Forum Archive - Week 11
Withe three weeks to go, what are the KEY things still to talk about to get as much as possible less wrong? Do we need to imagine totally new kinds of neurons? of boxes? or interconnections? If brain and behavior are the same thing? Or have we got most of the groundwork we need? What behaviors/human experiences are STILL a problem to make sense of? Have a look at some of the second group of web papers, reflect a bit on where we are, and suggest an agenda for the last three weeks?
Name: Paul Grobstein
Subject: Week 11
Date: Fri Apr 13 09:12:50 EDT 2001
Hmmm. Three weeks to go. Now THAT's a little scarey. Or, maybe, a good time to reflect on where we've been, and where we'd like to get to before ... yeah, yeah, we're not going to get it all right, but what are the KEY things still to talk about to get as much as possible less wrong? Do we need to imagine totally new kinds of neurons? of boxes? or interconnections? If brain and behavior are the same thing? Or have we got most of the groundwork we need? What behaviors/human experiences are STILL a problem to make sense of? Maybe, if you need a topic to write about this week, have a look at some of the second group of web papers, reflect a bit on where we are, suggest an agenda for the last three weeks?
Subject: ideas on future course study
Date: Sat Apr 14 20:20:31 EDT 2001
I found Diana's paper particularly interesting, especially as it relates to the course as a whole. She addresses artistic moods and their potential relationship with emotional imbalance in a way that brings to light many questions, such as: Is there a neurobiological connection between emotion and behavior? If so (and there probably is, as anyone who has ever acted on an emotional prompt can aver), what is it? Or, more technically, where is it? We have as yet not discussed emotion in the course - its physical causes, neurological origins, etc. I think it would be interesting to spend some time trying to understand the correlation between one's emotions (which I assume are, at least, partly due to the I-function) and how they influence one's behavior. However, as was discussed in class on Thursday, some emotions seem to arise from outside of the I-function - irrational phobias, for example. It seems that the study of emotions would lend itself quite nicely to broader examinations of the interconnectedness of the I-function, the rest of the brain, and behavior.
Subject: future topics
Date: Sun Apr 15 08:49:08 EDT 2001
Yes, I would unequivocally echo Sadie's suggestion of studying emotion. I
also think we could talk more about memory and learning. We discussed it a
little bit when we were talking about motor symphonies and pattern
generators, but we decided that birds don't actually learn to fly and
babies don't actually learn to walk. Clearly, learning and experience do
influence certain behaviors -- perhaps we could look at how and what
behaviors. Language for example? That was mentioned earlier as something
"different," but I think it would be interesting; language shapes (or
reflects?) how we think about everything, and thus must be an important
determinant of behavior.
Subject: last 3 weeks
Date: Sun Apr 15 17:23:41 EDT 2001
After reading through several of the papers, many concepts jumped out at me that seemed particularly interesting. I thought Melissa posed an alluring question in asking why, (other than keeping things much more interesting), emotions have the ability to override intellectual reasoning. I also thought that the uncontrollable thoughts associated with both love and OCD was an interesting connection and portrayal of serotonin's power over behavior. So I guess I, too, am interested in learning more about emotion and its interaction with behavior.
Meghan's paper on imagery and healing also caught my attention and I was somewhat shocked to hear that actually experiencing something and picturing something are equivalent. That just doesn't seem right...talk about questioning reality. Certainly actual experiences have some sort of unique characteristic that separates them from our stream of consciousness? While the I-function can distinguish the difference, how exactly does it do this if the physiological experience is identicle? Once again, the I-function has me stumped. I'd definetly like to talk some more about that as well since it seems to serve as a primary coordinator in terms of awareness. Oh ya, and I'm also interested in repressed memories.
Name: Alexis Webb
Subject: the beginning of the end
Date: Sun Apr 15 18:42:42 EDT 2001
In class on Thursday we kinda danced around the idea of consciousness when discussing the topic of AI. I feel that artificial intelligence and consciousness are quite interconnected. Neither AI, nor consciousness, are anywhere close to being completely understood. And I doubt that we could even begin to understand consciousness in the last three weeks of class. But in terms of asking the BIG questions about neurobiology and behavior, and getting it less wrong, spending some time discussing the topic would be worthwhile.
As far the subject of artificial intelligence goes, I tend to vacillate in my opinion. I feel that we are still so far from understanding human consciousness, what it is to "be", where the I-function comes from (is consciousness the I-function?), that it would be practically impossible to create an artificial version of it. On the other hand, by tinkering around with neural nets, and even just the idea of a neural net, we can begin to see and formulate what consciousness might be... at least in a mechanistic sense. It might be fun to wonder s'more about these things.
