only welcome but encouraged since the more ideas we have floating around the better for everyone.

If you're floundering though Emily/Dana/Jenny have already started on what I would have suggested as a possible topic this week: the "I-function" box. Does that work as a way of making sense of the observations on Christopher Reeves that we discussed? Are there other ways of making sense of those observations? What new issues does the story/hypothesis of the "I-function" box raise? Is it a useful story? How seriously do we want to take it?

Name: Kristen
Date: 2004-02-07 10:37:57
Link to this Comment: 8006

The concept of the I-function is very interesting to me. I don't know how much I want to believe it, but it is a useful story since it makes sense of observations and it poses interesting new questions. It raises questions regarding the kinds of organisms that have this I-function and how exactly it works. What do we consider to be a part of this "I"?

The other concept that is a bit disturbing to the way I used to think about the nervous system is the idea that we shouldn't think of whole you pinch my foot and it withdraws as a reflex. In the past, I have taken biology classes that have spent much time discussing the "reflex." I was always told that a reflex occurs when a signal is sent from the sensory neurons to the spinal cord then to the motor neurons without first visiting the brain. (This emphasis on sensory and motor neurons is also why the idea that the vast majority of neurons in the nervous system are interneruons is quite shocking.) I guess this new concept of "reflex" goes along with the idea that the brain and the spinal cord are not really separate entities, but all part of one nervous system. I do like this new way of thinking along with the topographical organization of input and output signals, but I think it might take some time to get used to.

Name: Eleni (Ell
Date: 2004-02-07 18:29:00
Link to this Comment: 8015

In my Physics class on Friday, we were discussing electric potential, resistors, capacitators, etc. and talked a bit about the nerve being a real life case. It is pertainent to think of the nerve in terms of electrics and can possibly be applied to some of the questions posed surrounding the Christopher Reeves case. Think of the body as a number of circuts, and that a circut is complete if a point on the NS and a point somewhere on the body are connected and information can flow between them. Some actions require more than one circut. For example, the pinch toe-> foot withdraws-> say ouch requires 2 different circuts. In C.R.'s case, the 1st circut is complete (pinch toe-> foot withdraws), but the second one (pinch toe->say ouch) is dissconnected or damaged. This would make it possible for C.R.'s foot to withdraw, but not to say ouch. The question about spasms and how signals get spontaneously created-could that just be electrics gone haywire?

Name: Erica
Date: 2004-02-07 19:19:46
Link to this Comment: 8018

I think that the concept of the I-function is an interesting one, but at the same time, I think that it just makes sense. I think that it is necessary for there to be something in us that is noticeably different and distinct from behavior, and I believe that for right now, the I-function theory may work, or at least be a stepping stone to come up with something better.

I wonder more about what characterizes it, assuming it exists, and whether or not we are to assume that it is something that can't change. I would like to believe that the I-function, just like us, has its own inherent qualities, but that these can be reshaped and transformed into something else as a result of our external experiences and internal processes. Wherever these internal processes may occur, I don't think that a "loss of self" or some other mental un-health people may experience is due to a malfunction of the I-function. Instead, I think that everything that we experience within ourselves is simply who we are. There are things that may change our I-function, from good to bad, bad to good, or some other combination, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it is our "self" that is lost. It has simply changed.

I Function
Name: Liz
Date: 2004-02-07 21:45:24
Link to this Comment: 8021

I found the discussion of the "I Function" in class on Thursday as very interesting. One question that I had in class was the issue of individuals who have disorders like multiple personality disorder. How is the idea of self in individuals with multiple personalities reconciled with the idea of the I function? Does one I function box exist that includes all of the different ideas of self or are there somehow multiple I boxes? Another way to say this: is the I function somehow fragmented or can there exist different personalities within one I function box?

I Function...
Name: debbie
Date: 2004-02-08 12:56:01
Link to this Comment: 8025

The concept of an "I Function" box seems like a clean, concise way to explain Christopher Reeves' case and ones similar to his without being able to prove the I Function's actual existence. Why can't the "I Function" be the entire big box - the entire nervous system? Christopher Reeves also seems to confirm this theory. Some of the cables connecting smaller boxes within the giant "I" box have been disconnected causing his inability to sense that something has happened to him and that he can do something about it.

Regarding Christopher Reeves' condition, I thought about how an arm or a leg can be reattached when severed and regain much of its senses. I thought it may be possible to regenerate a "bridge" between the brain and spinal cord through transplant or the intentional regeneration of nerve fibers. I have long heard that neurons fail to regenerate, but is there a hormone or a gene in the body that supports the initial production of neurons? Perhaps that gene/hormone can be used to spur additional neuron growth and the creation of a new cable between the medulla and the spine.

Finally, in response to Eleni's comment on spasms, does an input from sensory neurons lead to an immediate output through motor neurons? If not, it seems logical that electric signals are running through interneurons and could get lost within all the boxes and trigger a different motor neuron response spontaneously.

Name: Anjali
Date: 2004-02-08 13:26:21
Link to this Comment: 8026

I've been thinking about what Emma posted last Sunday- "are we one organism or many". I think in the end the answer to that depends a lot on what exactly is meant by the question- on how the word organism is being used. In one sense, each of our cells is a separate organism, so we are many organisms... But if you're using the word organism to mean a conscious organism- an organism with a unified sense of self- we are just one. None of the individual cells in our bodies are conscious. Or at least, it's very very unlikely that they are.

But then the idea that we're parasites living off our own bodies... That's a very, very interesting thought. I don't think there's any way to know. There's no way to disprove something like that, really, short of finding the root of consciousness in the brain- the exact mechanism by which millions of unconscious cells give rise to consciousness. And somehow it doesn't feel as though there'd be anything "exact" or simple about such a mechanism.

I used to have this weird idea, a couple years ago, that ran along those lines- of being a parasite in your own body. I used to wonder if I was just some nebulous presence sitting in the brain of someone else. Because you *don't* really have conscious control over most of the things that your body does. And even the things that you do have conscious control over, it's difficult to see how that control comes about, sometimes. You can think, "I want to move my leg.". And your leg moves. But how? It just... does. Inexplicably. You're able to move your leg, you're able to *consciously* move it, but you have no real idea how this conscious desire to move it was able to translate into motion. Even if you understand the basic mechanics behind it. It's very difficult, trying to mentally bridge the gap between this nebulous, abstract consciousness that is your "self", and the physical body that it controls.

Another thought. Possibly a bit off topic, but if cells in the body somehow give rise to consciousness, that brings about the possibility that other organisms- more complex organisms- give rise to a larger, collective consciousness. The spirit of Earth, or the spirit of the universe. It's interesting to think about.

I function and self
Name: Elissa
Date: 2004-02-08 15:42:47
Link to this Comment: 8034

The idea of the I-function and how that relates to one's self is really kind of freaky for me. If I were Christopher Reeve, and saw my foot move because someone pinched it, that would freak me out, because I would know that I did not make my foot move.

Ok, here's a story: A couple of years ago, I had surgery on my jaw and chin. With that surgery, I got three metal screws put into my chin, and I lost a lot of feeling there, and in lower lip. Now, when people touch my chin, I usually can't feel it. In the fall, during a rugby game, I got kicked in the face and got a bruise on my chin, but I had no idea; it didn't even hurt.

With the idea of the I-function, when I say that I can't feel my chin, I still feel attachment to it, because it's on my body, and it's still pretty functional as a chin (although i don't really know what the function of a chin really is).

I thought Debbie's post was interesting, particulary, "I thought it may be possible to regenerate a "bridge" between the brain and spinal cord through transplant or the intentional regeneration of nerve fibers. I have long heard that neurons fail to regenerate, but is there a hormone or a gene in the body that supports the initial production of neurons? Perhaps that gene/hormone can be used to spur additional neuron growth and the creation of a new cable between the medulla and the spine." There are a lot of people who want to study stem cells for those reasons because certain parts of our bodies cannot regenerate on their own. Take for example Parkinson's Disease. Parkinson's is a debilitating disorder that is caused by the loss of dopamine producing nerve cells in the brain. These neurons die or become damaged, leading to less dopamine in the nerve cells. As a result, people with Parkinson's suffer from loss of control of their joints and muscles. How does the I-function apply to these people that have such a loss of control of their body, but can still function normally most of the time?

The Self and God
Name: Brad Corr
Date: 2004-02-08 16:45:37
Link to this Comment: 8036

In some of my recent readings I've come across various bits of information pertaining to specific brain activity and "the self." Apparently the frontal parietal lobe is the specific location of the perceived self. I was intrigued by this because I began to think about what happens when people have malfunctions in this aspect of the brain. So I found out about a disease called frontotemporal dementia. As I understand it, it is a form of Alzheimer's that specifically targets the right frontal lobe of the brain. What is interesting is that many people who suffer from this disease go through complete personality changes. These people completely change their interests, emotions, desires, and all else that we think of that makes up who we are. So if who we are, our own "I box," comes from this one area how does this portion of our brain grow and change? What stimuli can affect our personality? It seems then that most if not all of our actions and beliefs then have to either originate from or pass through this box since those are what make up our personality.

Another aspect I came across is that as it turns out that, this portion of the brain is also linked with religion. During meditation brain activity in this area is increased. People who suffer from Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (TLE) in which seizures cause malfunctions in this portion of the brain often feel a sense of being at one with the universe or have a deeply spiritual experience. This then can imply that God is a creation of a certain portion of the brain, rather than the brain being a creation of God. People could argue that a person's religious strength is in fact due to the level of activity in this part of the brain. I am not claiming to agree or disagree with these arguments, but rather putting out the idea that the "I box" is also linked to the "God Box." What are the implications of this connection? How does this go along with the many different religions in our society? Where do atheists see themselves in "the universal picture?"

Name: Katina Kra
Date: 2004-02-08 17:48:28
Link to this Comment: 8038

What are the psychological implications of neurological trauma? What mentally happens when something physically happens to the nervous system? Are people such as Christopher Reeve more inclined to certain disorders or problems because of the condition of his nervous system? To see what happens to humans behaviorally/psychologically during this time, we must study those with these injuries in order to help them. And the idea of reconnection brought up earlier should be researched, even attempted in order to help those with nervous system trauma, and for the medical field to learn more about the connections with the NS itself, and how, possibly, man can recreate or reconnect these. Why now, do we not focus our efforts on the nervous system, when as the brain = behavior, and behavior is ourselves?

And on a somewhat related tangent; humans themselves are machines, we are nothing but parts, connected somewhat haphazardly, in order to make one larger machine function properly. In using Christopher Reeves as an example, the trauma of his accident disrupted part of this fragile machinery, thus having this "machine" lose it's ability to function the way it was meant to be built. This flaw though, it what has created humans as we are. If, in developing medicial breakthroughs to allow the nervous system to be reconnected, we allow for perfection in humans, where will this bring us. What would the side effects be?

In treatment and research of the nervous system, nothing remains clear. One can only hope to continue to learn more about how the nervous systems creates ourselves.

Name: Prachi
Date: 2004-02-08 19:46:57
Link to this Comment: 8042

In response to the above comment, I don't believe that recreating damaged neural connections allows for perfection although we assume that this is what we strive to achieve. In terms of the idea that our parts are connected haphazardly, I think it would be interesting to examine the degree to which our brains are reflective of modular structuring and how much of that modularity is the result of evolutionary processes. Given that such processes are thought to shape the neural structure of the brain, one may ask questions regarding the extent to which such modularity affects and allows for various behaviours, particularly those in the social domain.

lost signals
Name: Amy Gao
Date: 2004-02-08 20:13:17
Link to this Comment: 8043

Eleni's comments about how electric signals can get lost and/or get haywire in the whole big box of NS brings to mind a family story of mine.

A relative of mine is in her fifties and experiences headaches and sometimes even blacks out. Her doctor diagnosed her with a kind of symptom (I cannot recall what the name is) where there is this sort of chemical imbalance in her brain that lead to the electrical signals not firing right. Which means that the electrical signals that would usually be the command for a certain action is either 1. not getting through her NS system to its rightful designation or 2. going to the wrong final destination.

getting past the word Reflex
Name: Kimberley
Date: 2004-02-08 20:24:56
Link to this Comment: 8044

I am finding it difficult to remove "reflex" from my vocabulary. Though I understand the importance of doing so. By using such a word it divides the nervous system. The problem with that is where is the dividing line? As we have learned in class the neurons that control eye movement are within the midbrain and those that control the knee-jerk response are within the spine. Yet they both move, so clearly the location of the neurons is of little importance when discussing general motor function.

The difference I continuously want to make then must be in complexity of responses. What are those inputs that require a large number of "boxes" which have "boxes" inside them to produce an output? How do they differ from those that only use a few "boxes" and why does one input need more processing then another?

parasites and the self
Name: Ghazal Zek
Date: 2004-02-08 21:53:12
Link to this Comment: 8048

There was a story in the news very recently about a baby that was born with craniopagus parasiticus, a parasite twin.

Here's an exerpt from

"Led by a Los Angeles-based neurosurgeon, the medical team planned to spend about 13 hours removing Rebeca's second head, which has a partially formed brain, ears, eyes and lips.

The surgery is complicated because the two heads share arteries. Although only partially developed, the mouth on her second head moves when Rebeca is being breast-fed. Tests indicate some activity in her second brain."

The concept of being parasites to our bodies (as discussed by Anjali and Emma) is an interesting one, but I think that this case shows what a very concrete example of parasitism on the human body. No human as ever lived past a few weeks with the parasite twin condition (including Rebeca, who sadly died after the operation on Saturday Full Article) so it's difficult to say how someone would develop with a parasute twin, or if the person and parasite would behave as two different organisms.

I agree that we do not have complete control or understanding of our bodies, as Anjali was saying, but I think it's safe to say that I'm one organism. It's very easy to remove the "self" from the body because it's very difficult to understand what the self really is...

Name: Emma
Date: 2004-02-08 23:59:42
Link to this Comment: 8053

In response to Ghazal's comment I have to say that the idea of a parasitic twin really intrigues me. I wonder if maybe the twin is not parasitic to rebecca, instead maybe rebecca and the twin are 2 parasites fighting over control of a body that cannot support them both. Just as a single organism can only host so many parasites before dying it seems a single body can only play host to one brain. To me this supports my parasite idea. I am not sure whether or not I really think that the brain is a seperate organ, a parasite, or a part of the body but I will keep thinking about it.

Name: Emma
Date: 2004-02-09 00:02:57
Link to this Comment: 8054

oh I just remembered. A couple of years ago in life magazine I saw an article about a twins who shared a body. There were 2 heads and they both controlled half the body. I think someone may have mentioned them is class. I wonder why they did not die and rebecca and her "parasitic twin" did. Perhaps rebecca and here twin shared only 1 body and the other twins merely had 2 bodies strangely fused together which would support the parasite idea that a body can only support a singe brain/parasite.

Christopher Reeves
Name: Chevon Dep
Date: 2004-02-09 00:56:57
Link to this Comment: 8056

I felt that the discussion about Christopher Reeves was very interesting, because I automatically thought that he was completely paralyzed. The idea of a paralytic state suggested to me that he could not move anything from the waist down due to his accident. However, Professor Grobstein illustrated that while Christopher Reeves cannot voluntarily move some of his body parts, it does not mean that there is no muscle or body activity. The knee-reflex test was an excellent example of how muscle movement occurs. Furthermore, I was not aware that the lack of cable connection between the input and output prevents Reeves from displaying emotion. This clarifies for me why Reeves would not react to someone hitting him on an area below his waist. Now I have a better understanding of the relationship between the brain and the nervous system.

Name: Erin
Date: 2004-02-09 06:00:43
Link to this Comment: 8060

I also thought that the discussion on Christopher Reeves was very interesting. The physical contiguity principle summed an interesting observation about cable connection between signals in one part of the nervous system with another. As did the notion that boxes can generate responses of their own. These observations allowed us to change our original concept about being paralyzed. I wonder if it is possible to further extend the notion that there is a "cable connection" or box generated response for senses other than touch -- where a defined "breakage" point between cables is not so apparent -- and how this might affect what we perceive and what is really taking place.

For example, a person who is colorblind cannot see certain colors or respond to them by identification, however, is their "brain" activity such that the input/output cable connection between signals is severed? Or is there a physical limitation in the way that they see things that causes the "brain" to operate with a "defective" signal? Or are there signals from one box to another that are not received along a path and fail to cause an output response?

Name: Michelle
Date: 2004-02-09 07:34:38
Link to this Comment: 8061

I have learned in Biology 101 about emergent properties arising from the
coexistence and relationships among cells. As a scientific thinker, I
wondered if perhaps this could be applied to the self, brain, and body.
Could the self be an emergent property of the brain and body? The
consciousness a property of the brain? To me, it seems subjective. The
definition of emergence taken from the Dictionary of Philosophy of Mind is properties of a complex physical system are emergent just in case they are neither (i) properties had by any parts of the system taken in isolation nor (ii) resultant of a mere summation of properties of parts of the system ( What would the physical system entail? Simply the body and the brain? Going along with this theory, all minds and thought processes are unique and based on individual psychological pathways. Using the word mind to mean merely the shell in which the self can exist, the mind would have to exist prior to the self. The self is not only a function of the brain but then also a culmination of experience and environment. If the environment (as well as the experience gained from the environment) can be included in the physical system, then I see the self as an emergent property of the brain.

Name: Ginger
Date: 2004-02-09 09:28:20
Link to this Comment: 8063

Our discussion of Christopher Reeves' condition challenged a great deal of the formal notions I had held about paralysis. For instance, for some reason paralysis had always been synonymous with broken to me. I understood that a connection had been broken or been hurt somewhere and that had resulted in a loss of movement/motor function. In this line of thinking, Paralysis made Christopher Reeves half the man he was before. The class discussion was oriented in our "box" level, and I was very shocked by the incorrectness of my assumptions. A cable had indeed been injured with Reeve's fall, but other wires were still present. His legs still demonstrated reflexes. Therefore, the only thing impaired in Christopher Reeves is his ability to receive information and control that part of his body. Dorland's Medical Dictionary 29th Edition defines paralysis as "loss or impairment of motor function in a part due to lesion of the neural or muscular mechanism..." I feel that this definition is accurate, but needs to emphasis the loss of voluntary control in the individual of that part of the body rather than just motor function. FYI, there are 131 different kinds of Paralysis listed in Dorland's. Apparently, our nerves system is a little more delicate than one commonly thinks...

Name: Maria
Date: 2004-02-09 10:31:44
Link to this Comment: 8065

The notion of an I-function box is fascinating but a little daunting at the same time. We are so used to thinking of the nervous system as something that serves our purposes in allowing us to walk when we want, to talk when we want etc that it's a bit disconcerting to think that our conscious sense of self is not in fact running the show; but rather, that the I-Function is just one more box in the system. An *important* box, but a box nonetheless. This makes me wonder a bit about psychoanalysis. If you go with the more nebulous idea of "the mind" Psychoanalysis seems to make a lot of sense in terms of exploring different motivations and habits and behavioral patterns. Yet that seems sort of silly if the self that one is aware of is just an I-function. My father is a neurologist and refers to therapy as "monkey-grooming behavior. *Useful* monkey grooming behavior, but nothing more." (I'm not saying he's RIGHT) Is it not effectively one person's I-function claiming to be able to objectively analyze another person's I-function? I would never claim that therapy wasn't useful or effective, but maybe the change that it is trying to effect in the individual is just as easily created by taking an SSRI. Obviously that's not to say that having help identifying patterns of behavior that are destructive would not be an excellent supplement to the answers neuroscience provides for depression and such. What it all may come down to is that the biology of the brain and the different ways that the chemicals and hormones and god knows what else are being recived and released in there is more important than any shocking insights into a persons psyche. If that is the case then many of the stranger theories of Freud and such are nothing more than stroies told to try and account for observations about human behavior but that the stories we tell now account for much more and that perhaps when it comes to mental health that the story that will account for the most has nothing to do with Oedipal complexes or Oral Fixations but rather a more comprehensive understanding of the biology of the brain. It will be interesting to see how psychoanalysts and neuroscientists work this all out, it seems sort of a tense relationship to me at the moment.

Some thoughts...
Name: Nicole Woo
Date: 2004-02-09 11:37:13
Link to this Comment: 8066

I read an article, the same one Ghazal mentioned, which discussed the case of an infant with a parasitic twin. Apparently, although the other twin did not continue development, the twin still moved. Though technically the twin had stopped developing in the womb, her mouth still moved when Rebeca breastfed. Sadly, Rebeca did not survive the operation. The fact that there still seemed to be some connection between the brain and the parasitic twin raises many questions. What impulses were still reaching the other twin?

Also, on a different subject, we were speaking earlier in the week about our behavior essentially being a result of the chemical compositions of our brains. However, I feel that to view our actions as merely resulting from random chemicals removes culpability. The truth is, we don't follow every impulse of our brains, we can't excuse our actions by saying "My brain did it...I didn't have any control." To a certain extent, brain does equal behavior, but I think we need to qualify this statement by remembering that we are capable of choice.

phantom limbs and I-function
Name: Lindsey
Date: 2004-02-09 14:27:57
Link to this Comment: 8067

Professor Grobstein's lecture on Christopher Reeve's and an interesting article I read on Phantom Limbs raised the timeless question about "sense of self." In the article, patients who have lost a limb or are born without a limb regardless of age describe feeling a phantom limb—one that generates particular sensations (hot, cold, tingling, shooting pains..).

Does Christopher Reeve experience the sensation of having a body independent of physical touch? If we don't need a body to feel a body, what does this say about the I-function? If anything, both examples support the I function in some ways because the brain finds some way to generate a sense of wholeness, regardless of our physical bodies. However, this raises another interesting tension between our sense of self as mediated by the outside world (when someone pinches C.R.'s toe and he says "ouch") and our internally generated physical sense of self (C.R.'s ability to voluntarily feel and move his toe). I feel like that I function cannot necessarily contain both of these functions because they rely on a different source of inputs (internal and external). What if C.R. does not have any sensation of his body at all, not even something akin to a phantom limb? How does that then affect the I-function?

Paralysis, MS and stem cell research
Name: Michael
Date: 2004-02-09 14:46:52
Link to this Comment: 8068

One of the major problems incurred in a spinal cord injury, and one of the degenerative conditions related with nervous system conditions such as MS/optic neuritis is the loss of myelin (outer sheath coating) from nerve cells.
There has been much progress made in using neural stem cells to regenerate myelinating cells (see link below).
One question that this naturally raises, given the discussion on neural memory and on the difference in people's CNS given different experiences etc., is this:
If you receive stem cells in place of your cells which have been damaged in an accident or as a result of a degenerative condition, how is your "neural memory" affected by the introduction of these new cells?
Furthermore, is motor memory necessarily irreplaceable? Can you store motor memory in your brain and utilize new cells in the same way that you did old ones?

Name: Ariel
Date: 2004-02-09 15:04:40
Link to this Comment: 8069

I wanted to add to what Elissa said earlier, about Parkinson's. I had also wondered about Parkinson's because over winter break I watched (on tv) a surgeon operating on a woman with extremely severe symptoms. If I remember correctly, the surgery consisted of inserting metal rods into specific areas of the brain and sending electric impulses through them. When the surgeon was interviewed before the operation he seemed confident, he had done this procedure a number of times before, and always had some result, but in this case it made no difference, the patient had no reduction in her symptoms.
From watching this, I would say that the woman still had the aspects of her personality that made her herself, but she could not control her body at all, even enough to talk. So would that mean that the I-box is still functional and whole, even though she cannot express her personality in the same way as she could before she became so sick? Also, what would it have meant if the surgery had worked? Would that have changed the I-box?

there's not a direct connection
Name: Allison
Date: 2004-02-09 21:08:02
Link to this Comment: 8078

Lindsey's question regarding whether or not one needs the body in order to sense the body intrigued me. From my understanding, the I-function reports internal states and then possibly initiates outputs/actions. In the case of Christopher Reeves, the lack of outputs/actions does not seem to necessarily mean that the I-function is damaged. It appears that the I-function can report inputs to the brain, but without outputs/actions it is impossible to verify. Because the I-function is not defined as a direct correlation between inputs and outputs the possibility remains that the I-function could receive information without an observable output. If C.R. did not have any sensation in his body then it would be clear that the I-function could not receive information and therefore was not functional.

Name: Akudo Ejel
Date: 2004-02-09 21:31:05
Link to this Comment: 8079

I enjoyed the discussion about Christopher Reeves. I did not know that much about his injury. He is helping to advance the technology of quadriplegic. Sorry for the spelling mistake. I would like to all discuss how does one-brain behavior changes in offer to the psychical change of the body.

Superman's medical condition
Name: Mridula Sh
Date: 2004-02-09 21:40:21
Link to this Comment: 8080

The discussion on Christopher's Reeves' medical condition following his accident at an equestrian competition questioned my definition and understanding of paralysis. The word paralysis immediately brings to mind the complete lack of movement of a part or whole of the body. Yet this does not seem accurate in light of the discussion we had on Thursday. From the experiment performed on him it is clear that his foot did move when stimulated but that he couldn't feel it move and this led to the creation of the "I" box and its possible dis-functionality in his case. Is this an indication that paralysis is also a psychological condition that impairs the perception of a motor response rather than affecting the motor response itself?

On a different thread- I have learnt that when born we are equipped with just about all the neurons we will ever have and that all that the nervous system does after that is to grow and organize itself. Connecting this to C.R's condition-soon after the accident he was left quadriplegic shoulders down and ventilator dependent due to a gap in his spine. Yet after years of intensive physiotherapy he has slowly regained sensation in some areas of the lower parts of his body and can breathe on his own for a period of around 90 minutes. If neurons cannot be generated than how do we explain these phenomena? Does this mean that his nervous system is slowly adapting to these new sets of conditions and growing and re-organizing itself to regain a new state of normalcy?

Name: Natalie Me
Date: 2004-02-09 23:22:25
Link to this Comment: 8081

Like every semester, my classes seem to blend together and run into one another. In reading for my sociology seminar, I seem to be discovering new questions and topics for this class. In Talcott Parsons' Theories of Society, he says that because of one's "own personality structure has been shaped through the internalization of systems of social objects and of the patterns of institutionalized culture." I think this statement has many implications, especially for our course. My sociological background has trained me to believe that socialization and institutionalization of norms and values of one's culture plays a major role in determining one's personality and subsequently their behavior. How does this relate to neurobiology? If society plays such an integral role, where does one's own biological impulses come in and to what extent? My real question is whether we will ever know the answer to this question and the method about which we would go about testing it, if that is even possible.

Name: Amanda
Date: 2004-02-10 00:07:26
Link to this Comment: 8083

A few people have mentioned the parasitic twins that were to be separated and passed away this past week. This brought me back to the concept of identical twins that was touched on in class. When a person asked if identical twins have the same personalities, I had to respond no. I have eleven-year old twin sisters who were just tested for being identical or fraternal. My parents had waited so it would be the girls' choice. They had been excited to find out but when the results came back that they were 99.9% identical they responded quite differently. Mackenzie was excited that they had the results but Jacqueline was irritated because she was always going to be thought of as one. Even the boy became Jackie's boyfriend, in the six-grade sense of the word, thought that identical meant the same. He actually had a crush on Mackenzie but decided why not go out with Jackie? The look the same! The different personalities that have come from my sisters are very interesting considering they are "identical."

Mind over body
Name: Millie Bon
Date: 2004-02-10 00:22:38
Link to this Comment: 8084

As I read through the comments on the forum this week I realize that I am not the only one who was fascinated by the concept of the "I Box" and the stories about Christopher Reeves. It made me wonder about the relation ship between the the brain and the rest of the body. I was reminded of a quote I was once herd about people achieving goals that seem to be out of the reach of their bodies. The saying goes "what the mind believes the body achieves". Now in most cases I am sure that this saying is just explaining that the our bodies are capable of a lot more than we think, but in some cases it seems that a persons mind has power over their body. For example I read an article about a running race that takes about 16 hours to complete. I can't help but wonder what goes on in the brain of a person when they do something like this that seems on the surface to be impossible.

Here is the article.

i box
Name: amar
Date: 2004-02-10 02:02:46
Link to this Comment: 8085

Reading through the posted comments got me thinking about the concept of the I box that we discussed last Thursday. There is still one thing that has been plaguing me since our discussion last week. If the "I-box" is self awareness, and is also a box in the "box theory" then I wonder whether it is inherently composed of the same neural cells as the rest of the nervous system. I think this can relate back to Emily's thoughts about her friend's cat. Although part of her body went unrecognized by the "I-box", the cat appears to have maintained the same sense of self. I am therefore left wondering why the self awareness can continue as normal outside of its physical handicaps. To me this can be related again to the idea that the I-box is not necessarily a part of the nervous system, as much as it is it's independent box that is not influenced by any of the other boxes.

Hope that makes sense....

Name: Chelsea
Date: 2004-02-10 02:04:31
Link to this Comment: 8086

Wow, there's a lot going on in here. I don't know who particularly reminded me of this, but here's a story in some way linked to the Christopher Reeve's/neurons/bridges getting disrupted discussion:

On a saturday afternoon during my Junior year of high school, I was driving home from the stable where I kept my horse and had lessons. It was located about two miles outside of town, down a road that was hilly, but relatively straight.

Somewhere along the road, I blacked out. When I awoke I was in the left hand lane (fortunately empty), panicked, blacked out again, and totaled my car. After going over the event several times in the 6 hours I was in the emergency room (on Valentine's day no less), I was shocked to be told that it was possible that after the initial blackout I had continued to drive for about a mile before I woke up again.

Now, the story is interesting to me for two reasons:

1. That driving down a familiar (and not too difficult) road, it is possible that my muscle memory kicked in and kept me on the road for nearly a mile.*

*This is what the doctor said, but isn't it common to lose memory of what happened right before a blackout? So maybe not...

2. That after two waking EEG's, a sleeping EEG, a CAT scan, an ultrasound on my heart and blood tests they had NO idea what had happened...and then this winter break I was at my chiropractor's office and cracked my neck (a bad and now almost unconscious habit), which immediately illicited the response: "don't do that, you could pinch something and black out."

Mystery solved? Maybe. Either way, something new which was never suggested before. It's interesting how much and how frequently our knowledge of life and the world around us is (brain and behavior as well) is informed by the most surprising and unexpected sources.

Name: Aashna Hos
Date: 2004-02-10 09:45:53
Link to this Comment: 8088

Going back to discussions from earlier on last week...
I don't recall if we've already touched upon this or not, but did we determine the relationship between the brain or nervous system, and the self? The soul? Maybe a good starting point for these questions is to determine exactly what we mean by the self and the soul (again, not sure if we've quite covered this to an extent that leaves us satisfied...)? Are they the same thing?

And tying this in with the issue of depression...we've already heard the comment that some people say that in this state, they're not quite "themselves." I've also heard people voice the opposite worry - that once they, for example, take a step to attempt to normalize their brains' seratonin supplies, they fear they will alter their personality/identity and thus lose a part of it...

What do we make of this?

I-Function and NeoCortex
Name: Aiham
Date: 2004-02-11 00:33:42
Link to this Comment: 8113

B=B was challenging enough to think about, and now the I-Function Box ... It is normal that everyone is fascinated by this newly-introduced concept (even though most of us I think would claim that self-awareness, or the soul, or consciousness, etc are based in the head -- Central Nervous System).
What I would like to add is the following:
Perhaps Paul will get back to discussing the I-Function in relation to the NeoCortex later on, but I did want to comment on that. It seems that some are worried that the concept of Humanity would be threatened if a cat too has an I-Function (in the examples given). However, maybe Paul wants us to think of the I-F in terms of its supposed "container" (NeoCortex). This way, we may begin to be more comfortable with the differences between a cat's and a human's I-F as we maybe comfortable with the fact that the human NeoCortex is bigger and more "developped" than that of cats and other animals...
What do you think ?

Brain=electrics, Mind=magnetism
Name: Emily
Date: 2004-02-11 23:21:35
Link to this Comment: 8127

I found this over the weekend, and it ties in perfectly with what I'm reading for my paper (about consciousness and the mind) and what Eleni said about the nerve and electrics:

Elenie: "In my Physics class on Friday, we were discussing electric potential, resistors, capacitators, etc. and talked a bit about the nerve being a real life case. It is pertainent to think of the nerve in terms of electrics and can possibly be applied to some of the questions posed surrounding the Christopher Reeves case"

Sceintific American Mind: "Perhaps 'conscious mental fields' arise from neuronal activity in the same way that magnetic fields arise from electric currents in a wire."

This is the best possible explanation for how I think of the connection between mind and brain. I was delighted to find it. It seems, in light of Eleni's comments, that SAM's comments might be more than just a metaphor. If the nerves are electric systems, and they are, then it is possible than the mind is a magnetic field, or something very much like it. Perhaps the mind is a force like a magnetic field, but of nature that we have not yet discovered.

Date: 2004-02-12 17:29:51
Link to this Comment: 8140

The short story I mentioned was called "learning to be me" and is by Greg Egan. I would suggest it for anyone interested in the nature of self.

Seeing sounds.
Name: debbie
Date: 2004-02-13 18:28:45
Link to this Comment: 8151

I found it absolutely fascinating that action potentials are the same for seeing and hearing and only differ in where they are occurring. I would like to know more about the ability to see sounds and hear sights. What does that mean? If you are standing far away from a person and see him/her close a door, do you hear the door closing? Or, do you hear the sound of the movement of air?

Name: Erin
Date: 2004-02-13 21:10:46
Link to this Comment: 8153

I found the concept of a concentration gradient and how the membrane creates such gradients by way of pumps to be rather interesting. In the case of batteries, it seems that the organization of pumps is very crucial to create a working unit. Our discussion on Friday ended with the notion that a transverse longitudinal battery had a different change at either end as a result of different ion concentrations on either side of the membrane. Along those same lines, I was wondering about the mechanisms that determine membrane permeability. If the orientation and organization of pumps determine what ions are let through to create gradients, how do membranes decide which ions to be permeable? Are all resting potentials formed of an exchange of the same ions discussed in class?

Name: Sarah
Date: 2004-02-14 13:21:12
Link to this Comment: 8162

In response to Erin's question about whether all membranes produce a resting potential from the same ions discussed in class, I think that is not the case. What is similar is the mechanism by which any potential is produced. A further look at this idea and we can easily see why the movement of any ions (well, for the most part) results in the formation of a potential. As we discussed in class, resting potential is created from the separation of charges. I like to think of it as the potential=the desire for opposite charges to attract (but this may confuse some people). So, all that is needed to create a potential is a charge difference across a membrane. We know already that ions carry a charge with them (Na +1, Cl -1, etc.) accordingly, simply movement of such ions across membranes easily sets up membrane potentials. Hope that helps, Erin.

the week past ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2004-02-15 10:17:58
Link to this Comment: 8167

One of the things I'll remember is the depressed cat, not for now but maybe for later. An interesting question is whether one can or can't know for sure whether another organism (including another person) has an I-function if one is limited to observing their behavior from the outside. Depression, in some ways of understanding it, may in fact be something that provides strong evidence of an I-function. To talk more about in a month or so when we have some other needed things under our belt.

In the meanwhile, you're free as always to write about whatever you thought about/are thinking about this week. For example, if its all action potentials, and they in turn are just movements of ions across a membrane, what new questions arise? and does that make one think differently about behavior? Usefully differently?

chemical equilibrium
Name: Eleni
Date: 2004-02-15 10:35:09
Link to this Comment: 8168

Wow, I really enjoyed class on Thursday when we were talking about resting potentials and equilibrium. As a Chem major, I enjoyed linking the concept of equilibrium and diffusion to signals in the body when I have really not studied them in this biological sense and often forget that these are fundamental principles in the body, not just some random molecules written on a piece of paper. As someone else said above, I felt like for a brief moment we were studying the same thing in almost all of my classes-- like there was a merge between Neurobiology, Physics, and PChem, and it was just one of those times when you realize how connected everything is.

Name: Anjali
Date: 2004-02-15 16:20:44
Link to this Comment: 8179

About seeing sound and hearing sight- I was trying to think how that might feel, and had an idea- probably not a terribly accurate idea, but it still seemed interesting. There're so many sensations that seem to be linked, in our minds- like the colour blue with the feeling of cold, and red with heat, and so on. If (and I've no idea if this is possible, even) your senses of touch and sight were switched, could it be that you'd feel cold when you saw blue? Are the connections that people make between sensations like that just created from associations- or could some of them possibly go deeper than that?

Anyway, it seemed a bit far fetched when I thought of it, but then I started wondering how else you might perceive colours in a situation like that- and I haven't been able to come up with anything that makes more sense to me. And how would you even find out from such a person, what the colour blue "felt" like to them? It'd be a bit like trying to understand what light looked like, if you'd lived in the dark all your life.

I just thought of something else- I remember reading a story, ages ago, about a little boy who'd been born blind, and his grandfather would try to describe colours for him. It was something like... green is the smell of grass after a thunderstorm, and blue is the feel of wind on your face on a spring morning, and red is a roaring fire on a winter's evening. It's really interesting, the way that we link senses together in that way. I wonder, though, again, if that's just a matter of associating one sensation with another after having experienced them together many times- or if it goes deeper than that, if there's something more fundamental about the ties between sensations.

