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Neurobiology and Behavior 2002 Forum

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Getting started ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2002-01-22 09:02:24
Link to this Comment: 737

Welcome to the Bio 202 course forum area. This is a place to share thoughts, stories, reactions to what we talk about in class, what you read, and what you think. Don't think of it so much as a place to "write" (at least not formally), but rather as another kind of conversation. Your thoughts in progress can be valuable to others, and theirs in turn to you. The idea here is not to have the answer but rather to learn from each other as we go along. You should plan to write here at least once a week, but are welcome to write more often.

Name: Beverly We
Date: 2002-01-24 21:56:31
Link to this Comment: 738

Today’s class was so intriguing; I could hardly contain myself!

I agree with Paul that Brain=Behavior. I agree with Emily Dickinson’s poem that one can fit the universe inside the brain. And I also agree with the statement by Francis Crick that “a person’s mental activities are entirely due to the behavior of nerve cells, glial cells, and the atoms, ions, and molecules that make them up and influence them.”

When I think about the amazing workings of the body (actually every living organism) I remember one of my favorite children’s books, Horton hears a Who by Dr. Seuss. I recall reading to my children (who are now both grown) and discussing the tiny universe (inside the flower) where entire cities and populations existed, hustling and bustling, unbeknownst to the people up on top where Horton the Elephant lived. Only Horton could hear the cries for help from the tiny people who lived inside the flower. No one else could hear the cries; no one else ever listened. I wanted my children to learn to “listen and see.”

I think about the universe in the same way; that everything is made up of particles and cells and chemicals that simulate tiny populations to do what they are programmed to do, day in and day out, unless something causes them to change.

I wonder if the mind and the brain are the same thing; or if the mind and the soul are the same thing? I think about the mind, the soul, and free will and I believe that these are all inventions that emanate from our chemical brain. I think that different cultures have each created answers for questions that have no answers to quiet fear and offer explanations where no explanation exists. I am excited at the prospect that science is exploring a physical place inside the brain that could account for the creation of religious and spiritual “feelings”.

Feelings and emotions seem to be unique, private, and almost magical. But science has mapped areas in the brain, the amygdala, for instance, that control feelings and emotions, and when the amygdala is damaged, so is one’s ability to experience or control these same emotions. When a chemical imbalance occurs, our emotional states suffer.

We know enough about depression to know that Hamlet’s melancholia or Ophelia’s madness might easily be treated with Prozac today. The mysterious chemistries of the brain can sometimes be duplicated by our pharmacists. Our emotions can be changed with chemicals almost as easily as we make a headache disappear.

Thurs. Class
Name: Nicole Pie
Date: 2002-01-25 16:33:33
Link to this Comment: 739

For the past 2 days I have been pondering over the discussion we had in class about the "brain=behavior" vs. the brain and other outside forces. I'm not really sure how to feel on the subject. By saying the brain controls everything and there is nothing else, I can't shake the feeling that there should be something else. Many religions believe in a person having a soul and after they die it goes to heaven. I was brought up with believing in the catholic faith, which teaches one to believe in your soul going to heaven after you die. By leaving out the notion of a soul, it's like leaving out beliefs of religion. However, there is not any scientific support on a person having a soul. All science on this subject points to the brain governing emotions and behavior in general. With all of this being said, I find myself still conflicted on this subject. My naive side wants to believe in outside forces being present, however, my sensible side is pointing towards the "brain= behavior" side of the argument.

Name: Asra Husai
Date: 2002-01-25 17:49:20
Link to this Comment: 740

I am not sure if I agree with the statement Brain=Behavior because I don’t think I have enough knowledge to make a conclusion so soon. I have thought about the question and I could not come up with a definitive answer but here are some thoughts and questions.

Behavior is a response to external and internal stimuli, which are processed by the nervous system. The external stimuli refer to different experiences each person has and the internal stimuli refer to the changes taking place in the body. Since it is almost impossible for two people to have the exact same experiences, each person may behave differently to the same stimulus. So, based on the definition on behavior one could say that Brain=Behavior. It makes sense that behavior can only come from the chemical physical changes of the brain.

However, this Brain=Behavior cannot be such a simple relationship. What about the soul and the mind? Or are they a part of the Brain=Behavior relationship? Each on of us has felt at least one indescribable emotion that I believe cannot be accounted for by a few chemical reactions in the brain. So this leads me to believe that there has to be something else besides the brain that allows for such emotion.

Another thought that came to mind: What about identical twins? They come from the same cell and so they have the same brain but they aren’t identical in behavior but that can be due to their different experiences or maybe not.

I want to agree with Dickinson and Professor Grobstein because it makes sense and there are a lot more “concrete” observations that makes Brain=Behavior plausible, but I can’t just agree when there is something telling me that it can’t always be true. So, I’m left at the same position I started at: Unsure.

first week
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2002-01-26 07:32:28
Link to this Comment: 741

Beverly, Nicole, and Asa have given us a good start on this first week's forum. Usually you can write about anything you've been thinking about during the week (and you can include any thing of that sort this week), but your thoughts about the "self in brain/its all in neurons/brain = behavior" idea at the beginning of the course are a good thing to get started with. And don't worry about not knowing enough, or about being "wrong". Remember, what we're about (like any good scientist) is getting our current thoughts in order, generating hypotheses, so we can think about how to test them, again and again. So, here's the question for this week:

Does the "brain = behavior" hypothesis fit your observations/experiences/ways of making sense of the world? If so, explain why. If not, explain why not. In either case, suggest new observations which might serve to further explore the hypothesis.

Name: Amy Cunnin
Date: 2002-01-26 14:41:36
Link to this Comment: 742

The question of whether brain = behavior is one that has interested me for a long time, and like a lot of other people I am still struggling to find an answer. I do think that our brains control our behavior to a large extent. Like others in the class, I would like to believe in the existence of a soul or self outside the brain, but I am not sure of its existence or how to go about finding some concrete evidence of its existence.
I think that there definitely is a lot of evidence for the brain controlling behavior- for example, the many ways in which brain injuries can affect someone's behavior. I thought that one of the really interesting ideas from Thursday's class was the "Game of Life," which showed how "remarkable things can emerge from interaction of simple elements." I read a book once called "An Anthropologist on Mars" where the author Oliver Sacks profiled several individuals with brain injuries and showed how a relatively simple thing (damage to brain cells) could lead to complex and unexpected outcomes. For example, there was one man who was a painter who was in a car accident and afterwards was completely color-blind: basically he could see only in black, white, and various shades of gray. Oliver Sacks wrote about how this man was initially devastated, but adapted to the damage to this vision and was eventually able to create art again, and was able to find beauty in the world without seeing color. This story showed not only how the brain influences behavior, but how a person's behavior can influence his ways of thinking and viewing the world. So, I think that the brain-behavior relationship is extremely complex, with the brain influencing behavior, and behavior and the environment in turn influencing the brain.

Relation between Brain and Behavior
Name: Rebecca Ro
Date: 2002-01-27 14:12:31
Link to this Comment: 743

Does the brain really equal behavior? I am not quite sure of the answer. It seems almost hard to believe that everything that one experiences and does in their lifetime is really a function of the brain. It also seems hard to fathom that the brain really contains everything. The brain is constantly changing. There will probably be constant debate over brain and behavior as the same thing. This relates back to the mind-body problem.

The brain is only one part of the nervous system. I took neuroscience two years ago and went through the textbook, Physiology of Behavior . It read that the distinction between brain function and behavior is an important one. Circuits within the brain perform functions, not behaviors. No one brain region or neural circuit is solely responsible for a behavior; each region performs a function (or set of functions) that contributes to performance of the behavior.

I think that it is important to understand and look at the different functions that are ultimately responsible for performing a particular behavior. What circuits of neurons in the brain are responsible for each of these functions that we perform?

We do know that there are a nature of functions that are performed by various parts of the brain and that damage there disrupts people's ability to perform different functions.

Human brains are similar but in a way are different in an individual depending on the circumstance or the time. Human brains are also similar to one another but different individuals act differently. Even identical twins do not have the same behavior.

Don't people who live in different environments act differently? But could we just say that the environment affects the brain instead of affecting behavior? If we make mistakes or commit crimes, can we just blame it on our brains? How does learning theory and behavior come into play, such as Pavolvian and operant conditiong?

Genes, knowledge, and experiences all affect the brain. If the brain is behavior I guess it deals with what influences behavior as well.

Brain = Behavior?
Name: Hilary Hoc
Date: 2002-01-27 14:49:50
Link to this Comment: 744

Does the brain = behavior? My gut reaction is no, even independent from my religious beliefs. I experience free will and self-consciousness, and feel like more than the sum of my anatomy and neurochemistry. Of course, if the brain produces these sensations in response to external and internal stimuli, than these experiences would support the claim that the brain does equal behavior. The idea that even free will is a product of the brain is distastefully mechanistic, yet destroy the subthalamic nucleus, and a person will involuntarily make the motion of throwing a ball, over and over again, however strongly he or she wills him/herself not to do so. Examples like this support the proposition that much of what we perceive as choice is in fact mediated by the brain.

What doesn't "brain = behavior" equation explain?? Perhaps creativity. Contrast cricket song patterns, each one unique to a single species of cricket, and reproducible by a cricket who has never heard the song of his species. Human song [or dance, storytelling, art, etc.] may be shaped by culture, but the range of human creative expression appears to be unbounded, the specific works of creative expression unpredictable even to their creators. Likewise, intellectual play: I recently sat in a roomful of lawyers, all of whom had read the same cases, yet each of us came up with a different legal theory to support the result we were trying to reach. Was each analogy, each leap in logic, solely the product of the slightly different neural pathways in each brain? I ask the same question about personality [even the most trivial aspects, like food and music preferences]: most parents contend that a child's personality is evident from birth or soon thereafter: assuming this observation is accurate, how much of a person's temperament can be attributed to the brain?

What observations could help to support the idea that brain does not equal behavior?? I agree with the suggestion that studying twins or siblings, or observing behavior in other circumstances where the differences in brain, experience, and stimuli, are minimized, would be useful. Likewise, observing and comparing brain activity in response to stimuli to determine if differences in behavior can be correlated with differences in brian activity.

Name: Tua
Date: 2002-01-27 14:58:31
Link to this Comment: 745

With the information and experiences I have so far accumulated, I can’t convince myself that brain=behavior. I think we do experience the world through our nervous systems as far as our senses interpret chemical, electrical sensations, changes, and translate them into "hot" "cold" "light" "dark" etc. But I’m not so sure about emotions and beliefs. I think that there is something else there, at this point beyond my understanding, which has to account for differences in individual experience and the sense of self. Also if brain=behavior then how is it possible that our brains can be deceived? Optical illusions are the most commonly known of these deceptions. Our brains make mistakes, and not only have we realized this; we’ve learned to use it to our own advantage in many visual arts fields. So which part of the brain makes the mistake, and which part makes the corrections? Is this the distinction between the brain and the mind?
There’s something eerie about the idea that the brain controls every aspect of behavior. In this scenario, control of the brain can be used to manipulate the sense of self. It leaves too little free will. Biologically, we’re all composed of the same bits, just put together slightly differently. But is this slight difference enough to account for the vast differences in beliefs, emotions, and reactions? When you change an opinion about something, when you learn about something, is that just a change of chemicals, a new pathway of signals? Not only do people have different thoughts, but they are very set on these thoughts. Yes, we decided that it takes time to think. But it strikes me that there is so much more involved in how our brains create individual thoughts, beliefs, and emotions that we can’t quantify, sometimes because we don’t even know how it occurs. Are all our thoughts, emotions, tastes, etc determined purely by chemicals and genetics? Is there nothing that exists outside and beyond the human mind? This is either really amazing or rather sad. I have too many questions to decide which it is yet.

a reaction
Name: Natasha Gj
Date: 2002-01-27 15:46:11
Link to this Comment: 746

Just like many students in this class, i have trouble accepting that our brain = behavior. It is hard to emagine that everyting we do and everything we percieve and see is in one way or another connected to our brain. I had spent a long time believing that there was something else other than just the brain that controlled our actions, feeling, reactions etc.--something greater. But the more i read about the brain and the more i explore its capabilities, the more i have started to believe that the brain might really be as "grand" as this "something greater" that i previously mentioned. For example, i was exploring the brain on the web, maninly the eye, and i discovered something that intrigued me: I discovered that our blind spot is actually in the middle of our eyes and the reason why we don't "not see" objects is because the blind spots in our eyes are in different places and they "cover" for eachother. However, if you close one eye and do some of the experiments available on the web, you will see some really cool results of what the eye can do. Some of those cool results include the "adding" or "erasing" of some images that are or are not there. These little experiments that i did really got me tinking--why does the brain do such things as add images that are not there or erase images that aren't there? In a sense, the brain seems to have a mind of its own. Anyway, i am still strugling with the brain= behavior concept, but i am starting to understand some things better. I really think that the eye stuff on the web is really cool and you should go and check it out.

Name: Kathryn
Date: 2002-01-27 16:52:37
Link to this Comment: 747

In class, I agreed with the majority and said that brain=heavior. But the more I thought about it, the more I disagreed with that statement. By saying that brain=behavior is like saying heart=emotions. So many people say "do what your heart tells you to do". In reality, the heart is just made up of tissues and muscles that pumps blood throughout the body. It has no control over one's emotions. We seem to have romanticized and exagerated the function of the heart. Same with the brain. The brain and nervous system are made up of tissues, nerves, neurotransmitters, etc.. The basic function of the nervous system is to react to stimuli by relaying messages throughout the body. Behavior and emotions are such complex characteristics of humans and by saying that they are only controlled by large tissue masses and nerves seems difficult to believe. I do agree that the brain contributes to behavior and emotions, but I feel there must be more to it. I do not know exactly what it is, perhaps some "higher being" or "higer power". It just seems odd to credit out actions, interactions, reactions, etc.. to just the brain.

Is The Brain All There Is?
Name: Tiffany Va
Date: 2002-01-27 17:10:50
Link to this Comment: 748

Is the Brain All There Is?
The Brain - is wider than the Sky -
For - put them side by side -
The one the other will contain
With ease - and You - beside-
Emily Dickinson contests that the brain is all there is. This stanza from one of her poems expresses that everything is inside the brain. However, if everything is inside the brain than why can’t we understand everything that makes up our world? If the earth is inside the brain then why is it that centuries ago people thought that the earth was flat? If the sea is absorbed by our brains, then why is that we may never know everything that is at the ocean floor of the Mariana Trench? I believe that it is arrogant to believe that any human being has the capacity to contain all the facets of life within the brain, which in comparison to our surroundings, is minuscule.
It is true that without the brain we could not function. There would be no way to express the wonders of our world. However, to say that we are nothing more than a nervous system is to deny the “self.” If I were to accept Emily Dickinson’s belief system then I would be denying my own spirituality. If I said that everything was in my brain then I would be saying that even God was in my brain. This being would have just been a manifestation of my mind. And while there may be some that do not believe in God I think that it a great injustice to deny oneself the chance to look outside the box. This is to say, that we are more than just machines programmed by our brains to perform certain tasks.

Name: Alyson Dym
Date: 2002-01-27 19:03:33
Link to this Comment: 749

The brain=behavior has become quite a debate and I am not really sure where I stand. One thing I do not understand is why people have such a hard time with the concept of complex things, like emotions, coming from simple things. This makes a lot of sense to me.....think about it... almost everything in life that seems complex is made up of simple things working together.

From a scientific perspective, it's hard to think that the mind or soul could be in any other place besides the brain. However, a religious upbringing can conflict with this statement, especially the idea of free will. I read some excepts from Owen Wilson's Consilience and I think he presents a very interesting take on the concept of free will. I do not know if I agree with him by saying that free will is just an illusion, but none the less it makes me think.

Personally I do not have a hard time mixing my religous beliefs with my scientific understanding. I believe that there are just some things that we are not capable of understanding and think that if there is something greater, he created our brains in such a way so that they could equal our behavior.

brain = behavior
Name: Shannon Le
Date: 2002-01-27 19:26:56
Link to this Comment: 750

I am not sure that there is some component of the brain holding a unique soul of some sort that will always be in existence, but I hope so. I believe it is possible that individual brains and unique experiences can account for the unique people we become. I do think brain = behavior, because observations have shown that humans do not behave the same once certain parts of the brain have been altered. It is possible that the alteration does not make the person completely different, but that the uniqueness of the person cannot be relayed due to the physical problems.

I used to think I could not only be flesh and bone, especially after attending a Christian church for so many years. I did not have the knowledge of how complex the brain is. I think the brain is a miracle in itself, and that the greatness of it is often overlooked. There is so much still unknown and what is known is amazing to me.

I believe all behavior is processed and physically carried out by the brain based on what I have learned. I hope that after the complex organ itself is gone there is some sort of spirit that is left to show for all the growth and experiences of the brain.

Name: Lauren
Date: 2002-01-28 01:32:45
Link to this Comment: 751

The brain/behavior question is very controversial; there are many questions that I think will probably remain unanswered for quite some time. Memory, emotions, behaviors, nature vs. nurture, ect. However, it is known that certain parts of the brain control specific parts of the body and certain chemicals in the brain are responsible for emotions and feelings. The brain is very mysterious and powerful, as is humanity.

In answering the brain/behavior question, I think about perception. We are what we perceive. What we see, feel, smell, taste, and the knowledge that we deduce based on our perception is who we are. Of course, everyone is different and none of us begin life at the same starting point. We are shaped by the influences of our outside world. We react to the outside world, and these reactions are spurred from our perception.

The brain IS perception. I would, theoretically, like to believe that there is more to life than neurons and chemicals, but it would not make sense. Many people have stated that they believe there is more because of the complicated array of feelings and emotions that we feel as humans. They are incredible, yes, but not impossible to have been created by the amazing, incredible, mysterious (at this time), and complicated workings of the human brain.

Since we live in a physical world, I think in physical terms. If there is such a thing as a spiritual world, then I do not think that it has any influence on our physical world. There could theoretically be many other planes of life that we just are unable to perceive.

Name: Michelle T
Date: 2002-01-28 13:58:11
Link to this Comment: 752

The brain versus behavior pondery provides quite dilemma. If the brain is solely responsible for the emotions, knowlege, reactions, etc., then how can one believe in a soul or spirituality. There have been many instances of paranormal activity. Can these just be explained away or are there indeed such things as ghosts? Are ghosts lost souls trapped on earth or something else?

The point that I am trying to make is that there are a lot of things that we cannot understand at this point in history. Even though we like to believe that most of the worlds questions have been answered, there are fundamental perplexities that continue to astound us, especially when one thinks about the brain. Psychiatry and neurology are still very young fields of study.
I believe that, many years from now, we will be able to understand the functionings of the brain so as to understand that the brain is completely responsible for one's behavior. What I do know now is that the brain is much more than the sum of its parts. One cannot merely say that all of human existance depends on a melon-sized pile of gray matter. The brain is overwhelming in its functioning. It is the groups of neurons working together that produce memories and thought processes. Maybe it is the functions itself that produces the soul.

Brain equals behavior?
Name: Kelli Deer
Date: 2002-01-28 14:01:31
Link to this Comment: 753

Brain equals behavior? Biology 202
2000 First Web Report
On Serendip

Brain Equals Behavior?

Kelli Deering

The idea that the brain is solely responsible for behavior and knowledge has clearly been met with controversy and doubt. Being one of the students that considers themselves a scientific thinker, as well as a religious person, I approach this topic with even more ambivalence.

I like the philosopher David Hume's notion of cause and effect. He points out that human reasoning is derived from custom. Repeated actions and observations develop an understanding of cause and effect. This is what ultimately allows for what is accepted as true. However, there is likewise ample room for doubt since much of the information stored in our minds does not come from immediate experience. For example, I consider it true that there are nine planets in our solar system, even though I have not seen all nine, nor have visited more than one. According to very good, scientific evidence I have never the less chosen to accept the nine-planet argument as compellingly true.

What does this have to do with neurobiology? From my encounters as an encephalized being, I have observed that, indeed, all of my present knowledge or understanding has come from conscious and deliberate experience. This experience involved my five senses. In fact, I cannot think of an instance where I did not employ my senses to learn something. Furthermore, the repeatability of my experiences provides a reasoning capability and judgment to help me to discern what is most likely true from what is most likely false, and thus associates ideas obtained from previous experiences. Essentially, exploration of the material world with our bodies' resources allows for understanding. This can also imply that there is a level of universality to human body systems, as well as the environments (physical) that we are immersed in.

Being aware of accessible knowledge and synthesizing it is what I feel leads to more complex thinkings; rationalizations or creative endeavors that sometimes are, in my opinion, mistaken for understanding from a non-material source. Maybe this is how the idea of a soul has become so independent and isolated from the physical aspect of people. Perhaps an eternal soul does exist, arising at conception and developing as the conscious mind throughout life. Whatever the case, I am not anxious about accepting the idea that brain equals behavior, either from a scientific or a religious standpoint. I am assured that the absolutes of science provide plenty of room for the mysteries of faith.

If understanding comes from perception, then there must be multiple relative truths. From my interpretation of the world, this is what I feel comfortable with right now. However, other peoples' impressions may have lead them in a completely different and equally acceptable paths that could sway me into another direction throughout the course. .

Name: Cindy
Date: 2002-01-28 14:04:49
Link to this Comment: 754

    I have a question. What does it really mean the universe is contained in the brain. If brain=behavior and brain=the universe, does that mean that behavior is the universe? I agree that behaviour does not occur without going through the process of the brain, However, the universe or (sky), exist independent of the brain. It is the universe that provides input for the brain to process and then in turn, the brain will produce behavior.


Brain = Behavior?
Name: Mary Schli
Date: 2002-01-28 15:37:25
Link to this Comment: 755

After last week’s class I felt unsure about whether one can say that the brain = behavior, and as I continue to contemplate the issue I become even more unsure of the answer to this proposition. On one hand, I attended Catholic school for 12 years of my life and find it hard to dismiss the notion that there is something, whether it be a soul, conscience, etc., that exists that has an effect on our behaviors. On the other hand, data conflicting with certain religious notions have been presented throughout history and I feel that it is important to keep an open mind about this subject. In addition, I agree with some of the other students who have posted that the brain controls our behavior (at least in part) and if one removed the brain then there would be probably no behavior. Furthermore, if there is a conscience I think that it would most likely exist inside the brain, so then doesn’t the brain = behavior proposition still hold? As a scientist I know that the only way to become less wrong is to develop hypotheses and experiments, but I wonder how can one test that the brain is behavior if we do not have a concrete idea of what this other entity (i.e. the soul, etc.) is and where it is located? My current “answer” to this question is to say that the brain does not equal behavior, but it certainly plays an important (and huge) part in determining behavior. However, I think that the conscience also intervenes. And if both have an effect on behavior, then we would have to tease apart what influences what in order to cause us to behave in certain ways. Perhaps we could begin by trying to determine the physical location of the conscience, if that is even possible. Many religions believe that the conscience/soul is not tangible, so I am not quite sure how one would go about exploring it in that case. Either way, the brain = behavior proposition is certainly an interesting one and I am anxious to explore it further.

Okay, so brain=behavior, so what about fate?
Name: sook chan
Date: 2002-01-28 16:31:19
Link to this Comment: 756

Scientists would like to believe that brain is behavior and nothing else comes into play. Every action, response, approach to every situation encountered in one’s life is traced back to the workings of the brain. My behavior is influenced by past experiences, emotions, responses, and values imbedded within my brain, affecting the way I perceive the world around me. The way I approach and interact with my environment in the present, affects my actions, responses and approaches to future situations. Hence, my behavior is dictated by my brain, yet, do I have any control on what dictates my behavior? What causes one individual to experience a certain trauma that scars and dictates the rest of his life and his approaches on situations, and another individual to never have a bad thing fall upon her? Yes, free will exists, one can choose to look at a situation from differing angles, yet, do we have free will over what events befalls upon us? If I decide to drive to the store today, can I choose to not be hit by a drunk driver and be terrified of driving for the rest of my life? Behavior is modified and molded by the environment, our brains store our perceptions of the environment, influencing our future behavior, but the environment which influences our behavior is far beyond our control. So maybe, the sky is not really within our brain, it’s just up to us if we want to believe it is blue or pink.

Brain = Behavior
Name: priya puja
Date: 2002-01-28 18:17:21
Link to this Comment: 757

From reading over the comments that others have posted it seems that most people agree on some level with the assertion that brain = behavior. The problem seems to be with the extension of the statement to say that the brain is all there is. What is discomforting about both of these assertions is that they appear to simplify the complexity of human existence. It makes us uncomfortable to be faced with the possibility that our emotions are perhaps dictated by molecular interactions. It makes us uncomfortable to be faced with the prospect that perhaps we are actors in a play being directed by the brain with no apparent freewill. As for myself, I tend to agree with the statement that brain = behavior, but I feel that the extension of the statement fails to account for the environment outside of our perception of the environment. In addition, sometimes we (or our brain) choose(s) what environment we want to experience and sometimes we have no choice in our environment. Call it fate.

A second point I would like to make is that the simplicity of saying that my emotions are a product of molecular interactions does not offend me. For one thing, molecular interactions happen to be very complex. In addition, when one considers that all that exists in the universe is a product of the combination of about 90 elements, why should I feel that I am somehow beyond what seems to be a law of nature---that complex things can be built from simple starting materials.

Another point I would like to raise is the question of how genetics fall into the brain = behavior equation. Doesn't genetics play a part in neural development?

Brain = Behavior
Name: Balpreet B
Date: 2002-01-28 19:00:50
Link to this Comment: 758

I have had mixed feelings concerning the question at hand. All scientific research and evidence shows that the brain is responsible for behavior. However, there isn't any evidence for the existence of a soul. But does that necessarily mean that the brain is all there is?
Personally in my religion, as well as many other religions, it is believed that when someone dies, their soul lives on. But if the brain was responsible for our every behavior, how could the soul live on when the brain dies? Even though there is no scientific evidence of the soul living on when a person dies, religious beliefs contradict the brain = behavior theory.
I was brought up believing that the soul lives on after you die, so, because of this belief, I have a hard time accepting that the brain is all there is. This is why I think that there is something else other than the brain that is responsible for some of our behavior. I am not saying that
the brain doesn't control our behavior at all, but that, in some parts of our behavior (conscious, emotions, etc.), there is something other than the brain that is existing.

Brain = Behavior?
Name: Tara M. Ra
Date: 2002-01-28 19:29:27
Link to this Comment: 759

The question of whether the brain controls all of our behavior is one that has interested me for a while. I was brought up in a scientific family without any religious influence. Therefore I have always felt that any one person’s actions must result from some kind of scientific and or biological reactions. However, I have never found any exact scientific or biological explanation for the arise of individualistic qualities, such as instinct, morals, or a conscience. While some may insist that these things are too complex to be governed simply by chemical reactions, I disagree. There are many reactions that science has already pinpointed for certain feelings and emotions. For example, neurotransmitters can explain why people feel happy, depressed, jittery, or relaxed. If chemical can govern our feelings than it also seems possible that they would contribute to each person’s sense of self (complete with a conscience, personal instincts, and a soul). One other question that arises is, why do two people react to the same thing in different ways? If two individuals are caught in the same situation, but behave differently, what accounts for the difference in behavior? I think that behavior is influenced by personal experiences from the past, which are stored in the memory part of the brain, as well as inherent biological differences in each brain. Everyone’s brain is slightly different, which could explain why people act differently even as young children (since young children have less past experience). If this is true, then the brain does account for most, if not all, of behavior.

And emotion?
Name: Joan
Date: 2002-01-28 20:25:20
Link to this Comment: 760

While on the course of “Brain = Behavior”, I beieve that it is the brain and the nervous system that provides the power and punch to which we as human being are able to “behave” (act, react, move, make noise, whatever). However I cannot say that Brain = Behavior and that is the be-all-end-all. However I would briefly like to tap into the aspect of emotion. I doubt many will disagree with me when I say that motion and “behavior”, as we innately know the definition, have a strong correlation.

But a question I would like to pitch is that if the brain, or nervous system is all there is, how do emotions come into play? Does the mind/body/brain create the emotions that are then released from the brain, and transmitted throughout our nerves, sending messages to our bodies to act or react a certain way, or are emotions external forces that penetrate into our brains and the story goes from there?

The way I am interpreting this question is thaat there are no external forces that influence us in any way, shape, or form. That it is all within the mechanisms of the brain. If that is the case then I will have to disagree. As many in this forum are saying, past experiences can be a major influence on how each individual handles a certain given situation.

I find that emotion is one of the more complex issues when dealing with Neurobiology and behavior. Perhaps this field of study makes a great attempt at explaining the vast complexities of the human mind. But who knows if we will ever truly understand ourselves.

Name: Jenny Mary
Date: 2002-01-28 20:33:32
Link to this Comment: 761

While reading Aristotle this week, I found myself going back to Emily Dickenson's poem. While Aristotle's ethical writings had no bearing on the poem's theme, I began to see a connection. In the poem, Dickenson furthers the notion that the brain is a complex, wide expanse with extreme depths and capacities. Insert the class discussion on brain=behavior. This, in addition to Aristotle’s ethical writings on the good life, the soul, happiness and virtue led me to a clearer understanding of what we were talking about in class.

Where am I going with this? Well, often ethical writings expound on what’s right and how to be a good person and what I realized through Aristotle is that while these arguments are complex, they are in essence a sort of “how-to” for becoming a good person, hence having a good life. What they are telling us is how to behave. Perhaps in focusing on the complexities of the brain, which I don’t even begin to refute, we have overlooked behavior.

Behavior defines and frames our lives. Ultimately, our behavior is the only remnants of our presence on earth – our impact. It is very difficult to categorize such a critically important aspect of our lives under “brain”. Is it accurate to say that like behavior, the brain defines and frames our lives? I don’t know. In my opinion, behavior contains too many intricate features to even place them all under the umbrella of “behavior”.

My hesitation to relinquish behavior to the brain speaks to how vast of a subject matter behavior really is. Something with which I define myself as an individual can not be so systematic, so rigid and should I dare say it – so scientific as to be all attributed to the brain.

Perhaps my logic isn’t quite scientific, but I would like to think that if brain=behavior, we would have all made far fewer mistakes in our lives.

brain and behavior
Name: Alisa
Date: 2002-01-28 21:14:20
Link to this Comment: 762

The brain/behavior discussion was very interesting. So many good arguments were said that i find myself unable to make a conclusion as to which argument is more accurate or correct. I agreed with the student that stated that the our experiences are stored in the brain and those experiences form the soul. We act based on that which would make the argument that the brain controls everything. But as someone who has a "religious history", i believe in the soul, my previous statement wouldnt be true. Its difficult to say which comes first and what has the ultimate control over everything. i would like to believe that we all have a soul independant of the brain and body and that this soul lives on. yet there is part of me that believes that what we experience in our lives that are stored in teh brain form the soul. I guess im undecided and still confused.

Name: melissa ho
Date: 2002-01-28 22:23:37
Link to this Comment: 763

In class on Thursday I was quite sure that brain has a complete effect on ones's behavior. I felt that everything that one experiences is stored in their brain and, as someone once said for every action there is a reaction. So therefore, everything that happens to a person will effect how they act in any given situation or how they feel. However, I was reading Berry's "Life is a Miracle." and from this I was left with a feeling that if I were to fully believe that everything comes from the brain I would be raping all other possibilities of their respect. I feel that in order for me to fully believe this idea I would have to be an atheist or completely close minded to all other possibilities. Don't get the wrong idea. I do think that the brain and all of the stimulants in life have a huge impact on our behavior but, I cannot say that that is all that I believe. I believe in many things that contradict themselves and, if to believe in religion as well as brain=behavior is a contradiction, than so be it.

Name: melissa ho
Date: 2002-01-28 22:23:37
Link to this Comment: 764

In class on Thursday I was quite sure that brain has a complete effect on ones's behavior. I felt that everything that one experiences is stored in their brain and, as someone once said for every action there is a reaction. So therefore, everything that happens to a person will effect how they act in any given situation or how they feel. However, I was reading Berry's "Life is a Miracle." and from this I was left with a feeling that if I were to fully believe that everything comes from the brain I would be raping all other possibilities of their respect. I feel that in order for me to fully believe this idea I would have to be an atheist or completely close minded to all other possibilities. Don't get the wrong idea. I do think that the brain and all of the stimulants in life have a huge impact on our behavior but, I cannot say that that is all that I believe. I believe in many things that contradict themselves and, if to believe in religion as well as brain=behavior is a contradiction, than so be it.

Name: Gabrielle
Date: 2002-01-28 23:35:05
Link to this Comment: 765

When we first started the class I was positive I agreed that brain=behavior. Then, I started listening to the people who don't agree with that statement. The idea that there is something besides the brain appeals greatly to me. I just can't shake the feeling that that "something" that affects behavior is still biological or physiological, whether it is a part of our brain or a part of our genetics or something else we still don't know about. I think that genetics plays a huge part in people's behavior. Studies have found that there are structural differences in the brain as a result of male vs. female genetics. I think that genetics plays a very great part in our behavior. There isn't that much influence on children before they are born, yet they have different behaviors from the first moment. Think about cases in which there are two siblings, close in age, raised under the same conditions yet one is a lot smarter, happier, or easy-going than the other. But, in the end, these are just alterations on the brain, which then controls behavior. So, I still believe that brain=behavior.

Brain = Behavior
Name: Gavin Impe
Date: 2002-01-29 00:36:34
Link to this Comment: 766

The debate over the brain = behavior argument seems to me to be a result of a disagreement over whether we should locate environmental forces as residing in the brain or outside it. One might argue that clearly there is a world outside the brain and that the process of perceiving this outside world occurs within the brain. Conversely, one might choose to say that things physically outside the brain do not exist without the brain. Whichever perspective one chooses, the fact remains that the processes of the nervous system cannot be set into motion without interaction with the environment.

The higher functions of the brain such as cognition and belief are clearly influenced by the environment. Therefore, there is more to behavior than just the brain. However, if one regards the environment as something that is a construct that only exists in the brain, then brain does equal behavior, and there truly isn’t anything else. It seems to me that the crux of this debate lies in the way in which people understand the external environment.

I am hesitant to embrace the idea that brain = behavior, because it seems to imply that this system is much simpler than it actually is. If one really wants to split hairs, YES, all human thought, emotion, and belief is, at its most fundamental level, a result of a range neurophysiological interactions. However, we do not fully understand these processes. Human behavior is unpredictable, and is clearly influenced by outside forces (which in turn may result in biological changes). Neurological processes which govern cognition and free will cannot be activated or altered without interaction with the outside environment. I am thus uncomfortable with the notion that brain = behavior on the grounds that it muddies the notions of free will, personality, and spirituality by implying that interaction with the outside world is irrelevant to neurophysiological processes.

Name: Yasmin
Date: 2002-01-29 00:55:37
Link to this Comment: 767

To echo the thoughts of my peers, I also hesitate at taking a definitive stance on brain equalling behavior, simply because its not something I have spent a great deal of time reflecting over, nor have I examined all the angles. I do have several opinions, however. The idea that the universe is contained entirely within our craniums is not an altogether ridiculous one. We would be unable to appreciate nature, literature, poetry, art, food, or love without the ability to process our emotions and perceptions. There is a theory that we use about ten percent of our brains. Perhaps if we were indeed able to tap into the other ninety percent, we would be closer to understanding more existentially, philosophically, and emotionally. We are limited by what we perceive to be genuine understanding by our capacities to think. Someone mentioned that a "sense of self" must come from something beyond the brain, some other essence. That may be true, but the essence seems to me to only develop through thought and personal reflection. That sense of self is developed through experience and maturity-- but the brain is what allows us to think about our lives and our experiences. Its worth some though, thats all.

Computer analogy
Name: Sarah
Date: 2002-01-29 01:00:39
Link to this Comment: 768

If you were nothing more than a series of molecular reactions, why would a sunset affect you? Why would something as separate from you as an entirely different person have an impact on you? Why would you be affected by something as vague and insubstantial as the concept of goodness? How could love be based on something other than physical attraction? How could an addict quit through "will power" if he is nothing more than his body's systems?

I mentioned my take on this issue in class on Thursday, albeit briefly. I'll expound here:
To say that brain=behavior is to say that a human's entire personality and behavioral patterns, "mind", everything that is thought to constitute a person -- all of this is contained solely in the histology and chemistry of the human nervous system. Period. If a memory makes you smile, it's biochemical. If music or poetry is ever so beautiful and dead-on that it makes you cry, it's biochemical. If you pray, when you pray and you find that moment of peace and communion and centering, it's simply because you have induced a chemical reaction in your nervous system. Everything you do, say, think, experience, believe, realize, feel, it's all a series of complex reactions and mechanisms. You are a very well-designed machine.

Computers are the most complex machines we have now. You can have a computer with an amazing conglomeration of parts. The hard drive can be unfathomably huge, the hardware can be top-of-the-line, the circuitry can be phenomenal, and the way each of these parts work together may be an awe-inspiring thing. Who would argue that the parts of a computer aren't amazing and complex?
Well, have you ever tried to run a computer with no software? The parts work to an extent, and it's still complex and awesome, but you can't do much of anything with a machine that has no programs. Yes, everything that happens in a functional computer happens via the circuitry and hardware of the system. But it happens because of the commands and manipulation of a program. No software, no complete computer.
I offer the analogous conclusion that while everything that you experience in your body is the result of complex biochemistry, such circuitry is manipulated by what some call a soul. The body is amazing, yes. The nervous system is amazing, yes. But in order to manipulate this "hardware" in the way humans do on a daily basis, you need to run the right "software". The parts work by themselves, but they are controllable (to whatever extent control is possible) throught the soul. No soul, no complete human.