Name: Elizabeth Gilbert
Subject: suggestions for further discussion
Date: Sun Apr 15 19:34:50 EDT 2001
I agree with Daniel that language would be a really interesting subject to study. It seems that language is one of the things that characterizes humanity. While it is true that other animals have developed communication, psycholinguists have generally agreed that these communications systems are not a language. I find that langauge is interesting becuase it is innate in a sense. We all develop language somehow no matter what kind of input we recieve as babies and children. So what is it that makes us learn to assign sounds a certain meaning? How do we translate a garbled bunch of phonemes or hand motions into meaningful thoughts and ideas? How can we take langauge that is produced so fast and parse it correctly into words and sentences? What does it mean to have a language disorder? What happens when the brain is leisoned in the language areas?
The discussion of langauge can follow naturally from the discussion of Searle's hypothesis about the Chinese room. Ok, that is just my thoughts on where to go from here.
Subject: a topic to think about
Date: Sun Apr 15 21:00:04 EDT 2001
I was thinking about the discussion we were having about computers and what differentiates us from them. I thought it was really interesting that people thought that we could create a computer that could "think" on its own. I never thought that something like that would be possible. But I think that I never thought it was possible, because I always thought that the thing that makes a computer a machine and not human was the fact that it couldn't think the way we do. So, I would would like to explore the idea that if we were able to create a computer that could think, then would it really be a machine anymore? What is it that separates us from machines? Is it the way that we think? Or maybe it is the fact that we have emotions. As some others have already mentioned, we have only lightly touched on emotions. I think it would be interesting to look at how emotions play into making us humans and how that may be an important thing that differentiates us from machines.
Subject: what's left
Date: Sun Apr 15 23:55:56 EDT 2001
By now we have the basic idea of how things work, though I am sure there are and endless number of tricks left. In these last few weeks, I would ideally see us exploring the last major piece, consciousness, ie the I-function. What makes us know where we are, realize abstract concepts like time, how do we know our place in our communities in society, in the world. How do we understand what possibilities are open to us, how do we create dreams for our futures, and involve other beings in to those dreams. There must be some part of the brain, or possibly many parts working together, which creates not only our perception of the world but of ourselves. Where are these parts of the brain, do they do anything else, they are obviously able to be acted upon by inside forces as well as outside influence. Do we know what makes us individuals. Going back to the question that I had at the beginning of the course, if you took a brain and kept it alive in a dish, with no input, would that brain still be an individual, or would it cease to be? What makes us what we call indiviuals, what part of the brain controls this picture we have of everything. I don't know if there is an answer to these questions, but they still make me wonder.
Name: Gwen Slaughter
Date: Mon Apr 16 00:13:46 EDT 2001
I agree with the previous suggestions--I think it would be very relevant to the class and the question of the I-function to investigate the effects of emotions on behavior. I also think it would be interesting to look at how personality effects emotions. I guess what I am really getting to is the question of individuality. How do individual differences and personality play out in the brain? How are they represented neurochemically? How do different personalities develop and how are they represented in the brain? Yes, these are some pretty big questions, and I doubt they will be answered by the end of the semester. But, I hope to have a better idea of what makes us human. I think language, emotion and personality all play a role in it--I just want to know how.
Name: Huma Rana
Date: Mon Apr 16 12:47:38 EDT 2001
I vote for Personality and Emotions. I think that this topic poses the largest threat to the brain=behavior theory and therefore would be a good topic to go to next. The largest arguments against brain = behavior had to do with understanding how the brain could account for so many variations in personality and behavior. Although we explored the numerous boxes and connections which would account for the variability in humans, it would be nice to take a closer look at the effects of brain structure and abnormalities on behavior. In essence, to go over specific regions which 'code' for certain traits or actions would be great. One example, is Irma's first paper which was on the aggression-serotonin connection.
Name: avis brennan
Subject: Math and Brain
Date: Mon Apr 16 13:55:54 EDT 2001
In honor of tax day, a local show on NPR hosted specialists who spoke on the way our brain processes mathematical information. Specifically, the guests spoke about the neural networks that may be responsible for coding or processing numerical information. There is evidence that areas of the brain involved with visual processing are connected to simple mathematical concepts, such as quantity comparisons and addition and subtraction of small numbers. However, investigations of people with brain damage show that damage to other areas of the brain (the parietal region, in particular) cause deficits in a person’s ability to make-sense of more complex mathematical procedures and concepts. I find this area of cognitive science really interesting because it shows that brain and behavior are connected in a multi-dimensional way. That is, certain behaviors, such as mathematical reasoning, can breakdown into different processes (eg. simple versus hard math). The way we tend to look at education and intelligence presumes that a gift or an inability to perform these types of cognitive behaviors is related to an enhanced or decreased ability of the brain to process this type of information. The possibility that the brain may use different systems and features to process different levels of information relating to what appears to be one behavior (doing math) should revolutionize the way we look at learning style. While this information explains why some learners are more visual or verbal than others, it raises the question of why certain brain areas may be favored by some individuals. Is there a normal distribution of brainpower that should yield a certain mix of intellectual capacities? Is the math genius neurologically distinct in some way that may affect another mode of processing, and what is the cause of this distinctness?
