Biology 202
Neurobiology and Behavior
Spring 2001

Forum Archive - Week 1

If you agree that "brain=behavior", why? what would persuade you otherwise? If you disagree with "brain=behavior", or are fence-sitting on the question, why? What aspects of behavior/human experience do you think would be difficult or impossible to account for in terms of the brain? And why?


Name: Paul Grobstein
Username: pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject: welcome ... and a little clarification
Date: Mon Jan 22 19:26:55 EST 2001
Comments:
Yep, this is the Bio 202 course forum area ... so let me say a little something about the "essays" the course materials talk about. Maybe whoever is organizing this course ought to have thought of a better word. "Essays" sounds ... awful hard ... the sort of polished and finished off set of thoughts that might go in a library, or at least be handed in to a professor, right? Well, that's not the idea here at all. The idea here is to let yourself feely react to things, so you yourself can see what you're thinking, and other people can too. By doing that, you'll be better able to think more clearly about what's on your mind. And your ideas in progress can help other peoples' thinking, as theirs can help yours. Get the idea?

So, maybe not "essays" so much as "notes". Your first or second thoughts on whatever you're thinking about, not your last ones. And don't worry about polishing, sometimes its what one didn't quite know one was saying that's most meaingful, to oneself and to others. Polish is for your web papers. Do, of course, as in all writing, try and be as clear (and concise) as possible, both for yourself and others. As for the "page or less" ... the "or less" is the operative part. Certainly no MORE than a page, and preferably less, perhaps much less ... whatever is appropriate to sketching what's on your mind.

That help? Hope so ... and that this proves to be a place where we can all learn from each other's reactions to what we're doing as we go along.


Name: Daniel Burdick
Username: dburdick@brynmawr.edu
Subject: reaction to a brain/behavior premise
Date: Wed Jan 24 17:02:13 EST 2001
Comments:
I thought I'd try my hand at this sooner rather than later, when my thoughts will likely be clouded by new ideas and my self-confidence shattered after discovering just how wrong I can be. Enlightenment, however much I strive for it, can be much more confusing than ignorance. Besides, I had a thought, and don't want to lose it (there's something there about creativity and memory, but let's save that for another day).

I wanted to address briefly the question about the relationship between brain and behavior raised already in class. While I'm inclined to agree with the position that "brain = behavior; there's nothing else," I do think it necessary to observe a slight injustice in the premises of our discussion. The comment was made that we will be looking for a suitable summary of observations, not "the truth." This condition seems automatically to ensure that the "nothing else" argument will win, since the alternative view, as I understand it, is that behavior is governed by an unobservable relationship between the brain and an unobservable mind. Our premise, then, is akin to saying, "Which do you like, odd numbers or even? You can only choose from the universe of odd numbers, though." Or, if you prefer, to saying, "Yes, there should be recounts, but only if there's enough time, which there isn't."

I hasten to add that I don't necessarily disagree with the imposition of this condition. Epistemological questions aside, opening the debate to "the truth" would likely make the problem intractable and beyond the scope of this course, and certainly beyond the scope of my limited reasoning abilities. Nonetheless, it's useful to be aware of the premises that may influence one's answers. I, for one, freely confess that my predilection for scientific rationalism is largely the result of a cultural bias. However, that makes me no less confident in my belief that behavior is contained wholly within the nervous system. Just why I'm confident in that belief I guess will be saved for the future...


Name: Paul Grobstein
Username: pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject: getting started ...
Date: Thu Jan 25 09:57:30 EST 2001
Comments:
Delighted to have Daniel's lead. Yep, "had a thought, and don't want to lose it". THAT's the idea for the forum. Don't lose it for yourself, make it available to others for whatever use they might make of it. And we'll all get used to, maybe even to enjoy, being wrong now and then.

Very interesting metalogical issue that David raises. And one we will get back to; it does have to do with the brain (of course, if brain=behavior then ... all thoughts do). For the moment, let's use David's "saved for the future" as an incentive for your own thoughts. If you need an incentive. Remember you can write here about anything that strikes you as interesting, puzzling.

The question for this week (if you choose to answer it):

If you agree that "brain=behavior", why? what would persuade you otherwise? If you disagree with "brain=behavior", or are fence-sitting on the question, why? What aspects of behavior/human experience do you think would be difficult or impossible to account for in terms of the brain? And why?


Name: Sadie
Username: siwhite@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Thoughts from a brain=behavior fence-sitter
Date: Thu Jan 25 19:44:47 EST 2001
Comments:
The thought that the sum of a human experience is contained within the systematic opening and closing of voltage- and chemically-gated ion channels and the movement of transmitter molecules across synapses is at once fascinating and disturbing for me to consider. It's a wonderful idea for the scientist part of me, but unsettling for my spiritual side. Lately I've been considering this idea: if brain=behavior, then why would so many people throughout the world look to spirituality for fulfillment? I suppose that one could argue that the "fulfillment" that people experience from spiritual exercise could be nothing more than a self-actualizing practice. I think Dickens would concur with that. That is, people could expect to feel positive emotions (arguably biochemically governed) during and after "being spiritual," and therefore, do.

And yet I wonder, if the premise of evolution is descent with modification - the preferential survival of individuals best suited to their given circumstances - then does faith provide an evolutionary boon to our species? Or is it a behavior that poses no discernible aid or detriment, and is only hanging around because it hasn't been selected out of us? I don't really know what I think about the idea yet, but, no matter what it is, I can't wait to be proven wrong!


Name: Elizabeth Gilbert
Username: egilbert@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Mind and Brain
Date: Fri Jan 26 13:39:32 EST 2001
Comments:
Are the mind and brain separate? Well, I am not sure. The scientist in my wants to just say that our "mind" is just biology; that is, it is just neurons firing and releasing neurotransmitters that cause other neurons to fire or to inhibit their firing seequence. But this would seem to imply that it would then be possible to create some sort of artificial intelligence that would be a person. (I am assuming that this comes very far in the future when technology is far advanced.) I cannot reconcile the thought that we could create a computer that could really act human. There is something indescribably different about all of those chemical floating around in our brains. All of these chemicals combine to create our "mind" or consciousness.

Our "mind" (as I see it at least) comes from these chemicals and the experiences that we have. So I guess if I were to pinpoint a place where the "mind" begins I would have to say that it is the hippocampus where learning and memory take place. It is intimately connected with the amigdala which would explain the fact that we are very emotional animals. I believe that we all have souls but these souls are just the collection of our thoughts feelings and experiences that we have encountered over the years. This is what I would consider a "mind". So I place myself in the camp that sits on a fence but I strongly lean to the Emily Dickenson camp. The mind exists in the brain. You may call it a soul, others might call it a memory, consciousness, or the hippocampus. I just call it the mind.


Name: Henrike
Username: hblumenf@brynmawr.edu
Subject: thoughts on split-brain/'split-mind'
Date: Fri Jan 26 16:27:24 EST 2001
Comments:
Yes, I am a fence-sitter too: I'm emotionally more comfortable with the idea of the mind as separate, but think the idea that all we are has a physical representation in the brain rationally appealing. Here's something to think about: I read about a study of the 'two minds' of split brain patients conducted by doctor Schiffer, MD. Knowing that the right hand is controlled by the left hemisphere and vice versa, he put two sets of building blocks in front of split-brain patients on which they could quantify emotions (not X to very X (?)). He asked them to respond to questions with both hands, each having its own set of building blocks. Supposedly, the answers to questions such as "how do you feel about..., are you still angry about..." came out differently for the two hemispheres, and Schiffer claims that "we found that these minds seem to differ in their sensitivity to past trauma, their level of maturity and their attitudes and feelings."

