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An ongoing conversation on brain and behavior, associated with Biology 202, spring, 2000, at Bryn Mawr College. Student responses to weekly lecture/discussions and topics.


What are the most important things we should, in our last week, be sure to talk about? Are there aspects of behavior/human experience that we still don't have ways to talk about/think about?

Name: Paul Grobstein
Subject: week 12
Date: Sat Apr 22 09:38:23 EDT 2000
As always, you're welcome to write about whatever is on your mind from last week, but, if you'd like something to get you started:

We're getting close to having to wrap things up for the semester, and there are lots of things it would be fun to talk about/explore together that we haven't talked about as yet. On the other hand, we've been developing a way to talk about/think about things that can help to make sense of lots of things even if we don't talk explicitly about them in class (see all your web papers, for example). So what are the most important things we should, in our last week, be sure to talk about? Are there aspects of behavior/human experience that we still don't have ways to talk about/think about?

Name: MElissa
Subject: last week
Date: Sun Apr 23 15:56:41 EDT 2000
Wow-its hard to believe we are entering into the last week of classes! I was looking at the syllabus, and as Dr. Grobstein pointed out, we certainly didn't get through everything! But I think that it has been an interesting journey, and I certainly have some random bits of "I'm at a party-I don't know anyone" know like, "Oh, so you got motion sick on your way here tonight...Ever thought about why that happens?" and "Hey-hold out your finger and look at close your left eye, see it? Now close your right eye. Ever thought about why it jumps around like that?"...okay so maybe I won't be the most popular guest at the party, but nonetheless, I think its interesting.

So the last I looked at the sylabus, what jumped out of particular interest to me was the section on the "I" function. I think it is a term that we have thrown around a lot in this class, but which we have never really explored in depth...I am interested in hearing a bit about where it is thought to spatially come from in the brain...what level of brain organization in evolutionary terms is necessary in order to have an "I" function? The sub-topics of "encephalization and the cortical problem" give me some idea, but I would like to talk further about this...also I am interested in the other subcategory on the syllabus under the "I" function called "voluntary action and will"...

Name: hiro
Subject: Brain=Behavior?!
Date: Sun Apr 23 22:39:03 EDT 2000
In the last class, we have learned that the brain is designed to solve the ambiguity. I have thought about this for a while and realized that people are designed to do the same thing. For example, when one sees an unfamiliar object, he probably tries to figure out what it is. He may observe it closely and may notice its color, size, and shape. If that information does not satisfy him, he probably goes on to a little more risky observation - like touching or tasting it. (Interestingly enough, people usually smell the unknown object when trying to figure out what it is.) He may listen to the sound it makes and guesses as best as he can. Like a brain, an organism tries to solve the ambiguity in the external world by analyzing various information that one receives.

Since one's behavior reflects how the brain works, can we now conclude that the brain equals the behavior?

Throughout this course, I've learned that the brain can cause a lot of seemingly mysterious behaviors. However, I am still not convinced that the brain equals the behavior, and THERE IS NOTHING ELSE. I just cannot reject the existence of supernatural beings controling one's action. Doing web research, I am convinced that the brain can cause sleep paralysis. Nevertheless, that does not deny the idea that evil spirits also may take over someone's body. Being born and growing up in Japan, whose cultural concepts are firmly based on many gods and evils, I probably will never be able to believe that the brain is the ONLY thing that controls one's behavior.

Name: Maria
Subject: The End...No Just the Beginning
Date: Mon Apr 24 11:19:36 EDT 2000
I too can’t believe this semester is coming to a close. In terms of brain and behavior we are probably just getting warmed up, the possibilities are endless. An important thing I learned though has to be with the original question: Brain = Behavior. I completely did a 360 on this one. One of the most interesting topics, I think that we discussed in class is the idea of everything being relative. As humans and as dominant specie we sometimes forget or ignore the fact that we have limitations and boundaries. Our perception is so fragmented and small. It is true that human beings have the most highly developed brain of any animal, giving us many special abilities. Hiro brought up a point about spirits and other gods, which could contribute to our behavior. I think she makes a valid point but what needs to be thought of more clearly is that those are outside stimuli. If we think about culture, the human brain goes right along with it. The human brain gives people many special abilities, the most outstanding of which is the ability to speak. Language has enabled human beings to develop culture, which consist of ways of behaving and thinking. These ways are passed on from generation to generation through learning. Culture also includes technology-that is, the tools and techniques invented by people to help satisfy their needs and desires. With technology humans try to make things and develop things that they don’t have.
Name: Elissa Braitman
Subject: can it be?
Date: Mon Apr 24 14:59:12 EDT 2000
The semester has certainly flown by.... And we have only just begun to have a tiny bit of an understanding of how the brain works. Back in January I was very skeptical about the whole brain equals behavior concept. And, while I still wouldn't want to say that this is definitely the case (just because we can never really be 100% sure about the validity of anything since it all depends on the interpretation), I am more of a believer now.