Ionic Control
Name: Brad Corr
Date: 2004-02-15 20:57:39
Link to this Comment: 8184

This last weeks classes were interesting in learning that the signals are in essence all the same as in a resting potential across a membrane which allows for an action potential to move down a neuron cell. So we've learned the mechanism for signal motion and that all signals are really just the motion of an ionic potential. But what we've left out are the "ends" of the cell. Clearly there has to be distinguishing factors among signals. In recently learning about cell-cell communication in another class, it seems to me that the responses of each cell have to be different. Maybe one potential causes the release of calcium ions which then signals the production of a certain protein, which in turn affects transcription and so on... Meanwhile another cell picks up the same signal and produces an entirely different protein and starts a whole new set of chain reactions. Is this what distingusihes between input signals? Just the response of each type of cell? The production of a different protein? If this is true than maybe varying behaivor is simply due to varying ion concentration and types within peoples cells, causing the same signals to have different responses in different people. Kind of neat to think of it this way and then in turn how much ones diet has the ability to manipulate ones behaivor, although i don't necessarily believe that to be true.

philosophy and the senses
Name: Tanya D Co
Date: 2004-02-15 21:56:52
Link to this Comment: 8186

I found that what Anjali posted about hearing sight and seeing sound to be very interesting. It also raises a question that has long baffled me and in fact came up in casual conversation with a friend from outside school a few nights ago. That is, if CNS aside, each of our brains are unique even if not detectable by the eye, how do we know how we all see different things and one another? I mean who's to say when we see the colour red that somebody else is seeing what we are, or if we eat chocolate, whether it tastes to everybody else the same way? We are limited by vocabulary to describe sense, and we only know something is a certain colour, sounds, tastes, or feels a certain way because from an early age we are conditioned to believe that it is the case. I don't know. It's just something I find intriguing.

Date: 2004-02-15 23:56:38
Link to this Comment: 8188


Action Potentials
Name: Shirley
Date: 2004-02-16 00:15:04
Link to this Comment: 8191

The last week of class has been extremely interesting. As a psychology major i cannot wait to see how these action potentials control our brains. I have a question though- are all action potentials the same or do some differ in terms of tasks? From the class lectures I understood the process of action potentials, but what do they do- what is their goal and what happens after they have achieve their goal? Is this a non-stop process?

When learning about the resting potential I was facinated to learn about concetration gradients. Even ions want equilibrium and therefore create pumps on the membrane to maintain it. Isnt that interesting, but I wonder what tells the membrane to create a pump...I was also wondering how does the membrane determine it's permeability?

Genes and the NS
Name: Ghazal
Date: 2004-02-16 02:38:42
Link to this Comment: 8196

When we describe the nervous system in such a mechanical way, it reminds me of other ways our body works. For example, the heart is designed to perform in a similar way in everyone (or else...); the spleen carries out its own function as does the small intestine and so on.

Now, with regards to our topic at hand, if it's "all action potentials, and they in turn are just movements of ions across a membrane," then just what is it that sets us apart from each other? If it's genes, then why should identical twins behave differently? If our "I-box" isn't solely determined by our genetic makeup, then just what IS there to account for our differences? Are our genes and experiences together enough to account for behavior? Could there be another factor involved? Are "common sense" and "human nature" genes that we've inherited from our ancestors?

Name: Michelle
Date: 2004-02-16 08:30:37
Link to this Comment: 8201

I think that the relationship between action potential and behavior is subjective. If behavior is presented simply as a result of changes in ion gradients of membranes, then it seems far too scientific and mechanical. Let's say there are two human subjects presented with the same obstacle. Perhaps human experience is what dictates a specific combination of ions to move across certain membranes that then result in a given behavior. This would then account for the first subject (with combination action potential 1) reacting to the given obstacle differently then the second (with combination action potential 2).

The I-function pre-exists prior to mind development from experiences. I think that the I-function develops into the self, or at least dictates its characterization. From what we know about genetics, twins that have identical genetic information should then have an identical I-function. We know twins to behave differently from one another. But how can we account for the mysterious way twins feel each other's emotions, desires, and experiences? Perhaps their shared I-function is what accounts for this seemingly unexplainable phenomena.

I-Function and Sentience
Name: Michael
Date: 2004-02-16 14:44:06
Link to this Comment: 8213

The way we have been discussing I-Functions as being largely anthrospecific seems to imply a neglect for the universality of many functions and units of the CNS. If other animals have brains made up of the same tissues and cells as us (albeit with slightly different morphologies) and their nervous systems convey messages in the same way, they should have some type of I-Function as well. As Paul said in his posting about the cat, we cannot be sure of the presence (or lack) of an I-Function in other organisms because we cannot communicate with them as fully as we do with each other. The recognition of one's I-Function can only be known if it is expressed in a way that such a recognition can be observed through primary or secondary indicators.

Name: Liz
Date: 2004-02-16 16:13:39
Link to this Comment: 8216

One thought that I had after class on Thursday was the role that inputs and experience may have on forming connections of processes in the brain. Genetics plays some role, but there also may be instances when the brain matures where environment influences the synapses that neurons make with one another. Action potentials may be an all or nothing process with ions moving across a membrane, but what sets each individual apart is the connections between neurons that we have. No two individuals would have the same connections because genes would play some role, but so would environment.

Name: Katina Kra
Date: 2004-02-16 16:35:59
Link to this Comment: 8217

As many other people have stated, the correlation of discussion and topics in class have been oddly similar with the others I take. As a Biology major, Psychology minor, I find myself very much surrounded by the concepts talked about in class on Thursday. Diffusion, signals, and interpretation are all concepts of the body that are linked in all the sciences, each with it's own ideas of how they function. But where have these differences come from? How did evolution and change effect the way humans recieved these signals from the nervous system?

The I-function itself isn't quite as straightforeward for me as it might be for others. Yes, it helps dictate which areas of the body are being controlled by the nervous system, but what about "mis-wiring," or injury creating a malfunctioning I-function? How does the organism necessarily cope with this, and what is the behavioral reaction to this? How, as Michael said earlier, do we recognize the I function itself, functioning properly or improperly. The CNS itself is a maze, designed to bring signals to each other from complicated systems, so what happens when something goes wrong? What about when it's non-human?

Name: Kristen
Date: 2004-02-16 17:56:32
Link to this Comment: 8220

I think the idea that the signals in the nervous system can be attributed to simple chemistry is brilliant. It is amazing that something which appears to be so complicated (the workings of our nervous system) can be broken down to ions passing in and out of membranes. This, to me, seems to be a process that could be replicated in a synthetic environment. It makes behavior seem more mechanical and programmed. It may be order out of randomness, but it still seems that there is some kind of order to the way our nervous systems operate. The only thing that appears to separate us from any other machine is the I-function. Then again, when we finally figure out what this I-function is and how it works, chances are it will be just as mechanical as these signals passing through the nervous system

a little bit about the genes
Name: Amy Gao
Date: 2004-02-16 17:58:48
Link to this Comment: 8221

In genetics, identical twins, though they have the same genes, may have different gene expressions. For exmaple, females inherit two X chromosomes, one from the father and one from the mother. There is only one X chromosome that is truly active; the other one is compressed into a Barr body, tightly condensed so that transcription can't occur. There maybe a few genes along the Barr body that remains active, but for the most part it's inactive.

Since women have two chromosomes, it's totally random chance which gene is active and which one is a Barr body; a woman may have her mother's X chromosome active in her cells (and her mother's X chromosome expressed a little bit in some of her cells) and vice versa for her identical twin sister. I was thinking that maybe this could be an explanation (though definitely not an adequate one, because I realized that since there is a 50/50 chance, some identical twin sisters could very well have the same chromosome expressed and the same one as their Barr bodies) for the differences we observe in twins, including the I-function.

Name: Maria(h)
Date: 2004-02-16 18:41:09
Link to this Comment: 8224

Until last Thursday's lecture I had always considered myself a very disorganized, imprecise person. If I were responsible in reality for repeatedly doing something as precise and carefully executed as effectively creating a balance to ensure between ionic concentration gradient and specific membrane permeability I would undoubtedly screw it up on a massive scale. Yet my body, in this case my nervous system, does it like clockwork. I love the idea that my I-function or some other box gets in the way of doing in reality (repeatedly performing a fairly complex and essential chemistry...thing) what my nervous system can manage basically on auto-pilot. It makes one think that perhaps in somethings the I-function gets in the way. Instead of just *doing* something we start questioning "am I doing this right?" "what if I mess up?" "I don't think this is what I truly want to be doing at this moment". After Thursday's lecture/discussion I mentally apologized to my chemistry teachers for sitting in class thinking dismissive thoughts about concepts such as diffusion and my rather insolent questioning of the use of being taught the definitions of terms such as "membrane permeability" and "ion". Using the idea of a lightbulb to communicate the idea of a transverse battery also being created reminded me of a quote from Nabokov's 'Speak, Memory' (a very good book that I believe someone already quoted in the forum earlier this year.) "The cradle rocks above the abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness." Okay, so it's a bit of a stretch to equate the phrase "a brief crack of light" to the transverse battery-thing that occurs in resting potential/action potential situations, but I'm a humanities person...all that light/energy/heat/lightening stuff rather blends together for me. At any rate, I do recommend the book.

Name: Erica
Date: 2004-02-16 19:03:15
Link to this Comment: 8225

I think it's interesting to consider how animals other than humans can possess an I-function. As Michael stated, the existence of a living being's I-function can only be observed from the outside. If this is the case, there can never be a way of disproving the I-function's existence. In addition to this, however, comes the idea of everybody, every living being, being separated by distinct I-functions, as Kristen mentioned. But, if this is so, how can we really tell if someone's (or something's) I-function is malfunctioning? Would be possible to just chalk it up to a difference between beings? What would we consider to be a "normal" I-function?

More thoughts....
Name: Nicole Woo
Date: 2004-02-16 21:50:22
Link to this Comment: 8230

This is in reference to a conversation we were having in class on Tuesday. Basically, the question was posed that, if a person is completely paralyzed (unable to move anything whatsoever) how do we know that "they" are still there? I once read a book that described a nurse's experience as she cared for a young woman who was completely paralyzed. The other nurses who helped care for this young woman referred to her using terms like "the vegetable" and other adjectives of a degrading nature. However, one particular nurse, refused to treat the young woman as if she couldn't hear them. For one thing, she actually called her by her name. This nurse actually was called in to work on Thanksgiving and although she was disappointed that she could not spend time with her family, she decided to not let it affect her interactions with her patients. The first thing that she said to her young patient was "I was upset to be working on Thanksgiving, but I'm happy to see you." When she looked back to see the young woman, there were tears rolling down her cheeks. Though there was no verbal or physical response, I think this nurse's story is a testimony that this young woman's I-F and emotion were still intact, and that exactly what constitutes the "self" is more than just its location.

Name: Aashna Hos
Date: 2004-02-17 00:34:49
Link to this Comment: 8239

Referring to Amy Gao's comments above:

>"In genetics, identical twins, though they have the same genes, may have different gene expressions. For exmaple, females inherit two X chromosomes, one from the father and one from the mother. There is only one X chromosome that is truly active; the other one is compressed into a Barr body, tightly condensed so that transcription can't occur. There maybe a few genes along the Barr body that remains active, but for the most part it's inactive.
Since women have two chromosomes, it's totally random chance which gene is active and which one is a Barr body; a woman may have her mother's X chromosome active in her cells (and her mother's X chromosome expressed a little bit in some of her cells) and vice versa for her identical twin sister. I was thinking that maybe this could be an explanation (though definitely not an adequate one, because I realized that since there is a 50/50 chance, some identical twin sisters could very well have the same chromosome expressed and the same one as their Barr bodies) for the differences we observe in twins, including the I-function."

So what exactly is the function of the X-chromosome that isn't activated (the one compressed into a Barr body?)? How is the X-chromosome that is to be activated made active/"selected"?

neurons and I-function cont..
Name: Lindsey
Date: 2004-02-17 00:35:04
Link to this Comment: 8240

The notion that our behavior is dictated by changes in ion gradients, which in turn are responsible for generating signals across neuron pathways is very interesting. However, it seems a bit of a jump to make the connection between our I-function's ability to control these gradients (through our unconscious autonomic nervous system) and our behavior. Maybe we can think about it if we take into account such factors as temperature, axon properties, the stimulus etc...all of these variables that contribute to make a unique action potential for a unique behavior. Different amplitudes, periods, concentration gradients make for different voltages that translate into signals of different speeds and strength. It seems incredible that all of these miniscule differences can potentially translate into behaviors as a much more general process.

Some classmates mentioned and questioned how our I-function controls these does this apply to free will? It seems absurd to think that free will is changing our ion gradients to alter our behavior! Perhaps this is a case when our somatic overtakes the autonomic processes in our peripheral nervous system—which brings up the question of how neuron signals differ in the two pathways. What distinguishes a voluntary from an involuntary signal?

Skepticism about I-box
Name: Sarah
Date: 2004-02-17 00:48:39
Link to this Comment: 8241

Hi all,
Is anybody else starting to view the whole concept of an I-box as a "default" system? Allow me to explain, someone said above that the I-box can not be disproven. Okay, I can accept that, but neither can it be proven. I find myself getting very confused about what an I-box is, because it seems as though we just refer to any factor of the nervous system, or any characteristic of behavior that we don't understand, as part of the I-box. I find it frustrating to refer to the I-function as the function of "self." By doing so we are allowing so many variable behaviors and responses to fall under one controlling mechanism...I just find that hard to believe. I would much prefer to think of behavior and response to stimulus as the result of a cascade of neurological signals. In the future, perhaps we should further question the true abilities of this so-called I-box.

Name: Ariel
Date: 2004-02-17 01:22:49
Link to this Comment: 8242

We have often been told that laughter can help to heal, and that having an optimistic outlook when sick can increase your chances of recovering. However, CNN ( reported yesterday that a study published in the journal Cancer showed that "optimism [is] no help against cancer". The study was done on patients with a common type of lung cancer, and after five years only 8 of the 179 patients were still alive. There apparently was no appreciable increase in the life span of the optimistic patients. In fact, one of the authors of the study wrote: "We should question whether it is valuable to encourage optimism if it results in the patient concealing his or her distress in the misguided belief that this will afford survival benefits." However, the American Cancer Society (which publishes the journal Cancer) points out that optimism can still increase the quality of life that a person living with cancer experiences.

I though this was interesting since it could be construed to demonstrate that the conscious mind has a smaller effect on the body than one might think. I would think that if by being optimistic you increase the health of your body, than that would indicate that your "self" has considerable control over the rest of your body. But since having a positive frame of mind does not increase these patients' live spans, does that indicate that perhaps the "i-box" is less powerful than we think it is?

Re: Lindsey's
Name: amar
Date: 2004-02-17 02:45:02
Link to this Comment: 8245

I just wanted to comment/agree with Lindsey's comments about the leap between the chemical gradient creating the ionic signals across the box pathways and its relation to the I-box. Although all the boxes are composed of neurons, it is hard to distinguish the notion of voluntary versus involuntary movements. One question about that is whether the movement of Christopher Reeve's foot is done through this I-box or whether the movement can simply be a reaction that has been set up across the nervous system regardless of the I-box. Unfortunately this idea poses two real questions. If it does not need the I-box, then perhaps one can take this idea a step further and say that this involuntary movement of the foot is therefore not connected to any emotion such as pain, but rather some physical impulse. And perhaps that is where the distinction lies, whether there is a connection with the I-box or not, will determine the voluntary versus involuntary movements.

Name: Maja
Date: 2004-02-17 03:46:34
Link to this Comment: 8246

I have thought about sensing and our perception of things and have reached similar dead ends. Is the problem that we perceive certain situations, smells, textures, colors, etc. differently? Or is the problem on the other end of things; where our senses are fairly uniform, but our reactions differ due to environmental influences. Or is it a combination of both, which would explain why there is such a huge scale of personality differences among individuals.

Name: Amanda
Date: 2004-02-17 08:23:04
Link to this Comment: 8247

Tanya mentioned a thought she has had about whether or not things look and taste the same to different people. I have always wondered this. As she said, if a person has different brains then why can't we look at things differently. Everyone may have two eyes and a nose, but what if those eyes to one person have a slightly different shape. Our reactions probably would not change much as we're reacting (even now) to what WE see, not what other see. I used to think that this must be the case because we react differently to things, but I see now that those reactions are based on our differences not the object's

Name: Laura Silv
Date: 2004-02-19 01:26:41
Link to this Comment: 8285

Doesn't it kinda stand that we all experience things differently? I mean, ideally, we all have the same eyes, noses, brains, the same internal things that make us human. But we're not all the same - some people have missing limbs, some people are born devoid of certain senses or loose them in the courses of their lives. Wouldn't it necessarily follow from this that we all experience senses differently?

There's something in the film 'The Matrix' where they talk about the taste of a kid's cereal and how maybe what Sarah thought Tasty Wheats tasted like wasn't what they tasted like anyway, and how maybe the makers of the Matrix couldn't figure out what to make chicken taste like, which is why chicken tastes like everything. Now, take the absurdity of the context out of the picture for a moment, and maybe that's a thought. Maybe the reason why so many things "taste like chicken" is because the different things that different people taste just remind them of chicken.

Just a thought ...

Name: Natalie Me
Date: 2004-02-19 15:06:02
Link to this Comment: 8291

Several posts have mentioned depression and I thought I would chime in with a few of my own. It is interesting to think about why people get depressed and what medications treat it. I think it is most interesting to consider the different effects it has on individuals. I was reading in my fashion/health magazine this month that for some people, depression causes excessive eating and increased sleep while most victims experience insomnia and loss of apetite. I wonder why some peoples symptoms of depression are directly opposite from the way others experience it. Is this a brain chemistry problem or a link to personality?

Name: Dana Bakal
Date: 2004-02-19 19:42:19
Link to this Comment: 8296

From todays class comes a MAJOR metaphysical question. If signals can be, and are, produced without an outside "ZAP," Then who's to say what IS from the outside? Put a different way, if your nervous system can make its own input, what is the objective reality of outside? We only percieve some of it, and we percieve lots that isnt it at all, so why do we see the world the same way others do? or do we see it that way? Is there an "outside" at all?

Maybe we are all just brains in jars

Name: debbie
Date: 2004-02-20 00:20:56
Link to this Comment: 8301

According to today's lecture, ions which travel from one side of a membrane to the other are dependent upon the proteins in the membrane which act as channels. Then, since all humans function in a similar way (breathe, eat, etc), do we all have the same proteins? Or, does a certain protein in a membrane serve different functions for different individuals?

Separate from this discussion, I have been further researching the I-box to better understand phantom limbs (the topic of my webpaper). It seems that the brain is hard wired but malleable to certain experiences. What type of experience justifies a change in the circuitry of the brain? Patients who have lost limbs still feel sensations/pains in their limbs. Does a lost limb not call for a change in the understanding of self? Why can't the I-box recognize things which are no longer self (like an amputated limb)?

response to natalie's post
Name: c. sante
Date: 2004-02-20 00:38:29
Link to this Comment: 8303

Natalie, in response to your posting it sounds to me that you are talking about two very different and wholly separate afflictions. What most people think of when using "depression" as a descriptive term, is what is known as typical unipolar depression, or Major Depressive Disorder (i.e.,MDD). This disorder manifests itself in outward expressions such as insomnia and/or loss of appetite. However, there is another form of unipolar depression known as atypical depression where the syptoms are quite opposite those of typical unipolar depression (e.g.,hypersomnia and weight gain from increased food consumption). So then in response to your concluding question as to the "reasons" for these marked differences (e.g.,personality or neurobiology), i am inclined to believe that like all other forms of "mental illness" or mood disorders, it all comes down to differences in individual biological/neural makeup. For example, differing activity at serotonergic synapses or amount of GABA receptors in the brain, could play a role.

the very notion of an i function
Name: Maryam
Date: 2004-02-21 03:30:06
Link to this Comment: 8326

I have a problem with the "I-function." To introduce the concept of an "I-function" in class, Professor Grobstein offered a clever thought experiment: When Christopher Reeves' toe is pinched, his foot retracts but Chris says "_I_ don't feel anything." The emphasis is then put on the "I" part of that statement but the part of the brain that distinguishes the self is in this experiment deeply linked to the "feel" part of the statement. The upshot appears to be that the sensation of feeling goes beyond the mechanics of what we might be able to account for physically, and that all of the "feelings of feelings" if you will that we have at any given time come together and make the "I." If the body experiences something but it doesn't appear to be LIKE anything to us to experience that physical occurrence, the idea of the "I-function" assumes that it will not be included in the calculation of the self, if that makes any sense. The "I-function" implies that it is just that quality of it BEING LIKE something to FEEL one's toe pinched is what counts in determining the boundaries of the self. BUT Christopher Reeves didn't say, "My toe didn't move," just that he didn't FEEL any pain. What I am trying to say that I think it is too much of a jump to conclude from the observation that because Chris doesn't feel the pain inflicted on his toe, the awareness of feeling a pain is a sufficient criterion of selfhood.

Rape and Behavior
Name: Chevon Dep
Date: 2004-02-21 15:46:17
Link to this Comment: 8339

A week ago, I watched a documentary about intra-racial rape by Aishah Simmons. It was interesting, because I began to wonder what is the link between such a heinous crime and the psychological development of a person who performs the act. Actually, I have been thinking about this for awhile, especially when I constantly hear about such crimes on the news. Is it something hereditary or is it behavior that just develops over time? It is a very complex issue that should be discussed more often. I would like to know what fosters this type of behavior. Recently, there was a newstory about a 13 year old raping his 2 year old sister. I just can't imagine this happening!! I strongly believe there is a connection between the brain and crimes. I understand that it is difficult to prove that there a connection between the two, when there are internal and external forces involved.

Name: Erin
Date: 2004-02-21 16:27:35
Link to this Comment: 8340

I find the notion that our brain is continuously generating signals even without input to be fascinating. I think that the internal mayhem of our brain and the notion that sensory receptors "things on the outside" may act as regulators, is a very interesting aspect to consider when examining ourselves and our behavior. Everyone is different; everyone's brain is going off and generating random signals unique to that individual. It might be interesting to ask how we as humans are able to communicate and interact with each other when we are on such different internal schemes. And if, "things on the outside" are regulators, to what extent might they be working to organize, sort out and prepare the chaotic internal mess of signals into some sort of behavioral "output" recognizable to others? Could this grand scheme account for differences among people and the way others perceive such differences

I-box is not a Self
Name: Dana Bakal
Date: 2004-02-22 11:33:42
Link to this Comment: 8348

Maryam said "I-function" implies that it is just that quality of it BEING LIKE something to FEEL one's toe pinched is what counts in determining the boundaries of the self. BUT Christopher Reeves didn't say, "My toe didn't move," just that he didn't FEEL any pain. What I am trying to say that I think it is too much of a jump to conclude from the observation that because Chris doesn't feel the pain inflicted on his toe, the awareness of feeling a pain is a sufficient criterion of selfhood. "

I think we are looking (or should be looking) at the I-box not as the home of self or of personlaity, despite the misleading name. The fact that christopher did not feel his toe is also not the only thing we looked at in that story- he also said that HE did not move it. He still takes posession of the toe, unlike the cat with the dirty tail, but he feels that something that was not "him" moved it. Its not the pain that implies selfhood, but the fact that a movement can occur and the invidual who moved deny that it was "them" who moved.

I think we should trash the idea of I-box as personhood, which we really havent any evidence for, and focus on I-box as awareness of body

Signals starting in the middle of a box
Name: Anjali
Date: 2004-02-22 14:26:58
Link to this Comment: 8353

A couple things about the signals that start in the middle of the box:

First of all, something really doesn't make sense to me. If the neurons aren't firing in response to an input- if they just fire automatically, how is it that external stimuli are able to keep these signals from being random? How could external stimuli have any effect on such signals at all?

Another thing: also related to that, I had a thought after class on Thursday that maybe the idea of blank tanks could be linked to dreams. I think I remember reading, a couple of years ago, that there's a theory that dreams are just the result of random firing in the brain- random firing that your brain tries to give some coherency or sense to through dreams. Could it be that your lack of awareness about the outside world while you're asleep has a similar effect as a blank tank? Your brain generates its own input, and brings up images and makes up stories in the absence of external stimuli.

Anyway. Just a thought.

"Beating" Neuron
Name: Aiham
Date: 2004-02-22 14:29:51
Link to this Comment: 8354

Although I was aware that isolated muscle cells still contract on their own, the implications of an isolated Nervous System still "beating" is fascinating to me. I am curious to find out more about the idea that, put in a "blank tank", the brain goes awry with its "internal" generated impulses and signals...
It is true that further tests of this sort are highly controversial in terms of ethics (as we have pointed out). However, have there been no similar experiments done on brains of other vertebrates or mammals?

This forces me to think about cases where certain patients are "isolated" from the "outside" environment (can not see or hear...etc.) In the absence of changing sensory stimuli (which seem to "soothe" the NS), how does this state affect the mental well-being of these individuals? How much pain does this mean?

To Be oneself or nor to be oneself, that is the qu
Name: Akudo Ejel
Date: 2004-02-22 21:01:22
Link to this Comment: 8368

I am currently taking a sociology class this semester called Sociology of Deviance and we are discussing how ones social surroundings creates their understanding of what it means to be x, y, and z person from x, y, and z community. I just wanted to know what role our brain plays in making use feel that are part of a community that we live in whether or not we personally identity with the norms and expectations that are engrained within the area.

Name: Brad Corr
Date: 2004-02-22 21:20:20
Link to this Comment: 8370

This is pretty much not on par with what were doing in class right now, but I recently read a passage on olfactory senses and how unique they are. The passage talked about how the olfactory neurons are located in the same area of the brain as memory and emotion. This is why a smell easily triggers memories and emotions, however our ability to describe smells is lacking in comparison to our other senses. When asked what something looks, feels, or sounds like we can go on and on with descriptive characteristics. But if we are asked what does it smell like? It is very difficult to describe. We can compare it to other like smells but that is almost the limit of our description. Basically I question why? What is it about the olfactory sensory neurons that limit this capability? or maybe it has to do with the terminal connection points? Maybe we'll get into the senses themselves and will help clear this up.

Name: Kimberley
Date: 2004-02-22 21:38:02
Link to this Comment: 8372

A few years ago I attended the American Psychological Association annual conference in San Francisco. I saw a documentary about hypnotism that amazed me. One example shown was two people, one was hypnotized and one was not. They both placed their arms in a bucket of ice water. The person who was hypnotized reported no cold sensation or feeling and could comfortably keep her arm in the ice bath until the researcher told her to remove it. The person who had not been hypnotized was not able to keep his arm in the ice bath for more than about a minute. It is impressive that the mind can have the same effect on the body's responses as a physical injury, in that someone who had an injury similar to that of Mr. Reeve's also could not feel the cold nor have the desire to remove his arm. Since hypnotism has such a strong impact on behavior it is clear that internal "boxes" can both produce behavior as well as inhibit behaviors that would normally occur in the general population.

Rattlesnakes and Its Prey
Name: Chevon Dep
Date: 2004-02-22 22:01:32
Link to this Comment: 8375

Since I did not know the reason why rattlesnakes have receptors for red light, I decided to research a little further. What I found was that rattlesnakes have receptors in pits underneath the eyes and the nostrils that detects infra-red radiation, which helps them to locate their prey. The sensory receptors are able to respond to changes in the external and internal enviornment. Because the rattlesnakes see two different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, it undergoes both external and internal changes. One change that occurs is when the snake forms the image of its thermal environment. In this instance, the snake "sees" the part of the spectrum beyond the red portion of the visible light spectrum. Therefore, the rattlesnake's ability to do this allows it to have receptors for red light and locate their warm-blooded prey.

Name: Erica
Date: 2004-02-22 22:04:37
Link to this Comment: 8376

I think that the task of discovering where the individual's sense of self lies is an interesting one. There are several factors that have been proposed to account for the differences that we see between ourselves and others. However, my question is how are we able to perceive ourselves as the individuals that we are and somehow relay that "person-ness" to everyone else? In other words, I was just wondering how much control we have over influencing the perceptions of us that other people have, to the effect that our own awareness of self matches those of everyone on the "outside." I believe that it is possible to be two completely different people simultaneously, but how much of that is simply who we are, how much of it do we create, and where does that development originate?

Name: Maria(h)
Date: 2004-02-22 23:12:21
Link to this Comment: 8378

I was quite interested by Brad's comment on olafactory senses...I'd never thought about it before, but it's quite true that when I try to describe a scent I can think of few things other than similar scents to describe it. Regarding the issue of soul, I feel that in our class discussions we are moving closer and closer to the conclusion that there is no seperate soul and that the I-function/us/conciousness is really just the very complex thing that all these simpler bits and pieces are making up. After all, as we have been reminded multiple times throughout the course, very very complex things are created simply by putting very simple things together in complex ways...It does seem a bit like a tv screen in that sense...when you look at it, you see people and things and stories, but if you get up close it's just a bunch of colored pin-points of lights flashing in a certain order. It makes you wonder if we take ourselves *WAY* to seriously sometimes. I think it would be interesting to hear other the opinions of other people in the class regarding the neuroscience versus psychoanalysis debate...just out of curiosity.

Name: Kristen
Date: 2004-02-23 09:39:08
Link to this Comment: 8388

I find if fascinating that our nervous system can do so much without us being aware of it. It's amazing that our bodies can keep such a seemingly chaotic system in check with outside controls such as receptor potentials. The whole thing seems just like another example of getting some kind of order out of randomness. I was just wondering if these random signals in the brain can account for dreams. If so, how exactly does that work? Is something different when we are sleeping that results in us having less control over the nervous system?
Also, the idea that there could be things going on outside of us that we have no receptors for is kind of disturbing. Then again, there must be some reason that we did not evolve to have these receptors, so maybe it's for the best that they are not there.

Internal Signals
Name: Katina Kra
Date: 2004-02-23 18:22:46
Link to this Comment: 8398

When the discussion in class began last week, we determined there is a theory and proof that neurons within the nervous system can initiate impulses without the external sources most often need to generate a response. I find this extremely interesting because people themselves have nervous system reactions which they are unaware and cannot control, such as heart beats. But perhaps there are more of these internal signals within us that respond to us in our subconcious, allowing reactions and feelings in dreams, or impulses we can't this inner reaction our instinct? Nothing physically externally stimulate it, but we can gain this feeling.

Humans by nature, are scarcely controlled by our own "free-will," but by the response our body has to the stimulus of our minds and the outside world. From this, it would be interesting to determine what in the human mind is one of these inner neurons, sending out signals internally, with the obvious outside source.

Name: Natalie Me
Date: 2004-02-23 18:41:13
Link to this Comment: 8399

Erving Goffman, in his written 1982 presidential address to the ASA said that "at the very center of interaction life is the cognitive relation we have with those present before us, without which relationship our activity, behavioral and verbal, could not be meaningfully organized." This really got me thinking. Perhaps our brain is the synaptic energy allowing us to percieve the actions around us and arrange our own action and society and culture is what allows us to organize and understand these occurences. I have come to one conclusion: society and personality are intrinsically linked. Personality is certainly dependent on neurobiological processes. Therefore, society must depend on the nervous system...

Thinking about thinking
Name: Emily Haye
Date: 2004-02-23 22:37:02
Link to this Comment: 8409

Thought is something we so much take for granted. Our brains are never silent, and yet we aren't always consciously aware of our own thoughts. But really, thinking varies. As a native English speaker, I think in English. Also, as a hearing person, I think in what I consider to be auditory signals--I "hear" words in my head. I can also think and dream and remember in images and smells but this is less common. I have taken French for seven years, and it's still a stretch to think in French; even when I do, it's usually in French words with English grammatical structure. But a native French speaker thinks, obviously, in French. This I can understand, because it is also "auditory" thought. I wonder, though, if we think in our native language, do deaf people think, visually, in ASL?

All of this was sparked by David Kaiser in his article on dolphin intelligence. "Human language," Kaiser says, "reflects the refinement of acoustic-vocal systems in primates. Similarly, dolphin 'consciousness' may be a refinement of an echolocation-based cognitive system."

Since we think in our language, does this mean dolphins "think" in echolocation?? Wouldn't it be amazing if they do?

Thinking about thinking
Name: Emily Haye
Date: 2004-02-23 22:37:34
Link to this Comment: 8410

Thought is something we so much take for granted. Our brains are never silent, and yet we aren't always consciously aware of our own thoughts. But really, thinking varies. As a native English speaker, I think in English. Also, as a hearing person, I think in what I consider to be auditory signals--I "hear" words in my head. I can also think and dream and remember in images and smells but this is less common. I have taken French for seven years, and it's still a stretch to think in French; even when I do, it's usually in French words with English grammatical structure. But a native French speaker thinks, obviously, in French. This I can understand, because it is also "auditory" thought. I wonder, though, if we think in our native language, do deaf people think, visually, in ASL?

All of this was sparked by David Kaiser in his article on dolphin intelligence. "Human language," Kaiser says, "reflects the refinement of acoustic-vocal systems in primates. Similarly, dolphin 'consciousness' may be a refinement of an echolocation-based cognitive system."

Since we think in our language, does this mean dolphins "think" in echolocation?? Wouldn't it be amazing if they do?

Date: 2004-02-23 22:38:30
Link to this Comment: 8411

Sorry for the posting my last commnets twice...I'm having trouble with the html italics tag.


phantom limbs
Name: c. sante
Date: 2004-02-23 22:51:17
Link to this Comment: 8412

dana posted----"The fact that christopher did not feel his toe is also not the only thing we looked at in that story- he also said that HE did not move it. He still takes posession of the toe, unlike the cat with the dirty tail, but he feels that something that was not "him" moved it. Its not the pain that implies selfhood, but the fact that a movement can occur and the invidual who moved deny that it was "them" who moved."

when i read this i couldnt help but think about the numerous surgeries where epiderals (sp?) have allowed me to experience the "feeling" of paralysis...

when i was undergoing surgery, my anaesthesia wore off long enough for me to see several people touching my leg and moving it around. i could see them manipulating my leg but i couldnt feel anything at all. this of course was extremely disturbing to me, as it felt as if MY leg was lying flat on the table (thats where i felt that it was and thus that is where i looked for it) however A leg (other than my own) was sticking straight up in the air. it took me a significant amount of time to realize that that random leg was in fact MY leg. after that realization, even though i knew that it was my leg, i still couldnt make any sort of cognitive connection between what i was seeing and any sort of internal recognition or feeling.

this phenonmenon is referred to as "phantom limbs", where an amputee can still "feel" the presence of her amputated limb. this blows my mind and i was wondering if anyone knew anything more about this in terms of a more psychophysical/neurological explanation...

Name: clphilli@b
Date: 2004-02-24 02:25:50
Link to this Comment: 8430

I was really excited about Erica's comment because it is something I was addressing in my paper. Basically, my paper suggests that our sense of self must come from whatever our default chemical makeup is; that's why so many people who are depressed claim that they aren't "themselves." BUT, the really interesting thing (that I didn't put in my paper) is that frequently (compared to people with depression) people with manic depression do not feel the same disconnect between their "normal" selves and their manic or depressed selves.

Is it really all about balance? Manic-depression HAS a balance, whereas unipolar depression does not. What do you guys think? Is our sense of self really all relative to our default chemical settings?

Thinking Languages
Name: Maja
Date: 2004-02-24 03:51:42
Link to this Comment: 8434

Emily's article on thinking in languages reminded me of a question I often get asked. What language do I think in? What language do I dream in?
English is not my first language, though I speak it well enough at this point for it to be fluent and practically my second native language. My first language is Bosnian, and along with that comes my knowledge of Croatian and Serbian, which are considered by some to be different languages, though I think of them as just different dialects. Then I quickly learned to speak Czech through living in Prague, yet another language I have mastered to the level of a native speaker. In school I have always been taking Spanish, though I never became fluent, I know it on a conversational level. Lastly I was dropped in the middle of an American schooling system and forced to learn English. When it comes to languages, I'm a firm believer in the theory that "If you don't use it, you loose it." (Though not forever, it could come back to you fast... it's only temporarily forgotten).
So at this point, I would think of both Bosnian and English as my native languages regardless of when they were learned. And when I thought about that question, I came to the realization that I usually think in the language that I last spoke in. Therefore, if I just got off of the phone with my parents, my next thought will be in Bosnian, however, as soon as someone addresses me in English, my mind is back to thinking in English. What's also interesting is that the phone numbers from Sarajevo that I have memorized, I can only recall in Bosnian, and vice versa. I also have a friend who, unlike me, when she's doing anything that involves numbers, she has to switch over to Bosnian. However, my parents, for example, never think solely in English... their brains are constantly flipping between the two languages both in terms of vocabulary and grammar.

language thinking
Name: Prachi
Date: 2004-02-24 09:28:35
Link to this Comment: 8441

The comments regarding language are especially interesting. I grew up in Kenya but largely within an Indian community and was schooled in the british tradition. Therefore, I speak English, Gujarati and Kiswahili (although not as well as I could hope). Especially when at home I find myself stringing all three languages into a single sentence and often realise that in my thoughts, especially in deliberate thought, I switch between languages depending on the subject matter. Various subjects seem appropriately expressed in my mind only in certain languages, my memories of yearly visits to India are almost always in gujarati, for example. Also, asking my mother one day about the same phenomena, she said that during religious occasions she thinks in either hindi or sanskrit. Our language is highly context-dependent and linked to memory in both real and affective terms and since riots have been raged over the right to use one's language, language seems indeed to be an important aspect of human experience.