Brain vs Behavior
Name: Sarah Eber
Date: 2002-01-29 01:37:10
Link to this Comment: 769

While many disagree that “Brain=Behavior,” it is hard to devise a different hypothesis for human consciousness that explains all the facets of human personality. The idea of a soul is a commonly-held assumption among many religions, yet there is no physical evidence of any such thing. What we do have evidence of is a complex biological mechanism that observes the environment and synthesizes these observations into information which can be acted upon in various behaviors.
However, true consciousness extends further than this simple data and analysis model. What typically prevent us from thinking of the brain as the sole bearer of our conscious selves are our particular personalities. While most are willing to accept the smell of bread, the sound of speech, or the feeling of cold as sensations perceived by a sort of organic circuitry, it becomes more difficult to make these distinctions when we get into the fuzzier regions dealing with thought and emotion. For years we have had two separate sciences dealing with the two so-called “different” functions of sensation and thought, biology and psychology; in other words, Brain and Behavior. Susanna Kaysen puts this very aptly in her memoir Girl, Interrupted, speaking of the problems inherent in treating a mental disorder which, conventional wisdom dictated, must be categorized as either physical or emotional. “For nearly a century the psychoanalysts have been writing op-ed pieces about the workings of a country they’ve never traveled to, a place that, like China, has been off-limits. Suddenly, the country has opened its borders and is crawling with foreign correspondents; neurobiologists are filing ten stories a week, filled with new data. These two groups of writers, however, don’t seem to read each other’s work. That’s because the analysts are writing about a country they call Mind and the neuroscientists are reporting from a country they call Brain.” This, the central problem to understanding the working of the brain, and indeed all the aspects of human consciousness, is a miscommunication that this class works to rectify.
I would agree with the declaration that “Brain=Behavior.” However, this does not mean I believe that humans are coldly mechanistic beings, impelled only by reflex and instinct. While the traditional idea of a soul may be false, it is also true that within the complexities of the brain, a consciousness is born that will perform the function of a soul. At the risk of appearing a bit over-zealous I will quote our own illustrious professor in a letter to the editor of the New York Times (accessible on “Biology cannot subtract from what it is to be human.” Experience, memory, genetics, and individual perception all combine to produce a human personality, different from any other on the face of the earth. This simple fact is every bit as wondrous as the religious concept of a soul.

Brain = Behavior
Name: Ricky
Date: 2002-01-29 02:21:06
Link to this Comment: 770

Like some, I was one of the people who rose her hand with uncertainty to the question if brain equals behavior and nothing else. Based on religous reasons and spirituality, I was taught to believe that there was something greater than the self--a soul-- that would prosper on after the brain and body are dead. However, I know there is no physical evidence for this belief, unless you count the experiences of those who have claimed they died and came back to the living. I personally believe that religion stemmed from the need for people to have faith in something to relieve their fears, such as the fear of what happens after death. Accordingly, the spiritual side of me believes that this seemingly innate rejection to the idea brain= behvior is just since there is something else other than the brain and its cells. Everyone consists of cells, however, we all share various characteristics. If everything just depended on cells, would we still have these drastic differences among each other? For instance, identical twins, who come from the same egg and developed in the same manner, have distinct differences between their personalities.
On the other hand, the more questionable and scientific side of me, agrees that the brain may be the control of everything. I believe that Emily Dickinson may be correct with saying that "the brain is wider than the sky." We use such a small percentage of our brains that it is hard to deny that the brain encompasses all. We may believe that there is a thing called a soul. But where does that belief stem from? It stems from what we have been taught by our parents, friends, or in Sunday school. Our beliefs seem to be bits of information we have gathered around and have now accepted as part of us. How do you explain the different religions and what they believe as true? Each religion must teach from a book (source of information)in order for the followers to learn and then accept. Additionally, you hear of amazing life stories of people who have cured themselves by using their brains like in holistic medicine. How do we explain the miracle of healing by the brain? We can't basically because the powers of the brain are unknown and, I believe, underestimated.
In conclusion, I believe that we just have such little knowledge of everything in the brain to claim that it may or may not equal behavior. From observing behavioral experiments, we may see that behavior is definitely linked to the brain, but there is no definite evidence that the brain equals behavior.

Brain = Behavior
Name: Jennifer
Date: 2002-01-29 09:10:38
Link to this Comment: 771

I would assert that the brain does equal behavior. Without a brain we would cease being ourselves. When the brain dies so do our thoughts and feelings. The idea that the soul lives on after our bodies die is a religious idea, and while I would like to believe it I'm not sure that I do. I don't really want to believe that the brain = our behavior and therefore our personalities, because that seems to simplify the human psyche and all of our personal interactions. This bothers me because everyone's brain is made up of the same base material. First there are the cells, but simplify it further and there are just atoms. It is strange to think that emotions can be derived from the same elements that we studied in chemistry. These elements on their own are devoid of life, yet when combined in a specific way as in our brains they are capable of allowing us not only simple body functions that allow us to subsist but the ability to form complex thoughts and carry them out.
People all have different patterns of behavior. The brain is a complex enough organ that everyone has different sets of behavior. The brain directs how we interpret experience which then forms our opinions and thoughts.
I agree with Emily Dickinson's idea that the brain encompasses the universe, because for a human to experience the world the brain must first interpret and process it. The chemistry of our brains may change how we experience things. For example, there are color blind people who see colors in different ways. They wouldn't necessarily know that they were seeing things differently than everyone else if no one made them aware of this. The way in which we see the world is determined by our brains.

The Brain as Behavior
Name: miranda
Date: 2002-01-29 09:11:58
Link to this Comment: 772

Unlike many people, I am not made unvomfortable by the idea that the brain is behavior. All behavior can and has been proven through evolutionary, neurobiological, chemical, etc. explanations. I understand that there is certainly something unsettling about the idea that all we are is the shooting of neurotransmitter signals throughout our body. We want there to be something else, something grander - but I don't think there is anything else there. Perhaps if we removed the arguments from humans, we could better understand the issue. I think people would be made much less uncomfotable by the idea that in animals brain=behavior. Most people don't believe that animals' souls live on after their death or that their beahvior is the result of anything other than their brian. Why should humans have some biological or spiritual exception? Are we really so different from other animals?

It has been proven that the brain is basically where all of the individuality, identity, and bahvior stem from. We know that in people with brain damage they or drastically different form their former selves. Similarly, amuptees do not change significantly as their brain is left untouched. Thus it seems logical to me that we are in many ways our brains and that brain=behavior.

Name: Kathryn
Date: 2002-01-29 09:55:25
Link to this Comment: 773

I must admit that although I raised my hand in class and agreed that with Profesor Grobstein that I was comfortable saying brain=behavior, I am not really that comfortable with the idea. There does seem to be a fair amount of evidence that supports this theory, and in this respect, I am comfortable saying that the brain and behavior may be the same thing. However, from an emotional perspective I find this theory somewhat disturbing. Like many other students in the class, I was raised to believe that there was something beyond the brain, a soul. The idea that one has a soul and that this soul will continue living after death is very comforting. Perhaps the reason why people say that there is a soul, even though there isn't any scientific evidence to support this, is because they want to feel comforted about questions they cannot answer. Even though I like feeling comforted by the idea of a something beyond the brain, it is difficult for me to ignore the evidence that supports the idea that brain=behavior. One thing that I think strongly supports this idea is that brain damage can cause changes in personality and perception, as in the case of Phineas Gage and some of Oliver Saks' patients. Another piece of evidence is the effectiveness of psychiatric drugs in treating disorders because it shows how much chemicals can effect our emotions and perceptions. I think that the capabilities of the brain have been underestimated for a long time, and we are just now learning about how amazing the brain really is. While the idea that the brain is all we are is not very comforting to me, I think it is very plausible.

Beginning the conversation
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2002-01-29 10:02:18
Link to this Comment: 774

Rich thoughts from the forum this week ...

What about the "soul"? About life after death?

I was brought up with believing in the catholic faith,
which teaches one to believe in your soul going to heaven after you die. By leaving out the notion of a soul, it's like leaving out beliefs of religion.
Nicole Pietras

Personally in my religion, as well as many other religions, it is believed that when someone dies,
their soul lives on. But if the brain was responsible for our every behavior, how could the soul live
on when the brain dies?
Balpreet Bhogal

i would like to believe that we all have a soul independant of the brain and body
and that this soul lives on. yet there is part of me that believes that what we experience in our lives
that are stored in teh brain form the soul. I guess im undecided and still confused.
Alisa Alexander

I offer the analogous conclusion that while everything that you experience in your body is the
result of complex biochemistry, such circuitry is manipulated by what some call a soul. The body
is amazing, yes. The nervous system is amazing, yes. But in order to manipulate this "hardware" in
the way humans do on a daily basis, you need to run the right "software". The parts work by
themselves, but they are controllable (to whatever extent control is possible) throught the soul. No
soul, no complete human.
Sarah Feidt

I believe all behavior is processed and physically carried out by the brain based on what I have
learned. I hope that after the complex organ itself is gone there is some sort of spirit that is left to
show for all the growth and experiences of the brain.
Shannon Lee

What about individual differences? creativity?

Each on of us has felt at least one indescribable emotion that I believe cannot be accounted for by a few chemical reactions in the brain. So this leads me to believe that there has to be something else besides the brain that allows for such emotion ... What about identical twins? They come from the same cell and so they have the same brain but they aren’t identical
in behavior but that can be due to their different experiences or maybe not.
Asra Husain

Human brains are similar but in a way are different in an individual depending on the circumstance or the time. Human brains are also similar to one
another but different individuals act differently. Even identical twins do not have the same behavior.
Rebecca Roth

... specific works of creative expression unpredictable even to their creators ...
Hilary Hochman

chemical can govern our feelings than it also seems possible that they would contribute to each
person’s sense of self (complete with a conscience, personal instincts, and a soul).
Joan Steiner

What about "mind"?

Our brains make mistakes, and not only have we realized this; we’ve learned to use it to our own
advantage in many visual arts fields. So which part of the brain makes the mistake, and which part makes the corrections? Is this the distinction between
the brain and the mind?
Tua Chaudhuri

In a sense, the brain seems to have a mind of its
Natasha Gjivoje

What about the world out there, "reality"?

However, if everything is inside the brain than why
can’t we understand everything that makes up our world? If the earth is inside the brain then why
is it that centuries ago people thought that the earth was flat? If the sea is absorbed by our brains,
then why is that we may never know everything that is at the ocean floor of the Mariana Trench? ...
we are more than just machines programmed by our brains to
perform certain tasks.
Tiffany Vaughn

I agree that
behaviour does not occur without going through the process of the brain. However, the universe or
(sky), exists independent of the brain.

The way I am interpreting this question is thaat there are no external forces that influence us in any
way, shape, or form. That it is all within the mechanisms of the brain. If that is the case then I will
have to disagree. As many in this forum are saying, past experiences can be a major influence on
how each individual handles a certain given situation.
Jenny Maryasis

Conscience, free will?

... the conscience also intervenes. And if both have an effect on
behavior, then we would have to tease apart what influences what in order to cause us to behave in
certain ways.
Mary Schlimme

Behavior is modified and molded by the environment, our brains store our
perceptions of the environment, influencing our future behavior, but the environment which
influences our behavior is far beyond our control. So maybe, the sky is not really within our brain,
it’s just up to us if we want to believe it is blue or pink.
Sook Chan

Someone mentioned that a "sense of self" must come
from something beyond the brain, some other essence. That may be true, but the essence seems to
me to only develop through thought and personal reflection. That sense of self is developed
through experience and maturity-- but the brain is what allows us to think about our lives and our
Yasmin Mashoon

Complexity, and beyond ...

I recall reading to my children (who are now both grown) and discussing the tiny universe (inside the flower) where entire cities and populations existed, hustling and bustling, unbeknownst to the people up on top where Horton the Elephant lived ... I think about the universe in the same way; that everything is made up of particles and cells and chemicals ...
I wonder if the mind and the brain are the same thing
Beverly Weiss

The point that I am trying to make is that there are a lot of things that we cannot understand at this
point in history. Even though we like to believe that most of the worlds questions have been
answered, there are fundamental perplexities that continue to astound us, especially when one
thinks about the brain.
Michelle Tahmoush

If understanding comes from perception, then there must be multiple relative truths. From my
interpretation of the world, this is what I feel comfortable with right now. However, other peoples'
impressions may have lead them in a completely different and equally acceptable paths that could
sway me into another direction throughout the course.
Kelli Deering

makes us uncomfortable to be faced with the prospect that perhaps we are actors in a play being
directed by the brain with no apparent freewill. As for myself, I tend to agree with the statement
that brain = behavior, but I feel that the extension of the statement fails to account for the
environment outside of our perception of the environment. In addition, sometimes we (or our
brain) choose(s) what environment we want to experience and sometimes we have no choice in our
environment. Call it fate.
Priya Pujara

I feel that in order for me to fully believe this idea I
would have to be an atheist or completely close minded to all other possibilities. Don't get the
wrong idea. I do think that the brain and all of the stimulants in life have a huge impact on our
behavior but, I cannot say that that is all that I believe. I believe in many things that contradict
themselves and, if to believe in religion as well as brain=behavior is a contradiction, than so be it.
Melissa Hoban

I am hesitant to embrace the idea that brain = behavior, because it seems to imply that this system
is much simpler than it actually is. If one really wants to split hairs, YES, all human thought,
emotion, and belief is, at its most fundamental level, a result of a range neurophysiological
interactions. However, we do not fully understand these processes. Human behavior is
unpredictable, and is clearly influenced by outside forces (which in turn may result in biological
changes). Neurological processes which govern cognition and free will cannot be activated or
altered without interaction with the outside environment. I am thus uncomfortable with the notion
that brain = behavior on the grounds that it muddies the notions of free will, personality, and
spirituality by implying that interaction with the outside world is irrelevant to neurophysiological
Gavin Imperato

For years we have had two separate sciences dealing with the two so-called “different”
functions of sensation and thought, biology and psychology; in other words, Brain and Behavior.
Susanna Kaysen puts this very aptly in her memoir Girl, Interrupted, speaking of the problems
inherent in treating a mental disorder which, conventional wisdom dictated, must be categorized as
either physical or emotional. “For nearly a century the psychoanalysts have been writing op-ed
pieces about the workings of a country they’ve never traveled to, a place that, like China, has been
off-limits. Suddenly, the country has opened its borders and is crawling with foreign
correspondents; neurobiologists are filing ten stories a week, filled with new data. These two
groups of writers, however, don’t seem to read each other’s work. That’s because the analysts are
writing about a country they call Mind and the neuroscientists are reporting from a country they
call Brain.” This, the central problem to understanding the working of the brain, and indeed all the
aspects of human consciousness, is a miscommunication that this class works to rectify ... "Biology cannot subtract from what it is to be human"
Sarah Eberhardt

Perhaps if we removed the
arguments from humans, we could better understand the issue.
Miranda White

Name: Miriam Shi
Date: 2002-01-30 19:48:32
Link to this Comment: 780

I don’t believe that by agreeing with the equation brain= behavior that means we can’t believe in other things such as a soul, mind, etc. This scares most people because it makes us feel as though there is nothing about us that is controlled by ourselves or our different personalities. Each of us is unique because we were born with unique traits, genes that our parents passed onto us that no one else has. That right there makes us all individuals, and should appease some who think that the statement brain=behavior strips us of anything we call our “own” or different. Based on things I have learned in different classes and on my own, I am beginning to believe more and more that brain does in fact = behavior. I don’t know how many people have heard of the story of Phineas Gage, but he was a friendly, sweet, trustworthy man that people he worked with loved. Gage ended up having an accident that caused a pole to go straight through his frontal lobe, and his personality completely changed afterwards. After he was mean, bad-mouthed and unreliable. If brain did not = behavior then why did his personality change? Many could say that he was suffering from the accident, and that I’m sure if you had a pole go straight through your head you wouldn’t be too happy either. I guess there’s no real way to test that besides taking cheerful people and sticking a pole through their heads to see if they become mean, but it does make somewhat of a point.
Although our experiences do affect the way we behave, the truth is that everytime we learn something new we are forming new synapses, or connections in our brain that change us and probably the way we would behave in different situations. I am a religious person as well and I don’t think that by believing that brain=behavior that belittles the idea that there is a soul or spiritual world because we all have things we believe in that we can’t explain because we’ve never seen them before. In the same way that things I’ve learned in the past help me believe that there is a huge part, if not the whole part, of the brain that controls our behavior. Maybe things I will learn in the future will help me solidify my belief that there is a soul and spiritual world out there that we can’t touch or see. Just because we can’t see something, doesn’t mean something we believe in is not there, it just means we have to search further and harder to find proof that it exists.

looking for ... ?
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2002-01-30 22:19:41
Link to this Comment: 782

You can find last week's thoughts in the archive.

Name: Kornelia K
Date: 2002-01-31 02:29:48
Link to this Comment: 784

I just read a very interesting comment about the way we can include in the scheme we are creating religion and beliefs, and the fact that everything is relative and we don't have a piece of proof for any of those hypothesis - be it that all is in the brain and there is no outside factor such as some religions suggest or the opposite.
I am not sure if I can put myself into the category of the people who support the idea that Brain=Behaviour. It seems to me that attributing everything to certain chemical reactions, because the processes in the brain do come down to these processes, would dicard, as was mentioned by many people, subjective reactions caused by such things as listening to music, smelling a flower, or enjoying a beautiful view. These experiences are not common to all people, so it is hard for me to imagine how you would explain the weird, sometimes euphoric feeling, that they may bring, to the brain. and how is it possible that they happen sometimes and other times not.
and i also do believe in the concept of the soul which i cannot disregard and still cannot accept a theory that it actually can be part of the brain. because, it is unmaterial, at least the way i think about it.
I am not sure if such a discourse can ever reach an end point; probably it should not in any case. But it is extremely interesting to try and see how different people build/create the paradigms/systems in which they operate and how they try to expalin the cause and effect relationships in them.

after two weeks ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2002-02-01 08:21:19
Link to this Comment: 799

You're free, as always, to write about whatever you've been thinking about this week, from lecture/discussions or from the web browsing you've started to do for your web papers (right?), or from ... whatever. But, if you need a topic to get you started, how about:

So ... we've got input/output boxes inside input/output boxes, LOTS of them. And brains which seem to differ in organisms who behave differently. What does that do for our "brain=behavior" discussion?

Input/Output Boxes
Name: Rebecca Ro
Date: 2002-02-02 15:45:46
Link to this Comment: 803

We know that different organisms behave differently. Since different organims behave differently is it because their brains are different? Or is it because there is more going on?

Breaking down the components of the brain and behavior is useful, but it is also becomes very complicated. Afterall, the brain is composed of different parts. One can combine different information and get different results; therefore getting different outputs. Now would this just be leading to different behaviors?

In the examples, the boxes have to process the input. So what is coming out of the box, which would be the output, may not be what exactly what goes into the box. To me, our experiences and prior behaviors are always going to effect these outputs.

How does the brain understand what exactly these inputs are? How does the brain and nervous system know exactly what to do? Wouldn't there have to be other outside behaviors and responses coming in?

Name: Beverly We
Date: 2002-02-03 12:49:52
Link to this Comment: 806

Boxes within boxes within boxes…all having inputs and outputs until we reach the neuron. After exploring smaller and smaller sections of brain tissue, the magnified slides from mammal to frog do indeed look very much alike. Since the cells on the slides are made up of neurons, all containing chemicals that “speak” to other neurons, inputs and outputs will vary depending on the complexity of the brain. The inputs will be “processed and read.” and the behavior will occur according the genetic code that makes every living thing unique, coupled with the environmental factors that cause each living thing to behave in a specific way.

Since the input is filtered down to smaller and smaller components, does input change as it progresses down to the next smaller level, or is the message delivered in its entirety along its axonal path until it is received by the brain and then processed in the appropriate area of the brain? Do all messages reach the brain in only one form, as an “on or off” chemical response of the neurotransmitter?

After the neurotransmitter is processed by the brain and sent off to the peripheral nervous system, are the outputs also an on/off reaction, or do mitigating factors have the ability to change the output? If this message relay system is all due to chemical reactions in the synaptic cleft, where does the DNA affect behavior?

There does not appear to be any conscious awareness of this process, and it happens in a microscopic amount of time, whether the “animal” is asleep or awake. Since this system is chemically fueled, at what point in this process do living creatures (no matter how sophisticated) make decisions? What happens in the tiniest box that allows for the output not to need any input? How can it generate input from within?

Name: cb
Date: 2002-02-03 16:42:15
Link to this Comment: 807

Behavior in animals and humans are quite different and so are their brains. It makes sense that because the brains vary, the behavior does as well. There is a drastic difference a frog’s brain and a human’s brain, and the behavior is hugely different. But, so are their bodies. Does that matter in regards to behavior?

There are boxes inside bigger boxes and so on, and the littlest boxes symbolize nerve cells (which also contain parts of the cell). Between the arrows is the box, (or between the neurons is the synapse) the box that we know not much about. We know that this box does not need to have input. So, it seems to me that this box constitutes such things as thinking, conscious and unconscious, and perhaps dreaming thinking. Does it follow then, that thinking occurs between the synapses?

So this means that there are boxes that require input. That is, for some thinking, input is needed, and for other thinking, input is not needed. And so, does it mean that between the arrows, or between the neurons, thinking occurs… and that this is due to the synaptic transmission? If this is the case, then solo box, the one without the input can create its own thinking own synaptic transmission.

Thus, if we simply think about something negative (without any input), like a person cutting us off on the highway, causing a near death experience, then we can cause the release of corticosteroids, which then cause stress and a feeling of negative emotion? Does that mean that first we think, then we feel? It seems to me that this view is open not only to Biologists.

Back to the animals…. if we have these kinds of boxes in our brains which incorporate thinking, then do animals think too?

brain = behavior #2
Name: Shannon Le
Date: 2002-02-03 20:42:44
Link to this Comment: 809

The idea that there are many input/output boxes inside input/output boxes inside the brain is a supporting factor for the idea that brain = behavior. These many different boxes suggest that inputs can be processed and manipulated in many ways to bring about many different outputs from a certain input and the same output from many inputs. There are boxes holding experiences and emotional and physical states of the body at the time. These influences already in the brain have an impact on the outputs, many times resulting in different behaviors depending on the individual. The idea of many input/output boxes within one another within the brain supports the brain = behavior idea by offering a degree of explanation concerning individuality.

The idea that brain = behavior is also supported by the fact that organisms that behave differently often have differently structured brains. For instance a cat has a much smaller forebrain than a human and also relies more on instinct in life than humans. A human is known to suppress the instinctual drives with the more complex forebrain and depend more on analyzing and problem solving skills in life. The forebrain is also a newly evolved portion of the brain, which offers explanation on why humans have depended less on instinct and more on complex thought process as the species has evolved.

Also the cat, which has a neocortex, is able to develop a sense of loyalty and affinity toward other animals including humans, even those not responsible for feeding the animal. The frog, however, will never enjoy or be emotionally rewarded from sitting on the lap of a human and being stroked on the head. The frog depends even less on emotion and more on instinct than a cat while carrying out its daily activities. If the presence of a neocortex suggests more complex thought process and more emotional attachments, then differences in brain structure influencing differences in behavior supports that brain = behavior.

weekly thang
Name: Ricky
Date: 2002-02-03 21:50:43
Link to this Comment: 810

From our class discussion,I was feeling the model about boxes within boxes within boxes. It kind of reminded me of when I would ask my parents a question whne I was younger. They would answer it but then it would cause me to question the answer and so on. I do agree with the model that the whole input/output system is complicated. However, the model still leaves many questions unanswered such as how many boxes are there? Does everyone have the same amount? Does everyone's boxes perform the same duties? What makes my boxes different from the person next to me? If we both supposedly have the same composition in brain matter, what in our matter accounts for individuality? Since there may be millions and millions of paths, will the message still remain the same or become chopped up?(Coming from experience of playing the Telephone game as a child and remembering how distorted the message was after it made its path through the ears of ten people) What happens if one of our paths just breaks down? Will that breakdown affect the other paths? Will we still be able to perform the same output if a path breaksdown?

I began thinking about the neurological degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and wonder how many pathways must have been destroyed or terminated because of the disease? How many pathways does it take before you can no longer have access to long-term memory or to not be able to perform daily activities like brushing your hair or eating with a fork? How does the brain change with these diseases?

On to the comparison of brains information.... From examining slices of brain tissue, we observed that the compositon of the brain was almost alike. So what does that information tell us? Well,it first verifies the theory of evolution since we all seem to be made up of the same materials. Second, I believe that it helps with the brain=behavior dispute because we see that as the behavior becomes more complex so does the brain. The frog, camel, ant, snake, and etc., who have smaller brains in size, seem to have behaviors that seem more simple to humans. With the human brain, I believe we have more complexity dealing with decision-making, will, emotion, and others. I am not saying that other animals do not have emotions but there doesn't seem to be a intricate process in expressing them. For isntance, a dog wags his tail when he is happy/ friendly; however, a human may smile at you and it could mean that they a delighted to meet you, just smiling to hide they are talking badly about you, or just thinking about themselves and showing the world they are happy not necessarily with you. I believe that the increase wrinkles of the neocortex symbolizes more room or space for behavior to change. In accordance to the model, it allows more space for movement of neurons and pathways to the boxes. Looking at the behavior of animals, we all seem to share a basic behaviors such as hunger and searching for food, reproduction, and death. However, there is more variation in behavior as the brain becomes bigger and more wrinkled such as deciding to cook food than hunt or, instead of mating with some partner, going to a sperm bank or invitro. Those are just some thoughts.......

Name: Amy Cunnin
Date: 2002-02-04 10:56:20
Link to this Comment: 811

Since organisms that behave differently have different brain structures, I think that this does indicate that to some extent brain= behavior. However, there are so many other factors that contribute to an organism's behavior, such as the environment that it lives in and how the huge number of neurons in their brains interact. I think that it's difficult to know exactly how much the structure of the brain contributes to behavior because of the huge complexity of the brain and because we don't really know how to define the "boxes" that make up the nervous system. Additionally, you have to look at the question of whether the nervous system has borders and the implications that this has for the brain=behavior idea. I think that the nervous system doesn't really have borders, since it is always interacting with other parts of your body and responding to outside stimuli.

Name: kelli
Date: 2002-02-04 14:36:40
Link to this Comment: 812

The comparison of brain tissue in frogs, humans, cats, etc suggests that, physiologically, animals are related and have similarly functioning systems, but share enough differences to reconcile variation in behavior. Hence, we can apply the "box" model discussed in class to all organisms possessing a nervous system that processes input. It might then be interpreted that the degree of processing and the sophistication of the corresponding output is what is measured to determine the highest level of function. Yet, what accounts for emotion? How much does instinct or genetic disposition contribute to our behavior? If we share roughly 98% of our genetic material with apes, why don't we behave more like apes? My best explanation is that not only are brain systems organized differently, but also that certain pathways are more frequently used and further developed. Perhaps the unit of storage, memory, is such a pathway and allows for more connections to be made, therefore leading to more complex emotions and other behavior that we consider "advanced."

Name: Balpreet B
Date: 2002-02-04 16:35:27
Link to this Comment: 813

Observing the brains from different species during Thursday's lecture was quite fascinating in my opinion. Looking at the brains of different species under no magnification, there is obviously a difference is shape, size, etc. But, I found it very interesting how when we observe the brain tissues from different organisms at higher magnifications, they look very similar to each other. It makes one question the brain=behavior theory in that, if under high magnifications the brains are physiologically similar, why do these organisms behave differently? If these brains were similar, and one agreed with the brain=behavior theory, then it would be reasonable to say that these species do behave similarly. But this doesn't seem to be the case. So, why?

Perhaps, although the brain tissues at a high magnification do look similar to each other, it is the way the brain tissue interacts with each other in general that causes the differentiation of species' behavior. For example, if you had two buckets of Lego with the same exact pieces in each bucket, you could find more than one way to use them. You could make a ship, or a plane; or maybe even a building or a house. But even though these structures were made from the exact same pieces, they ARE different structures. Perhaps this is why although the brain tissues are similar at a high magnification, the species still behave differently from each other.

Name: Balpreet B
Date: 2002-02-04 16:35:35
Link to this Comment: 814

Observing the brains from different species during Thursday's lecture was quite fascinating in my opinion. Looking at the brains of different species under no magnification, there is obviously a difference is shape, size, etc. But, I found it very interesting how when we observe the brain tissues from different organisms at higher magnifications, they look very similar to each other. It makes one question the brain=behavior theory in that, if under high magnifications the brains are physiologically similar, why do these organisms behave differently? If these brains were similar, and one agreed with the brain=behavior theory, then it would be reasonable to say that these species do behave similarly. But this doesn't seem to be the case. So, why?

Perhaps, although the brain tissues at a high magnification do look similar to each other, it is the way the brain tissue interacts with each other in general that causes the differentiation of species' behavior. For example, if you had two buckets of Lego with the same exact pieces in each bucket, you could find more than one way to use them. You could make a ship, or a plane; or maybe even a building or a house. But even though these structures were made from the exact same pieces, they ARE different structures. Perhaps this is why although the brain tissues are similar at a high magnification, the species still behave differently from each other.

first time user
Name: biz martin
Date: 2002-02-04 16:55:25
Link to this Comment: 815

when you look at the brains of different species and they differ in shape and size at x magnitude, but then brought down to the cellular level they are pretty similar, it seems like there is a pattern.

maybe there is an outside blueprint that accounts for the building parts AND for the various differences between you and me...or us and them. the whole idea of a greater blueprint overlying everything has always seemed very cool and at the same time kind of uncomfortable for me. if i can see a blueprint or a plan in the greater scheme of the world, what does that mean about my beliefs? do i believe in a god, who created a "blueprint" that is too huge for us to see, so huge that it encompasses space and the universe all the way down to cells, or does it mean that the world was created in an ordered way and that order goes all the way up from cells to the solar system and god is simply one more part of this universe created in the minds or hearts of those who believe?

when the people in class who have been bringing up religion start talking about how the brain=behavior doesn't account for religion, i have to say, so what? i have always felt like religion is something humans created and have adapted our lives around. i don't disbelieve in god, but if this being does exist, then he/she exists in ourselves. it's not something you can prove. it's something you believe in.

it's not like the mere existence of religion should blow the argument brain=behavior out of the water just because you can't fit religion-as-autonomous into it. it actually kind of reaffirms my feelings that the brain does equal behavior because if you believe in god, supposedly what you believe in should affect your behavior. god is a belief that not everybody has, so why should the fact that this model may not account for god mean that this model is not less wrong?

hehehe...i don't really want to re-read that to make sure my double negs add up...but do you know what i mean?

Boxes All the Way Down
Name: Hilary Hoc
Date: 2002-02-04 17:02:41
Link to this Comment: 816

"Boxes all the way down": using the smallest box, the neuron, to create structures of increasing complexity and inifinite variety offers a pleasantly [and deceptively?] simple solution to the brain = behavior question, or at least the subquestion: if the brain = behavior, how do we account for the infinite variety of behavior? By an infinite variety of brains.

Similarly, what seems like a deeply emotional response can be explained by the organization of neurons transmitting information from the environment: a familiar smell often evokes memories and emotion much more effectively than a familiar sight or sound. Turns out that the olfactory nerves transmit much more directly to the limbic system than do visual or auditory sensory nerves. Nauta, W.J.H. and Feirtag, M. The organization of the brain. Scientific American, September, 1979. Stack the neurons differently and it would be vision that created such an emotional response, and the domino effect on behavior would begin.

The boxes all the way down model, however, does not offer [to me] as satisfying an explanation for the Harvard Rule of Animal Behavior. We can account for any living organism's unpredictable behavior by attributing that apparent unpredictability to our ignorance. If we knew enough about the organism's brain, and could control all external input, perhaps the behavior would be entirely predictable. Neuroanatomy is destiny. But what this model seems to omit is randomness. Perhaps sometimes there is no reason for a behavior, no neurobiological explanation -- maybe sometimes the cricket just doesn't sing, and if you looked at his brain and his environment, there'd be no way to say why.

Name: sook chan
Date: 2002-02-04 18:29:58
Link to this Comment: 817

We learnt in lecture that different organisms with different behaviors have different brain structures. This makes sense for the brain equals behavior concept: if brain equals behavior, then organisms with different brains will express different behaviors. This idea is also supported by analyzing the different behaviors of animals. Humans have a clutter of common behaviors that is expressed by all humans, however, how does one explain the individualistic qualities of humans as related to the brain? Why is it that one person cries when sad, and another gets angry? The box concept of the nervous system shows that an input goes through a box of many boxes, and when other conditions are right, a certain output will result. This output is located at the brain. However, also located in the brain is free will. If one decides to walk instead of run to a destination, or one prefers to clean instead of cry when sad, does that mean that their brains are structured differently? Different emotions have been pinpointed at different parts of the brain, hence if a person is always angry, does it mean that he has a more sensitive anger spot? Maybe, or maybe it was the experiences in childhood that causes him to be unable to control his anger. Past experiences and results of situations can shape ones behavior in the future. A child who is constantly burnt by cigarette butts by his father panic every time he sees someone light a cigarette. A child who is constantly exposed to movies of crashing planes may be afraid of flying. Are all these memories and past experiences embedded within these boxes of the nervous system? What makes a spider-phobic’s heart palpitate when she sees a spider and a regular person raise his foot to squish it? I do believe that the different structures of the brain explains the differences in basic behavioral characteristics of organisms, and the ability to store memories and information related to the size of the neocortex. The ability to learn from past experiences or have these past experiences be embedded in ones’ memory, affecting his future responses, may be located in the “boxes” of the nervous system. Input travels into these boxes, sparking memories and past experiences, and the difference in output depends on the differences in one’s experiences.

Name: Natasha Gj
Date: 2002-02-04 18:59:50
Link to this Comment: 818

This discussion is becoming more and more interesting...i have slowly started to better understand the notion of brain = behavior through the examples that we discussed in class such as: the differences in the size of human brains as compared to cats, dogs, and frogs. Even more specifically, the idea that brain= behavior is furthermore supported (at least in my opinion) by the fact that the male and female finches act differently and that their brain are different. But what does that mean for humans? I understand that human brains are different (some people's brains are larger than others etc) but is that the only thing that accounts for our difference in behavior from person to person and from gender to gender? Could the fact that every person is different from all other individuals (even identical twins are act differently from eachother) an example of how difference in the brain accounts for individuality? If this is true, then where does the element of a person's disposition, up bringing, similarities with parents come in? Do certain aspects of our upbringing, for example, change our brain structurally over time and that is why I act differently and perceive things differently then lets say, my friend Shannon? Or does my brain stay the same structurally and this "up bringing" information is processed in some other way?

Name: Tara Monik
Date: 2002-02-04 20:07:26
Link to this Comment: 819

I think that the reason why people act differently has much to do with the biological structure of their brain. No two people have identical brains (unless they are identical twins) just like no two people have exactly the same eyes or hair, or other physical property. Since there is so much hereditary variation in humans, everyone’s brain is at least slightly different than someone else’s. This would mean that if the boxes within boxes model is accurate, everyone would have slightly different boxes in their brain. All humans would have the same basic brain structure, but small differences in each box. This could explain why people act differently, i.e. why some people cry when they are sad and why others get angry. Everyone is at least a little bit different, genetically. However, I also believe that personal experiences can influence the way people act. Everything that people experiences is recorded in the brain and probably stored in the memory. Assuming this is true, the brain then does govern behavior almost entirely since it keeps track of past experience as well as provides for variation from others.
One thing that I am interested in is how does the brain remember things? How does the memory component of the brain work? And since our brains are much different from those of other animals, is there a difference in specific functions?

Date: 2002-02-04 20:16:28
Link to this Comment: 820

I was thinking about this weeks discussion on the brain being a input/output box containing smaller input output boxes. I was browsing the web and read an article about how the hypothalamus plays a part in controlling our appetite

Name: Cindy Zhan
Date: 2002-02-04 20:40:32
Link to this Comment: 821

previous message cont....

    After reading the article, I realized that the hypothalamus is a good example of a smaller box processing the input of food( or lack of) and effecting the out put of behavior, which is whether to eat less or to eat more. According to the article, fat cells produce a protein called leptin and the leptin comunicates to the hypothalamus which then regulates metabolism. Leptin is manufactured by the gene OB. If the gene is defective, then the protein will also be defective, resultling in inrregular regulation of behavior(food intake)

Just as there are different ways to arrange the neurons in our brain. There are also different ways that our genes are arranged. Therefore, there is no surprise that defective genes of leptin does occur.

i was wandering, how does the box diagram account for the affect of genes on our brains that effects our behaviour. I was also wandering, if a person decide to control their appetite dispute the effect of the hypothamus telling them to eat. Which boxes is responsible for this "stubborn" behavior.

learning vs. structure
Name: Michelle T
Date: 2002-02-04 20:59:41
Link to this Comment: 822

There are obvious diffeerences between species and even between gender in their brain size. Some crude observations can be made from this fact. For example, the cerebellum in cats is relatively larger in cats than it is in humans. Thus, the human are more clumsy than cats in terms of movement. Another example is that only one gender of the finch can sing. There are anatomical differences seen between these genders.

What I find interesting is the distinctions that cannot be explained by differences in brain size or structure. Why is it that people react diffferently to the same situation. For the most part, human brains of the same gender are similar. There can be differences in the amount of certain neurotransmitters or hormones that can effect mood, but I think a large part of the differences can be explained by learning. This then goes back to the nature versus nurture question. Inevitably, I think that both have a large part that contributes to the behavior of an animal.

Name: Jenny Mary
Date: 2002-02-04 21:00:10
Link to this Comment: 823

I found the human/animal brain comparisons to be quite helpful in understanding many things, but at the same time I was left wondering about pathways.

Ricky said it best in message #810: "What happens if one of our paths just breaks down? Will that breakdown affect the other paths? Will we still be able to perform the same output if a path breaksdown?...How many pathways does it take before you can no longer have access to long-term memory or to not be able to perform daily activities like brushing your hair or eating with a fork? How does the brain change with these diseases?"