Hmm, so if (IF) separating the brain actually means separating the 'mind' (maybe not eveybody has the same definition of 'mind'), where does that put the brain (=) mind discussion ?? Just thought I wanted to share that question.


Name: anonymous
Username: grkdelfini@aol.com
Subject:
Date: Fri Jan 26 21:02:53 EST 2001
Comments:
After Tuesday's class, I really wanted to know if the mind=brain. So, I sat down and started thinking and analyzing and going through a step by step process, tying to understand - but it was so hard because I had never done that before. I never defined the word mind during my entire existance. It's like trying to describe to a blind person, what the color blue looks like. I felt like I was digging and digging and digging but couldn't get anywhere. So, this brings me to my current conclusion. Initially I agreed with Dickinson, because it made sense the way she described it, but I have come up with my own idea about the mind. So that I do not lose the initial thoughts I had I will type exactly what I jotted down that day: Brain: performs all these different functions - translates world into something I can understand. Who am I? I=mind? or I=brain? or I=soul? Maybe we don't want to label ourselves as brains so we use another word in hopes that we go on after death. Mind seems untouchable, wheras our bain, we all know, will decompose. Maybe our mind is part of a higher power, something that can't be explained. Our brain communicates with us, but the mind is something that the brain does not have the capacity to understand, and therefore the mind is a part of a higher power. So this is my current stance on this issue . . .
Name: Dena
Username: dgu@brynmawr.edu
Subject:
Date: Sat Jan 27 18:04:28 EST 2001
Comments:
The brain is a material object; I think we can all agree on that statement without a doubt. After taking the ĎTime to Thinkí test on the Serendip site, I tallied the results and was not surprised to find that the more thought I needed to give to the action, the slower it is. The brain cannot simultaneously act, it must go through some time consuming calculations and that has been the reasoning behind why there is no mind or soul outside of the material brain. It is why the brain is behavior, and nothing else to many people. Though I tend to lean towards this direction, I want to question if the soul or mind has to act without pause regardless of the problem. Does the time it takes for the brain to decide on an action to a problem actually prove that there is nothing more to behavior then the brain?

Though it might be as farfetched to some as demons causing odd behavior, maybe the mind or soul or whatever non-biological entity there is, has to act through the body and brain. That could be why time taken before an action is related to the complicatedness of the issue, the mind/soul has to decide what to do and then send their decision through material objects. For example, lets say Iím the mind/soul and the computer is the material brain. If I have an 850Mhz Pentium III CPU, the opening of programs would be much faster then if I have a 200Mhz Pentium II CPU. Also, more complicated programs on the computer will take longer to open while less complicated ones will just pop up. The mind (me) acts at the same speed for both computers and the electrical signals are still the same but one of the computers will have the programs open faster. I suppose what Iím saying with all this is that Iím a fence-sitter. As much as I learn about the biology of the human brain, I still would like to consider other possibilities for our behaviors.


Name: Irma Iskandar
Username: iiskanda@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Brain = Behavior?
Date: Sat Jan 27 21:36:20 EST 2001
Comments:
The question of whether or not the brain = behavior has been widely debated for many years. My standpoint, albeit naive, is that there are truths to both being identical to behavior and being unidentical to behavior - in other words, there is not just one correct answer to the problem. For example, in some cases the brain DOES dictate many sorts of behavior. For example, in Tuesday's class, students have listed "breathing" as one observable behavior in human beings. This unconscious behavior, however, was found to originate in the vicinity of the brainstem (or, rather, the medulla oblongata) - likewise, I should point out that the hypothalamus plays a role in controlling our behaviors such as "eating" and "sleeping", as well as regulating our "emotions", all behaviors that students in the class have listed.

On the other hand, however, and in a more philosophical slant, my suspicion is that behavior cannot be entirely accounted for by gray matter and nerve cells. Although we may pin-point parts of the brain in controlling behavior, we may do so only by observing and not necessarily driving at the primary WHY of how it works. How can one explain in a scientific manner, for example, as the French philosopher Malenbranche had pointed out, how free will dictates human behavior? We call psychokinetics (the ability to move objects without physical contact) magical and supernatural, but in actuality, lifting my hand up in the air seems to me like pyschokinetics already! What part of science can explain to me how my DESIRE to lift my hand translate into nerves and muscles joining in the action? What exact physical entities make up thought and free will? Surely not the brain? Or do we have free will at all?

Therefore, the question posted is not easy to answer, but looking at both cases (brain = behavior, brain NOT = behavior) allows me to realize how both answers could be valid in some ways.


Name: Sarah McCawley
Username: smccawle@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Brain and Behavior
Date: Sun Jan 28 14:30:53 EST 2001
Comments:
I started thinking about what the differences in brain and behavior actually were, if there were indeed any differences at all. My thoughts wandered to how the dicitionary would define them, so I looked up the definition of each of the words in the Cambridge Dictionary.

Brain-"the organ inside the head that controls thought, memory, feeling, and physical activity"

Behavior-"a particular way of acting"

What I found to be interesting was the fact that behavior was only a way of "acting", which implies that it is exclusively something observable. Not only that, but the brain is what CONTROLS the activity. If these defintions are acurate, is there any room for the two to be the same thing? Well, it doesn't look so good. Nonetheless, I think that those writing the dictionary probably do not have debates over such questions when compiling the book. As for me, I am still a fencesitter, but one that leans away from what the dictionary seemingly applies.

I do beleive that there is very srong connection between the brain and behavior, but I am not sure whether they are the same thing. It seems to me that if they are the same thing that it could easily explain why humans have to take time to react, why they dream, why there are physical signs of internal feelings like emotions, among so many other things. The only thing that I would question is the human spirit or soul. Is the soul linked to the brain and if so, is it the same thing or is it just connected to it in some way? These are questions that I do not have answers to. In fact, I only have a guess to most questions, not an answer.


Name: Matt Fisher
Username: mfisher@haverford.edu
Subject: support of brain=behavior
Date: Sun Jan 28 16:52:42 EST 2001
Comments:
I have always assumed that behavior came from within a person. That implies to me that it comes from the brain. The brain controls so much of how our bodies work; that it makes sense to me that behavior comes from this source as well. Our discussion in class on Thursday only reinforced this in my mind. The box model, even with its shortcomings, supports the evidence. There is some mysterious way the brain interprets all of the information, but I do not think there is an unobservable force behind this. It will only be a matter of time before someone invents a device capable of measuring this process. So many parts of nature have been explained in the past century or less that eventually the origin of behavior will be determined as well.

Another reason I believe behavior comes from the brain is similarities between people. Even though everyone is unique, there are certain characteristics that people share. The more you are around other people the more you adapt to how they are. The brain is processing information subconsciously and altering behavior. It is Darwin's idea of survival of the fittest. The best behavior is recognized by the brain and incorporated into that person. I do not think it is any unobservable force working in the background. It is our own bodies working to be the best they can.