Name: Eleni
Date: 2004-02-25 22:56:03
Link to this Comment: 8510

Brad's comment about why it is so hard to describe the way something smells as opposed to describing it using our other senses got me thinking why this was so. Perhaps our sense of smell is just less developed-since we don't use it as much as sight, hearing, and touch in our society-so there are less brain connections having to do with smell. I happened to read an article in People magazine about a 40-something year old man who had been blind since age 3 and just had an operation that brought back some of his sight. He reported that sometimes he couldn't tell what objects were by just looking at them. Though he was technically "seeing" an object, his brain couldn't process the info he took in visually so he couldn't tell what it was. If he touched it, on the other hand, as he was used to doing, he could then identify it. I think this point shows that a sense has to be developed (by amount of usage) in order for it to be most effective. I'll bet this man could better tell what an object was by touch as opposed to someone who wasn't blind and therefore had a less developed sense of touch. This also goes along with the idea I heard that if you lose one of your senses, the others get sharper since you're using them more and making more connections to them.

this forum thing and i are not friends
Name: cham
Date: 2004-02-26 00:17:08
Link to this Comment: 8513

ok so i just wrote the longest posting of my life and then decided to accidently hit the reset button and erase all of it. so i will now bitterly attempt to reconstruct it...

yeah, so phantom limbs.

im gonna have to paraphrase myself because im so annoyed right now-
basically what i said was that i found the answer to my own question about a biological explanation for phantom limbs. contrary to my assumption that the experience of a phantom limb is an unusual case, it turns out that almost every amputee continues to feel the presence of the amputated limb. the existence of this limb if so compelling that a person will actually try to lift things with their amputated (i.e., nonexistent?) body part. also, there are two "types" of phantom limb experiences: a person may either experience movement of the limb (e.g., swinging while walking)or may experience the limb as being "stuck" in a particular position. for example, one man's phantom limb stuck out in a 90 degree angle from his body and therefore whenever he would walk through doorways, he would turn sideways in order to avoid hitting walls!!

about 50% of amputees experience severe chronic pain in their phantom limb. as a person who deals with severe chronic pain from advanced osteoarthritis, i cant imagine what it would be like to be unable to receive analgesis-directed treatment or similar therapy, due to the fact that my affliction did not involve an actual, tangible body part. i would go insane. it would be as if you got hurt and could not apply ice, or as if you had a nagging itch that could never be scratched...

the most recent biological explanation for the experience of phantom limb pain, is that it results from the "irritation of nerves in the stump", which sends signals to the areas of the somatosensory cortex that used to receive input from the limb prior to amputation. possible treatments include: surgical destruction of parts of the neural pathways between the stump and the cortex, the peripheral nerves and the stump, or various pathways involving "relay nuclei" to the thalamus or somatosensory cortex. unfortunately, these treatments only result in temporary pain relief, which leads to the belief that the experience of phantom limb pain exists in the cortex itself and is therefore much more difficult to address.

so, that was basically what i said although in a much less articulate/much shorter version.

a couple of thoughts
Name: Elissa Set
Date: 2004-02-26 07:36:46
Link to this Comment: 8520

This is something that I thought of during class. If 80-90% of our nerve actions are inhibitory, our bodies would probably be incredibly hyperactive if those inhibitory synaptic potentials were decreased. If that's the case, do people with ADD or ADHD have a decreased amount of inhibitory synaptic potentials? My knowledge of ADD and ADHD is that people with the disorder have little control over their hyperactivity and/or their attention span. Their minds seem to just go all over the place. It seems like something in their nervous system is unable to keep them from doing one thing. I know very little about the disorder, so my apologies if I overgeneralized it.

Another thought is regarding people's ideas about languages. English isn't my first language, Cantonese is, although I don't speak it very often. Because I don't speak Cantonese often, I've definitely lost a lot of my vocabulary and comfort with speaking it. I think Maja's mostly right, regarding languages, if you don't use it, you'll lose it. However, I can still understand Cantonese pretty well. I can watch a Cantonese movie without reading the English subtitles. Why is it that I can understand the language, but I can't seem to coherently speak it?

Name: cham
Date: 2004-02-26 21:06:41
Link to this Comment: 8536

The topic of ADD came up in class today and many questions were left unanswered. one was: why give someone who doesnt have enough inhibitory signaling, a stimulant? Although, im pretty sure that there isnt yet a well-developed biological theory for why this seems to work (and i certainly have no idea), i can testify to one thing: when people hear that ADD patients receive stimulants for treatment, there is a common misconception (and one that i felt was floating around the classroom today)regarding the impact that these stimulants (e.g., ritalin or adderrall)have on people with ADD. These drugs do not cause typical amphetamine effects such as agitation, hyperactivity, or other "speed-like" responses. Contrarily, it creates a sense of calm and quiet in the person with ADD, a state that is rarely attainable for them without medication. so, to throw out another question: how is this all related to changes in amount and/or area of inhibition? that was the question i originally set out to address in this post, but as i began writing i realized that i dont have a damn clue. so, does anybody have any ideas?

one more thing- i have ADD and i have noticed an important difference between those of us with this issue and non-afflicted people. when i am thinking about or doing more than one thing at a time, i can actually pay better attention whereas i feel as though when "normal" people multitask, their attention suffers. i think that this is an very intriguing distinction. all i know, is that the more i do in class (e.g., reading or writing), the better i can pay attention to prof. grobstein. is this perhaps because as Paul said in class today, there is too little inhibition in the nervous system and therefore excess excitation that needs to be channeled? whatever the reason, it is certainly convenient in terms of productivity and time management!

Rambling about ADD
Name: Maria(h)
Date: 2004-02-27 21:58:46
Link to this Comment: 8547

People toss the term ADD around a lot, and quite frankly most people don't know a lot about it. They have usually read some half-page article in Time magazine written by an indignant mother who belives that her child was unnecessarily diagnosed or just know that the word 'hyperactivity' is involved. People characterize the behavior of someone using the term ("wow, she's really ADD"). If you find yourself using ADD as an adjective often, it's probably also worth it to invest in a dictionary, thesaurus, or both. It's not all that nice a thing to say, especially since as a group we are so pathologically over-sensitive to every freaking thing that goes on around us (one of my mother called it the "kicked puppy" look that I got whenever someone whose opinion I value acts displeased or is overly critical). "Self-esteem" is one the commonly cited areas where ADD kids get hit hard and while I don't think of it as being a huge problem I also always think of myself in terms of what should be improved, how I messed something up. I have had a lot of practice in looking at something in terms of how I --or some failing on my part-- made it less good than it should have been. In terms of being inhibited or not inhibited, I don't find that the things i do are really abnormal or very uninhibited; rather, I don't always see that given the situation a certain behavior is probably not all that appropriate. When I was 9 years old I flicked my father off with a grin from the middle of the soccer field because I thought he was yelling at me too much (my father thought this was hysterical and tells the story with pride), I wasn't that mad it was more than anything affectionate, it was just what I would have done at home and it didn't occur to me that from the center of the soccer field everyone else saw it too. It is hard for ADD kids to put off what they want to do and instead do that which they are obligated. Knowing that I needed to pay attention to a lecture because when the test came I would want to do well did not translate into *actually paying attention* to the teacher. It might instead consist of thinking about how I might study, thinking about the last test, thinking about what I might have for lunch... What it did translate into was often getting academic results I didn't want, and knowing that it was my own fault. More than anything else, I've found ADD to be characterized by self-castigation, a lot of frustration at my own inability to behave in a way that I know would benefit me and at times a fairly severe sense of alienation from those around me. You can't trust yourself to act in your own best interest when you've got ADD and your behavior is perpetually indicative of motivations and emotions that don't actually exist. I suppose that there isn't anthing ALL that useful in this posting, but on the off-chance that someone out there wanted to know anything about's a lot more than just not wanting to do homework or having a hard time sitting still.

Name: Liz
Date: 2004-02-29 15:56:03
Link to this Comment: 8561

Class discussion on Thursday really altered my perspective on the functions of neurons. In past biology classes, inhibitory actions have been mentioned, but I did not realize that they played such a large role in the functions of the body. After thinking about the role of inhibitory actions on neurons, however, it seems to make sense that they would be just as important as excitatory synapses. Instead of having to excite a process every time in order to cause a response, some processes that are constantly active must be inhibited.

Name: Millie Bon
Date: 2004-02-29 22:39:41
Link to this Comment: 8568

In another class of mine, Healing, Harming, and that Humanities, we discussed living with depression and read the following poem by Emily Dickinson.

I felt a cleaving in my Mind
As if my Brain had split-
I tried to match it- Seam by Seam-
But could not make them fit.

The thought behind, I strove to join
Unto thought before-
But Sequence raveled out of Sound
Like Balls- upon a Floor.

The poem describes the feeling of confusion that can go along with neurological disorders. With this in mind we were led to the question of how a person with a neurological disorder figures out that he or she has a problem that needs to be addressed. We also discussed the problems modern medicine creates when patients become so satisfied with their treatment that they no longer feel the need to continue taking the medication. In short I thought it was interesting to get another class' thoughts on some of the topics we have been discussing.

Olfactory idea
Name: Sarah
Date: 2004-02-29 23:37:13
Link to this Comment: 8574

This is in response to the question or problem about olfactory reception and the inability to communicate with words how things smell. Although I do believe that there is a mechanistic reason that explains why that is, I also want to throw out the idea that perhaps we simply lack the words to do so? Maybe we just have not expanded the human language to explain or depict what things smell like. Along these lines, I feel like there is some standard among humans about how things smell. Otherwise, how is that companies can make room scents that smell like "fresh rain" or "chocolate chip cookies?" On some basic level, we all have to agree that one thing smells a certain way, that fish smells bad and that chocolate smells good. Just some thoughts.

Name: Dana
Date: 2004-03-01 08:51:25
Link to this Comment: 8578

"On some basic level, we all have to agree that one thing smells a certain way, that fish smells bad and that chocolate smells good. Just some thoughts. "

But we don't,, thats the thing. My brother, for exaple, HATES the smell of bananas. It makes him sick. I, however, think they smell great. Also, I like the smell of gasoline, while some hate it. I think you're right that the smell is percieved in basically the same way, since smell is an interation of chemicals with receptors, but that recieved smell is interpereted differently. This is why people have preferences in bleach scents and perfumes.

I like the idea of language not covering the smells, its very 1984, but the question becomes WHY is there no language for this when there is such a rich vocabulary for our other senses?

The idea of shock
Name: Michelle
Date: 2004-03-01 09:01:14
Link to this Comment: 8579

Listening to Tuesday's discussion in class about phantom limbs reminded me of something I had seen. I watched a video of someone getting a compound fracture of their tibia and fibia (lower leg). He fell onto the ground on his back (after his leg was broken) and his face showed pure pain. He lifted up his leg and shook it. Not to be gross but, he realized that this leg was dangling, unattached to the rest of his leg. Only after he saw this did his face glaze over and shift to shock. It was as if he needed the physical affirmation of seeing his dangling leg before his mind could melt into shock. What could account for this need? It seemed that although the pain was pushing his body towards shock, his mind also needed to be convinced in order for the entity of his body and mind to slip away from reality. What bring about shock? Can some people have situation A happen where one person will go into shock and the other will not? How much is shock related to perception?

A Rambling on Communication
Name: Ginger
Date: 2004-03-01 09:38:20
Link to this Comment: 8580

I was very interested in all the discussion regarding language and its role as an output of the brain. Have you noticed how some people are just inherently better at communicating through speech than others? Of course most of this is the result of training, but could it be possible that there is a biological predisposition as well? Last night's Oscars actually put this thought in my head. Isn't it astounding how many actors and actresses are wonderful in movies, but terrible speakers in normal settings? Perhaps there are different mediums in which an individual's brain responds better for communication.

To throw some other phenomena out... Do people ever have the experience that they've thought something out so well that you think you've said it? Is that representative of my brain's to communicate within itself? Also, I just returned from my Uncle's funeral. I was amazed by the amount of time people could sit looking at each other, communicating without words. As human beings, we often subconsciously weed through the words of a conversation in an attempt to find the emotion underlying. Are our brains built better for physical expression? Is speech just a device that developed to convey this with more detail?

I know this post is a little wacky, but these were just some thoughts that were flying around in my head.

Name: Erica
Date: 2004-03-01 11:31:49
Link to this Comment: 8583

Just a thought about inhibitory actions. I remember taking Anthro a couple of years ago, and we talked about how human evolution includes the ability to walk and, simplistically speaking, how walking is just a way of preventing a person from falling forward. It's interesting to think of it in these terms because I'm sure that if we were to really sit and think about it, a good portion of our daily actions could actually be seen as being inhibitory rather than excitatory. Do we still have license to blame our brains for making us do something as opposed to preventing us from doing something?

Name: Ariel
Date: 2004-03-01 15:03:50
Link to this Comment: 8589

I thought that Ginger's point about how some people are naturally better communicators than others was really interesting. I agree that a great deal of this is related to environment and training, however I know that personally I will have ideas in my head that make complete sense, until I try to explain them, then I have difficulty framing the idea so that others can understand what I am thinking. I know this happens to some of my friends as well, since we have had conversations about it, and it happens especially in certain situations, such as being very tired or very stressed. So I was wondering what it is about the environmental factors that hinders our ability to communicate our thoughts?

Name: Kristen
Date: 2004-03-01 17:32:19
Link to this Comment: 8595

After Thursday's class, I was just struck by how many variables exist in the transfer of signals or molecules throughout the brain. I especially enjoyed the example of estrogen vs. testosterone. It is amazing how similar these two hormones look when their effects are so drastically different. The difference comes from the unique receptors that the hormones respond to rather than the hormones themselves. This variability could help explain why different people react to stimulants differently. Perhaps it is not the stimulant, but the internal structures such as receptors that cause the different behavior. This is especially interesting considering how easy it is for the internal structures to be changed, thus creating even more variability and uniqueness.

Name: Anjali
Date: 2004-03-01 19:43:05
Link to this Comment: 8599

I've been thinking about an idea that I think was brought up earlier, about the difficulty in telling whether or not another animal has consciousness. It's kind of funny- there's a Star Trek episode that that always makes me think of. I saw it ages ago- when I was 8 or 9 years old, and I don't remember it very well, so I wouldn't have brought it up except that I think today I finally remembered the ending. Or I may have just unconsciously made up an ending that I like. I don't know. Either way, the ending I remembered this afternoon kind of caught my fancy, and seemed interesting. The episode is from Deep Space 9, called "Shadowplay", about a colony on some planet where the settlers have started mysteriously disappearing. So two people from Deep Space 9 are sent to investigate, and they get to know some of the settlers, and in particular the leader of the colony, who's at this point an old man. Anyway, various things happen, they're no closer to an answer, when it suddenly transpires that all of the people in this colony are holograms. Except for the old man, their leader. He had built a machine years before to create this entire colony of holographic people, so realistic that it was only by complete chance that the two people from Deep Space 9 discovered they weren't actually real. He had been trying to recreate people that he had once known, and who had died- I think it was something like that, anyway. But as much as he wished otherwise, the people he created had not been real. They showed all of the outward signs of being living, breathing, conscious individuals - and yet they were not, and he knew they were not, and it made him very bitter. So when the machine started to get old and fail he didn't repair it, and just let his people slowly disappear.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the people from Deep Space 9 turned the hologram machine off, and discovered the old man was the only person who didn't disappear. He wouldn't let them turn the machine on again, then, and they had a long argument. He kept insisting the the people of the colony weren't real, and he didn't want them back. They were a mockery of the people that he longed for and had tried to recreate, because they resembled them in every way down to the last detail- except that they were neither conscious nor alive. And then this is the ending I remembered today, which I may very well be making up, but I still like it: Their reply to the old man was, how did it matter, that he knew they weren't alive? He was still killing them.

I guess that just caught my fancy because it ties back to that whole idea that we can't know for sure if any of the people around us have consciousness. We could each be the only real person in the world. But the fact is, eventhough that's a possibility- it isn't a useful way to view the world. Our reality may be an illusion, but the most useful way to deal with it is just to treat it as though it's reality. And if someone shows the outward appearance of consciousness, and yet does not actually have consciousness, in a way that doesn't really matter.

Anyway. I probably just mutilated that episode, and for anyone who's seen it and remembers it better than I do (which wouldn't be difficult), I'm sorry. Just one other thing: reading the discussion about language, I had a kind of related thought, about expressing yourself in a language- I've noticed that some people find it far easier to articulate ideas in writing than outloud, and for others it's easier to express themselves outloud than in writing. It's interesting. I've always wondered why that is. It feels as though your ability to express yourself outloud and in writing ought to be the same, but that's almost never the case. There are ideas that I can explain in writing that I find it almost physically impossible to express outloud. The words simply disappear, or get confused and forget where they're meant to go, and the idea itself starts to get tired of waiting about and I start to forget it, and finally all I want is to grab a pen and paper and communicate that way... And then I have a friend who's wonderful at expressing himself outloud. He's intelligent and eloquent and convincing, outloud. But set him in front of a keyboard, and all of a sudden he has nothing to say.

language acquisition
Name: Mridula Sh
Date: 2004-03-01 21:14:52
Link to this Comment: 8603

The posts regarding language got me thinking about what my father once told me. He spent his school years between the ages of 3-7 in 3 different countries. India, Switzerland and the U.S. When in India he could speak only in Hindi, when in Switzerland only in French and in the U.S only in English. Each time the family moved he forgot the language he had learnt previously and acquired the new one. It seems as though it was almost instinctive for him to acquire each language when he was exposed to it and once the need to know it disappeared so did the memory of it.
While reading some literature regarding dyslexia I came across some interesting information about language acquisition. A "phoneme" (smallest meaningful segment of language) is the fundamental unit of the linguistic system. A genetically determined phonological module assembles the phonemes into words for the speaker while the listener breaks down the spoken words back into its phonological components. This seems to indicate that the ability to speak a particular language is genetically determined to a large extent. Does this mean that there is a single phonological module that can be manipulated to convert words of different languages into their phonological components or are there multiple modules for different languages? Also if the phonological module is genetically determined, are some people genetically predisposed to speak a particular language....just a couple of thoughts!

Name: Nicole Woo
Date: 2004-03-01 21:17:48
Link to this Comment: 8604

I found it quite interesting to learn that most neurobiologists do not regard the field of hypnotism with any respect. It seems like it would be quite the phenomenon to discover. How can we account for the fact that, when under hypnosis, people are capable of doing things that they could never do in a normal state? What do the same neurobiologists who dismiss the powers of hypnosis believe to be the source for feats done while under hypnosis? Would they claim that these people were always capable of seemingly fabulous acts? It's an interesting idea to think about...

the easiest answer
Name: Kimberley
Date: 2004-03-01 21:18:11
Link to this Comment: 8605

The movie "the Matrix" has come up a few times in class. I wanted to comment on the idea that we are not in control of our surroundings, that the possibility of a matrix type situation is possible. There are a few questions one can pose. First, as Dr. Grobstein pointed out in class, is this scenario very likely? For the most part, people can agree on what is reality. Besides the minority of those with delusions or schizophrenia, most people will describe concrete things in the same way, when we jump we come back to earth, when we go outside on a rainy day we get wet... Since we all share these common experiences and no one has any proof that there is some outside force controlling us or what we perceive why should we think that it could be so?

This thought leads to another that I have been struggling with for years. I used to feel a lot of guilt about my life situation. I would read the newspaper and watch CNN. I was confronted daily by the fact that the vast majority of the world's population does not live in the comfort and security that I do. I would often wonder why I deserved to live so well with so many opportunities available to me while many, perhaps more deserving than myself, lived in poverty? I told this to a researcher who I was helping one year and she told me an analogous story of a man who struggled with the idea of free will. He wanted so desperately to know if he was in charge of his life or not, yet every time he thought he had found an example of free will, he would quickly discover that the situation could just as easily support the idea that he had no free will. His inquiry went on for years and nearly led him to a mental collapse. Eventually he came to the conclusion that there was no way for him to prove or disprove that he had free will. So he decided that he would simply believe he did have it and lived as though it were so.

Is it useful to think about something one way for which we have no basis especially if this view is detrimental to our daily functioning? Or is it better to think about a situation that has evidence to support it and makes it easier for us to function? Though no one can disprove that we are not all just producing electricity for machines. I know that I can be a lot more productive thinking that reality is exactly as I and most other people perceive it. Likewise, I am more productive thinking that perhaps I do deserve to be where I am and the challenge for me is proving that this is true.

Name: Erin
Date: 2004-03-01 22:26:49
Link to this Comment: 8606

Kimberley's comment about reality got me thinking about how much realities change between people despite relatively similar environments. I think it is really interesting that in one aspect, "reality" is basically the same for all people we run and we get tired, we don't eat and we get hungry, we laugh when we are happy and cry when we are sad. However, our environment dictates how our individual interpretations of "reality" shape and mold us. On one level though we are all human, the reality faced by the orphan in a foreign country is different than that of a student in Michigan, in both cases, with each individual -- born into a particular environment and bound by circumstance. But on another level, when external factors are controlled for and environments are as similar as possible people still experience a personal "reality" different from anyone else. We have no idea what is in the head of the student sitting next to us even though we are in the same class, hearing, seeing and smelling pretty much the same thing. In effect, I would ask, how much of our experience is molded by our external environmental stimuli and how much of our experience as humans is failure of our inhibitory processes to regulate what goes on inside of our brains regardless of external stimuli?

different realities?
Name: Amy Gao
Date: 2004-03-02 00:02:51
Link to this Comment: 8613

The talk on how we each preceive our surroundings and environments differently got me thinking about this game I played a few years back (it's probably a bit out there, but that's what came into my mind). The plot is about this man, James, who goes to a place called Silent Hill. He discovers that it is a town full of monsters and strange beings. He meets a little girl, Laura, and he's concerned about her safety since she runs around town without any protection. I can't remember the exact dialogue, but it went something like this. James: You shouldn't run around like that. This place is dangerous. It's full of monsters. Laura: Monsters? What monsters? What are you talking about? As the game progresses, you discover that the town and its surroundings are actualy reflections of people's consciousnesses. In other words, James was seeing monsters and weird imagery becuase of the deep, dark secrets that he holds in his heart, which manifest into physical forms in this town. Laura, however, is not seeing any monsters because she is only a little girl and is relatively inexperience in the world and hence has no dark secrets to hide. I was inspired by this to think that mentally ill individuals look at the world differently than we do (perhaps because of chemical inbalance or the brain not wiring right) and that whereas the world maybe a good place for us, they think that their (respective) human experience is horrible. Sort of like Don Quixote riding at the windmill thinking it's a giant. (Excuse me if I remembered this wrong!) We may look at things differently because of the external stimuli that we receive which are processed differently in each of us. Or we may look at things different because we are unconsciously projecting our ideas of what things should be onto it. Just a thought.

Name: Natalie Me
Date: 2004-03-02 00:11:14
Link to this Comment: 8614

I will frequently write thoughts down during class and these are a few ideas I had last week: I realize that we will continue discovering things that are closer and closer to the truth with more and more understanding. In terms of the brain and personality, I wonder if we'll ever completely understand how the two interact. If we ever were to meet, say, an alien race, I'm sure that most of our conclusions about the brain and personality would be tossed away again and we'd have another set of endless questions. This goes for animals as well. Once we figure out ourselves, should we turn to discovering the personality link for there one??

The Matrix- you just have to deal with it
Name: Neo (Mike)
Date: 2004-03-02 00:19:50
Link to this Comment: 8616

Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

I have a friend from high school who is a high grade schizophrenic and a generally wild guy (we're talking knocking police officers unconscious while under the influence of LSD, joining a cult kind of wild). Nonetheless, Latrell has always been very interested in the mind and it's capacity to percieve "reality." He read books on magic and the occult, and joined a cult which was loosely based on these principles if I remember correctly.

This past summer, my friends and I had just seen the second "Matrix" movie and we're hanging out on the street talking about what a piece of crap it was. Latrell walks by and we ask him about it.

"What did you think of the Matrix?" I said.

"Well, you just have to deal with it," was his response.

Although not appropriate for the question I asked, his response was adequate for the question we are addressing. If there is a transcendent "reality" that we are unable to grasp, you just have to deal with it, because trying to grasp what is inherently ungraspable is a pretty fruitless activity. The idea of the Matrix is that in order for the Matrix itself to be so sinister and deceptive, we can't know about it. We'd be inside of it, and we'd just have to deal with it until Keanu Reaves achieves a vocabulary large enough to save us.

Name: Akudo Ejel
Date: 2004-03-02 00:48:48
Link to this Comment: 8617

I would like to know why mental illness is part of the sociological classification of deviance.

Reality and the Inner voice
Name: Lindsey
Date: 2004-03-02 00:53:07
Link to this Comment: 8618

This talk of our perception of reality is fascinating (especially since I'm a fan of the Matrix and its underlying philosophy). If we remove the question "what is reality?" from the scientific basis (as a pattern elicited from various inputs) and talk about it more generally from a philosophical standpoint, a lot can be said. In Plato's Republic: The Cave, a hypothetical situation is created. We live in a cave (a metaphor for a state of confusion) where we must learn to the best of our abilities. In the cave, there is a fire that projects shadows of figures onto a wall (the real figures are blocked by a wall, so we can only see their shadows). These shadows constitute our reality. If we are freed from the cave, released into perfect daylight, than we can also attain perfect knowledge of real things although it may be quite uncomfortable to adjust to these new ideas and sights. I'm not quite sure where I am going with this, but I think there are two things that can be said here. First, the question isn't what is reality; it is what is our perception of reality. Obviously, this is shaped heavily by our environment/culture and our individual makeup. The second question is what is our perception of reality? What does it mean that this reality is converted into a representation of what is actually there by our sensory neurons?

I was also very interested by the discussion of language, and the notion of the "inner voice." I found this random website called the "skinny on deaf people's inner voice." The question posed was, "do profoundly deaf people who learn to talk have a voice in their head?" The answer was that we can cogitate, daydream and reminisce without employing any language system at all. In fact, random gibberish bounces around in the brain (just like the random firings of our brain that need to be inhibited by our nervous system..). A deaf clinical psychologist responded "the brain has a special capacity to develop phonological representations, even when it does not have auditory input." What one person hears may function as a sound, or convey the same meaning that language would. Also, how is this manifested in dreams? Apparently, Deaf people can have an auditory inner voice as well a signing one. From personal experience (as a hearing impaired individual), I feel pretty confident that I "hear" in my dreams, however I do not know if this hearing is that of a true hearing person or the hearing that I have now. I know I've gotten quite off topic from the notion of language..but I thought it was an interesting question that has always floated around. Do blind people see? Can quadriplegics walk in their dreams? Can we smell in our dreams? We think of dreams as primarily visual, but what happens if we include other sensory elements?

matrix reality
Name: amar
Date: 2004-03-02 02:06:21
Link to this Comment: 8620

I just had a short comment that was told to me by a fellow philosophy major. When i told him how frustrating it was to discuss philosophical views on reality with any of my friends who are stuck in the scientific mind he simply told me that science always answers "how?", but never "why?".
Relating to Mike's friend, the idea is that if we do question our reality etc. we are approaching this from a philosophical view, but if we get caught up in approaching this question from the scientific basis we are only confusing ourselves. Science will always explain reality, but never answer why this is the reality we have.

talking to the brain
Name: Maja
Date: 2004-03-02 02:39:35
Link to this Comment: 8621

A professor once told me that the brain is the only organ in the human body that we can heal by talking to it. And this got me thinking about people's ability to convince themselves of certain feelings. We've all done it at some point or another. Weather it be unreciprocated attraction that we're trying to 'get over' by convincing ourselves that we don't actually like that person, or being in a gloomy mood and trying to 'snap out of it' by reminding ourselves of all the good things in our life. Could this be a built-in self-preservation mechanism?

Name: Chelsea
Date: 2004-03-02 03:14:00
Link to this Comment: 8622

I'm responding to Maja's post. I absolutely think this is a built-in defensive mechanism. Besides the ablility to change our feelings and opinions through conditioning, we also repress painful or potentially harmful memories. Even though we may eventually need to release these memories, the ability to supress them definately has short-term advantages.

This also reminds me of the feeling (or lack thereof) described by people after the death of a loved one. An ability to "hold it together" and "do what needs to be done" before grieving is probably also a survival adaptation. I'd like to know more about the processes behind this phenomena.

Name: Allison
Date: 2004-03-02 03:40:05
Link to this Comment: 8623

Sarah and Dana's postings made me think more about an individual's perception of different scents. I don't agree that one can make a universal claim regarding whether or not something smells good or bad. Identifying a scent as either good or bad denotes individual perception. However, in the case of bananas, I do believe individuals smell for the most part an identical scent. One person may hate the scent of bananas while another likes it that isn't the point. Both people agree that they smell bananas. It seems in part that the unconscious plays a role in perceiving different scents. I don't think inadequate language is the reason for one's inability to describe why they dislike a particular scent. It seems plausible that one's unconscious associates a scent with a negative experience, and therefore one dislikes that particular scent. The disconnect between the unconscious and the self appears to be the reason one cannot express why they dislike a scent.

Name: Amanda Gle
Date: 2004-03-02 09:18:34
Link to this Comment: 8624

I would like to respond to what Natalie wrote. In a way I hope that we never reach the final truth and completely understood how a brain and personality interact. At least our society is the type that needs something to aspire to and if that goal is to find this truth, it is a good one.
Natalie mentions that we should look for the personality link for animals which I completely agree with. I definitely believe that animal's have personality. Why would some birds let you hold them and others almost have a heart attack if a person even puts a hand in a cage. Dogs and cats know if you're having a bad day and react accordingly. If we do get to the point that has us with the answer of interaction, we should definitely move to animals.

Name: Brad Corr
Date: 2004-03-02 09:28:10
Link to this Comment: 8626

The idea of hypnotism also intrigued me. I've been to several entertainment hypnotist events and spoke with one of my friends who was hypnotized. She did some pretty crazy stuff that she would normally never do. I asked her about the events and she said that a lot of the stuff she remembers doing, she just had nothing in her head saying "don't do that" and other things that the hypnotist told her, she just believed as fact, there was nothing to question it in her head. And yet to other events she had no recollection whatsoever. What is interesteing is that I know different people have differnet responses to hypnotism but it appears that each person also has different responses to the same hypnotism. Certain suggestions tend to only remove inhibitions, while others I can't explain at all. Is theroute of it merely the power of suggestion? What is the method in which these receptors are inhibited?

Name: Katina Kra
Date: 2004-03-02 09:38:14
Link to this Comment: 8627

In response to what many have discussed or commented on about ADD or ADHD, refering to the inclass topic of is their synaptic potential decreased?

So what is to occur, if someone without the symptoms associated with ADD or ADHD is to take the medications prescribed for them in order to gain the benefits of them, such as increased concentration, and ability to focus? Wouldn't this be seen as a positive benefit to the medications, and would it not seem like everybody, even those with attention disorders should be under this synaptic potential increasing drugs?

Also, in talking about languages and the affect on the brain; I was born in the United States, however both of my parents come from Slovakia. So when I was growing up, the most common language for me itself was Slovak, and entering preschool proved slightly interesting, as I spoke English only in situations I needed to. But once I had become accustomed to school and speaking English, I would return home and refuse to speak Slovak. In the end, I didn't speak the language for 3 years, but the moment I would return to Slovakia, I could speak it as fluently as I had before. So, my question is this, are there parts or functions of the brain that can change the perception of language and reception over the period of development in humans? Why are children able to learn languages so much easier?

More on Phantom Limbs...
Name: debbie
Date: 2004-03-02 09:44:15
Link to this Comment: 8628

Regarding phantom limbs --

I have been doing quite a bit of research on phantom limbs. Although there is a popular theory that phantom sensations arise from stimulation of the nerves/nerve fiber path in the residual limb, there is a neurobiologist at UCSD named Ramachandran who proposes that once a limb is amputated, that part of the nerve path goes silent, and shortly after, a referred area of the body which corresponds to the amputated limb turns on. He conducted a Q-tip test, where he brushed a Q-tip along the face (specifically chin) of an amputee who had lost his arm. Surprisingly, the amputee felt sensations in his arm when a certain area of his chin was stroked. Further, the topographical, sensitive area on his chin precisely mapped out his arm. Apparently, the Q-tip test also works for leg amputees, and the referred area is along the chest. Ramachandran's theory of a referred area of sensation may be able to explain why amputees feel pressure, shocks, even the feeling of wetness. Perhaps all these feelings arise from a completely different area of the body being stimulated. It is fascinating.

Compulsive Disorder
Name: Chevon Dep
Date: 2004-03-02 23:57:30
Link to this Comment: 8645

Today in class, there was a section about different mental disorders and complusive disorder was one of them. I thought this was interesting ,because I believe that everyone has complusive disorder tendencies. For example, I always have to turn off lights and check all the doors and make sure they are locked. In junior high school, I thought I forgot to lock my apartment door so I went all the way back home to make sure. Of course, it was locked, but I panicked. Even today I do the same thing, I will walk all the way back to my room to make sure the door is locked. Is this a sign of compulsive disorder or is it just part of my routine. As far as turning off lights, I just like conserving energy. I will go out of my way to turn off lights. Is compulsive disorder when activities dominates your entire lifestyle, or is it just habitual activites that one performs? I will do further research on this subject.

Name: Jean Yanol
Date: 2004-03-03 01:46:44
Link to this Comment: 8649

In response to Chevon's comment I am pretty sure that obsessive compulsive disorder is characterized by a pratice/act that is done more times than is usually necessary and that dominates and interferes with your life. One classic example is the person who repetitively washes their hands even though they just washed them. Their hands are already clean, but the feel as though they must wash them again. A question that may arise though is what is the border that once crossed leads to interference in what many psychiatrists consider "normal daily routine"? Also, do people diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder know that their repetitive action is not necessary, but their I-function has no control over how many times the do it, or do they think the action needs to be done again and again for a reason and their I-function is controlling the repetitive action?

phantom limbs and perceptions of reality
Name: Jay
Date: 2004-03-03 11:14:32
Link to this Comment: 8654

What an interesting forum to stumble on...

Antonio Damasio discusses phantom limbs and the importance of body mapping to conciousness in his book Looking for Spinoza. In a nutshell his premise is that conciousness is largely based on how our brains constantly map our bodies based on desires and emotions. It's a pretty interesting take on the mind/body question.

"Beauty in things exists in the mind which contemplates them."

David Hume

Pretty much sums up how I think about reality. My reality is different from anyone elses. I may also enjoy the smell of gasoline and bananas but my preference may be different. The reasons I enjoy the smells may not be the same. An old boss of mine told me that perception is reality and while he meant that in the context of the perception of the customer (I was in sales) he summed up how I think of reality. The only reality I know for certain is what I perceive. While it may not be TRUE it is all I have.

Name: Ginger
Date: 2004-03-04 14:24:06
Link to this Comment: 8671

I was very intrigued by the discussion of reality that seems to be dominating the forum as of late. Movies like The Matrix that raise questions about our own reality are fun because they force us to look at something in a new way. They challenge conventional knowledge and stimulate outgrowths in creativity. That being said, I share Michael's sentiment about reality and conceptualizing it--we just have to accept reality as it is. Taking what Prof. Grobstein discussed earlier in the semester about our brains being composed of boxes... I feel that that is a limit. The brain gives us the freedom to learn and grasp so much. However, I don't know if we're supposed to understand the big questions we have in life. Maybe our brains aren't programmed for that.

Name: Jenny Stun
Date: 2004-03-07 15:50:45
Link to this Comment: 8717

There are so many interesting ideas floating around in here!

I was thinking a bit about the definitions of reality and the extent to which we allow ourselves to question them. For example, if this really was a matrix, some sort of illusion set up for us that we couldn't comprehend, what would be the worth to exploring it? Is there some sort of defense mechanism built in to allow us only to explore those ideas that will not be detrimental? What would be the consequence of "discovering" a different reality that we could not control?

Akudo had mentioned that mental illness can be classified as social deviance. Perhaps it is because the mentally ill are often unwilling or unable to accept reality as we see it? By not conforming to the world as the majority of people see it, because some who are mentally ill do not believe the world exists as we think it does, they fail to follow the approriate rules and expectations of society.

Maybe there IS another world out there, real or imagined, another set of circumstances and rules, but what would we accomplish by convincing ourselves that this world isn't real, isn't within our control or isn't worthwhile?

I think we want to confirm our preexisting notions that what we've perceived to be real is real.

practice makes permanent
Name: Kimberley
Date: 2004-03-13 10:49:33
Link to this Comment: 8731

I took tennis all four years of high school and I still remember one phrase my coach said during the first talk he gave our team, which he gave at the beginning of every season. He said "practice does not make perfect, practice makes permanent." I was doing some reading about learning and memory, how learning involves changes in the structure of synapses. And the more those particular neurons involved in a particular activity such as serving in tennis are used the easier they are to excess, or the stronger those connections are. So if you learn something incorrectly it would probably be more difficult to learn it the right way than if you had just learned it correctly in the first place.

Name: Amanda
Date: 2004-03-14 10:25:10
Link to this Comment: 8733

Kimberly spoke of her tennis coach saying "Practice does not make perfect, just permanent". My volleyball coach would always say "Perfect practice makes perfect." It's along the same lines. If an athlete repeats the same perfect motion then it will become engrained in her head. The same thing is true with school work. When learning to write, I was forced to practice writing each word at last five times. That repetitive motion helps me when I want to write something even now because it became what I memorized. The same can be applied to typing or playing the piano.

Name: Liz
Date: 2004-03-14 18:56:40
Link to this Comment: 8736

Our discussion of a central pattern generation has expanded my view of behavior from my initial belief that behavior was a response to stimulus. As is the example with playing tennis or any other repetitive motion, behavior can result without an external stimulus. A motor symphony can be produced from a central pattern generation which can still be altered by external environmental factors.