This excerpt stood out because this is probably one of my biggest fears of old age. I've often wondered why with age, people become virtually unrecognizable to themselves and their loved ones. The complexities and systematic nature of the brain reaffirms my fear and the possibility of it becoming a reality. To add to the flurry of questions, what is involved with the evolution of the brain? How many of these critical pathways can I count on, or do some naturally breakdown from illnesses caused by old age.

Essentially I'm left wondering -- how long will I (my brain) have control over my own behavior. Should I expect to gradually forfeit said control over time? But then what am I scared of, time or my own brain? The more questions I pose, the more I convince myself that my brain isn't a fascinating mystery, but a scary feature, autonomous of all logic, reason and most of all - control.

neocortical significance
Name: Michele Dr
Date: 2002-02-04 22:01:11
Link to this Comment: 824

The function of the neocortex and the fact that it is restricted to mammals are especially interesting to me. The function is intriguing because although a lot of it has been mapped out--- for example the frontal, parietal, temporal, occipital, and limbic lobes are responsible for motor control/planning/judgement, sensory information, audio and visual input, and emotion and memory (respectively), a significant part still has no apparent determined functions (called associative areas). I understand that all except for the limbic lobe (emotions & memories) and part of the frontal (emotion/judgement) have functions that amphibians, reptiles, insects, and all other non-mammals definitely posess in their capacities, but perhaps it is that their functions are more limited than mammals. For example, although a frog has audial senses, its not obvious that a frog appreciates Tchaikovsky. But it's not much more obvious that most mammals do either. Maybe it has to do with very primitive things in non-mammals, such as their only purpose for having audial senses is to hear a mating call, whereas mammals can learn to recognize sounds unrelated to the necessities of life (such as your dog recognizing the doorbell, the can opener, his own name, or the sound of your tires in the driveway). Since all brains of all organisms are comprised of the same unit, the neuron, the arrangement of neurons must be increasingly complex with greater mental capacity and more complex behavior, necessitating additional cortical surface area (hence, the folds)? However, although exposed cortical surface is greater in whales than humans, can there be any evidence that they can appreciate Tchaikovsky more than we do?

(i obtained the more technical information from these websites

Name: Kathryn Ro
Date: 2002-02-04 22:36:46
Link to this Comment: 825

The boxes within boxes model and the comparisons of brains seems to explain a lot about why animals behave differently. The box model does a good job of explaining how a neuron, which is similar in many organsims, can be put to together in different ways to make very different structures. I especially like Balpreet Bhogal's comparison of neurons to legos, which said, "...take two buckets of legos with same pieces in each bucket and you could find more than one way to use them. You could make a ship, or a plane, or maybe even build a house." Also, even structures within the same species could have slightly different boxes, which would account for differences in behavior between individuals. Another thing that could explain the differences in behavior among individuals is that there are so many different pathways that messages can take to come up with an output.

However,there were some things about the model that I didn't think it did a good job of explaining. One thing is where does thinking and decision making come in? How does it work? How does a thought originate within the system without input? Or does there always have to be some type of input that triggers a thought? How do dreams and imagination fit into the box model? Are there boxes for each of these things? The box model seems a little to simple to explain how these processes work, unless they are incorporated within it and I'm just not seeing it.

Week 2
Name: Mary Schli
Date: 2002-02-04 23:58:32
Link to this Comment: 826

I think that the boxes inside of boxes model helps explain the brain = behavior notion since it can account for (at least somewhat) the variability in behavior. Having multiple input and output pathways for each box can account for the variability in a particular person’s behavior – for example, just because a person is presented with a certain input does not necessarily guarantee that they will behave in a certain way every time, so having multiple paths for the signals to follow helps account for this variability. The boxes inside boxes model can also help explain the variability in behavior both between different individuals within a similar species and between different species. The existence of 10^12 neurons in the human brain provides further support for the brain = behavior notion since there are multiple organizational schemes of these neurons (boxes) that are possible and their interactions presumably cause different behaviors. We also saw in class that the cerebellums of humans, monkeys, cats, rats, and frogs all looked quite similar under higher magnification, which can both help and hinder this model. On the one hand, we can emphasize that these brains are all made of similar boxes (neurons) so we can ask how would it be possible for these animals to behave so differently and be capable of drastically different cognitive processes if their brains are made of similar components. However, one could stress that it is the arrangement of these small boxes (neurons) that determines the types of behavior and cognitive abilities that one will be capable of performing, which then supports the model. Does that then suggest that if we arrange the neurons of a frog to be exactly like a cat then the cat will act like a frog? Or if we arrange the neurons of person A to be the same as person B then they will both behave in the same? Doesn’t experience come into play somewhere too? These are some of the questions that the boxes model seems to leave unanswered, at least for now.

Blueprints of the brain?
Name: Sarah Eber
Date: 2002-02-05 00:06:39
Link to this Comment: 827

The theory of the input/output boxes makes the brain sound like nothing more or less than a computer, albeit biological in nature. With stimulus A, you get response B, and so on. Assuming this theory of “brain as a computer” is valid, is the difference between species’ brains simply a matter of the way in which the input/output boxes are arranged? Or is the difference something more basic, a change in the structure of the input/output boxes themselves? While major differences, like those between a human and a salamander, are certainly detectable at the neuron level, the differences are harder to discern when comparing, say, a chimpanzee to a human. Is the neuron structure of a chimp virtually the same as a human’s, and, if so, then what is the difference between the brains of the two species? Is it merely a matter of the blueprints of the brain, the way the “boxes,” so to speak, are put together?

This question ties in closely with the central anthropological question of the division of early man from the apes. Is it the pattern of our connected neurons that gives us the edge over our close relatives in this way? Or is it the structure of the neurons themselves? If it is the pattern of the connected neurons that determines the difference between humans and chimps, this would explain the human capability to both learn and comprehend more than chimps ever could. On a side note, are certain learning disabilities caused by a lack of development in the interconnected neurons?

Week 2
Name: Gavin Impe
Date: 2002-02-05 01:22:36
Link to this Comment: 828

In her bestseller "Playing in the Dark," Toni Morrison discusses how early American romanticism served as a sort of prophylaxis against the fear of boundarylessness and powerlessness that lurked in the collective unconscious of the growing nation. In some ways I see the "brain = behavior" argument and the "boxes within boxes" model of the nervous system as a type of prophylaxis against our own fear of the daunting complexity of the human brain. There is something inherently anxiety-producing about that which lacks boundaries. We gain power and understanding by imposing boundaries, and likening the nervous system to a box allows us to create the illusion of control. By defining the nervous system as a box with a definable inside and an outside, we give ourselves an easy starting point for the discussion of any brain/behavior related issue, no matter how complex. We can begin by first asking – is what we’re dealing with inside the box or outside it? This seems to be an oversimplified (but difficult to contest) way of understanding the nervous system. Maybe I’m off my rocker here, but there is something unsettling to me about the idea of the nervous system as a "box." While I can’t really disagree with the plausibility of this model, I’m still skeptical that it can sufficiently inform my current understanding of the complexities of human thought and behavior.

Brain = Behavior
Name: Aly
Date: 2002-02-05 02:32:34
Link to this Comment: 829

I think that the lecture material and the diagram of the "brain" support the theory that brain = behavior. The pictures of the different animal brains add a visual aspect to the idea that different behaviors are the result of differences in the brain. By reading others' statements above, I have formed a stronger opinion than when this course first started. The correlation between more neocortex and more advanced thinking does not seem like just a coincidence to me. Humans seem to have the most advanced thinking abilities and also have the most neocortex (of the brains observed during lecture).

Someone previously mentioned that the size of the brain affects thinking, which makes me question whether that would mean animals like whales and dolphins had greater thinking capacities than humans. I often wonder if animals do indeed think like us. If our brains are all made up of the same building blocks, i.e. neurons, then I don't understand why the concept of animals thinking is so impossible to fathom. Well, actually I do. It would be much harder to eat a big cheeseburger if it were suddenly widely accepted that cows had the same thoughts and emotions as people.

I would really like to see how the brain is affected by mental illnesses and Alzheimer’s disease. Like many, I fear aging and fear that if brain really does equal behavior, then how will my behavior change as my brain deteriorates with age? The thought of losing my behavior makes me feel as if I am losing my sense of self, which frankly scares me so much that I do not want to think about it.

Name: Peffin
Date: 2002-02-05 07:56:43
Link to this Comment: 830

Some thoughts and comments:

- It is interesting to note that although the brain seems to differ in
organisms who behave differently, when the brain is sliced and
magnified, one discovers that the brain essentially came into being by
similar means in different organisms.

I can think of the brain as the basic ingredients for a cake. Every organism starts out with the basics, such as flour, eggs, water, butter, milk, and so on. But everyone (or everything) has different preferences (or rather what they need to survive and produce viable offspring). This means that on top of the basic ingredients someone (or something) may want more butter or more eggs (accounting for the different sizes of similar parts in different organisms). So simpler things will stop here with a simple cake. But as someone gets more experienced (or furthur down the evolutionary chain), things get more complicated. There are the addition of new ingredients, and the addition of new instructions.

- It seems to me that there is another way to intrepret "the boxes within
boxes model."

Rather than interpret the boxes as different parts of the brain, one could think of the boxes as different experiences that the brain has organized (?) into different categories. The brain uses experience as a reference to explain and affect future experieces. So when there is an input into the brain, the brain sends this to the boxes (experiences) that pertain to the input being experienced presently. Because each person has had differnt experiences and are made of different ingredients, outputs will vary.

- What about the box that can generate without input?

It seems that this box could be something such as the development of puberty. It is just a matter of time for the event to occur independantly of experience, action, thought, it is an innate body function.

- Summary of thoughts:

The introduction of the new observation that brains seem to differ in organisms who behave differently and 'the boxes within boxes model' seem to supplement the idea that brain = behavior. When first presented with this idea, we were posed with the question, if brain = behavior, then why are brains different. These new ideas, I think, make it more comfortable for people who did not agree with brain = behavior to better understand that it is not as dry cut as when first presented.

Name: joan durso
Date: 2002-02-05 09:53:31
Link to this Comment: 831

"Does the "brain = behavior" hypothesis fit your observations/experiences/ways of making sense of the world? If so, explain why. If not, explain why not. In either case, suggest new observations which might serve to further explore the hypothesis."

In response to this comment by Prof. Grobstein, I must dispel any assumption that I have made any sense of the world, let alone explained it!

After several days of ruminating about the 1/24/02 Brain=Behavior discussion, I am no closer to any conclusion. I have always considered the brain a processing unit; data is input, processed, and then output, output being behavior. The input varies and includes intangibles (feelings, thoughts, emotions) as well as tangibles (body chemicals, pharmaceuticals). The product of the brain is =behavior.

I believe in the existence of the soul and, heretofore, have seen no need to prove, disprove, or defend its existence. Where does conscience fit it? Is it part of the soul, or the brain? Is it measurable? Is the soul measurable? How? When? Where? I believe that input to the
Brain= Behavior (which is output that has been processed) but the Brain=Behavior theory seems to be an oversimplification of a very complex question.

Questions about processing data that is input into the brain further complicate the issue. Is all information processed in the same way? Although we choose much of the brain¡¯s output depending on our choice of response (behavior), there are some remaining questions. What about other output (i.e., reflex reactions, addictions)? Are these behaviors attributable to output without input? Are they spontaneous reactions? Chosen responses? What and how are the differences measured?

After Thursday¡¯s discussion, we have boxes and animals and a variety of different brains. We have more information and new observations, but the original statement continues to intrigue me (Brain=Behavior).

As class discussion continued, the increasing number of boxes in decreasing sizes led me to new observations. These new observations lead to new questions. OK! So what! Different brains = different behavior. Further discussions reveal that all brain matter is composed of neurons that are basically the same but are configured differently so that different species will process information in different ways. This information does not provide any new knowledge about how the input is processed by each individual species.

One final comment¡­.

Past experience further limits my conviction that brain=behavior. There have been times when it seemed to me that brains had little (or nothing) to do with behavior.

Date: 2002-02-05 12:33:03
Link to this Comment: 832

You'll have to apologize for the length of my argument because in the process of posting I deleted my previous response.

The only way to resolve the variability and similarity between and amongst living things is to examine the nature of the biological basis of life itself?genetics. It is genetics that determines the development of the neural system in all organisms. In casual conversation an individual?s odd behavior is sometimes attributed to how he/she is ?wired.? It is the genetic code that determines the initial wiring of the neural system in any organism. This is not to say that once this wiring has been programmed it exists in vacuum uninfluenced by external factors. Variability in neurological development is not only a factor of ?intrinsic variability? as dictated by the genetic code; it is also a result of adaptations to external stimuli (the environment). In addition, it is important to recognize that these two factors do not exist independently of one another. On the one hand, it is possible to see how a single neuron in a mouse and a human can be so similar because there are only 4 molecules that code for the formation of a neuron. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine that all the diversity in the natural world is a product of the combination of 4 molecules that make up the genetic alphabet. This is especially true considering that the percentage of the human genome that overlaps with certain species of primates is over 90%. Nevertheless, together these characteristics indicate that the smallest differences at the molecular level have significant implications at the macroscopic level. So, relating this back to the brain=behavior argument, I would change the equation to include genetics and the environment (genetics àßenvironment)àbrain=behavior). I find that the idea of complexity and diversity out of simplicity is initially a difficult concept to grasp given that as human we see ourselves the pinnacle of the natural world. Even so, when one accepts this to be true the models such a boxes in smaller boxes in even smaller boxes makes sense because it follows the pattern that exists throughout the natural world.

A few random thoughts:

In ?conversations with Niel?s Brain? the doctors manage to get predictable output by directly stimulating specific regions of the brain. More specifically, the doctors get output while isolating the input. What are the implications of this?

How does one explain yogis who are able to control their rate of breathing by controlling their minds and focusing their energy?

How does on account for being in a certain ?state of mind??

I?m not sure that the input/output box model and brain=behavior theory are capable of addressing these issues.

Invertebrates vs. Vertebrates
Name: Claire Alb
Date: 2002-02-05 15:05:09
Link to this Comment: 833

When finding out that 99.999% of neurons are in fact inter-neurons and not motor or sensory neurons, I had a whole new perspective of the nervous system. Since most daily functions of survival require motor and sensory mechanisms, it was logical in my mind that most neurons would be used for such functions.

If most neurons are in fact just located in the larger box which is the nervous system, then what does that say about vertebrates and invertebrates? Are they really that different? Although invertebrates lack the cerebellum, midbrain and forebrain as such fact was mentioned in class, the data presented insinuates that they're possibly not that much different from vertebrates.They too have a collection of neurons which extend throughout their bodies and which I would assume serve the purpose of input and ouput functions.

We've also concluded that there is an infinite number of ways in which neurons can be assembled for input and output function. Thus, complexity is further brought as these neurons can differ not only arrangement but manner in which this information is processed and sent back out.

Name: Gabrielle
Date: 2002-02-05 20:00:29
Link to this Comment: 834

During class we were talking about the difference between vertebrate and invertebrate. I started thinking about plants. They don't have brains, but we can see them as having behavior. Take for example when the sun is in the east, a sunflower will move so that its petals are aimed at the sun so that it can absorb the most amount of light. But, I soon realized that the reason that the leave moves is due to chemistry in the leaf. Yet, isn't that all that is happening in neurons. Chemical changes signal physical changes. But, there are other chemical changes that signal physical changes in our bodies, such as hormones, which aren't in neurons. The benefit of neurons is that they provide a faster messenger. So, why don't plants have neurons? Maybe nerves would be unbeneficial though, since plants can't move. Then they would feel when they were cut down and such, which wouldn't be pleasant.

week 2
Name: Asra
Date: 2002-02-05 23:21:01
Link to this Comment: 835

This idea of boxes within boxes representing our nervous system seems like a good way to approach the concept of brain=behavior. As far as we know our behavior must be triggered by a stimulus (input). The input can be big or small, it can take milliseconds or years for it to be processed but every input has an output.

The question about how many boxes are there is unanswerable. I do think there are a finite number of boxes but it is constantly growing as we acquire more knowledge and come across many more experiences day to day. So not everyone has the same number of boxes or the same “type” of boxes and this makes us the individuals we are.

Differences in Brains
Name: miranda
Date: 2002-02-06 11:35:03
Link to this Comment: 836

I was looking online and I found an article on a very interesting experiment that proves (at least partially) that brain equals behavior. Scientists did an experiment in which they transplanted anterior midbrain tissue from a Japanese quail to a domestic chicken in the beginning stages of development. They then tested to behavior of the transplanted chickens to see if there were any apparent differences. Mother birds make a "maternal call" to signal danger to their young, and as a result the offspring rush over to their mother. It turns out that the transplanted chickens responded more quickly and strongly to quail maternal calls than chicken maternal calls.

On a separate note, I think it's important not to overestimate the similarities between the brains of different species. While it is undeniably true that we share the same building blocks with all vertebrates, we are still drastically and fundamentally different. We may have all the same parts, and our brains may all appear very similar under high magnification, however, the behavior between any two species is completely different. Even with humans, where the biology is nearly identical from one person to the next, behavior can vary dramatically. Thus there is obviously something immensely important in the little differences that exist. Though my brain may look very similar to any other person in this class, there has to be some very significant differences to account for our behavioral, intellectual, physical, etc. dissimilarities (assuming that brain does indeed equal behavior.)

Name: Nicole
Date: 2002-02-06 16:20:08
Link to this Comment: 837

I was thinking about our original question/ discussion, "Brain=Behavior" and how the model of boxes within boxes fits in with this discussion. By saying the nervous system, more directly the brain, is boxes within boxes this accounts for the variation in behavior of the same organisms. Reading Gabrielle's comment about plants, got me thinking about this question: However how can we account for organisms without brains that exhibit behavior? Yes if you were to look at these organisms on a cellular level, one could argue that the nucleus of each cell is the organism's "brain", which is how you could account for them exhibiting behavior.

Name: T
Date: 2002-02-06 19:37:15
Link to this Comment: 839

Wait wait...I am now very confused and I once again have more questions than answers....
first of all, have we defined exactly what the brain is? ARe we SURE that the brain in composed of the the spinal cord, the midbrain...etc? how do we know that that defenition is correct?...what about, like some one else already mentioned, organisms that don't have these characteristic? Do they not obtain a brain? are they not able to demonstrate behavior?

Name: Tua Chaudh
Date: 2002-02-06 22:48:01
Link to this Comment: 840

I was really surprised that so few neurons are motor and sensory. I had assumed that a large portion of brain cells were the ones we used to interpret and navigate the world, now I guess I just have a lot of questions. We use the edges of the largest box to interact with the world and everything else is inside. That's really amazing. How much, then, of what we see, smell, taste, touch is actually there, and how much does the inside of the box contribute to completing the picture we have of the world? We feel sensations, but it also seems that the brain has the ability to file away memories or certain sensations for when the neurons can't function or can't provide all the information. Different organisms have slightly different brain structures. Invertebrates don't have a neocortex, a part inside the big box(?). Do invertebrates and other organisms which we label as simple then not have the ability to create the world from the inside out? Do simpler brained organisms rely more on their sensory neurons than we do? The website about brain difference amongst members of the same species suggests that the things we do affect the way our brains develop. I'm a bit confused because this seems to suggest that while brain does equal behavior, behavior also affects the brain. So we make decisions and take actions which affect the structure of our brains, but in some way the way our brain is structured affects those decisions. Where does it all begin?! and who/what makes decisions/creates the output when we're not consciously doing it, the brain or the world that molded it?

Name: TC
Date: 2002-02-07 03:13:56
Link to this Comment: 841

I was reading over some of the comments, and I have to agree with what Amy Cunningham said. I was thinking the same thing in class this week while we were discussing the input/output and the different brain structures. There are many other things that effect an organisms behavior that it's difficult to say that brain=behavior all the time. Also, I seem to remember it being said that if brain=behavior then the brains would be similar, but it was seen that in different organisms that there are different. If different brains have similar reactions/behavior to things, then does brain really equal behavior?

Name: Beverly We
Date: 2002-02-07 07:24:41
Link to this Comment: 842

Now that we have discussed the limits, boundaries and perimeters of the boxes, and discussed some of the functions of the nervous system, we need to discuss what we mean by behavior. Do we define behavior as the output that is a result of the function of the neurons, chemicals and neurotransmitters, OR is behavior ALSO what is happening DURING the process of input/output?

week 3
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2002-02-07 15:39:53
Link to this Comment: 853

I think its "ALSO what is happening during the process of input/output" (or before output even if there is no input).

As usual, you're free to write about whatever thoughts you've had this week, but if you would like something to get you started:

What's your reaction to the phenomena of quadriplegia as described in class? Is the addition to our model of an "I-function" box appropriate/useful? Why or why not? What new problems/questions does it raise?

Christopher Reeves
Name: Erica Carl
Date: 2002-02-07 20:23:14
Link to this Comment: 858

In class today, we established that activity in the nervous system can occur without an individual, such as in the Christopher Reeves case, even knowing it. We also brought up the idea that there is a difference between processing signals and processing experiences. How does this exactly work and what does this mean? Is it the processing of signals in the nervous system that controls the behavior of an individual or the processing of experiences that controls behavior, or is it both? Or, are there other ways that behavior can be influenced?

Date: 2002-02-07 23:20:43
Link to this Comment: 860

In class today (Feb. 7th) we discussed that behavior is more than just output because behavior consists of MANY outputs. How integrated are these outputs? In many output/input systems such as we have designated human behavior for better understanding, there is something called negative feedback. For example, if too much of one chemical is produced in the body, the over abundance of the chemical will act negatively on the production of the chemical and prevent any more excess from being produced. This is a regulative measure and I was wondering if our "boxes inside boxes" model included something like negative feedback. For example, when we walk, we have to monitor the results of past "outputs/behaviors" -each step- so that we know the slant of the ground on which we are walking or if it is slippery/rough. If new inputs could be a result of varying outputs, how would this influence our boxes model?

Name: Lauren
Date: 2002-02-07 23:22:09
Link to this Comment: 861

The last comment was from me, I just forgot to type in my name.

Name: Rebecca Ro
Date: 2002-02-07 23:36:13
Link to this Comment: 862

Do we really need something outside the nervous system to truly discover what we are? I think there is more to the nervous system than just the nervous system itself. But is everything really a function of the brain? Again, we act differently under different circumstances and at different times.

Does the “I function” box have access to all information? There are always different inputs coming in and different outputs coming out. How does the "I function" fit into consciousness? Consciousness alone is very hard to define. Could consciousness be defined as the experience of being oneself and that oneself being reflecting in a sub-system of the nervous system (which would be the box).

There is a difference between behaving and being aware. Is the “I function” accounting for all of our changes in experience? Or does the "I function" change when we change? There are parts of the nervous system that can be doing things without us actually experiencing them. Ones feelings do change with time. But does the self actually change everytime there are nerve cell changes?

What about when your foot “falls asleep”? You know your foot is there, but it doesn’t feel the same. Also, many people are afraid of getting shots. My friend fainted when he got a needle injected into him. I highly doubt it was the pain of the needle going into him, but more of just the sight alone of a sharp object. Part of human experience and awareness is learned. People look toward the reactions of others. A wound that looks terrible, may not really hurt, but if people look at the injury in horror, the person may start to “think” that it does hurt.

Christopher Reeves has to feel a 'sense' of loss. But is that 'sense' of loss different than actually feeling pain if someone would pitch his toe? Is that a different 'feeling'? He would know that under normal circumstances (before the injury), that someone pinching his toe would usually elicit some type of pain.

Name: Beverly We
Date: 2002-02-08 16:05:46
Link to this Comment: 870

Is the I-function the “box” that makes us individual?
Given that everything that we do, think, and experience, (both physically and emotionally) determines who we are, and THAT something differentiates each of us from each other, is the I-function our personality?

Since all of the chemical materials that make up our bodies are the same, what makes us unique is that which we have inherited, experienced and learned. The axonal connections that create the sensory and motor systems also make neurotransmitter synaptic connections that allow us to store, file, and remember. The ability to synthesize what we store, retrieve it, and make decisions about it (the output) is what makes us emotional beings. Are the emotional connections the I-function? Is it the I-function that allows us to be different from other creatures made of the same chemical material?

Date: 2002-02-09 16:50:07
Link to this Comment: 882

The Christopher Reeves phenomenon...

When we pinch Christopher Reeves' foot, it will jerk, yet when asked whether he felt pain, he does not.
But, then how do we know he is Christopher Reeves? We ask him, and he responds.

This example made me think about ethical debates in medicine. For example, the debate about the use of stem cells.
There are many people who view the use of stem cells as cloning. Hurting an individual being. But one could argue that the I function is not really there.
Worried about the stem cells potetial for life.


Ignore the top part, i was pushing random buttons!
Name: Peffin
Date: 2002-02-09 17:01:29
Link to this Comment: 883

The Christopher Reeves phenomenon...

When we pinch Christopher Reeves' foot, it will jerk, yet when asked whether he feels pain, he does not.

But, then how do we know he is Christopher Reeves? We ask him, and he responds.

This example made me think about ethical debates in medicine. For example, the debate about the use of stem cells. There are many people who view the use of stem cells as cloning. Hurting an individual being. But one could argue that the 'I function' is not really there. The organs are independant from the brain. One is not really killing a human.

And then what about abortions? If aborted before the brain begins it really murder? I mean, if what you are killing has no way of processing what you are doing?

Well, I guess my thoughts don't take into account of the potential for life. But this is what I have been pondering...

does time heal all wounds?
Name: Jenny Mary
Date: 2002-02-10 15:38:48
Link to this Comment: 891

In light of the paper we need to write in the near future, I began to look at things around me and see what interests me, a search for inspiration if you will. With the September 11 tragedy, a pretty obvious question came to mind: does time heal all wounds? A cliche catch phrase, but an intriguing one as well. Preliminary inquiries into the subject matter forced me to get more specific. Therefore, with current events in mind - what it is the dynamic between grief and time. Mourning and grief are powerful emotions tangled in many different aspects, one which being the brain. A few words that kept popping up during my light research: brain, memory, depression, human condition, depression.

My results yielded one conclusion, I need to narrow down the topic further. I just find that while the subject is compelling its tied to at least 25 separate issues. I have not yet decided if I would like to pursue this as a paper topic, but I am certainly interested in it for my own knowledge.

Where is Christopher Reeves??
Name: Hilary Hoc
Date: 2002-02-10 16:52:57
Link to this Comment: 896

Christopher Reeves' body moves without his will, and he cannot will it to move. Yet he has thoughts, memories, emotions and perceptions. He may live only from the neck up, but he is aware of and can respond to his environment. So, his consciousness must reside in his brain.

For the first paper, I am reading about the "mind-body" problem, and the biggest hurdle in takcling this subject is the idea that this is a problem. It seems to me outdated: as we look at a PET scan of a functioning brain, and study the brains and behavior of those who have suffered injury to the brain, be it from physical trauma, pharmacological excess, genetic defects, or extreme emotional stress, it appears evident that consciousness is a product of the neural connections in the brain.

What I suspect troubles current thinkers about the mind-body problem is that humans cannot create consciousness in another brain -- even with healthy raw material, we can stimulate neurons electronically, but we cannot get them to stimulate themselves. We do not know how to get the machine up and running. As a result, we are inclined to believe that consciousness, the "I-box," must be more than the sum of its physical parts.

Yet if we believe that the nervous system controls the movement of a leg, why not the decision to move the leg and the perception of that movement? What difference is there between the two that requires movement to be relegated to the nervous system, and consciousness to be elevated above it?

Quadraplegia and Reeves
Name: Claire Alb
Date: 2002-02-10 16:53:58
Link to this Comment: 897

"Not all functions of the Nervous System depends on Christopher Reeves being there" (Grobstein)

After weeks of pondering the soul over brain=behavior phenomenon,
Feb. 7th's class enlightened me in many ways.
It makes perfect sense that the nervous system is independent of state of mind. If Reeves, had been a vegetable, his nervous system would have continue functioning independently. If he had also had a mental breakdown or suffered from psychosis, Reeves may have "been gone" but a majority of his NS would have been functioning.

The latter examples, however demonstrate that we are more than our nervous system. Quality of life as we see it, depends on the functioning of the input/output brain boxes. When these brain boxes fail to properly transmit information, the individual is no longer "here." Yes, Reeves may have had an interruption btw his brain and spinal cord. However, he will continue to experience life on an emotionally sensory level which would have been impossible if he had been a vegetable.

On a different note: Although Dickison states that the brain contains me and the sky, she speaks of the capability of the brain.
I believe that the individual's experience and reality can also manipulate the brain: So what's real to me may not be to you

Christopher Reeves
Name: Balpreet B
Date: 2002-02-10 21:10:51
Link to this Comment: 904

I was fascinated by the Christopher Reeves discussion in class on Thursday. I knew that if you ask Christopher Reeves a question, he would answer you. What I didn't know is that if you pinch his foot, the foot will move away. And even though Christopher Reeves doesn't feel the foot in that he doesn't have control of the movement, it still moves by itself.

The question concerning "where is Christopher Reeves" is also very interseting. It makes one wonder whether or not "christopher Reeves" is his entire body, or only his brain. From what we learned in class on Thursday, I am prone to think that Christopher Reeves is his brain and that his body is merely a capsule for his brain to function in.

But Grobstein's comment on the nervous system not needing Christopher Reeves to be there for some functions to happen makes one question the brain=behavior theory. If the brain was responsible for all behaviors, and Christopher Reeves was his brain with his body being a capsule, if some functions can occur without Christopher Reeves "being there," then doesn' that mean that the brain isn't responsible for all behaviors??? And the questions continue....

Name: Alyson
Date: 2002-02-10 21:13:19
Link to this Comment: 905

I was so surprised to hear that so few of our neurons were in actuality motor or sensory neurons. Although surprising, I now think that this definetly supports the idea of behavior=brain. Previously in the forum, people stated that they believed there was too much going on inside the mind to only be contained within the brain. I believe the fact that 99.999999% of neurons deal with what is going on inside the nervous system, indeed illustrates the capacity that the brain has to contain all of behavior.

The discussion of Christopher Reeve brings up many ethical issues. In class we decided that Christopher was contained inside the upper part of his brain and that his nervous system continued to function below his injury without input from his "being". I think this is very interesting because it helps us define where an individual's being comes from. Many have become involved in heated topics over things such as brain death and what living actually defines. Does living mean a continuation of one's nervous system or does one's "being" have to be aware to be considered alive? If the first is true, then even when the "being" seems to die, the nervous system still functions, much like Christopher's reflexes and how does one make ethical choices over this.

I once saw an interesting program depicting sufferers of post-war syndrome. They were incapable of responding (aka making behavioral outputs), but were perfectly aware of what was going on around them. Without complicated machinery, it would have never been known that their "beings" were indeed still alive within bodies unable to respond. I wonder how people would classify them. As a cousin to two severely retarded children, I find this issue to be very personally. People have made comments that they do not understand what is "really going on", including Mr. Politically Incorrect Bill Maher himself, who compared them to "mere animals". I refuse to believe that just because their behavior is different to us means that they are any less "aware".

Name: Ricky
Date: 2002-02-10 23:27:25
Link to this Comment: 910

I think it is interesting how we have progressively transformed our model into input/output boxes and, recently, added the I-function. It is understandable about adding the I-function because based on everyone's experiences, they will react to input and output responses differently. This function seems to take into account personal influence upon behavior. For instance, the smell of a fresh apple-baked pie would stir memories of family gatherings at Thanksgiving for me but incite a different response from someone who dislikes apple pie.

The I-function is the basis of our will to control ourselves or our behavior. Watching Kung Fu movies, I was amazed at the men who would embrace scolding hot iron pots to brand a symbol of a dragon on their arms. From personal experience, whenever you feel something hot, you have an initial reflex to move away. However, these men overcame that reflex with their will, which the I-function accounts for. This example of will overcoming intial reflexes is also present in tattooing. The only questions with the I-function are how it works? What is it composed of? Is this the part that is referred to as the "mind" in the brain? Is the I-function only influenced by personal experience? Is there a commonality in the I-function that everyone uniformly has? How different is my I-function compared to another's? How large is the I-function in the brain (size) and how important is its role in everyday activity?

Just some food for thought on the I........

Name: Cindy
Date: 2002-02-11 00:04:34
Link to this Comment: 911

   it seems to me that through out the class, we are trying to narrow down other possibilities of the contributing to behaviour until we are left with the brain alone.

I have some question, perhaps they will get answered by the end of the semester...

What if Christopher Reeves is so depressed by his accident that he decided not live as if he's a vegetable. He dosent want to talk to ppl , dosent want to eat...etc. In this case, can we say that it is his "mind" that directs his behavior and not his brain? In the other words, he made up his "mind" to live like a vegateble. in this case, the mind dictate the brain... the brain must obey...

Name: Yasmin
Date: 2002-02-11 04:02:32
Link to this Comment: 914

The subject of quadraplegia has always interested me, primarily because it seems so incredibly frustrating and irritating to be alive, able to speak, and unable to move. It almost seems like if you think about it long enough or if you try hard enough, one can move an arm or a leg. Its heartbreaking really-- to know that your brain just won't cooperate. The fact that a paralyzed body is capable of responding to a stimulus that one cannot actually feel is a disconcerting notion. I suppose that after a while, one forgets what it was like to feel a warm hug or a pat on the back. Its frustrating too that everything we feel is connected to our brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) because our whole life is essentially travelling along a thin bony road which travels up our back and transmits messages to our brains. The fear of hurting one's back is quite prevalent in our society, primarily because there aren't many treatments for that kind of injury. It seems an almost tenuous connection to life.

reflexes vs. nervous system
Name: Michelle T
Date: 2002-02-11 13:57:34
Link to this Comment: 915

When I considered the nervous system and the Christopher Reeves phenomena where his foot twitched yet there was no pain, I suspected it was due to reflexes. There are places on the body that if it is hurt there is an automatic response. I'm not sure where this response is connected. I assume, given the information, that it is connected in the brain. This would make sense because Chris Reeves was paralyzed from the neck down. He was able to move unknowingly, which is similar to the reaction of touching a hot stove. One automatically pulls his or her handf away without thinking.

Even though Chris was able to move in a reflex scenario, he was not able to move his foot otherwise. This is because there is a large difference between the normal nervous system reaction and the reflex movements. The sensory and motor neurons are connected to the spinal cord which is below th point of paralysis. Therefore, the normal sensory input was meaningless for it was not connected to the brain. This would explain the reaction that was discussed in class. One of the problems with my conjecture is that I am not certain where the reflex center (if there is one) is located.

Name: kelli
Date: 2002-02-11 14:39:52
Link to this Comment: 916

Our past meetings have provided me with a new perspective on how we interact with our environments. It seems acceptable to say that most of our knowledge is acquired by experience, through sensation. As mentioned by others, the sensation neurons are represented by an astoundingly small number of the total neurons. In my mind, this seems to give even more authority and control to the I-function, and ultimately to the underlying tacit function.

What is curious about quadriplegia is that the sensation ability is lost. Here, the term sensation must be seen in relation to I-function. Sensation implies awareness, becoming a more mental than physical term. Hence, there is a definite boundary between physical death and mental death. One can essentially receive input and involuntarily respond via output, but the process is removed consciousness.

I help to take care of a gentleman who suffers from a very rare brain disorder called progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). The actor Dudley Moore also suffers from PSP and has helped to fund research on the disease. To me, this is an even more devastating problem than quadriplegia. An individual suffering from PSP experiences gradual loss of function, first speech, ability to swallow, etc which then progressively leads to almost total paralysis. The person I am speaking of developed his first symptoms about five years ago and now is limited to subtle finger movements and occasional control of facial expressions, such as lifting his eyebrows. To blink, he must concentrate on forcing his eyes closed and then forcing them open again. We must frequently remind him to blink.

What is so tragic about PSP is that the mind is not at all affected, and capacity for sensation is maintained. However, output functions are almost completely suppressed. If I were to pinch this gentleman's toe, he would indeed feel it but he could not express that, or even move his foot away.

In an individual with PSP (as well as quadriplegia), the box model would be quite inefficient in describing input/output relationships. In PSP, output is limited to the realm of the I-function, or awareness. In quadriplegia, input/output is not even experienced by the I-function. These are very different instances. Is it better to maintain some normal input/output functions as in Christopher Reeve's case, or to be fully aware of all input yet have very, very limited output capacity?

Name: priya
Date: 2002-02-11 17:43:38
Link to this Comment: 919

In an effort to further understand the Christopher Reeve phenomena of output / response in spite of severe spinal chord damage I started to read William James’s The Principles of Psychology. James classifies actions into 3 primary categories—reflex actions (involuntary), semi-reflex actions, and voluntary actions. According to James, all three of the categories are inspired by “intelligence” because the responses are because “appropriate” to the situation at hand. More specifically, crying in response to something in your eye (involuntary) is inspired by intelligence and so is running in anticipation of catching a train (voluntary). This led me to think about the definition of intelligence. I’m not accustomed to thinking about actions related to mere survival as part of intelligence. More specifically, I don’t consider instinctual responses as intelligence. Returning to the Christopher Reeve phenomena, stimulating the appropriate area in his body resulted in an appropriate action even without his awareness. Although the action was appropriate to the input I find it hard to define this as intelligence. It seems to me that intelligence has more to do with the fact that Christopher Reeve can answer the question “Who is Christopher Reeve?” In particular, intelligence has more to do with awareness of one’s own existence. I surmise that James would consider the response of Christopher Reeves’ body as intelligent even though his awareness of the activity that led to the response was absent. In contrast, I feel that the I-function is were intelligence resides.

A few unrelated questions:

Is the I-function another namme for the mind?

How can we explain the fact that although Christopher Reeves suffered severe injuries to his spinal chord he has been able to regain some of the functions that had been previously lost as a result of his injury?