These are my views upon the subject. I am sure as the course progresses they will be altered, but in a way that could only be supporting what I have already said.


Name: Kate Lauber
Username: klauber@haverford.edu
Subject: Brain = Behavior
Date: Sun Jan 28 18:40:56 EST 2001
Comments:
In thinking about the brain/behavior debate I was reminded of my organic chemistry class. My professor once told a story about one of her children to inspire us all to realize how important orgo really was and that we really would benefit from this experience. She told us that one day her son came to her and announced out of the blue that, "Mom, EVERYTHING is chemistry," and then pondered for a minute and said, "everything except God and the clouds." My professor was exstatic that she had passed this knowledge onto her son but still felt the need to correct him. She said, "You are right except for one thing. God, who knows about God? - but the clouds, they are water, and water is chemistry."

While it was amusing at the time, I agree, everything is chemistry. Everything observable at least. And as long as we're defining behavior as something observable I'm going to fall into the camp that says brain=behavior. The brain is chemistry, and if I learned anything in organic chemistry it was that there is nothing else. I don't pretend to understand all of the unobservable things that go on in a psyche. These things may come from some other source- God, soul etc. but they aren't observable. It would take a lot for me to believe that there is something else besides the brain. There would have to be some observable form of behavior that clearly came from some other source. Some source not confined by the rule and principles of chemistry and science. For now, I'm going to side with Dickenson et al. and say that there is nothing else besides that brain.


Name: Euree
Username: echoi@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Brain=Behavior??
Date: Sun Jan 28 19:17:17 EST 2001
Comments:
To an extent, I agree with Dickenson, Lee, Crick, and Grobstein's belief that brain=behavior. However, I cannot say that I totally agree that "there isn't anything else." I guess that makes me a "fence-sitter."

I understand that chemical reactions occur from synapse to synapse to trigger communication with the brain in order to produce behaviors. On the other hand, I believe that there is more than just the brain and behavior. If, as Crick stated, "a person's mental activities are entirely due to the behavior of nerve cells...influence them" is true, then what accounts for external circumstances.

One issue is the body element. For instance, if one were reading sitting at a desk, one generally tends to read more effectively than if one were reading laying on a bed. Personally, reading laying on a bed creates sleepiness. This suggests that body position could influence our thinking, which then can alter our behavior. What if one had a leg or arm amputated? A bodily change such as this may cause a change in mental state leading the person to behave or act differently. Many other outside factors can influence a change in thinking. Even the clothes one wears can be a factor. Wearing a business suit can boost confidence and self-esteem, whereas wearing sweats can lead the brain to think one way and alter one's behavior to a state of nonchalance. In class, we tried to determine the stimulus that causes a cricket to chirp. For all we know, outer factors, such as warm weather and environment could have triggered the cricket to chirp.

Therefore, I am not confident about where I stand. For now, I will just fence-sit to be safe. The brain is yet too complex to fathom with complete understanding.


Name: Christine
Username: cfarrenk@haverford.edu
Subject: does brain = behavior?
Date: Sun Jan 28 20:32:37 EST 2001
Comments:
The issue of brain = behavior came up as I was watching the Superbowl. In an anti-tobacco commercial, several young adults discussed the dangers of smoking. The commercial ended with the statement "Because the body does what the mind says."

For me, this statement raises another issue: whether the brain and mind are the same. Let's continue with the example of smoking. When a person becomes addicted to nicotine, he feels a craving for this substance. This sense of craving presumably comes from the brain. However, a person can overcome the urge to smoke through, as I see it, the power of a separate entity: the mind. Although the body (more specifically the brain, which directs the signal for the craving) asks for nicotine, one's mind has the power to deliver or not deliver the nicotine to the body through the choice of whether or not to smoke.

I guess this now makes me a fence sitter. If the "mind" has the ability to control behavior, then it is not simply the brain that impacts behavior.


Name: Meghan
Username: mshayhor@brynmawr.edu
Subject: brain and behavior
Date: Sun Jan 28 21:21:41 EST 2001
Comments:
From the evidence presented on the first day of class, I firmly believed that brain equals behavior. However, after giving this topic much more thought, I am now unsure of my stand.

In some cases, brain does control behavior. It has been shown that certain mental proccesses are linked with particular regions of the brain, and thus the brain will control how one acts. However, it is not always just the brain which controls one's behavior. Chemical reactions between synapses can only explain so much.

There are certain times when mental ideas are not displayed outwardly as behavior. We can think things without physically showing what we are thinking. Environment certainly affects one's behavior, but does it affect one's brain function?

I am a fence-sitter and believe that there can potentially be more to behavior than just the brain.


Name: Alice
Username: agoff@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Brain and Behavior
Date: Sun Jan 28 22:59:59 EST 2001
Comments:
Although I must admit that my hand instinctively shot up in class the other day when it was asked who agreed that brain = behavior, in retrospect I have a very hard time accepting the premise that a bunch of physical apparatuses can be the source of such intangible things as that which comes from our mind. How can ion-channels, and electrical signals produce sympathy, hate, boredom, etc.? It seems so odd that the very mechanism that supposedly produces our thoughts is capable of calling itself into question as we are doing now. This is one of those things that feels like if you think about it too hard you will disappear in a puff of smoke.

And yet, as was said in class on Thursday, there is no way of proving that there are no demons. The point I found interesting was that though the demons may exist, believing in the brain works better. Believing that the brain is the source of behavior treats illness and helps us understand conditions that were before a mystery. So, if science is a way of being less wrong, then it seems to me that medical success is a good measure of that. So, despite hesitations, I am going to put my faith in brain = behavior, not for its truth but for its ability to produce results.


