Name: Paul Grobstein
Subject: Last week
Date: Thu Apr 27 12:38:01 EDT 2000
No, of course we didn't "wrap up" the conversation about brain and behavior. There's lots more that could be talked about. Nor should we have "wrapped it up". If brain=behavior, then what we're talking about is nothing less than trying to understand oneself, while simultaneously remaking onself: its a moving target. Hope you'll all continuing thinking about the matter (as I will), and will, if you're inclined, keep me posted on the inquiry. Serendip is a good place to meet and leave thoughts wherever one is.

In the meanwhile, though, see Course announcements for formal wrap up procedures, and be sure to leave one last thought here.

At the beginning of the course, you wrote about your reactions to the assertion that "Brain and behavior are the same thing; there isn't anything else". And we took a poll which showed 6 agreeing with the assertion, 15 disagreeing, and 7 uncertain. Go back and read your thoughts from the beginning of the semester, and then write about how your thoughts have changed or not changed since then, and why. Be sure to indicate whether you are currently in the "agree", "disagree", or "uncertain" camp and I'll put the final poll results when they're in on the course home page.

Thanks again for your participation in the course. It was enjoyable and productive for me, and I hope for you as well.

Name: Vandana
Subject: brain and behavior
Date: Thu Apr 27 20:00:37 EDT 2000
wow, i cannot believe that this semester has come to an end. i definitely learned lots from this course and my view about brain and behavior is in the direction that brain does = behavior. from all the examples that we have discussed in class regarding behavior, such as motion sickness, our sense of reality of the world (the picture that is in our head vs. the picture that is on our retina), why we get jet lag, and lots more, i am nearly convinced that our behavior relies on our nervous system. this may be somewhat random, but i was wondering from our discussion on sleep and sleepwalking and dreaming, what happens in the nervous system of a person who dies in their sleep? is it really a peaceful death? is the nervous system automatically switched off? or is the nervous system really active as when we are asleep and then is turned off when there is an end of signalling within the body?
Name: Laura
Subject: Brain=Behavior
Date: Fri Apr 28 02:56:37 EDT 2000
After looking back on my first posting, I have realized that I have almost the same opinion to the question of brain equalling behavior, namely that they are equal. In my first posting, I said, "I prefer the statement that the brain and behavior are the same thing. With this statement, we can accept that nothing effects behavior directly except for the brain. However because we allow the environment to affect the brain, our behavior can be indirectly affected by the environment." Although this thought was initially based on a few facts and my own opinion, the course has shown me evidence in virtaully every case that behavior is only directly affected by the brain. I have also seen the relationship between the external world and the brain, and now better understand that the enviroment doesn't change behavior, but that the environment influences the brain, which in turn affects behavior.

I have learned a lot about how the brain and nervous system works. I have also developed a strategy for thinking about the brain and its function. However, the most important lesson I learned this semester was actually a comment that Prof. Grobstein made at the end of class. The self is not only determined by genes and experience, as is often suggested. Rather, it is formed through a combination of genes, experience, dreams, and the choices the I-function makes. This concept of self is the best I have ever heard, and it is one of the best things I will take with me.

Name: hillary bobys
Subject: last posting
Date: Fri Apr 28 11:30:55 EDT 2000
well, i guess i am not so sure of how, or even if, my thoughts have changed. i just did a paper on creativity for another class and many of the ideas i researched play directly into themes discussed in our class. the creative process occurs because of the basic foundations of knowledge already in place. someone once said "nothing comes of nothing" and this is exactly the way we must think of creativity. creativity is defined as the ability to create connections between two ideas to create a novel concept. the new creation must also be of high quality and be applicable to time and place. as we discussed in class the past few days, intrinsic variablity is key in this process. the ability to re-represent or re-structure stimuli often comes to a person suddenly. we often refer to this as intuition or insight. my question is, where do these concepts delineate from one another? all people are capable of creative thought, but why do some have greater need/desire to be novel? what about the connections between genius and madness? it appears that creative geniuses are almost able to separate themselves from reality, but what if they cannot re-enter?

i am still confused about reality and the issues such as novelty and how they intersect. Vandana's questioning of death is intersting as well. can we explain the great light in near death experiences? some many question are still unanswered....