Name: Shadia
Date: 2004-03-14 21:21:47
Link to this Comment: 8739

Brad's comment about hypnotism , "Is the route of it merely the power of suggestion?" got me thinking about mind over matter. What dictates the control we have over ourselves and our action? In learning about the I-function, we realized that without self-knowledge, we are merely passive recipients of external &internal stimuli to which we respond either blindly or inadequately (e.g. Christopher Reeve having his toe pinched and pulling back while claiming he felt nothing.)
How do we reconcile self-knowledge with self-control? I recently read an article (The New Yorker, Jan 20, 2003 v78 i43 p052 ) describing how people could be taught to alter their EEGs. Niels Birbaumer, a leading expert in brain-interface research, taught epileptics to prevent seizures by adjusting their SCPs (slow cortical potentials)—brain waves that occur over a period of seconds (rather than milliseconds). By attaching electrodes to their scalps their EEG's where translated onto a screen as a moving ball. They then practiced keeping the ball on one side of the screen, effectively controlling their brain activity. I find this type of brain-interface research fascinating—it has far-reaching implications and is being used to help those who are severely disabled to communicate. But I'm also curious to explore what this indicates about our role in the neural symphony—do we have the ability to "interfere" with the score, or is there simply no central score?

ideas, learning concepts etc...
Name: maria s-w
Date: 2004-03-14 22:53:41
Link to this Comment: 8741

I've been wondering about how one learns things...which I admit sounds like a really simplistic question, but it recently occured to me that I have literally no idea how the brain learns concepts. If when you teach someone philosophy, like Plato's theory of Forms, you are simply teaching their brains a pattern of
activity...Well...HOW THE HELL DOES THAT HAPPEN? I mean, it's not hard to
figure out how a brain learns that a stove is hot. You're a little kid,
your parents tell you not to touch the stove because it's hot, you do anyway and burn yourself, and from then on you know that (a) the stove is hot (b) hot things can hurt you and that (c) you're parents are probaby right when they say other things like..."don't touch fire, it's hot." But then ideas of morality or kindess or are those learned? Probably the same way that one learns that a stove is hot, yet when I, or at least my *I function* thinks about those things, they seem to be considered in a different way because they are not tangible yet they are universal and recognizable...I know what greed looks like most of the time, just as I know what kindness looks like as well as what happiness or humor can I identify those things, and why are they, if not universal, at least common enough that some things are found to be kind (Mother Teresa), or greedy (um...lots of people...) or funny (Bill Murray, Jon Stewart and Monty Python) by large numbers of people. In what way does the brain change to accomodate a new idea? the
other day, sort of out of nowhere I realized that *ideas* and *concepts* such as freedom and justice that are not innate and which I always
considered to exist seperately from myself (by that I mean that I always
sort of assumed that my concept of what constitutes freedom or justice
would, at least abstractly, continue to exist even when I wasn't actively
thinking about it or even after I was dead...) are simply patterns of
neurological activity, that they might not really exist in the way that I've always thought they did. Obviously, everyone's version of what constitutes freedom or justice or any other concept along those lines varies...though I am loathe to admit it, it provides the only valid explaination of why Scalia and Thomas can have opinions on issues that are thought to be of equal value of those of Bater-Ginsberg, Kennedy or O'Conner--I mean the more recent O'Conner, her earlier rulings were too conservative for my taste. (That is, if aynthing can serve as a valid explaination of Clarence Thomas' existence on the Supreme Court. Insult to injury: he replaced *Thurgood Marhall*, who was such a genius...) But still, it seems that this raises the question of how ideologies or concepts of this abstract nature are dealt with by our brains...I mean, while ideas of equality vary from person to person, there is at least a commonly accepted standard that if there is one cookie and two people, all other considerations aside, it is fair that each get half...So is the notion of fairness just hard-wired in our brains and then when we learn or read about equality or justice or whatever we just recognize the idea? What got me thinking about is that after I read William James, or Malcolm X, or Lucretia Mott, I act differently, the ideas and notions that they write about and represented change the way I behave...and if brain=behavior, then I'm wonering what learning those new appraoches, ideologies and beliefs do to my brain? I mean, literally, HOW does one learn and how is the brain structred to allow for the accumulation of knowledge?

learning and reality
Name: Elissa
Date: 2004-03-15 01:42:51
Link to this Comment: 8743

A couple of comments regarding people's posts:

Ideas about learning: I agree with the ideas with practice makes perfect/perfect practice makes perfect/practice makes permanent. For example, think about studying for exams. Yes, even though we all try to be great students, I'm sure there has been some point in everyone's academic career where they've crammed for an exam/quiz. You don't know the information well at all, and the night before, you study until your brains are fried. You retain the information well enough to take the exam/quiz the next day, but when it comes time to take the final exam, that material was long gone from your brain, because you only studied it once. People often make flashcards to help them study, because it's something they can always go back to easily and review their topics. The Chinese courses require you to do homework that consists of writing a single character repeatedly. In chemistry, math, and physics classes, you often have to do variations of the same problem over and over again in order to understand the concept. If we don't consistently practice something, it's easy to forget.

Reality: Reality can certainly be a function of perception, because we want to believe that what we see is true, is actual, is real. I don't know if anyone has ever experienced a situation where it is possible to walk on air, instead of on the ground, or flap your arms fast enough that you fly...Unless you're on drugs, and that adds a new dimension to reality. If you trip on acid or shrooms, you think you can do things that you probably couldn't do (and wouldn't) if you were sober. You think that you can fly, you think you're floating, you may even have some incredible spiritual awakening. And while you're tripping, to you it IS reality, because it's your perception, and you believe that it's real.

Name: Erica
Date: 2004-03-15 11:18:04
Link to this Comment: 8745

I think that it is very interesting to discuss the idea of perception versus reality. What is reality? There are very concrete examples of what is real and what is not, but is it possible for that which we believe to be unreal to exist as a reality in some way? I feel like everyone can agree that 2+2=4, but not everybody would agree that 2+2=0, even though it does in some instances. My point is that it is very possible that what we as individuals (or what our I-functions tell us to) perceive as reality can often be very different from everyone else's reality, and how are we to distinguish between "real" reality and something else? Whose perceptions are accurate enough to be termed reality, or can we assume that perception is reality? When we discuss the matter in terms interpersonal interactions, it's possible. Yet, the case in which an individual perceives a state that does not exist (think phantom limbs or proprioceptor malfunction) suggests otherwise.

A literary take on the difference b/t "self" and "
Name: Lindsey
Date: 2004-03-15 19:42:00
Link to this Comment: 8819

I recently read a short novel (science fiction) over break written by a neurosurgeon who describes his journey through the symptoms of amnesia/brain damage. It was fascinating to read the novel because he differentiated between his "mind" and his "brain," or in other words—what we know as the I-function and the nervous system. Essentially, he began to develop symptoms, but there was always doubt as to whether he was imagining these symptoms (voluntarily tricking his brain into manifesting "brain damage") or whether these symptoms were out of his conscious control. Reality and perception of reality became blurred when the I-function and the rest of his the nervous system became separated. He explored the possibility of brain damage, more specifically amnesia as "freedom" and the liberation of self from the physical workings of the brain. By undermining memory and continuity (the very bulwarks that create a sense of self), he realized that by living in the present and future he was his "true self."

He also considered volition as a mysterious and perplexing problem. If volition means will power and intentionality, he wondered how the initial impulse to action was generated? I was excited by this question he raised because we had just studied how an action potential can be generated in the middle of the box. His conclusion was that the "impulse to action" preceded the actual "action" and that was part of the casuality triggered by the brain. This impulse to action goes back to what we talked about for the central pattern generation and the reafferent loop! Ultimately, the novel came back to the larger question of "circularity"—excessive reflection within the brain about the brain itself. Was this dangerous? Why? Is his situation a result of circularity? What are the implications of us thinking about our brains? Although the question seems absurd, do we have the power to negate our perception of reality and ultimately, ourselves?

Name: Emma
Date: 2004-03-15 20:26:35
Link to this Comment: 8820

I was rewatching memento over break and the main character has a condition where he cannot make any new memories and thus has no short term memory. However, they say that someone with this condition should still be able to learn through conditioning. Does this mean that learning and memory are separate?

Completely off topic
Name: Sarah
Date: 2004-03-15 20:48:16
Link to this Comment: 8821

Hello all,
This really isn't in response to anyones post, although I must say it was interesting reading the latest. I can't remember who brought up the idea of how learning occurs, but I have something to add to that. In that comment she spoke of how certain people are viewed as funny (i.e. Bill Murray and Monty Python). My question is what makes something funny. I may not be explaining this right but, we all see different things as REALLY funny. Like me, I find people who run into things REALLY funny, but other people don't find that funny. I guess my question is, what is responsible for that? What part of our brains determines something is funny? And further, what happens within the brain (in terms of signal transduction) that causes a laugh to occur? Just some questions I had to get out.

Name: erin
Date: 2004-03-15 21:25:29
Link to this Comment: 8822

I think the concept of motor symphonies -- is a complex working of many elements to create what we perceive as movement -- is rather interesting. I like the idea that "music" can be written as the symphony is taking place or that it can be reproduced from an existing score. I was thinking a little about its relation to perception, reality and learning. In terms of learning something new, we are told to practice. The score of the particular motor symphony, manifest as a 3-point shot in basketball, crisper trill in violin, or neater penmanship, seems to be created during the time we "practice." Our perception -- the way we see things -- seems to change, as a new reality is manifest through our new ability (the mastery of a new motor symphony). ie: We make the connection that we need to hold the basketball a certain way and apply a certain amount of force to make the shot, all elements of a new motor symphony that we didn't have command of before. However, does this mean that people who can't make that connection are without this new understanding – even though at times, they might make a lucky shot? Or is this the same reality for everyone, just some are able to perceive and access these concepts while others are not? How does this affect our motor symphonies? Are there some types of music we just can't create no matter how hard we try, or are we all capable of making music, however, because our perceptions of our individual realities are different, we have access to different notes, and thus can't recreate the exact symphony if we tried.

The Shortage of Child Pyschiatrists
Name: Chevon Dep
Date: 2004-03-15 22:09:05
Link to this Comment: 8823

I was reading an article in "The Philadelphia Inquirer" about the need for child pyschiatrists. When treatment is delayed, children can slip further off their proper developmental track, which influences their actions. One woman said that her child was on the waiting list for two months before he had an appointment to determine if he needed to see a psychiatrist. By this point, her son's behavior got worse. Therefore, the treatment does play a significant role in shaping the behavior of the child. It is a shame that children are being denied the immediate attention they may need, because of the shortage of pyschiatrists. Where else can they turn?

Name: Ariel
Date: 2004-03-15 22:17:30
Link to this Comment: 8824

I think that the 'practice makes permanent' idea is really interesting. I think that that is very true, but I also was wondering about the different ways in which people learn. For instance I know that if I write a paper on a topic, the likelihood of me remembering the information on that topic is considerably higher that if I just had to memorize it for a test. Or if I do a hands-on project I will often retain information better than by hearing it in lecture. I know that everyone learns in a different way, but why? Are there certain aspects of a person's 'i-function' that are stronger, or more developed than other areas? It seems like there must be. Also does this relate to age? For instance when a person is a child it is easier for them to learn different languages, does this imply that a child's 'i-function' is more flexible and receptive than an adult's?

Name: Mariya Sim
Date: 2004-03-15 23:30:29
Link to this Comment: 8825

In response to Ariel's post, I don't think that children really learn foreign languages better than adults. Rather, I think that their environment makes it easier for them. I think that if adults trying to learn languages had the same privileges as children (a.k.a. not having to worry about feeding themselves, etc.), did not have a family or obligations and could devote all their time and energy to studying the language, the results would be pretty much the same. I don't know if there were any studies done on this, though. But judging by the fact that adults learn other things as well (and sometimes even better) as children do, I don't think we can say that a child's I-function is more flexible than an adult's.

More on mysteries of learning, though... I always wondered why for some people learning is a pleasurable experience, while for others it is a torture. And why do we all like to learn different things? For instance, my friend goes into a euphoric state when she cracks a difficult math problem. She says that she feels physically happy when it happens. I can understand her feelings, since I myself feel like skipping when I read a good poem. But I will never be able to feel this way about a math problem, whether I solve it or not. What is it about our I-functions that makes us so different (and so alike)? We perceive color and smell differently because of different receptors. Is it something like this? And also, how is the I-function, which I would think regulates the rational acts of reading and problem solving, connected to our emotions?

Also, about this "feeling physically happy," when one is engaged intellectually. When I read a particularly remarkable poem, I experience a strange but very pleasant pain-like tingling sensation in my chest and almost stop breathing. I'm sure I'm not the only freak who does that, whether in response to a poem, a musical piece, a painting, or a math problem. How does a purely "brain" activity like reading engage us to such an extent that we respond in physical ways? I think that might be pretty good evidence for brain=behavior.

And lastly (sorry, this is getting long), if it's merely something about our biological makeup that makes us appreciate (or be bored by) art, music, etc., can we justly talk about "smart" people (in the sense of college students who like to learn) and "dumb" people (who hate studying)? Wouldn't it be the same thing as saying that people who hate the smell of bananas are in some way deficient? Maybe the maxim that there is no "normal" and "abnormal" people, but we're all just different applies to this as well. And what does it then do to the concept of high art? If my biological makeup makes me appreciate a ballerina figurine from Dollar General more than Giotto, does it mean I'm "dumber" or "lower" or less refined than someone who sees it the other way around?

the brain...
Name: Katina Kra
Date: 2004-03-16 09:41:32
Link to this Comment: 8828

Over break, I managed to stumble my way to New York City, and on my way there, I picked up a book a professor had given me to read. The basic topic was a girl with epilepsy, who, at a certain age underwent a brain surgery procedure seperate the two lobes of her brain, thus enabling the non-"diseased" portion of her brain to function without the damaged region contaiminating it. However, even after her surgery and the loss of seizures, she still exhibited many of the signs of childhood epilepsy, primarily the inability to comprehend truth, despite this completely evasive and effective procedure. What are possibly psychological reactions/side affects to brain surgery or other extensive medical procedures? Does it change brain function and ability?

Also, as a right-handed person, I'm also pleasantly surprised when I meet a left handed person. From my experiences, they seem to have completely different processes of comprehension than those who are right handed. I know this occurs because each side of the body is connection to an opposite lobe, but what are the differents within these lobes that explain why left and right handed people think and act differently?

Lastly, did you notice we have people out of Bryn Mawr/Haverford commenting? Impressive, I think we're asking the right questions.

We're playing basketball
Date: 2004-03-16 10:00:33
Link to this Comment: 8829

When I am on the court playing basketball, I have a natural sense of knowing when I was going to get the ball and a developed sense of knowing what I am going to do with it. But on days that my game is off, both senses are off and I feel that it is not me in my body. As if my mind and body is disconnected. I guess that I have to practice more to not allow myself to feel and act differently but I can not help it especially if I am nervous.

Name: Dana Bakal
Date: 2004-03-17 12:44:29
Link to this Comment: 8852

"I don't think that children really learn foreign languages better than adults. Rather, I think that their environment makes it easier for them. I think that if adults trying to learn languages had the same privileges as children (a.k.a. not having to worry about feeding themselves, etc.), did not have a family or obligations and could devote all their time and energy to studying the language, the results would be pretty much the same. I don't know if there were any studies done on this, though"

Actually, you are wrong. Chiildren learn language implicitly, without working on it, and with many other responsibilities, such as learning social skills, interacting with peers and family, etc. And studies have been done, showing that children learn language MUCH better than adults, to the point where "responsibilities" couldnt be what is causing the difference.

Some thoughts...
Name: Nicole
Date: 2004-03-17 18:49:51
Link to this Comment: 8862

As we were discussing Teret's syndrome in class on Tuesday, I wondered to what extent those who suffer from this disorder lack control. Although I do not claim to understand the complexity of this disorder, it seems like it is quite drastic to say that "they" (meaning their I-Boxes) are unable to control their actions. Does this mean that their I-Box is somehow defective, as it cannot control the actions of the the rest of their body or actions. And, if their I-boxes are not in control, what is? What is compelling those with Teret's to do or to say what they themselves do not desire?

Name: debbie
Date: 2004-03-17 19:22:12
Link to this Comment: 8863

On the topic of memory and the film Memento, my boyfriend has HORRIBLE memory. He has trouble remembering basic things like birthdays, scheduled events, and people's names. It is frustrating to me because he is incredibly intelligent. He says that he would like to learn to have better memory. Is it possible to obtain better memory naturally without the use of acronyms, rhymes, and mnemonics?

Children and language
Name: Mariya Sim
Date: 2004-03-17 23:13:34
Link to this Comment: 8867

"Chiildren learn language implicitly, without working on it, and with many other responsibilities, such as learning social skills, interacting with peers and family, etc. And studies have been done, showing that children learn language MUCH better than adults, to the point where "responsibilities" couldnt be what is causing the difference."

In an attempt to get it less wrong, I searched online about children and adult second language acquisition, and here's what I found:

These summaries suggest not only that adults and children have same potential for learning foreign languages, but that adults actually have an advantage. Of course, these summaries are in no way conclusive or exhaustive (I think I see a web paper topic emerging here :) ), but I just wanted to quickly check if my gut feeling (and I'm a non-native English speaker myself) is shared by anyone else. Again, I'm not saying that this HAS to be true, but my own experience and the experience of people I know suggests that learning potential (and that goes for languages) does not decrease, but increases with age. Now, I admit that saying that a child has fewer responsibilities was not the most convincing way to account for this. But I think that if one looks at it in terms of developmental growth (both conceptual and structural), it makes a lot of sense. But I'll keep working on this :). That's why I like this forum, it makes us all think more (and learn more).

Motor symphony
Name: Mariya
Date: 2004-03-17 23:53:49
Link to this Comment: 8870

The more I think about motor symphony and central pattern generation, the more it reminds me of a jazz piece (and NS of a jazz band). In a jazz band, there is no conductor -- the members work with each other and change their music (improvise) both as a reaction to their own thoughts and feelings and as a response to the changes in their partner's playing (and it's actually quite an enjoyable experience for them, they smile the entire time they are on stage). So this fits with the "coordinated performance of independent players" concept. Also, jazz musicians have a score, but they are not tied to it. What makes jazz fun is improvisation on that score, and this improvisation arises both from within the musician (equivalent of potentials arising within the box) and as a result of input from other members of the band (same as NS adjusting our movements on the basis of sensory and other input). If the band (the organism - in biological terms) is well coordinated and has good communication between its members, even the most elaborate improvisation, which deviates from the score quite a bit, is beautiful and coherent. When communication breaks, the music par excellence ends (like the normal functioning of the organism, when the connections within it and between it and the outside world are in some ways severed)...So I think this works nicely...ok, I just wanted to throw it out there, maybe someone will think it useful, but it's also 12 am, so don't look for anything profound or new in this :)...

Name: Shirley
Date: 2004-03-18 12:57:01
Link to this Comment: 8876

I thought it was interesting the discussion we had on how we remember who we are. Unlike the guy from memento we dont write down who we are then look back at it just to remember who we are. Maybe in a way we do write things down unconsciously somewhere in the brain, but how would that explain how we know who we are constantly. Is there a region in the brain that is resposible for recognizing who we are constantly?

On another topic, i dont think it is dangereous to learn about our own brains. In what way do people think it is dangerous? It is important to learn about our brains to better understand human behavior.

Name: Dana Bakal
Date: 2004-03-18 23:59:38
Link to this Comment: 8881

I can see a level of discomfort that could come from learning about the brain. it discounts superstitions that people hold dear, it questions how much concious control we have of our own behavior, and it questions the nature of reality and our perceptions of it. In that sense, it could be damaging to people's worldviews, and as such be seen as a danger. however, i would equate that to things like new knowledge about geology and such proving that the world is very old and has evidence of extinct species, evolution, etc. This challengd the prevailing religious view at the time, and so was dangerous to that way of seeing the world. It was not however, dangerous to the world or to individuals, but rather enlightening. Sometimes we have to do scary things and learn scary realities to develop.

And about language- I didn't know that studies had shown adults as as capable (or more so) of learning language. that is a good webpaper idea, i thought the opposite, and all I've read before thought so too. Maybe there's hope yet for me to learn a language really well!

Name: Eleni
Date: 2004-03-19 20:10:37
Link to this Comment: 8906

On Tuesday we talked about learning something that gets into your nervous system as opposed to learning something that just gets into your I-fxn. I was under the impression that learning through physical actions is the one that gets into the nervous system and is the one you don't forget, i.e. riding a bike. Memorizing in words is the one that just goes into your I-fxn, and can be easily forgotten, i.e. memorizing names and dates of explorers in 4th grade history or memorizing the multiplication tables. At this point in time, I still know my multiplication tables because I use them on a regular basis in daily life whereas I have forgotten the explorers/dates. So if you use the information in your I-fxn regularly, you don't forget it. I think this is where it differs with learning something in your nervous system-you don't have to do the activity regularly for your nervous system to remeber how to do it. For example, I have not gone bike riding in over a year but if I got on a bike right now, I would be able to ride it. Whereas if I didn't use my multiplication tables for a year, I think I would be pretty rusty when I tried to use them. It's like it takes more repetition to keep words in your I-fxn than activities in your nervous system.

phantom limbs
Name: Liz
Date: 2004-03-20 15:30:05
Link to this Comment: 8912

The idea that the brain is at least partly hardwired for limbs is interesting and I wanted to explore this idea more outside of class. According to this theory, as was discussed in class, if a finger is amputated, the area of the brain corresponding to the finger would not be stimulated. Other corresponding parts of the body represented in the brain may then be able to expand into the area of the finger. Conclusions drawn from this would include that applying pressure to other parts of the body could illicit a response in the phantom limb. This is known as remapping and more can be read about here .

Rewiring and Experience
Name: Emily Haye
Date: 2004-03-20 19:23:48
Link to this Comment: 8914

In his book The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force, Jeffery M. Schwartz, MD, discusses rewiring experiments done in baby ferretts. Because auditory and visual pathways are not laid down in ferretts until after birth, researcheres were able to lesion the normal pathway from the auditory nerve to the "auditory" cortex. Lacking in auditory signals, what should have been the auditory cortex took input from the visual system. So "the animals 'see' with what was their auditory cortex...[I]n these rewired animals, the experience of sight appears to arise from visual inputs to the auditory cortex." In light of what we have learned, this isn't all that astonishing. However, what I wonder is this: Do the rewired ferretts experience sight differently than normal ferretts? There is nothing special about a visual signal versus an auditory one. So the auditory cortex is getting the same type of input it would have gotten if it were wired to the auditory system. Also, it used to be thought that how a signal was processed depended upon where in the brain the processing occured. (Schwartz says this used to be the case, but doesn't say what the current theory is, which really bugs me.)

So: Are the rewired ferretts "hearing" light rather than "seeing" with their auditory cortexes? Or are these the same thing? Is this what happens in the brains of people for whom sound has color or words have taste? We probably won't ever know how the rewired ferretts experience light, because 1) input does not equal experience, so we can't make any assumptions, and 2) the ferretts can't tell us what they experience. But even if we could do something like this in humans (ignoring, for the moment, the ethics of such an experiment) would the subject be able to tell us about his experience? He wouldn't know anything different, so how would he put it in terms we would understand? It would be like trying to describe color to someone who is congenetically blind. So we would have no way of knowing if he "saw" as we do, or if his "visual" world were a myriad of sound instead. And this, this not being able to know, is just as fascinating as the rewiring.

Date: 2004-03-20 19:25:25
Link to this Comment: 8915

Just fixing a typo: congenetically = congenitally

Name: Emily Haye
Date: 2004-03-20 19:25:30
Link to this Comment: 8916

Just fixing a typo: congenetically = congenitally

Name: Anjali
Date: 2004-03-20 21:11:12
Link to this Comment: 8918

I've been thinking about something that Kimberly said- about the danger of "excessive reflection within the brain about the brain." And then I think Jenny said something similar- about how there might be ideas, or facts about the nature of reality that might be actually detrimental to us if we knew about them. (I'm paraphrasing- that's what I got from what Jenny said, at least. Sorry if I misunderstood!). That reminded me of something a friend of mine told me once, which was kind of similar, when he was trying to explain to me in an email about Schrodinger's Cat. And I couldn't quite remember what he'd said so I went back yesterday to find that email- and it was interesting, so I'll describe here roughly what he said.

Basically, the idea behind Schrodinger's Cat is that reality is dependent on conscious observation. Which has a lot of very interesting and very strange implications about consciousness and reality both. All reality (according to the theory) exists as simple probabilities, until it's been observed- and the act of observation collapses the probability wave and decides which reality is... "real", I suppose. Decides which of the probabilities becomes the actual state of reality. Which can make your head hurt if you think about it too long. I'll give the example that my friend gave me. First you take the actual thought experiment, of Schrodinger's Cat. It's not an actual experiment- it'd be awful if someone actually did this to a cat, but it's just something to think about. You take a cat, and put it in a box. And then you set up conditions so that there's a 50% chance the cat will live, and a 50% chance the cat will die. However, the experimenter won't know whether the cat's alive or dead until she looks into the box. The idea according to this theory, though, is that the cat is neither alive nor dead until someone goes over to the box, looks in, and consciously observes that yes, the cat is alive (or dead). The cat is in both states- the reality in the box is in both states- until it's been observed.

That in itself is a little hard to digest. But then, say you take it one step further. Say that the experimenter herself leaves the room for lunch or whatever, and realized that oh! Someone has to go check on the cat! So she asks someone else to go check on the cat and see if it's alive or dead. However, she herself won't know whether the cat's alive or dead until the person gets back. She won't know what that person has seen. Nobody knows what that person's seen. So that second person also exists in two states until he/she's come back and told the experimenter that the cat is alive or dead.

And another implication of this theory is that if a tree falls in the forest, with no one around, there is no way to know whether it made a sound or not- not just because no one was there to hear it, but also because its reality will exist as probabilities unless someone's there to consciously observe it.

My friend ended his letter with, "This is one of the reasons physicists sometimes end their days in lunatic asylums."

Name: Erica
Date: 2004-03-21 12:52:19
Link to this Comment: 8923

This week's postings reminded of something that I saw last semester in a linguistics class. We observed the McGurk effect, which is basically another illustration of how we can perceive a reality different from that which actually is. One person stood in a corner facing a wall, and another stood in front of that person facing the rest of the class. The first person said the syllable "ba" repeatedly while the second, whom the class could see, mouthed various syllables such as "da," "fa," "ba," "ma," and so on, to the same tempo as the first person. The result was that the class actually "heard" the first person, who was repeating the same syllable, say most of the syllables that the class saw being mouthed by the second. This suggests that our perceptions seem to be flawed. I think this experiment is an interesting one because usually people are able to believe things that they personally experience, but if the input we receive and "our" interpretation of it creates a false reality, where does our sense of "real" reality originate?

Name: maria s-w
Date: 2004-03-21 16:13:56
Link to this Comment: 8927

I don't think it's "dangerous" to learn about the brain. I think that people often feel there is something 'sacred' about the self and emotions and such, so learning the mechanics of it seems 'unnatural' but I think it's a mistake to think that personal discomfort with a topic means that the topic shouldn't be studied.
We've been talking about how practice can make permenant certain actions or reactions (like a tennis serve), but I'm also wondering about how a single formative event can permenantly change the way you react or process certain things. When I was twelve we were robbed in what the police term an "armed home invasion." I woke up in the middle to a man holding a gun in one hand and reaching towards my face (actually, he was going for my pillowcase to put jewlery in, but to me it seemed like my face.) The whole thing went on for ages and was a generally unplesant experience, with the man screaming at my father and shoving my mother around with a gun to her back, yet it's almost eight years later and even now if something wakes me up suddenly or if I'm half asleep and something startles me, I have a HUGE reaction to it. It only lasts a split second, as soon as I realize where I am or what it was that startled me, I'm fine, but that over-the-top default reaction is, I think, a direct result of that experience. It always seemed odd to me that I've woken up thousands of times WITHOUT a man with a gun standing over me, and yet it only had to happen once for my brain/behavior to *really* show the effects of it. I hate that I practically go into cardiac arrest if I bump into someone when going to get a glass of water at 3 am, but I honestly don't think I'll ever be able to be how I was before that expereince, and it makes me wonder why that is, why my mind seems to have permenantly decided to expect or at least be on gaurd against another robbery even though I KNOW that the chances of that happening again are so small as to be insignificant...but logically KNOWING that doesn't seem to make much of a difference in this case...I don't was just something I was wondering, maybe all those psych majors out there have some insights.

learning by action
Name: Brad Corr
Date: 2004-03-21 16:55:35
Link to this Comment: 8929

I've been thinking a bit about the process of learning by doing rather than by reading as we discussed the other day. we established that people learn better by different methods. I learn better by actions can remember them quicker. Relating the process of learning to the symphony mechanisms we learned the other day I was wondering if the process of learining occurs by actually establishing new neural connections or symphonies? When I finally learned how to ride a bike was it because new neuron connections created the correct symphony so that I know what to do? Or did I simply use old connections and maybe switch from neural excitor's to neural inhibitors in some places? Basically I'm wondering if the specific neural map has the ability to physically change or wether it doesn't need to because learning is simply altering which neurons fire/don't fire? Is there a physical distinction that occurs when something is finally "learned" and I would imagine that this would be different for both short term and long term knowledge.

Name: Tanya Coop
Date: 2004-03-21 23:17:29
Link to this Comment: 8931

I have especially found the discussion on the human capcity to remember interesting this week, especially the idea of possibly conditioning memory. Something that baffles me is how the human memory responds to trauma and how some people have the ability to block out the memory of painful events. Also, what triggers sudden recollection of the said event? Is it sensory, social, or does it have to do with brain chemistry and the CNS? I was doubtful of the existence of selective memory until I myself recalled a hurtful incident in my childhood that I had managed to suppress for all of my teens and my early adult years. I never gave the situation any thought until something ( I don't know exactly what) triggered my memory. Now, I can replay the situation in my head so vividly that I find it impossible to imagine that for twelve years of my life I never gave it any thought.

more on phantom limbs
Name: cham
Date: 2004-03-21 23:48:12
Link to this Comment: 8933

"According to this theory, as was discussed in class, if a finger is amputated, the area of the brain corresponding to the finger would not be stimulated."

actually, the area of the brain corresponding to the amputated body part is still stimulated, even though there has been deafferentation corresponding to that body part and thus a lack of sensory imput. for example, many of the early studies on phantom limbs we performed on monkeys whose limbs and digits were amputated by experimenters. in one ground-breaking study, it was shown that when a monkey's middle finger was amputated, touch stimuli of adjacent digits led to demonstrable stimulation of the cortex corresponding to the amputated digit.

"Other corresponding parts of the body represented in the brain may then be able to expand into the area of the finger.Conclusions drawn from this would include that applying pressure to other parts of the body could illicit a response in the phantom limb"

phantom limb studies have provided evidence that has convincingly demonstrated the plasticity of the adult brain in terms of remapping of the somatosensory cortex. for example, several studies have shown that due to the way in which the somatosensory cortex is organized in primates (i.e.,including humans), when a person has their arm amputated, touch stimulation of their lower face region results in sensations or pain in the missing limb. this is the result of cortical organization, which makes perfect sense when we remember that accordingly to the somatosensory map (commonly known as the homunculus), the area of the cortex corresponding to the face is directly adjacent to the area corresponding to the hand/arm region. interestingly, the receptive fields on the face are both distinct and differentiated in terms of the digit/area of the limb with which they correspond. in other words, in one study of 2 right upper arm amputees, sensory stimulation of particular areas of the face, corresponded to particular digits in the phantom limb (e.g, the pinky finger, the thumb, the middle finger, etc.).

motor symphonies
Name: Kristen
Date: 2004-03-22 15:00:55
Link to this Comment: 8940

I find it interesting that in the motor symphonies there is no overall score or conductor. I have enjoyed the comparison to functions of the body with musical symphonies and when thinking about any good musical group, it makes sense. The best groups of musicians don't need a conductor because not only do they each know their own part so well, but they know how to work and use each other to create the final output. The same makes sense for the boxes of the nervous system. They each know there own set of rules, but they are also quite good at communicating with each other through corollary discharge signals. This concept is quite surprising to me because I had always assumed that there was some kind of controller box that was perhaps located in the brain.

Name: debbie
Date: 2004-03-22 16:49:13
Link to this Comment: 8943

I have been thinking about the explanation for phantom limb pains which we discussed in class. The lack of sensory signals due to an amputated limb and the continuing excitation of corollary discharge signals seem to explain the shocks and burning that over 80% of amputees experience. However, this explanation doesn't seem to explain another sensation that most amputees experience -- wetness of the phantom limb.

a little bit on memory
Name: Amy Gao
Date: 2004-03-22 17:44:21
Link to this Comment: 8945

When I was six, I nearly drowned, and from then on I had this extreme fear of large bodies of standing water. My parents' efforts to have me learn swimming ended in total failure, because I would just stand in the water and refuse to have any contact with it from waist-up. I didn't learn to swim until eighth grade. However, when I took my swim test in my freshman year, and when we were instructed to float on our backs I had a panic attack and almost couldn't do it. I had to tell myself repeatedly, "If I can swim, I can definitely float." to keep going. Maybe the event was so traumatizing to me at that time that even though I have learned to swim, my body still reacts to the water the same way when I am in the water and in a position that my body "recalls" back to my nearly-drowning experience.

even more on phantom limbs...
Name: Katina Kra
Date: 2004-03-22 19:25:06
Link to this Comment: 8947

The boards have become such an interesting place to read through. I enjoyed Mariya's explanation of the motor symphony as a jazz band, and it got me to thinking, as with anything in music, it can go out of tune. So, what is to occur if the motor symphony isn't processed or sent out "in tune" so to speak?

Is the sensation that people who are amputee's have similar to that of one's arm falling asleep? What effect does the sight of a limb, or no limb at all have on sensation? I can remember one experience of waking up, and having a prickling sensation in my arm, but as I looked down onto my arm, I had no sense of it being connected to me as a whole. Why would something like this occur?

Certain parts of the body can be stimulated to get reaction for another area/part of the body. In the case of sciatica, the diagnosis is usually given when the patient complains of stinging pains or sensation occuring when moving the shoulder. Could this movement of sensation also relate to phantom limbs, as stimulation in a certain area of the body once connected to the area amputed result the in nerves there producing an electrical stimulus, thereby creating possible sensations of phantom limbs?

As for languages, is there a point where the brain cannot process any more different languages, thus limiting how many we can learn?

Origin of Language and Imitation
Name: Lindsey
Date: 2004-03-22 20:00:09
Link to this Comment: 8948

Going back to the question of language and speech, I thought I would do a little research and came upon a special issue of "Science" Magazine devoted to language and linguistics. The question posed was when or where do we pinpoint the origin of speech (and how does this relate to language?)?

Some theories suggested it came about as a result of natural selection, or the development of certain parts of the brain (Broca's areas and Wernicke's), or the discovery of FOX2P (the "speech gene"). The theory that I found particularly intriguing is that speech is arguably a motor activity rather than an oral exercise. By motor activity we mean the movement and coordination of the face, mouth, larynx, tongue, breath and cognitive activity. Sign Language, or a primitive form of it can be thought of as an "intermediate behavioral manifestation" between animal communication and speech. Clearly, we must redefine what we mean by speech: is it primarily oral or motor? What do we mean by oral and motor? One of the first steps we can take is to look at languages across cultures and see how predominant gestures and facial expressions are in conjunction with the spoken word: can the two be separated?

If we follow the motor theory further...the basal ganglia, which is responsible for movement, acts as a "sequencing engine" that makes the combination of verbal and gestural possible. The concept of imitation came up as one process that enabled the evolution of human speech. By imitating gestures and speech sounds, and incorporating these observations into our own behaviors, what does this suggest about language as an innate ability?

Also, going along with the learning string, would it be horribly provocative to say that imitation and learning are the same thing? Going back to brain=behavior, since the brain contains the ability to imitate (something which is something external from the brain), doesn't this complicate the relationship between brain and behavior?

Name: erin
Date: 2004-03-22 20:11:27
Link to this Comment: 8949

I thought that our discussion of phantom limbs was really interesting -- in particular the fact that the nervous system still receives information and signals related to the limb even after it has been removed. The fact that it didn't matter if the limb was physically there -- the signal transmission operate upon the basis of the limb's physical existence -- got me thinking about the extent to which our nervous system can "operate" (in varying degrees) without the experience of doing the action. Do we physically have to engage in an action for our nervous system to be aware that we are actually doing something? If the nervous system operates without "seeing" what physically exists, then does our "physical being" really account for reality at all? In the case of phantom limbs, the nervous system seems to have a mind of its own. Are signals firing off randomly all the time, with varying degrees of relevance and application to everyday actions? And if so, how do our inhibitory mechanisms know which to inhibit and which to let fire? In the case of people born without certain limbs, the fact that they still experience phantom sensations leads to the observation that signals are not dependent on the experience of having that limb. To what extend does our nervous system exhibit innate tendencies? For example, if I were born unable to walk, does that mean that my nervous system lacks the ability to perform the motor symphony that corresponds to walking? Or does my nervous system posses the innate ability to conduct this motor symphony even in the absence of the physical experience? If I get a prosthetic limb, will it drive my nervous system crazy, or will it help it out?