Name: sarah
Username:
Subject: Brain=Behavior?
Date: Sun Jan 28 23:57:37 EST 2001
Comments:
While I would like to remain open-minded to the possibility of something besides the brain (ie- a soul) I currently agree with Emily Dickenson. I think that to prove that brain and behavior are the only two factors every behavior would just need to be linked to the brain. This would not be simple, but I think it is very possible. Scientists are able to study brain activity during sleep, remove parts of the brain to see how behavior is affected, and control the brain's activity through the use of drugs. I think that with the amount of information that the brain is able to process we must only understand the top of the tip of the iceberg of the brain's capabilities. Perhaps as scientists are able to identify and control the fuctions of all of the genes in humans it will be possible to create artificial intelligence with all of the behavioral traits as humans. Another reason why I agree that Brain=Behavior is that I don't believe in the existence of any supernatural force, such as a god, so I don't even know what there would be besides the brain. I'm sure that during the semester (maybe even during the next class) someone will make me reevaluate my position, but for now Brain=Behavior and there is nothing else.
Name: Caroline Ridgway
Username: cridgway@haverford.edu
Subject: weekly essay
Date: Sun Jan 28 23:58:33 EST 2001
Comments:
For as long as I have been aware of the argumentís existence, I have believed in a distinction between mind and brain. It has always seemed clear to me that the two function on different levels, and it is in their dynamic interaction that a person comes to be. Or really any living entity. (Or, as it is often referred to, any living "soul," another term with ambiguous meaning seeming to reflect some combination of physical and metaphysical.) That it is so easy to take away life but that its creation is much more elusive seems potent evidence. If one could exist without the other, then why does the body cease to exist in any viable form once the facilitating mental component has vacated? The scientist in me recognized and appreciated the physical properties of the nervous system, while the philosopher in me allowed for the inclusion of some outside and more intangible governing principle. That the two were dependent upon each other for life as we recognize it to proceed did not deter me from my conviction that they were fundamentally separate. The ultimate control of the mind over its physical substrate, the brain, seemed irrefutable evidence for their differentiation. The very complexity of a living system seemed to necessitate their detachment. However, I had never considered the fact that the two might be the same and yet also separate; I had never considered Emily Dickinsonís proposal that one is contained within the other. Here is an idea that allows for my separating mind and brain while suggesting that their distinction may be as components of one larger whole. (What that whole is, I donít know.) This is a fascinating concept for me, as it seems to put the two together in cooperation rather than in competition. Suddenly the brain and the mind have a motivation to work together to create life. Having thus acknowledged my current doubts, I still maintain that there has to be some recognition of the unique properties of each, and I donít think I will ever fully resolve my dualist tendencies into a unified theory of brain and mind as one. Though I can never be sureÖ
Name: Diana Applegate
Username: dapplega@brynmawr.edu
Subject: What about consciousness?
Date: Mon Jan 29 09:51:10 EST 2001
Comments:
While scientists debate whether brain=behavior, philosophers often disagree about the same mind/body problem when discussing dualism and materialism. From my own experiences with cognitive science and artificial intelligence, I'd have to say I'm just about convinced that brain does equal behavior. Research on Epilepsy, Alzheimer's Disease, even anxiety and depression seems to indicate that this could, in fact, be the case. What's holding me back a little, though, is the idea of consciousness, a term not easily defined or made sense of in science, or in philosophy, although it has long been associated with the "mind" or "soul".

I just started reading "Conversations with Neil's Brain", a book that very interestingly describes the surgical process of mapping the brain of an epileptic patient. While Neil is conscious and awake, a neurosurgeon probes exposed portions of his brain with an electric current, noting Neil's subsequent reactions. Last night, I started reading Chapter 2 of the book, titled "Losing Consciousness", and came across a thought-provoking quote that the author, William Calvin, cites from another book called "The Dreaming Brain":

"The music from these spheres from the galaxy within our head is our consciousness. Consciousness is the continuous, subjective awareness of the activity of billions of cells firing at many times a second, communicating instantaneously with the tens of thousands of their neighbors. And the organization of this symphony of activity is such that it is sometimes externally oriented (during waking), sometimes remarkably oblivious to the outside world (during sleep), and sometimes so remarkably aware of itself (during dreams) that it recreates the external world in its own image."

Could this be it? Is what we call "consciousness" simply the result of billions of neurons communicating with one another? Part of me wants to argue that there has to be more than this going on, but I have a feeling that as this course progresses, I will be more likely to say that consciousness very well could be defined this way.


Name: avis brennan
Username: abrennan@haverford.edu
Subject:
Date: Mon Jan 29 12:59:06 EST 2001
Comments:
While we know that, semantically, brain and behavior are not interchangeable terms, the mathematical principles of the expression brain=behavior conveys what I believe to be the fundamental principle of neuroscience. That is, as an equation, what is "done" to one side inevitably influences the value of the other such that any alteration to brain will result in a corresponding modification of behavior, and vice versa. Thus, this equation expresses the multitude of ways in which actions and structures of the brain may produce behavior (consciousness, or mind), and likewise, how behavior may modify these structures and subjects. The mutual exchange between brain and behavior does not define one concept in terms of another. In other words, the brain does not limit behavior and the brain is not limited by behavior, rather they inform and shape one-another.

I suppose what remains in question is under what circumstances the brain and behavior are malleable to one another and how each may develop as independent entities capable of informing one-another. I guess this is where the interdisciplinary approach comes in handy. It takes a little biology and a little psychology to appreciate how this equation is worked out. We know, for example, that stimulus deprived rats have a neural circuitry distinct from their counterparts raised in enriched environments. The plastic nature of the brain shows that its structure is not free from the external environmental/behavioral influences. Likewise, the behaviors that would seem to be a product of free will or experience, such as emotional disposition, are apparently tied to structures of the brain. The example that comes to mind is Phineus Gage, the soft-spoken, gentle steelworker who turned into a loud and intolerant brut after having a rod jammed though his frontal lobe. The underlying mechanism of emotion and reaction is seated in the bio-chemical processes of our brain, and our brain is dually molded by the information coming from the body and the external world.

So in a sense, neuroscience is a fence sitters discipline. It seeks to reframe the questions of biology and psychology in terms of one another. It is safe and I believe it offers a useful perspective. Brain=behavior is a reminder that the project of both disciplines is to understand relevant problems. The underlying mechanisms of certain behaviors have been pinned-down using this methodology: we know how pain is received and perceived in the nervous system. Additionally, we know that learning alters the brain and that there is a critical period for language acquisition. With this in mind, I think a more appropriate phrase for the relationship between brain and behavior would be condition dependent. Sometimes it would be an inequality. Brain>behavior in drive states, pain etc. Behavior>brain in language acquisition. Working within the principle that one side of the inequality/equality influences the other; neuroscience seems to concern itself with the nature of the interaction or the terms of influence. I guess this interpretation makes me a fence sitter, too.


Name: Daniel Burdick
Username: dburdick@brynmawr.edu
Subject: On Spirituality and Consciousness
Date: Mon Jan 29 15:55:38 EST 2001
Comments:
In evaluating the validity of a model, there are two questions I try to answer. First, is it consistent with the observed evidence? Second, is it a better explanation -- i.e. simpler, more logically consistent -- than alternative models? In the case of "brain = behavior," I argue that both questions are satisfied. Difficult though it may be to accept, it is simpler to explain behavior in neurobiological terms than to create some ethereal determinant of behavior. And it is certainly more consistent with more evidence than other models -- the brain is demonstrably related to behavior, as several have noted above, in studies ranging from epilepsy to depression.

For me, this makes brain=behavior the preferred model to be rejected. To reject it, of course, we can try to find examples of behavior that are not explained by this model, not contained within the brain. And some excellent objections have already been raised! It seems that the two primary objections are (1) the existence of human spirituality and soul, and (2) consciousness. In short, we seem reluctant to accept that the material (neurons, neurotransmitters, and hormones) can create the immaterial (the soul, emotions, self-awareness). On the contrary, though, both objections are explicable within the brain framework.

In the first case, it must be noted that the relevant question is not whether a human soul exists, but whether the soul controls behavior. Hence I can be a spiritual person while still maintaining that brain=behavior, since I've seen no evidence that the soul itself controls behavior. Spiritual behavior is controlled by the belief in a soul, a belief that is contained wholly within the brain. Moreover, the belief is a response to specific emotions - themselves a purely biological experience - that are the direct result of human evolution. Fear of death is a wonderful motivator to stay alive, and spirituality is in large part a behavioral response to this fear.

Likewise, consciousness is simply an extension of adaptive abilities to reason and to apply past experience to predict the future. It is a significant step to move from understanding the world to understanding one's place in the world, but if we can understand logical planning in neurological terms, then we can understand consciousness in the same terms. I've been too long-winded already, so in sum, I think any such objection can be explained similarly; thus I'm left with "brain=behavior" as the best model I've seen to date.