Subject: web papers
Date: Mon Apr 16 14:00:51 EDT 2001
I really enjoyed reading the web papers this week! The topics were very interesting. I learned a lot from Elizabeth's paper "Social graces." I had never before heard of Asperger's syndrome, a disease in which people have average to above average intelligence but lack basic social skills and thus have problems functioning in our society. It is an interesting illness in many ways, especially considering how it runs through the father's family. Aren't most of the genetic disorders we commonly think of maternally inherited?
Additionally, before reading Gwen's web paper on the addictiveness of chocolate, I had primarily thought of chocolate as being addictive due to its chemical makeup. However, there is no conclusive evidence to support this and chocolate seems to be more psychologically addictive. Our culture has created the chocolate addiction. From as early as I can remember, chocolate has been the prize for being good or doing something right. It is the reward one receives for finishing thier dinner, doing well on a test, etc. Also, the holidays revolve around eating chocolate. What would Easter be without the big chocolate bunnies in the easter baskets? We cannot escape chocolate, it is everywhere you turn in our society. No wonder we develop cravings for this particular food.
Subject: How do you know who are when you wake up?
Date: Mon Apr 16 15:30:58 EDT 2001
One of the most interesting questions I have ever been asked was posed by my fellow classmates in the second grade....As identical twins, my friends often wondered how my sister and I "knew who [we] were when we woke up in the morning?" To me, the answer has always seemed kind of obvious in the "I know the same way that you do" sense, but in other respects, it is certainly a complicated idea--the sense of self. How DOES one know who one is in the morning? We have discussed issues of memory and the idea of "consciousness" and the "mind," but how do these things translate into a sense of self and personality? As humans, we certainly each define ourselves in specific ways (i.e. I am a talkative person. I like to read.I am a night person), but as people, are these things that we need to raffirm about ourselves every morning (or periodically)? I feel like these are perceptions of ourselves that do not change on a regular basis, nor are they constantly reevaluated. I mean, I know that I like to read even if I haven't had the time to read more than two or three books for leisure this entire semester. How do we carry this sense of who we are with us? Past web papers (Beth Varadian's paper from 2 years ago) have addressed the issue specifically in terms of twins, who are thought to share an I-function in some respects, and several others have touched upon this issue in recent papers. The fact is that, even as identical twins, we do not forget who we are (barring amnesia and similar neurological disorders) on a regular basis. I think it would be interesting to explore this idea of self beyond the I-function (if there is a beyond the I-function) and consciousness.
Name: caroline ridgway
Date: Mon Apr 16 18:43:05 EDT 2001
I caught the tail end of the NPR program that Avis mentions in her posting, and also found their topic of discussion fascinating, especially given that we have been covering intelligence testing in another class I am taking. Little escapes our culture's need to quantify. And having given a thing a number, we won't rest until that number, arbitrary at best, means something that can be interpreted and applied and compared. Until a better system is devised. With regard to intelligence, this becomes marginally problematic, as we have a difficult time defining what exactly an "intelligence" is, nevermind what causes it and what it might mean in a broader context. People are often too quick to assume causation from correlation, one of the primary no-no's of research. But we keep looking because clearly there are patterns. Skills tend to travel in packs, which fits nicely with our desire for everything observable to have a reason. And, admittedly, there probably are reasons, thinking now only in terms of pure academic or intellectual ability. There probably are reasons why some people could look at a triangle and a cluster of numbers and tell you how to build a space shuttle, while others look at the same thing, and would rather recite to you an original sonnet composed just for the moment about how they would prefer not to have to deal with numbers and shapes like that. But, innate ability aside, we have to consider the ubiquitous other variables, like genetics, and education, and competition from siblings and peers, and nutrition....
Anyway, none of this is terribly relevant to this class in particular, except insofar that it might relate to the previously mentioned notion of attempting to define the individual. We have spent a lot of time this semester trying to understand how it all works on a cellular level, which is undoubtedly a good place to start, but it doesn't do a whole lot to give us any sense of the "big picture," in terms of how it all fits together and interacts. Of course, there isn't a lot of research out in this area, in particular, so we should probably stick to numbers and charts and diagrams, to some degree. But, as this class comes to a close, I have the feeling we will probably end up back where we began, wondering if the brain really does equal behavior. And it will be interesting to see how many people have changed there minds. I, for one, still sit firmly on the fence. But not for the lack of opportunities to have thought about it....