Name: Maria
Subject: Finale
Date: Sat Apr 29 11:27:59 EDT 2000
While some people take pilgrimages to Tibet or India, or take time off from their "world" and visit a Caribbean Island in search of themselves I begin to question what they are really after? Self determination and self understanding is more than just a day trip or time off. The approach and the course that we took for this class enabled us to become aware of our behavior.

Going back and looking at my first posting, I agree with some of what I wrote but I now interpret it differently. I stated before that the brain "is the source of thoughts, moods, emotions, and behavior" we can add on to his genes, experience, and the I-function. Some of these things cannot be controlled while others we can choose. In the long run the statement made by Laura says a lot—"nothing effects the behavior directly except the brain". When we began the course I thought the notion of brain equals behavior was ridiculous, well maybe not ridiculous but difficult to grasp with the information I knew. We have learned a great deal regarding the brain and behavior and through experiments done in class (which were always fun) and experiments discussed in class, we have been able to see and experience the effects of behavior and the role the brain plays in our behavior.

I think what makes it difficult to grasp, and the issue that I had before was the terminology. With so many different words and phrases used for the brain I tend to get overwhelmed. At the beginning of the semester, I was pretty sure that brain did not equal behavior, now with everything that we learned in class I found I have changed my mind. I don’t know if this necessarily means that I am convinced but I do agree. As a math major the equation brain = behavior says a lot, it’s got to work both ways behavior must equal brain as well. I would probably have liked it better if we said that they were congruent, in other words these concepts agree and coincide. But that was before, when terminology got a hold of me.

I can confidently say that you have my vote on the yes side, brain=behavior. But we do still have a lot to learn—that never stops.

Name: Soo Yi
Subject: Weekly Essay #12
Date: Mon May 1 11:59:11 EDT 2000
This class has certainly taught me a lot about the complexity and the power of the brain. Who knew it could just make things up?! Learning about AP's, I-function, CD, CPG's, the eye, and sleeping has definitely opened up a lot of questions and answered many too and I feel that our discussions of these topics, for me anyway, still leads me to believe that brain does indeed equal behavior. I concede that the mind seems terribly complicated and sometimes too much so to just say that it's all just AP's but I feel that that's just the beauty of nature. And many scientists and philosophers (me included) will spend their days trying to get closer to the Truth with a capital T (if there is one) and maybe one day we'll find what we're looking for but in the meanwhile, I find comfort in knowing that that's just the way nature is and that we are just complex networks of AP's influenced by the external world.
Name: hiro
Subject: brain NOT = behavior
Date: Tue May 2 14:01:36 EDT 2000
In this forum area, Laura has said that "the environment influences the brain, which in turn affects behavior." I do agree that the environment has an indirect influence over the brain, and thus the behavior. However, I believe that the brain is also capable of influencing the environment. The external world exist, but the perception of the environment always occurs in the brain. What we see as the external world is created in our own brains. Hence, when we talk about the indirect effect of the environment on one's behavior, we are talking about the DIRECT EFFECTS OF THE BRAIN!! (Wow, I surprised myself with this idea...)

As I have mentioned in the last forum area, however, I cannot entirely agree with the idea that nothing but the brain equals the behavior. I have learned that the most of the seemingly mysterious behaviors can be explained in neurobiological concepts. Nevertheless, there is no way to diprove the idea of the supernaturals affecting someone's behavior. Being born and growing up in a culture that is strongly based on gods and devils, I don't think I can change my belief on this subject.

Name: Laurel Edmundson
Subject: Grand finale
Date: Tue May 2 16:01:41 EDT 2000
Aside from some confusion about the parameters of the statement "brain = behavior" in the beginning of the semester,(I wasn't sure about the role of the external world)my opinion has stayed the same--I believe it.