Name: Alexis Webb
Username: awebb@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Brain=Behavior?
Date: Mon Jan 29 15:59:32 EST 2001
Comments:
Ever since my interest in Neuroscience was piqued my junior year of high school I have always equated brain with behavior. The idea that the mind is the brain is not the interesting question for me, but rather how can we explain how they are the same? What is the best model for describing mind as brain? Are certain groups of neurons and synapes responsible for certain behaviors; can we propose this one on one mapping or is there something more complex?

There is plenty of physical evidence that begins to point towards brain equaling behavior. Experiments using functional MRI, fMRI, to study dyslexia show that there are areas in the brain that are not active in dyslexic children when they are reading. Technology's ability to view activity (oxygen levels) in the brain while certain behaviors are taking place lead me to believe that there is an obvious correlation between an action and the following "reaction" in the brain. If dyslexic kids are missing something (neurons, neurotransmitters?) in the brain, their behavior is affected... they have difficulty reading.

Is this convincing evidence for a one to one mapping of behavior to the brain? Nope. But, regardless of what model is deemed the "ideal" one, it will always be questioned. As well it should be. Neuroscience is about finding the answers to unanswerable questions. A paradox, true, but it means that the field will continue to exist for quite a while.


Name: Gwen Slaughter
Username: gslaught@haverford.edu
Subject: Brain = Behavior ?
Date: Mon Jan 29 16:19:06 EST 2001
Comments:
When I first thought of the question does brain equal behavior, I automatically thought I should side with Dickenson. Afterall, the information and experiences we take in all comes together in the brain. We use our brains to make sense of all this information and our brains tell us how to behave.

A lot of people have mentioned the existence of a mind and/or soul as a reason for being a fence sitter. Yes, it's perplexing. I believe the mind or soul exists within the brain. We feel, believe and have faith using our brains. All the information we have about our beliefs is stored in our brains. This is all easy for me to believe in. I get stumped, however, when I think about the question of life after death. Yes, the brain decomposes, but it's nice to think that the mind lives on in some capacity. So, there is the point of my confusion. Does being a hard core scientist who truely believes brain = behavior mean I have to give up my religious faith?


Name: Claire Walker
Username: cwalker@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Brain and Behavior?
Date: Mon Jan 29 19:03:47 EST 2001
Comments:
After our discussion in class I was feeling fairly confident that Brain equals behavior. Afterall our brain is responsible for our conscious and subconscious feelings and reactions. It is amazing to me how our brains can quickly connect situations that we may not believe are related but seem to have things in common. Like, have you ever been talking to someone about something and then all of the sudden you have a memory of something vaguely related, but when you try and think of why you thought of the connection, it just seems too little to even remember. This happens to me frequently and I like to think about how my brain connects things.

On the point that Gwen made I think that it is hard to think about our religious beliefs in connection with the idea of brain equally behavior. There is so much about our brains that we don't understand. I think beliefs have something to do with our behavior. The mysterious ways in which our brain runs through things during sleeping patterns always makes me sit and think about how I had certain dreams. I can usually remember my dreams when I wake in the morning and they are always so vivid. Connecting my dreams to things that happened during the day or were in the back of my mind really makes me wonder how our brain connects things into stories while we are unconscious.

I believe that brain does equal behavior. This does not mean that I give up beliefs because I think that somehow our brain is in control of everything. It really is mysterious. I am interested to hear what other people have to say on the subject.


Name: Huma
Username: hrana@brynmawr.edu
Subject: brain and behavior
Date: Mon Jan 29 20:40:25 EST 2001
Comments:
People have made a lot of great comments about why brain and behavior are one in the same, but I don't buy it (not yet at least). Obviously, all human behavior is somehow caused by the brain, but it's really difficult to accept that everything one does is the result of a neuron firing. I believe in a mind, soul, or essence (whatever the term). I feel that there is something which in addition to the brain causes behavior. The scientist in me is eager to accept the idea that brain = behavior. It a more convincing argument than saying there is some obscure, unobservable 'mind' which also controls who we are and what we do. I have read countless accounts on the brain's role in gender differences, sexual orientation, dreaming etc. However, until we can say for sure that all human behavior and emotion is the direct result of some pathway in the nervous system or variation in the brain, I will continue to believe in the intangible mind. I also have a question, a bit of an asideÖMost people believe that the brain determines behavior, but it has been demonstrated in several Psychology studies (the names of which escape me right now) that behavior can change the brain. Changing one's cognition and actions can have an observable physiological effect on the brain. How does the brain = behavior theory account for this?
Name: Jessica
Username: jamiller
Subject: brain vs. behavior
Date: Mon Jan 29 23:33:12 EST 2001
Comments:
I believe that the brain and behavior are deeply connected. To some it might seem that the brain is simply a biological device and to characterize ourselves and our actions by it's chemical makeup would seem unspiritual, or at least unsettling. However, I think that what the brain really is is an instrument which inacts our innate choices. Our behavior isn't who we are it is simply how we react to a situation in itself a choice. The nervous system is a great series of pathways which at synapses make the choice which paths to take. So to me the idea that thought can be purly chemical does not seem so unsettling when coupled with the idea that we are making choices even if only on the most uncontious levels. Perhaps the soul(as I have heard some people mention) is not a mysterious thing, but energy, the energy which fuels and drives the electrical signals creating our behavior. And as energy it may never be destroyed, there that is a comforting thought to finish with.
Name: Rachel Kahn
Username: rkahn@brynmawr.edu
Subject: brain = behavior
Date: Mon Jan 29 23:41:51 EST 2001
Comments:
I think I am struggling with this question because I feel as though in order to answer it, I need to come to some conclusion about whether or not I believe in the existence of any sort of deity, or supreme force, or soul. Since I have been trying to do this for many years with little success, I should probably just give up and declare myself a fence-sitter.

I would like to believe that brain = behavior. A convincing argument for me has to do with severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia or tourrette's syndrome. In such illnesses, significant behavioral manifestations result from damage to or deterioration of the brain. The behavior can often be controlled through the use of medications which directly affect the brain. This appears to suggest that all behavior is directly related to the brain.

I have also read that there is evidence that even emotions which many people have a hard time believing come only from the brain, such as love, are directly related to levels of certain neurotransmitters (such as serotonin). However, I suppose I then must question whether the emotion brings about the change in neurotransmitter or the change in neurotransmitter brings about the emotion. It seems an impossible task to try to form any real conclusions about this. In a way, it is analogous to proving the existence of a soul or a higher power/deity.


Name: Sabah
Username: squraish@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Brain = Behavoir
Date: Tue Jan 30 00:43:46 EST 2001
Comments:
When first posed this question I automatically put myself into the fence sitting category because I don't have all the information on brain and behavior. I realized this will never be true. I will never find an answer just keep exploring ideas so I might as well pick a position to explore them through. So for now you may call me a brain does not equal behavior.

While I understand that there are input/output functions, gated ion channels and synapses in the brain I can't get it out of my head(brain or mind I'm not sure) that they account for everything experienced. There are behaviors that are not explained by the brain or that can have alternative origins. So for now, until I'm proved wrong, I'm going with the brain does not equal behavior. If it makes you(or me) feel better you can call me fence sitting strongly leaning.