Reality and Memory
Name: elissa
Date: 2004-03-22 21:33:45
Link to this Comment: 8950

There's a new movie out called "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", in which one of the main characters has the tumultuous parts of her relationship with her boyfriend removed. If we were able to pinpoint an area in our brain that would completely remove a part of our memory, how would our "new reality" be defined? What if this removal of our memory made us lose a substantially important memory, such as the birth of our child? Would we be living in reality?

Phantom limbs
Name: Sarah
Date: 2004-03-22 21:49:19
Link to this Comment: 8951

I've been looking into this whole phatom limb situation becuase I have been confused as to why there appear to be different degrees of phantom limb "feeling." Why some people describe their missing limb as feeling wet and others describe it as burning? SO, it turns out that the conditions under which the limb was lost determines what time of feeling the phatom limb has. For example, a person who loses their hand while in a fisted position, will continue to feel that hand is in a fist even though there is no hand. Furthermore, depending on the situation in which the limb is severed, a person will feel a burning sensation or not. I think burning results from quick separation of limbs, but you will have to check me on that. I just thought this was very interesting and wanted to share.

Name: Emma
Date: 2004-03-22 23:42:14
Link to this Comment: 8954

I don't think it is dangerous to use the brain to think about the brain. The brain is so complex and intricate we probably will never understand it but its all we have. Its the only tool we have to look at oursevles and our environment.
To me the brain is like a sand trap. Information goes in and disapears but you never know what you will drag out. Bits of information or memories can stay hidden for years. Because of this we will never be able to fully comprehend the brain using the brain but there is certainly no harm in trying.

Name: Ginger
Date: 2004-03-23 00:12:27
Link to this Comment: 8955

First, I'd like to say thank you to all those who have been posting about humans perception of "reality"/"is studying the brain dangerous?" It has challenged me to look outside my comfort zone. I appreciate your thoughts. In my post this week, I would like to build on the "reality" discussion. While perusing the course lecture notes, I was able to read an article about "space sickness." Mixed Up in Space The article discussed the ways that astronauts perception changes in the conditions of space. For example, when gravity is gone, up and down is much more of a challenge to delineate. And what you ask causes this predicament? It is the result of the inner ear adjusting to lack of gravity. This article made me really reconsider the hierarchy governs our sense of reality. I often credit my brain with what I perceive. However, in the aforementioned case, it seems that our senses are masters over what makes up reality. When a sense is altered, our perception is as well. If senses=reality, it would explain why it's easier for humans to fathom concrete aspects of life. Is what we know, only what we see?

motor memory, not always such a big deal
Name: Mike "Dr.
Date: 2004-03-23 00:15:16
Link to this Comment: 8956

I was talking to my cousin this weekend. He's a head and neck surgeon, and he says that frequently not only do they reattach damaged axons, but they also graft axons from here to there all across the body (he helped reattach a hand as an intern). I asked him if this had ramifications for motor memory. He said that this 'side effect' is generally overrated. Yes you do have to generate new motor memory, and if it is a fine movement that has taken much practice, it may not come back (playing piano, tying your shoes). But nerves which are grafted into large muscles which do rather unspecialized stuff (walking, driving) that does not require much fine motor skill- it's no biggie.
That kind of blew me away. Here we move from "it's all the same" (neurons as the basic unit) to "it's insanely complex" (think acid flashbacks while having a freudian slip and a phantom limb tingle) and back to this simplicity and universality. The CNS is difficult to manage as a concept because of its complexity despite its homogenaeity (homogeneousness?)- a concept which implies a degree of simplicity and manageability.

Neurons and learning...
Name: Aiham Korb
Date: 2004-03-23 00:30:22
Link to this Comment: 8957

The topics of Central Pattern Generation and Corollary Discharge, which we have been discussing, are new discoveries for me! They are definitely challenging the way I used to view the Nervous System and the behavior of neurons. It has also been amazing to learn about these complexities that our brain is capable of.

I wanted to add to Brad's comment about neural connections and learning. In the Cognitive section of Intro to Psych, we looked a lot at Memory, Learning and Retrieval. I think that approaching this huge and complicated topic of learning would be of greater significance if done from different disciplinary points of view at the same time (Bio, Neuro, Psych ...etc). For example, in Psych class we talked about the NeuroMuscular Theory, which says that mental practice activites the same patterns of neuro-muscular pathways as the actual physical task. As you know, mental practice has indeed been proven to be effective (and some coaches still use it to train their teams). This is just to give you an idea of how rich and complex the processes associated with learning can be ...

(By the way, I'm a big believer in the Liberal Arts, and that the different sciences or disciplines complement each other).

thoughts on phantom limbs
Name: Ghazal Zek
Date: 2004-03-23 02:25:27
Link to this Comment: 8958

I just remembered a thought I had in class on Thursday. If pain occurs in phantom limbs because the brain is realizing that there is something wrong (ie, signals are being generated, but there's no limb there to carry out the action), can someone will an existent limb to feel pain? Obviously you can't make a body part hurt just by thinking about it... instead, suppose you consciously decide not to move an arm for an extended period, then would it be possible to feel the sort of pain experience by people with phantom limbs? I'm fairly certain that the answer here is no. The only reason I bring up this point is that I think it's interesting to think about 1) how much our body is capable of sensing at any given moment (ie, the arm would still sense temperature, it would still have blood circulating in it etc) 2) the effect that the brain has on... everything, as well as how large and important that effect is. Although the experiment I mentioned above (willing an existent limb to feel pain) could most likely never work because it would be next to impossible to eliminate all the factors that may contribute and alter any outcome, it would be interesting to sense what that sort of "nonexistent" pain would feel like first hand, and it would be interesting to compare that pain to pain caused by an actual limb.

pain perception in paraplegic patients
Name: Mridula Sh
Date: 2004-03-23 03:41:54
Link to this Comment: 8959

Somewhere along the lines of phantom limbs... it is interesting that even paraplegic patients who have had a full break in the spinal cord below the neck experience feelings of pain and burning in the lower limbs. Thus a break in the sensory circuit from the periphery to the brain doesn't stop the brain from creating an output (with respect to the these limbs) which is transformed into a conscious perception. This seems to indicate that there are other areas within the brain apart from the somatosensory network which function in parallel leading to perceptions of pain and feeling. Technically the neural network(s) between the brain and limbs are severed so are these feelings of pain real or just imaginary simulations created by the brain?

Name: Chelsea
Date: 2004-03-23 04:32:39
Link to this Comment: 8960

I want to comment on what E(lissa) brought up with "The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." Although the film is primarily looking at memory modification, I think it relates really well to things like Christopher Reeves' sense of self and agency, as well as our own individual perceptions of self. If we had a large chunk of our memory removed, would we be a different person? Or would we be the same person, just without the tools to understand why we are? For example, the movie removes the memory of a bad/distressing relationship...but does the character still have a tendency to shy away from relationships of a certain kind? If they met someone similar to the person they'd had removed would they experience emotional responses to them "learned" from the previous relationship, even though they have no memory of it? Basically, things must exist/have wider reaching effects than the isolated locations we put them in (because the boxes are all connected), so wouldn't it be impossible to remove someone from your mind because you still have their impression upon you?

Name: Michelle
Date: 2004-03-23 04:50:43
Link to this Comment: 8961

So far everyone has been talking about memory and the process of learning. To me, it seems bizarre that we can smell a certain smell and be taken back to a time when that smell was first experienced or a major part of a certain experience. Our unconscious memory is the bridge that connects us from a known sensation to an unremembered memory. We have taken time to explore memory, but not yet the phenomena of trauma erasing memory. The brain seems to "self-regulate" the mind into erasing physically or emotionally destructive events. This idea of "self-regulation" seems to be a common feature among human brains. It seems odd that these traumatic experiences can range in length from a day to years and the brain still diagnoses and treats accordingly. This being the case what accounts for the ability for the brain evaluate the possible detrimental side effects that could result from a bad experience? Do individual brains have varying "memory pain thresholds?" Perhaps instead of thinking of the process of trauma erasing a bad experience as erasing memory, it should be thought more of as a learned modification of a past-learned experience. The brain teaches itself to disconnect smells, feelings, and sights involved with a bad experience and to eventually connect each component with new memories. How does this process affect the neurological mapping? It seems to me that memory erasure would just be an adjustment in the learned motor symphony attached to specific events.

Peripherally Related Philosophy
Name: Tegan
Date: 2004-03-23 08:00:33
Link to this Comment: 8962

In response to a few people's posts (Jenny's and Erica's, mostly..)

What's the point of confirming our experiences of reality to be Real (or convincing ourselves that it isn't, for that matter)? Truth is messy. If truth or reality is individual and subjective—as cases of phantom limbs might suggest, for example—it seems that there is at least some support for no one in particular's concept of reality to be true. Any one of us could have it wrong, and there is no Deus ex Machina, no final arbitrator to tell us who has it right. If one person can have reality wrong, than any/all of us could, too; and where is the usefulness of a concept of a True Reality to which we cannot be sure any of us has access?

Both of the posts I mention appeal—at least in passing—to interpersonal interaction as maybe providing an answer, and I think they may be right. If we think of reality as a learned social norm built over time and not as The Way The World Is, it makes sense to speak of what is real and what is not. People and places and things are real because a lot of people think so; it is how we have come to structure our world and our social understandings of our perceptions. The mentally ill or paraplegic or whoever seems not to be in agreement is out of luck: s/he can define reality as s/he likes, but the majority of us aren't going to go along with it.

If we can understand reality as a constructed narrative, and not as some external entity to be "discovered" with our unreliable and stubborn and easily fooled senses, then we have more leeway in deciding how we understand reality. For example, how do we know what is really real and what is not? Real is what we've all agreed to. What would be the point of deciding our currently understood reality needs to be altered? To fix the narrative to be richer, more useful, etc.

In trading an external reality for a self/socially constructed one, we trade uncertainty for flexibility. In this conception of reality, we can't know that we are right, but who cares? We can't know if we are right thinking of reality as external or fixed either.

Name: allison
Date: 2004-03-23 09:31:30
Link to this Comment: 8963

Michelle raised the idea of the brain's self regulating ability, I wonder what role dreaming plays in this process? The dreams I remember are always such a random combination of images and experiences. Is my brain combining past experiences with imaginary images for the purpose of regulating or erasing these experiences from my brain? Does waking up and remembering a dream compromise the function/purpose of the dream? It seems plausible that not remembering a dream is b/c the brain has erased it as well as the experience, and therefore the function of the dream is satisfied. Just some random thoughts...

sleep walking
Name: Jenny
Date: 2004-03-24 09:13:04
Link to this Comment: 8977

In class we had discussed experiences where we would temporarily forget who we are, like the first few moments of being awake after a deep sleep or sleeping in an unfamiliar place. But what happens when we appear to be asleep but our body can continue to move in a manner similar to waking?

Often sleepwalkers can move about their homes with ease, knowing where the stairs are, locks are, etc, but if they are woken in the middle of the sleep walking experience, they are disoriented. It seems like the I-function isn't regulating the sleep walking experience, and when the person wakes up, the I-function wakes up and is startled and confused. I wonder what the role of the I-function is in sleep, and what the interplay between the I-function and the unconscious is during the times when one isn't completely asleep or awake?

Sleep Walking
Name: Laura Silv
Date: 2004-03-25 09:49:18
Link to this Comment: 8994

Once when I was about 15, I sleep-walked from my bedroom on the second floor downstairs and into the kitchen, put on a pot of coffee and got out a bowl of cereal. Then, without touching any of it, I went back upstairs to bed. Now I don't remember this, but my mom saw me heading upstairs and found my mess in the kitchen. So what was going on there? I don't remember a thing, but for some reason I got out of bed with the desire to get breakfast, but then went back to bed without actually eating it. So what's the function of sleep-walking, anyway? Why did I do it? What might I have been thinking? What does any sleep-walker think, if they think at all?

Just some questions I've got ...

Name: dana
Date: 2004-03-26 18:49:34
Link to this Comment: 9016

Did you know if you type "sleepwalking" into google, a bryn mawr neuro webpaper is the first response?


Its a good paper, very informative

Name: debbie
Date: 2004-03-28 13:31:36
Link to this Comment: 9031

I asked Brad last week to perform a seemingly easy task that i was unable to accomplish. He was also unable to complete this task. We are hoping that Dr. Grobstein or someone in the class will be able to explain why we just can't do this --

Sit down in a chair and make clockwise circles with your right foot. After a few circles, lift up your left hand and write the number 8 in the air. Is your right foot still making clockwise circles? If it is not, why isn't it? Try again real hard to see if you can do it.


Spinning and remembering dreams
Name: Anjali
Date: 2004-03-28 16:00:01
Link to this Comment: 9033

I had a thought after class on Thursday, during Ballet. It makes sense to me now, why you'd feel sick to your stomach in a car or on a boat. But then why do you get dizzy when you're spinning? You're the one who's initiating the movement- your body ought to know that yes, the world's spinning but that's ok, because you're the one who's causing it to do that. And yet that's not true. Spinning even a little bit always makes me horribly dizzy. And somehow I'd always thought that the fact that I get dizzy very easily is linked to the fact that I get car sick very easily. I thought it was all classified under motion sickness. But if there's such a difference in the effect on your body between motion that you create yourself and motion you're subjected to, I'm very confused. The two kinds of motion seem to have about the same effect on me.

Another thing: what Allison said about dreaming made me remember something- about waking up and not remembering dreams. I had an idea a couple weeks ago, about why people can't remember their dreams very well. I know that in order to remember something, I have to understand it- if a concept I'm trying to learn doesn't make sense to me, I'll be able to memorize it, but I'll never be able to remember it. Could it be the same for dreams? The fact that they often aren't often very coherent or logical makes them difficult to remember? It feels like the dreams that I can remember the most easily are the ones that make the most coherent sense- the ones that are like continuous stories. Otherwise all I'll remember are little bits and pieces that don't go together- I'll wake up with the memory of a specific emotion, or random images, and the feeling that there was more there that I can't remember but that it didn't really make much sense.

Also, what Debbie said about making circles with your foot and tracing the number 8 in the air: when I tried it it make me think of rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time... or is that the way it goes? I can't remember. One of those things that you spend forever trying to do in elementary school. Anyway, I don't know if it's related or not. But it made me smile a bit to remember it.

And one last thing: I loved Mariya's comparison of motor symphonies to jazz bands. I hadn't even thought of that, but it makes so much sense. And what Katina said about motor symphonies going out of tune: the first thing that came to mind when I read that was losing motor coordination. I suppose that tripping over your own feet could be an example of a motor symphony not being in tune?

Name: Shirley Ra
Date: 2004-03-28 17:25:33
Link to this Comment: 9034

The discussions we have been having on how we learn have been very interesting. It is so fascinating how different individuals learn things differently. I was talking to my friend and I asked her what she thought about learning. She believed that we learn differently because of our birthdays and the position of the moon, sun and planets. I was very intrigued, but did not understand her explanation 100%. It was appealing to see that other people have non-biological/psychological explanations.
In the rest of my other classes I had learn about learning using Pavlov's and Skinner's theories and had just concluded that practice makes perfect!!! Now, I was wondering if when we learn do we create symphonies in the brain and the more we practice, do the symphonies strength? A better idea would be that we build on prior knowledge instead of creating the symphonies from scratch. Another question is: why is it that some people learn better through writing, seeing or actions. Do you think it just depends on how we originally got taught information? Or did we develop individually?
On another topic, it was interesting to learn about motion sickness and how it actually works. It nice to know what is happening in my body when I am sick. This class has helped me really value our body-it is so complicated!!!

Name: maria s-w
Date: 2004-03-28 21:44:24
Link to this Comment: 9042

As far as dreaming goes, I was thinking the other day about how strange it is when a dream that I'm having requires some sort of sensory experience--for example, that in my dream I taste something or smell something or fall over and expect to feel pain when I hit the ground--but don't. At least in my experience one doesn't actually have any of those sensory experiences, but there is some echo of the sensation that I am dreaming of having. It would seem can't just dredge up the memory of what a diet coke tastes like and experience it in my dream. This isn't the case with sight and emotion. When you are having a frightening nightmare you don't feel a watered down version of fear, it's real fear and you obviously have visual experiences as you're dreaming. I don't know about sound...I know that in dreams people speak to me and I know what they're saying, but I don't think i actaully have the experience of hearing the voice of my mother, for example, calling my name, even though I know that I have a memory of what her voice sounds like and when I'm awake can call it up and hear her voice in my head.
I don't know if this is common, but I have these sort of strange episodes at times when I'm going to sleep where just as I'm drifting off my I-fxn seems to wake up but the rest of my body doesn't. It's this really uncomfortable state of being awake and trying to move and not being able to. The episode only ends when I sort of wrench myself's a really bizarre experience. I've heard it called 'sleep paralysis,' but I don't know if that's the technical term...I wonder what exactly that is going on when that happens.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Name: Prachi Dav
Date: 2004-03-29 09:26:25
Link to this Comment: 9048

In discussing memory and learning, I often wonder what processes form the basis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A professor I once worked with believed that the flashbacks that characterise PTSD are a result of your unconscious attempting to integrate snatches of affective trauma memories into a coherent whole such that once this whole narrative of the trauma event is achieved, individuals can begin to reconcile themselves to the emotional impact of the trauma itself. This is part of the base of re-experiencing therapy that is somewhat typical of treatment for PTSD sufferers, it seems. It seems interesting that at any given point in time, one can devote only a certain quota of cognitive resources to the processing of an event and in emotion-laden events, it is such emotion that characterises the memory...

Also, I still don't believe that adults find it as easy or easier than children to learn language.

Name: Erica
Date: 2004-03-29 11:31:04
Link to this Comment: 9049

Prachi's comment on PTSD reminded me of Tuesday's class and how we discussed the I-fn's ability to suppress the feeling of physical pain. I was wondering if this could apply to memories as well. We mentioned the whole idea about how an emotional response can be triggered from the recollection of a painful memory. But, which part of the brain is at work when someone can unaffectedly recall a memory that would generally warrant a painfully emotional response? Is that the I-fn trying to sever the connection between thoughts and emotions if at all possible? Or can emotional pain simply be suppressed in the same way that a person walking over hot coals has the ability to not feel physical pain? In addition, where does the unconscious come in? If we believe that everything goes through the unconscious first, would this then be an example of the memory but not the pain making into conscious thought? To this effect, I was wondering if in place of the actual emotionally painful response to the memory there might instead be only a memory of the pain, which has a degree of third-person-ness. People sometimes say that they've had the experience of feeling as though they were an outsider looking in on their own lives. What if the same holds true for a memory, and what effect does that inevitably have on the individual?

glial cells?
Date: 2004-03-29 18:38:54
Link to this Comment: 9054

I just wanted to comment on something that was brought up in my bio 102 class while discussing the nervous system. It is in regard to this article in the recent Scientific American, the cover story is on glial cells and their possible impact on memory assistance. Although I had honestly not heard of them before this biology course, I felt like the article had a few interesting points to bring up. The one that got me thinking was how they outnumber the neurons 9:1, and they have their own voltage gated channels so they can monitor the synapses in the neurons around them. Apparently there is also a link between this ability and their job in repairing and doing general upkeep on the nervous system. I was wondering if Dr. Grobestein or anyone else in the forum knows something about the validity of these hypotheses. I strongly urge my classmates to check out the article, it ties in very closely to the course.


MS and Motor symphony
Name: Katina Kra
Date: 2004-03-29 19:56:46
Link to this Comment: 9055

In Multiple Sclerosis, degeneration of the nerve tissue causes difficulty moving limbs or muscles, and occasionally sporadic movement. While the destruction of the neurons and nerves correlated to what occurs to muscular function, what occurs with the motor symphony? Is it "out of tune" so to speak, or is it, as well, affected by the disease? I understand that the motor symphony is not a specific entity, but in a sense as part of the nervous system.

Is there such as thing as a too finely tuned motor symphony? Do world class athletes have a different type of reaction/nervous system to allow them to perform at the level they do? What can one do to improve reactions and the "motor symphony?"

Lastly, on what level does our brain help control these functions? Is there some deterioration in the brain that leads to clumsiness or another sign of a lack of coordination, connected to the symphony?

MS and Perception
Name: Mike
Date: 2004-03-29 20:59:28
Link to this Comment: 9056

In response to Katina:
MS acts on two levels, first it degerates the nervous tissue (starting with the myelin) and destroys motor function. The effect of the degeneration is most pronounced in the optic nerves. Optic neuritis, the name for MS induced degeneration of the optic nerves distorts spacial perception and sight deteriorates much in the way it does with old age (second level).
Thus there is a difficulty interpreting the output of the rest of the body and reacting to it. i.e. Walking down a flight of steps requires constant output as a direct result of perceiving the body's location relative to the stairs, etc.,
I don't know if the motor symphony is affected as a result of low responsiveness of muscles or a deterioration of somatic muscle memory, but there is difficulty in queing the symphony to play. MS affects motor neurons and sensory neurons, so as they deteriorate, the whole nervous system must constantly adjust to fluctuating or deteriorating functionality.

Name: erin
Date: 2004-03-29 21:07:34
Link to this Comment: 9057

Class last Thursday got me thinking about the extent to which we are aware of our actions and behaviors. If corollary discharge signals within our box model affect input-signals which provide an updateable model of oneself and the world – without the I-function – what then accounts for our behavior? Is our behavior a result of corollary discharge signals or is our behavior a reaction to what our I-function dictates? I get motion sick – even on very short distances (like on the Bluebus to BM or Haverford) as a result, I ride with my head against the window in a certain position and sit in the same seat. The disconnection between expectations and input cause me to behave in a certain way – without involving the I-function. However, I am very conscience of what I am doing. In any other situation, the same behavioral response to such a conflict between signals would seem even more bizarre. In principle, behaviors would seem to be accountable by corollary discharge signals and their resultant processes – w/out the I-function, if that is the case when do we become conscience of our behavior? Are we never conscience of what is being fired in our nervous system and only aware of our responses to the degree that they are physically observable? Is it possible for there to be an overlap between this and the I-function? If not then, what is behavior? When or how do we know when our actions are a conscience choice and when they are a result of and elaborate relay of signals that translate into motor symphony.

motion sickness
Name: Kristen
Date: 2004-03-29 21:16:02
Link to this Comment: 9058

The discussion regarding different kinds of motion sickness was of great interest to me. My father is one of those people who gets carsick/seasick/jet lag. He gets it so badly that he can physically turn green. He has tried many things in an attempt to get over his "sickness"; drugs such as Dramamine, special patches, and even garlic. At one time someone gave him this bracelet with special pressure points on it to wear on his wrist claiming that it would prevent sea sickness. I was wondering what exactly these "cures" do to the nervous system in order to help people who are prone to such sicknesses.

Name: Ginger
Date: 2004-03-29 21:38:32
Link to this Comment: 9060

I was greatly inspired by Anjali's posting on dizziness. In my modern dance class, we would do a warm-up called the "brain dance." It consisted of a series of movements, including spinning in one direction for a minute, that supposedly stimulate/wake up the mind. I often wondered how the swimming feeling of my head was helping my brain. So for today's post, I researched car sickness versus self-inflicted dizziness. As we learned in class, car/boat/plane sickness is caused by a conflict in signals to the brain. When I sit in a car, my eyes are in static equilibrium--the body appears to be still. However, my inner ear which contains endolymph [endolymph: a fluid that resists movement. When it moves, it triggers nerve signals to the brain indicating direction.] is in dynamic equilibrium--the body is moving. Therefore, the "sickness" is caused by the brain receiving mixed signals. Dizziness from spinning is a somewhat similar problem. When you spin, the endolymph in your ear spins with you. It tells the brain that you are spinning. However, when you stop, the endolymph keeps moving. Thus, your brain receives a signal that you're moving from the inner ear, although your eyes say, "hey, we're stopped." This confused brain moment results in lovely vertigo. All this being said, I still have a few questions: In relation to the philosophies behind the "brain dance," is it healthy for your brain to be confused every once in awhile? Also, why do people respond differently to motion sickness (as in very sensitive or not at all)? Is this a reflection of a quality of that individual's brain or of a characteristic of the endolymph (e.g. slightly more viscous than another person's)? My information concerning the logistics of motion sickness came from: "What makes you dizzy when you spin?" & "Why do people get car sick?"

back to memory erasure
Name: Lindsey
Date: 2004-03-29 23:37:45
Link to this Comment: 9063

Going back to the movie Eternal Sushine of the Spotless Mind also brings up by association the recent movie "Paycheck." This film is based on a novel by Philip K. Dick, and a character that undergoes selective memory erasure. In an interesting article, it talks about how this erasure is implausible because memory does not exist in individual neurons, rather it exists over a pattern of neurons (like a motor symphony).

Can we say that specific memory erasure will be impossible (although we can never say impossible these days!) because it is an all encompassing idea? The example used is idea of a bike: not only do we have that memory of learning to ride the bike for the first time, but of all the other times we ride the bike, as well as numerous other associations we have of it. In some ways memory becomes a web mapped around various parts of our brain. Not only is it difficult to locate its origin, but it allows for us to exist as ourselves every second as a "ubiquitous" pathway. Memory is continuity and therefore our Self, so if we eliminate even a simple idea of a bike, we could arguably render a large part of our personality obsolete. In response to Chelsea, I think we would be different people. Amnesiacs have the same problem—they cannot remember who they are moment from moment, thus they are unrecognizable as the person people once knew them as. In some ways this shows that our Self is a construct of society, we are what people recognize us as.. individuals who act in a particular way on a consistent basis (with exceptions here and there).

Choice& Consciousness
Name: Shadia
Date: 2004-03-29 23:57:44
Link to this Comment: 9064

Thursday's discussion got me rethinking about choice. The idea that there is a mechanistic explanation behind any given choice is a disconcerting one. As a society, we operate under the assumption that we have free will—the person who risks his life to save another rather than flee in the face of danger is deemed a hero, the one who commits a crime is condemned. A while back someone had raised the question of how such a "we-are-wired-to-choose...explanation" would alter legal implications, in terms of responsibility for one's actions. Looking at Pleurobranchea and how it doesn't withdraw its proboscis when it is eating because of the inhibitory corollary discharge signals produced by chewing was interesting but how can we apply it to ourselves? Upon first glance, Pleurobranchea seemingly exhibits free will, which we then learn it does not in fact have. But can the same be said of us? I don't think so... because I feel *certain* that given my actions in any situation, I can imagine having done the complete opposite. It sounds simple enough... Pleurobranchea, if it were complex enough, could not experience having the concept of a withdrawn proboscis while eating just like we cannot have an internal battle about whether or not our hearts should beat. The interesting thing is that the question of choice and the ability to determine what it is we have "control" over is inextricably tied to self-awareness and the I-fnct.

On another note, I was really entertained by the various postings over the past week. Anjali your question about dizziness literally transported me back to my fourth grade health class where I first learned about the fluid in semi-circular canals. It had been a question I had always wondered about because my brother and I loved to compete to see who could spin the longest when we were little. Anyway, I remember consciously willing myself to remember this when we it was first introduced in fourth grade. (I can tell you where I was sitting, what I was wearing, and what the picture in the book looked like.) I realize this sounds like a very excessive response but I still do this sometimes—(e.g. when ppl mention their birthdays, or random facts/images like Nepal's flag). I'm just wondering/hoping :) that others do this too—not memorize things but tell yourself that this is something you want to know and invariable remembering that thing along with the situation it is presented in along with that desire....

Name: Emma
Date: 2004-03-30 00:09:51
Link to this Comment: 9065

There is so much in this forum I am unsure what to respond to. In response to the dreaming/sleepwalking discussion I once heard something about dieters sleepwalking and stuffing their faces at night. This would imply that in sometimes sleep our desires surface but why does this happen? How does the brain functioning differently as we sleep bring up these images. Sometimes those images are from a long time ago. I remember in High School I was introduced to this boy by a friend of mine and we all talked for about 10 minutes. I did not see this boy for months afterwards and never thought about him. Then suddenly one night I had a dream that he was killed in a bus crash. When I woke up I couldn't even remember his name or where I had met him. After a few days I remembered meeting him but still couldn't remember his name. That dream has always stayed vivid to me and contained fears that I myself had(the boy died when the bus stopped at his stop and he was thrown through the window, something I am afraid of) but I have never been able to figure out how a boy I didn't know played such a big part in a dream.

Name: Emma
Date: 2004-03-30 00:11:06
Link to this Comment: 9066

There is so much in this forum I am unsure what to respond to. In response to the dreaming/sleepwalking discussion I once heard something about dieters sleepwalking and stuffing their faces at night. This would imply that in sometimes sleep our desires surface but why does this happen? How does the brain functioning differently as we sleep bring up these images. Sometimes those images are from a long time ago. I remember in High School I was introduced to this boy by a friend of mine and we all talked for about 10 minutes. I did not see this boy for months afterwards and never thought about him. Then suddenly one night I had a dream that he was killed in a bus crash. When I woke up I couldn't even remember his name or where I had met him. After a few days I remembered meeting him but still couldn't remember his name. That dream has always stayed vivid to me and contained fears that I myself had(the boy died when the bus stopped at his stop and he was thrown through the window, something I am afraid of) but I have never been able to figure out how a boy I didn't know played such a big part in a dream.

Name: Emma
Date: 2004-03-30 00:16:20
Link to this Comment: 9067

There is so much in this forum I am unsure what to respond to. In response to the dreaming/sleepwalking discussion I once heard something about dieters sleepwalking and stuffing their faces at night. This would imply that in sometimes sleep our desires surface but why does this happen? How does the brain functioning differently as we sleep bring up these images. Sometimes those images are from a long time ago. I remember in High School I was introduced to this boy by a friend of mine and we all talked for about 10 minutes. I did not see this boy for months afterwards and never thought about him. Then suddenly one night I had a dream that he was killed in a bus crash. When I woke up I couldn't even remember his name or where I had met him. After a few days I remembered meeting him but still couldn't remember his name. That dream has always stayed vivid to me and contained fears that I myself had(the boy died when the bus stopped at his stop and he was thrown through the window, something I am afraid of) but I have never been able to figure out how a boy I didn't know played such a big part in a dream.

Name: Kimberley
Date: 2004-03-30 00:38:22
Link to this Comment: 9068

I was talking with a friend of mine and his parents one day. We got into a discussion of early childhood and memory. His parents told me a story that when my friend was 4 or 5 he recalled his birth. They were watching a television program and a scene of a woman giving birth came on. He turned to his parents and said that he remembered when that happened to him claiming that the scene was all red, supposedly from the placenta. My friend does not remember saying this but his parents remembered it quite distinctly.

This story goes against my limited knowledge of memory and development. I remember watching a documentary on the topic and from it, I was under the impression that humans do have enough neural connections to retain memories that could be understood and processed with visual interpretations.

My question is, could a person remember his or her birth?

Name: cham
Date: 2004-03-30 00:50:00
Link to this Comment: 9069

This week's postings on "self-inflicted" motion and dizziness versus motion and dizziness that is imposed upon our bodies (e.g., through movement of a car or boat) made me wonder about a different kind of dizziness- that experienced as a result of Meniere's Disease. as usual, i offer some personal experience- i have Meniere's Disease and can tell you that it is a form of "dizziness" unlike any other, whether it be self-inflicted or not. Although the etiology of Meniere's Disease is not fully understood, it is somehow related to a malfunction of the endolymphatic sac mentioned in a previous posting. it is also associated with the body's sodium regulation and endocrine activity. Attacks seem to be brought on by stress, but why? Perhaps there is an interaction with blood pressure and the malfunction of the endolymphatic sac, as it would explain both the relationship to stress as well as to increased sodium levels in the body. Does that even make sense?

Motion Sickness
Name: Michelle
Date: 2004-03-30 03:22:02
Link to this Comment: 9072

Over spring break, I went to a place called Wonder Works in Orlando, Florida. It was an upside down building that had 100's of interactive exhibits and displays for the mind. The entrance into the first floor of exhibits was a tunnel. In the tunnel, there was a suspended walkway about 20 feet in length. A giant and continuous spiral was painted on the ceiling, floor, and walls of the tunnel. The ceiling, floor, and walls moved in a clockwise manner, much like a mouse wheel. Before entering the tunnel, I could easily see through this illusion. I saw the walls very clearly moving and the walkway remaining stationary. However, as I took two steps in, I began to feel like I was turning upside down, and clutched to the handrails. I stepped back towards the entrance and saw the walls moving, I stepped forward and felt myself moving again. I began to focus on various fixed points in the room: the handrails, the light of the opposite doorway, and the floor of the walkway. In focusing, my mind would start to believe that I was stationary, but if I caught even a little bit of the moving walls, I would lose focus and feel as though I was motion. In this case, my body told my mind that I was motionless, yet my eyes managed to trick my mind into believing what it was seeing. My sight took precedence over my other senses. It seems as though because this exhibit most employed sight, the combination of my other senses could not draw my mind away. It seems odd to me that my mind could not listen to my body's sensation, but instead listened to a single sense. After going through that tunnel, it seems to me that motion sickness or other such feelings are a result of various combinations of senses. Depending on the situation, some senses can override others and one's overall reaction to both illusion and reality is a specific blend of all our senses, the tools we use to interpret situations we are faced with.

Night Shift
Name: Liz
Date: 2004-03-30 06:35:35
Link to this Comment: 9073

As someone who works the occasional night shift, I found our discussion of the effectiveness of those who work nights particularly applicable. From my experience, it is much more difficult to sleep during the day. Despite knowing that I should sleep during the day since I was up all night, it is difficult when the sun is out in the middle of the day. During the winter when I would get back to my dorm room and the sun would not yet be up, I could sleep for several hours but now with the sun rising earlier, I find myself having to take measures to make my room dark so that I can sleep. I want to be awake during the day even though I know I should be sleeping.

Name: Maja
Date: 2004-03-30 07:26:13
Link to this Comment: 9074

In response to the discussion about memories, a few questions sparked in my head. When people go through an experience that is unpleasant, weather it be physically or mentally traumatic, they never seem to be able to remember it to be as awful as it truly was. This goes hand in hand with the phenomenon of being unable to remember the feeling of pain. We can remember that something must have hurt, but we can never recall the degree of pain or re-experience it. Being unable to recall just how miserable a painful history was is a good self-preservation mechanism that helps you move forward in life. However, what puzzles me, is that people often tend to focus on and remember all the good aspects of that miserable time period, to the point where they are even able to fool themselves into thinking that perhaps it was not all that bad.

Name: Amanda
Date: 2004-03-30 08:50:16
Link to this Comment: 9084

About dreams: First of all, I am curious whether or not Emma saw that boy again or what happened to him. Dreams can be so vivid that a person might not be sure if it happened or not. This unsurity can also occur when a person hears about the story that occured in a dream. If the dreamer has and remembers a vivid dream and tells this to a friend, another who walks by might think the dream actually happened if the conversation is not prefeced with "In my dream...." I know that when I remember a dream (which is quite often) I remember it with a lot of detail which can be quite scary.

Name: Brad Corr
Date: 2004-03-30 09:19:50
Link to this Comment: 9086

Since our discussions about memory, I can't seem to get this image out of my head. I imagine two buckets, one large (subconcious) and one small (Concious ~ I-Box) Both have water in them but the large bucket has a small hole in it. The water represents "everything" How to do things, mainly memory. My buckets used to be separate but now my small bucket is floating in the large bucket, its able to spill into the large bucket and its also able to dip into the large bucket. I'm sure in the near future we'll go through this and my bucket theory will be thrown out the window but memory really intrigues me. The motor symphony theory makes sense to me but what doesn't is the abiliy to store those symphonies. In the real world we put the scores on paper or the music onto a CD, so I assume these would represent our memory. Are there physical neurons associated with memory? Is there a vault of info up there?

Name: Eleni
Date: 2004-03-30 13:24:37
Link to this Comment: 9088

I know Prof. Grobstein said we would talk about dreams later, but the numerous postings about dreams really sparked my interest. What are you conscious of when you dream? Somehow your senses are still connected-through memeory, I guess-which come out when you dream. You can feel pain in a dream because your body remembers what it feels like. I have even had dreams where I am eating and actually tasting food. I had another dream last week that really illustrates the connections the brain is making during a dream. I was dreaming that I was swimming at the beach and I was walking over these really pinchy rocks. The bottom of my feet started to hurt so I looked and saw I had little cuts on the bottom of my foot from the rocks. This sequence just seemed so logical-I knew that my feet hurt because I was walking on sharp rocks which would produce small cuts. I have been at the beach and walked over pincy rocks that really hurt, so was my brain just using the string of events from the memory or was it taking logical steps and re-thinking an explanation?

pain perception
Name: Sarah
Date: 2004-03-30 20:55:13
Link to this Comment: 9096

Here's a question. You know when you are watching a movie or TV and some bloody accident happens and say a person has their arm sawed off or something...why is it that your arm starts hurting? I mean, not all people have that response but of those who do, what is going on in the brain that makes them feel as though they are experiencing pain? Just a question I had while watching G.I. Jane.

Name: Liz
Date: 2004-04-01 00:11:42
Link to this Comment: 9106

With the respect to the dream discussion, I have had dreams in the past that have seemed so real that after some time, I can't remember if a memory I have is a dream or actually happened. The events that I dreamed about could have just as easily happened in my life. I can remember specific details of a dream that I had of being at work. I woke up the next morning believing that what I had dreamed the night before had actually happened. I went through several minutes of believing that the dream I had was an actual experience at work until I remembered that I was not at work the night before.