Is the I-function necessary for behavior?
Name: Cb
Date: 2002-02-11 18:05:11
Link to this Comment: 920

Now we know that behavior is broken down into parts and that behavior is caused by different parts of the nervous system. There are linkages among the different parts of the nervous system for behavior. So, if you pinch Reeves leg, it behaves as though it hurts. But, it does not hurt him because the neuronal disconnections did not let the signal to the brain. I would think that it still hurts, he just does not know that it hurts. However, if there is a box that corresponds to being there, the I-function, then the painful stimulus does not hurt him because the signal never reaches his brain. If behavior is being aware of behaving, then Reeves was not behaving. It sure seems like he was behaving.

Remember how Dr. Grobestein can not see on the right side because of the damage on the left side of his brain? Well, I think the conclusion we came to with that was the stimulus was there, but he did not think that he saw it, even though he did and even though he pointed to the area of the stimulus. So if Reeves was stimulated, and he reacted, acted or behaved to it, then how can that not be behavior just because his I-function was not there? This just seems like a different type of behavior.

If behaving is to be aware of behaving, then what about those who act out their dreams and sleep walk. Those who sleepwalk are not totally there or, their I-function is not there, just like Reeves or Grobestein’s isn’t. But how is that not behavior?

Name: Kathryn
Date: 2002-02-11 18:44:32
Link to this Comment: 921

I was really surprised about the Christopher Reeves phenomena. It seems strange that he would pull his foot away if one were to pinch it, yet he does not "feel" the pain. This just shows that brain=behavior. Before the accident, Reeves learned through experience that if someone pinches your toe, you pull your foot away. So although he does not feel anything from the waist down, it is programmed in his brain to pull his foot away from someone is pinching it. Even if the neurons do not send the pain sensation to his brain, his brain still registers the fact that someone is causing pain, and therefore he needs to pull the foot away. This behavior is still being acted out, even if the actual pain was not felt. This scenario brought new perpsective on the whole brain=behavior mystery.

Name: natasha
Date: 2002-02-11 19:28:43
Link to this Comment: 922

I was really surprised to find out, just as many of those in class did, that 99.999% of our neurons are interneurons, and not sensory and motor neurons. Upon thinking about this a little, it does make sense though--our bodies are huge in comparison to a neuron, and therefore in order for information to be sent from one place to another, you are going to need many neurons that are between the motor and sensory neurons in order for this to be achieved. Also, i was really surprised to find out that Christopher Reeves' foot withdraws when it is pinched but he doesn't know's amaizning that our body can respond and in a sense have a "mind of its own" without us (the brain) knowing about it. But how does this idea fit with the "brain= behavior" question. Obviously, in Reeves' case his brain does not know what his leg is doing when it is pinched, but he still exibits the behavior of moving the foot away from the irritating stimulus. So, is this not sort of like behavior without the brain?

Name: Amy Cunnin
Date: 2002-02-11 20:02:41
Link to this Comment: 927

I have been thinking over the "I-function" idea and an still confused about how to define it. Is it something completely separate from the inputs and outputs that we have been talking about, or is it part of the whole input-output system, and if so to what extent? In the Christopher Reeve example it seems like the I-function is separate from the rest of the body, but what about individuals with Alzheimer's or dementia? Does their I-function still exist, or does it disappear with the changes going on in the rest of their brain?

awareness box
Name: Shannon Le
Date: 2002-02-11 20:02:59
Link to this Comment: 928

There must be a box or many boxes in the brain corresponding to the awareness one experiences since a severed brain cannot acknowledge feeling the parts cut off from it. There are motor neurons in the medulla, the midbrain, and the most caudal portions on into the spinal cord. The most rostral portions of the brain, the diencephalon and the forebrain do not have motor neurons and few sensory neurons. The forebrain has only the olfactory nerves. We know that the spinal cord does not contain the portion of the nervous system that is aware and that it has many motor and sensory neurons. The farther rostral one examines up the nervous system there seems to be fewer motor and sensory neurons. Perhaps a suggestion can be made that the primary portion of the awareness box is in the forebrain.

Name: sook chan
Date: 2002-02-11 22:07:28
Link to this Comment: 931

When one pinches C.R's foot, it jerks back. How does this account for the brain and behavior mechanism? If one follows by this mechanism, Christopher Reeves is nothing but his face. That's the only part of his body whereby the sensory inputs are integrated and processed in the brain. Everything else is nothing but involuntary reflexes. This brings to mind the matter of perspective. In my perspective, I would say that Christopher has "behaved" in response to my pinch, and in his perspectve, the incident never happened. Say for example, if ten years ago, I met a man named Chris. However, it completely slipped my mind, and his. We meet again today and we have no recollection that we had ever met before. Does this mean that the event never took place? It did in the scheme of events in the world, yet it didn't in mine and Chris's world, and this in return, does not affect our behavior. In a sense, why does it even matter if we had met before if we don't remember it now? Why does anything that does not involve our lives and our direct experiences matter? This is just a thought that came to my mind, it may not even make any sense ...

Name: Joan Stein
Date: 2002-02-11 22:18:47
Link to this Comment: 932

They say that the body cannot live without the mind. Are the mind and the brain one of two different forces? Only a part of Christopher Reeves' brain was damaged, but evidently an important part as he is unable to walk or control most of his body and physical movement. But he is still able to speak, hear, see, feel, and think.

When there is brain damage, do neurons attempt to re-establish the former connection or try and establish a new connection? Is that what happens when some who are paralysed eventually get healed? Perhaps that is the method we need to develop in order to heal those who are parapalegic.

Name: Beverly We
Date: 2002-02-11 23:42:28
Link to this Comment: 937

Christopher Reeve does not experience sensation below his neck. Since his riding accident he has no control over muscles in most of his body. Yet his mind and memory are intact. He can remember that he once walked, ran, “flew” rode, drove, biked, skied and experienced other physical activities as a healthy man. His body is broken…but his mind is whole. When I think about the mind/body connection, I think that although CR’s body takes up space in the world, his body no longer defines him. The connection must be that they are one and the same thing.

Consider Steven Hawking and his crippled body. Despite his disease, he is still brilliant and although his body is withered, he is still Steven Hawking. His brain still functions in a most remarkable way and we can still recognize him although his voice and body are unrecognizable. The essence of the man is his brain, and since the brain controls everything, brain equals behavior even when there is no behavior other than the behavior of the brain. When all behavior ceases, so does the brain. If the brain can hold the sky and all that is in it with room enough for the "I", than the brain’s capacity is only limited by the scope of the imagination of the person who houses the brain.

Name: ashley
Date: 2002-02-12 00:04:51
Link to this Comment: 940

When thinking about the I-function and what it does, I wonder what memory is. How does it work? It was easy in grade school to think of the mind or memory as a computer or as a filing cabinet... Thinking about Christopher Reeve's condition, I started to really wonder why people act certain ways. It seems to me (although I admit that I have not followed too closely) that he has taken a generally positive outlook. He doesn't have to do that. I could not come to class. But, based on past experiences, I find it's best if I do attend.
So, how does this happen physically in the nervous system? In Reeve's brain, what happens that makes him smile for the camera as opposed to not? Is there a seperate neuron pathway for each and every single choice we ever make in our life?

Christopher Reeve, etc.
Name: Gavin Impe
Date: 2002-02-12 00:06:51
Link to this Comment: 941

The problem that faces Christopher Reeve, to put it simply, is a circuitry problem. He can perform all of the functions of higher thought and processing that any other human can; however, he has lost the ability to control "himself" in the biological sense. I think the idea of the I-function is confusing because people have very differing views on what exactly constitutes the self. Most people would tend to think of Christopher Reeve as a normal human being. By this logic all you need to be normal is to have a functioning head, forget about interaction with the rest of the body.

The general populace throws around terms such as shallow coma and deep coma, without much regard for the fact that there are numerous clinical features of the different stages of a "coma." So, given someone who is unconscious for an extended period of time, when do we begin to stop thinking that they possess an I-function? I have had the opportunity to witness the management of numerous such patients with a range of neurologic conditions in the medical intensive care unit of a major academic medical center. Many of the physicians I worked with had differing views on patients with brain damage. Some were quick to assume that comatose patients ceased to have a sense of self and the ability to have any awareness of themselves or the outside environment. Still others cited how the "locked-in state" (patients can process events and stimuli around them, but cannot effect a voluntary response to them) is mysterious, and one can never be certain of exactly what activities are going on in the brain.

It seems that all of this begs the questions – when do you stop being you? Are you really there if you are in a persistent vegetative state? Are quadriplegics like Christopher Reeve really there? Can you actually cease to possess a "self" after a certain degree of brain injury? Essentially, patients in the persistent vegetative state are on autopilot. There is no one manning the controls, but the plane keeps flying. This does not mean to say that the possibility for patients with even severe brain injury can’t be aware of what is happening to them. There are a range of behaviors that do not require you (the psychological construct of you) to be there, but they require the biologic and physical you. Some patients with no hope of ever leading a productive life again who are teathered to a ventilator can open their eyes, move them spontaneously, and cringe when tested with a deep pain stimulus, but for all intense and purposes, they are not there. In the ICU, I observed this to be a very difficult thing for family members of patients to accept. They would look a loved one in their eyes, see them blink, and swear that he or she was in there somewhere. They saw such actions as things the patient himself or herself was doing – they saw this as evidence of free will – however, it wasn’t really "him" or "her" in the sense they thought it was.

When someone has ceased to be able to carry out higher order processing, have they lost their I-function? Some scientists argue that even when there is just the slightest trace of brain activity, one can never be certain that there are not processes going on elsewhere in the brain that we just don’t know about. The mere fact that there has been intense debate about what constitutes brain death is a testament itself to how muddy and complicated the idea of brain = behavior is. A person who is suffering from a drug overdose can temporarily exhibit the same clinical findings as someone who has had severe irreparable brain damage. However, the overdose victim can regain mental status fairly quickly.

Week 3
Name: Mary Schli
Date: 2002-02-12 00:24:05
Link to this Comment: 942

I think that we gained a better understanding of the relationship between brain and behavior when we examined Christopher Reeve’s injury in class last week. It makes sense to me that since his spinal cord was damaged and information can’t get from his lower body to his upper body then Christopher Reeves the “person” is located in his brain. It then follows that we need to add a box in our model (the I-function) that symbolizes “awareness” or “consciousness” of oneself and one’s surroundings. However, one thing I am a bit confused about is what we are calling Christopher Reeve’s response when we pinch his toe if we are not considering it a reflex.

It is useful to add the I-function to our model since it makes sense from the observations of Christopher Reeve’s condition that this consciousness is probably located somewhere in the brain (although we might want to get more data that supports this notion). However, adding the I-function box raises many new questions. For example, what is the box made of? Is it an area in the brain like the amygdala and thalamus or is it neuronal activity in the brain? What behaviors is the I-function (i.e. consciousness) capable of producing – is dreaming a state that the I-function moderates or is dreaming controlled by another area of the brain? Are insects conscious? These are just some of the unanswered questions that we might want to address when we modify our model.

Name: Beverly We
Date: 2002-02-12 07:11:37
Link to this Comment: 943

Is there a difference between NORMAL and HUMAN? We cannot really define normal, but we know what is human. Is the I-function that which makes us human, or is it consciousness?

Name: Kathryn
Date: 2002-02-12 09:52:49
Link to this Comment: 945

The idea of an "I" function really makes the brain=behavior argument a lot stronger in my mind. It answers many of the questions I had about the input/output boxes model, such as where consciousness and decision making take place. I also thought it was extremely interesting to see that the self really seems to be contained within the brain alone. Christopher Reeves shows us that even without control over the movement of his body, he is still there. It is just as Emily Dickinson stated in her poem, "the one the other will contain with ease -and you- beside." My uncle has had cerebral palsy since birth and is paralyzed from the neck down, with only limited movement above the neck. His perspective is very interesting because unlike Christopher Reeves, he had never be able to have control over his movements so to him, this is all he knows, and he thinks a person can live a good life without having control over his movements. To him, the mind or "I" function is much more important to who a person is than a person's behavior. This shows that a person is really contained within the brain, it is who we are.

a middle ground to the I-function?
Name: Sarah Eber
Date: 2002-02-12 23:44:27
Link to this Comment: 954

The concept of the so-called “experience box” or “I-function” box seems to be a fairly straightforward idea: if the input is not relayed to the brain, the I-function is limited; if input is relayed, the I-function is unrestricted and can operate normally. This, however, is a fairly black and white view of things.
An example of the contrast used in class was that of the wish of a quadriplegic to move his foot. This prompting, while occuring in the I-function box, had nothing to work with, since the nerves leading down to the muscles controlling the foot were severed. However, when a fully functional person triggers that same wish to move his foot, the movement is accomplished because the link from I-function box to motor neuron is complete.
Departing slightly from the condition of quadriplegia, there is an incident related in a book by Oliver Sachs that seems to stand on the middle ground between the two seeming choices of the I-function box. He gives the example of a young woman, hospitalized for a minor operation, who mysteriously became close to paralyzed. As she recovered, slowly regaining mobility, she found that she was only able to control her muscles by watching what she did. If she attempted to hold a spoon, she could only retain her grip on it if she kept her eyes on her hand; if she moved her gaze away, her muscles would immediately go slack and the spoon would fall to the floor. This constant concentration was required for every movement that she made.
In other words, while the link from brain to muscles was intact, there was still something faulty in the I-function box, the “experience box.” Perhaps in a way she was unable to recall that “experience,” the knowledge acquired as a baby while learning to walk. In any case, it seems to disprove the black-and-white, on-or-off notion of the I-function box.

Name: Cb
Date: 2002-02-13 22:08:00
Link to this Comment: 969

If there is an I-function for conscious "internal experience", then shouldn't there be a box for the unconscious "internal experience?

christopher reeves and self
Name: miranda
Date: 2002-02-13 22:24:08
Link to this Comment: 971

Chritopher Reeves situation is certainly very interesting and helpful in understanding the relationship between brain and behavior. Knowledge of his condition really aids me deciding whether or not brain equals behavior. It seems obvious to me that Christopher Reeves' self-hood would be located in his brain. Amputees do not suffer from anything other than the loss of a limb and can function completely in every other aspect of life. Christopher Reeves' condition seems to be nothing more than an affirmation that the self is located in the brain. Though his body still has the capability to move (in the case of his retracting his foot), his actions are independent from his identity. Because we experience every movement and our entire bodies seem to be so much part of us, we are uncomfortable with the idea that all behavior stems from the brain. However, in Christopher Reeves' case, we can easier understand the question we are trying to understand. Though Christopher Reeves has no sensory experiences from his neck down, he has no less of a sense of self than you or me.

Name: alisa
Date: 2002-02-14 00:13:38
Link to this Comment: 972

im still a little confused about the i-function. When we put it in the context of Christopher Reeves case, it seems to make sense. but does the function still exist if the person has no memory? does the i-function control both the trasmition of input/output signals?

Frontal Lobe
Name: Lilian
Date: 2002-02-14 00:27:30
Link to this Comment: 973

Has anyone ever seen the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest?" I'm not sure when it came out- possibly in the 70's- Jack Nicholson, Danny Devito, Christopher Loyd (i think that's his name- Doc Brown from Back to the Future). Well, the movie's relevence here concerns the "I-Function." In the closing scene of the movie, McMurphy is escorted back to bed by two hospital attendants. Chief tries to communicate with McMurphy, but he is inresponsive. He is not dead, nor is he parylized- he walked back to his own bed. Upon closer examination, Chief sees a scar across his forehead. He then takes a pillow, and suffocates his friend (who by the way offers some resistance to dying). What they did to McMurphy, after he tried to strangle nurse Ratchet, was give him a frontal lobotomy. The I-Function seems to correspond to the concept of "the self" (in psychological, or philosophical terms). Afterall, i am mySELF and the reason that I can say that is because there is a self to be, more specifically, MYself, namely "I". In McMurphy's case, it seemed that he no longer had a concept of the self. He did not respond to attempts at verbal communication, nor does he speak when he is touched, although the remainder of his life functions were in order. Perhaps then, "I-Function" box is located in the frontal lobe of the brain (I heard this part of the brain is light-sensitive, and is referred to as the "third-eye"- anyone know more about that?). While we're on the topic of Hollywood, let's take a second to remember the not-so-memorable follow-up to "Silence of the Lambs," "Hannibal." In the climactic scene of that movie, Hannibal Lechter performs a frontal lobotomy on his dinner guest, fries up the slivers of brain, and then feeds him his own brain. He mumbles something automatic, like "mmm, good." And as he cuts away more tissue, his guest (I can't remember his name) loses more and more of his speech, but he can still perform certain basic thoughtless things like chewing (his own brain).
Question: Can you habituate, that is, teach a frog anything? Or are learned behaviors courtesy of the cerebellum.

"I-function" box, connections, experience
Name: Tua
Date: 2002-02-14 02:06:33
Link to this Comment: 979

In class on Tuesday Prof. Grobstein said "Internal experience is the experience of being there, much behavior is just doing things and not being there." There are activities, especially habitual activities which are often performed on auto-pilot. Is it that the connection between the I function box and a motor neuron are so quick that it can go unnoticed by our consciousness? I wonder then at the selectivity of the i-function box, and how it/we choose(s) what to experience. Even if the connections between the i-function box and certain motor neurons are broken, can the i-function box, from previously having experienced something, remember what it was like to be in that particular situation? For instance, it would seem, judging from the likes of Beethoven, that people who become deaf later in their lives, can still have an internal experience of music. The connections might be broken, but it would seem as though these individuals can still "be there." Where does memory and habit come into this process? Also, can inputs and outputs be rerouted and if so could this procedure be used to repair broken connections?

Name: TC
Date: 2002-02-14 02:24:24
Link to this Comment: 981

I was very surprised to learn that Christopher Reeve's foot would move if you pinched it. I hadn't expected that to be the response at all. Biologically, it makes sense, but now I'm unsure as to what to think in terms of brain=behaviour. Because if brain equals behavior and the nerves of the foot were no longer connected to the brain... then there should be no behavior or reaction. But then again, since the spinal cord is considered part of the brain, I guess the idea of brain=behavior still works.

brain as a super computer
Name: biz
Date: 2002-02-15 00:09:25
Link to this Comment: 997

i liked learning that neurons send signals, and no matter what kind of message they relay, they're all the same signal. i.e.: movement of knee signal=blinking your eyeball's just the final destination of the signal that determines the subsequent action.

it got me thinking about the brain and different areas that make it up. signals are differentiated based on where they end up. one thing i don't understand is how any signal decides where it is going, or how to get there. is there a predisposed pathway from eye to brain that can never go anywhere else? is this pathway clearly marked, like a street with stopsigns and do not enter-one way traffic signs? or is this a path that is not interconnected with other pathways, therefor a signal isn't given the opportunity to possibly stray?

Name: Nicole
Date: 2002-02-15 14:31:51
Link to this Comment: 1000

Learning about the signals neurons send got me thinking about how all the signals are the same. For me, this concept is a little hard to grasp because of the actions those signals produce. Thinking about neurons and how they work got me thinking about people who have split-brain. The way these people act is an interesting phenomenon, which helps to support the neuron messages. These people can see something on their left eye and write it with their right hand. The right side of their body does not know what the left side of their body is doing.

Always interesting
Name: Rebecca Ro
Date: 2002-02-15 22:50:53
Link to this Comment: 1002

Wondering people's thoughts on the cat clone.

"The cloned cat, called cc, for carbon copy, is a genetically identical copy of a 2-year-old female cat, Rainbow. But Rainbow and cc do not look alike, illustrating that identical twin cats may not have identical coats. " NY Times Feb 15th.

week 4
Date: 2002-02-16 10:41:56
Link to this Comment: 1004

So ... you can, as always, write about anything you like (yes, the issue of cloning as per this week's news reports is relevant ... coat patterns different ... behavior also?). You have web papers due a week from Tuesday, maybe some sharing of what you've begun learning? And, there is always what we're talking about in class, so here's a question to get you started if you need/want one:

We've gotten to neurons, the smallest boxes of the nervous system, and discovered that they all pretty much use basically the same "signal", an action potential. What does this (and the associated "see thunder and hear lightning" problem) do for our "brain=behavior" idea? What new problems do we have to contend with given what we know about action potentials?

Name: Beverly We
Date: 2002-02-17 19:54:49
Link to this Comment: 1018

I am perplexed about Prof. Grobstein’s theoretical that one could “switch the cables” so that the auditory nerve delivers an output message of hearing thunder to the optical repository in the brain and the brain would translate “see” thunder; And conversely, the optic nerve could deliver an output message to the aural repository and the brain will “hear” lightning.

I understand that theoretically this makes sense, however, aren’t these cells very specialized? Can cells take over properties of other cells? When the brain is damaged, there are cells that take on the job of other cells, could this happen in neurons that are so specific as aural and optical cells? Even though the action potential is the same in every cell fire or no fire)the cells still all specialize. The brain still equals behavior, but what behavior?

Name: Ricky
Date: 2002-02-17 22:55:43
Link to this Comment: 1021

The "see thunder and hear lightning" problem seems very interesting in supporting the idea that every neuron receives a "same" signal or action potential and only the outout response is different. However, I am somewhat confused in how the auditory nerve can send a message of hearing thunder to the optical part of the brain and the brain would translate "see" thunder and vice versa for a message sent by the optic nerve to the auditory part of the brain that would be translated into "hear" lightning. If the thunder/ligthning problem occurs, what in our brain is used to correct a message that is sent to the wrong part of the brain?
The neurons all seem to deal with an action potential, but where does the stinulus lie? Is the action potential caused by the stimulus from the organism's external or internal environment? For instance, what stimulus triggers a headache? How do various stimulus affect the action potential?

Name: Aly
Date: 2002-02-18 00:34:47
Link to this Comment: 1022

It is interesting that neurons are all the same and are only differentiated from each other by the specialized receptors in the brain. I understand how different behaviors can occur in a specific individual because inputs are just received differently, but I question what accounts for the differences in behavior demonstrated by different people? If the signals are all carried along the same pathways and use the same action potential method, then what accounts for so-called behaviors that make us individuals?. If brain does equal behavior, then the differences in the brain would have to be responsible for the differences in behavior. Are these differences too located in the specialized receptors of the brain?

The idea of seeing thunder and hearing lightning really facinates me. If the hearing part of the brain recieved signals from the eye, how exactly would it be interpreted? It is hard to fathom what thunder would look like. Would the traveling signals produce a picture of something familiar, or would the induced picture not make any sense at all to our brains? This experiment gets me thinking. If the receptors can be changed to induce physical differences in an individual, can receptors responsible for such things as emotion be changed too? If we somehow cross emotional paths or paths responsible for the thought process, could we then get an indivual to think and "act" like another person? If this be the case, then I see no reason why brain would not equal behavior. It would show that a material change could bring about a change in an immaterial thing. If it was not the case, then what is the difference between physical responses, like hearing and seeing, and emotional/thinking responses?

Name: lilian
Date: 2002-02-18 11:45:23
Link to this Comment: 1027

It seems to me that the important part about the thunder=lightening example, that is, the point which the example illustrates, is that all of the signals in the brain are the same kind of signals, but they travel on different pathways to different destinations. Of course, if the pathways were rerouted, it follows that their signals would terminate in different locations. If you can understand the example in theory, that's all you need, because, of course, we can't ACTUALLY do this expirement on a living specimen. The question of what thunder would look like or what lightening would sound like, is an interesting question with no definate answer. We could think about the properties of light and sound. Length of sound waves (tone) could be compared to color (length of light waves), and intensity of sound (loudness) might correspond to intensity of color (brightness). I'm not sure if these correlations work- does anyone have any suggestions?

Name: Cindy Zhan
Date: 2002-02-18 12:25:45
Link to this Comment: 1028

i was very intrigued by the idea that the time that takes for the action potential to occur acccount for the "time" to think. I knew about "time to think" and action potentials, but i never made a connection between the two.Im excited to learn about other ways that action potential impact our behavior other then its impact on how long it takes for us to think.

Speaking of making connection. I'm doing my research on math and music and how the the brain connect those too. Im hoping to apply the information that i learned in class to the paper. Hopefully.. somewhere in the paper i shall write about how action potentials affects music and math or vice versa.

action potential
Name: Hilary Hoc
Date: 2002-02-18 13:48:53
Link to this Comment: 1029

That the brain uses only one signal, and that this signal is itself an all-or nothing-proposition, seems to argue against the idea of infinite variability. [And how does the human brain engage in fuzzy logic using only on/off signals??] Simultaneously, however, this simple organizational principle gives the brain great flexibility -- the pathway of the signal determines how the information is used, and there is a virtually infinite number of arrangements for the pathways. A single change in the arrangement of neurons could result in numerous changes in behavior. But for behavior itself to change over time, then the neuronal pathways must change too, either by changing their arrangement and/or by changing the responses to input and/or changing their ability to receive a specific type of input. In such a sensitive mechanism, how does this change occur?

Name: kelli deer
Date: 2002-02-18 14:27:30
Link to this Comment: 1032

The proposed experiment in which the aural and optic nerves are reversed to result in the ability to "hear" lightening and "see" thunder seems to be a clever thought, but somehow I feel it is not physiologically feasible. Yes, all neurons are structurally and functionally similar, relying on action potential as their energetic signal. However, the receptor proteins of cells are different and specialized to produce certain appropriate responses.

Different kinds of sensations are associated with different receptor cells. For example, the rod and cone receptor cells in the retina respond only to the electromagnetic radiation of light. Hair bundles that move in response to vibrations from sound waves top the aural neurons. If these specialized units are altered, then I do not feel that any useful response would result from stimulus. Could energy from light possibly be interpreted by aural neurons? Likewise, could thunder be "seen" considering the physiological limitations of optic neurons?

I agree with Hilary that great variability lies in the arrangement of neural pathways. This supports the idea that complex human behavior differs from, say, the behavior of a frog in brain organization. I feel that it is in this theory that the variation with respect to brain=behavior argument has its strongest foundation.

Name: cass
Date: 2002-02-18 19:11:51
Link to this Comment: 1039

Do we actually know what it means to see thunder and hear lightning?
I wonder if it even matters if the nerves were switched because in the end we would get the same message. If the nerves were switched then would we actually be able to tell the difference since we are getting both stimuli anyway? When thinking about this phenomenon, I remember that what creates different reactions and behaviors and essentially thinking, is the organization of neurons and the different pathways. So, the nerves are switched, but we still get a behavior, just a different one.

I guess what is more important is where these signals come from. Obviously, the thunder and lightning, being stimuli, would come from the action potential traveling down the length of the axon. After that, it then goes to the brain, and I guess elicits some sort of behavior depending on where it goes. But, the stimuli never changes, it is just how that person chooses (or not) to interpret it. If you think about all of the individuality in the world and that the organization of neurons is what differentiates those people and animals, then the seeing thunder, hearing lightning makes sense.

Week 4
Name: Rebecca Ro
Date: 2002-02-18 19:37:14
Link to this Comment: 1040

The nervous system relies upon organization. There are interactions between groups of neurons. We need to know more about the nervous system in relation to behavior itself. We behave without being fully aware all of the time. Everyone has a brain, but everyone’s brain is different. Therefore, if we have different brains, to a certain extent, we will see and hear things differently. We would be using the same “signal”, but could it connect differently? Could the same processes that we are experiencing be looked at differently depending on how detailed we are? People see things differently. You can ask people what they just saw, and you could have thought you saw the same thing, but really didn’t according to the people you ask. People can see different aspects of different things. What about interpretation?

Bodily electricity
Name: Joan Stein
Date: 2002-02-18 19:55:13
Link to this Comment: 1044

The brain and nervous system is a marvelous specimen. All the signals circuiting throughout our bodies, no wonder the human form produces so much electricity.

What I find fascinating about psychology and psychiatry is that one of the ways they attempt to explain someone's strange behavior, or different behavior, is a misconnection between certain neurons or a connection not getting through. After learning about all the different possibilities within in the nervous system itself I find it amazing how anyone really has the gaul to say that someone's system is not properly connected.

With a system like the nervous system, how can anyone even begin to comprehend what could possibly be a "right connection"? And how we attempt to try and mess with all the numerous chemicals produced by the brain that transmit through all our neurons. Perhaps a question I am going to pitch is that with such a vast and complicated system, there is even an attempt at defining "normal".

Name: Amy Cunnin
Date: 2002-02-18 20:09:14
Link to this Comment: 1045

I don't think that the idea of all neurons having the same action potential changes the brain= behavior idea too much. As we said in class earlier this semester, our brains contain trillions of neurons that can be arranged in an almost infinite number of ways, so the fact that they all have the same signal doesn't matter as much as their arrangement. Also, as others in the forum pointed out, neurons pass their siganls along to different kinds of receptor cells, which also can account for variations in behavior.

Name: Gabrielle
Date: 2002-02-18 20:55:23
Link to this Comment: 1050

Since we were talking about the speed of action potentials I started thinking about intelligence. Action potentials can't be the determining factor in how fast someone figures out a problem because some people can do problems a lot faster than others. That can possibly be explained by thinking about the connections between the neurons. In a more intelligent person the connections must be more efficient. The signal doesn't have to travel through as many neurons. Instead of going from A to B to C, the signal goes directly from A to C. Then, there should be some limit to how fast something can be thought of or done. But, I feel like in this day and age everyone is doing everything faster and no plateau is being reached. Maybe there is an infinite possible efficiency.

hearing lightening and seeing thunder
Name: Tara Monik
Date: 2002-02-18 21:33:53
Link to this Comment: 1052

It seems impossible to understand the concept of seeing thunder and hearing lightening since we’ve all experienced it in the opposite way. How could lightening make a sound if it is just very high energy travelling at a certain wavelength? And since we’ve understood thunder to be energy which is released in the form of sound, how would it look to us? I think that the idea of hearing lightening and seeing thunder would not necessarily mean that lightening would become a sound and thunder would be a sight, but maybe instead our eyes would do the same thing that our ears do—therefore we would still hear thunder, but we would hear it with our ears rather than our ears. If this were the case, then our eyes would act as our audio pathway to the brain and our ears would be the visual way to the brain. This is a very interesting concept, but is there anyway to actually know for sure what the results of the exchange would be?

Name: natasha
Date: 2002-02-18 22:11:18
Link to this Comment: 1053

I have to admit that knowing that all the neurons in the body respond through action potential(the same mechanism for all), troubles me. To me this implies a certain "limit" to the nervous system. But since we know that everyone is different, accounting for the fact that there are many different nervous systems, then where does this difference come from? Are there mechanisms in our body that regulate the input/output system of the neuron? Just like some people in this class believe, I believe that if we can postulate that different nervous systems account for different individuals, then it would be fair to say that when one "changes" or "modifies" their behavior, that intails a change in the nervous system. But what kind of change is that?

Name: Michelle T
Date: 2002-02-18 22:42:00
Link to this Comment: 1056

I think that we have pretty much exhausted the hear lightening/ see thunder perplexity and found that we don't have any definite answers. So, I am just going to throw in a comment about my paper topic and see if it rubs anyone the wrong way.

We have found in America's society that there are many people who suffer from depression. Some people have found comfort in taking antidepressant drugs claiming that they're a new person on this medication. What exactly is this attributed to -- the medication or the person's thinking that the medication should change her mood? This may seem trivial to some people, but just consider the millions of dollars spent on antidepressants a year. Are people just being exploited or do these medications actually work? I have found some interesting facts that could lead one to believe that people are wasting their money. For example, Prozac did not prove to be more effective than the placebo in the initial trials. The data had to be manipulated in order for the Food and Drug Administration to pass it as legal. There are other such claims that only some antidepressants are effective for certain people and that the psychiatrists who prescribe the medication don't know what is suitable. They simply try different medications that have the less lethal number of side effects until maybe one works. The whole world of psychiatry seams very shady to me.

Name: Shannon Le
Date: 2002-02-18 22:55:07
Link to this Comment: 1057

I am still having trouble comprehending the idea of seeing thunder and hearing lightning, but I believe the possibility is becoming clearer. All the action potentials are the same between the neurons, therefore, connectivity between cells and receptors must allow for the many functions of the brain. The potentials are all or none so how many potentials and the rate of potentials between different neurons must be important. The “see thunder, hear lightening” idea supports the idea of brain = behavior, suggesting that if the neurons are connected differently the brain will behave differently. Certain cells develop specialized specialties in the brain, depending on the region, and then branch out to make the correct connectivity. It seems the neurons responsible for the picture formed in the brain would be so highly specialized and need such specific amounts of action potentials and neurotransmitters that they would not understand the information coming from the auditory sensory axons.

Name: sook chan
Date: 2002-02-18 23:25:15
Link to this Comment: 1060

Does thunder look like anything and does lighting sound like something? It does, if we believe it does, or maybe past experiencs have made us believe and recognize a certain thing. It makes sense that signals are all alike and that the transmission and processing of those signals undergo similar pathways, however, where in this pathway does our brain come along?
If transmission of signal is equated with the box within boxes summary, then what part does the I function play?

I am writing my webpaper on dissociative identity disorder, focusing less on the mystery of the disorder than the mystery of how someone can make themselves believe that something is real if they just try hard enough.

Name: Michele Dr
Date: 2002-02-18 23:52:43
Link to this Comment: 1062

a quick thought on the cloned kitten-- when i read about it in the papers, one of the reasons for the cloning of pets specifically was to be able to reproduce the beloved pet that the owner has lost and misses so much. although it sounds like good intent, i doubt the cloning of a pet could ever really result in replicating the behavior and personality of the original animal unless its individual eccentricities were caused by a genetic factor, the behaviors of the animal are most likely molded by the un-reproduceable experiences it has in its youth and throughout its life. i won't beat a dead horse by going thru the entire nature-vs-nurture debate over again, but i think its ridiculous that a major push for cloning at all in the news these days is to promise a replica of a loved one.

the see thunder/hear lightning concept confuses me a little still. does an audio input have the ability, in a case like this, to generate an image that the brain believes it is seeing? is there any way an audio input can actually cause the brain to perceive an image that is not there? the light and sound waves are information that is taken in only by specific non-interchangeable physical methods. how would the message be translated from one to the other?

getting off the topic--- I like Michelle's concept for her paper, i think the psychosomatic effects of taking a pill and expecting a specific effect are very interesting. ive read about various psychological studies here and there in which the results showed that the psychosomatic effects were actually more effective in behavior than the actual physical effects of the drug-- (alcohol comes to mind immediately, with people always loosening up significantly upon their very first sip). it would be interesting to learn about the strength of the placebo effect with anti-depressants.

Name: Jenny Mary
Date: 2002-02-19 00:12:39
Link to this Comment: 1064

Everyone can relate to it, and this week I have fallen victim to it several times - procrastination. Noticing a definite frequency in my procrastinating habits, I have decided to research it for the web paper. Ironically, despite the evolving brain=behavior debate, my inquiries into procrastination were excited by my curiosity of my annoying behavior. I caught myself addressing it as such, prior to reading material on the subject and realizing it is clearly linked to the brain. Newsflash, brain=behavior! This stood as further proof that while I comprehend the linkage of behavior to the brain, I have not fully accepted it. Perhaps I will be further convinced of the truth with my research for the paper.

Name: Mary Schli
Date: 2002-02-19 00:45:28
Link to this Comment: 1065

I didn’t read the article on the cloning of the cats, but I tend to agree with some of the comments posted here already that stated that while one may clone the cat, you are not necessarily cloning his behavior and personality. Many experiences in life make us who we are, and I think that it is the same for our pets. Just because a clone has the same DNA doesn’t mean that he will behave in the same way since his experiences must be different from the first cat’s experiences in some significant ways and our experiences help define who we are. I think that if this type of cloning is allowed to occur in the general population then we might have a lot of upset people wondering why their cloned animal doesn’t behave the same way that their first animal behaved.

In regards to the lightning/thunder issue, I too am a bit confused on the whole hearing lightning and seeing thunder idea, and while I understand it in theory it is hard to grasp in a more concrete way. Hopefully this will become clearer as the week goes on.

Name: alisa
Date: 2002-02-19 01:28:09
Link to this Comment: 1067

I have more questions than comments. If there are mistakes made in the brain wiht how things are received or interpreted, what in the brain makes the corrections? How does the brain translate the signals received and where does this translation take place? I still wonder how the same imputs can be received differently for different people.

Lightning, Thunder, Cloning
Name: Gavin Impe
Date: 2002-02-19 02:37:48
Link to this Comment: 1069

This whole idea of seeing thunder and hearing lighting seems to fit very well with the "brain = behavior" idea. The idea that simply swaping a cable connection can lead to such a simple and uncomplicated result troubles me, however. Didn’t we disucuss in an earlier class that often complicated things can result from relatively simple processes? How can we be totally sure that all that is at stake here is a pathway and an endpoint, with the two as interchangeable parts?

About the cloning issue – I agree with Mary’s post in which she, citing the importance of experience in the development of personality, talks about how identical DNA might not necessarily make for identical behavior in humans. It seems to me that we might finally be able to put the brain = behavior and nature vs. nuture debates to rest when humans are cloned and we start doing some controlled experiments to determine the effect of environment on behavior.

Name: peffin
Date: 2002-02-19 08:54:45
Link to this Comment: 1072

I think that Gabby brought up an interesting example supporting brain = behavior.

"Instead of going from A to B to C, the signal goes directly from A to C."

Action potential can be used as a measure of how fast one thinks. Yet not everyone thinks at the same speed. So she suggested that there are "short-cuts" in the nervous system.
This causes me to wonder, how are these new paths formed? How long does it take someone to repeat an action (physically or mentally) for the brain to recognize a short-cut?