I know that I will never look at things in exactly the same way again.

As far as what I wish we had gotten a chance to talk about... there are so many things I'd like to learn about. I guess I'll just have to read about them on my own....

Name: Cammie
Subject: Optical Illusions
Date: Mon Apr 24 16:11:21 EDT 2000
Well it was really quite coicidental that this week right after we had the discussion on optical illusions that my friend from home sent me one. I sentit to Prof. Grobstein but I dont know where my friend got it. I tried to find it on then web but was not able to run across it in my small amount of time I have alloted to each subject to try and wind down this crazy week of classes! The illusion is really cool with a black grid of white spots spaced evenly in rows in this square. When you look at the image you see white spots wherever your eyes are focused and black dots appearing in the white spots everywhere else on the grid. When you change the spot your fova is concentrating on, where the black spots appear changes. As in if you were looking in the middle all the white spots around the 6 or so middle spots have flashing black dots and then if you look in the corner the black spots are flashing in the middle too. It is a fascinating image and definetely has something to do with the how the receptors in the eye's fova percieve things as opposed to the receptors that span out laterally on the retina. I found a similar image at this website where dots appear in the corners of white intersections at different places on the grid depending on where yo uare looking when.

The explanation they give has to do with lateral inhibition and when different receptors are activated. If the ones in the fova are activated to produce one image such as no black spots in the one I saw then the other receptors are "inhibited" from capturing that same image as in firing that neuropathway to the brain. So what do they do? They fire a different one (black spots) about the image area that they are receiving and the brain sorts the different pathways out to be two different images going on in the same frame at the same time (flashing spots) or in the image on the website grey spots vs no grey spots. I think this is where their explanation was going even though the full mechanism of how the lateral inhibition for these images is not fully understood. Very fun material for sure.

Name: Cammie
Username: cbraswel
Subject: I found it
Date: Mon Apr 24 16:18:07 EDT 2000
Of course right after getting off this forum I found the link where my friend got the picture...unfortunately it didnt come with any description or information about it. Maybe its somewhere else too. but here is the link in case you want to see it

Name: Laurel Edmundson
Subject: all good things must...
Date: Mon Apr 24 20:14:58 EDT 2000
We certainly have talked about a wide variety of subjects this semester—from Superman to motion sickness. Most recently, we’ve concluded (using the eye as our model) that much of our reality is fabricated by our brains. Because of the blind spot on our retina where the optic nerve attaches, the picture in our heads is an altered version than that on the retina. This doesn’t really bother me. If I were the only one who had this problem and my vision were inferior to my neighbors’, then you bet it would. But since all of us are operating with the same handicap and I’ve lived a pretty happy life despite it, the discovery is palatable.

I wish we had gotten to the issue of internal drive and varying rhythms among individuals. Sleep, the ever-popular topic, is one I would have liked to discuss. Also, different ways of learning—why are some people naturally gifted with languages and others excel at math (blech)?

I wonder if the solid argument for brain = behavior has convinced all non-believers. Anyone still sticking to their guns that it’s not? Stephanie?

Name: Mridula Shrestha
Subject: closure and questions
Date: Mon Apr 24 21:16:33 EDT 2000
I know, you guys--this semester seriously flew by:) We'd better believe it, because finals are next week!

I agree with Melissa, the course has certainly given rise to some funny discussions in random places--mostly with my poor friends as captive audiences(in cars, etc. ) for my philosophical inquiries about reality and relevant underlying neurobiological concepts.

In the last week of our conversation, I hope we get to tie things together a little bit intstead of randomly delving into a slew of new topics. It would be interesting to revisit some of the questions we first had walked into the class with, and had intended to explore. I don't mean to imply at all that we need "answers" to anything to tie things up, but it would be nice to brush by the major issues we've discussed in the past weeks again. Remember the Grobstein polls? We should take them again now to see how many of us have changed our minds, and perhaps discuss why. To use a pop psych word, this could provide a "closure" of sorts. But let's not end there--let's leave with more questions than we had walked in with the first day of class, but also let's leave with a better understanding of how to attempt to address those questions on our own.