Sympathy Pain
Name: Millie
Date: 2004-04-01 00:17:49
Link to this Comment: 9107

Sarah I think your question is really interesting because I have always thought that this pain you describe is sympathy pain or something of the sort. I think when I hear of a painful injury or witness someone being injured I imagine how much that must hurt. Unlike your description I don't feel the pain as much as cringe from it.

Its Just an Illusion
Name: Chevon Dep
Date: 2004-04-01 00:30:19
Link to this Comment: 9108

After Tuesday's class, I was thinking about optical illusions for some reason. Does it have anything to do with the I-Function box? For example, my friend sent me an e-mail that had an outline of Jesus' face. After following the directions, I could see the image of Jesus on the wall. It was actually creepy because throughout the day I would see the image. Is it that my eyes were playing tricks on me or did it have to something to do with my memory?

Disconnection of Memories
Name: Laura Silv
Date: 2004-04-01 08:43:57
Link to this Comment: 9110

Someone in class the other day was talking about the disconnection of memories, how someone can talk about a traumatic event with a relative amount of calmness and serenity. David Hume called this the difference between experiences and ideas - an experience is something you go through directly, like the pain you feel when you stub your toe, and an idea is the impression that the pain leaves on your nervous system - the memory of the pain, if you will. Hume says that the actual experiences will always be more poignant, more forceful, than the ideas. It makes sense, though - memory is imperfect, impressions change, but the in-the-moment experience is impossible to replace.

Just thought I'd add that to the forum

Date: 2004-04-01 18:45:57
Link to this Comment: 9122

Not only is remembered pain or dream pain (for me anyway) harder to remember because it is not so immediate, mechanisma also exist within your brain specifically to erase it. I am thinking of childbirth, where women prodice cannibates (marijuana-like substances) in their brains, which cause them to forget the pain of childbirth. Without this, women would never have second kids.

And on the topic of free will versus seemingly free will. Someone said that they have free will because they can imagine themselves having done something else than what they did in a given situation. However, you did NOT do something else, you did what you did. There is no proof, therefore, that you COULD have done anything else in that situation given your mental state and your individual brain.

Another story on percieved free will. There is a type of wasp who lays her eggs in a paralysed caterpillar for her children to eat when they hatch. She proceeds methodically, finding a suitable caterpillar, paralyzing it with her venom, dragging it back to her hole, leaving the caterpillar at the entrance to her hole and going inside to make sure it is still safe and empty, coming back out and dragging the caterpillar in to lay her eggs on.
BUT, if you wait until she has gone into her hole to check, and you move the caterpillar an inch, she will drag the caterpillar back to the entrance of her hole and go back inside to check. She will do this forever if you keep moving the caterpillar. What seemed to be willed behavior is revealed as a loop, programmed in.

How much of our behavior consists of loops like this? Perhaps even some we believe we have control over is one, and part of our brain is assuring the I-function that it is in control in order to maintain sanity?

Just some thoughts

Name: Brad Corr
Date: 2004-04-01 19:49:33
Link to this Comment: 9124

We learned about decerebrate posturing today in class, as, I believe, a response of the nervous system. This sparked some knowledge I remember from being an EMT, and looked it up in my book.
There are three levels of signs and symptoms of head injury. This injury can occur due to trauma or such things as intracranial hemorrhaging or stroke. In the first level blood pressure rises, pulse slows, pupils may become constricted but still be reactive and ventilation begins to exhibit Cheyne-Stokes Breathing. The patient does not respond to verbal stimuli but may initially try to localize and remove painful stimuli. As the problem progresses the patient will only withdraw from pain stimuli and exhibits decorticate posturing. This is flexion of the upper extremities with the lower extremities rigid and extended. This stage of injury is usually reversible with a prompt surgical intervention removing intracranial pressure.
At level two, the blood pressure continues to rise, the pusle becomes slower, pupils become fixed and unreactive, and breathing rate of fast shallow difficult panting occurs. The patient also exhibits decerebrate posturing. This is an extension of the upper extremities with the lower extremities rigid and extended. If level two arises the patient will probably never function normally again.
At level three, the patient becomes flacid, BP drops, HR becomes rapid, and a pupil may "blow" on the same side as the hematoma, or swelling. Breathing may become erratic or absent.*

I'm not exactly sure if this is opposite to what Paul Grobstein was saying in class because decerebrate pusturing is pretty much a last resort response to try and salvage the CNS. However, it seemed to me that he was describing decorticate posturing in class with upper extremity flexion. In either case I'm not sure I clearly understand the reversal from decorticate to decerebrate...But I could get you to the hospital safely if I see it!

*-This info is from The Basic EMT; 2nd Edition. McSwain, Norman E. and Paturas, James L..

Red Nucleus
Name: Brad Corr
Date: 2004-04-01 20:46:13
Link to this Comment: 9125

Alright, So I found an answer to my problem which obviously brought up ten more questions.
According to

The causes of decorticate vs. decerebrate is damage to the upper motor neurons of the Pons above (decorticate) the red nucleus vs. damage of the motor neurons in the upper midbrain below (decerebrate)the red nucleus. Apparently the exact function of the red nucleus are not well known but it is believed they are highly associated with skilled motor neuron limb movement, especially flexion and extension. A good image of the location of the Red nucleus "Ruber" in the motor neuron path is on

This info goes way beyond our knowledge but its a start at figuring it all out.

Name: Shirley R.
Date: 2004-04-02 12:29:17
Link to this Comment: 9129

Well, while reading over the forum area it was exciting to read everybody's ideas on dreams, motion sickness and memories. I, like many of you, am amazed at the fact that people seemed to "forget" painful memories. I believe this is so becuase it a mechanism that allows you to live a semi-normal life. Why or how does it happen-I have no idea. The brain must know what memories to put away because it knows when memories alter the state of your body. When I remember negative memories- i disconnect myself. In this way I am able to think about them and reflect. If I were to put myself back in that painful memory then I would re-live it and I know that would not be good.

Also, i was wondering what everybody thought of "deja-vu" (not sure how to spell it!). What happens when we have a deja-vu episode? Are we remembering part of a dream or we remembering a past occurrance? Most people believe that deja-vu are dreams that we remember at that certain point. But that would mean that we dream about the events that will occur daily? I just dont know!

memories ect
Name: maria s-w
Date: 2004-04-03 19:59:00
Link to this Comment: 9141

I find it interesting that some people can block out painful memories given that I'm at the opposite end of the spectrum. I am extraordinarily poor at distancing myself from memories that were at one time upsetting. In fact, if I think seriously about an event that was painful or hurtful or upsetting, it doesn't feel like the echo or the shadow of the experience...emotionally and even physically it feels that it's happening again. I suppose another way to say all this is that my memories of experiences don't dim with time...I don't have good boundaries between the "me" that had an experience in the past and the "me" of right now. I don't know if this has anything to do with being ADD. In my case ADD causes me to experience the world in a very immediate way and I've wondered if the overly intense nature of my emotions are due in part to the fact that I experience them with the same context-less immediacy that tends to characterize my interactions with the world at large. I've come to suspect that these over-the-top reactions (and uncomfortably vivid recollections) are at least due in part to the fact that I don't experience emotions in a larger context that might mitigate their intensity.

Name: debbie
Date: 2004-04-03 20:26:44
Link to this Comment: 9142

In class we discussed the topographically organized primary motor cortex, and it reminded me of something my uncle used to do. When I was young and used to complain of stomach aches, my uncle would burn the tip of a needle and press the tip of the needle lightly beneath my thumbnail until my skin broke. Once the blood started flowing, my stomach ache would strangely subside. I am curious if the basis of acupuncture lies in the topographical organization of the primary motor cortex.

Name: Kristen
Date: 2004-04-04 11:45:18
Link to this Comment: 9145

It is amazing to me what our body accomplishes unconsciously. It makes sense that we have self-maintaining feedback loops for homeostatic purposes such as temperature regulation, or even body weight, but I was surprised how much of our motor functions occur in similar loops. It makes me wonder just how much of our actions we have conscious control of. Do these unconscious loops extend to aspects of ones personality? Are some people introverts and others extroverts due to slightly differing neural designs?

Date: 2004-04-05 13:08:48
Link to this Comment: 9169

I think that the posts people have been making about traumatic memory are really interesting.

There are two other similar phenomena that I am curious about. One, Someone mentioned that some people who experience a very traumatic event can later talk about it without getting emotional, but isn't it often common for a person in that situation to speak as if they were not the person effected? I have heard it described as using a "dead" voice, where there is no emotion whatsoever in their voice or body language, is this true?

The other question I have is similar, I have a friend who was abused when she was younger, but now when she remembers the experience she says that she never felt like she was in her body she was always floating above it, so what causes people to have an "out of body" experiences when suffering from trauma?

Name: Mike
Date: 2004-04-05 15:11:02
Link to this Comment: 9172

I think our examination of conscious and subconscious control of CNS function should be applied to animalia in general. We cannot discern the existance of an I-function in other animals, but we have now established the idea of "purpose" and "choice" without an I-Function (Paul's words, not mine.) If purpose and choice are not limited to animals (and CNS) with I-Functions, and assuming that other animals do not have I-Functions, they can however be sentient because of the concerted way that their CNS "chooses" to react to maintain homeostasis, find food etc.,

traumatic injury/memory
Name: Natalie Me
Date: 2004-04-05 16:26:34
Link to this Comment: 9173

Many people have been talking about traumatic experiences (and we touched on this in the past as well) and the connection to memory. I wanted to mention my experience:

Last fall break, I was playing football with my sister and managed to fall and dislocate/break my elbow. It popped out and when I landed on it, and I remember thinking that I had gone down too far. I didn't feel any pain and didn't immediately notice my injury as I was wearing long sleeves, but when I went to stand up I couldn't keep my body up. I sat down and turned my head and lifted my sleeve and my family nearby gasped at the sight of the distorted limb.

After getting it set at the hospital, for the next several days I was plagued with the image of myself falling. Again and again I would see it, and each time it would cause me to cringe. It was as if I were reliving the moment - possible because of the lack of pain I initially felt. Still, when I recall my injury I can vividly remember the initial experience of falling and thinking "that wasn't right..."

Two things about this are interesting to me: the lack of pain I initially felt, and my memory of the event. I remember little else, except the initial fall and my brain's ability to play that back over and over again never ceases to amaze me.

Name: Erica
Date: 2004-04-05 18:34:10
Link to this Comment: 9176

I thought that Kristen raised an interesting question of whether or not aspects of our personalities could result from unconscious loops. In general, I wonder if it is possible for us to "think" unconsciously, if there is even such a thing. With respect to personalities, I know a few people who seem to be completely oblivious to that which is "socially acceptable." I know that this could be done deliberately, but for the select few for whom it is not, what unconscious processes reduce (or for that matter cause) an individual's ability to receive cues from any social situation that will lead to a suitable response? Is there any way to determine why it is that a person unconsciously and automatically reacts to almost anything in a socially awkward way? Where do the points on the spectrum between diagnosable disorder and personality trait lie? I think it is interesting because for everything that we may say without thinking, or even "think" without thinking, there seems to always be that lack of consciousness, where fault (or at the very least general unacceptability) goes unrecognized by the individual herself unless someone brings it to her attention. How do "we" decide whether our patterns of social behavior should be conscious or unconscious? Revisiting my initial question regarding unconscious thought, is it the I-fn that makes that decision for us and if so, how do we not know about it?

Name: Anjali
Date: 2004-04-05 19:51:21
Link to this Comment: 9177

In response to what Erica said, about receiving cues from social situations, I don't think anyone can say exactly what causes a person to be socially awkward, but I've done some research on a disorder called autism- and an inability to interpret social cues is one major aspect of that disorder. There's a theory that people with autism lack what's called a "theory of mind", in varying degrees, depending on their level of autism (autism can range from non-verbal and mentally retarded, to so mild it's not diagnosed for years). A theory of mind is one's ability, basically, to recognize that other people have minds like one's own- to be able to draw conclusions about a person's mental state based on their outward behaviour. Anyway, it's typical for people to start developing this ability at a very young age, around the age of 3, I believe. So a complete inability to recognize social cues- an inability to understand what is and isn't socially acceptable, could be caused by a dysfunction in your theory of mind.

And also in response to Erica- "Where do the points on the spectrum between diagnosable disorder and personality trait lie?" - That's a very very neat question, so I'm going to give my opinion. My gut reaction is that it would often not be possible to distinguish between the two. The word "disorder" is a difficult one. All that it truly means, ultimately, is that a person varies from the norm. Varies so much from the norm that it's noticeable, and sometimes debilitating- but still... If a disorder affects a person's personality, like autism (there are plenty of others, I'm sure. I just say autism because I'm slightly obsessed with it.), the person's "true" personality would be the one created by the disorder. If the disorder were cured, somehow- then the person's personality would change. The true personality traits would not have been revealed by the cure- they would've been changed. Personality is a very fluid thing. It's a product of the nervous system, and if a disorder affects the nervous system, the personality produced will be affected as well.

There was an Oliver Sack's story about a man with Tourette's syndrome, that that reminds me of- the disorder was a part of him, a part of his personality, and he got very upset after he was medicated and the symptoms of the disorder left him. The medication had taken away too much of what he was- had changed his personality.

pain, dreams and disorientation
Name: Lindsey
Date: 2004-04-05 20:03:10
Link to this Comment: 9178

Lots of interesting discussion threads going on..
On dreams: From personal experience, I often experience disorientation while i'm sleeping and/or dreaming. If i remember correctly, I think this disorientation, or the sensation that I'm suddenly falling usually occurs when I'm not dreaming (but i'm not sure about this). Afterwards, I jolt awake, reassessing my situation to realize that I am not in fact falling, and that I am merely lying on my bed. Obviously there is some kind of fluid shift in our semicircular canals which results in this sensation of disorientation, but why does this randomly occur during sleep, when we are already in a position to alleviate motion sickness? Also, can dreams trigger the onset of this falling, or disorientation? This is extremely fascinating because it would suggest that dreaming is a more physical process than we imagine it to be. Since our bodies are essentially locked in a certain position during REM sleep, it makes it seem even more incredible that this sensation arrives spontaneously.

Pain: Pain has always been a really intresting topic for me, especially as an athlete. Coaches and trainers always stress the difference between "pain" and an "injury," defining an injury as the body's inability to perform a certain function because of damage incurred. However, athletes tread such a fine line between the two. They are often encouraged to treat injuries as just "pain," and that they must gut it out for the sake of the team and the game. Once we suffer an injury, and experience the associated pain, I think that this painful experience leaves a residual memory that makes it difficult to recover mentally. For example: I suffered an injury a could of weeks ago where i experienced extreme pain. I altered my workouts in order to rehab this injury, and it took me a long time until I tried doing my "normal" routine again. Every time i experienced pain, no matter how small, I had it set in my mind that i was still "injured." I think it is common to find that athletes or anyone can mentally psych themselves out into thinking that they are hurt, or feeling pain. It seems logical that the longer one is hurt for, the harder it is to return to the normal routine because one may be afraid the injury is still present. If whatever sensation of pain we experience is "real," than how can we differentiate between someone that might be a hypocondriac (they are always afraid they are hurt, or always have some sort of experience of pain) or someone who is really hurt? Medicine comes in here to show us via xrays or tests if there is really an injury, but what if there is no "injury" and pain is still felt?

Name: erin
Date: 2004-04-05 20:28:52
Link to this Comment: 9180

I think the notion brought up in the forum about unconscious loops and its possible application to our behavior very interesting. If what we learned about set-points and loops can extend to our personalities, is there an unconscious "set-point" that is the nucleus for our behavior – weather it be socially acceptable or not? If there is this nucleus, can it change? If so, can the I-funciton play a role in its evoluation, is the individual aware that they behave differnt, or does that awareness come by way of others commenting about the change externally "My, you have gotten so mature"?

I thought of this scenario in terms of a card game. We are dealt the cards and given rules to play the hand – what we do with the cards (how we play them) is up to us. Within the given rules our possibilities are endless, however, we can only do so much due to our dealt hand. Could it be possible that the loops and unconscious set-point are the dealt cards and given rules – things we are unaware of and have no possibility of controlling? And our I-function is our conscience attempt to do the best with what we are given? If people are dealt different hands or given different rules, they will act differently than others in the same situation. If this is the case, is it possible for the situation to be flipped in that people realize that they are not acting in a socially acceptable way, but not have any idea as how to change it? Is it possible for the I-function to be aware of what is happening – and that something may be different – but have no idea as to what is specifically wrong? Can you alter "set-points" permanently? Is change possible? In the case of kids growing into teens, and teens becoming adults, what makes people emotionally mature – is it a change in "set-point"? What role does the I-function play in terms of mental growth and awareness?

disease-affected personality disorder
Name: Amy Gao
Date: 2004-04-05 22:23:38
Link to this Comment: 9184

In response to what Anjali said on personality induced disorder:

My cousin was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a few years back. He would forcibly wash his hands and take showers several times a day, and he became this person who cannot hold solid conversations with people because his approach to life became depressive and nihilistic from the depression that accompanied his disorder. Fortunately, with proper medication and therapy over the course of a couple years, he was able to gradually overcome the disorder and now has a much more healthy and positive look on life and is an accomplishing student at school.

I think that the bipolar disorder had affected his personality and the ways that he do things; but once the disease had been properly treated, he was able to continue on with his life without the negativity that had resulted from the disorder.

The Nervous System's Memory
Name: Nicole
Date: 2004-04-05 23:31:07
Link to this Comment: 9187

This is going back to a discussion we had a couple of weeks ago, but I was just thinking about the idea of our I-box knowing/remembering something versus our nervous system knowing/remembering. I remember someone in class discussing the fact that, if woken up during the night, they immediately experience the fear associated with a burglary that took place years earlier. But what determines whether an individual's central nervous system "remembers" an event? And why does it seem to vary from person to person? The fact that there does seem to be a variation regarding whether the central nervous system remembers or forgets something suggest that there is so much more going on than we are able to realize...

Name: Akudo Ejel
Date: 2004-04-06 00:03:01
Link to this Comment: 9189

Why is it that I tend to remember the things that I want to forget and forget the things that I want to remember/

Intense Memories
Name: Shadia
Date: 2004-04-06 00:43:25
Link to this Comment: 9192

Quite a few people have commented on the fact that memories seem to lessen the intensity with which an emotion was originally felt. But aren't phobias an example of how the memory of a traumatic event can augment the initial sensation felt? When I was four or five, my uncle took me to the beach and pretended that he was going to through me into the waves. I remember him laughing while he was holding me and must have known that he was teasing but I was terrified he'd drop me and I'd drown. Still, the little bit of unease I must have felt at the time, got translated into a horrible fear somewhere in my memory. When I went to the beach a few weeks later with my family, I refused to go anywhere near the water....On a similar note, I've always been amazed by actors who realistically portray incredibly emotional scenes upon command. Imagine being able to reproduce the anguish felt over a friend/family member's death having never had that experience? Doesn't it seem like they would have to dip into their memories, pull out a sensation of sorrow/pain, and then adapt/magnify it?

Dreams and Memories
Name: Katina Kra
Date: 2004-04-06 01:47:04
Link to this Comment: 9194

When talking about memory, one must talk about school and studying. I myself have varying states of motivation in which to study, but why is it that cramming is so effective? Isn't the short term memory only able to hold 7 to 9 "objects" in place until it moves to the long term? (This explains why phone numbers are seven digits!) What does studying a week before do to help improve it, even if it's still relatively close? What's would one think would be the "best way" to retain the most memory?

As for dreams, because of numerous experiences within my life I believe, I often experience violent dreams in which there would be a physical pain in my dream. In this dream, I could feel the pain inflicted, and if or when I woke up, often times the pain would still linger, and not be explainable by anything that could occur when sleeping. What explains this? Are dreams and motor nervous system somehow connected? Would my belief that traumatic events can cause this be true?

Lastly, what about when your limbs fall asleep? How does that effect what you percieve as your "own body?"

Visual system and pain perception
Name: Mridula Sh
Date: 2004-04-06 02:55:35
Link to this Comment: 9195

Natalie's post about her fall and initial lack of pain made me think about the degree to which pain perception relies on feedback from the visual system. I once pricked the side of my head with a nail while doing a physics experiment in high school and didn't feel a thing until I saw blood gushing out of the wound. (I think it had probably struck an artery and hence the large amounts of blood.) It was only until I actually saw the blood that my head started throbbing and that I began to feel the sensation of pain. It is interesting that inputs from the visual system create heightened responses of fear, pain and anxiety and that the images created of events that cause these emotions are largely responsible for a number of related disorders.
Where do feelings of pain originate from? Is it created by the "I-function" in response to specific stimuli or can one feel pain independent of the working of the I-function.

Name: amar
Date: 2004-04-06 03:40:51
Link to this Comment: 9196

In response to Mridula's comment on pain. I have stories that relate closely to hers. However, recently I began running and noticed that a lot of my joints were aching. I wonder if there are some sort of distinctions between the types of pain. I would never expect my knees and ankles to hurt me, but yet I still feel pain. One reason I can think of is just that the brain is receiving mixed signals from these areas and decides to pass it off as pain.

Name: Maja
Date: 2004-04-06 06:24:40
Link to this Comment: 9197

In response to the postings about dreams, I have an interesting experience to put out there. I went to a party this one evening after a very long week of much work and limited sleep. After I finally did go to bed, when I woke up the next morning, I had a dream about the party from the previous night. The strange thing, however, is that the dream was very realistic and it blends in very well with the events of that evening. It came to the point where I could not make a distinction between which of my memories had actually happened and which came from the dream. What's also interesting is that I am one of those people that rarely ever remember their dreams, so for me to remember this so clearly and effectively was very surprising. What had happened in my system that night? Was it because I was so exhausted?

serial dreams
Name: Chelsea
Date: 2004-04-06 09:34:30
Link to this Comment: 9200

I once had an entire series of dreams with the same characters and a continuous plot line; even though the six or ten dreams were spread out over several months, each dream progressed logically from the last. It was kind of like continuity in a movie- if something happened in one dream without a logial conclusion (I went on a road trip and didn't return before the end of the dream), it gave itself a conclusion in the next dream (I "physically" got in the car and came back, or I came into my dorm with bags and someone would ask how the trip was).

Because these dreams were so consistant and so spread out, it makes me think that there must have been something enormous floating around in my mind for a LONG time, and it was resolving itself in mini-series form for some reason. I'm fascinated by the fact that instead of recurring dreams, it was recurring people and plot- something in me must of been obsessed with getting this problem (what ever it was) to a specific conclusion. The best part was that my mind thought of it as already written, but I didn't know what was going to happen in the next episode- made sleeping VERY exciting.

Date: 2004-04-06 09:41:25
Link to this Comment: 9201

It's that time of year again, and Maja and I wanted to make a public service announcement: cuddling is good for the soul! It reduces stress and triggers "good-feelings" chemicals, such as dopamine, to be released in your brain, calming you giving a sense of security. SOOO, grab a friend (or four) and de-stress!

Name: Chelsea
Date: 2004-04-06 09:47:41
Link to this Comment: 9202

ok, we were trying to post a picture of a bunch of our friends cuddling, but it's not working, so here are some puppies instead:)

No pain no gain
Name: Ginger
Date: 2004-04-06 10:04:03
Link to this Comment: 9203

All this talk of pain this week, although slightly unpleasant to think of, has been fascinating. After reading Mridula's post, I was struck by how odd the phenomena of "pain" is... Pain is a feedback mechanism in place to prevent us from hurting ourselves right? So why, in a case where you're gushing blood, does your brain hide this injury? Does the brain try to only use pain in the case of something that is life threatening? But if, that's true how come paper cuts hurt so much (may have something to do with the number of pain receptors in that part of the body)? I wonder if Mridula's experience is a symptom of a brain protection response. Depending on the injury, the brain will initiate various protection sequences that can be help or even harmful. Perhaps, because it was an artery injury, the brain did not activate pain feelings under the worry that her blood pressure would go up, and more blood would be lost. It was only after she saw a visual cue that the brain had to explain what was happening.... Does this mean that we can't always depend on the brain to make the best decisions for our bodies?

Name: prachi
Date: 2004-04-06 23:08:04
Link to this Comment: 9222

Mridula's comments about pain remind me of a theory in emotion posited by William James quite a while ago and he said that emotions are experiences felt as a result of the perception of a physiological event. Since it arose, it has been revised especially as it received a great deal of criticism for being implausible but it seems to have some truth to it, there is no reason that the body should pre-emptivley experience emotion, rather, waiting and verifying the input and it's consequences seems like an intelligent way to manage various types of stress...

memories of the way we were
Name: Millie
Date: 2004-04-08 00:26:31
Link to this Comment: 9243

I read the New York Times article we talked about in class and the writer seems to think that painful memories can be some of the most difficult to forget. A scientist in the article claims that this is true because, of the hormones released during times of stress or importance. A study is mentioned which "found that certain memories -- the ones associated with the strongest emotions -- tend to stay locked in longer, sometimes for life. You can't possibly remember every time you and your wife kissed, but you probably remember the first time"( This analysis of memory seems believable to me because my most memorable moments are those from really important times in my life. For example I can remember details about my eighth grade graduation in great detail even though it was seven years ago. At the same time I can't remember what I did the day before the event or the day after.

Name: Eleni
Date: 2004-04-10 13:54:56
Link to this Comment: 9258

It was very interesting to learn how the eye works on Thursday's lecture. And how the picture on your retina (the "Physics side" of light rays hitting a lens) and the picture in your head are really different. The simple "blind spot" test with the cross and the dot on a piece of paper was shocking! I did not realize one's brain just infers information it does not recieve. This idea of "just completing a pattern" seems like such a sophisticated thing for our brains to be able to do. Does our brain need to learn to complete the pattern? For example, if a baby took this test, would he or she also have the dot turn into white paper? I am just wondering if the pattern is learnt, as so many other patterns are, and gets easier with time. Another totally unrelated question that came to mind after thinking about this: you know sometimes when you are looking straight at something but you don't see it? Could you really not be seeing it-i.e. it is in your blind spot and your brain just covers it up w/ the background it infers is there? I was a little confused-I think we said in class that the eyes don't cover each other's blind spots, but why then could we only see the blind spot when we covered one eye?

Name: Dana
Date: 2004-04-10 16:12:19
Link to this Comment: 9259

We did not say thet we can see the blindspot if we cover one eye. The point was that we NEVER see the blindspot, because our brains make stuff up to fill it in. Also, if you are looking right at something, the image is in your fovea, not your blindspot, so if you are not seeing it you are probably missing it for a different reason.

On the subject of baby's vision, they DO have to learn to interperet these patterns. At least, they are born with blurry vision, whicg clears as they get older. This might be from eye development, but it could also be that their brains cant interperet the input yet. This idea is supported by a guy Oliver Sacks studied who regained his vision as an adult, with fully functional eyes, and still had to learn how to see.

To see how a baby sees, check out . You can put in your own images and see what a baby of various ages sees it like

Name: Anjali
Date: 2004-04-11 13:56:39
Link to this Comment: 9264

In response to Lindsey's post: I think I remember learning about that- about the temporary disorientation you have while you're falling asleep. If I'm thinking of the same thing you're talking about. They're called "sleep spindles" - sudden and brief bursts of activity in the nervous system, while you're falling asleep, that make a part of your body suddenly move. In my experience it's generally my foot that moves. And I jolt awake thinking I've slipped and fallen.

Also, reading all the postings about pain, it made me remember an experiment I heard about a long time ago. The people who took part in this experiment were told that they were going to be putting their hands in buckets filled with boiling hot water. Except that when the time came to do the experiment, the buckets were filled with ice cold water. And when the subjects reached their hands into the buckets, expecting the water to be hot when it was actually cold, they still received third degree burns. I thought that was interesting- how our reactions have so much more to do with our expectations than with what's actually perceived, so much of the time.

Name: cham
Date: 2004-04-11 23:50:42
Link to this Comment: 9273

whoa whoa whoa hold on a sec....people thought they were putting their hands in hot water but instead they were put in cold water and that was enough to cause actual third degree burns? with all due respect, i dont believe that for a second. is it really true? if it is, ill be completely blown away....

"Fillng in"?
Name: Maryam
Date: 2004-04-12 00:21:47
Link to this Comment: 9276

I think it is misleading to use the term "filling in" to talk about what the brain does with the lack of information it receives from the blind spot. The term "fillng in" implies that the brain fabricates a representation of data for itself- as Daniel Dennett puts it, creating evidence from which to draw judgments.But this would be more work than it would need to do. All the brain does is draw the judgments about the blindspot. In the absence of information to the contrary, it makes a generalization about what is probably there. It doesn't need to first "fill in" the missing information in the sense of constructing pseudo sense data. It would be more accurate to talk about the brain "interpreting", "generalizing", or making a judgment about what is there.
I guess we are tempted to talk in terms of filling in because it describes the way the "end" result seems to us, from a subjective point of view. I guess the reason the brain makes these generalizations for us is to save us the energy of worrying about what might be in our blindspot, so the whole point is for it to seem to us that we are interpreting what is in fact sense data gathered- otherwise there wouldn't be any point to this brain function. But as long as we're going through the trouble of understanding what the brain does (and from an objective third person point of view) we might as well take it for what it is.

Name: Liz
Date: 2004-04-12 16:52:48
Link to this Comment: 9289

I found the discussion and the experiments done in class very interesting. One summer I spent working on fMRI scanning for a grad student. He was mapping the neurons used in the visual cortex for different stimuli to the eye for normal individuals as well as those who had a specific type of disorder. We studied the recognition of stimuli by various parts of the visual cortex and mapped these stimuli with fMRI. Here's a link to read more...

More on dreams
Name: Sarah
Date: 2004-04-12 20:01:32
Link to this Comment: 9293

So all this talk about dreams I have found really interesting. But there is still one thing that I don't really understand. What determines what we remember? Millie made a point that most important events are remembered, that's true. But people also remember really wierd things. Like I can remember a specific outfit I wore when I was young, or I can remember "flashes" of things I used to do, or activities I used to play. What determines this, if there is anything? Also, is this type of memory (I say type because I really think it differs from the other memories we have of big/important occasions) related at all to the feeling of deja vu? Just some thoughts I had.

Behavioral Transmission
Name: Mike
Date: 2004-04-12 21:59:52
Link to this Comment: 9301

Just a change of pace here. The article in the link above pertains to a new study which shows a shift in the behavioral norms of a baboon troop after the death of several bellicose members of the group.
This got me to some thinking.
We have examined the inputs, outputs and internal mechanisms of the CNS box, but we are yet to truly address these issues outside of a vacuum, to ask: what is the state of the box in the prescence of other boxes?
This question is rather broad in regards to the article, but does, to some degree, strike at the underlying theme of box to box interaction and perhaps suggests an expansion of the box model. Perhaps we could draw a larger box around a population or sub-population- where messages are sent and received between boxes representing individuals, who are made up of boxes representing neurons etc., The flies in the ointment here would be the issues of centralization and concerted motion/behaviors. I don't think that populations/societies conform to these concepts the way nervous systems do.

Name: Erica
Date: 2004-04-13 00:04:20
Link to this Comment: 9308

I was thinking about our little experiment in class last week and how our brains seemed to make stuff up to fit the picture. I was just wondering if blind spots were the only circumstances in which our brain decides that it's going to create what it doesn't really know for sure but can infer from surrounding evidence. I suppose I'm just returning to the question of reality and where we can draw that distinction, when we ourselves are aware of two contrasting perspectives within our brains. Just a thought.

Freaky Friday!!
Name: Akudo
Date: 2004-04-13 00:27:16
Link to this Comment: 9310

I had a freak dream last week. I dreamt that I was being attacked by spiders and reached out to grab my pillow that on the corner of my bed. When I was finally able to snap out of it and woke up, the pillow was where I dreamt that it would be. The freakiest thing was that b4 I went to bed, my pillow was on my side and I did not feel it get pushed down to the corner of my bed. Also the print and position of the pillow that I imagined it to be my dream was the same position that it was when I woke up.

Please disregard the subject, my dream was on a Tuesday night but I needed a catchy title =)


Name: Maryam
Date: 2004-04-13 00:52:40
Link to this Comment: 9312

"I suppose I'm just returning to the question of reality and where we can draw that distinction, when we ourselves are aware of two contrasting perspectives within our brains. "

Erica's question touches on the distinction I was trying to make between "filling in" and generalizing. The brain doesn't construct an alternate reality with its treatment of the blindspot- our awareness of the blindspot doesn't reach that level. I guess it would be even more accurate to say that the brain actually IGNORES the blindspot rather to say it "fills it in." I mean, it doesn't include the information it gets from that spot (the empty info or lack of info or whatever) with the rest of the information that is assimilated into a picture of what we are conscious of at any given moment.

going along with the theme...
Name: Natalie Me
Date: 2004-04-13 01:13:05
Link to this Comment: 9313

It is interesting to me that people never get enough when it comes to discussing dreams. What is it about this nightly event that still captivates us? Every day, most of us wake up pondering the mental adventures of the night before: the possible hidden meaning, the strangeness of it, whatever. I wonder how dreams might be connected to memory in the actual physiological/neurobiological processes. It seems to me that they work with the same material most of the time. What triggers a dream? What triggers a memory? What unconscious actions might these things signify? Sometimes I can't help wondering if the miracle of our brains: the electrical/chemical system keeping us alive and at the same time maintaining an intelligent consciousness is simply that. Random firing of the synapses during sleep leads to specific dreams with specific memories and occasionally those fall along particularly familiar or strange paths. Hmmm...

Name: erin
Date: 2004-04-13 01:53:23
Link to this Comment: 9316

I also found the experiment we did at the end of class on Thursday to be very interesting. There is a lot of discussion about filling vs. ignoring, but regardless of how the picture is being made up in the brain, I find the most fascinating aspect is that there is a significant amount of the picture (what we "see") that is being made up in the brain without the I-function. Hence we aren't even aware of it. In relating it to what we experience, what amount of that sensory information coming in to us is being made up? Is this always happening or does this exist when we are focusing at something a certain distance away from our eyes? If so why does it seem that everything "looks" complete? I can read violin music fine, I don't think that my mind is filling things in because the music sounds alright, and if I move my head, I see the same notes.

Name: Michelle
Date: 2004-04-13 03:04:04
Link to this Comment: 9320

It seems that lucid dreams may be the bridge between consciousness and the world of dreaming. According to Frederik van Eeden, (the Dutch psychiatrist who coined the term lucid dreaming), "the re-integration of the psychic functions is so complete that the sleeper reaches a state of perfect awareness and is able to direct his attention, and to attempt different acts of free volition. Yet the sleep, as I am able confidently to state, is undisturbed, deep, and refreshing." I thought this was interesting because he implies that consciousness could exist in a sleeping state. If this is the case, how would the I-function be involved? Would it be possible for your I-function to react to various inputs and to create outputs in your dreams? How do lucid dreams affect what we had assumed about unconsciousness as well as consciousness?

Name: allison
Date: 2004-04-13 07:43:13
Link to this Comment: 9324

Going in another direction- couldn't dreams just be your I-function interacting with itself. Basically, dreams are self-examination. They are free from external stimuli, therefore dreams are simply the I-function networking within itself. It seems logical to me b/c my dreams are pieces of thoughts, many of which I had not processed fully or said aloud. It could be that dreams are a way of connecting your thoughts from the previous day w/ earlier ones in ways that are useful for the brain and that you had not done before. Then when you wake up the connections made by your I-function in your dreams are a part of your 'new' self. This kind of goes with the idea that the self is continually growing and changing. Also, dreams can be looked at as mental exercises, they force the mind to reinterpret data and produce differing results. The exercises expand the capabilities of the mind and I-function.

Name: Ariel
Date: 2004-04-13 07:51:56
Link to this Comment: 9325

I think it is interesting that people are so fascinated by memory and dreaming versus reality. There are so many movies and books out there that discuss the differences, and almost every one has a unique angle. I think one of the most powerful and interesting is Waking Life, which is all about lucid dreaming. It includes a number of the topics that we have been discussing, both in class and on the forum. If anyone gets the chance I highly recommend watching it, it is one of the more interesting movies available and it will really get you thinking.

There are a number of pertinent quotes, but here is one that I think is really interesting and applicable (sorry about it being so long):

"See, in the waking world, the neural system inhibits the activation of the vividness of memories. And this makes evolutionary sense. You'd be maladapted for the perceptual image of a predator if you mistook it for the memory of one, and vice-versa. If the memory of a predator conjured up a perceptual image, we would be running off to hide every time we had a scary thought. So you have these serotonic neurons that inhibit hallucinations and they themselves are inhibited during REM sleep. See, this allows dreams to appear real, while preventing competition from other perceptual processes. This is why dreams are mistaken for reality. To the functional system of neural activity that creates our world, there is no difference between dreaming a perception and action, and actually the waking perception and action."

Blind spots, the brain, and vision
Name: Katina Kra
Date: 2004-04-13 09:06:13
Link to this Comment: 9327

The "exercise" done on Thursday really put a few questions into my own mind about my vision. I'm legally blind if I do not have any "optical aids." When doing the demostration, I had to do it with my glasses, as I generally don't take them off. But, if I would have, would my brain still be able to "recreate" the line despite having the wrong signals sent? Is my blind spot in a different place when I wear my glasses versus when I don't? My eyes have been degenerating very quickly since I was 8 years old, so could my inability at times to see certain visual tricks be attributed to this? I know it would be a simple experiment to do...but I get intense headaches when I try to see without my prescription!