Michelle Tahmoush's Paper Topic
Name: Kathryn
Date: 2002-02-19 09:44:13
Link to this Comment: 1073

Michelle's paper topic really got me thinking about whether medications like Prozac actually work. I agree that psychiatry is not as exact in prescribing medications as other fields of medicine, but I think that this is due to the fact that there aren't any precise tests or diagnostic tools that would allow the psychiatrist to diagnose a patient with certainty. What I mean by this is that a psychiatrist can't just take a throat culture or a blood sample and send it to the lab to find out if the patient suffers from depression. Since there isn't a precise way to this, I think this is why the psychiatrist must experiment with medications -- they don't seem to have any other choice. Everyone's brain has the same chemicals, but they may have different amounts and different medications would effect their brains in different ways. That is why Prozac works for some people and not others. Of course I think that some people who take Prozac are experiencing the placebo effect. These people probably want the medicine to work so they believe that it does. However I think that these people are the minority. I think that medicines really can and do affect a person's mood and how they feel about themselves. One example that some people can relate to and that proves that chemicals affect the brain is how alcohol or drugs affects the brain. When someone is drunk, they feel and act very differently than they normally do. The same idea applies to drugs such as cocaine. While cocaine is illegal now and it is not considered to have medicinal purposes, at point it was used for medicinal purposes. Sigmund Freud prescribed it to many of his patients and he considered it to be a wonder drug. Of course we know more about it's damaging effects now and know that it is not a very effective medicine. However if chemicals like these affect the brain and how the person feels, then it makes sense that a drug like Prozac would do the same for some people. However it doesn't work the same for everyone which is why the psychiatrist must experiment with different antidepressants. Yet I think it is possible to find a drug that affects the brain in a way that helps the person feel better. However this needs to be a choice between the doctor and the patient based only on how the medicine makes the patient feel. What I object to is the drug companies advertising these medications on TV. This makes people think that a certain medication will solve all their problems and this might not be true. People respond differently to different treatments and the psychiatrist probably has more knowledge about these options than the patient. This is why I don't think it is a good idea for the patient to walk in and request a medication because it could increase the placebo effect, and make it seem as if the drug has no medicinal value since so many people would be on the wrong medication.

Cloned kitten
Name: Sarah Eber
Date: 2002-02-19 17:16:29
Link to this Comment: 1078

The experiment of cloning a kitten, and its results, provide strong evidence that the characteristics of an individual (i.e. behavior), are much more strongly influenced by its environment than by its inherent genetic layout. The example of fur patterns cited in class is just the start of this. If this cat has a frightening experience with a dog, it will likely be wary of dogs throughout its life, even if the animal from which it was cloned was quite friendly to dogs; if fed on canned food, the clone may (if it has enough intelligence), learn to respond to the sound of a can opener, even if the original animal ate dry food and therefore reacted to the sound of kibble falling into a dish. These things are examples of learning, pathways in the brain connecting in different ways because of the different experiences of the two genetically identical cats.

But how different can these animals become? Many domestic animals are bred to be relaxed around people and other animals; if a “friendly gene” is shared by the cats, then does this mean that biologically, both must retain a certain amount of amiability towards their fellow creatures, no matter how traumatizing their experience? What about intelligence? The two may each hear the sounds of their personal dinners, but are they both limited by the same IQ, perhaps to the point of being unable to connect the noises to impending dinner?

The “least wrong” answer I have come up with so far is this: the cloned cats are given the same framework, the same physical capabilities, within which to work. To put it more simply, each has access to the same number of puzzle pieces. How they put them together, and how successful the end result is, relies nearly entirely upon the cats’ personal experiences.

week 5
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2002-02-21 08:15:58
Link to this Comment: 1101

You've got web papers due next Tuesday, so maybe you're a little preoccupied with that and so the forum will be a little slow this week? Don't worry about it if you're feeling hassled. On the other hand ... by all means write if you feel like it.

We've discovered that signals can indeed start in the middle of the nervous system, that neurons are each little computers, and that there are both excitatory and inhibitory signals. Does that change how one thinks about behavior? the brain? the relation between them? What new issues does it raise?

Name: miranda
Date: 2002-02-21 09:38:34
Link to this Comment: 1102

Knowing that neurons can initiate signals brings up some interesting points. In some ways, it seems to disprove that brain equals behavior. The brain itself is not the sole cause of behavior. For example, if I put my hand on a hot stove, I will remove my hand before my brain has processed pain. However, I believe that Professor Grobstein said earlier this semester that when he says brain equals behavior, he really means the entire nervous system equals behavior. Thus the equation still stands.

There is one problem I could see with the possibility of signals starting in the middle of the nervous system. There are so many neurons in one's body that it could be possible for signals to interfere or send conflicting messages. Thus the nervous system is much more complex than were there one autonomous initiator of action.

Name: Rebecca Ro
Date: 2002-02-21 23:54:28
Link to this Comment: 1116

The brain's ability to perceive, think, remember, and control actions and emotions is based on an intricate set of connections---10 billion neurons. Our understanding of how these neural connections develop is going to change as long as more research is being done. The brain, which is composed of these individual neurons, are controlling our mind. The brain evolves to shape itself. While looking at the web for information on neurons, I came across this analogy--"Perhaps the brain is not like a computer, but more like an orchestra, with billions of neurons cooperating to produce the symphony we call thought." Just another way of looking at the brain. To even begin to understand the function of nervous systems and the organization of behavior is extremely complex.

Isn't it true that when you hear something new you grow more dendrites to reach other neurons? If that is true, the more you practice, the stronger the neural connections become. Since most neurons receive information from other neurons and then pass this information along, so could that be received at any part? How exactly does the brain work? What is the relationship between the brain and mental functioning? Is it the neurons in the brain that are firing and allowing us to become the people who we are?

Name: Cindy Zhan
Date: 2002-02-22 12:22:31
Link to this Comment: 1118

during the lection about action potentials and resting potentials. I all of a sudden realized something. If it takes time for reaction to occur, and the act of listening to prof grobstein in class is a reaction.Then it takes time for us to "hear" prof grobstein. WHen sound is coming out of the lecturer, our brain takes in the sound wave and process them so we can make sense of what the sound mean. All of that takes probably many many action potentials to accomplish. say that each action potential takes 1m/sec to occur, then there is a possbility that from the time the sound came out of prof grostein to the time that the student actually "hear" and undertand what he is saying, fractions of a second, or maybe even seconds had passed. . .

i just though that is this so cool because before realizing this, i always assume that speaking and hearing occur simultaneously. like someone was talking to me, the moment the sound came out is the moment that i heard the sound. It's strange becuase even if it is true that speaking and hearing does not occur simultaneously, i will never "feel" that time had passed between the too actions. but then again. . . "feeling" is deceiving. . . right?


Name: cass
Date: 2002-02-24 22:43:48
Link to this Comment: 1134

If a neuron can fire in the middle of the nervous system, that is, without input, then to me, this is thinking.

This would not necessarily include the environmental stimuli that prompt us to think. For example, a sunny day makes me think about the beach, and therefore, I decide to go away. But, if I think about a person with whom I had an enjoyable time with, I may think that I want to write them a letter. These are not actually inputs that create one to think and therefore have some kind of output. But this may not make sense if all thoughts are based on memories or what is in front of us, or our imagination. One could just as easily say that streams of consciousness and thinking about the past or about physical objects is input. But what about dreams? There is no input except thinking. But that could be disputable since there are so many different theories for dreams. If they are just random firings of neurons to keep the brain somewhat active while asleep, then firing of neurons causes thinking and behavior (ie sleepwalking). But, if dreams are present to “figure out” waking experiences and hash out problems or anxiety, then you can’t argue neuronal firings create behavior because the firings would be a correlation to thinking.

One could say that the neurons firing create a behavioral response. But, that is a bit too scientific for me. I would say that when one thinks, it happens to be that the biology of the brain goes along with it. But that doesn’t make sense either because if there is a deficiency in a part of the brain, the neurons gone, then the behavior changes. So……

spontaneous thought
Name: Shannon Le
Date: 2002-02-24 23:45:06
Link to this Comment: 1138

So if the neuron can spontaneously excite and inhibit on its own then behavior can be produced with no outside stimulus, which furthers the idea of brain = behavior. Neurons signaling in the middle of the nervous system can be thought of as thinking I suppose. Sometimes ideas suddenly occur to me or I start thinking of something that was not on my mind. Is this due to the sudden firing of neurons or were these new thoughts subconsciously brought about by another thought or outside stimulus? What causes a particular neuron or set of neurons to decide to fire and produce a new idea, or recall a memory, or ponder something, if a previous thought or stimulus does not cause it? These are all questions that I am confused about at the moment. Thoughts and ideas most often seem to flow based on something that was being thought of before or some stimulus changing the subject of thought. However, there are times that thought seems to be spontaneous.

Name: Balpreet B
Date: 2002-02-25 13:05:33
Link to this Comment: 1147

When we think of the brain=behavior hypothesis, we refer to the brain and the entire nervous system. So, if a signal does start in the middle of the nervous system, it still follows the brain=behavior hypothesis.

I also wanted to reemphasize Cindy's point about taking time for action potentials to reach the brain. I thought that was a very interesting point she brought up. We know that it takes time for action potentials to reach the brain; a good experiment would be if we measured the time it took for one to respond to a color appearing on a computer screen. You would probably find that it takes time, although probably not that much time, for the person to respond to it. But the action potentials are extremely fast when you think about it. So, as Cindy pointed out, although it probably takes time to "hear" Professor Grobstein, that time is probably worth milliseconds.

week 6
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2002-03-01 23:00:48
Link to this Comment: 1297

First web papers, all received to date, are posted. An array of interesting stuff, so browse around. If you've sent yours and it isn't there, let me know.

And a break point in the course, so ... what do you think? We started with brain=behavior and now know brain is neurons with ionic gradients, variable membrane permeabilities, and current flows, which respond to and release chemicals. Is that enough? to account for behavior, including experience? What would it take to get from where we are to that? Do you think we can do it?

Name: Kelli
Date: 2002-03-02 13:50:41
Link to this Comment: 1299

I feel that we have progressed quite a bit from our original, untested hypothesis that brain=behavior. It has been established that great variation is present due to assortment and arrangement of our basic nervous system unit, the neuron. A passive wave of membrane permeability explained the nature of the impulses needed to transmit information. Furthermore, the small numbers of motor neurons reinforce that the nervous system is less dependent on its environment than perhaps was initially assumed. The ability of neurons to generate action potentials without reliance on a stimulus also supports this idea.

However, the mechanisms for control present in the nervous system are quite sophisticated and help explain why organisms typically do not continuously experience random, involuntary movement and behavior. Inhibitory post-synaptic potentials and controlled release of neurotransmitters, in addition to the highly specialized and selective nature of all chemicals and processes involved, are some of the main functions needed to explain control.

The questions I am still interested in having answering include: how does that brain store information? How is this information accessed and used for further processing? I was in a car accident last semester and suffered a head injury associated with memory loss. I am still unable to recall certain events, peoples' faces/names; I cannot retain a lot of new information, etc. I suppose memory is particularly interesting to me because I would like to understand what processes were damaged, and how these functions normally work.

Week 6
Name: Rebecca Ro
Date: 2002-03-02 14:45:02
Link to this Comment: 1300

Our brains are different from each other. Learning about how neurons are organized and their interaction can lead us to a better understanding of behavior. Neurons listen to a lot of different inputs. There are differences due to different connection patterns among neurons. Wouldn’t the paths traveled have to make a difference in our own experience? There could be different experiences due to different connection patterns among neurons. Our own activity is constantly changing. The nervous system is being processed by these signals but, also being changed by those processed signals. Do the patterns of activity in neural networks determine the type of person we are?

I think it is amazing that you can still see movement in the body after a chicken's head has been cut off. Is there still thought going on about what is really being done and happening? The running around?

Brain equals behavior? Seastars are an interesting animal to look at. Afterall, their nervous system is very simple. They do not have a brain and there is no ganglia to coordinate movement. The nervous system consists of as a nerve ring that surrounds the mouth. A radial nerve branches off of the nerve ring and extends to each arm. Yet, don’t starfish have some type/form of behavior? Can the same be said about jellyfish? Jellyfish are more than 95% water. They have no heart, bones, or brain, and have no real eyes. So, does brain really equal behavior?

Name: Balpreet B
Date: 2002-03-02 19:36:48
Link to this Comment: 1303

When we started this semester talking about the brain=behavior hypothesis, everything seemed so simple. We either agreed with the theory that brain=behavior, or we thought that there was something else that contributed to behavior (ex: perhaps the existence of a soul contributed to behavior, etc.). But it became more apparent that the brain and nervous system were more complicated than it appeared to be when we began discussing neurons. There are many aspects of the nervous system that are important for relaying signals to the brain. We have to consider ionic gradients, membrane permeabilities, current flows, chemical releases at synapses, etc.

Personally, I believe that there has to be something more that accounts for behavior. What we have discussed seems complicated enough, but it's only half way through the semester-there has to be something more! We haven't really discussed the idea of experiences and thought yet. Perhaps there is something more than what we have discussed that contributes to the that. Could we do it? I think we can. :)

Brain =Behavior
Name: Beverly We
Date: 2002-03-04 10:25:46
Link to this Comment: 1318

Yes, I am still convinced that Brain=Behavior. Other components of this behavior mix are our genes and experiences, which alter and determine behavior and contribute to our uniqueness.
Given that action potentials can start mid-axon, and move forward to connect with other dendrites and ultimately result in the release of neurotransmitters into the synaptic cleft, (along with the whole mechanism of neurotransmitters binding to proteins....) we still have only the "computer-like" process of the neurons, responsible for all of the feelings and sensations that we experience. Even when our feelings are spiritual or mystical, they are still caused by chemicals which come from the brain.

Name: Amy Cunnin
Date: 2002-03-04 11:28:06
Link to this Comment: 1320

I think that the new information we have learned over the past couple of weeks helps account for a wide range of behavior and may help support the brain=behavior idea. For example, the fact that action potentials can start in the middle of a neuron, that a neuron may need input from several action potentials to continue a signal, and variations in synaptic transmission give a more complex picture of the nervous system. However, I think we also need to talk more about the effecr of the environment and the information that we receive through our senses and how that affects behavior.

Name: Aly
Date: 2002-03-04 15:16:31
Link to this Comment: 1323

I am very intrigued as to how to get from the neuron to behavior. The fact that an action potential can start in the middle of a neuron is definitely helpful. If action potentials were only responses to stimuli, it would seem that we would only be slaves to the environment. However, the fact that an action potential can spontaneously occur as the result of a voltage change of some sort helps the brain=behavior argument. Are these spontaneous action potentials responsible for the thought process?

Like Kelli stated earlier, I want to know how the brain stores information. How do these neurons work together so that information is learned? What differences lie within individuals that allow a greater or lesser capacity for knowledge?? When I get a random thought, is it the result of a spontaneous action potential, or is it a pattern of neurons working together? I really want to understand how the neuron correlates with behavior. Because we can not presume that there is anything else there but cells, it must be the patterns of these cells that account for the differences in brain and behavior amongst different species and different individuals.

Name: cass
Date: 2002-03-04 18:13:12
Link to this Comment: 1325

There has to be something other than just neurons and the connections that equal behavior. How can the brain create or equal behavior when we can will ourselves to think and act? Neurons correlate our thinking. It does not mean that the neurons created the thought, or the behavior.

Think about biting into a sour lemon. Mm, not a pleasant thought, unless you actually like the pure taste. Even if you do like it, your mind creates the thought that gives one a positive or negative feeling. First we think, then we feel. It just happens that the neurons and chemicals go along with it. On the other hand, what about chemical imbalances?

Name: Michelle T
Date: 2002-03-04 18:39:01
Link to this Comment: 1327

It is becoming more and more clear how the brain and spinal cord with all of the neurons can make up for the variety of human behavior. Movement can be explained pretty easily given the complexity of simply wiggling a finger. What still perplexes me is how one decides that that finger wants or should be wiggled. It could be in a response to something (an itch, a desire to call a waitress, or listening to good music,) but what if there is no direct stimuli from the environment that causes this wiggling?

We talked about how neurons can start an action potential in the middle of a neuron, which is helpful. This provides a reason for how people can simply think of something without having some sort of stimuli. A neuron in the brain (most likely in the cerebrum)can create a cascade of action potentials which will be expressed as an idea. I'm not sure how this can be done. One must draw upon a very large number of neurons in order to even remember where I put my keys this morning. Not only do I have to think about my actions from the morning, but I have to express everything in terms of a language that I can understand -- the narrator inside our heads. This makes me very curious about language.

Neurons all the Way Down
Name: Hilary Hoc
Date: 2002-03-04 20:31:18
Link to this Comment: 1331

Neurons all the way down [or for that matter, changes in membrane permeability all the way across] is as dissatisfying as turtles all the way down. On what is that first turtle standing anyway? What causes the first neuron to fire -- or are we positing infinity inside each nervous system? If the answer is external stimuli, that answers one question but poses a host of others: how does the brain differentiate between signals when all are simply action potentials, and when the same neurotransmitters are used in different organ systems? Like many others in the forum this week, I am more interested in what happens when we decide to do something. As I sit and think about what to write, when does the first neuron fire? As I choose my words? As I begin to type them? What does thinking look like -- is it a physical act? And how do my thoughts cause membrane permeabilities to change and action potentials to travel, when I can not will this to happen? I wrote my last paper thinking that all the fuss about the mind-body problem was just an outdated philosophers' full employment act, but now the [relatively] simple act of trying to post this week's essay, after the class discussions about neurons and action potential, makes it seem more troubling than before.

Only neurons?
Name: Gavin
Date: 2002-03-04 20:32:01
Link to this Comment: 1332

As others have mentioned previously, it is difficult to see how we can understand behavior and memory when all we are allowed to work with are neurons. I recognize the argument that a complex system can result from a seemingly simplistic basis, but I still have trouble understanding exactly how this happens in the human brain. I suppose that there is no completely objective way to understand the totality of the neurophysiological basis for human thought, emotion, and experience, but there must be more to it than what we have covered so far. If there is truly nothing else but neurons, then what makes us so resistant to accept that they alone control human behavior? If a human has similar thoughts at different points in time, how can subtle differences in these thoughts be explained? Are we dealing with different chemicals, different pathways, or is the environment playing a role?

Role of experience in brain = behavior
Name: Mary Schli
Date: 2002-03-04 20:56:18
Link to this Comment: 1340

I think that I am becoming more convinced of the brain = behavior proposition as the semester goes on, but I think we still have some more areas to cover. Using the box model certainly makes brain = behavior an even more appealing explanation, especially since we now have ways to account for signals starting within the box and for variability in behaviors (neuronal arrangement, neurotransmitters, etc). However, I would like to discuss more about how the brain interprets and handles experiences – and I am becoming more convinced that just because experiences mediate behavior doesn’t necessarily mean that brain = behavior is false. After all, aren’t experiences what our brains perceive them to be, and can’t any one experience can be different for any two people? And then can’t those two people interpret those perceptions differently in their brains to perform different behaviors? I think that we need to discuss the role of experience in the brain = behavior argument more, but I think that there definitely could be a way to incorporate it into our theory without the model completely breaking down.

Name: Claire Alb
Date: 2002-03-04 21:19:16
Link to this Comment: 1342

Although we have covered the physiological aspects of behavior, we still have to poke at so much more themes. Since the idea of behavior is a complex one, we cannot equate behavior to mechanics i.e. the activation of neuron action potentials.

We must attempt to understand what exactly is occurring within the boxes of each individual that makes his reality and reaction to the world different from his neighbor. It cannot simply be neurons, activation potentials and concentration gradients which define this so. Or is it?
What happened to experience, soul and emotions?
I think that they play a role in shaping behavior and do not necessarily result from behavior.

there is more
Name: Shannon Le
Date: 2002-03-04 22:56:33
Link to this Comment: 1350

What we have discussed so far about the individual neuron and the way they communicate, I know is an integral part of our entire experience, but it is not enough to account for what the whole experiences. I think the way that the individual neuron is connected and how they make new connections is going to be very important concerning experience and memory. Also in order to get to experience, even though we have already discussed that all neurons are the same basic set up, I think there may be importance’s to experience found in neurons expressing certain characteristics dependent on where they are located and what there function is supposed to be. What makes a neuron differentiate into one having receptors for acetylcholine as opposed to GABA?

neurons and behavior
Name: Kathryn Fo
Date: 2002-03-04 23:35:07
Link to this Comment: 1355

The mechanics of the nervous system seems to have been seriously downplayed. True, the nervous system is merely made up of neurons, neurotransmitters, etc. and based on ion gradients and action potentials, but there is much more than that. There are many crucial chemical neurotransmitters involved that bind to specific receptor proteins. There is a delicate balance of the number of neurotransmitters and other chemicals involved in the nervous system. Through experiments, which I am sure have been done, we can see that an increase or decrease in a certain neurotransmitter can have serious affects on behavior, ie Tourette's Syndrome. A chemical imbalance can have destructive affects on a person. The fact that certain chemicals of the nervous systems has such a large impact on the organism shows that to an extent that brain=behavior. The nervous system is a very complex network of neurons and chemicals and further exploration and a closer look is necessary to confirm that is the nervous system, and only the nervous system that controls behavior.

Name: Sarah Eber
Date: 2002-03-05 00:52:43
Link to this Comment: 1359

It’s one thing to know that signals travel along a neuron through current flow caused by specific physical events, and quite another to accept that these signals add up to the whole consciousness of a person. Rather like we learn about atoms in grade school, and then must come to grips with the fact that only atoms make up a mountain, it takes a great deal of getting used to. It helps if one can look at some rocks: some stepping stones from the tiniest bit to the whole.

While I am not necessarily insistent that there must be more to consciousness than the sum of these neurons, I am curious as to how exactly phenomena such as memory, emotions, and thought occur. What is memory, once it is broken down to a matter of signals moving along neurons? We know that learning, when young, builds new links between neurons; is this all that memory is? Is it possible to keep building links throughout one’s entire life? If this were true, how would a person lose their memory through problems such as Alzheimer’s disease or amnesia caused by head trauma? If a memory is simply a pattern of linked neurons – ignoring for the moment that such an explanation does not truly explain how exactly we retain an image to remember – then wouldn’t we eventually run out of neurons to link with? Even in my own eighteen-year lifespan there are innumerable memories: tastes, smells, images, sounds. Many of these are linked with one another also; the smell of diesel conjures up the image of my father’s truck, the sound of its engine, other scents inside the truck, the feeling of sitting in the cab of the truck at all different ages, from when I was tiny to now. It is hard to believe that all this detail, all these chains of sensation, can be contained in the space of a brain; even harder to believe that they can be expressed with the firing of a neuron. Where are memories held when they are not actively being recalled? What happens to the ones you lose? Are they are truly gone, or are the claims of some hypnotists true: that under hypnosis, you can remember more than you can normally. What is the difference between short-term and long-term memory?

Name: Jenny Mary
Date: 2002-03-05 02:45:51
Link to this Comment: 1360

The notion of spontaneity seems to be useless if we are to relegate all control to the nervous system. Therefore, I am intrigued with the dichotomy between the nervous system's control functions and spontaneity. If a person characterizes themselves as "living in the moment and not knowing what's coming next" this is just a form of decieving oneself? Is randomness and spontaneity actually possible in the presence of inhibitory post synaptic potentials and other control mechanisms? Furthermore, is it adequate to equate, say random thought with random action potential? The existence of a random/spontaneous experience puzzles me because there are so many things present in the nervous system to disclaim its authenticity.

action vs. behavior
Name: Priya Puja
Date: 2002-03-05 08:40:05
Link to this Comment: 1363

It seems to me that one of the purposes of this class is to understand the basis of the idea that the brain equals behavior and therefore the brain is all there is. Due to our discussions about the biology of neurons I am now beginning to somewhat comprehend the biological basis for the idea that brain=behavior. That being said, I’m still stuck on the extension of the idea that the brain is everything.
Over the past few weeks we’ve seen how brain=action. More specifically, our study of the neuron has led us to the conclusion that neuronal signaling leads to action of some sort. However, action in response to a stimulus does not account for all of what I consider to be behavior. Like most people in the class, I am concerned with where the decision to act derives from. A decision to act comes from an individual’s brain/mind, but more complex behavior (beyond instinct and reflexes) is often influenced by ones’ environment. For example, how does one account for behavior that is learned. If a human being is brought up isolated from all others, he or she will not intuitively know so many of the behaviors related to interacting with others in a particular society or culture. Such behaviors are a product of the outside environment. What I am trying to say is that action potentials themselves don’t account for behavior, they merely account for action. Action in a context equals behavior, and context comes from the external environment which exists independently of our interpretation of it.

I will. I am.
Name: lilian
Date: 2002-03-05 15:53:11
Link to this Comment: 1371

I'm not sure how to contribute in the way of trying to answer your questions, because in many cases, I don't alltogether understand what is being asked. "Is feeling decieving?" (what the hell does that even mean?). So, instead i'll contribute just by sharing some thoughts, which hopefully are answers to the questions you may have meant to ask. I don't think that the "I-function" box is a special area in the brain that can initiate action potentials without any sort of outside stimulus. Of course, we are, just like other bodies of matter, part of our environment. But we are not merely products of our environment. Think about it: If brain=behavior means that all aspects of our environment, when they come into contact with our bodies, produce action potentials (an thus are 'translated' into chemical language) which in turn directly produce certain kinds of behavior, then choice is just an illusion. If no one really can chose how to evalute and react to their environment, then what accounts for our system of crime and punishment. A pathological killer can say that he had no control over his actions, he can even say (like Dave Berkowitz) that his actions were a result of divine inspiration, and that in that case, all men are helpless tools of god. The truth is that we DO hold people accountable for their actions, because people DO have a choice when staring down an avenue to take that road or not at all. I wouldn't say that this choice is a result of mysterious action potentials which arise without stimulus in the brain, but that in the "I-function" box, the subject (owner of the box) has the opportunity to redirect stimulus to produce an action that is thusly a result of will and not merely reflexive. Otherwise, how could people develop character or resolve to change at all? I apologize to the Catholics, (even though i was raised to be very catholic), but it seems that their interpretaion of the bible involving divine intervention, and surrendering your will to god, leaves us at a loss for what to do with ourselves, because, with that possibility affirmed, we are nothing but puppets.
"When push comes to pull comes to shove comes to step around
this self-destructive dance that never would have mattered
Till I rose
And I roared aloud,
"HERE- I WILL. I AM."" (A Perfect Circle).
Maybe, the coming of the messiah, instead, is just the realization (illustrated by the song lyrics here) that one in fact does have free will. It surely doesn't mean that one can will things that are impossible to happen, but instead that given the environment one is given (his circumstances) that he can do what he will with with those limitations.

Name: melissa ho
Date: 2002-03-05 16:57:59
Link to this Comment: 1373

I found our discussion on proprioceptors today in class very interesting and would like to know more about them. How is it that we can expierience something and not even realize it. I realize that this is because of a "central pattern generator" but, how is it that our brain does not allow us to really realize it like in the example that you gave inclass on feromones. Why doesn't our brain realize or experience the odor? How ddoes it choose which smells we should experience and which we should not and why is it that we have this automatic reaction? Does our brain choose which reactions are to be automatic and which we are able to concider: and if so what process causes are brain to filter the automatic reactions from the delayed?

Name: Lauren
Date: 2002-03-07 16:15:29
Link to this Comment: 1419

In class today, we discussed how our brain can allow us to consciously perceive certain things and not others, such as feromones. The concept of perception still baffles me. It leads back to the whole concept of 'what is truth?' or 'what is reality?'. But beyond that, I couldn't help but wonder what else our brain isn't 'telling us'? How many things are we perceiving and that are affecting our everyday activities, feelings, moods, decisions....that we are unaware of?

Name: Lauren
Date: 2002-03-07 16:17:20
Link to this Comment: 1420


Name: Kornelia K
Date: 2002-03-07 16:49:34
Link to this Comment: 1423

Following the previous comments, I am also wondering whether we can call those things which the brain doesn't tell us reality. Because relaity seems to be a concept which involves some conscious realization. And then if we are unaware, does this still mean we are experiencing that "reality"?

Christopher Reeves' motor symphony
Name: miranda
Date: 2002-03-12 09:39:16
Link to this Comment: 1486

I think it is very helpful to think of the coordination of all the separate part of the nervous system as a motor symphony. For a body to function correctly, each motor neuron must do the right thing at the right time. What I'm interested in is, if we keep this analogy, how do we understand Christopher Reeves' condition? What is missing in his nervous system (or his motor symphony) so that it is unable to "play correctly?" He does not have control over the lower half of his body, yet his foot moves when pinched. We now know that even normal functioning nervous systems do not have a "conductor." So, is it just that his nervous system can't work together correctly?

in need of clarification...
Name: Jenny Mary
Date: 2002-03-19 00:01:59
Link to this Comment: 1518

In regards to the brain having a filtration/ dividing system of sorts for reactions, I am unclear as to what this filter is actually (not what its doing) and where it actually is. The topic was touched upon briefly by a previous post and I realized that while I know of the action, I don't really know what is causing the action, if that makes sense.

Name: Tara Monik
Date: 2002-03-19 19:08:36
Link to this Comment: 1522

In class today we discussed the presence of a phantom limb. This concept seems very interesting to me because it shows that it is possible to feel something that doesn't physically exist. Therefore, we can feel things even if that physical part of the body is no longer there. This would mean that feeling a body part does not involve the body part itself, but instead involved the neurons and the motor symphony which is moving toward that part of the body. So if someone can feel their leg after is has been removed, it means that feeling the leg is feeling all of the neurons which pass the impulse to where the leg would be. Maybe feeling phantom pain would be somewhat like motion sickness, in that the neurons are sending action potential down a certain way to get the leg, but when they finally reach the end and there is no leg there, the body gets confused and feels pain.

Name: Kathryn Ro
Date: 2002-03-20 01:40:43
Link to this Comment: 1531

So far we have done a pretty good job of describing how individual pieces of the nervous system work but I am still confused about how all these pieces fit together to make up human experience. The fact that action potentials can start without an external stimulus helps the brain=behavior theory a lot because it shows how thoughts can originate. This also suggests that people don't really have control over what they think about. However thinking consists of more than one thought, so what happens after the first action potential that causes other thoughts to come about? Is it that the first thought triggers the mind to remember previous knowledge related to the thought? How does this happen? The brain stores tremendous amounts of information. How can it quickly recall the relevant information? Then how do all these pieces fit together to make a new thought or idea? It seems very complicated.

Another piece that I find very interesting is proprioceptors and the idea that we might not experience certain activities in the brain yet they still affect how we feel and act. Could this be similar to the idea of an unconscious? Is it possible that our brain processes thoughts that we are not aware of? In the case of phermones, an action potential is generated because of chemicals in the air but it doesn't reach the "I" function. This is especially interesting since these signals may effect how we act and feel, yet we don't know why we would feel this way. If somethiing like this could occur with thoughts and memories it could be a sufficient explanation of the "something else" that many people feel needs to be added to the brain=behavior argument.

Name: melissa ho
Date: 2002-03-20 15:33:11
Link to this Comment: 1544

What happens if there is a malfunction in the conection of neurons? Not like that of the phantom limb, but rather in the central pattern generators. For instance if there is a missing conection in one of a persons pattern generators, therefore not giving the correct time delay in a motor function. Is this when one has muscle spasims or something of the sort?

Name: Aly
Date: 2002-03-24 19:54:38
Link to this Comment: 1570

Has anyone read anything on the British man who hooked his nervous system of his arm to a computer?? I read something briefly and would be very interested in hearing what others had to say about it.....

getting rolling again
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2002-03-24 21:58:36
Link to this Comment: 1571

Let's see, since spring break we've talked about action as motor symphonies, about central pattern generators, about corollary discharge, and about negative feedback loops. All neurons, organized by genetic influences and by experience, but starting to make more sense of what is between neurons and behavior? What do you think? What can we begin imagining we can account for? What is still hard to account for?

As always, the question is just to get you started if you need something. Other thoughts/stories/ideas welcome.

Name: cb
Date: 2002-03-24 22:15:52
Link to this Comment: 1572

The interesting part about corollary discharge in my opinion, is that the circuits not only make sense of expectation and perception, but they make sense of choice without bringing in the I-function. This reminds me of things we refer to as muscle memory and smell evoking a memory. Is there a choice in recalling past time events when they occur like this? It seems like these inputs cause neurons to fire, which then lead to the thought and memory of something specific. Although, I suppose having inputs would not make this an internal generator.

There are motor scores stored in the nervous system and this internal communication influences the output. And things like muscle memory are just empatterned experiences which are evoked by the I-function. So then, if the central pattern generator is activated by the I-function, how can the body react before the I-function is aware of it?

Name: Ricky
Date: 2002-03-24 22:37:36
Link to this Comment: 1573

I think it is interesting to discover that the nervous system consist of the coordination of separate parts that have their own responsibilities somwhat separate form the whole and function as a motor symphony. It is understandable that each neuron should have a specific role and appropriate timing mechanism. My question dealing with this new aspect of motor symphony and neurons is what happens to neurons and motor symphony during transplantation. We talked somewhat about phantiom limbs and how a person may still feel the presence of a body part when it is not physically there. But what about the phenomena of people receiving organ transplants and having desires or cravings that have only been experienced by the host, who donated the organ to the recipient. There have been accounts from organ recipients that they feel things that they have never felt before, such as a long-term vegetarian began to start having craving for hamburgers after she received a liver. Also, how can body parts like hands be transplanted when they have an intricate network of nerves that must be re-connected to function? Will that transplanted hand or any other body part begin to feel like they belong to the person or does the body still consider them as foreign objects?

phantom sensations
Name: Beverly We
Date: 2002-03-25 10:40:50
Link to this Comment: 1577

I am fascinated by the concept of phantom pain.
Does the brain store and duplicate the sensations that were experienced or only the memory of sensation? Does the brain duplicate the pain, or only the memory of the pain? If the limb is absent, then the pain receptors from the limb are absent, so the sensation must come from the brain and not the limb. Are the sensory neurons in the spinal cord sending the message to the brain, or does the brain remember the sensory input without the interception of the sensory input from the spinal cord?

Date: 2002-03-25 13:39:43
Link to this Comment: 1579

The topics discussed in the last week classes were eye opening and insightful to me. I was stricken by the similarity between how the nervous system operates and how a symphany works. There is a conductor(the circuit) that controls a medium(the nervous and the muscles)

The collarary discharge signals also give me more insight how the nervous system affects behavior. My question is, with regard to corrollary discharges, how come motion sickness occurs in certain individuals and not others. What accouts for it. Is it because certain individual's nervous system is better at the coordinating what the body expects to what is really going on?


Name: Kelli
Date: 2002-03-25 14:44:33
Link to this Comment: 1580

I found that it is quite fascinating how central pattern generators store information to permit patterns of movements, as in the example of someone being able to perform a piece of music very quickly. Likewise, there are many processes in everyday life that at times seem to unfold without much conscious thought. I was wondering whether a "nervous habit" such as nail biting involves such CPGs, and if so, are they responsible for the difficulties experienced when attempting to break these habits? You often hear that it takes a month or so to "break a habit." Does it typically take such a measurable period of time exercise the nervous system in un-doing a CPG?

Also, during the discussion regarding phantom limb pain I began to think about syndromes in which an individual experiences the chronic and persistent sensation of pain while no physical damage is present at the site of pain. Why are these pain receptors being activated? Furthermore, is there a signal that the brain erroneously interprets as real pain?

phantom limbs...
Name: Rebecca Ro
Date: 2002-03-25 16:06:59
Link to this Comment: 1581

Neural networks have to emphasize information gotten from the environment. People with the same inputs might in fact have very different experiences. Corollary discharge does help us make a sense of choice. Negative feedback loops act in a way which satisfies our main objective.

Are phantoms caused by changes in the flow of signals through circuits in the brain? People whose vision has been impaired by cataracts or by the loss of a portion of the visual processing system in the brain sometimes report highly detailed visual experiences, similar to phantom limbs. Also, people who lose their hearing commonly report noises in their heads. Do these phantom phenomenon occur when the brain loses its normal input from a sensory system? How do we make sense of all this?

Name: Gabrielle
Date: 2002-03-25 16:46:29
Link to this Comment: 1582

I would be interested in discussing what is choice now that we have changed some experiences that we thought were choice as corollary discharge. I am intrigued by the elimination of the I-function in this concept. Are there times when we are experiencing corollary discharge as if it is a choice? If so, that would bring the I-function back into the conversation. Then, there must be some secondary affect that the corollary discharge has on a sensory within the brain, of its own actions. That feels as if our brain is acting on its own, and allowing us to perceive those actions as if we decided to do them ourselves. I don't really think that is true, but its an interesting idea.

mules and pleurobranchia
Name: Hilary Hoc
Date: 2002-03-25 17:20:43
Link to this Comment: 1583

There is a medieval parable about a mule, equidistant from two bales of hay, who starves to death -- without free will, a characteristic of the human soul,the mule cannot choose from which to eat first. I've never tried it, [no mule in the house usually], but suspect the mule just starts eating. Perhaps most of the time this could be accounted for by the mule perceiving one bale or the other first, but what if that variable were eliminated? The corollary discharge patterns and reafferent loops may explain much of what appears to be either conscious or random behavior [why is it so often so easy to confuse those two??], but it explains them by explaining them away. Are we really moving toward the position that their is neither choice nor randomness in behavior?

Name: Amy Cunnin
Date: 2002-03-25 18:54:07
Link to this Comment: 1585

I think that the discussion over the last couple of weeks has helped me to better understand the organization of the nervous system through the idea of the motor symphony and central pattern generation. However, I still feel like there are many variables that can go into the brain-behavior relationship: the example of the Pleurobranchea made me feel like we were right back where we started at the beginning of the semester, since we still can't predict what the animal will do. It makes me wonder how much we can know for certain about the workings of the nervous system, especially the "I-function" and the whole concept of experience? How do we know whether we really experience things? How do we know what other organisms are capable of experiencing?