Name: Sural Shah
Username: skshah@brynmawr.edu
Subject: thoughts
Date: Tue Jan 30 01:01:05 EST 2001
Comments:
The world certainly seems like a very cold place when one begins to consider human relations solely as series of chemical reactions without regard for the, and pardon my choice of words here, "humanity" of it all, no matter how complicated those reactions may be. We live in a world where we, as a species, are constantly attempting to view the universe in terms of ourselves, even to the point of personifying these very same reactions. The idea of reducing back to straight facts the single object that we are certain, at least to some extent, aids in the creation of the human experience seems rather unnatural. Therefore, I am not surprised that instinctually, it seems to me that there MUST be an additional element somewhere- one that contributes to the more abstract aspects of human character, from souls to hope. The problem for me, however, arises at this very stage. What is this elusive "additional element" and if it is not controlled by chemistry, what controls it? What does it control? Are there even limits to its capabilites? It might be best to identify this notion as the "mind" as this word is certainly used colliquially to denote the less definite aspects of behavior (i.e. internal stimuli, the concepts of faith, and ability to have thoughts beyond those presented previously).

So.....Is there really a mind? I'm sure that we all know the answer to that question after class on Thursday (if you can't prove it, then you really don't know), but I can't help but feeling, in a manner admittedly incongruous with my prior discussion, that there must be a way to link this concept of a mind to the brain so that the brains does equal behavior. Somehow, through all of those neurotransmitters and ion channels, the senses of our own autonomy and experiences must be explicable. Could it be possible that the mind exists within the brain, much like the true wizard in the Wizard of Oz? Somewhere within the sensory organs and nerves, there is a human element (not to say that animals can't possess this element, but just to narrow down the discussion) which, while requiring these tools of perception to operate, represents the true ability of humans to conceive of thoughts and ideas they have never seen before nor could ever truly grasp the magnitude of (i.e. God, the heavens, etc.). In looking at Emily Dickinson's poem, it could be said that she is right in her opinion that the brain is greater than the sky because it can contain the sky while the sky cannot contain it, but that perhaps the only reason that the brain is greater is because it contains the mind. Afterall, without the mind, what would the brain see? An endless sky, sure, but how would it ever understand or even remotely create for itself the concept of endless, since it can obviously never prove it to itself? The mind is the only answer, but only with the aside that it must act with the brain, as we know through research that it is what perceives stimuli. In ways that I'll let you ponder for yourselves, I think that these ideas could apply to religion and the concept of "life" after death, as well.

Well, I feel like I have rambled on for a while, and perhaps done nothing but establish myself as a fence-sitter with a lot to say, but perhaps this will spark a discussion on the idea of the mind, and where those who don't believe brain=behavior think that this missing piece is at work.


Name: Nana Dawson-Andoh
Username: ndawsona@brynmawr.edu
Subject:
Date: Tue Jan 30 01:01:52 EST 2001
Comments:
Although I am inclined to agree with the statement that brain and behavior have a cause and effect relationship, there is still a romantic part of me that thinks wistfully of the mind and soul as separate entities onto themselves. There is a great deal of the evidence showing the correlation between neurochemical events and external physical expressions or behaviors. As Prof. Grobstein pointed out in class, most behaviors have a material aspect to them. They can be directly seen, felt, observed and are tangible to the world outside the brain. Even dreams can affect a person's everyday life and interactions.

But I continue to ask myself, what of intuition? Or just "having a feeling" about something? Suspicion, hate, anger, love? The last usually being considered to be an emotion that is difficult to describe exactly. How can these be explained in terms of brain and behavior? I have no answers to these questions, but I wouldn't want to rule them out. I still want to believe that there are just some things that will remain intangible and unexplainable. Science can't provide the answers to everything


Name: Mary Ferrell
Username: mferrell@brynmawr.edu
Subject: mind and body behavior
Date: Tue Jan 30 01:13:58 EST 2001
Comments:
Does the brain = behavior? No.

I assume the brain is only the grey matter and paraphenalia inside the head. What about the body's vibratory emisssions of emotion into space outside the body? Of course these emotions are behavior caused by the brain, but they also cause our behavior. And when they are in space outside the body, they are no longer in the brain.

An example of these outer reaching vibrations is what a severely depressed person fills her or his surrounding air with. It seems to be a physical matter, albeit invisible to the eye, that reaches out from the person and behaves first, as chosen by the depressed person and then secondly, in concert with the other vibrations floating around. These depressed emotions fill the air with toxins that can destroy the feelings of peace and joy that others perhaps may be emitting or they might be influenced by the ambience and behave in a way that will cause less stressful behavior from the people that enter the room.

I believe that these free floating vibrations, ever changing actions in harmony or discord, are part of what can be refered to as the collective mind(outside the body and impressed inside the body also). In space and body, they harbor the ancient and the new (vibrations)of the subjective, genetic human beings. Of course, they are vibrating with all the rest of the subjective and objective jazz of the universe. So mind or brain, its just different physical vibrations. It seems to me though that behavior is caused by more matter than just the brain.


Name: jenny
Username: jecohen@brynmawr.edu
Subject: brain=behavior
Date: Tue Jan 30 01:26:49 EST 2001
Comments:
I am a fence sitter. I admitt that when a take the time to break things down I can make most things simple enough to be traced to a brain function. But how can the functions of the brain alone account for all the different personalities out there? A personality defines the general behaviors an individual routinely exhibits. Combine this with free will and nothing you can say will make me believe that two people with similar personalities will always chose the same course of action for a given situation. And I realize that even people who are 'alike' are not alike enough to make any kind of scientific comparison, but there can be no brain composition that determines that a person will be laid back that will also determine the decided actions of all people with laid-back personalities.

Do our personalities come from our parents? It's true that kids seem to take after one parent or the other and how much of this is genetic and how much is learned behavior, I don't know. I do know that no two siblings are exactly alike. They have a similar genetic makeup and a similar environment from which they derive their learned behaviors and yet they can exhibit extreme differences in personality. The whole theory that has come up with the prospect of cloaning is that even if you have two individuals with the exact same genetic makeup, you will not have identical people as far as character is concerned. Is this all attributable to slightly different environmental influences? I honestly don't know. I feel like a lot of who a person is is defined by their experiences and fundamentally by how their brain functions, but part of me also says that their personality or character was something that they were born with and that everyone's is unique. Maybe my problem is that I don't think there can be enough variation within the brain and how it functions to accout for all of the uniqueness that exists amongst people. I mean, how many different things can the brain do that differently? A lot, sure - but enough? I'm sure I'm really tired and not thinking clearly, and I know that there is a LOT that I don't know about the brain. But this is where I'm at right now. I hope it makes sense.