Vision is such a funny thing; but a brief poll. How many people in the class have visual correction aids such as glasses or contacts? What were your perceptions about possible changes in brain response due to the vision deteriorating?

Vision and visual aids
Name: Laura Silv
Date: 2004-04-13 15:43:09
Link to this Comment: 9341

I started getting bad eyesight ("going blind" as my family terms it) when I was about eight years old, due mostly to my reading in the dark so much, according to my mother. I didn't get glasses until I was ten, and until that time I would just try to get a seat at the front of the class so I could see the board, and when that no longer worked, I just copied notes from the people next to me. So for ten years now I've been using some sort of vision correction. For a long time, my vision got progressively worse every year, and always by the same interval - from -3.0 to -3.5, the next year from -3.5 to -4.0, and so on. Every year I had thicker glasses, stronger contacts. When I went in for my check-up when I was 17, however, my vision hadn't worsened since the last time I'd been there, but had stayed the same, and a trend which I could previously have absolutely depended on seemed to have disappeared altogether. That was three years ago, and my vision is still the same now as it was when I was a junior in high school (-5.0, in case anyone was curious). What happened to that trend? Why did my vision suddenly plateau like that? I certainly don't do any less reading than when I was in high school. What could possibly account for this sudden change in the pattern?

Re: dreams
Name: Laura Silv
Date: 2004-04-13 15:53:05
Link to this Comment: 9342

Last night I had a dream where I saw a poster advertising a concert for Madonna and Tim McGraw. When I woke up this morning, although the other details of the dream had eluded my memory, as soon as a friend mentioned that she wanted to find a concert to go to during finals period, I immediately started wondering if I could get tickets for the Madonna/McGraw concert. It took me a while before I realized that I'd been dreaming, and that such a concert didn't exist. This line between fantasy and reality in one's own head as it relates to dreams and day dreams I think is interesting - where does one end and the other begin? Certainly not between the boundaries of sleep and awake, for how many of us have dreamt of things which have actually happened in our own lives, and how many of us have awakened implicitly believing the things that we dreamt had been real? So where is this line drawn, then?

on today's class...
Name: Lindsey
Date: 2004-04-13 18:33:48
Link to this Comment: 9344

I got to thinking about today's class, that the brain is "making it up" in respect to our vision. Granted, there are certain rules that we talked about like the lateral inhibition network which works based on the perception of "edges." Looking back to earlier in the course, when we talked about signals starting in the middle of the box, couldn't this be true as well for vision? If a signal could start spontaneously in our eyesight, does this account for hallucinations? When and how are hallucinations induced? Obviously, chemicals play a huge role in this, but I would be interested to know how they interact with our vision process, or are images generated from another part of the brain?

Clearly, hallucinations are based on some form of reality, but they also seem to blend into the dream world, the world of imagined forms. How do signals starting in the box and what we are perceiving as the world relate as visual processes? In some ways, our brain "making things up" can be the overlap of the two, but that doesn't seem quite right according what we discussed in class— our neurons are operating under a genetic set of rules that dictates this perception.

Name: Anjali
Date: 2004-04-14 15:09:29
Link to this Comment: 9367

In response to Cham's post- I came in late for Tuesday's class, so I don't know if this was discussed already. But I'm sorry, I realized that I left out part of that experiment- with the people sticking their hands in cold water and getting third degree burns. It wasn't just cold water- it was freezing cold water. And if you try it, after a certain point very cold water and very hot water begin to kind of feel the same. In the initial shock, you could believe that freezing cold water was actually very hot water, if you were told to expect hot water.

Granted, freezing cold water still isn't supposed to burn you. Which is where the fact that they were expecting boiling hot water became important- the expectation dictated how their bodies reacted to it.

But, you know what? Now that I think about it, I wonder if this was just a thought experiment, and not a real experiment. I heard about it a long time ago, and I might not've known the difference at the time. I can't think who in their right mind would actually agree to participate in an experiment like this, at least- even if they were getting paid for it. And I just googled it, and nothing's coming up, so there is a definite possibility I'm completely wrong about all this. But still, it's an interesting idea.

Name: Shirley Ra
Date: 2004-04-14 22:56:54
Link to this Comment: 9376

What we discussed in class on Tuesday was extremely interesting- I am talking about the fact that our brain seems to "fill in" what is between the edges. It is interesting to note that it does so by relying on our experiences and what it has seen in the past. But its weird to think that what we think we are seeing is not really what we are seeing. It is just so interesting that how we see things is 100% based on what our brain (eyes) has seen before.

I was also wondering how awful it must be for an individual not to be able to see. Most of us perceive our surrounding visually and then interpret what we see. It must be hard to perceive our surroundings without any visual stimulus.

filling in
Name: Natalie Me
Date: 2004-04-16 23:08:39
Link to this Comment: 9406

We have talked a lot about how our brain 'fills in' missing areas in our vision. It got me to thinking about what else we might 'fill in.' Certainly when you consider the vast number of daily assumptions we rely on to run our daily lives, our mind must interpret endless implicit meanings based upon the shared assumptions we all share. When talking to anyone, head nods, facial expressions, body language, they all visually and non-verbally clue us in to information we aren't TOLD or can SEE, rather we must interpret or 'fill in' those meanings. In both cases of visual filling in and shared meaning filling in, our mind relies on a set of understandings established through previous experience and memory. We must be taught to unconsciously interpret our surroundings. What would a stranger see, who had never before encountered Earth or Human behavior before? It makes you wonder...

Name: Eleni
Date: 2004-04-17 18:13:46
Link to this Comment: 9410

I am still very interested with our conversation on vision. I have never learned this much about optics before! One thing I found interesting was that both of your eyes send two different sets of info to the NS. I had always thought of the eyes as "one," but clearly each eye is a separate entity. It is just that the the NS uses both to come up w/ one story-the best story. I don't have glasses but my vision is not perfect. Ever since I was little, my right eye has been nearsighted and distant objects are blurry. But my left eye does not have this problem, so looking at distant objects with both eyes is clear. It is interesting that the NS rejects the "bad information" from the blurry eye and just uses the info from the clear eye when creating the picture-and thus creates the "best story." On a different note (and this is really basic but it keeps coming up) it is shocking just how fast your NS can process info. I mean, w/ vision alone, it takes the two conflicting stories and puts them into one story with a microscopic time lapse. Plus, add the millions of other fuctions of the NS. It is just amazing...and blows away our concept of time.

a little tangent on the subject of sight...
Name: Amy Gao
Date: 2004-04-18 12:31:23
Link to this Comment: 9415

Since we are discussing the subject of "being able to see", among other things, I was told once that individuals who are blind/mute/or other physical disabilities have "sharpened" sensitivities in their other functioning senses. For example, a person who is blind may have sharpened hearing than we do to make up for the disability in one part. I'm quite interested as to how this phenomenon occurs.

Response to Amy's inquiry
Name: Sarah
Date: 2004-04-18 19:52:18
Link to this Comment: 9421

In response to Amy's posting:

I think the answer to your question goes back to our discussions of "practice makes perfect." When one loses the ability to see, the other senses of the body aren't directly affected. Meaning, if I lose my sight my other senses aren't automatically increased in sensitivity. I looked a little bit online and found that really, the other senses are not heightened, but rather are used more. Because a blind person if forced to rely more heavily on those senses, they become more "sensitive" in that they are more accurate. I don't know if I am explaining this very well, perhaps an example may help: If I am right handed and break my right hand, then I am forced to used my left hand. At first my left hand may not be very useful or accurate for the tasks I need. But over time, my left hand will become more useful and accurate. If you want to look around some more:

Name: Dana
Date: 2004-04-18 20:37:06
Link to this Comment: 9423

On "being able to see" and what else we fill in: I am very bad at reading social cues. Basic facial expressions, i can do, but subtle signs of embarrasment, dscomfort, amusement and such are harder, especially if the individual is trying to disguise the reaction. I fell lilke maybe my brain is having trouble filling in the social meanings of these movements, and so it throws out the information, like it throws out tiny details of the scene around us. We remember the general picture but not where each leaf and bird was, and my brain looks at the general picture but not each subtle signal. This causes a lot of problems, because my brain is ignoring information which my I-box would quite like to have, because it would make social situations easier.

Also, about the line, if any, between dreams and waking life: Memories and even the present exists inside your brain, as do dreams. The picture in your head is a representation of reality, but with stuff filled in. Memories are a representation of what used to be in the picture in your head, but garbled, rearranged, and filled in (amd how much of what we remember actually occured? how much did we dream of? how much did we just make up or fill in?) . Dreams are...... a representation of the self?

Angsty Teenage Depression
Name: Amanda
Date: 2004-04-18 23:46:40
Link to this Comment: 9426

Regarding dreams, I'm curious about the relationship between dreams and reality. It is assumed that life and what truly happens influences one's dreams. But, does a dream subconsiously influence real life? For example, if in a dream, the dreamer has a fight with her boyfriend and wakes up the next day with no idea of this dream, will her thoughts and actions from then on be influenced? I wonder how this would be studied.

Magic eye and box models
Name: Anjali
Date: 2004-04-19 00:13:37
Link to this Comment: 9427

I've been wondering since class on Thursday what Magic Eye drawings/photographs have to do with binocular vision. My vague understanding is that your eyes are tricked into thinking they see separate perspectives of an image, and because you see two perspective the image appears to be in 3D. But how exactly do dots on a page translate into separate perspectives of an image? It's always puzzled me.

One other thing: about what Mike said, "We have examined the inputs, outputs and internal mechanisms of the CNS box, but we are yet to truly address these issues outside of a vacuum, to ask: what is the state of the box in the prescence of other boxes? ... Perhaps we could draw a larger box around a population or sub-population- where messages are sent and received between boxes representing individuals, who are made up of boxes representing neurons etc." - There's just one thing I'd like to say about this. I think that there is a definite limit to the usefulness of boxes-within-boxes models. We could very well put the entire outside environment into little boxes, but what would be the point? How far would that help us, in understanding it? One reason, I think, why such a model is helpful when you're studying the nervous system is that the nervous system has some semblance of order to it- maybe partly because it has specific purposes, specific functions to fulfill. The survival of the organism depends upon that organization, that predictability. But even with the nervous system, imposing a concrete organization upon it like the boxes-within-boxes model is a bit of an over simplification. If you expanded the model to include the entire environment, my personal opinion is that it would over simplify the system to such a degree that the model would lose most of its usefulness. Not everything will fit in neat little boxes, or should be made to fit. Which isn't to say we don't do this already- we categorize and over simplify the world around us because it's in our nature to do so, but the method definitely has its problems.

Name: Kimberley
Date: 2004-04-19 03:12:27
Link to this Comment: 9429

Over the weekend I was talking to some of my friends and an embarrassing story came up in the conversation. I automatically blushed and averted my eyes. I was thinking about this response and how strange it is. Sound waves from a voice enter my ear canal, hit my ear drum, cause vibrations in 3 tiny bones which in turn cause stimulation of different nerves in the organ of corti. These sensory nerves send signals to the auditory cortex where they are processed. The signals are then interpreted as something that I should have a defensive reaction to. Thus, blood rushes to my skin and I appear red. How fascinating!

Name: Jenny
Date: 2004-04-19 09:50:44
Link to this Comment: 9432

I was really amazed to learn how much our brain fills in... how little of what we perceive to be seeing is actually there. I suppose it would be a sensory overload for us to actually be able to see, hear, and experience our surroundings completely, but I wonder what are missing out on, or misinterpreting because of this lack of completeness?

Name: Ariel
Date: 2004-04-19 14:48:59
Link to this Comment: 9437

I have been thinking about sight, and what people have posted about blindness. I have two questions. One, I vaguely remember from my AP bio class discussing how the brain compensates for the loss of a sense. If I remember correctly, the composition of your brain cells can actually change. For example if you become blind and the "area" of your brain that deals with vision is no longer receiving signal, can those cells be usurped for other functions? I am not sure my other question about blindness is applicable,but I have always wondered about it. I believe most blind people see black, however I know that a friend of mine, who lost his sight because of macular degeneration, sees all white all the time, what causes this?

Power of suggestion
Name: Brad Corr
Date: 2004-04-19 14:52:17
Link to this Comment: 9439

One thing that seems to pop up in various forum postings is the evident power of suggestion. Whether its from a dream, or the eyes, or an experiment with water, or whatever. we're fascinated with what our mind can "trick" us into. An example is another possible urban myth/possible nobel prize winning experiment. Ever hear about the one in which students were put in a room told they were being observed under the influence of alcohol, and given beer. Then the following week given the same experiment but there was no alcohol in the beer and the students still acted "intoxicated."
My point is that the power of suggestion is incredibly powerful. We are creating senses, thoughts, and reactions, to stimuli that aren't actually externally present. In such cases are we creating identical internal stimuli or are the stimuli different? Are the corollary discharge stimuli that we've learned about triggerering identical responses or are they in some way different. Clearly our subconcious is having a big part in the power of suggestion, but can we control it in any way or does it completely miss the I-box? How far can we make this power of suggesstion work? I know we can alter such things as our heart beat by power of suggestion, so could we go far enough to raise or lower it so much to kill ourselves by power of suggestion? Could we fight diseases like cancer with the power of suggestion? What are the limits?

Name: Millie
Date: 2004-04-19 19:48:34
Link to this Comment: 9445

I don't really know the answer to Brad's question, but recent studies seem to be suggesting that our emotional state can be important in the healing process. Dr. Jerome Groopman recently wrote a book about how hope can help ill patients. The book is called The Anatomy of Hope. Basically he claims that the with hope certain endorphines are produced in the body which help improve its ability to heal.

dreams and seeing
Name: Erica
Date: 2004-04-19 21:15:07
Link to this Comment: 9447

I was thinking a little bit about dreams and vision a bit. About dreams, Laura's comment about the line between reality and dreams got me thinking about times when I may have had a dream and perceived it as reality, although to this day there are a few things that I "remember," but can't fully tell whether they were dreams or not. In relation to vision, I was wondering whether people dream in 2D or 3D. I know it's kind of arbitrary, but I was thinking that since our brains fill in so much information for us already, the same must be true in our dreaming states, specifically because it is not reality that we experience. But, how are we able to see the things that are happening in our dreams, and is that experience different for everybody?

eye dominance
Name: m. fichman
Date: 2004-04-19 22:36:51
Link to this Comment: 9449

I have been a baseball player/fan for most of my life. Often times, when discussing sight as it relates to hitting, people refer to a batter as left eye dominant or right eye dominant. This dominance has to do not with a greater sight capability in either eye, but with a preference for sighting with a particular eye. Usually, left eye dominant batters are left handed and vice versa. I have always equated batting preference (righty or lefty) with hand dominance (or brain hemisphere dominance). However, many feel that eye dominance is the determining trait- the argument being that sometimes left handed batters throw right handed or vice versa and point to the fact that there is a statistically higher incidence of cross-dominance in pro ball players than in the general population.

Name: Kristen
Date: 2004-04-19 23:04:54
Link to this Comment: 9452

It is interesting how little our conscious brain has to do with the basic interpretation of sensory input. The system of vision seems so simple yet complicated at the same time. I'd really be interested in learning how the other sensory systems interpret sensory inputs. Do they also play tricks on our conscious level of understanding? Also, I have this sort of sixth sense in that when I walk into a room I can always tell if the television is on, even if I can't see it. It really bothers me that no one else seems to be able to detect this. Does this have something to do with a sound, or other input that I unconsciously interpret and recognize as coming from the television?

Eye Dominance
Date: 2004-04-19 23:32:16
Link to this Comment: 9453

Like most of us, I've given sight a lot of thought this past week. I was only two when it was discovered that I needed glasses. (My aunt noticed that my right eye seemed to "move" when I was looking straight ahead. (Isn't it interesting that it had to be an "outsider" who noticed? My parents had gotten used to my lazy eye and so it appeared normal.) In any case, growing up I never felt I had any problems seeing despite the fact that I wore glasses. In fact, I had to be told when my right eye was moving--the "picture" I see looks no different when this happens!" Needless to say, I am left-eye dominant--although I am right handed and an extremely poor baseball player:)
I no longer wear glasses or any other form of visual aids--when I was nine it was decided that my vision really was perfect, my right eye simple drifts over once in a while. But remember that "experiment" we did in class? If position your finger in front of you and close one eye, it should move..Well, when I do this, it only moves if I close my left eye! There is absolutely no difference if I close my right eye--I discovered this randomly when I was about six and it's never seemed to bother anybody else but me:) The thing is, I really wonder if in my case, my right eye makes ANY difference to the picture compiled by my NS.

blindness..sharpened senses
Name: Lindsey
Date: 2004-04-19 23:47:06
Link to this Comment: 9454

In response to Ariel's post about the possibility of reorganized cells in the brain as a result of a "compensation for a lost sense," I might be able to offer some insight on this in that I have lost most of my functional hearing ability. In order to compensate for my lack of hearing, i did find that my vision was sharpened in that it was more sensitive. In other words, I did not develop the power to see further and more clearly than the typical person (no superman eyesight..unfortunately..), but I was able to interpret my visual cues more quickly and efficiently. My hearing loss makes me more observant and perceptive of body mannerisms, details etc that others would not normally notice. i had the ability to read lips amazingly well and from various angles, however, after receiving a device that has dramatically improved my hearing, my reliance on my vision has decreased considerably. As a result, not only can i not read lips as well as i could before but I am also not as driven to be visually focused visually on my surroundings 100 percent of the time.

My audiologist explained to me before my procedure that my brain would literally grow, or establish neural pathways once the hearing cortex of my brain became more stimulated. I would then guess that reorganization CAN occur on the basis of that particular sense being used or altered.

Name: erin
Date: 2004-04-20 01:13:27
Link to this Comment: 9460

I think that the concept of our nervous system constantly resolving 2 states of conflict (i.e. between reporting of 2 different locations for an object) and making judgments in a 3rd dimension is really interesting. It seems that this phenomena occurs without the I-function as we cannot physically control the process by which these resolutions are made. Given this assumption, I was wondering if processes such as these, done by our sensory systems all the time, can only be done (to the degree we judge as acceptable--"normal") without the use of our I-function? I have tracking problems with my eyes and as a result, everything I see is shaky or tripled. I do not see too well in 3-D and have problems with depth perception. In other words, I sometimes clip walls or bump into them completely, miss a punch if I am trying to hit something, and have a hard time reading. However, this has been a problem for so long, that I am used to it and can, to a degree, compensate for my misjudgments. My conscience efforts to compensate for things I can't quite see but I know are there, pale in comparison to someone whose nervous system is constantly making the 3-D judgments without the I-function. If our nervous system is unable, for some reason, to resolve conflict, is it a result of not being able to gather enough information to make an accurate guess? It would seem that our I-function has no part in this assimilation of information...or does it? Lastly, are we ever aware of what our sensory systems are processing?

Name: Ginger
Date: 2004-04-20 01:21:19
Link to this Comment: 9461

Kimberly's post got me curious about the phenomena of blushing. I did a google search for some basic information and found out that blind and deaf people blush as well. According to a website exploring the subject ( Why do we blush? ), Helen Keller blushed quite a bit-- despite being blind and deaf. How can a physiological response so closely linked to vision and auditory senses still occur in the absense of them? In Keller's case, the website suggests that blushing is a reflection of mental attitude rather than a response. If that is true, is blushing not a sensory response?? Or is Keller's experience an example of the brain one again finishing out the "picture" as it deems best (e.g. blindspot)?

eye dominance- again
Name: Chelsequa
Date: 2004-04-20 02:44:43
Link to this Comment: 9466

The discussion of eye dominance reminded me of something that has always intruiged me: both my brother and I are right-handed, but we both bat left-handed. If this has something more to do with eye dominance than hand dominance, then this would make sense...except that I (at least) am right-eye dominant. Also, I'm right-footed and ambidexterous when it comes to golf, as is my brother. Although it's almost certain that this is something genetic, it gets even more weird when I say that my brother and I only share one common parent, my dad, who cannot do any of the things that we can. SO, it seems as if we both got some repressed traits of my father's- in fact, the exact same one(s)...kinda weird, isn't it?

Name: Maja
Date: 2004-04-20 02:50:22
Link to this Comment: 9467

Dana's posting regarding her lack of sensitivity to facial and social cues, made me think of Baren-Cohen's research. He proposed that women were a lot more capable of empathy and reading facial cues than men, who in turn, were a lot more capable of systemizing than women. He may be correct when it comes to biological inclinations of such skills; however, I believe that it is one's experiences throughout life that help develop either skill. For example, unlike Dana, I feel that I have a slightly above average skill of reading facial and social cues. This probably comes from my childhood experiences. I have moved around a lot, and have lived in four different countries on three different continents and have been to about 10 different schools. As a young child I have had an opportunity to interact with a wide range of different personalities and have been faced with many different social situations, all of which have helped heighten my social senses, or my capabilities of empathy, as Baren-Cohen would say.

Training of the Brain
Name: Michelle
Date: 2004-04-20 04:14:25
Link to this Comment: 9469

I feel that many of the themes discussed in the forum this week relate significantly to the idea of "training the brain" to think a certain way. This so-called "training of the brain" is a response that arises to the mind as it continually receives and perceives negative cues. In order to alter repeated results, the brain attempts to use alternative approaches so to avoid negative responses, whether it be in the form of sadness, embarrassment, or failure. For example, in Dana's posting, I think if she repeatedly saw negative effects resulting from her inability "to see", I believe that her mind would make adjustments and she would begin to single out more social cues and become more observant of body language and facial expression. Therefore, her brain has learnt the ability to become more aware of body language and facial expression. This adjustment would be made in order to prevent associated negative emotions. Maja's ability "to see" could then be percieved as an outcome or training from her childhood experiences, and her desire to be as comfortable as possible in her changing environment. On the emotional, I think this is an active thought process. Although I have applied this to a social level, I think it can be understood more clearly by observing hearing and seeing impairments, as well as physical handicaps. On various popular talk shows, the media often showcases individuals that have overcome physical disabilities by overcompensation of another physical ability or trait. If a person has two legs amputated, they can walk around using their arms. Their arms grow strong enough to carry the weight of their body because of their desire and need to get around independently. Much like the brain filling in blind spots, its almost as if the brain "fills in" disabilities by improving other senses or physical aspects. It is this "filling-in" that can account for increased senses as a result of diminished or impaired one(s).

Magic Drawings, Perceptions and Reality
Name: Mridula Sh
Date: 2004-04-20 04:18:51
Link to this Comment: 9470

When we were shown the magic drawings in class on Thursday, it was interesting that many people in the class could only see one of the imbedded images. I, for instance could only see the skull in the image that had the skull/woman at her dressing table and it took me a considerable amount of time to perceive the image of the woman at her table. What is fascinating is that not only did many of us see just one image, but we each differed in our observation of the image shown to us. Is this discrepancy a function of a difference in the ability to perceive or is it accounted for by differences in the visual pathways leading to the brain? Is what we see reality or just an optical (perceptual) illusion? What makes us realize the difference between the two?

Knowing vs. KNOWING
Name: Nicole
Date: 2004-04-20 07:30:41
Link to this Comment: 9472

Going off a conversation in class, I realize that there is a difference between knowing how to do something and KNOWING how to do something (being able to explain it to someone else). However, I do not think that KNOWING necessarily implies a better understanding. For example, writing has always been one of my friend's strongests abilities, she's an amazing writer. However, when tutoring one summer, she taught math. She did this because she couldn't explain to another person how to write, even though she was an amazing writer herself. Does the fact that she couldn't explain how to write in any way change or diminish her writing ability? I think not...

Name: prachi
Date: 2004-04-20 08:48:22
Link to this Comment: 9474

One thing that I would find interesting is the relationship between visual hallucinations and sight. Do they have any link to one another or is the "visual" aspect of the hallucination entirely within the brain, a complete creation that is divorced from actual sight?

Name: Emma
Date: 2004-04-20 09:17:42
Link to this Comment: 9475

Last year when I was up very late working on an Orgo project I hallucinated a giant spider on top of me. It is the only time I have ever hallucinated and I wonder what caused it, was it because I was so tired(It was about 3 am and we had been working for hours straight)? Or was it because at that point my brain was simply too over worked? In people who do not normally hallucinate what causes an isolated hallucination?

My Mind's Playing Tricks on Me!!
Name: Chevon Dep
Date: 2004-04-20 09:34:54
Link to this Comment: 9476

I enjoyed the exercise of examining different ambiguous pictures, because everyone had their own interpretation of what was in the picture. Not only did people have their own interpretation, but they also tried to convince others to see what they saw. In some instances, it worked. We concluded that your brain is actually guessing what is in the picture. However, if someone convinces you of what is in the picture, is your brain still guessing or have you just "forced" your brain to guess what you want the picture to be? I understand that the second set of pews is to resolve ambiguity. Is this in combination with your brain guessing or is it independent?

Name: Katina Kra
Date: 2004-04-20 09:50:45
Link to this Comment: 9477

Hallucination and voices are common side effects of mental illness, such as bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia. My questions is, as there are many different types of hallucinations, such as auditory or visual, what, neurologically, would this do to the function of these senses normally? Is there something within the brain that creates these vivid pictures or sounds? It must be, but what part of it comes from the subconcious, and being unaware?

As for dreams, many people cannot remember them. But what occurs when a visiual que, or something similar that may have occured in the REM state of dreaming, would occur in real life? Would it been seen as deja vu, or just a normal reaction?

Name: Natalie Me
Date: 2004-04-20 09:58:53
Link to this Comment: 9478

We seem to be talking about two different things: the abililty to SEE the world around us and the ability to SENSE the world around us. It seems to me that this SENSE is a much more intense, emotive and probably unreliable perception. But it is this SENSE from which we are able to detect social cues, observe expression, and probably respond to things such as music, art and nature. I wonder what part of the brain this might occur in, and how it is connected to vision.

Exceptions to Blindness
Name: Emily
Date: 2004-04-20 11:16:21
Link to this Comment: 9480

Amy talked about the sharpened "other" senses of people with an impaired sense: Blind people with a heightened sense of touch, for example. I don't remember where I read this, but in these people, their "visual" brain centers (the primary visual cortex, for example) are actually "invaded" by information from other senses. I posted before on a study done on this phenomenon in infant ferretts. I suppose something like this must also happen in humans who are blind and need their senses of touch and hearing to create the world because their eyes, or rather their visual pathways, cannot.

This also makes me think of another case I've heard about. I believe it was on an episode of Nova, or on the Discovery Channel. Neurologists were studying a man who is totally blind, but who can sense motion. You can move something in his field of vision, and if the movement is great enough, he can "see" it. He can't tell you what it is, because he can't see the object itself. But he does "see" that it moves. How does this work? I know that there are different neurons devoted to the detection of light v. movement, but how are they getting their information? I'm pretty sure these specialized neurons lie in the brain, and isn't the only information going to the brain light information from the retina? This fascinates me. This man has no capacity for what we think of as sight: the detection of light. But he can detect movement. Doesn't this have to have something to do with light, because the object he "sees" moving are detected by his brain in some way by the light they reflect? I can't figure out how this would work.

Name: debbie
Date: 2004-04-20 11:44:10
Link to this Comment: 9481

I was just thinking about how color is an arbitrary construction of the brain. When I see the color Periwinkle on a Crayola crayon, I see the same color everytime, and I register the color as Periwinkle (after learning what Periwinkle looks like to me). Do different people see a different color than I see (since our rods and cones are presumably different)? It seems like they would and just like me, they see the same color each time and have learned to recognize it as Periwinkle.

Exceptions to Blindness
Name: Emily
Date: 2004-04-21 23:02:24
Link to this Comment: 9530

I've been wondering about Debbie's color question as long as I can remember: Is my purple her purple? Or does what she sees as "purple" look to her like what i call "blue"?

As much as I would almost like the latter to be the case, just for the coolness of it, everyone seeing trees differently, but as totally normal to them, it musn't be the case. While there must be some variation in our rods and cones, color is a construction of the brain based upon wavelength of light. The wavelength going into the eye is the same. So it should be seen the same way.

....But, since I'm a good bio 202 student, I must say, "maybe not." Because we've determined that what we see and what's really there aren't perfectly equal...but it seems to me that as a principle of physics, color must be seen mostly the same by everyone. Otherwise color cooridnation would never work, right?

sight and color, etc
Name: elissa
Date: 2004-04-22 09:43:22
Link to this Comment: 9543

I think that perceptions of color is different for people. I, for one, lack any ability to color coordinate. People's perception of color is based on how they learned about that color, but since they're seeing it only through their own eyes there is no basis for comparison for them. And what about color blind people?

And also going back to Emily's post, "You can move something in his field of vision, and if the movement is great enough, he can "see" it. He can't tell you what it is, because he can't see the object itself. But he does "see" that it moves. How does this work? I know that there are different neurons devoted to the detection of light v. movement, but how are they getting their information?" I don't think that he actually can see the movement, but it's something that you can detect with your other senses. With that, could it be that his skin is so sensitive to touch that it can actually feel the movement of an object with the change in air current/pressure around him? It's not surprising that this man can detect movement, even though he's blind.

The blind can "see"
Name: Laura Silv
Date: 2004-04-22 18:51:53
Link to this Comment: 9557

I was thinking about Elisa's posting. We all know that when a person looses one sense, the other four become heightened. This blind man might sense the movement of a certain object from the way it affects his other senses - as Elisa said, the moving air current, hearing the object move, et cetera.

In another class, we were talking about how blind people sometimes get restorative surgery to get their sight back, and then have a hard time adjusting. Their understanding of depth perception simply isn't able to extend to their sight. Many end up blind-folding themselves and using their walking sticks in order to understand depth perception. Just thought I'd contribute that ...

Name: Jean
Date: 2004-04-22 21:43:14
Link to this Comment: 9562

In response to Emily's comment, even though the same wavelengths of light are being sensed and the same sets of information are being sent to the brains of two people, their brains might interpret the given information differently. Therefore I would probably have to answer yes to "Or does what she sees as 'purple' look to her like what i call 'blue'?". I think this difference in interpretation is a definite possibility.

color blindness
Name: Liz
Date: 2004-04-22 23:41:22
Link to this Comment: 9563

After the discussion in class today about color blindness, I was curious as to how those with different color definciences observe things differently. I found this link that shows how an image appears to those with different types of color deficiency...

Color comments
Name: Eleni
Date: 2004-04-24 00:08:01
Link to this Comment: 9577

First off, I was wondering about non-spectral hues (such as pink and brown). I didn't quite understand how they were created. I know all color has to do with the cone system, but are non-spectral hues also connected to the rod system and brightness? I was thinking that if pink was just a faint red, then it could have something to do with intensity/ brightness as well as color mixing from the 3 broad bands.

On the subject of the 3 broad bands, I found it interesting to discuss that colors are created by just altering the ratios of these 3 bands. I understand that this is how it works in our brain and why color is not an aspect of physical reality in this case. I am having a little trouble accepting this, though. In one of my Chem courses, we studied the colors of compounds and how color is related to electron transitions and ultimately energy. Energy is a very real concept that can be measured so I feel like color is not just all perception-or rather, it doesn't matter if it is perception in this case-because with the compounds, color just depends on the wavelength, not the actual color that you see. So, if you think of color as energy, doesn't it seem to be a physical concept without (much) ambiguity?

Childhood Color Theory
Name: Dana
Date: 2004-04-24 21:45:59
Link to this Comment: 9582

I remember sitting with my friend when we wre 10 or 11, and discussing this color theory stuff. We were asking whether "blue" looks the same to each of us, whether we maybe learned to call the color of the sky "blue," but if I could see it through her eyes I would identify it as "green."

It seems that the answer is no, they arent the same, or you cannot show whether thay are or not. This is because of a lack of outside verification, of a truth. If color exists only as a perception then there is no "reality" to verify it against.

Daniel Dennet writes :    Vision involving spectral differences (not just luminance differences) turns out to be wonderfully strange, and I think there has been enough astute canvassing of the prospects so that we can be pretty sure that any theory "of color" will have some counterintuitive bite-the-bullet implications in one corner or another, but I am surprised at one particular bullet B&H decide to bite: unknowable color facts about, for instance, which chip is (really) unique green. For this to be a fact, there has to be some standard of correctness which isn't just majority rule or something like it. But it isn't just that we don't yet know any such standard; we have good reason to believe that there couldn't be one, any more than there could be an unknowable fact about the correct pronunciation of the word "controversy" (who really has it right, the Brits or the Americans?). B&H have a clear understanding, it seems,  of the coevolutionary coordination of color vision and reflectance properties, and it would seem to follow from this that the 'ideal' of a unique green independent of (human) physiology is as indefinable as the ideal of correct pronunciation of a word independent of human social practices.  Color isn't like distance or horizontality for the simple reason that distance and horizontality properties didn't co-evolve with spatial vision. Yes, people can make mistakes about unique green, and about how "controversy" is pronounced, but that doesn't mean that there is a people-independent way of fixing what is right in these cases.

This is really cool

on the subject of senses
Name: Amy Gao
Date: 2004-04-26 20:03:01
Link to this Comment: 9611

I think perhaps some of us have experienced something like this: our backs are turned, and someone approaches us from the back, but yet we are able to "sense" that person's approach even though the person was being quiet and did not make any noises that would have alerted us to their presence. How were we able to "sense" something like this? It must not have been the visual cues since the back is turned, and if the person was being very quiet no humanly audible sound would've been made.

Name: Shadia
Date: 2004-04-26 21:14:44
Link to this Comment: 9615

Last week, a group of us were all cramming/studying for an Orgo exam when a friend casually mentioned that she found mechanisms with nitrogen easy to remember because of their "orange color". This surprised us—until she mentioned that ppl have told her she has "this thing called synesthesia"; i.e. she "sees" color in letters. She told us how she couldn't understand how other ppl could possibly remember things, without being able to remember their colors and started to tell us the colors of the letters of the alphabet. I had heard/learned about synesthesia before but hearing her talk really cemented the idea that color is not an aspect of physical reality. I have to admit I was a little skeptical but she went even went through the letters in our names—the same letter always corresponded to the same color. She explained that my name is "yellow" while say, Anna's is brownish orange and her own is blue. I now have no doubt that her "yellow" is quite different from my own—it might even be identical to my "black". The interesting (and scary) thing is she had always assumed that everyone else was doing this—it wasn't until she was 18 and learned of the "phenomenon" in a HS science class that she asked around and discovered she has a different way of seeing things.

Name: Erica
Date: 2004-04-26 21:38:34
Link to this Comment: 9617

Just a comment/question on the (non)existence of color. I was thinking that someone somewhere had to initially recognize the appearance of color in their world, and it pretty much baffles me how there exists such a universal concept as color. There is no way of fully knowing what is and whether it's called the right thing, but it's interesting to me that a majority of the people in this world can perceive one thing in the same way. If there is no agreement on the specific color of something, at the very least there is a general consensus on it's presence as color, be it a creation of the brain. But, the question still remains whether or not we would know the concept of color had we not been taught it. Would we just call it something else, and how would we know enough to know that it doesn't really exist, as the case may be?

Further Color Blindness Musings
Name: Ginger K.
Date: 2004-04-26 21:57:10
Link to this Comment: 9620

I have been very impressed by everyone's comments regarding color blindness. I wanted to be able to contribute something, but had no idea as to what angle I wanted to pursue. After doing some googling I hit upon a site: About Color Blindness . The pages on the site were written by someone who is color blind. I was amazed by the way one's life can be changed by something so basic as not seeing red. The author mentions not being able to tell if your food is done, not knowing how you colored in a coloring book, not being able to read the weather channel maps well, ect.. You're probably wondering why I bring this all up. Not to seem dramatic, but it is important that we consider how the conditions we study impact peoples' lives. We are constantly considering the nervous system and the mind in terms of the big picture. Yet, in my mind, peoples' personal experiences are just as vital to neuroscience. Thanks to everyone in this class for contributing. I've learned a lot from you all.

Name: erin
Date: 2004-04-26 23:11:19
Link to this Comment: 9623

I find the notion of reality and its relation to what our nervous systems are detecting to be very interesting. Given our discussions about differences people have in the way their nervous system interpret difference sensory inputs, it would seem that "reality" must exist even though it is different for everyone. I happen to be one of the very few females that are colorblind, like most other colorblind people, I didn't know something was different. My reality is different from someone with color; yet, I can still function in the same environment – with some variation. With everyone's nervous system interpreting things differently, is there a common "foundation/thread" that allows us to function and interact one with another despite our differences? If there is such a "foundation" is it in any form rooted in our nervous system? Is there a point where differences are too great to allow us interaction with each other – are those differences possibly rooted in the nervous system? If so, are they in the I-function, or non-I function part of the nervous system?

Name: Ariel
Date: 2004-04-27 00:01:08
Link to this Comment: 9628

I think that the concept of personal perception of color is fascinating. While I was hunting around on the internet looking for information on color versus black and white images I found a website ( set up by a couple.

This couple, Susan Larsen and Patrick Collentine, take photographs, with a twist. Every time they take a photograph one of the two stands in the picture holding a six foot long kolorbar (a strip of material that contains eight colors on it, used commonly in the printing and graphic design world).

It is really fascinating, they have a number of their pictures up and it is possible to see in each picture colors that relate to the colors on the kolorbar. For me all of the colors stand out a great deal more with the kolorbar present.

I was wondering what causes the colors to become more defined and brilliant in my mind when I see them next to a sample of a similar solid color? If there was no kolorbar I would not have noticed that the blues or greens or whatever are such specific colors, I would see them as a whole picture. I just thought that this was a really cool idea.