Name: Yasmin
Date: 2002-03-25 18:54:16
Link to this Comment: 1586

I am fascinated by the concept of phantom pain. It is especially interesting when considering the fact that anyone who has lost a limb obviously knows, consciously, that they no longer have that particular appendage. They are aware of it. How, then, does the body simply overlook that, and continue to send signals towards the missing nerves? Its as though the body is in denial and keeps sending the impulses in the hopes that they would sometime be completed. Understandably the impulses must be sent, in accordance with the body's nervous system, but the fact that someone might actually feel an ache or a dull sensation as a result of those impulses is astounding. The tendency to feel the impulses and move our limbs is received, in part, from the central pattern generator, and also from the brain. I find it similarly intriguing that there is no way for us to consciously tell our brains that we are not feeling pain, that there is no limb there, and that the unpleasant sensations should cease, because there is no physical source of pain. Why does the brain not acknowledge that there is no body part, that the nerves will simply stop abruptly, without completing their course. I would think it would be reasonable that the central pattern generator would perceive this continuous problem, and rectify it, by not allowing the transferrence of pain sensations. Of course, I'm not sure whether the body can do that permanently, but it would be an interesting concept.

Name: Asra
Date: 2002-03-25 20:48:53
Link to this Comment: 1587

Phantom pain is a very interesting concept. How is it that one can still feel where the position of their limb is if they don't have one? This is also true for those who weren't even born with one. This leads me to believe that we are all born with a few common "experiences" already in our brains.

An interesting article from Discover magazine addresses the phantom limb phenomenon in people born without a limb. Ronald Melzack, a psychologist of McGill University, believes that the brains has a map of the body independent of our life experiences and that a network of neurons forms in the embryonic brain to link the somatosensory thalamus and cortex (regions that enable us to sense the location of our limbs), the limbic system, which is involved in feeling pain and pleasure, and the association cortex, which helps us learn from our experiences. These connections prepare the embryonic brain to respond to body parts that do not always form. (Discover, Feb 1998)

So is this due to genetics?

motion sickness
Name: Kathryn Fo
Date: 2002-03-25 21:00:33
Link to this Comment: 1588

I just have a quick thought. We talked about motion sickness and that it occurs when the corrolary discharge says one thing, but the motor sensory neurons say something else. For example, if one were standing in a boat, they boat would be rocking back and forth, so the motor sensory neurons receive that as input, however, the corrolary discharge don't pick up on the movement, since the person is just standing there. The disagreement causes motion sickness. But why is it that only certain people are prone to motion sickness, while others are not phased by it. Some people are able to tolerate turbulence, or the rocking motions of a boat, while other, like myself, get sick. If everyone's nervous system is just made of neurons and interneurons, why do certain people feel the effects, while others don't. Would motion sickness be due to a mutation or defect in the nervous system?

Asra's idea of "common experience"
Date: 2002-03-25 21:21:09
Link to this Comment: 1589

I found this idea that we all might be born with 'common experiences in our brains', as the last post suggested, very intriguing...especially in relation to the point of the article cited (that our brains already have 'maps' of our bodies and their parts before any of them develope (if they do at all))... really hits home the importance of our brains and their funcions in relation to the rest of our bodies. They are indeed the command center of our physical existance, as well as our psychological and emotional experience.

Starting to piece it together
Name: Mary Schli
Date: 2002-03-25 22:34:42
Link to this Comment: 1590

I've been thinking a lot lately about how much more appealing I find the brain = behavior postulation as the semester goes on. I think that our explanations using the motor symphonies, central pattern generators, and corollary discharge help explain many things that couldn't be accounted for in previous versions of our box model (in particular, they explain how things can start in the nervous system and how different parts of the nervous system communicate with one another). At first I was a little bit skeptical about our account of choice using the nervous system in a dish, but as the lecture continued it made more sense to me that choices are probably just neurons firing, even if at first they seem more complex than that. I also have a question after reading Kathryn's post – I have some friends who suffer from motion sickness and need to sit in the front seat of the car so that they don't get sick during long car rides. After learning about the corollary discharge explanation of motion sickness, I'm wondering if this account can explain why they don't get sick when they sit in the front seat of the car, but feel nauseous when they ride in the back seat of the car. Or could it just be a psychological effect so that they perceive themselves as not getting sick in the front seat but getting sick in the back?

Name: sook chan
Date: 2002-03-25 22:53:43
Link to this Comment: 1591

I found the topic about central pattern generators very interesting. As i was listening to the lecture during class, i realized how "generalized" we made the concept seem. It seems as if every person's motor activity would be the same, given similar motor coordinations of the motor neurons. Yet, what accounts for the differences in ability? When I was nine, my parents sent both myself and my brother to piano lessons. We both practiced an hour a day, and both were eager to play. The bone structure of our hands were very similar, yet, after four years, my brother was able to play beautiful pieces, and I "just did not have the musician in me". If the central pattern generators of finger movement and coordintion are similar between my brother and myself, why is it that i still am not able to play beautifully? Similarly, why is it that one child is able to run faster than another?

I also found the idea about phantom limbs very interesting, and would like to learn more about this concept.

the sixth sense and memory
Name: Shannon Le
Date: 2002-03-25 23:35:58
Link to this Comment: 1593

I am now realizing there is so much more to what is between brain and behavior than I had imagined. There is so much complexity. I did not even realize a "haptic system" existed. To think there is a sixth sense that I did not even realize makes me think of brain and behavior in many new ways, evoking many new questions. Waterman's loss of the sixth sense and the idea that he could not move around, without watching and consistently consciously trying, is interesting. It has made me start watching my movements and feedback to constant stimulus I didn't realize I was receiving. I did not realize I could lose the feeling of knowing where my leg is when not seeing it. I thought this was the sense of feeling, the same that experiences a pressure on the leg when I push on it with my hand. I will have to spend more time thinking about this because, although I am sure I now have a clearer understanding of brain and behavior, I feel even more overwhelmed and ignorant of the issue than previously.

I do have a thought concerning memory that does not seem to have yet been accounted for concerning brain and behavior. We know that experience has a lot to do with pattern generator, as well as genetics, but what decides what is to be scripted into the conscious and unconscious memory. Also how is a memory stored? Is it equal to a number of action potentials fired by a specific pattern of neurons? How does this new pattern get scripted in and develop? I know that if I consciously try to learn something, the brain takes over to somehow program it into the brain, but what about the many memories of small detail that we never consciously decided were important? Which set of neurons in my brain decide it is important enough to subconsciously script the memory of my grandmother with the sight or thought of a dandelion, but then resist me when my conscious tells the neurons to remember everything there is to know about physics?

the sixth sense and memory
Name: Shannon Le
Date: 2002-03-25 23:36:47
Link to this Comment: 1594

I am now realizing there is so much more to what is between brain and behavior than I had imagined. There is so much complexity. I did not even realize a "haptic system" existed. To think there is a sixth sense that I did not even realize makes me think of brain and behavior in many new ways, evoking many new questions. Waterman's loss of the sixth sense and the idea that he could not move around, without watching and consistently consciously trying, is interesting. It has made me start watching my movements and feedback to constant stimulus I didn't realize I was receiving. I did not realize I could lose the feeling of knowing where my leg is when not seeing it. I thought this was the sense of feeling, the same that experiences a pressure on the leg when I push on it with my hand. I will have to spend more time thinking about this because, although I am sure I now have a clearer understanding of brain and behavior, I feel even more overwhelmed and ignorant of the issue than previously.

I do have a thought concerning memory that does not seem to have yet been accounted for concerning brain and behavior. We know that experience has a lot to do with pattern generator, as well as genetics, but what decides what is to be scripted into the conscious and unconscious memory. Also how is a memory stored? Is it equal to a number of action potentials fired by a specific pattern of neurons? How does this new pattern get scripted in and develop? I know that if I consciously try to learn something, the brain takes over to somehow program it into the brain, but what about the many memories of small detail that we never consciously decided were important? Which set of neurons in my brain decide it is important enough to subconsciously script the memory of my grandmother with the sight or thought of a dandelion, but then resist me when my conscious tells the neurons to remember everything there is to know about physics?

Name: Balpreet B
Date: 2002-03-26 00:07:52
Link to this Comment: 1595

The topic that interested me the most last week was the discussion about choice and whether or not the influence of one part of the nervous system on another part of the nervous system is what we mean by choice- whether or not a choice is determined by signals and the inhibition of signals. It was also interesting how this correlated to the I-Function and the experience of making a choice. I think what fascinates me the most is the fact that I never really thought of choices to be so detailed, in that it relates to signals, such minute things compared to the human body as a whole. This discussion has made me think about choices in a different aspect. A choice is not constricted to whether you're going to order chinese takeout or pizza. It goes all the way to signals and the inhibitions of signals. I just wanted to say that this was a very interesting topic in my opinion, and that it actually made me ponder the idea of choices entirely.

Name: Gavin Impe
Date: 2002-03-26 01:44:16
Link to this Comment: 1596

I am very interested in Sook's earlier comment about the "generalization" of the concept of central pattern generation. The idea of individual difference intrigues me, and I'm wondering if there is any way to completely understand how a given action or thought is affected by genetic differences, differences in knowledge, or differences in experience. I seem to recall that in an earlier class we discussed the notion of the tremendous variability that can be found in human brains. How then, can we account for the sometimes astounding similarities we see in the thought patterns of different people? How would studies on cloned human beings affect our current understandings? When the "parts" are the same, what does this really mean in practical terms?

Our discussion of the idea of choice made clearer for me how specific signals and brain activity correlate to behaviors, but I am still unsure how these models can attempt to explain much more complex human thought and emotion. If our knowledge of neurobiology won't allow for this at the present time, will we ever understand it? What more needs to be worked out?

Name: priya
Date: 2002-03-26 08:58:48
Link to this Comment: 1597

I found the discussion on pattern generators interesting and I've been trying to figure out how much of human behavior can be avccounted for by such a model. In doing so I realize that the model leaves more out than it includes. How does it account for variations? I realize how choice can be dictated by neural pattern generators, but what I'm talking about is behaviors that are patterns, but are different amongst groups of people. Language being only one such example. Other questions that I have are:
How does such a model account for creativity?
How does such a model account for learned behavior and memory?
How does such a model account for large changes behavior that animals make in response to the environment?

Name: Jenny Mary
Date: 2002-03-26 09:47:37
Link to this Comment: 1598

With the buzz about "A Beautiful Mind" lately, I've begun to wonder about about the genetic implications of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a serious disorder that impairs a person's behavior and hinders the activity of the breain and I-function. I vaguely know that there is a chance for the disorder to be passed onto offspring, but I don't know the genetic details. My genetic inquiry also extends to other disorders that hinder the brain in some way.

Name: Nicole
Date: 2002-03-26 15:39:46
Link to this Comment: 1599

On tuesday we discussed how thought is just a bunch of action potentials. It makes sense to me just thinking about thought, but when I start thinking about how our brains solve math problems or reason out problems, then I have a problem grasping that idea of thought being action potentials. I guess I'm still stuck on the big picture (ie. the brain) than the small picture (ie. action potentials and nerves). On some level i know that the brain is just a bunch of nerves, but I am still having problems. Perhaps some of our future discussions will shed some light upon this.

tues class
Name: Lauren
Date: 2002-03-26 19:07:37
Link to this Comment: 1600

How are we so similar? We have been focusing on the differences and I think it IS important to pay some attention to the similarities. I think it is amazing how nature can create such intricate organisms that all happend to be so similar. I think that culture and having some similar basic needs can make all organisms on earth closely related, but sometimes I ponder over the intimate moments and thoughts I have had with others. It seems like we can be so like others in feelings, opinions, and physically, yet so different at the same time - but the similarities are definitely the amazing part of the human experience.

In class we also talked about whether or not we could determine for sure that other organisms (humans included) were experiancing pain? It is true that we have no way to know for sure that a dog, an earthworm, or even our own brother is experiencing pain because there is no way to test for internal experiences. However, how is it that we all think that we are discussing this?????
How do you know you are experiencing pain if there is no comparison and no way to know for sure that you are talking about something that happens to others or even yourself? With language we are able to discuss and describe, yes, but that can not equate to real experience - truth, language has it's limits.

I'd say we are assuming that we have internal experiences of pain just as we are assuming others aren't.

Choice and pain
Name: Sarah Eber
Date: 2002-03-26 22:53:38
Link to this Comment: 1604

The concept of choice as a matter to be decided solely by neurons disturbs me, but I can't really see any other explanation for behavior such as the nudibranch's. I do wonder, though, where the line of "conscious decision" is drawn. Exactly how do humans draw on their experiences, their consciousness, to make complex decisions? At what point does a set of actions constitute a "behavior," and when does it become a decision that must be made consciously?

The issue discussed on Tuesday about perception of pain versus behavior indicating pain is an interesting one. If one argues that we can't know if animals such as cats and dogs feel pain because they are incapable of telling us of their personal experience, then one could also argue that babies are incapable of feeling pain. Babies cry, much as animals make their respective noises of pain or unhappiness, but babies cannot tell us what they are experiencing. Indeed, the first year of life is not remembered when the child grows older. It is entirely possible, according to these guidelines, that babies do not really feel pain, however unhappy they may become. Another problem with this argument is that chimps who are taught sign language ARE capable of expressing their experiences to us, however simple they may be.

Name: Miriam Shi
Date: 2002-03-27 00:25:19
Link to this Comment: 1606

I'm reading people's thoughts about pain and how we can only tell if someone is in pain if they tell us, so how do we know animals feel pain? Maybe I'm missing the main point, but it seems simple to me. When I feel pain, like when I accidently bang my toe against the leg of a desk, I wince and frown my eyebrows, the same universal facial expression most people make when they are in pain. Or if someone is pinching me really hard on my arm, I will shake my arm so that they'll get off of me. I think it's obvious then for me to tell when someone else, even some animals like cats and dogs, is in pain. Words don't necessarily need to be spoken for us to know everything, or communicate with someone else. I wrote my first web paper on aphasia, the language disorder, and a lot of what I read mentioned our habit of neglecting nonverbal communication. There are many people with this disorder and others with other illnesses that cause them to lack the ability to speak. When a baby cries it can mean many things, but if you're hurting the baby, it probably means they are in pain. I think if we exercised our right hemisphere more often, the side where we think more creatively and our nonverbal communication skills are developed, it wouldn't be so hard to understand if and when a dog or cat feels pain. I guess we only have our external indicators and signs of pain to rely on, because how can we really internally test if someone is experiencing pain?

animal's and pain
Name: miranda
Date: 2002-03-27 11:55:49
Link to this Comment: 1616

I undertand that we can not know for sure that animals feel pain. We cannot ask them how they are feeling or necesarily infer from their noises and body language what they are experiencing. However, it seems extremely likely to me that animals feel pain in much the same way as humans. Many animals have very similar nervous systems to us that physically respond very much like ours (i.e. increased blood pressure, perspiration, increased pulse rate, etc.) Also, we know that all animals nervous systems evolved in much the same way as ours. It would certainly be evolutionarily advantageous to experience pain, as it allows animals to avoid painful stimuli. So, though I know that we can not be certain what it is that an animal feels, I think we can be pretty sure that it is not so different from what we feel.

animals and pain
Name: Tara Monik
Date: 2002-03-27 21:28:16
Link to this Comment: 1625

To me it seems that while we may never know for sure if an animal feels pain or not, it does seem likely that they do. When a human being and a cat are burned in a fire, they act the same way, besides the fact that the human can talk and therefore can verbalize exactly how he or she feels. However, supposing the human in the fire is unable to speak for some reason, maybe she is mute, we would still assume that she feels pain from the burns. This seems to be the same situation for the cat. While it cannot speak, it still reacts to painful inputs the same way as people do. If we understand that humans feel pain, then it seems logical to also understand that animals feel pain. One interesting question that arises from this i, how far down the evolutionary tree can we go until we get to an organism that does not feel pain? Where can we draw the line? Is the general concensus that any animal without a nervous system does not feel pain? And how do we know this for sure?

Pain pain and more pain
Name: Aly D
Date: 2002-03-27 23:50:01
Link to this Comment: 1628

The whole discussion of whether we are able to know if animals feel pain and if we are even able to know whether another individual feels pain is easy to get caught up in. I feel like it turns into an answerless debate. It reminds me of my college seminar discussion on Descartes. Descartes became so enraveled in his thoughts that he began to question his own existence in its entirety. However, he stopped when he came to the realization of "I think therefore I am". We should take cues from this and think about the situation reasonably. It is likely that because we are all members of the same species, we do feel pain (unless an individual is injured or has some sort of mutation.)

I agree with the statements made previously by others. The similarities in the structure of the nervous systems of animals to that of humans hint that they all function similarly. Therefore, I would be willing to put money on the argument that animals do feel pain. In class it was argued that although Christopher Reeve responded to pain, he did not FEEL it. Was this supposed to be evidence against animals feeling pain? I think it is only evidence that a paralized animal could not FEEL pain, not a completely healthy one. However, like Tara, I need to question how far down the evolutionary path the feeling of pain would go for animals. Was the anaesthetizing of the leech unnecessary? Or is the leech uncapable of feeling pain?

Pain:response and experience
Name: Tua
Date: 2002-03-28 10:20:07
Link to this Comment: 1632

The concept that pain is the discomfort you feel when your nervous system's expectations do not match the information given to it by sensory neurons is really interesting. Also fascinating is the idea that there is a difference between a response to pain and the experiencing of it. Christopher Reeves' toe responds to the pain of being pinched, but Christopher Reeves does not experience the pain. The connection between the sensory neurons and the i function box which registers experience has been severed, in this case, by an accident. But what about, as we were discussing in class on Tuesday, those who walk on hot coals or sleep on beds of nails? What about this concept of "mind over body"? Do people have the ability to control which signals get sent to the i-function box? When we walk, a certain motor symphony is playing in our nervous system. Often when there's an obstruction we can walk past it without really thinking about it, so if disturbed the motor symphony can reacclimate itself. Experience often dictates the expectations of the brain. So, is walking on hot coals without being burnt or experiencing and responding to it achieved by simply doing it over and over again until the brain expects the hot coals? Or is it more a matter of inhibiting the sensory signals which yell burning feet get off the hot coals? Does this mean that we can decrease or eliminate pain by acclimating our brains to the experience of it?

Encapsulated "I" Function
Name: Kathryn Ro
Date: 2002-03-29 03:07:18
Link to this Comment: 1635

Throughout this course I have focused on the idea that the "I" function provides the greatest evidence for the brain=behavior theory. However, now it seems that the "I" function is not as essential for the theory as I thought. The brain has many ways of doing the same things, and some of these don't reach the "I" function. First came the idea of propriceptors and phermones. Both of these generate action potentials but do not reach the "I" function so we don't experience them. However this doesn't mean that they don't affect our behavior, they do. This also raises the question of whether extra sensory perception exists. It seems plausible that it does since the brain is capable of having sensory channels that don't reach the "I" function. Many people report having an experience where they know something, but didn't experience learning it and can't explain why they know it. A similar phenomena which is far more common and much less disputed is tacit knowledge. This is when a person can do something well, but can't always explain to someone else exactly how they are doing it. Many activities are performed better without thinking, such as driving, riding a bike, or playing a sport. All these things needed to use the "I" function when the person was learning the skill, but after a while the activity becomes automatic or involuntary. The "I" function seems to work better with a limited number of things. However it is very common for people to do many things at once which probably means many of these actions that could be voluntary are being performed involuntarily. This is important because it highlights the idea the brain has more than one way of doing things.

All of these ideas support the encapsulated "I" function theory which is that the "I" function gets some information but not all sensory input. This theory could help explain why we are sometimes unaware why we feel a certain way or why we do something. At the same time, it is a little scary to think that we can be influenced to act a certain way by something that we have not experienced and are totally unaware of. It suggests that we don't actually have as much control over our bodies as we like to think we do. It also suggests that the "I" function is a small piece of the nervous system and perhaps we don't use it as much for everyday activities as I thought we did.

A Beautiful Mind
Name: Claire A.
Date: 2002-03-30 21:32:48
Link to this Comment: 1641

We've often discussed "A Beautiful Mind" as the Schizophrenic character's illusions and world are all real to him. I find this issue intriguing as his perception of things are just as real to him, as day and night is real to me. As we have learned, corollary signals create perceptions and expectations. I wonder if his illusions are due to corollary discharge signals which have gone haywire? A malfunction in his re-afferent loop could also account for such behavior as outputs can cause inputs in his NS, thus causing never-ending signals which could trigger such illusions.

The Andrea Yates recent trial created a stir of controversy and put the issue of mental illness in the forefront. It cannot be denied that the murder of five children is a horrible crime which should be punished. However, I was a bit disheartened as I heard the prosecutor claim something along the lines that "mental illness should never be an excuse." Such statement simply illuminates the ignorance which our society has toward such disease.

subjective experience, objective behavior
Name: Hilary Hoc
Date: 2002-03-31 16:24:33
Link to this Comment: 1645

I think the insight that experience is subjective has a critical but distinctly limited utility in scientific inquiry: keeping it in mind keeps us honest and accurate as we observe and analyze behavior, but keeping it always at the forefront of our minds would leave us paralyzed and unable to pursue any scientific inquiry based on [more or less] objective observations. The only legitimate fields of inquiry would be introspection and epistemology -- yuk. How can I know what another feels? I can't -- I can only extrapolate and infer, and constantly and consistently test my hypotheses and reexamine my always provisional conclusions. I agree that the smart money would be on the proposition that apparently sentient organisms with nervous systems organized along similar lines to our own feel pain, but perhaps the bet will never be definitively settled and that money will remain in escrow.

Looking forward, I'm curious to see how analyzing the perception and use of input [stimuli] will [and will not] revise our model of output [behavior].

Name: Shannon Le
Date: 2002-04-01 00:52:44
Link to this Comment: 1653

I previously thought that most of my behavior was controlled by the I-function, discounting behaviors such as breathing and heartbeat. After further thinking and class discussion, I have started to notice how much I do without consciously choosing each step of the behavior. It is very interesting that one can drive home and never remember the process after arrival. How do these processes in the brain work? Does the I-function, after deciding to drive home, turn over the behavior to motor and sensory neurons to be executed. At what point, what amount of stimulus must occur, to trigger the I-function to refocus on the behavior such as driving home? If all goes smoothly on the trip home the I-function may not be aroused often to the process, but if another car suddenly pulls out in front of the car, the I-function becomes very alert and conscious of the situation. It seems we do things all the time without the I-function, but it is constantly checking in and out to make new or more important decisions. What makes the I-function tune into different behaviors? Does the I-function receive increased stimulation, demanding attention focused to specific neurons, when a conscious decision must be made. It is very interesting that so many behaviors can be carried out without the I-function, and that many of the behaviors are best carried out without the I-function.

The "I-function"?
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2002-04-01 11:09:07
Link to this Comment: 1655

As always, you're free to write about whatever has been on your mind, but there's a good start from the above on the following if you'd like to weigh in ...

We got the idea of the "I-function" originally from thinking about Christopher Reeves, way back at the beginning of the course. It arose again in thinking about "pain", and again in connection with thinking about spastic paralysis resulting from neocortical damage. How useful is this concept? In thinking about behavior? In thinking about the nervous system? What new and relevant observations might come from our current inquiry into the input side of the nervous system?

more questions
Name: priya
Date: 2002-04-01 12:06:53
Link to this Comment: 1656

Our recent discussions of sensory perception have raised several questions in my mind. In particular, if the only way that we know the world around is through sensory perception, then does an external reality exist outside of our brain? It seems that such a scientific perspective lends credence to the Humean (David Hume?) philosophy.

Another question I have concerns how individual minds experience things differently and in the same way. For example, we can all agree that sugar tastes sweet. On the other hand, a glass with water in it can be seen as half full or half empty. I'm not talking merely about semantics, but about how people see things. In particular, I wonder what determines sensory focus. In class we talked about the extent to which people experience motion sickness. We said that the fact that some people experience motion sickness and others do not can be explained in terms of an individual's sensitivity to mismatch between expected and actual input. It seems to me that this is another instance that illustrates that there is something beyond the brain (however small it may be). More specifically, one's ability to tolerate mismatch is determined in part by previous experience and genetics.

In addition, how does our model account for the conscious and unconscious alteration of the ability to tolerate levels of mismatch? In particular, certain senses can be refined in response to specific circumstances. Alteration is also clearly exhibited by individuals who have lost the ability to use one of their senses.

Name: Rebecca Ro
Date: 2002-04-01 13:35:42
Link to this Comment: 1659

The "I-Function" seems to be useful in explaining behavior. However, so many behaviors are very complex. It can allow certain instances of behavior to be explained that might otherwise not have. Do we really have conscious control over our actions or are we just a bundle of neurons firing certain patterns that results in our behavior? Are all our actions/decisions really on the conscious level? We would want to think that we make conscious decisions. It just sounds safer. To me it seems as if the "I-Function" has to change with experience. Do all species have an "I-Function"? Can we even show that they have an "I-Function"? It is important to look closely at involuntary and voluntary functions. But to me it still seems hard to look at how exactly we can control and examine the "I-Function"? If we look at people who can't move their legs, they are still exhibiting some form of behavior. Aren't they? They know they can't move their leg—which shows that somewhere there aren't connections taking place. Some people are more sensitive to pain than others—is that a result of their "I-Function"? Do our "I-functions" really make us the people who we are? Is the "I-function" making our final decisions?

The problem of pain
Name: Kelli
Date: 2002-04-01 18:35:32
Link to this Comment: 1660

I would like to return to the topic of pain for a minute. Last week I asked in class whether or the deliberate, focused supression of pain could be effective, and it was concluded that this would be true in certain people, to a varying degree.

I have a particular interest in the biofeedback method of pain treatment. Biofeedback is simply a tool that allows an individual to become conscious of, and control, certain physiological processes. All three levels of the nervous system are targeted: the voluntary, autonomic, and sympathetic. Studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of such treatment when used in concert with other medical treatments, and when used as the only method of treatment.

In reading about biofeedback, one of the most compelling statements to jump out at me explained that chronic pain can "rewire" the nervous system to become more pain sensitive. This was used to promote the utility of biofeedback, but I thought it held particular relevence to our discussions.

We have discussed how the nervous system affects the individual, either with or without reaching the I-function. And we considered pain in the context that a mismatch occurs. However, how does prolonged mismatch reroute the nervous system into becoming more sensitive? And how can biofeedback alter these patterns of mismatch? In a scientific context, does biofeedback prove that the I-function can indeed alter the body? Does this support mind-over-matter to a greater degree than we previously acknowledged?

Name: Amy Cunnin
Date: 2002-04-01 19:16:50
Link to this Comment: 1661

One of the interesting issues brought up in class was the issue of sensing and perception, and how we're not conscious of all of the information that our nervous system gathers (through proprioreceptors, hormones, etcetera). To me this says that there is a separation between the I-function and other parts of the nervous system, but that these perceptions taken in from these other parts could influence the I-function in some way.

Muscles in regard to the I-function
Name: Sarah Eber
Date: 2002-04-01 19:23:08
Link to this Comment: 1662

In high school anatomy classes, we learned about smooth muscle versus skeletal muscle: skeletal muscle was under our conscious control, while smooth muscle was controlled by a part of the subconscious. However, while the physical division between the two types of muscle cells is clear-cut, the actual degree of consciousness needed to control the skeletal muscles varies greatly. At some times, it seems almost as if the part of the brain that controls the smooth muscle is running some of the skeletal muscle as well. Much of our actions seem to be carried out on automatic pilot. In other words, the I-function of the brain does not come into play nearly as often as I had previously supposed. It makes changes in actions when necessary, but many of the actions themselves are performed through subconscious channels like muscle memory. When throwing a baseball, your brain will automatically guide your arm without the I-function needing to govern the action. However, if you are trying to improve your pitch by paying close attention to the mechanics of your throw, your I-function does become involved in controlling the motion of your arm. It also can control your arm in a roundabout fashion: if you aim at a mark on the wall, it is your I-function thinking about where to throw, but the muscles of your arm automatically adjust themselves without any specifically directed thoughts on your part. How does the I-function perform its override of the automatic function of the muscles? Why does this often make it more difficult to throw? What exactly is muscle memory, and what process occurs in your brain during a thought-out throw versus an automatic one?

A Beautiful Mind Continued
Name: Michelle T
Date: 2002-04-01 20:51:34
Link to this Comment: 1663

I was interested in Claire's topic of A Beautiful Mind. I have actually read the book and have done a lot of research on schizophrenia. It turns out that the film (although done wonderfully) was a bit Hollywood. Most schizophrenics including John Nash only have audial hallucinations. John Nash did not see people, but could hear different voices commenting on the situation he was in. I think it was easier to create people for the film rather than just voice overs.

There are many different factors that seem to attribute to the list of symptoms that are generally thought of as schizopphrenia. Genetics, in utero viruses, even the number of children in a household and whether the family owns a cat has been linked to increasing the prevalence of schizophrenia. There are many subtypes of schizophrenia, but the major reason that the positive symptoms of delusions and hallucinations are thought to be an excess of the neurotransmitter dopamine. These positive symptoms are actually due to over stimulation to the environment.

the ever-present I-Function
Date: 2002-04-01 21:10:39
Link to this Comment: 1664

As othere have noted, I too have begun to pay attention to my behavior, distinguishing between conscious and involuntary action. My understanding from my informal observations has been that the I-Function does not determine the final decision or action, but simply tailors it to the person. Hence, making us who we are. The end result will be constant, while the I-Function manipulates the path to the particular result. This may be incorrect, but I am working under the notion that the I-Function is concerned with internal experience and all that is connected to it. Therefore, is the external experience solely relegated to the brain?

the ever-present I-Function
Name: Jenny Mary
Date: 2002-04-01 21:11:52
Link to this Comment: 1665

As othere have noted, I too have begun to pay attention to my behavior, distinguishing between conscious and involuntary action. My understanding from my informal observations has been that the I-Function does not determine the final decision or action, but simply tailors it to the person. Hence, making us who we are. The end result will be constant, while the I-Function manipulates the path to the particular result. This may be incorrect, but I am working under the notion that the I-Function is concerned with internal experience and all that is connected to it. Therefore, is the external experience solely relegated to the brain?

Name: sook chan
Date: 2002-04-01 22:22:31
Link to this Comment: 1666

When I was thirteen, a close friend was hit by a car as she was crossing a busy road on her way to school. I still remember her telling me that all she remembered was that she looked down at her leg and saw bits of her bone sticking out her lower leg, but weirdly enough, she felt no pain. It was as if she was "in a dream". That idea seemed rather strage to me as even the slightest burn or scrape would make me whimper in pain. However, throughout my teenage years, there have been times where i have willed my head to stop throbbing, or calmed myself to ease away physical pain. However, the idea of expectation and perception of pain still intrigues me. In Malaysia, I have seen religous festivals whereby followers have dragged cars by strings attatched to hooks on their backs, yet, they seem to feel no pain. How is it possible that the I-function is able to intersept between the sensory neurons that transmits the physical input and the interneurons in the brain that integrates and processes this pain. Is it possible to dissociate oneself to such an extent as to tolerate burning coals or sharp piercings through the skin? The psychology field has identified the idea that children are able to dissociate themselves as they are being physically abused, and similarly, with people experiencing trauma. My friend could not remember a majority of the events that took place before, during, and even after the accident, as she was sent to the hospital, altough witnesses have told her that she was conscious during the whole entire time. Where does our mental defense mechanisms fit into what we are currently learning?

Voluntary and Involuntary Movement
Name: Aly D
Date: 2002-04-01 23:28:35
Link to this Comment: 1667

Before having this class, I was in the dark about the Nervous System. When we discussed Christopher Reeve's paralysis, I was surprised to learn that Christopher Reeve's nervous system still reacted to stimuli, even though he was not capable of commanding his body to move. I always pictured quadrapalegics as people uncapable of moving at all. The Christopher Reeve example showed that the I-function was a separate part of the nervous system. I feel as though the separation became more clearer to me during the last class when we discussed spastic paralysis and voluntary vs. involuntary movement.

It amazes me how most movements can be either voluntary or involuntary. Previously I thought all movement to be either/or. It also never occurred to me that the brain works by inhibition. I now understand how Christopher Reeve's paralysis can work the way it does. His I-function controls his voluntary movement, and thus because of the damage, he is unable to voluntary move. However, involuntary movement is not under the control of the I-function and thus because the damage does not affect this region, he can react without being aware. My question about this is, if the presence of a motor cortex correlates with the capability to make voluntary movements, then does that mean the I-function is located in the motor cortex? Also, because the motor cortex inhibits other parts of the brain, I wonder if animals lacking one have any other way of inhibiting behaviors. How can we be sure that a frog does not have another way of making voluntary movements?

Unconscious I-function
Name: Gabrielle
Date: 2002-04-01 23:39:08
Link to this Comment: 1668

I feel like we are slowly taking away peices of the I-function that we thought were significant parts, such as choice. This bothers me a little bit. I wonder if, instead, these new peices are really unconscious I-function. Take the example of driving a car. The I-function was what was taught how to drive, right? Somehow, the I-function had to learn how to drive and then transfer it into another subconscious or unconscious part of the brain. Is this part of the brain not the I-function? I think that it isn't by our definition. This is also how memory works. There is short term memory. When something is converted into long term memory from short it is actually being transferred from one part of the brain to the other. (That is my understanding at least!) So, maybe the workings of the I-function can be related to memory. The I-function learns something, such as how to point a toe. As the toe pointing is done repeatedly, the brain moves the action of pointing the toe from the I-function to the unconscious. The next dance move that is learned that contains toe pointing can be learned without having to think about the toe point. So, then the brain can focus on the new parts of the move.

Returning to the I-function
Name: Mary Schli
Date: 2002-04-02 00:04:15
Link to this Comment: 1669

I think that the I-function is a useful concept to consider when thinking about behavior. The example in class about a paralyzed person who does not have control over his behavior, but will nevertheless catch a ball when it is thrown to him, illustrates the necessity of the I-function. In this example, the paralyzed person's I-function has lost control, but the body (and the nervous system) still have the ability to behave in certain ways. For this reason, I also think that it is important to consider the I-function when discussing the nervous system. However, I am a bit confused about exactly how important the I-function is, and the role it plays in choice. When we make choices are we really "choosing" something as a result of our thought processes, or is our choice simply the result of certain combinations of neurons firing that would have resulted regardless of how we thought about it? How does our current model account for thought about available choices – is thought the I-function, or is the I-function just the wish/choice to do something?

Name: Gavin Impe
Date: 2002-04-02 00:14:37
Link to this Comment: 1670

Aly talked previously about the idea that the I-function is a separate entity within the nervous system. I wonder if it was ever thought that what we now term the I-function was actually the nervous system itself. It seems to me that the idea of the I-function developed in response to a recognition that we are not in total control of our actions and behaviors at every moment in time. With the I-function defined as a separate it as a distinct entity, we can explain a range of behaviors. It seems that views about many issues in contemporary society (ethics, social responsibility, etc.) can be heavily influenced by conceptions of the I-function and human agency.

Have you ever seen Dr. Phil on the Oprah Winfrey show? In one episode Dr. Phil attempts to enlighten a woman on why she is persistently behaving a certain way. He keeps harping on the point that her behavior is obviously "doing" something for her otherwise she would not be continually engaging in it. He asks if she would go stick her hand in a blender, and she obviously responds "no." He argues that she wouldn't do so simply because sticking your hand in a blender just really doesn't work out for you. How does this idea of behavior – that it is ultimately driven to an end and directed to achieving something (a feeling, sensation, or other result) relate to the idea of the I-function? To what degree does the I-function simply serve to modify and alter behavior patterns that already exist? Humans are obviously not robots, but how much of human behavior is truly volitional? How do we go about drawing the boundaries?

Name: Peffin Lee
Date: 2002-04-02 00:43:23
Link to this Comment: 1671

Along the lines of Kelli's comment, I thought it would be interesting to bring up research that is being done about the short-term and more importantly the long term effects of a painful stimulus being delivered to new born babies during their early developmental stages. Recent research blames the increased sensitivity to pain in adults on a painful stimulus delivered after birth that caused permanent rewiring of the spinal cord circuits. For example premies show an increased sensitivity to pain as adults because they were exposed to harsh hospital environments.

Does that mean that because pain is a mismatch of interpretation of incoming signals that this new rewiring of the spinal cord is somehow rewired wrong (for lack of a better word)?

And what about studies that have shown correlation about babies, who are delivered by forceps, have a tendency towards bad behaviors .ie quick to become angry or violent? What role does the "I" function play?

Name: Tara M Raj
Date: 2002-04-02 09:13:55
Link to this Comment: 1673

I think that the I function can only control out behavior to a certain extent. What about patients who are in the hospital but who are unconscious? It seems that these people are still behaving as they always would, but their I-function is no longer functioning. So is the I-function consciousness?

I also am interested in the comment on Dr Phil and his idea that people will only behave in a manner that is beneficial to themselves. If a person has a repeated pattern of behavior, is it necessarily a pattern that "work for them?" To me it seems that this is only true is the behavior involves the I-function. If the person is consciously performing the same behavior again and again, it is probably beneficial for them at least in some way.

Name: alisa
Date: 2002-04-03 01:12:35
Link to this Comment: 1692

Throughout our conversation about the I-function, it seems that its actual purpose in teh nuervous system is more complicated than previously thought. That there may be a greater seperation between the I-function and the parts of the nervous system as stated by Amy.
The comment and question stated by Gavin was quite interesting questioning the degree to which the I-function modified and altered behavior. I went on the assumption that the I-function didnt really play a role in our urge to achieve a particular would that be studied?

vision and the brain
Name: miranda
Date: 2002-04-04 00:46:23
Link to this Comment: 1711

I think it is a very interesting idea that the images that we percieve as reality are images on our brain, not our eye. Because of the variation in experiences and our differing biologies (and I-functions), none of our brains are exactly the same. Thus it seems that no two people would percieve the images of the world exatly the same.

performing and I-Function
Name: Beverly We
Date: 2002-04-04 09:55:53
Link to this Comment: 1714

I have been thinking about Tuesday's discussion regarding artistic performance and I-function.

As an actress and singer, I memorize lines and lyrics by rote, going over and over words until they flow out of my mouth without thinking. But when I perform, I am very aware of my audience, and I must relate to them personally, or the performance is artificial. (It is no fun to watch a singer perform a song with her/his eyes closed.) Blind singers, such as Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder, engage their bodies in the performance, so their acute sense of hearing must do for them what eyes do for sighted performers. They don't just stand there and sing.