This semester I've learned a lot about how the nervous system functions to create our individual realities. I'm impressed, to say the least, by its complexity; I still find it amazing that my running for the telephone or cooking dinner is ultimately controlled by a myriad of salt water bags changing their permeabilities in my body. And that "the picture in our heads" has been largely fabricated by our brains. And that motion sickness is caused by an expectation/input discrepency...And that it is possible for amputees to experience phantom pains. The brain is no slouch. Even though the old wives tale that we only use 1/9 of our brains may be false, it seems to me that we must have more control over our lives than we realize. That's both encouraging and a bit of a burden. That means that what we ultimately do with our lives is soley our responsibility.

One thing I mentioned in my first forum entry was religion. I thought and still think that the brain = behavior conept must be hard to swallow for a devoutly religious person. We didn't talk much about this in class, although I think someone did mention it in a forum recently. Does anyone have any thoughts they might want to share?

P.S. I'm still skeptical about the sleep paralysis thing. I'm still waiting for it to happen to me....

Name: LE
Subject: oops
Date: Tue May 2 16:04:06 EDT 2000
...on the religion question...I see Hiro had commented on the issue. Didn't mean to overlook that.


Name: Stephanie Wall
Subject: I disagree
Date: Tue May 2 17:05:44 EDT 2000
At the beginning of the semester, I emphatically disagreed with the statement that “Brain and behavior are the same thing; there isn’t anything else.” I still disagree. The latter statement, “there isn’t anything else”, implies that there is not an external world outside of the brain. What we have discussed in this class clearly calls this into question. I think our study of sensory input, in particular, is strong evidence that there is an external world. I have been amazed at the extent to which our brain creates the details of this world from limited sensory data. Still, I’m convinced that there is an external world out there, and that, depending on our sensory apparatus, we have a unique experience of it. I am also more resigned to the fact that we, as humans, can never “know” what that external world is really made of (not in the sense that we “know” that the sky is blue.)

On the first statement, “Brain and behavior are the same thing.”, I disagree. As I said in the beginning of class, I believe that we simply do not understand the structural and chemical complexities of the brain well enough to explain human behavior, much less say that the brain equals behavior. It is more conceivable to me now than in the beginning that someday we might be able to explain all human behavior in terms of the brain. For one thing, the fact that the brain creates our reality from limited sensory input means that in some sense of the word our behavior is the result of our brain’s version of reality. But, ignoring that, my biggest problem with the brain=behavior hypothesis is the intrinsic variability function. I wish we had discussed this more because it strikes me as a too-easy explanation of variability of behavior, i.e. behavior that we cannot explain. The intrinsic variability hypothesis does provide a reasonable explanation for things like learning, problem solving, creativity, etc. Essentially the variability function explains why we cannot predict for any given individual of any species what behavior will occur in a given situation. It seeks to explain the Harvard Law of Animal Behavior. But what actually is this function? A box of “noise” that says that unpredictability is an inherent property of behavior and thus the brain? It is good to acknowledge the intrinsic variability of behavior. But until we can come up with something more substantial to explain variability of behavior (for example, in physics, uncertainty is quantified in the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle), I can’t agree that the brain equals behavior. If I have learned one thing in this course, it is that there are huge gaps in our understanding of the brain (i.e. how/why we sleep/dream, how we learn, how drugs work on the brain, and on and on).

Finally, I believe that the brain is greater than the sum of its parts. Neither the brain nor behavior can be explained simply by the workings of the brain’s discrete components: neurons, neurotransmitters, synapses, etc (even if we knew more about those components). There is “something more”. Can this something more be explained by an intrinsic variability function? Is that just a scientific way of saying “free will”, consciousness, or God? This class has raised many more questions than answers and has increased my skepticism about what we say we know about the brain. And I don’t believe we know enough to say that the brain=behavior. At least that’s what I “choose” to believe! Thanks for a great semester!