Name: Niru
Username: nkumar@brynmawr.edu
Subject: brain and behavior
Date: Tue Jan 30 01:29:40 EST 2001
Comments:
The source of behavior has to come from somewhere, but can all action be accounted for through chemical interactions in the brain. In some ways this makes human interaction like an advanced form of microprocessing in a computer, where inputs, despite following a complicated path, have a ultimately determined output. Can there be any free will then, given that. Obviously, we are made up of components of our genetic make-up and our experiences, which become a part of our brain in terms of memory and subconscious. But, is that all? Where do the opportunities to make value judgements and choices come up? Because, isn't thinking, or even forcing yourself to think a behavior in itself? A behavior that has already been determined for you. But, how then is the creative element of humanity accounted for in terms of physical origin? Does creativity just rely on past experiences. There are many innovations and new advancements though, beyond animal instinct for humans. This tendency, however, probably just derives from the fact that we are wired differently from animals, which is what makes us rational beings, as opposed to merely conscious ones. This begs the deeper question..what really is consciousness? In physical states, consciousness and death can be fairly similar, but are vastly different in terms of behavior. Is that spark of electrical current and energy analagous to the soul in religious terms? But, at the point the soul becomes eminently dissolvable, which is a very saddening thought for me. But, in a way it doesn't have to, since our physical aspect can be said to be wrapped up with our behavior because our lives and actions are purely defined by the physical, so there is no way to remove the physical from everything.
Name: karen munoz
Username: kmunoz@haverford.edu
Subject: brain and behavior
Date: Tue Jan 30 03:18:29 EST 2001
Comments:
when first thinking of the question of brain equaling behavior, i thought that of course there was nothing else. our behavior is dictated by what we do with our brains and what goes on in our minds. i liked the way someone above described how they thought about the mind (elizabeth gilbert) in that she said that the mind was the collection of our thoughts and experiences. that explanation still holds the mind under the umbrella of "brain" while making it seem that there is more to it than neuronal firing.

when i continue to think of this question i agree with people who are questioning the role of spirituality and god in our behavior. while i'm not sure of its particular role in my life, i think it is an interesting question to think about. i'm sure there are ways to make spirituality fit the brain=behavior equation like the ones proposed by daniel burdick, but i'm just going to have to keep thinking about it. . .


Name: Caitlin Costello
Username: ccostell@haverford.edu
Subject:
Date: Tue Jan 30 03:31:22 EST 2001
Comments:
One area where the notion that brain=behavior has become more prevalent in recent years is that of language acquisition, as I have been learning in my Psych of Language class this semester. Until the 1950s, the Behaviorist model of language acquisition dominated the experimental psychology scene. According to the Behaviorists, we learn language by imitating our parents and receiving positive reinforcement for correct speech. Since then, however, researchers such as Noam Chomsky have pointed to innate capacities for language, evidenced by observations such as linguistic creativity (being able to say things weíve never heard before) and studies of the different effects on language skills that result from damage to various areas of the brain. In other words, language comes from the brain. Although in the context of the antimentalist time, with its focus on observable behavior and disregard of mental processes as unimportant, this theory made perfect sense, we now have access to methods of information gathering that the behaviorists did not. Even to the nonscientist, however, some of the insufficiencies of the Behaviorist model are readily apparent. One wonders, for instance, why the Behaviorists didn't account for the fact that language was developed at some point in history, and our prehistoric ancestors did not have anyone to imitate when there was no language, and nobody was around who knew language any better than them. Our way of thinking about language acquisition, as well as our scientific tools for its study, have evolved.

It would be premature, however, to say that the current conception of brain=language, or brain=behavior for that matter, is complete. Just as those pictures we looked at on Thursday of the neural circuitry kept getting more complex, a place where the model of brain=behavior may continue to need filling out is the possible distinction between mind and brain. I think Christine brought up a good example of this with nicotine addiction, that the mind is at odds with the brain. I wonder, also, about the mental aspect of addiction. The addiction to smoking certainly has components beyond the physical dependence on nicotine. The drive influencing the behavior of smoking also comes from connections to oneís environment (like always having a cigarette after dinner, for instance), social pressure or custom, etc. etc. If, like Christine suggested, the mind can succumb to or deny the brainís desire for nicotine, the mind, or whatever controls whether this desire of the brain is met, also has to, in its decision of whether to trigger the behavior of smoking, consider the nonphysical reasons to smoke and those not to smoke. Are these other reasons the mind? The brain? Is the brain fighting the brain here, or the mind fighting the brain, or the mind fighting the mind? It seems like these competing mental forces are too complex to be lumped together as "brain." Maybe someday brain=behavior will seem as oversimplified as the behaviorist model of language acquisition does today, or maybe itís about as complete a picture as we can get or even need to get; who knows?


Name: Andrea Miller
Username: n2tiv@aol.com
Subject:
Date: Tue Jan 30 06:37:35 EST 2001
Comments:
Someone earlier asked if evidence that the brain requires time to decide on an action "actually proves that there is nothing more to behavior then the brain." What I want to point out about her statement, is that it seems somewhat representative of how we as a class might be framing the question. We are asking, is it possible that there's NOT something else? Its as if we have a baseline belief that there IS something else (perhaps because we cannot conceive of ourselves as otherwise), and so we lay it on science to demonstrate that there isnít something more. but how can a material science prove the non existence of something immaterial? Should it even try? It seems to me that observable (or inferred) "mind" or "soul" activity is always tied to an active brain. So that is my starting point: the activities of the brain (call them whatever you will, thinking, mind) is all that there is, and whatever else is hypothesized to be, let science build up evidence of its existence, rather than assume its there and require science to prove it isnít.
Name: Paula Green
Username: pgreen@haverford.edu
Subject: Topic 1
Date: Tue Jan 30 08:12:33 EST 2001
Comments:
The question is: Does brain = behavior? I would have to agree with this statement, not because I have any biological proof to back me up, but common sense. When I think of the brain, it is this higher phenomenon that God implanted into human beings so that they would have the ability to function in their daily lives. This function that powers the brain can be equated to behavior to mean the same thing. I am sure this opinion will change as the semester continues, but for right now I believe that the brain sets off behavior which means one cannot operate without the other.

I am sure the implications that make them different are the simple fact that one is a thing (the brain) and the other is not (behavior). The first step is to first define what each means in the biological sense. Stemming from these broad ranges of possibilities could be one of the first steps in considering what kinds of new observations would cause people to think differently.


Name: Mel Rohall
Username: mrohall@brynmawr.edu
Subject: focus
Date: Tue Jan 30 08:49:01 EST 2001
Comments:
My question is one of the nature of the unconscious. The observation of behavior can be measured increasingly, from the intial casual observation of total body movements to electrical impulses sent within the brain during both sleeping and nonsleeping periods. The intake of stimuli seemingly leads to a variety of responses. Placing a hand near an open flame will give the sensation of heat causing the muscles in the arm to pull away from the flame. Simple enough. The theory of the unconscious may complicate the aforementioned example. Again given certain basic stimuli, the behavior might be able to be predicted. For example, a constant increased noise level in an environment such as the pounding of jackhammers near a construction site would quickly come to the attention of proximal residents as this noise would permeate nearly every aspect of their days. Listening to music, conversation, even reading would be altered as the only noise heard would be that of the jackhammers. This become an all consuming focus; however, after having lived with these nioses for some time, the noise can be blocked out by the unconsious. Conservations commence, and the focus shifts. Unconscious focus seems to bring to life what it pleases, but with the same set of stimuli this can not be easily sorted as the shift was consciously effortless. The jackhammers were not blocked by ear plugs just unnoticed.
Name: Melissa Hoegler
Username: mhoegler@brynmawr.edu
Subject:
Date: Tue Jan 30 12:04:58 EST 2001
Comments:
I find it hard to believe that the brain=behavior. Something inside of me will not let me accept this notion. I feel that by accepting this statement I am losing a piece of myself. It makes me question who I am and if I had any real part of it, or if my brain did it all by itself. If who I am is dictated by electrical charges, does this leave room for any free will? Is who I love, what I choose to eat for breakfast in the morning, and what I say on the telephone all predetermined by my brain make-up? I certainly hope not. And if it is true what does this say about me as a person? Perhaps I feel comforted believing that my brain has some control over behavior, but for the most part, I am controlled by a miniature me that walks around in my head and gives the final say about things. And this mini-me is autonomous from the electric charges firing in my brain.