Name: Andrew
Subject: questions
Date: Mon Apr 24 22:50:45 EDT 2000
I can't believe that there is one week left of classes. The semester went so fast. Looking over the syllabus, there are many interesting topics that we did not get to, but we also did so much in this class. This class has definitely challenged and changed the way I think about the world, reality, humans, the brain, and behavior. I've learned a lot, but I have many more questions at the end of the course than I did at the beginning- and this was one of the aims of the class- to get us to question the world and what we perceive as reality. I admit that some of what I learned does bother me. Is there no such thing as "reality"? What is real? What is made up by my brain? Also, how do we know that people see the same colors? Can one person's red be another person's blue? The discussion of colorblindness fascinated me. It seems that there is an explanation, but very few answers - if that makes any sense. I would have liked to talk a little more about sleep and also about how our study of vision applies to the other senses. I also really liked the web component of the course. Besides the actual subject of the class, I learned a lot about how to do research on the web and I picked up a little html on the way.
Name: Laura
Date: Mon Apr 24 23:28:39 EDT 2000
I too would have liked to discuss sleep as I find it quite interesting. However in the last week, I would hope we can address the idea of the I-function. We talk about it all the time, but most of us have little idea what it really is or where it might be located. As Melissa said, the subtopics on the syllabus gives me some idea. In fact, in my Learnig and Behavior class, we talked about the subcortical system as a mediator that allows for learned responses to be performed. To better understand this and other concepts, I would really like to address the I-function.

I also agree with Mridula that we should take another Grobstein Poll. As one of the few who said that brain=behavior at the beginning, I am interested to see in this week's forum that so many of you have switched your opinion toward that direction. The class has given me more evidence to support my feeling that brain does equal behavior. I know why I feel this way; I'd be interested to see why so many of you now do as well.

Name: christina
Subject: more brain thoughts
Date: Mon Apr 24 23:40:21 EDT 2000
So yes, this semester has gone by pretty quickly that I right now I face the fears of becoming a senior and leaving the nest. But anyway....this bio class been very different from any other I've taken. For some obvious reasons, I believe that we approached the topics from a PERSONAL experiemntal p.o.v. rather than a bunch of other scientists proposing experiments and then we base our conclusions on their studies. It seems that we have teased out through daily observation exactly what our brain does with what our senses pick up.

I don't know about other people, but I personally am not comfortable accepting that the brain fills in the grey areas that our eyes (and other senses probably) perceives. After learning about the functions and several technical occurrences within the brain, I still agree that the brain equals behavior, but I agree with that statement with a disclaimer to follow. My disclaimer would say " in relation to the outside physical world whose recognition is completely dependent on our individuals brains." This disclaimer makes me believe that right now diseases like schizophrenia are are diseases, but the kinds of diseases where the connotaions should not always be so negative. I reinterpret schizophrenia as more proof that any concept that outside of the norm is wrong and untrustworthy. In many cases, this tends to occur in any daily debate we have in class about ideas and theoretical issues, but when the debate is based on a concrete, physical idea such as the color of the sky, if someone were to say it's green...we would think this person is crazy....even if the sky really is green.

Due to conclusions like this, I wish we had more time to discuss how the other senses operate. Do our brains make up and fabricate the outside world to the same effect as how the brain changes the information processed from our eyes? If so, this puts on an interesting spin on what reality really consists of.

Name: Soo Yi
Subject: weekly essay #11
Date: Mon Apr 24 23:50:21 EDT 2000
It has been a long but quite interesting semester. I will definitely walk away from this class with many answers but with many more questions. But, I am still sticking with my original belief that brain does equal behavior. For me, the "evidence" presented in class re-affirmed my belief that it's all in the brain -- all the intricate workings of the 10^12 neurons. But who knows, it's just my belief. I think I would like to know more about the connection between our will and healing -- how some people are able to will away certain diseases like cancer. It's ultimately probably going to be AP's but I would like to know how that works.
Name: Anna Arnaudo
Subject: No Convert Here
Date: Tue Apr 25 00:35:32 EDT 2000
It seems like the semester has flown by and although it does not seem like we covered a lot of hard core science material the class has been thought provoking. I was thumbing through the syllabus the other day wondering exactly how far we had gotten; I discovered that in a round about way we covered a lot of what we intended to cover. I definitely agree with Melissa that we obtained some general conversation material.. next time I fly home I will bother the person next to me with my new stories :-). There were other things that I would have enjoyed covering: memory- especially in relation to the hippocampus, and diseases like Parkinson's.

As for the Brain=Behavior theory, I would have to stick to my guns and say that I am still not convinced. Perhaps I am just stubborn, but I do not feel compelled to change my opinion. I must admitt that I have moved closer to the idea at certain points during the course of the last semester. When thinking of the strongest proof presented, my mind delivers me back to the Christopher Reeves discussion. I, like Laura, am interested in what caused the converts to switch sides. What did you find so convincing?