So, if we consider that I-function is the state of awareness or consciousness, (and the ability to add and subtract finesse as the performance unfolds)than my I-function is engaged during performance, which is opposite from what the violinists and pianists and dancers in our class were eluding to on Tuesday.

Perhaps dancing in an ensemble, or playing in an orchestra, is a different kind of performing, one where precision is more important than expression. Perhaps in that case, the I-function gets in the way. A solo performance may require a different consciousness; I believe that the I-function is essential for monitoring the performance as it unfolds.

sight development
Name: Lauren
Date: 2002-04-04 14:50:56
Link to this Comment: 1721

"When babies are born they can already perceive the world around them, though not very clearly. During the first two weeks of life a baby's sight is limited to seeing only lightness and darkness since the macula, the section of the eye responsible for sharp vision, is not completely developed. Over time and with constant practicing babies and children develop their sharp sense of sight. Since the brain is not fully developed until the age of 3 sight development is still somewhat flexible. Not until a child is about 5 or 6 – school age - will their sight be completely developed." taken from

I remember in a class called 'science of the mind' I took in high school, we discussed and analyzed the vision patterns of infants when presented with different pictures/objects. It was very interesting to see that infants spent most of their time looking at the corners of objects and focused on lines and other areas of change/contrast. So, we are genetically programmed to pay more attention and note the contrasting areas in our vision and not the areas that are continuous....but we have to learn to do this. Imagine what babies do's probably overwhelming and very confusing until they learn to see as we do today at our age.

It is very interesting to think about I-funtion and this idea of having to learn how to see. If we decided in class that the I-function was not involved in the 'filling in' of our blind-spot, then are babies aware of their erratic sight patterns? but hey, what ARE babies aware of anyways, so that is kind of a bad question - but an interesting thought. I was also thinking if there was possibly any situations where people did not correctly/adequately go through the process of learning to see? what would the consequences be? this idea also offers more possiblities that we can all see things differently...because our sight not only depends on genetic differences, but the situational differences that arise during the time in which we were learning as infants. nature and nurture.

vision and memory
Name: Cindy
Date: 2002-04-05 12:49:53
Link to this Comment: 1729

After the hearing the lectures in class and reading comments from classmate. I begin to wander about the relationships between vision and memory. At first i though that it makes sense to say that memory is influenced by vision. In reference to Laurans comments about children not being able to see as adults do until the schooling age,THen it makes sense to say that the schooling age is when first memories starts to form.

However, after browsing the web for a while. I was surprised to find out that in fact, vision is influenced by memory, meaning, recognization of an object is influenced by the collection of our memory of that object. I found this concept to be very interesting and it also points to the notion that brain equals behaviours if memory is an activity of the brain and vision is considered behavior.

Seeing ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2002-04-07 12:15:25
Link to this Comment: 1733

Let's see (?!) ... we've been talking about the input side of the nervous system, about imaging and the blindspot and lateral inhibition and ... how all that relates to the I function. Thoughts/comments/questions? Does any of that change how one thinks about the nervous system? about behavior/experience?

Perceptions of reality
Name: Tua
Date: 2002-04-07 15:04:57
Link to this Comment: 1736

Our discussion of vision and how the brain fills in the pieces of the picture we don't detect, made me think of Emily Dickinson's poem and the idea that the brain contains the sky and ourselves as well. It would seem that our perceptions of the world, especially our visual perceptions, are heavily influenced by memory and past experience. It's interesting to think that how we see something is based on what our brains know about or saw that thing before. Every person has their own distinct view of the world --so in that sense the brain does contain the "sky and you besides."

The vision of monkeys as relates to humans
Name: Sarah Eber
Date: 2002-04-07 15:13:36
Link to this Comment: 1737

I think I have a partial answer to Lauren's question about what would happen if a developing mind were deprived of visual data during the critical learning-to-see period. I read about an experiment (I wish I could find the website), where infant monkeys had one eye sewn shut. After six months or so, during which time the other eye was developing normally, the researchers reopened the sewn-shut eye, but the monkey seemed unable to use it, even though the optic nerve was functioning normally. This seems to indicate that there is a definite need to learn to see, and that without that period of learning, the brain is unable to process the data coming in.

In a different approach to the problem, some experiments claim that declining vision in elderly people is not always due to cataracts or to the stiffening of the lens (which must be able to change its thickness to focus on different objects). In experiments involving neurons that respond to different lines of orientation in a visual context, younger monkeys have shown that their different neurons each respond to a specific line, while the neurons of older monkeys are far less choosy in their responses. If the neuron should respond to a vertical stimulus, it may also respond to stimuli from other lines, which confuses the brain of the monkey. (I don't know that I have explained this very well; the article can be found at

In any case, it appears that the brain is not always able to work out which information is true, and which is false. What role does the I-function play in this; is it aware of this crossing of wires? It would be interesting to know how the brains of the sight-deprived monkeys interpret the sudden influx of data when the researchers open the second eye. Does it confuse the brain so much that it simply disregards all the information, or are the visual pathways incomplete, so that data doesn't reach the brain at all?

the brain lies to the mind
Name: Hilary Hoc
Date: 2002-04-07 22:41:49
Link to this Comment: 1739

The brain lies to the mind and not just about sensory input to the optic nerve. The eyes see two images, with a blind spot, yet the mind sees one image, with no blind spot. Similarly, I think of the processes going on within the body of which the I-function has little awareness or control, yet which the ns system is monitoring constantly: heart rate, blood volume, respiration rate, glucose levels, calcium levels, adrenal gland output, etc. The nervous system receives stimuli all the time of which the I-function is blissfully unaware. The brain lies for the mind's own good, I think, but why/how do some stimuli result in conscious experience and others do not, even when it is critical to the organism's survival that the nervous system be acutely sensitive to these stimuli?

Our awareness of sensory input is so contingent upon brain structure and function it begins to undermine the concept of the "I function" as a viable source of individual identity. I've been reading about patients who have had their corpus callosi [one per patient!] severed as a treatment for life-threatening epilepsy. Although these patients appear normal [whatever that means] in social interactions, and unremarkable throughout a standard physical exam, the two hemispheres of the brain can no longer communicate internally. Input can be isolated so that it stimulates only one hemisphere. For example if the only the left eye sees a word flashed on the screen, only the right hemisphere will receive this stimulus. "What is flashed to the left half field or felt by the left hand cannot be [verbally] reported, though if the word 'hat' is flashed on the left, the right hand will retrieve a hat from a group of concealed objects if the person is told to pick out what he has seen. At the same time he will insist verbally that he saw nothing. . .A smell fed to the right nostril [which stimulates the right hemisphere] will elicit a verbal denial that the subject smells anything, but if asked to point with the left hand at the corresponding object he will succeed in picking out, for example, a clove of garlic, protesting all the while that he smells absolutely nothing, so how can he possible point to what he smells." And one last example:"A pipe is placed out of sight in the patient's left hand and he is then asked to write with his left hand what he was holding. Very laboriously and heavily the left hand writes the letters P and I. Then suddenly the writing speeds up and becomes lighter, the I is converted to an E, and the word is completed as PENCIL. . .But then the right hemisphere takes over control of the hand again, heavily crosses out the letters ENCIL, and draws a crude picture of a pipe." Nagel, Thomas, "Brain Bisection and the Unity of Consciousness" in Mortal Questions, Cambridge University Press, England, 1979.

Nagel considers these findings of Roger Sperry and his cohorts [Sperry won a Nobel Prize for this and related work in 1981] and, to summarize, freaks out. He concludes, after rejecting several hypotheses I suspect he decided were invalid long before he worked out why, that ". . .the attribution of conscious, significant mental activity does not require the existence of a single mental subject. . .The natural conception of a single person controlled by a mind possessing a single visual field, individual faculties for each of the other senses, unitary systems of memory, desire, belief, and so forth, may come into conflict with the physiological facts. . .It is possible that the ordinary, simple idea of a single person will come to seem quaint some day." In other words, "I think, therefore...a whole bunch of stuff is going on." Sperry himself suggests two separate consciousnesses, with separate sets of experience, memories, etc. "I think, therefore we are."

Sorry this is so overlong-- I'm chewing on all this for my next paper, and I think Nagel and even Sperry overreact to the right brain's sudden appearance as a more or less independent entity. It's easy to anthropomorphize the lttle guy [if you can be said to anthropomorphize an apparent seat of human consciousness], trying desperately to communicate. But even so, if your left hand doesn't know what your right hand is doing, who are "you" really?

Name: Rebecca Ro
Date: 2002-04-07 22:43:45
Link to this Comment: 1740

I always found it interesting how our eyes adjust to dark. When we first turn off the lights we cannot see, but after awhile our eyes are able to adjust to the dark and we can see a bit in dim light. The brain fills in a lot of what we see. Our brains fill in images but they can also create images entirely. There seems to me that there has to be some sort of dissociation between the "I-function" and the nervous system acting upon what it sees. Is seeing really just seeing? Is seeing really believing? Or does it have to do with experience as well? We all have intuition. Athletes certainly have it. What about an image you have in your head when your eyes are closed verses an image you have when your eyes are open? How does dreaming relate to seeing? How would the "I-function" relate to the dreams that we have?

Many animals can see things that we cannot. Cats can see at night when it is too dark for us. I read that an octopus does not have a blind spot. Why is it that we have a blindspot? Are we not as sophistacted as the octopus?

The question of reality has to play a factor. What exactly does reality mean? Different animals are able to see things differently, some better than others. Why is it that some of us have better vision than other people? However, we need to keep in mind that wedo not know what animals actually perceive. We do not really even know what other people's perception is on things. How do our eyes really work? There is an important difference and distinction between having light illuminate our retina and actually understanding what we are seeing. How do we really make sense of what goes on out there? What about hallucinations? "Believe only half of what you see, and nothing of what you hear." What do we think about that statement?

What we see
Name: Erica Carl
Date: 2002-04-07 23:58:49
Link to this Comment: 1741

What would it be like if an individual could not see? I believe that what we see is greatly effected by how we perceive things in our minds. That is one of the things that make us all different from each other. How we all percieve things in our minds are influenced by the experiences we encounter: the people we meet, the places we've been, our personal opinians...etc. So we percieve the world visually with our eyes and interpret it through our brains, but at the same time how we visualize things is influnced by how we think about things. The different ways in which each individual percieves visual objects can be applied to how we see art. A painting can mean different things to different people, it depends on the individual perception of the painting. So what would it be like if our visual sensory was taken away from us? How does a blind person percieve the outside world without visiual stimulation?

Name: Kornelia
Date: 2002-04-08 00:57:08
Link to this Comment: 1742

Following on the comment about what happens when we are deprived of visual activity, I was wondering whether any of the other sense, which are said to become much more developed when a person is blind such as touch, hearing, etc.,go through such a development and function in a similar way. if through the vision, the brain is creating abstractions and filling in the picture, then when we lack such, do the other senses acquire the function of filling in the blank?

How can we be sure?
Name: Aly
Date: 2002-04-08 01:55:50
Link to this Comment: 1743

Philosophy has often been discussed in my college seminar course. During one particular class period, a heated debate began that I feel is relevant to the discussion we are having now. The question came about as to whether or not we could be sure we perceived the world as it actually was and if indeed we could even assume that we all perceived the world in the same manner. During this class, I thought this question was rather silly. I believed that we would all perceive things the same because our nervous systems have the same basic structure. And, besides, why wouldn't I see the world as it was? The objects I see are in agreement with the objects I feel, and therefore I thought my visual reprensentation to be highly accurate. However, after sitting in class on Tuesday and Thursday, I realize the question is not as simple as I thought it before.

I never knew that the brain made up part of our screen of vision. The idea of a blank spot where the optic nerve head is kind of "unnerves" me! As the example of the x and the dot showed, we can not really be sure that what we see is indeed what actually exists in reality. How often does our brain make up the things we see without our I-function being aware? The idea makes me feel strangely out of control.... Because our brain makes up images based upon the input from the sensory neurons, our brain is at the mercy of the receptors. If the receptors, (for touch as an example) are not equipped with picking up certain information from the world, then we will not perceive the world as accurately. Also, if everyone's brains work a little bit differently, then it would make sense that we would all perceive things in a slightly different manner. If this be the case, then the question whether you see my "pink" as "purple" and vice versa, is not too far fetched after all!

Visual Stimulation
Name: Gabrielle
Date: 2002-04-08 02:02:34
Link to this Comment: 1744

Since we are on the topic of variations of visual stimulation I thought I would relay a Oliver Sachs story that I read. He told about a man who had been blind from the age of 5 to 55. Then, at 55 he was offered a surgery in which he could regain his ability to see. He thought about it for a while, and decided it would be something worth trying. He came out of surgery, and was faced with a very hard task; learning how to make a world out of what he saw. He was, after many weeks, able to walk on his own, and understand what were steps versus cracks. But, he was very unhappy this entire time, and died very soon after. Sachs blamed this on overstimulation from being able to see. He said that the patient's mind was overwhelmed and couldn't handle everything coming in. Not only could the patient not handle it, but it wasn't all interpreted correctly, and his internal pictures weren't acurrate anymore. Basically, his world had been turned inside out.

I also have another question, that I have thought about for many years. Does everyone see colors the same? I wonder if pink looks the same to you as it does to me, besides those who are color-blind. If colors didn't look the same that would explain people who can't match colors well.

Name: Peffin
Date: 2002-04-08 18:59:25
Link to this Comment: 1749

After discussing the relationship between vision and "I" function, I began to think about other situations in which what we see is not what is really there. Specifically, I am curious about how hallucenogenic drugs affect the nervous system, vision, and "I" function. Does the drug cause the sense of false light (does it have anything to do with dilated pupils?) that activates the different layers of the retina to cause a false vision? Or is it in this situation that the nervous system is out of sync and able to create these visions? And is it in this situation that the "I" function is able to override the false vision in the sense that some people are able to control their hallucinations?

Name: cass
Date: 2002-04-08 19:50:16
Link to this Comment: 1751

The most interesting part about lateral inhibition is that without it our cloudy days would look totally different from our sunny days. It makes everything look more constant. On the cloudy days there is less light coming from something that is bright, but the intensity is no different. The input into the brain is the same. This is fascinating because that means that the lateral inhibition only reports the edges and the BRAIN fills in all of the rest.

If all brains are different, and the input is the same from person to person, the fill in part is what creates visual conflicts between people. So does this mean that our reality comes from our brain -that takes the action potentials and makes them into an image and then creates a thought in the mind or I-function? If we have differences among our brains is that what leads people to behave differently and have different thoughts? Perhaps all perspectives come soley down to vision and how the brain fills in whatever is between the edges.

But, if there were no lateral inhibition, what we see would not be as constant as far as seeing edges. Does that mean that our reality comes from some neurons firing in a certain pattern? What happens if this is damaged, does the person have warped sense of reality?

Name: Amy Cunnin
Date: 2002-04-08 20:29:39
Link to this Comment: 1752

The topic of visual perception interests me a lot, especially the question of whether different people see the same things differently. I am extremely nearsighted and must wear either my glasses or contacts to see. I remember when I got my first pair of glasses that I was amazed at all of the visual detail that I had missed before. When I got contacts, I realized that I see differently with my contact lenses than with my glasses- my vision with the contacts seems sharper and less distorted and to me seems like the "truer" perception of the world around me. However, my contacts still do not correct my vision all of the way to 20/20 sight, so what to me is accurate visual perception might not be to someone else who has always had perfect sight. So it may be that visual perception varies from some extent from person to person

Name: Natasha
Date: 2002-04-08 20:29:43
Link to this Comment: 1753

The little experiment we did in class with the pin hole on the paper and the fact that when we could not see the pin hole we could still see the white paper was really interesting. I wonder how it is that the brain chooses what it compensates for. For example, when we did the experiment in class the result was not seeing the pin hole but seeing the paper, and when we did the same experiment with Prof. Grobstein standing in the back of the room, i could see him, but i could not see that he was holding three why is it that the eye chose not to be that specific in compensating? Or is this just a matter of visual closeness and varies with the person's own visual ability? Is the eye's compensative ability vary from person to person, or is it pretty much equal in all people, and if so, what accounts for such a similarity in functioning with so much variation (as everyone is different)?
I was thinking about my own visual awareness during my everyday life, and i have noticed that there is very much variation in how much people notice things around them that are happening, and some i could even say are very selective (though i believe not on purpose) in what they choose to notice and what they ignore. Does this have anything to do with the eye's compensative ability and perhaps the variation in this in each person?

Name: Shannon Le
Date: 2002-04-08 21:06:29
Link to this Comment: 1754

How did life get so complicated?
I was thinking about how no one knows why the right side of the brain controls mainly the left side of the body, while the right side controls the other. At first I thought that there was possibly no reason, but then I began to think of how nearly everything about our biological makeup has a purpose. I feel confident that neuroscientists will eventually find a reason for this setup.

This led me to start thinking of how purposeful, and much more complex than I originally thought, the biological setups of the body are. The eye for instance is so complex, from the lens, retina, photoreceptors that are in the retina, to the ganglia that send the biological messages that become electrical to the rest of the nervous system...and this is so very simplified. How did a single box, cell, and then a clump of multiplying boxes ever accomplish creating such a vast amount of complication, containing very different unique functions? I suppose I should answer my own question with, everything being created due to evolution and Darwin's theory, but it does not seem to be enough. What drove these cells to want to survive, want to multiply and create new complexities that promote the survival of the whole organism? I cannot yet believe that the first cerebral cortex started from a mutation that happened to benefit the species, and therefore stayed to become more complex, because the organism with the mutation was more fit than that without. I know that life evolved from a very simple form, but why did some of these cells decide we needed an eye with a complex set of other unique cells, and how did evolution drive these cells to change, becoming so specific and different, yet still all working together? How did one little box derive so many complex functional systems with such purpose and skillfulness? Is there ever an end to the development of new functional complexities?

Name: Ricky
Date: 2002-04-08 21:59:42
Link to this Comment: 1755

I thought the discussion of how are vision is really just interpretations or perceptions of our brain was intriguing. I thought it was interesting to learn that even though various information is projected to the brain about an object depending upon light, the brain still perceives the object as it did before. I liked the analogy of the wall still being a wall in light and darkness. However, since all of our brains are different, do we all preceive the wall differently or is there just a minor difference? My second question deals with when people begin losing their vision? Since the brain remembers or "knows" how an object should be perceived, what happens with that perception when one's vision is majorly altered from an accident or disease? I wanted to know how the brain's perceptions are changed due to an instant accident or slowly degenerating disease?

Name: Gavin Impe
Date: 2002-04-08 22:14:18
Link to this Comment: 1756

We take it as a given that people can interpret and perceive the same situation or phenomenon in a variety of ways. However, when the question was raised in class as to how we know we are all seeing the same thing, it made this issue seem more complex. That we are all seeing the same thing happen, and interpreting it the same way is something that gives us great comfort. It is nice to know that our understanding of the world around us is in concert with another person's. However, it seems that most of the time we do not compare in detail with other people what exactly we are seeing, so perhaps we are not fully aware of how differently we are actually seeing things. The notion that we think differently seems so much more natural to us. Indeed, seeing things the same, or almost the same is essential for daily activities like driving. The assumption is that we are all having the same experience. Yet is this always the case? Perhaps we are seeing things similarly enough for there not to be major accidents at every turn, but are we actually having the same visual experience? If our nervous systems all share the same organization, then why don't we as humans always feel the same or think the same about a certain issue? Perhaps we just find it unsettling to think that we may be having different visual experiences when we think they are the same.

Name: T
Date: 2002-04-08 22:56:19
Link to this Comment: 1757

This whole discussion reminds me of the movie, The Matrix. I remember one scene when Keanu Reeves has a deja vu when he sees the black cat pass by him for the second time. Is that a flaw in our visual memory? what really happens when we have a deja vu inside our brain? What is it inside the brain that triggers the feeling of having a flashback, or deja vu?

Date: 2002-04-08 23:12:21
Link to this Comment: 1758

I think that the existence of the blind spot and our nervous system's coping mechanism have some very interesting implications. It's not surprising that our body has compensatory mechanisms when one considers the division between the somatic and autonomic nervous system. In particular, the somatic nervous system is involved in mostly voluntary action while the autonomic nervous system involves involuntary action. It is involuntary action that regulates our internal organ systems. This division, however, is not absolute. For example, I can consciously control my rate of breathing in a yoga class, but most of the time my medulla oblongata is taking care of it for me.

From this perspective, the blind spot is just another example of the nervous system maintaining a sense of normality in the face of constant external changes. It maintains a sense of sameness by being attune to minute changes. It is actually quite fortunate that certain actions happen unconsciously because if it didn't the nervous system would be overwhelmed by incoming stimuli.

I guess our discussions leave me with a host of new questions to think about.
Are certain forms of mental illness simply a case of the nervous system being overwhelmed by stimuli? Can this be regulated by a better choice of environment?
Is learning based on the ability of the brain to fill in blanks? How much of learning is conscious?
At what magical moment in time does something become unconscious?
What implications does the actions the of the unconscious mind have for court cases in which defendents plead of temporary insanity?

Date: 2002-04-08 23:12:26
Link to this Comment: 1759

I think that the existence of the blind spot and our nervous system's coping mechanism have some very interesting implications. It's not surprising that our body has compensatory mechanisms when one considers the division between the somatic and autonomic nervous system. In particular, the somatic nervous system is involved in mostly voluntary action while the autonomic nervous system involves involuntary action. It is involuntary action that regulates our internal organ systems. This division, however, is not absolute. For example, I can consciously control my rate of breathing in a yoga class, but most of the time my medulla oblongata is taking care of it for me.

From this perspective, the blind spot is just another example of the nervous system maintaining a sense of normality in the face of constant external changes. It maintains a sense of sameness by being attune to minute changes. It is actually quite fortunate that certain actions happen unconsciously because if it didn't the nervous system would be overwhelmed by incoming stimuli.

I guess our discussions leave me with a host of new questions to think about.
Are certain forms of mental illness simply a case of the nervous system being overwhelmed by stimuli? Can this be regulated by a better choice of environment?
Is learning based on the ability of the brain to fill in blanks? How much of learning is conscious?
At what magical moment in time does something become unconscious?
What implications does the actions the of the unconscious mind have for court cases in which defendents plead of temporary insanity?

Name: Michelle T
Date: 2002-04-09 00:06:02
Link to this Comment: 1760

I was not too surprised when we determined that the brain fills in the holes for what the eyes cannot see. The brain has control over the images that we see. If we believe that we see an image throughly enough, chances are we will see that object. For example, take visual hallucinations, these images are just a figment of one's imagination, right? Yet they seem very real to the person experiencing them. Could something be wrong with their brains such as an excess of dopamine? Maybe dehydration could also cause such hallucinations to occur. Does something really have to be "wrong" with one's body to see things that are in effect not there?
We have all had the experience of seeing something out of the corner of our eye that when we turn and look just is not there anymore. It is just to what extreme these visual hallucinations take place that deciphers whether one is "crazy" or just slightly paranoid.

The retina, edges, and everything in between
Name: Mary Schli
Date: 2002-04-09 01:29:07
Link to this Comment: 1762

I think that the idea that the retina is largely detecting only the edges in the visual field and then is "guessing" what fills in the edges is very interesting. On the one hand, having such a system does allow our vision to be more consistent and reliable under different light intensities, but on the other hand it kind of makes me wonder whether what we are seeing in our heads is really what is out there. I guess you could argue that we all claim to see the same thing, but if our visual systems are all built the same way then is that a sufficient answer? I personally think that the world does exist as we see it, but I thought it was an interesting philosophical question to bring up. I was also wondering whether this model implies that it will take longer to see things that have multiple edges that are different than it will take to see something that is much more simplistic since the thing with multiple edges requires you to "fill-in" many different patterns. I don't perceive a time lag when I look at intricately designed things, so how would this model account for this issue?

clarity and confusion simultaneously
Name: Jenny Mary
Date: 2002-04-09 03:00:10
Link to this Comment: 1763

Thus far, this class has had strange affects on how I perceive the world versus how I thought I preceived the world. I don't know what I believe, other than the brain has become central in my understanding of everything. While doing research for for certain topics, I was confronted with the issues of brain and behavior again. The issue dealt with child abuse, and where as the I-function clearly affects whether a person participates in child abuse or not, doesn't the issue encompass our brain, particularly the external experience and memory more so? I'm interested in what people's opinions might be on the matter. I've found to be a complex issue with several variants.

Name: Tara M Raj
Date: 2002-04-09 09:12:51
Link to this Comment: 1764

The idea of whether we perceive the world the same way is a question I'm not sure we will ever be able to answer. To me, it seems that humans perceive their surroundings in similar ways, but maybe not the same way as other animals that have a different optical anatomy than us. If our eyes are designed differently than theirs, the world probably looks very different. And since some animals are able to see very well in the dark, they probably see many things that we will never be able to see. What about all the things that the human eye cannot see, such as UV light, infrared, and even very small things that are too tiny for us to detect? All of these adaptations of our eye makes for a one sided view of the world. There is probably so much out there that we will never know.

Name: Kathryn
Date: 2002-04-09 17:13:37
Link to this Comment: 1767

So we have blind spots, the illusion that light goes towards us, and our eyes detect lines and edges rather than intensity. There are a few things that trouble me about these things.

First, the retinal image may not be representing reality accurately. When I look out into the world, I assume and trust that my eyes are giving me an accurate representation. It seems strange to think that my eyes alter what is really there by making the light seem as if it is going towards me and by using a lateral inhibition network. Since the eye lets light in through the pupil, a tiny hole, it gives the light a source and direction. But in reality, light goes in all directions. The lateral inhibition network makes objects look the same despite light intensity which makes the world seem more stable. These differences also suggest that different animals or even different people see the world a little differently. This means that reality really is inside a person's brain, and that each person might have a slightly different representation of it. It is apparent that seeing the world in this way is beneficial for how we interact with it and therefore it makes sense for this to happen.

Another problem I have is that our brain interprets the retinal image without reaching the "I" function. It does this by filling in blind spots with images from our memory, as it did when we looked at the piece of paper with the "X" and the dot. Again it seems as if our brain was trying to make our perception of the world more stable. The part that I find especially intriguing is that even though we now know about our blind spot, we can't make ourselves see it. This provides even more support for the encapsulated "I" function theory. It almost seems as if our brains are trying to protect the "I" function from the complexities of the reality of the world around us.

color blindness...
Date: 2002-04-10 23:26:30
Link to this Comment: 1786

This may be a rather simple example. A few weeks ago I got into a disagreement with a friend of mine over the color of a shirt. I swore the shirt was purple and she said it was blue. I was convinced at the time that my friend was simply color blind, but after our class on Tuesday I have been forced to reconsider. Was our disagreement simply an illustration of differences in perceptions? Was the situation the result of the fact that both of us had different definitions of "purple" and "blue" as defined by our brains (versus a physical reality of color)?
Along similar lines of my first question if we each define color according to what our brain perceives color to be, and our brains are all different, why do we all come up with similar perceptions?
One last question is what happens in the case of people who are color blind? Is there blindness simply a result of a lack of their brain defining color?

color blindness...
Name: Sujatha Se
Date: 2002-04-10 23:26:56
Link to this Comment: 1787

This may be a rather simple example. A few weeks ago I got into a disagreement with a friend of mine over the color of a shirt. I swore the shirt was purple and she said it was blue. I was convinced at the time that my friend was simply color blind, but after our class on Tuesday I have been forced to reconsider. Was our disagreement simply an illustration of differences in perceptions? Was the situation the result of the fact that both of us had different definitions of "purple" and "blue" as defined by our brains (versus a physical reality of color)?
Along similar lines of my first question if we each define color according to what our brain perceives color to be, and our brains are all different, why do we all come up with similar perceptions?
One last question is what happens in the case of people who are color blind? Is there blindness simply a result of a lack of their brain defining color?

Name: Beverly We
Date: 2002-04-11 09:56:37
Link to this Comment: 1792

Color is such an important part of how I feel. I define much of what I do in terms of color. It exhilarates me or saddens me, "coloring" the way I interact on many levels.

In one of Oliver Sacks' books, he describes a man who lost his ability to see all color, he was a painter, and when he ultimately resumed painting, he painted everything in shades of gray. The fruits in the bowl were all shades of black to white, and had this deathlike quality of desolation.

Most of the males in my family have a red/green colorblindness, which simply means that they see colors differently from normal color vision. Maroons look grey, browns look green, lots of dark colors are grey, but aside from asking advise when buying a suit or a tie, all else is the same. I cannot imagine living in a world without color, not being able to experience the spectacular colors found in nature.

I suspect that living without color is better than living without vision.

Lecture on Cloning
Name: Rebecca Ro
Date: 2002-04-14 18:48:43
Link to this Comment: 1808

I attended the lecture Dr. Campbell gave at Haverford today. A main issue on a lot of people's mind is, why clone? Many people need organ transplants, however the only problem is that we are missing organs. There is a huge list of people needing transplants. Can we eventually use organs from other animals by genetically modifying cells?

Genetic modification was discussed: produce stable heritable change in genetic makeup of an animal (add, remove, or modify genes). Cloning farm animals: biopharmaceuticals, xenotransplantation, and nutraceuticals. Other applications that were mentioned were disease models (i.e. cystic fibrosis), development, aging, differentiation, reproduction, agriculture, genetic preservation (losing farm animals), cellular de-differentiation- stem cell isolation.

Specific genses in different species of animals are being targeted. However, it is important to keep in mind that when one talks about cloning humans it is always important to look at the differences in biology. We are obviously different from sheep. There were no medical reasons for cloning people mentioned. The nature-nurture debate was brought up. Individuals arise not only as a product of genetic makeup, but also because of environmental factors.

Looking at the success rate of this process is important as well as what developmental abnormalities may develop. The later defects of cloning are unknown. We do not know much about the lifespan, what the pressure would be on the child ("Gattaca" comes to my mind), and the effects on parents (clone). However, some uses that were mentioned were if cloning could possibly remove genetic defects, revive deceased persons, treat infertility.

As far as stem cell research, it could possibly try and treat aging diseases such as Parkinsons and Alzheimers as well as possible regeneration of spinal cord damage. However, he brought up that when embryonic stem cells are used, you are not certain which route is exactly the best. Rejection problems is another issue as well as function/control of the cells. Longevity?

Differentiation of cells--bases of nuclear transfer:human medicine, agriculture, can work on improving technology and what is producing developmental abnormalities. Should we use cell-nuclear transplants?

Name: Kelli
Date: 2002-04-15 14:04:39
Link to this Comment: 1813

From our class discussions it has become increasingly clear that our definiton of "experience" is rapidly evolving. I recall that my first web posting essentially defined experience as 'necessary for knowledge and function, having been acquired through the somatic sensation.' However, the absence of a blind spot, the transient pains and sensations of a phantom limb, and the acknowledgement that yellow is not yellow have dramatically changed my definition of experience.

I wrote my web paper on pain. In my research I found an article written by the prominent neurobiologist, Ronald Melzak. No only did he address the basic ideas on pain, but explored the possibility of an entirely new body-environment interaction. He suggests that sensory input serves only to incite a deeper function, one that ultimately asses the body state and input to produce a corresponding output. I feel that this theory could rationalize vast array of presently unexplained neurobiological disorders, such as schizophrenia, phantom limb pain, and paraplegia.However, to accept this we would be required to acknowledge our lack of control at an even higher degree than we have already. Could it be true that we are genetically coded to know where our hand is and how it moves, even if we don't have a hand to begin with? Ponderous, eh?

Unrelated, but also on my mind: are colorblind animals, such as dogs and cats, more dark adapted due to the possession of only rod cells?

Name: Balpreet B
Date: 2002-04-15 19:36:40
Link to this Comment: 1818

There are so many things to talk about from last week's lectures concerning vision and its relationship to the brain that I feel if I attempted to write about everything, it would take ages to read. So I will narrow it down to one, maybe two topics that I was genuinely interested in. One topic that interested me was the idea of whether or not people see the same things/objects differently. Professor Grobstein mentioned people who are need glasses or contacts to correct their vision and whether or not those people would know any different if they didn't have them. This made me remember back in high school when my eye sight began to get bad. At first I didn't notice that my eye sight was changing because I didn't know any better. But after time, when I realized that I couldn't see the chalk board anymore, I knew something was wrong. But it was only until I got my first pair of glasses that I realized all that I was not seeing. All the detail (the leaves on the trees for example). Although I noticed that my eye sight was worsening, I didn't realize how different (clearer, sharper) my vision would be until I put on my first pair of glasses.

I was also fascinated by the idea of seeing in the dark. When I turn off the light to go to bed at night, I realize that I can barely see anything; but after a while, everything begins to come into focus and I can see the outline of my desk or my closet door. The discussion about seeing in the dark reminded me of The Count of Monte Cristo when Edmond Dantes was in prison for over a decade; the author mentions that he could not see a thing in the beginning, but after years of living in a dark cell, he was able to see every small detail in a dark room for the rest of his life. I thought that correlation to our discussion about vision and seeing in the dark was interesting :)

Name: sook chan
Date: 2002-04-15 22:23:40
Link to this Comment: 1820

What is reality? This may seem like a rather abstract question, yet, as i was thinking about this, i realized that reality may really not be REAL after all. Our brains fills in the patterns of an image that is missing when an part of our visual perception is focused onto the blind spot. We do not consciously realize this as the patterns are continuous and unsuspicous. Place two people at the window at collier science and ask them to describe what they observe. A mass of sensory input is available, yet which one each individual chooses to focus on to summ up an experience differs greatly. One may notice the students walking to and from class, invoking a sense of guilt that she is missing her class. The other might notice the spring sunshine and the blooming cherry blossoms and feel a pang of nostalgia as the year is almost over. There is an extreme variation between what one chooses to see and what they interpret and place into their brains where memories and past experiences are stored. Each individual's stored memories later effect what they chose to see in another situation and what they take away from that situation, and the cycle goes on. So what if what we see is really not there, not because it is "lost" in our blind spots. If we encounter a strange and unprecedented experience, our brain will frantically try to fit this experience into a contextual framework. What if the category that the brain places this experience is completely different from what is meant? These are just thoughts that came up as i was writing my web paper. Sometimes, it's a wonder why people are so different yet so much alike, and that the majority of us are still sane.

sense of direction
Name: Lauren
Date: 2002-04-18 16:43:13
Link to this Comment: 1884

In class, we decided that our sense of direction, is a result of our I-function. It is interesting to note that males and females, on a general scale, have shown vast differences in spatial relations, which is the basis of having a good sense of direction.

"However, the brain continues to develop through the teen age, with many of these changes being sex specific. In the adult brain, the overall cerebral size is larger in men than women, but there are specific parts that are larger in women. These include the caudate nucleus, hippocampus, some prefrontal cortical regions, superior temporal gyrus, and some white matter structures such as the anterior commisure . In the male, the hypothalamus, stria terminalis, cerebral ventricles, and the splenium and genu of the corpus callosum are proportionally larger."

-Taken from the below internet site which discusses some of the differences found in male and female brains, and the implications of each:

"Men are better in spatial coordination and have a better sense of direction (usually!). They excel in math and are great at interpreting three-dimensional objects. They have a better hand-eye coordination and more precise control of large muscle movement." -So, does hand-eye coordination, as well as sense of direction, involve the I-function?

Because I-function is involved in sense of direction, and there are viable differences in male and female brains that affect their sense of direction, then are there differences in the I-functions of men and women?

Name: cass
Date: 2002-04-18 21:34:58
Link to this Comment: 1887

We have decided that the in the picture in the head is due to the fact that people have an I-function. One can see without there being a picture in the head, which means that the seeing is up to the brain and the picture is up to the self. Seeing involves many areas of the brain and they all communicate with one another to create a "visual symphony". And the symphony goes for all senses. I think it is safe to say that all senses are then perceptions which make up one's own reality. I like the idea that the brain does not know what it is doing. That neurons are firing, creating a pattern generator, and communicating for the end result of something, like seeing, but knowing that that is why they are communicating. All of these inputs would mean nothing if there were no I-function. I really like this because it makes us seem a little more like individuals with a spirit and a little less robots.

other: Why does the brain have to be in charge of everything. Does the brain create cognitions and perceptions or is that up to our I-function. If it is up to our I-function then is it a simple correlation with brain activity. This would make sens if we are all individual people.

Name: Lauren
Date: 2002-04-21 22:23:54
Link to this Comment: 1902

"Memory's unreliable ... Memory's not perfect. It's not even that good. Ask the police; eyewitness testimony is unreliable ... Memory can change the shape of a room or the color of a car. It's an interpretation, not a record. Memories can be changed or distorted, and they're irrelevant if you have the facts."

From the movie Momento. Thought this quote was interesting to think about in regards to Sook's connection to how one store's perceptions into memories, and how your personal perception can create very different memories from others.

Name: Aly
Date: 2002-04-21 23:59:31
Link to this Comment: 1903

Now that my world has been turned upside down in class, I need to recompose myself. I don't know how everyone else feels about our class discussions lately, but I feel as if I am slowly losing faith in everything that was previously so sure in my life. I always figured everyone's realities were all the same...after all isn't what we see in our heads a representation of how the world actually is? However, after learning all the intricacies of how our brain makes up the picture of our reality, I realize that what we "see" could be entirely different from what actually is out there in the world. now, not only are we are at the mercy of our sensory equipment, but we are at the mercy of how our brain puts this input together? And apparently, this picture is just a representation for the I-function so that we can invision ourselves in this reality? The fact that we can "see" without having this picture in our head, puts me in a state of awe. I can not fathom how it would feel to not see a picture, but still see. I guess this is because my I-function is still functioning, and I could not experience the reality of a person like this, unless my I-function did not work.

Furthermore, I can not imagine how someone else see's the world. It amazes me to think that you could be looking at the same things in the world as me and see them in an entirely different matter. What accounts for the differences in how we see "reality". Is it genetic? Do certain groups of people observe realities closer to those of each other than to those of other groups? Or are our realities actually really close to each other? I mean are we being silly about this? However, what if our pictures of reality are incredibly far from the truth of the reality out there?