I will say though that if it becomes widely accepted that the brain controls behavior, and that is it, this has some interesting implications for society. For instance, what about all of the people in prisons? If there actions were dictated by their brains, should they really be locked up? Should we be trying to figure out a way to fix what is abnormal about their brains, rather that incarcerating them?


Name: Christine
Username: cfarrenk@haverford.edu
Subject: dreaming
Date: Tue Jan 30 18:34:48 EST 2001
Comments:
An interesting article appeared on the front page of the New York Times on January 25, 2001 entitled "When Rats Dream, It Seems, It's After a Day at the Mazes" by Erica Goode. Previous work of the scientists who conducted the study demonstrated that neurons in the hippocampus fired in specific patterns while rats went through a maze. The patterns of firing were unique - - if a rat ran a different maze, the firing of neurons would follow a different pattern. Because behavior (here, running a maze) can be traced back to specific brain patterns, this suggests that brain = behavior.

This new study examines a different type of behavior: dreaming. By examining brain patterns in sleeping rats, the researchers have suggested that rats dream - - and more specifically about the mazes they run during the day. The specific brain patterns that the rats have while running through the mazes were the same sequences observed while they were "dreaming." This study further suggests that dreaming may play a role in the formation of memory: the repetition of the brain sequences in the hippocampus (which is involved in memory) during sleep may indicate a process of memory storage. There was also evidence that suggested that R.E.M. episodes reflect past experiences while slow-wave sleep likely reflected recent events.


Name: Isabella Obazee
Username: ieguaeob@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Newsweek article
Date: Tue Jan 30 19:12:03 EST 2001
Comments:
I'm not sure if this will work as a link, but I here I have simply put the address to the newsweek article. I will post some comments on it shortly...

What do you guys think?

Searching For the God Within.


Name: PaShawnda
Username: pbriley@brynmawr.edu
Subject: mind body soul
Date: Tue Jan 30 19:32:19 EST 2001
Comments:
My perspective on the mind- body issue is that a person is divided into three overlapping entities: the mind, the body, and the soul. The body is the most concrete, because it is a physical thing, like the brain is a physical thing. The brain is where the chemical changes occur that lead the brain to fire neurons to stimulate thought. The next step overlaps with the mind, because the mind is the entity that thinks by using the fired information along the axons. The mind, though, is not physical. It is a combination of complex thoughts on existing ideas and on original themes, perhaps mostly contained in the brain, but not limited to the brain's box. The mind is harder to define due to the nature of the mind, because we are thinking about the mind, using the mind, so it is apparently self- aware. It is able to perceive the complex world and make judgements based on the unique mind of that person. It is the center of intellectual knowledge and processing center.

The soul is another important entity of a person. It is the moral center, where judgements are made and followed through by the mind giving the brain specific instructions that the body follows through upon. The soul is not physical, but is displayed when the soul takes control of the body and mind. I believe the soul is contained within the entire body. The soul is the part of a person where instincts reside, because it is the section that is most receptive to the idea of a Higher Being. When all three of these features are integrated into one person, the being is complete- mind, body, and soul. Using this model of a whole person, suggests that the brain does not equal behavior, because it does not account for the mind and soul.


Name: Claire Walker
Username: cwalker@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Hippocrates and the brain
Date: Wed Jan 31 07:53:39 EST 2001
Comments:
I was just reading an article called "Illness and Disease" which is discussing the idea that illnesses are "discontinuities in states of being" and that diseases are seen by doctors as "abnormalties in function" (Leon Eisenburg, Illness and Disease, 1977).

This same paper had a very interesting quote from Hippocrates and his view on the brain.

"And men ought to know that from the brain and the brain alone arise our pleasures, joys, laughter and jests, as well as our sorrows, pains, griefs and tears...By the same organ we become mad and delirious, and fears and terrors assail us...and dreams and untimely wanderings...All these things we endure from the brain, when it is not healthy..."(Hippocrates, 1886).

This quote is interesting. It is quite old but it shows that even at this time they had some understanding that diseases of the brain, involved the brain and weren't connected to demonization. Hippocrates believed that all behaviour came from the brain, which is what we have been discussing in class.


Name: Isabella Obazee
Username: ieguaeob@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Having a hard time believing...
Date: Wed Jan 31 18:40:57 EST 2001
Comments:
I am having a hard time finding reasons as to why brain may not equal behavior.

Some may argue that so much variation cannot come out of such a small material object, but think of all the variation that comes out of small chromosomes. I think that the various specialized areas within the brain, and the combination of these areas can be a great source of variation. The brain can activate several pathways and that alone can produce different behaviors. In addition, once the brain begins to combine the activity of other pathways, that in turn allows for more variation in behavior. Also, if we examine brain-related diseases, many of them affect behavior. For example, the dysfunction of neurons and the release of monoamine neurotransmitters (I think that's what they are called), can affect the way a person THINKS, SLEEPS, EATS, READS, INTERACTS WITH OTHERS and even the way they PRAY, and experience religious events. Maybe its my personal experience with severe depression and anxiety that leads me to believe that such a small material object can have a DIRECT affect on behavior... I guess with more thought and more information. I will either lean more strongly toward brain=behavior, or I will drift away from that idea.


Name: Caroline Ridgway
Username: cridgway@haverford.edu
Subject: thoughts
Date: Wed Jan 31 19:41:35 EST 2001
Comments:
Here is the URL for an article I found on the New York Times site about epilepsy treatment that I thought provided an interesting perspective on why the brain just might equal behavior.

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/30/health/30PHYS.html?pagewanted=2

The degree to which the brain can be manipulated in a dish does lend some credence to the idea of it as a box subject to inputs and outputs. But I still believe in the distinction between mind and brain in some sort of reciprocal relationship where one enables the capacities of the other and vice versa. So, the New York Times aside, I am still a fence-sitter...


Name: Henrike Blumenfeld
Username: hblumenf@brynmawr.edu
Subject: consciousness vs ability
Date: Thu Feb 1 00:37:16 EST 2001
Comments:
Picking up on some of the evidence in favor of a brain=behavior model, such as brain imaging during different language tasks,the brains of dyslexics, etc, I feel the need to make another distinction: one between ability and behavior(which in my mind includes consciousness). I am somewhat worried about confusing the way people present themselves to the rest of the world, whether it be in language, movements or attitudes, with the personalities that stand behind these visible facades. By 'personality' I am thinking about the more invisible aspects of behavior, how the person thinks/feels/perceives. I am not saying that ability and personality are not connected and influence each other on some level,but I am getting the impression that ability (and its limitations) are traced much more easily in the brain than is the person herself.





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