Name: Cammie
Username: cbraswel
Subject: The poll
Date: Thu May 4 21:23:39 EDT 2000
At the beginning of the course I fell into the undecided camp on the poll looking to learn more before stating either way. Like any good business deal you should never sign until you have read the full document. Well I agree that we have not read the full document and science has not even read the full document I dont think so I do not think anyone can fully sign on as a yes or no without continuing the search for the last line so to speak. However I think there has been sufficient support given throughout the course to provide sufficient leaning one way or another and I, in adding to the final poll, believe that the brain= behavior. With all the reality talks and what actually goes into the outputs that we as humans have the largest majority has to be mind driven mind equaling brain. As to the statement that the brain is all there is I dont think that is correct. I mean our brain does have something to do with the way we perceive reality and everyones reality can be different but the bottom line is there is till something there to perceive and our sensory input from our surroundings tells us that. So theres my vote and I look forward to seeing what others have to say.
Name: Ann Mitchell
Subject: final poll
Date: Fri May 5 14:40:46 EDT 2000
Well, I, like Hillary, am not sure that might thoughts have changed so much as I have reinterpreted the thoughts I already had in terms of the hypothesis that the brian = behavior. Now, thanks to this class I can look for evidence of this theory anytime I read a scientifc article or observe behavior.

I really wish we had been able to get further along in the course, specifically towards consciousness. However, I did like learning about perception and the eye. I also enjoyed thinking about certain subjects(like music) in terms of central pattern generators and corollary discharge.

So, I guess this makes me a yes, but I reserve the right to change my mind if the proper evidence should happen to present itself sometime in the future.

Name: Melissa
Subject: finale
Date: Fri May 5 16:37:39 EDT 2000
Well, this class has definitely been an interesting experience for me...very different than my other training in the neural and behavioral sciences. I think that I came in basically thinking that the brain=behavior (but actually think that I voted no...reflective of the fact that I was also taking a class in alternative medicine and healing arts...I still find some of that stuff really interesting and convincing and it does not really fit into all this foucs on the human brain...oooh as I write this, I slip into this phase where now I am feeling apprehensive about pinning everything to the brain...) Anyways, this class was good for me because it challenged me to think more on my own about what I think about issues rather than just digesting lots of information. So I leave basically believing that brain=behavior, but I too reserve the right to change my mind!
Name: shigeyuki ito
Subject: wrap up
Date: Thu May 11 13:58:38 EDT 2000
in the beginning of the year I didn't know. Now, I am still unsure. But I am unsure in a different way. While in the beginning the uncertainty came from the existence of a "soul" or an existence outside the brain that contributed to behavior. THrough the course I was able to learn about the I-function, external factors, etc. so I am definitely more convinced. I guess the uncertainty really has to do with my own personal belief that I always want to keep my mind (brain) opened to new ideas and new concepts. And yeah, as the Prof said "genes, experience, derams, and choices made by the i-function" are what creates "me" so although this decision itself is part of the whole brain=bahvior thing, I am still voting on being unsure.
Name: Mridula Shrestha
Subject: my vote
Date: Thu May 11 21:06:17 EDT 2000
i'm was with the fence sitting crowd, but i am now inclined to say that brain does not=behavior. as we strive to be scientists and measure everything in neat boxes, waves, and fractions, we must remember that we're talking about living organisms here, and that there is something greater than the sum of electrical charges and chemical reactions that makes us human, even if those electrical charges and chemical reactions are the tools that we use to manifest our emotions and our actions. the brain is an amazing device, and any team of engineers would be geniuses to construct it; it is capable doing the most incredible things through its intricate, sophisticated physiological mechanisms, but i will never be convinced that that is all there is to the experience of being human. there is more, and there will always be more.
Name: Andrew
Subject: The Poll
Date: Tue May 16 15:41:08 EDT 2000
In my first forum entry I wrote that I did not believe that "the brain is all there is". I think that I missed the point of "brain=behavior". Now I understand what we were trying to get at, and I am convinced that the brain does equal behavior. I still agree with my first entry, that there is something, some reality, that exists outside of the brain; some reality outside of human perception, but perception is a way that humans interpret reality. I still have many questions that have not been answered in our discussions, but I don't think that the goal of the course was to make us completely understand these complex relationships. The aim was to get us to question and explore and try to make sense of the relationship between the brain and the mind and between the brain and behavior.