It is interesting to contemplate what actually exists in the world and if there will ever be a way to know what truly exists out there. At the same time, maybe reality is just a subjective thing. Maybe the only way it can be defined is through us, and because we all have different realities, there can be no "truth". Prof. Grobstein posed the question, "If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?" The sound is only there if someone is there to have a reality of it. If no one is there, the reality can not be percieved and so what does this mean? I have to leave this question open before I confuse myself even more...........

spatial relations and the I-function
Name: Hilary Hoc
Date: 2002-04-22 16:02:32
Link to this Comment: 1907

If we need an I function to navigate through space, how do ants and butterflies navigate? Do they have concepts of themselves as objects in space? Or are their nervous systems organized differently than ours?

Re: memory, some of the research I did for the last paper turned up articles on the left hemisphere's ability to make up memories to fill in details it cannot remember or organize into patterns while the right hemisphere does not. In other words, the brain tells itself stories so that the input it receives will make sense. But as best researchers can tell, the brain does not recognize that these memories are false. This is one of the problems with eyewitness identifications, which are notoriously unreliable -- accuracy and certainty are not the same [or even related] when the brain is sorting through perceptions and memories. The brain prefers a good sotry to the truth.

Name: Kathryn Fo
Date: 2002-04-22 18:35:12
Link to this Comment: 1911

I just have a few questions about the I-function. Is the I-function conditioned, or is it able to work after it experiences a type of stimuli or input once. For the things that the I-Function "makes up", does it know to make up a certain thing after one encounter, or does it need many encounters? It just seems pretty incredible that the brain is able to substitute images with the I-Function. i wonder when my nervous system is actually perceiving an image, or if it is just another working of the I-Function. It just seems that the actual nervous system is just used when enountering something new, and once you have, then you rely on the I-Function. That whole concept just seems to take away from the significance of the nervous system. Hypothetically, if one was able to function without the input sensories, would a middle-aged person be able to survive with just the use of the I-function? Could a person just rely on the experiences of the past to survive?

Name: Balpreet B
Date: 2002-04-22 19:59:37
Link to this Comment: 1912

While reading the comments for this week, I came upon Cindy's comment concerning the relationship between vision and memory. From that comment, one thought that came to me are the visions we see in our dreams and its relationship to the brain. Where do these visions come from? Do all the visions in our dreams come from a collection of memories? If this is so, then if we dream of something familiar (eg: family), then the vision is coming from a our memories of our family. But what if we dream of something that we have never experienced before (eg: flying, being in space). If we do not have a collection of memories for that particular experience, where would those visions come from?

Name: Balpreet B
Date: 2002-04-22 19:59:44
Link to this Comment: 1913

While reading the comments for this week, I came upon Cindy's comment concerning the relationship between vision and memory. From that comment, one thought that came to me are the visions we see in our dreams and its relationship to the brain. Where do these visions come from? Do all the visions in our dreams come from a collection of memories? If this is so, then if we dream of something familiar (eg: family), then the vision is coming from a our memories of our family. But what if we dream of something that we have never experienced before (eg: flying, being in space). If we do not have a collection of memories for that particular experience, where would those visions come from?

dreams and visions
Name: Joan Stein
Date: 2002-04-22 21:10:07
Link to this Comment: 1915

This was a comment from Balpreet: "...visions we see in our dreams and its relationship to the brain. Where do these visions come from? Do all the visions in our dreams come from a collection of memories? If this is so, then if we dream of something familiar (eg: family), then the vision is coming from memories of our family. But what if we dream of something that we have never experienced before (eg: flying, being in space). If we do not have a collection of memories for that particular experience, where would those visions come from?"

I think anything we dream, whether we have experienced it directly or not, is derived from our collection of memory. Even though one may never have flown before or been in outer space, in order for them to dream about it they have to have some kind of experience before, whether it be from simply learning about it, seeing photographs, or the action itself through a different medium. Also, it seems our minds have an uncanny ability to create. It can take output and create new input. For example, I believe that with flying, we all have seen things fly (planes, birds, etc.) and are aware of our own senses, how we feel and perceive things, etc. Like the wind and what it feels like, more or less, to be suspended in the air. From our collection of memory we can create new visions. Taking our experiences with our senses and interpreting them into a new action that you know the basic mechanics of, the brain can create that new vision or imaginary experience.

Name: Kornelia
Date: 2002-04-22 22:10:37
Link to this Comment: 1917

After last week's discussions I have been thinking about couple of problems/issues mentioned in class. We concluded that things are always ambiguous as far as the brain is concerned. It is always involved in fillig up the gaps of the story, the picture, etc.. Thus, our reality is a hypothesis based on the best presumption and good guess of our brain. If each person's reality is a hypothesis, what is the effect this would have on behaviour. How many of our attitudes and perceptions are indeed result of the hypothesis of our brain. And in conflict situations, how often it is about the oppositions of these same attitudes and perceptions, while the roots of many of these problems may well be in the ability to guess of the individual brains. I am thinkin along the lines of the social sciences and what consequence this could have in terms of conflict management, for example. The realization that differences are often times just the result of brains' different ways of filling the gaps...

The grim reality
Name: Jenny Mary
Date: 2002-04-22 23:22:38
Link to this Comment: 1919

My post is in response to Aly's and Kornelia's posts regarding the subjective natures of the percepts and actions of reality. It is daunting to think that the perception of reality differs with each person and that reality is actually solidified through hypotheses of the brain. In relation to resultant behavior of these hypotheses, it is interesting to transpose our knowledge to conflict situations in the news currently. If it is unlikely that we all experience the same reality, how can we explain the prevalent terrorist sentiments of masses of people in the middle east? Is "brainwashing" and fundamentalist dogma able to alter the hypotheses of the brain, thus affecting the attitudes of large populations? Furthermore, in times of war, is the inability to resolve political strife at core an intersection of conflicted realities? Are there no means of reconciling these differences, leaving us with a grim, conflict ridden future?

Name: Gavin Impe
Date: 2002-04-22 23:57:15
Link to this Comment: 1920

I would like to respond to Aly's previous post about the notion of objective reality. Postmodern theorists make the frightening assertion that objective reality simply does not exist. According to this theory, there are no absolutes and no universals. All the things that allow us to feel security in our everyday lives are undermined and shown to be apparitional. Furthermore, postmodernists argue that systems of sign signification always fail - there is no way to proceed from sign to signified. That is, all of perceptive human reality can never be synthesized into an intelligible whole - human experience is fragmented, and memory and intentionality are irrecoverable. Anything that we recognize as "objective" is, according to this theory, utterly lacking in meaning and sense. Not much room for scientific thought or endeavor here, since nothing can ever be law or dogma. Essentially, humans can ever possess an ordered system of understanding experience.

I don't mean to digress into a discussion of literary theory, but one thing that really fascinates me about the postmodern perspective is how extreme its subversion of the notion of the objective is. It is common for people, in analyzing a piece of literature, to speak about the intention of the author. We are always in search of some understanding of what the author actually meant. Roland Barthes, in his critical article "The Death of the Author" argues that intentionality is irrecoverable. He suggests that a given work of literature has no absolute meaning, and that there is no use in attempting to uncover what the author meant, because his interpretation is equally unreliable. The author is born simultaneously with the text argues Barthes, so he has no more intimate perspective on his work that we as readers do. What could be more objective than an author's statement of intention? According to Barthes assertions, we cannot rely anything to understanding reality. If we think of a text as a form of reality, even its creator has no ownership or understanding of its meaning. We are all simply adrift in a void of meaninglessness. I find this idea very unsettling, and even more so because it is difficult to counter such a viewpoint when one's argument can be easily deconstructed as well.

Perceptions of Reality
Name: Tua Chaudh
Date: 2002-04-23 02:47:23
Link to this Comment: 1922

Although it's true that we all have our distinct views and experiences of reality, there are standards of perception that are set or that we agree to set. If someone mistakes a tree for a person they will be deemed blind or crazy. Our brains do fill in the parts of reality that it can not sense, so to speak, but it still provides itself a context to work with in. The differences lie, perhaps, in the fact that the contexts our brains have are different. Sook asked in an earlier posting what happens when the brain encounters a new experience and must refer to what it already knows to identify and place it. Probably that it does just that. When it's said that we see the world from our own point of view it means that we see the world from the culmination of all of our experiences thus far. Because our experiences are constantly changing, our brains' frame of reference is constantly in flux as well. So no one is really stable and stagnant in his/her perception of reality because the point from which one views reality is always revising itself.

Name: Beverly We
Date: 2002-04-23 07:20:08
Link to this Comment: 1924

If we do not know what reality is, and our sense of sanity depends on the balance of neurotransmitters, what is mental stability? Does I-function determine whether we are sane? If each mind is on a spectrum from sane to insane and creativity and genius are considered an aberration, is sanity only the ability to function is some society? What society? Why are so many great writers and composers depressed? Does genius only occur when the brain is in disarray? If an individual is extraordinarily gifted, why does it seem that they are deficient in other areas? Is the capacity to learn finite? Does normal exist or is all that we do on some kind of spectrum? My I function is spinning!

preception of reality
Name: Tara Monik
Date: 2002-04-23 08:49:12
Link to this Comment: 1925

The idea of reality is now much more fuzzy to me than it ever was before. When I was asked earlier "if a tree fell in a forest and no one was around to hear it would it make a sound?" I was always eager to yes. I thought that because of the laws of physics and chemistry the atoms around the tree would be moving and there would be energy released that would be exhibited through sound. However, now I realize that sound is a convention of our perception. We hear things inside our heads and see things inside our heads that probably do exist in some form outside out minds, but not necessarily in the same way. Maybe other living things have their own convention of noticing reality without hearing sounds in their heads or without seeing there surroundings as a picture in their head. After all, there are a lot of things that humans cannot pick up on, such as infrared and ultra violet light. So its very possible that the picture in the head of another life form is entirely different than that in the head of a human.

Name: Mary Schli
Date: 2002-04-23 09:29:21
Link to this Comment: 1926

I've been thinking about the idea of the picture in our head and at first I was a little worried about the idea that reality is all a hypothesis that our brain makes from various inputs, especially since I've been taught all through school that what we are seeing/hearing/sensing is indeed reality. However, as I came to see that there are many ways that the brain checks and rechecks its hypothesis, I became more comfortable and accepting of this notion. It is interesting to me to consider the many different possible ways that one can interpret the world because of this flexibility, but at the same time it seems that most of us agree that what we are seeing/sensing is indeed the same thing. I wonder if we are born with this ability to interpret these cues or if that is something that develops throughout the early years. Also, how do "abnormal" behaviors such as hallucinations fit into this picture? Are the many parts of the brain that handle the checks and rechecks all making errors, or is it one error in a centrally important place? How would we test for this?

Name: Nicole Pie
Date: 2002-04-24 16:55:28
Link to this Comment: 1950

During class I find myself wondering what if we are missing something believing that what are sences tell us is reality. I know this has been brought up before but I can't help but think the whole notion of what inputs into the brain and what our brain tells us is reality sounds a lot like the movie, Matrix. I feel that class and the discussions we have are like that pill you take to see the actual reality around you, however we can't take the other pill to forget the whole thing, which for me is a good thing. I now find myself challenging the world around me and seeing things in a new light, which has helped me to understand why people act differently in different situations. But now I find myself asking, what if all these things we discuss are just the "reality" of the researchers? Most of what we discuss is believing in the facts are really the facts, when they are just the perceptions of those people who found them.

Subjective Reality
Name: Miranda
Date: 2002-04-24 21:15:24
Link to this Comment: 1956

Perhaps I'm simply too obstinate in letting go of the notion of reality (it's not a very comfortable notion that there is no certain reality). But I feel that reality is much less subjective than some people have made it out to be. There are many things about the world that most anyone would agree on. For example, if asked to describe the lecture hall in which we have class, most everyone would give similar depiction about the color of the walls, the descending stairs, the seats with desks, etc. Though we certainly may not perceive the room exactly the same (there's not way to know if you and I actually see any of these features similarly), we would all give fairly identical accounts. So, our brains may be guessing and filling in the gaps of our realities, but they seem to be doing it pretty similarly. Nonetheless, there is something very lonely about the thought that no one else perceives my world exactly as I do.

what's left?
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2002-04-25 09:55:36
Link to this Comment: 1957

One week to go ... and we've considered "reality", the I-function, and emotions/personality. What do we still need to think about in re brain=behavior?

Ghosts and stuff
Name: Claire A.
Date: 2002-04-27 01:27:11
Link to this Comment: 1974

Supernatural beings or objects such as ghosts, bring into question the idea reality and how feelings, emotions and experience can guide such reality. Each individual's perception and subjectivity can dictate their reality about such phenomenon. Some argue that ghosts are not part of reality but instead illusions of the mind which are not in fact real to them. Others, believe in ghosts without having ever experienced them. Thus, subjectivity guides reality. Although non-believers may come close to experiencing
a ghost, they may hold on to their "reality." The same holds true for believers as they may never see a ghost but continue to believe in such reality. I guess this takes us full circle to the beginning of the course as reality is what is in fact real to us. As Dickinson said, the brain does hold the sky and us besides. Our reality becomes a combination of physiological, psychological and social factors which are integrated in the brain and given off as behavior.

Name: Aly
Date: 2002-04-28 18:01:05
Link to this Comment: 1978

I agree with Claire that a discussion on the perception of supernatural beings could lead to good input on the brain=behavior debate. However, I would like to see more exploration into learning and memory. How exactly does the brain store memories and how do we indeed "learn" knowledge? Learning disorders are very common and, like emotions and other things, can help to define how others view a person. I question how different learning capabilites affect people's perceived realities. While sitting through class, we have learned many things about brain and behavior, but we have not studied the main thing that our brains do: learn. I think that learning is the missing piece of the puzzle. It is a vital function of our brains and most definitely affects our behavior. Therefore, the brain=behavior relationship can not be fully understood without the further exploration of learning and memory.

the end
Name: Gabrielle
Date: 2002-04-29 10:57:08
Link to this Comment: 1987

I feel as if we aren't going to be able to complete a study of the brain, no matter what we spend our last week discussing. I think that a discussion on learning would be a good one. I think I know a lot more about the brain than I did at the beginning of the class. But, many times the more that I know, the more I feel like I don't know. That has definitely been my experience in this class. Each subject we have covered has made me question and want to know more. Spending some time making a summary of what we learned might help bring it to a conclusion. There are scientists that spend their whole lives studying the brain without completion, so I think that we may have to do it to.

Much is Left......
Name: Rebecca Ro
Date: 2002-04-29 13:19:48
Link to this Comment: 1989

This class made me think and really question the meaning of reality, the brain itself, and our behaviors. The more and more we begin to explore the more questions seem to be raised. With every answer, there seems to be a slew of new questions. I think we need to explore the meanings of consciousness and unconsciousness. Both to me seem very difficult to actually define. A hot issue now, especially since the Yates trial could be exploring mental verses physical evidence. How does one know when someone is mentally competent? How can one's mental state really be evaluated? What is exactly happening in the brain to cause someone to act that way? Are we ever fully aware of what we are actually doing? The differences in waking, sleeping, and dreaming would be interesting to explore. There is of course the same question that keeps reappearing—the mind/body problem—what is the mind/body connection? Does the brain equal behavior? We all would like to think of our mind as being ours. But there are real ways in which the brain has a set of rules of its own. The issue of the brain and memory is interesting to look at as well. Why are some people better at remembering then others?

Name: Jenny Mary
Date: 2002-04-29 16:37:01
Link to this Comment: 1992

Throughout the semester, the discussion of brain and behavior has raised some serious accountability questions for me. It appears that thus far, we have been able to attribute the majority of actions and behavior to the brain. However, with the mention of the Tate trial in another post, does that hold water in most real life situations? Where the insanity defense is concerned, is that a legitimate excuse for illegal action, if in nother situations that defense would be absurd. I'm just concerned with the brain and our legal system. How far can we use the brain as an excuse? In our class, very far. But if we would translate that to the real world, our entire legal and penal system would be turned on its head. Is there a way to merge the truth (yes, you did wrong because of a malfunction in your brain) with practicality (but we still must try you as a person who broke the law)?

last week of class
Name: Hilary Hoc
Date: 2002-04-29 17:57:12
Link to this Comment: 1994

With what time we have left, I'd be interested in discussing creativity: it seems to me solid evidence of the infinite variability of brains and of the ultimately subjective and ever-shifting nature of perception, but how do different brains produce different creative output? Are there certain sorts of brains, or parts of brains, or types of input that tend to produce creativity? Is creativity simply a byproduct of the mental flexibility we need to survive or must we be creative? If we could not sing, dance, paint, tell stories, would our brains and behavior otherwise be the same or is creativity itself a necessary survival strategy or evolutionary tool? How is creativity related to dreaming?

I think discussions of forensic issues in scientific settings are somewhat akin to discussions of scientific issues in forensic settings -- like penguins dancing Swan Lake: oddly captivating but not pretty. How to bring the two fields togetherin a productive way for both disciplines and for society as a whole is a never ending struggle. Yet multidisciplinary approaches to these issues so often sacrifice rigor and depth for accessibility and breadth. How to get the legal system and the scientific community talking in some productive fashion??

Name: cass
Date: 2002-04-29 21:15:10
Link to this Comment: 1995

I would like to discuss sleepwalking for a moment. When a person experiences this, they act and behave like themselves even though they do not remember. That is, without the I-function. Is the same as having a damaged lobe and not being able to see in that you really can see, but you don't know that you can see? Is having conscious thought the realization of what is unconscious? Is understanding one's intuition or instincts, the development of the intuitive "sense" so that a person can act on it? Do we "know" everything, but in most cases our I-function doesn't recognize that we know things, thus the learning or re-learning? What about those suffering from mental illness- do they know what is disruptive in their lives somewhere deep down and just need the help to draw it out, or is that engraved in the brain? And about rem: rem sleep=desynchronized activity. This random activity is the same as in a waking state, unless you have chronic fatigue syndrome or something and can not get out of those theta waves. Does that mean that if our real world is a bunch of random activity, do we even know what is going on or what reality is? Or does that mean that we just have a high level of functioning in rem sleep as in wakefulness? I think dreaming is an interesting example of having nothing coming in (input) and nothing going out (output)- why would one want this? But then again don't we use that internal activity the next day when we remember and want in our dream have figured out a way to create an argument or figure out a problem, or the like? I think I am having too much random activity.

Name: Ricky
Date: 2002-04-29 21:28:26
Link to this Comment: 1996

I agree that we should discuss more about the aspects of creativity and how they seem to prevail more in certain individuals. I have a friend who is an art major and followed his father's footsteps towards a career in art. Can creativity or physical excellence be inherited? If so, then how? In many families, one can observe that musical talent is usually passed down form parent to child. So what stage or parts of creativity do we all begin with? What are the things that we have to learn? I also was fascinated by telepathy. Is telepathy real or just a figment of the imagination? Can anyone possess telepathy? I mean, can people really be psychics? How would the brain tell the future?

Brain = Behavior?
Name: Gavin Impe
Date: 2002-04-30 00:02:46
Link to this Comment: 2000

Reuel Briggs, the protagonist of Pauline Hopkins' novel Of One Blood states: "Say what you will; ridicule me, torment me, but you know as well as I that the wonders of a material world cannot approach those of the undiscovered country within ourselves – the hidden self lying quiescent in every human soul." Now, perhaps these "wonders" are fundamentally a result of neurobiological processes, but it doesn't seem that neurobiology can furnish a comprehensive explanation of them. There is something more than the brain here – and I'd like to implicate objective reality, but we have already discussed how difficult that idea is. This course has enabled me to see that the brain = behavior argument does indeed have validity, but I am still uneasy with the idea that it can be applied as a hard and fast rule. I think that the brain is too complex an entity to "equal" anything. Maybe this just arises out of some overblown romantic sense, but it sometimes feels like the brain = behavior argument is an invasion of those last corners of human emotion and feeling, where one doesn't want to think that any science applies.

Name: Amy Cunnin
Date: 2002-04-30 00:21:16
Link to this Comment: 2001

I agree with Hilary and Ricky that creativity would be an interesting issue to discuss. I am also interested in learning more about how the brain processes perceptions from our senses- we have discussed visual perception but what about hearing, smelling, tasting, and so on? Does our nervous system "fill things in" for these senses like it does for vision?

What's Left?
Name: Kathryn
Date: 2002-04-30 00:35:38
Link to this Comment: 2002

I definitely agree with the idea that the more we've learned in this course the less sure I am about things I thought I knew. I think that I am convinced that brain does equal behavior, but now I have many new questions. The thing that surprised me the most in this class was that we do not seem to have as much control over behavior as I thought. The responsibilities of the "I" function seemed to get smaller and smaller as the course progressed. What I want to know is what exactly is included in the "I" function? How accountable are we for our actions? How much control do we have over how we see the world? How does the "I" function interact and relate to the other messages our brain tells us? I think learning would be a good thing to explore to help understand this. Creativity is something else that would be good to look at to help understand how thoughts and ideas originate. There are so many things left to explore about the brain. I don't think that all my questions will ever really be answered since everytime you answer one question about the brain it raises many more. However I think understanding that brain=behavior is a big step in how we look at the brain.

Name: Balpreet
Date: 2002-04-30 00:35:42
Link to this Comment: 2003

what's left? although it feels like we have learned so much about the brain this semester, for some reason i don't think we have even come close to covering everything that we could. this semester has taught me fascinating things about the brain that i never knew before. but to ask what's left is to ask how many stars there are in the sky. there are an infinite number of things that we could ask ourselves concerning the brain. just by reading this week's comments, a number of different questions and concerns were brought up that we haven't even discussed yet. the idea of creativity, the supernatural, etc. i think that is what makes the brain so fascinating-even if you think you have answered all the questions you can possibly think of relating to the brain, there will always be more to think up. this semester has been a wonderful experience for me and i hope this last week of classes is just as intuitive and inquisitive. :)

topics for discussion
Name: Tara Monik
Date: 2002-04-30 00:40:44
Link to this Comment: 2004

I think we have covered a lot in class about neurons themselves and how they are arranged and connected. However, I would be interested to learn more about how the neurons and the nervous system impacts personality and overall difference in people. How can just neurons create a mind with a conscious and a distinct personality? Maybe we haven't discussed this much because there probably aren't any definitive answers to these questions. Still, maybe we could work throught our own understanding about how personality and creativity are accounted for my the central nervous system. Also, I have always wondered about the impact of genetics versus environment. For example, is personality already created for the most part by our genes and how our genes make up specific neural pathways? And if so, how can the environment alter personality?

Name: sook chan
Date: 2002-04-30 01:52:55
Link to this Comment: 2006

This class has made me realize how little we do know about our brain with respect to our behavior. The first lecture was spent discussing the idea of summaries of summaries, that nothing can ever be proven, everything is merely a summary built on a previous idea. In a sense, the only thing we know about our brains is that it is a mass of neurons, a careful distribution of ions, and a large box of uncertainty. If our brains fill in missing pieces of our sensory world, how can we be certain that anything is real? What we see and perceive is what we allow the brain to notice and focus on. This means that there is a possibility that we have lived our entire lives in a make believe world. Is it possible that one's perceptions and memories are merely summaries of experiences, waiting to be replaced by newer summaries? Although I am left with many questions, I am quite content as I never would have thought of these questions if I had not taken this class. It seems that in every class, we learn about something mind blowing and intriguing such as phantom limbs and Christopher Reeve's toe. In this last week, it would be nice to just go over what we had learnt and discuss our thoughts and views of brain = behavior as compared to our discussion in the first lecture.

Final thoughts
Name: Mary Schli
Date: 2002-04-30 09:36:10
Link to this Comment: 2007

I think that we have discussed many interesting things this semester, but I am really interested in the psychological side of things. If I remember correctly from other courses, there are areas of the brain that are believed to be responsible for memory, but I'm not sure about learning and other behaviors. As others have said, this would be a very interesting topic to explore during the last week of class. I also think that we have spent a lot of time exploring "normal" behaviors (except when we used case examples such as Christopher Reeve) and I think that it would be interesting to explore the abnormal side of things. What about schizophrenia? What is going on in the brains of these patients with their concept of "reality?" I'm also interested in exploring the individual differences among people and what accounts for them. How is it that some of us come to act in a socially appropriate way and others are given a label such as Conduct Disorder? It seems like we have a good model here, but I think it would be interesting to explore how people deviate from that model and why they deviate.

the end...
Name: priya
Date: 2002-04-30 10:24:21
Link to this Comment: 2008

Once again, our discussion in class left me feeling a little uneasy. The comment about people who sleep walk and demonstrate there full personality unconsciously left me with a very empty sense of what it means to be human. If many of the personality characteristics that identify me as me are not under my control then do I even exist or am just programmed to be who I am in response to my environment. Where am ?I??

Our previous discussion about reality being subjective seems to parallel what Thomas Kuhn was saying about paradigm shifts. The paradigm shift from classical to modern physics is a perfect example. The most fundamental reality, that of the nature of matter, was reevaluated, and new consensus was then developed. What does this mean in terms of learning? Is everything that we learn a product of the collective mind?

Name: Cindy Zhan
Date: 2002-04-30 11:48:26
Link to this Comment: 2009

As the semester comes to an end, the more i learn about the brain, the mroe i realize how little control we have over our brain. Sure the I-function inserts some sort of choice, but even the "choices" that the I-fucntion makes is influenced somewhat by the rest of the brain. Also, i was fascinated on the aspect of the brain make up stuff all the time, and how most of the time we are not aware of how we behave. It is also a little disappointing, what if i there's a particular behavior that i exhibit that bothers other, but i am not aware of it, then how does change come about?

This course also made me look at science very differently, if intrinsic variability exist and the animal behave as it damn well pleases under any circumstance, and sicentists are still trying to get it less wrong, that there will not be a definite answer. This goes aganist many things i believe about science, before when i think of science, I though of instant gratificaion, the driven force is the desire to know the right answer and getting the answer is the reward. But if science is getting it less wrong, then curiosity but be the driven force.

But you think about it, the driving force to study science is parallel to how the brain works, why does the brain make up stuff all the time. Because it had been expose to new things which are not familier and out of curiosity and the need to stay updated, the brain make up stuff and does reality check all the time.

Behavior and Accountability
Name: miranda
Date: 2002-04-30 21:43:21
Link to this Comment: 2014

As Jenny said in her posting, the notion of brain equaling behavior is particularly problematic when applied to a legal setting. After a semester of convincing, it seems clear to me that free will does not exist. There is no separate self from the brain that controls our behavior. If this is true (and I'm pretty sure it is) how do we reconcile the notion of accountability? A person acts the way she does based on the interaction of herself and her environment. Yet we almost always hold people responsible for their own actions. We set up rewards and punishments so that people's behavior stays within an acceptable range. Though people may not directly be accountable for their good or bad behavior, setting up sanctions teaches people to act "correctly."

final thoughts
Name: Beverly We
Date: 2002-05-02 00:05:45
Link to this Comment: 2026

As we end this fascinating course, too many questions are left unanswered. Choice, free will, personality, split personality, mental disorders, spirituality, religion, birth, death, especially death, and all of the other questions that human beings ask.....I do believe that Brain=Behavior, I was convinced from the first class, but all brains are different and so is all behavior. If our behavior is on a spectrum (and I do believe that it is) then what is the norm? Whose norm? what behavior? Each week we opened another book of questions with very few answers. We have learned some important neurological information that helps us to better understand how we work, but there are too many questions about why the mechanism is usually in a state of homeostasis rather than chaos. We still do not know what the driving force is that makes living things alive and different from each other. I guess that the only thing we can do is to keep asking questions and continue to hope that we are a little bit less wrong with each experiment. Thanks for opening my eyes to the questions!

Brain and behavior
Name: Tua Chaudh
Date: 2002-05-02 09:58:11
Link to this Comment: 2028

At the beggining of this course, I was skeptical that brain=behavior. I was looking for some other thing to account for individuality, emotions, experience, and personality. I found that the brain and its workings could account for most of these. I am still really interested in the issues of memory and perceptions of reality. Emily Dickonson claimed that the brain could hold the "sky and you besides", well then how much of what we perceive of the world is actually external, and how much does our brain "fill in"
I've learned a lot about the functionings of the brain, but I feel as though there's still a lot to discover and account for. One thing I am sure of though, is the fact that the brain is always changing. When you learn or experience something new, your entire brain changes its perception of the world because of it. Another thing that our investigations have taught me is that we have far less control over the actions and reactions of our minds than I thought. While this is kind of frightening, it's also amazing what the brain can do. We were dicussing in the last class about imagination and how it is possible that we can create in our minds something that can not exist in reality. This is why we can write books, and play music, and make scientific discoveries, because we are able to think outside of the possible. We can never find out everything about the functionings of the brain, and I wouldn't really want to. Everytime you learn something new about the brain, the brain changes slightly. There's a lways a lot more thinking to be done.

Brain and behavior
Name: Tua Chaudh
Date: 2002-05-02 10:11:15
Link to this Comment: 2029

At the beggining of this course, I was skeptical that brain=behavior. I was looking for some other thing to account for individuality, emotions, experience, and personality. I found that the brain and its workings could account for most of these. I am still really interested in the issues of memory and perceptions of reality. Emily Dickonson claimed that the brain could hold the "sky and you besides", well then how much of what we perceive of the world is actually external, and how much does our brain "fill in"
I've learned a lot about the functionings of the brain, but I feel as though there's still a lot to discover and account for. One thing I am sure of though, is the fact that the brain is always changing. When you learn or experience something new, your entire brain changes its perception of the world because of it. Another thing that our investigations have taught me is that we have far less control over the actions and reactions of our minds than I thought. While this is kind of frightening, it's also amazing what the brain can do. We were dicussing in the last class about imagination and how it is possible that we can create in our minds something that can not exist in reality. This is why we can write books, and play music, and make scientific discoveries, because we are able to think outside of the possible. We can never find out everything about the functionings of the brain, and I wouldn't really want to. Everytime you learn something new about the brain, the brain changes slightly. There's a lways a lot more thinking to be done.

Name: Rebecca Ro
Date: 2002-05-02 21:05:33
Link to this Comment: 2033

I think our behavior is an interaction between both our brain and the rest of our body. Behavior, to me is the interaction between the nervous system and its surroundings. Behavior can be affected by things going on in our body. However, those are effects that are going on in the brain. But there are things that our body can do without our nervous system. Our society and our upbringing affects our behavior, which, believing that brain equals behavior means it affects our brain. The question that most puzzles me about if brain really equals behavior is if one should really be held accountable for their actions? Do all of our judgements have a clearer meaning if the brain does in fact equal behavior? Is everything that one experiences and does all a function of our brain?

Final Thoughts
Name: Nicole Pie
Date: 2002-05-03 16:35:41
Link to this Comment: 2059

Now that we have explored the brain through this course, my views have changed. I think that Emily Dickenson was very wise about the brain. I now agree with Emily on her views on the brain.

final thoughts
Name: jmaryasi@h
Date: 2002-05-10 01:26:42
Link to this Comment: 2069

As the course concluded, I came to realize that I now have a completely different perception of my behavior and my reality. The course has revealed an entirely new perspective on my daily life. Of all the biology courses I have taken, this has been the most effective in making me pay closer attention to my personal experience, not to mention existence. As a product of all my ponderings this semester, I am working on deja vu for my final paper. This topic stems from my curiousity of isolated experiences I have undergone. Hopefully, as the classes and papers have already done so, with this topic I will learn more of the commonality of experience and mutual reality.

End of course
Name: Gavin Impe
Date: 2002-05-10 18:24:35
Link to this Comment: 2073

While I am still unsure exactly how I feel about the brain = behavior debate, I feel that this course has given me the tools to perform more refined observations and syntheses of occurences in the world around me. The observations I made in writing my final paper on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) swayed me closer to accepting the brain = behavior argument, but I don't see myself wholeheartedly embracing either extreme until I have been able to make more observations. It seems like the pursuit of this question is perpetually unsatisfying because one can never arrive at a definitive answer. However, I have found that through this course a number of allied issue to the brain = behavior debate have become clearer. A clear answer to the ultimate question is still elusive...

Brain Equals Behavior...Revisited.
Name: Kelli
Date: 2002-05-15 23:35:20
Link to this Comment: 2097

My initial feelings about the brain= behavior argument were of ambivalence. As a person of faith, I wanted to maintain the possibility of God and a soul. However, as a science student I was prepared to approach the topic completely biologically. I decided that many conclusions or interpretations are relatively possible...and that no final conclusion may be the best that I could hope for. However, in coming away from the class I remained unsure about how to apply our concepts to everyday situations.

Curiously, I kind of found an answer while reading a treasure of a little book, "Mister God, This is Anna." A Shakespeare quote and subsequent discussion had pertinent meaning to my neurobiology ideas. Here is what inspired me:

"In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes,
For they in thee a thousand errors note,
But 'tis my heart that loves what they despise."

"They will tell you and encourage you to develop your brain and your five senses. But that's only the half of it, that's only the half of being human. The other half is to develop the heart and the wits...there's common wit, there's imagination, there's fantasy, there's estimation, and there's memory. " (Mister God, This is Anna)

I thought that this well described how the brain functions in the environment of "life." Our senses, in theory, should be strictly objective. Yet, the functions of the mind interpret reality subjectively. It is possible for every person to have a unique interpretation of something. The interaction of the senses and the neurological processing synthesize novel, individual perceptions. Hence, this might be what makes an object uniquely beautiful to someone, yet detestable to another.

Essentially, I think that being human is more that taking in sensory input to purely process reality. My first web comment placed a lot of emphasis on sensory perception and a human being's relationship with his/her environment, but de-emphasized the internal, non-sensory-related workings of the mind. This was clearly creating an incomplete picture. For me, what's most compelling about brain=behavior is that WITHIN the realm of biological function, fantasy and imagination and all of the other attributes associated with uniqueness and a soul are justified.

Due to our their higher-level cognitive abilities we are permitted to explore complex expression and evaluation of the world. I think the same ideas that inspired Shakespeare's dreamy sonnets inspire neurobiological scientists. The brain is a wonderful thing and continues to reveal (explainable!) secrets about humanity.

final remarks
Name: miranda
Date: 2002-05-17 00:03:30
Link to this Comment: 2102

After taking this class, I feel that I do believe that brain and behavior are one and the same. Intellectually and biologically it makes sense to me. But at the same time, I don't acknowledge this as a truth in my daily routine and decision-making. How should knowing that brain=behavior change our perception of the world and ourselves. In what ways can we apply this new knowledge to our lives?

interesting quotes from friends and conversation t
Name: Lauren
Date: 2002-05-17 01:50:57
Link to this Comment: 2103

if god is in your head you should be able to lesion parts of the brain until god disappears.............

if there's no way out of the box, the best you can do is (to) stretch it as much as possible

Name: Charles T.
Date: 2002-05-24 11:37:57
Link to this Comment: 2130

For your info, here's a new ADHD discussion site:

placebo and vets
Name: Enor Wagne
Date: 2003-01-27 22:05:39
Link to this Comment: 4293

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

As for the heroin addicts in Vietnam that Cordelia mentioned, I thought that it should be noted that drug addiction, in this case heroin, is not only attributed to chemical dependency but also psychological conditioning. To specify, the relapse rate of the Vietnam vets who were previously addicted to heroin was something close to ten percent, once they left the drug associated environment.

Differing Levels of Sympathy
Name: Arunjot
Date: 2003-01-28 01:29:56
Link to this Comment: 4306

I was at the Philadelphia Sports Club today for my usual workout, when an older man began shaking and having a seizure. To make a long story short, paramedics arrived and the gentleman was taken to hospital where he is now hopefully in good health. Obviously the whole concept of seizures can brew many discussions about neurobiology, but what I wanted to ask people about is their thoughts on why are we as humans sensitive and empathetic to others.

While a few of us stood a bit away from the scene, praying that the man would be alright, I noticed how many of the club's members came by to see what the ruckus was all about, and then went back to their daily routines, without the slightest concern (or at least that's how it appeared). Though this may seem normal to some people I personally felt disgusted. Obviously our behaviors are based on experiences and observations that we have seen. That is why I can understand how many of these club members (many of which are probably on the upper end of the corporate ladder) may have been brought up thinking that to succeed in life, it takes lots of hard work, focus and aggressiveness. Even so, do these people really ingrain into their minds that their 45 minute cardio workout is more important to keep on schedule than to make a few moments, and show some compassion to the individual who's life is hanging by the balance? Showing no sympathy in the corporate world is different then when you see a tragedy like this, especially when it's right before your eyes.

Though there obviously could be alternate reasons as to why people continued going about their business (perhaps they didn't want to stare, as it seems inappropriate to slow down at the scene of an accident) I find it sick to my stomach to think that it may be possible some of those spectators may have prioritized their six-pack as more over another human being's life.

the I function
Name: Jeremy
Date: 2005-01-23 17:30:38
Link to this Comment: 12175

Im not too sure where this will end up, But I feel the desire to elaborate on the "I function" in my perception this relates to time dialation. For example you may be sleeping (experiencing REM type of sleep) fracturely, awaken, and observe the clock, notice only 5 minuite's have gone by, in real time, yet have experienced, atleast 8hours or more(while dreaming), within that same period of sleep before/and/after such a conclusion of conciousness. Anyhow it is apparent to me in relation to arriving at-home, yet not recalling how you exactly got there, this must relate to a descion making process, that is, a given, at anytime(you were thinking something) per specific of time. For example 'ie', "what was I thinking" when I did that... Never the less, it seems to me when we are in trouble, like as in the situation of, a potential car accident unfolds, time seems to slow, and we have an extended conciousness at a slower reference of time, this can enable us to do more things, ie fasten seatbelt before, or think about just how hard to hit the brakes, let alone whiether or not, to turn left or right. of course this is all an attempt to take advantage of any resorces at the time, to prevent catastrophy.

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