Name: Susan
Subject: Final week
Date: Tue Apr 25 00:38:55 EDT 2000
I must say that this has been a interesting class. One notion that has stuck with me is the ability for our bodies to be aware of something that has not registered with our I-function. I wouldn't mind spending more time discussing blind sight and the further implications of it. My initial reaction to the fact that we can react to situations we are unaware of suggests a separation between body and mind. Of course Im not saying that this is a well supported claim. Im sure that if the discussion were continued we would be able to find some kind of scientific explanation of how this occurs...but for now I am sticking to my guns and saying that the mind and body are two separate entities. It seems that science has shown that the body can exist without the mind(people who remain in a comatose state);but I don't feel that there is nor perhaps ever will be evidence that the mind can't exist without the body.
Name: shige
Subject: last posting??
Date: Tue Apr 25 01:20:27 EDT 2000
as someone already mentioned i too would like to know about sleep. and also about dreams, how they are made, since i have been seeing many dreams lately.

Going back to the last class i have a question. In the illusions, why is it that some people see certain images while others see other images (initially). How does the brain effect how we behave when we see these images??

Name: Richard
Subject: Blind Sight
Date: Tue Apr 25 01:53:50 EDT 2000
I was intrigued by the idea that we can percieve things at a level below consciousness, outside the realm of the "I function." Yet, the perception can be so close to the surface that if someone asked some blind people to point where an object is (as crazy and stupid as it may sound), they can point in the right direction. I think that there have got to be things that people with their full sensory faculties can do and sense without even knowing. Maybe all it takes is someone to ask the right question and an open mind (or I function?). Is this where where intuition comes from? That feeling that something is about to go wrong? Could this be a useful angle for approaching preminitions or so-called "psychic abilities?"

hmmm ...

Name: rebecca
Username: rjones
Subject: the end
Date: Tue Apr 25 09:15:50 EDT 2000
I too would like to know more about sleep. In particular dreams and sleep walking. This class has led to a lot more questions than it has answered but at least it has helped know what questions are worth asking. The concept that the brain makes up so much of what we percieve makes me wonder what reality is really like. It feels almost as if we are in the matrix and we know that none of what we see is real but we cant break free to see reality.
Name: Hajira Amjad
Subject: Last Class
Date: Tue Apr 25 09:29:54 EDT 2000
This class has definitely raised a lot more questions in my mind. I feel more inclined to the notion that brain equals behavior although I am not totatally convinced. It still seems to me that this can be used as an excuse by some people for their behavior. For example a criminal could say that his/her agressive behavior is due to chemical imbalances in their brain and therefore they are not completely responsible for their behavior.

As for what would be in an interesting topic to discuss sleeping and dreaming as other people have mentioned sounds like a great idea. It would be interesting to talk about sleepwalking and other behaviors that occur in our sleep. For the past few weeks I have been having strange experiences, where my friend comes in the morning to wake me up for class and I have ten minute conversations with her, but later can not even recollect any of our conversation. I usually do not even know that she woke me up in the morning. It would be interesting to discuss what causes this behavior.

Name: Emily Hollister
Subject: Hmmmm...
Date: Tue Apr 25 10:18:37 EDT 2000
I've been pondering the overall experience of the ideas I've encountered in this class about the brain and behavior. I still don't agree that the brain=behavior because behavior is bound up with motive which often originates outside of the individual--an idea, a sound, or other sensory data. However, we do make sense of all of it and assign meaning to it within our 'brain', so in that respect, perhaps the brain is behavior. There is no threat to spiritual beliefs in this idea unless you think that the brain is less than beautiful and intricate and creative. I tend to think that our allegience to asthetics damages our ability to find truth in the 'details' of life. Spiritual beliefs are often based on the 'whole picture' without regard to intricate details. I don't know why, but they offend our sensibilities. Creation is dramatically beautiful and we are part of it. Our brains are part of it. They are the mechanism that allows us to find meaning, an understanding of order. This definitely does not contradict any beliefs that people might have about the ultimate source of any meaning.
Name: amse hammershaimb
Username: dramatraumaqueen
Subject: new york science times
Date: Wed Apr 26 10:36:06 EDT 2000
yesterday i read about ferrets that had their brains "re-wired." the article was in the new yourk times' science times section. the ferrets had their optic nerves connected to the auditory part of their brains on one side. the other side was left normal. thought the auditory part of their brains had already developed when the optic nerve was connected, the auditory section of the brain still registered the impulses sent by the optic nerve as sight. the article then went on to briefly discuss the way in which deaf people register sign language in the auditory part of their brains while those not deaf register sign language in the visual part of the brain. Blind people register brail in the visual part of their brain while non-blind people register brail in the touch section. since reading the article, i have been thinking about the greater implications of the ferret experiments and the information the article described about blind and deaf people. i am still mulling over the implications and still come with many half-formulated guesses and one strong question: what does it all mean? i just thought this would be of interest.

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