Name: prachi dav
Date: 2004-04-27 03:10:58
Link to this Comment: 9629

what i'm interested in is the representation of colour in the mind insofar as we seem to know the "right" quality of texture of colour as it exists in the real world even if the object we are referring to is not present at the time. when i paint, for example, i know when a colour is absolutely or subtly wrong and colour in turn is attached to other various details which enrich it and allow it to become "real". so there's another question, when is colour just a colour rather than the various features attached to the colour? for example, colours can have affective associations, cultural associations, physical associations etc.

Chromatic Language
Name: Chelsea
Date: 2004-04-27 03:56:47
Link to this Comment: 9630

This is in response to Erica's comment/question about the "learnedness" of color. I was reading (for another class) Linda Woodbridge's article "Black and White and Red all Over," which references and explores a series of studies done on the development of color language within a culture. The article is about 50 pages long, with only the first 15 being in any way academically relevant; BUT, the important point is a list- IN ORDER- of colors developed by any given culture.

The first color words to develop will always be black and white. If a third is developed, it will be red. The fourth and fifth will be yellow and green; the sixth will be blue; seventh brown; eighth, ninth and tenth: pink, orange, gray. Strangly, purple doesn't make an appearance in this particular set. A culture's color language also seems to be indicative of its cultural complexity. So, as a culture becomes more complex, it begins to develop language involving the description of shorter wavelengthed photons. As a culture evolves, is color language evolves and is found useful enough to be taught to the next generation.

Perception and Color Blindness
Name: Michelle
Date: 2004-04-27 04:15:15
Link to this Comment: 9631

A few weeks ago, we discussed our brain "filling in" what our blind spots could not see. We examined the various ways that the brain reacted to given experiments. With this in mind, could we possibly apply this to color blindness? After reading several postings concerning color blindness, I began to wonder whether those who were color blind could dream in color. Through a quick web search I found that color could be perceived in dreams. Visual and auditory sensations are essential to the waking state. They also play a key role in producing dreams, particularly the internal excitations of the retina. Although there is a relationship that exists between the mechanisms of color perception during a waking state and the color perception during a dream state, the idea of color centers in the brain account for color perception and the sensory organs involved in dreams not being subjected to the stimuli normally encountered in color perception and its related sensory organs in the waking state. Therefore, color, a perception that is a combination of both visual and neural processing, is able to be seen in dreams. With the neural cues received during the dream state, would it be possible to have a color blind man's vision in the waking state have "fill-ins" of color? Aided with the memory of dreams, could a color blind man gain a larger limitation of colors through which he perceives the world? Could techniques be established to improve color range among the colorblind? What sort of limits on the brain's "fill ins" would then be established?

Name: Jean
Date: 2004-04-27 04:16:59
Link to this Comment: 9632

Our recent discussions on color have made me realize how very different everyone's brains are. Different brains interpret wavelengths in a variety of ways which can be of little or drastic difference. The concept of one wavelength can lead to different interpretations leads us to think about how other inputs are interpretted differently by everyone. It is fascinating to think that one input can lead to a variety of different reactions/interpretations depending on the structure and functioning of a ceratin nervous system.

optical illusions
Name: Allison
Date: 2004-04-27 08:21:04
Link to this Comment: 9637

With phantom limb syndrome there is a disconnect between the idea the nervous system has of our physical body and the reality of our physical state. In the case of the phantom limb, the nervous system hasn't evolved to handle this lapse between perception and reality. Comparing optical illusions to the phantom limb concept, these two notions seem similar. Just as sensing a physical state seems effortless, it is difficult to appreciate the sophisticated machinery involved in sight. Do optical illusions stem from some assumption the visual system is making, in the same manner as the nervous system assumes a complete body? Are illusions those stimuli that exist at the extreme of what our system has evolved to handle?

Name: Jenny
Date: 2004-04-27 08:39:43
Link to this Comment: 9638

Last week in class we had discussed what the difference between hallucinations and reality perception must be, and had come up with the idea that it was probably not something internal that decided whether what we "saw" was real or a hallucination. I wonder if how we learn about the self is similar? How do we come to define the I-function? Is it by internal cues or by watching others, and learning what is expected, and finding something similar substance inside of ourselves?

It's really interesting, because before this class I had assumed that so much came from within our own minds, that we weren't as heavily affected from the way other people's minds worked... but it seems that there is an interesting interplay. That we perceive things and are constantly holding them up in our minds, comparing them to past activities, comparing them to external information.

Is this how we differentiate between reality and dreams? That dreams are something that doesn't fit within what society accepts as probable? And is that why when something feels so completely suprising we think we must be dreaming?

Name: Emma
Date: 2004-04-27 09:03:11
Link to this Comment: 9639

In response to chelsea's comment about that paper she was reading I wonder if the order in which the words for color to develop has to do with the prevalence of these colors in nature or something in us. It is interesting to think that it may be in us. The idea that we may all see the world completely differenty that my own brown may be compelety different from another persons brown has always amazed me. That we have been taught to call these specific colors by their names regardless of how we see them. I wonder then if we really all do see colors differently if the same names evolved in the same order.

More on vision, color, and colorblindness
Name: Katina Kra
Date: 2004-04-27 09:18:09
Link to this Comment: 9640

I recall sitting in my Biology 102 lab earlier this semester, hearing Professor Franklin argue with other students about "what was the true pink." His debate was that, since he as a former t-shirt designer/color person, knew pink could not be pinpointed as one specific color, but many shades. But as many people have said prior, colors may not be to same to all those who see them. Do basic colors, like red, green, blue and yellow, have enough variations for them from the true color that the eye can detect and recognize, or is this "sense" most true for non spectrum colors, such as pink. If one were to change the "shade" of red on the project used to put the images up on the screen in class, would anyone be able to notice a difference?

As for colorblindness, I agree when it was said their lives are made difficult from it. But I do know a few people with it (As I live in a small town, so genetically, it spreads faster). These people have developed distinct ways of telling the shades or patterns of things to allow them to lead a "normal" life. Color is an important factor is seeing the world how we do now, but it would be entirely impossible to live in a black and white world....or would it?

Name: Natalie Me
Date: 2004-04-27 09:49:37
Link to this Comment: 9641

This whole color thing does seem to be pretty upsetting. Everything we see has COLOR. The world around us is made up of COLOR. To find out that there are no mathematical or physical reasons for it is kind of upsetting. It is something that exists in our perception of wavelengths. In my Relativism class last semester, we talked about this at length. The color issue has been the fodder for many who claim that there is no true reality out there. That class got me used to the idea that maybe there isn't...

Angsty Teenage Depression
Name: Amanda
Date: 2004-04-27 09:52:40
Link to this Comment: 9642

In response to the post Ariel put up abou the website,
I found it very interesting about what the bar did in the photos. I'm not sure if it made the photos more colorful with the bar. I found it a distraction. What the bar did do I think is matched each color in the photo to one in the bar. I also found that the frames around the pictures made the matching part of the bar stand out the most.

color continued..
Name: Lindsey
Date: 2004-04-27 15:15:27
Link to this Comment: 9644

Impressive thoughts and comments on color...

I started to think about how we react emotionally and intellectually to color. Is it true that some colors have calming effects, or specific influences on our emotions? Apparently, I found in this article that pink has calming effects for violent men. This makes me wonder how color came to be associated with females—is there a genetic or sexual predisposition to color preference? How can color affect our moods on a wavelenght basis? Maybe this isn't the true story; instead, color has become a cultural construction: whatever meaning a particular culture attaches to a color, that is the meaning we identify when we see a color. There seems to be something more complicated about this story though..

Name: cham
Date: 2004-04-28 01:22:26
Link to this Comment: 9657

i am currently revising my thesis for the 93rd time and as i was reading my introduction, i noticed a strong correlation with our discussion in class today. i only have time for a quick bottom line: this puts the subjective construction we've been talking about throughout the semester, in a more social light. i think i remember someone earlier in the semester wondering why we didnt discuss social implications more. so, heres the first part of my 3000 page thesis...dealing with the cognitive processes involved in stereotyping:

Everyday we are faced with the complex task of constructing a reality based upon both subjective and objective information from the world around us. Perhaps the most fundamental concept in Social Psychology is that as diverse human beings, we interpret our world in very different ways. Although we share the same basic motivation to make good judgments, the evaluative outcomes of our judgment processes can be as different as our highly subjective constructions of reality. In this way, no two people interpret the world in the same way.

In order to understand the complexities involved in our differing interpretations of environmental stimuli, research in Social Psychology has focused on investigating the underlying judgment processes involved in these interpretations. For example, although it is a well known fact that our evaluations depend upon the context in which they are made, it is necessary to further investigate the specific implications of context information in terms of fundamental judgment processes.

Recent research in social psychology has investigated the role of assimilation and contrast in stereotypic judgments of both groups and individuals. Prior studies have found that categorizing a person as a member of a group reduces the degree to which individuating information is relied upon when making evaluative judgments about that person. Thus, stereotypic judgments increase when a person is seen as a group member: "the evaluation of the exemplar is assimilated toward the implications of the stereotype" (Bless, Schwarz, Bodenhausen and Thiel. 2001, p. 388). Conversely, when a category member is seen as atypical of the group, assimilation effects will not result; rather, a contrast effect is found. Specifically, stereotypic judgments decrease when a person is not seen as a group member, as the evaluation of the exemplar is contrasted with that of the group.

It is important to understand the underlying cognitive processes involved in making social judgments, as the evaluative outcomes of such judgments certainly have profound social implications. For example, our judgment processes are not only inextricably linked to the ways in which we interpret the world, but to the ways in which cognitive shortcuts such as stereotyping, impact this interpretation.

Name: Jenny
Date: 2004-04-28 19:25:16
Link to this Comment: 9669

This class has made me really think about things differently... and realize that the more I think about things, the less I seem to "know" fully. The brain seems to control so much of our behavior, and yet the interaction of one individual with his or her surroundings and society have such an enormous impact on one's sense of reality. The brain perceives the external world and processes this information through a complex set of boxes within boxes, but the way this information is processed seems to be learned from one's life experiences. I had always assumed that the biology was the internal processes and that "other" behavior wasn't biological related... But it seems now that biology influences behavior, but behavior and experience also influence the biological interpretation of input.

In one of my first posts, I had commented about psychotherapy versus medication for the treatment of mental illness. I think that the way psychotherapy and medication combine to create a change in one's behavior are just one tiny piece of the larger scheme in which biology and experience affect a person's behavior.

some thoughts
Name: Amy Gao
Date: 2004-04-28 21:06:01
Link to this Comment: 9670

If there is anything that I could say about what I took from this class, it would be that I feel "less sure" of what I learn and experience in my everyday life. I do not mean this in a negative way; rather, I see it as learning to see events not in a definitive way and open to interpretations. (Well, of course there _are_ some things that are pretty set in stone.) I truly valued the discussions in class and on this forum. I think as you get more and more into your own specialty or field of study, your interactions with people of other disciplines decrease, and I thought that it was very nice to hear the varying viewpoints.

Thanks for a great semester, and good luck to all in the finals:)


final post
Name: Kristen
Date: 2004-04-30 10:33:47
Link to this Comment: 9696

What I took away from this course is the idea that humans have much less control over our lives than we generally seem to believe. I was prepared for the idea that brain = behavior, but what caught me off guard was how little conscious control we have over our brains and therefore our behavior. I really enjoy the idea that there are aspects of our lives and of ourselves that we really can't control. It is also amazing how much influence our nervous system has on the interpretation of the world around us. It is a little disturbing, however, that my reality is not necessarily "the" reality. The ideas I learned from this course have given me new ways to look at my life and the world around me. I have come away with a lot of answers, but more importantly, I have come up with even more questions that I hope to further explore in the future.

last thoughts on the course
Name: Eleni
Date: 2004-04-30 14:20:33
Link to this Comment: 9699

For a "relate Physics to everything in life" end to my Physics 102 class, my professor ended with a sort of concept map. One branch went from quantum mechanics-> chemistry-> inorganic chem-> organic chem (but dead)-> organic chem (alive)-> biology-> consciousness-> us. The categories consciousness and us were surrounded with question marks. These are basically the issues we tackled in Neurobiology. My prof then proceeded to quote Prof. Grobstein as saying that he thought "It was all just neurons." Well, this is what our course explored-how we could think about these concepts in terms of neurons. I learned a lot of intersting things in this course and ultimately how to think and question and not just accept. I truly enjoyed the class as well as reading everyone's comments in the forum.

final thoughts
Name: Liz Powell
Date: 2004-04-30 17:19:36
Link to this Comment: 9709

This semester I have thought about some concepts in a new way. I think that this course had been great for looking at biology in different ways. I now find myself thinking more critically about topics that I have learned a certain way in the past.

Name: debbie
Date: 2004-05-01 10:21:07
Link to this Comment: 9741

We have come full circle. We started by talking about frogs and their lack of a neocortex, and we ended (well, almost) with talking about frogs and their inability to remember actions that they had recently completed...

And then I think about the I-function. We have spent so much time talking about it. Anytime I try and do any research on it, without a doubt, Serendip's page is referenced. The I-function seems to be the way WE explain self and relating what we do, to controlling what we do, and to registering what we do. In class, we spoke briefly of Freud and what he would call the I-box. Are there hundreds of other explanations out there for the abstract role we claim is carried about by the I-box?

Finally, I thought ending on dreams was fantastic. The facts that our I-function is active in REM and that sleep walking does not occur during REM because the I-function is inactive are intriguing. In class, I remembered an experience I had with sleep walking. When I was a sophomore in college, a male student who lived down the hall from me in my dorm walked into my room. It was 4 in the morning, and I was checking my email or something (in the dark) and my roommate was sleeping. The student was wearing boxer shorts and had a large build - he was an athlete. He began screaming at me loudly. He was making little sense, and I tried to calm him down. In reality, I was frightened that he was going to attack me. I looked over at my roommate at one point and saw that she had her blanket up to her face and was crying. He began to throw objects around my room and became angrier and angrier with each false claim that he made.

As he moved towards me, I noticed that his eyes could not focus on me. They were looking left and right, up and down. I yelled to him that if he wanted to continue talking, he would have to turn on the lights. He did, and an amazing transformation took place. He began to shake his head rapidly and blink his eyes over and over again. He seemed to be waking up. Soon after, he looked over at us, asked what he was doing in our room, and then walked out.

Because of this experience I have wanted to learn more about sleep walking, and I thank you, Dr. Grobstein for introducing this topic to us, along with many more fascinating topics. I will keep checking the course forum area in the future - good luck to everyone in the class. Hope we cross paths again some day.

Final thoughts
Name: Dana Bakal
Date: 2004-05-03 10:29:59
Link to this Comment: 9750

I was struck by the repeating focus of this course on reality, and how it isnt so real. We looked at stuff in the unconcious, showing that we do not have (in the I-function) a full picture of the reality of our selves, at visual processing, showing that vision does not form an accurate picture of the world but rather an interperation or best story by the brain, and at color, which does not exist without someone to see it.
I am focusing my final paper on this idea: reality is not in our heads, as we have seen. We have linked all the boxes in the brain and not seen where it is. So it must be somewhere else; what boxes havent we linked? The boxes of each person's brain to each other person's. It seems social reality has more real than personal reality.

Name: erin
Date: 2004-05-04 22:06:05
Link to this Comment: 9758

It is rather amazing that after a semester of intense discussion about the complex networking and observations about our nervous system, that when reduced to our most basic elements, we are all really just a collection of neurons. I found the discussion last Thursday, about different states of our nervous system, to be quite interesting. Particularly subsequent discussion about the widespread efforts of our nervous system to coordinate two different views of what is actually going on. Like most discussions this semester, this observation raises a myriad of questions, what happens if the nervous system can't coordinate the two views? Is this coordination happening at the same rate for everyone? or How can we use this to further our understandings of why we perceive things as we do? I can't say that I know the answer to any of these questions, but what I have learned is how to think differently about them and to extend what I know in creative ways to come to new observations.

This semester has offered a glimpse of how the path from neuron to "self identity" will forever be a complicated issue that will be continually investigated and debated. During this time, I have come to understand the value of peers and a simple question and the potential such an approach has to expanding learning. In addition to the many things I have learned this semester, I have learned that though I can't consciously change many mechanisms in my nervous system, I am now aware of their existence (both the ones I can change and the ones I can't) and can use that information to broaden my scope of understanding.

Neurobiology - what I learned from this course
Name: Katina Kra
Date: 2004-05-06 15:42:00
Link to this Comment: 9801

As this semester comes to a close, my ideas of science have been changed by Prof. Grobstein and his class, Neurobiology and Behavior. When I first entered the course, my perception of science was purely physical...nerves, brain, and the spinal cord were what comprised the nervous system and the reactions it created. Only an action from outside could stimulate a reaction frome the inside. But, through the lectures, questions asked, and exploration, I've found that this idea of everything in the body occuring for a reason is not neccessarily the case; things occur without our knowing, wanted, or feeling. I've realized that science isn't just about what can be seen, but it's about what happens, how it does, and the some what philosophical nature of what science really is.

The first dicussion in class was "Brain=Behavior." I had always belived that yes, the brain played a part, but it was also environment, genetics, and so much else that made But with this discussion, I came to the conclusion that all of these were tied together...these compents were not separate, but all one thing....and coming from the brain.

From taking science as always a physical ideal, to a new concept as a combination of exploration, questioning, and somewhat a philosophy, my views have radically changed because of this course. The discussions, forums, and lectures always gave me something new to ponder, and something else to take with me when I left.

This course, all a whole, has not only proved beneficial in exploration, but has lead to the opening of my eyes within the world of science.

Thanks guys for your questions that made me think, professor grobstein for his always interesting commentary, and everything else that made this class so unique.

Name: Erica
Date: 2004-05-07 09:12:43
Link to this Comment: 9807

Over the course of the semester, there are a lot of things that I have come to reflect on, things that I would not normally have given any thought. I think that this course helped me to understand that there exists a lot of uncertainty in this world, but that this fact is not one to worry continually about because there are a lot of things that occur internally that we as people are not so clear on.

Earlier in the semester, I wondered where our self-ness originated. I thought that our last discussion helped to answer that question. I've come to appreciate the fact that a lot of who we are is inherent and that this is supplemented by the existence of our I-functions.

The semester has also forced me to think about the idea of constructed reality. In looking at the outer and inner worlds, I have come to realize that they're not all that different. There are some things that we know for "fact" (which can still be subjective), and there are some things that we have no clue about and can only make guesses. This course has enhanced my views on the notion of control and what that really means. I think that in comparison to all the things over which we lack it, there are few things over which we have absolute control. Succumbing to this idea and fully internalizing it will probably be one of the most important things I could ever do.

Name: Shirley
Date: 2004-05-07 14:10:14
Link to this Comment: 9811

Neurobiology and Behavior this semester was def. a learning experience. When I came to this class I too just saw the brain, spinal cord etc. as objects (not necessarily objects, but I did know what they did). I never thought that our neurobiology can affect who we are as individuals. It was also so interesting to learn that our body does things without us being concious of it. I think what helped me enjoy this clas was Professors Grobtein angle of looking at neurobiology- also very philosophical and open to new ideas.

Something I will never forger is the concept of the I-function! It is so interesting that the I-function provides us with the other half of our "self." Also, the exploration of the concept brain=behavior allowed me to understant that there are so many issues that revolve around it. There is not just one simple connection, but trillions of them that allows us to do what we want to do.

The most interesting thing that I learned by far is how our eyes seem to fill in the gaps between two corners (edges (cant think of the right word!)). I mean I always thougth that what I was seeing was actually what I was seeing, but thanks to your class now I know that might not be true. It is nice to know that not everything that appeats to be a certain way is actually that way.

Well, thanks for a great semester. See ya.

Name: brad corr
Date: 2004-05-10 17:14:35
Link to this Comment: 9824

Reflecting on the semester and my thoughts of neurbiology I realize that the goals of this class have been met. I have a different view point and more knowledge on the topic neurobiology and behaivor. The major point I take away that is new for me is the concept of non finite boxes. I used to be under the assumption that there were finite boxes in the brain that took care of separate things. Take out one piece and your vision is gone, take out another and your memory is gone. My newest understanding is that yes there are places in the brain vital for certain functions, but it is a conglomeration of multiple boxes that make each function work properly. This to me is even more remarkable because of the implications of the complexity of the brain. It is remarkable that something this complex could have evolved and is still evolving. I will most definatly continue thinking of neurobiology in my future.

last post
Name: Lindsey Do
Date: 2004-05-14 10:47:44
Link to this Comment: 9868

I've feel like I've appropriately come full circle: I started this class with a vested interest in sleep and dreams, and their implications on our Self and personality. Our fascinating discussion on dreams (and sleep walking which reveals some connection between sleep and personality) has if anything reinforced my original thought. I wrote my last web paper on Hallucination, and there was some overlap with dreaming—how perhaps the two are not so different from each other in how we percieve the world. As one of the last frontiers if you will, the brain may not be a mystery much longer. I thought it would be impossible to completely understand the workings of the brain and how we get Self, but after this class I believe that there are no limits to our discoveries...its just a matter of getting it less wrong.

I came into this class with a rigid science background, thinking that neurobiology and the brain could be explained purely on a chemical and biological basis. I did get frustrated with our musings at times, wanting a concrete answer. But since the brain and our behavior are shaped by SO many factors, it may be quite difficult, and inaccurate to approach the brain from this angle. Therefore, it has been an extremely useful tool to use boxes within boxes to develop a conceptual idea of the brain and its effects on our behavior rather than on a hard to grasp microscopic level. I've also been pleasantly surprised by how much I have learned from you all and our discussions. Sharing personal experiences is really a great way to learn, and invited me to look to myself for my own interests and questions rather than trying to find the "right" answer in a textbook.
thanks for a great semester!

last thoughts
Name: Ghazal Zek
Date: 2004-05-19 15:00:01
Link to this Comment: 9902

I'm not sure if anyone will see this, but I'd still like to make one last contribution to the forum. (better late than never...)

Here is an excerpt of what I initially posted about brain=behavior:

"Behavior is certainly not 100% genetic, but how much of that percentage belongs to genes? ...Additionally, I don't like the notion of genes dictating behavior; it's a very trapping feeling.
To wrap up... how much of our behavior comes from within? How much is influenced by the outside world?"

I inadvertently tried to answer these questions in my final web paper. I found Prof. Grobsteins's revision of Descartes, "I am, and I can think, therefore I can change who I am" to be valuable in my explanation (along with some new evidence leading toward that direction).

I think it's interesting that I, like many on here, have come "full circle." This course not only taught me to question science and knowledge as we know it, but to regard truths which we have already accepted as simply, "stories." I think that using the term story is really smart in the sense that it brings us down to earth. It shows that we are just like many generations of humans before us, looking for a better way to explain our world.

I really enjoyed this class because it became so aplicable. I think as humans, we are constantly questioning our existence and what that means (what is the meaning of life? etc). It was therefore not only helpful, but really enjoyable to have a class devoted to a garnering a better understanding of some of our bigger questions.

brain & culture
Name: Beverly Bu
Date: 2005-01-18 20:05:29
Link to this Comment: 12084

The study of behavior involves the consideration of observable external factors as well as hidden internal factors within both the individual being observed and the individual doing the observing.

As a biology major and an anthropolgy minor, I can see opportunites for exploring behavior across cultures and how behaviors are interpreted by those outside of the culture. All behaviors are a part of survival mechanisms that have evolved differently in every culture and in every individual. Various social, religious, political and economic influences come into play when we act out a behavior or make any assumptions or interpretations about the meaning behind the behavior of others. The brain works to make sense of the outside world and strives to adjust behavior to ensure survival.

Hello, all
Name: Beth Diamo
Date: 2005-01-19 20:28:26
Link to this Comment: 12126

I have really enjoyed reading all the comments here, there are so many interesting ideas being thrown about! I don't know if I can contribute much to this forum at the moment in light of all the other enlightening comments, but perhaps I shall just post about what got me interested in this class in the first place: my first choice for such a class was originally going to be psychology, but upon attending the first neurobio class I realized that the scope of the course was much larger than the actual mecahnics of neurobiology, and would extend into realms of psychology and even philosophy, to some degree.

I recall reading earlier in the forum (or another one of the archives) about dreaming and having serial dreams. I found that idea to be very interesting, and unusual because I have never had a serial dream; all my dreams seem to vanish upon awakening and I never continue the same dream next night. I hope that at some point in the course we will be able to study the reasons for and mechanics of dreaming; still a largely mysterious process that is quite fascinating.

I hope to post perhaps more informative or interesting contributions to this forum in the future, but right now I wish everyone well and hope to have a fun and intriguing class!

Name: anna
Date: 2005-01-19 23:21:58
Link to this Comment: 12128

Wow. There are a lot of comments on here. I’m not sure I have any discussion provoking things to say at the moment. I enjoyed reading the comments that I did read (couldn’t get through all of them). This is the first class I have had where people use a discussion forum and I’m really appreciating it. So many things are being brought up that I would not have known about or thought about, so I’m just glad that there is this opportunity for discussion.

I’m kind of overwhelmed with all that I’ve read right now so thoughts are going everywhere. The general feeling I’m getting right now is that I really don’t know as much as I would like to about the nervous system, the mind and the soul. All the comments are making me less sure of what I thought I knew…and making me realize that maybe I didn’t know that much. So I’m excited for this class. I was interested in some ideas brought up in some of the comments, such as the effects of drugs on the brain, why different people react in certain ways to drugs, the idea of God as the scientist, and the idea of group behavior versus how you would behave or feel when you are isolated and alone. Alright, see you all in class, adios.

Name: Jenna Rosa
Date: 2005-01-20 15:50:31
Link to this Comment: 12133

I'm writing my thesis about neurological damage from exposure to environmental toxins and the effects on behavior as recognized by the criminal justice system. I think acknowledging the link between the physicality of the brain and behavior is important when we talk about issues of good and evil, social deviance, cultural norms, generally why we do what we do. As an anthropologist in training, I see through the lens of cultural analysis, and therefore I see behavior as more or less adherent to the norms of the society. It would be nice to dig deeper past what we observe in society into the biological processes that affect behavior, and see how much of how we define people is based in this link between behavior and the brain.

Name: Alfredo Sk
Date: 2005-01-22 12:42:44
Link to this Comment: 12148

Although ideologically I would take the side of Emily Dickinson and the current theories about the brain behavior link, I'm having trouble resolving one issue. If we all basically have the same brain structure and nervous system connections and if the brain controls our behavior, why is it that people exibit such a wide and varied range of behaviors? Why do we not all think and act as similar as our brains our? The only reasonable explanation that I can think of is the nature vs nurture argument. This however does not provide a satisfying answer to the wide range of behavior styles.

Name: Beth Diamo
Date: 2005-01-23 14:52:34
Link to this Comment: 12171

Well, certainly everyone's brain is shaped by their environment and experiences. The neural network in the cortex of, say, a cab driver, would be differently developed in certain areas than would the cortex of a musician (I'm just using silly examples here, bear with me). Genetics also plays a role in how neural networks develop in children and then are subsequently "pruned" in order to follow experiences and reinforce learned behaviors. So even though everyone has essentially the same brain structure, subtle differences in genetics and different experiences also shape behaviors, which goes back to the whole "brain=behavior" idea.

Is there a biological basis for racism?
Name: Carly Frin
Date: 2005-01-24 12:36:47
Link to this Comment: 12187

I am curious as to how prejudices form, and at the moment, I am particularly interested in examining the roots of racism and ethnic conflict.

What in human biology (if it even IS biological) makes us capable of hating others, allows us to develop reasoning strong enough to permit such hatred that we can deny the humanity of (and then harm or kill) another individual? What neurological connections act to lead a person to feel hatred, and to discriminate--how are these connections form?

Because I believe a person must dehumanize another to be capable of acting violently against him, I want to try first to understand what it is that blinds us, that prevents us from being able to see one another as human beings, and to recognize and accept our shared humanity despite our differences.

Also, I was intrigued by Beverly’s statement: “The brain works to make sense of the outside world and strives to adjust behavior to ensure survival.” I am wondering what implications this might have in terms of racially motivated violence. This makes me question as well how our brains determine whether something (or someone) is a threat to our individual survival, and/or the survival of our species.

Thoughts on the Brain's Functions
Name: Jasmine Sh
Date: 2005-01-25 02:22:36
Link to this Comment: 12218

As I was thinking about what comment to write, I stumbled across a quote by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821 - 1881), a Russian novelist, who said: "It is not the brains that matter most, but that which guides them—the character, the heart, generous qualities, progressive ideas." During last Thursday's lecture, we briefly touched upon whether or not our brains controlled our behavior. Some believe that the brain doesn't control our beings/character, rather our personalities and characters distinguish us in every way. As of now, I believe that it is the uniqueness of every individual's brain that causes him/her to have or display a certain character and personality. (and that our brains develop our "generous qualities.") There has also always been the question of distinguishing the "nature/nurture" principle behind neuro-biology to examine whether nature or nurture affects the developing brain more, and in what ways or to which degrees. Do the varying levels of nature/nurture cause some people to develop certain regions of their brain more than others, or cause them to become different people? I hope other people give some insight into this, and hopefully we will touch upon this more in class..!

Name: Amy Vendit
Date: 2005-01-27 08:36:45
Link to this Comment: 12267

As I was reading through many of the comments, the issue that if everyone has the same brain structure and nervous system, how can brain=behavior be true. This lead me into thinking that as we have already stated, different people have different brains; therefore, everyone does not have the same brain. If everyone did have the same brain, than one may assume that everyone would have the same behavior. In this way, I agree with Emily Dickenson in the sense that brain=behavior.
I also agree that 'you' are in the brain. Assuming that there is a 'you' in everyone, it makes sense that it is this 'you' in the brain that causes for different behaviors in different people. As Emily Dickenson said, 'you' are in the brain with a lot of other things that may not be 'you'. This got me thinking about when people convice themselves of something or have some sort of conflicting thoughts. Maybe this is the 'you' part of your brain argueing with some other part in your brain.
This got me thinking about how sometimes really good athletes can be in a rut. It is not their body that is causing them not to perform as well as they have, but their mind. Usually when players are in a rut, they have convinced themselves that they can no longer perform as well as they have always, and therefore their bodies are unable to perform as well as they have, even though the athletes' bodies have the ability.

How do inputs start spontaneously?
Name: Carly Frin
Date: 2005-01-27 09:02:22
Link to this Comment: 12269

I'm having a difficult time understanding/accepting that a process could start up without any stimulus or input from outside the brain. Where do geneology, instinct, and mental illness fall in this phenomenon? It also makes me think differently about human creativity. If a process can start without influence from outside sources, then it may be possible for a human to create something totally original. But is there a chance that a process could start as a delayed response to a previous stimulus/input, and appear to be disconnected from it?

sense of self in the brain
Name: Alfredo Sk
Date: 2005-01-29 15:08:45
Link to this Comment: 12308

When refering to our behavior as being dictated by chemical and electrical impulses between our neurons, we tend to loose our individual will or "sense of self". We have already discussed the idea of you being in your brain and subject to all of its rules, providing a rather grim picture for free will. However, I don't feel that by accepting this idea wwe have to take on the view that we are prisoners to our brains. By focousing more on what Freud described as the superego or the seperate areas of the brain that biologists have designated for the ability to overide, restrain, and plan our behavior (I think it might have something to do with the frontal lobe), we can maintane our sense of self. Although the "you" is required to follow the phisical ruls of the brain, it is not required to follow its orders.
[It would be ineresting to see where and when this area of the nervous system evolved (ie. from which lump did it originate and in what animal)]

Name: Anna
Date: 2005-01-30 21:45:54
Link to this Comment: 12356

I guess what I am interested in is how some things influence us while others do not. If what permits me to be a unique person is my experience and situations that have impacted my life, how does my brain chose what it is impacted by, and what it is not? For example, there is the argument that violent video and computer games influence children to behave in aggressive ways. This is certainly not true for every individual that plays these games. Is it that the events and people in my life have already impacted my behavior to be a person that is not (or is) affected by visual violence (for example)? The thought of people being “prisoners” of their brains because of how the brain is run by electrical stimuli (or input), is denied because people maintain their “sense of self” by their individual experiences and influences. These things manipulate behavior. I guess what I’m getting at in a very roundabout way, is that I am interested in how people become unique. Why do two people react to the same situation in different ways? I know it is because of how they were brought up, but it is kind of like the whole “what came first, the chicken or the egg” question. If we are “programmed” to behave in certain ways because of experiences in our life, how do we chose what experiences to be influenced by? Do the experiences that “program” us come first, or is each brain individual in that there are some experiences that simply do not affect us? Where does our conscience come into play?

Free will (thinking about racism again)
Name: Carly
Date: 2005-01-31 13:18:21
Link to this Comment: 12382

From "Thoughts of a Swedish humanist"
(Fredrik Bendz)
"In chaos theory nobody questions that there is predisposition. In other words, a system can be predicted, but not in detail. This is for example why a child that is beaten will learn to beat, and why apples always fall down, never up. It is the basis for science. If there would not be predisposition all causes and effects would be random. Therefore our will is not totally free, but we always have the possibility to act against our nature or even change it."

My question in response to this excerpt is: How can we change nature? Will we always be fighting our natural selves, our instincts, one might call it--or will we eventually actually alter our natural state ("human nature") and assume a new natural state individually and/or collectively by acting out against it...or by learning free will, as was discussed in the conversation on-line between Laura Cody and Paul? What are the implications of going against nature, and what IS human nature, exactly?

Also, applying this again to racism... Are some people "naturally" racist? Can nature really be learned? That doesn't seem to make sense. If racism is a learned way of thinking, perhaps it is never natural--well, I think I am thinking of "natural" as meaning "permanent" or "unalterable."

Perhaps to reconstruct our thought and action patterns, we just have to pay attention to and use certain parts of our brain/memory/intelligence--just as somone can choose to see the green arrows or the yellow arrows, and if s/he cannot see one set of arrows, another person may be able to teach her/him how to see them, and then s/he can choose which set of arrows to see. So could a person who is racist be shown another way to think and then choose how to think, having multiple pictures before her/him?

Date: 2005-02-01 09:40:10
Link to this Comment: 12412

I tried to post this last night, but for some reason the message refused to go through. I'll try again...

I came across this National Geographic article a few days ago about how some scientists have created human-animal chimera hybrids by fusing their embryological cells together. The article went on to mention that one scientist, Irv Weissman, is attemtpting to create mice with a 100% human brain structure by "injecting human neurons into the brains of embryonic mice" (4th paragraph). It made me wonder about our discussion on Thursday, about how there is little difference between neurons of different species, but the difference in cognition is in how the neurons are arranged. Weissman said that he is indeed looking for mice with human brain structures and will then look for signs of human cognition, but is this even possible to observe in a mouse? Even if a mouse did have human brain architecture, would it be possible for the mouse to perform the tasks necessary to determine "human cognition" if the mouse is not genetically predisposed to certain tasks? An animal's intelligence, since impossible to measure by human standards, must be evaluated using tasks that the animal would naturally complete in nature, such as new ways in obtaining food, etc. Besides all that, what are the implications and uses for creating such a hybrid?

Name: anna
Date: 2005-02-08 09:56:09
Link to this Comment: 12652

The concepts of “human nature” and a “natural” state are bothering me. People are constantly changing their behavior due to changes in environment. Some of these changes can be bigger and more serious than others. For example, when someone is breaking a bad habit, such as smoking, or quitting drug use, they are making a permanent change in their behavior. If our behaviors are constantly changing, the brain is constantly changing, then what is the natural state? Or what do we really define as human nature? It seems to me that our “nature” is always developing and adjusting. Here are some web definitions of “human nature”

The conditioning and programming that has been experienced in human existence. Human nature includes the personality. Human nature alters uniqueness. Back to Top

The collection of behaviors that stem from the tendency to act in one's own self interest before all else, which is caused by the Procreative Drive.

The common qualities of all human beings.

what it essentially means to be a human being; what makes us different from anything else

the shared psychological attributes of humankind that are assumed to be shared by all human beings; "a great observer of human nature"

The first definition seems a little off to me. I’m not sure if it’s the phrasing or what. What do they mean by it “alters uniqueness”? The second definition makes the most sense to me out of these five. I think the only common trait that humans share is the subconscious goal of procreation. I think the third definition should mention what common qualities humans share. The fourth definition bothers me, because how are we different from anything else? Isn’t the goal of most living organisms to reproduce? How can we define the shared psychological attributes, or common qualities and behaviors of human beings if they are determined by our environment and are constantly evolving and adjusting?

Video Games and my 8 year old son.
Name: P.Rakes
Date: 2005-03-10 16:59:20
Link to this Comment: 13449

I thoroughly enjoyed reading "The Effect of Video Games on the Brain", by Eleni Kardaras. We have been having considerable problems with our 8 year old son and his fits of rage when playing video games. The observation of the two boys 8 and 10 years old is clearly what we are seeing with our 8 year old and his 9 year old friend. We have currently removed the playstation and certain computer games that cause this extreme agitation. It certainly makes sense to me that the brain reacts as though the game is a reality.


Limbic System
Name: Robert Pit
Date: 2005-05-23 11:42:35
Link to this Comment: 15226

I have heard much about how stress in a childs life interfers with their learning and it can slow the Neocortex. Is this true or is it more accurate to say the Limbic System is damaged until the child is around eight to ten years old? Can anyone point me to any studies that cover this subject?

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