Name: Alice Goff
Subject: Does structure equal behavior?
Date: Mon Apr 16 19:01:21 EDT 2001
A question that keeps coming up in this course, but that would be interesting to address more specifically, concerns localization of brain function. I found in writing my web paper, as well as reading others that I am still puzzled about how precise structures of the brain contribute to varying aspects of behavior. Is it even worth looking at specific anatomical purpose within the brain, or are we dealing with a system with a great deal more fluidity of function-- interdependent and unisolatable?
A lot of what we talk about in class has to do with cutting out a piece of the nervous system and seeing what still works. We've dealt with this mostly in regards to determining the function of the neo-cortex and in an effort to specify our definition of the I-function. But what if we do away with the notion of certain parts equaling certain behaviors, or aspects of behaviors? Is it possible that behavior arises from sequential patterns of activity, rather than activation of a specific area in the brain? Could this account for variation within the extremely large category of behavior?
This seems to negate a lot of the ways we have been looking at things, but I especially began to wonder about it when we were talking about vision. There seems to be a vast array of structures and neuronal activities that result in our ability to see. Furthermore, our difficulty in locating the I-function has led me to consider if it is locatable at all? Like vision, is the I-function a sense that stems from the general activity in our brains, and therefore present throughout? Could this idea of structural fluidity be of use to us in understanding other areas of behavior?
Name: Matt Fisher
Subject: thoughts on I-function
Date: Mon Apr 16 19:01:43 EDT 2001
At the beginning of the semester when we first learned about the I-function I thought it controlled so much of what a person does. As we have gone along it seems to control less and less. I wonder what it really does control. Where does a person's personality and individuality come from? Is it just a result of neurons in each person being arranged with slight differences to result in a variety of responses? Or could the I-function be involved with this aspect and be a continually growing and changing identity within a person? These are the two biggest questions in my mind right now.
I still believe brain equals behavior, so I want to know what the I-function really does. Or is this not possible because in each person it is different? I think it controls our emotions, even if they have some correspondence to chemical changes in the brain. Or what if the I-function is not a distinct entity within the brain. What if it results from all the parts of the nervous system working together and it refers to the awareness that is present in a functioning brain. I think this would be interesting to explore. That the I-function though we have discussed it as being the conscious part of the brain, that it could be involved with both conscious and unconscious thought.
Well, I'm sure we will explore some portion of these ideas with whatever may come in the last three weeks of class. I guess my biggest question remains, what is the I-function?
Name: Euree Choi
Date: Mon Apr 16 19:20:16 EDT 2001
I was particularly interested in Irma's paper on giftedness. Can a child's mental capability be manipulated? Could giftedness be in the genes? Or could it be from certain environmental exposures? It's sort of like asking, "Do doctors raise doctors?" These are the type of questions I have pondered about and why this course was of interest to me in the first place. I have always wondered how children develop and why they behave in certain ways. It could be the environment that influences behaviors, such as fearing the dark. Or it could be programmed in the genetic makeup.
As for our remaining time together, I agree with Huma in that we should further determine if brain=behavior. I would love to conclude the course with topics involving emotions and other aspects that trigger certain behaviors.
Name: karen munoz
Date: Mon Apr 16 19:31:23 EDT 2001
I agree with matt in that we have sort of danced around the word I-function for the past couple of weeks and while every day we have more and more of an idea about what it does, we still don't know what it is, or how much control it has over our behavior. we were talking in class about how anything that can be observed can be done mechanistically without understanding. can this be considered behavior? and is it equal to brain if the I-function is a part of the brain? it seems to me that the I-function would lead us to understand the mechanics of what we do, regardless of whether we are consciously controlling it or not. and although i haven't seen that movie that professor grobstein talked about in class the other day, the idea of a normal person obtaining their sense of self based on their memory of the past unconsciously and not using the I-function intrigues me. i guess i'll have to see the movie and have it alter the way i think about my sense of self.
so yeah, focusing on the I-functions as well as on the biopsychology of emotions would be interesting with which to finish off the semester
Name: Christine Farrenkopf
Subject: the next few weeks . . .
Date: Mon Apr 16 20:32:40 EDT 2001
As a number of people have already suggested, I think that we should discuss emotions over the next several weeks. I am especially interested in stress - - in particular how it can completely take over the way you function and defy all rational thought. (This has had particular interest to me lately since I have the MCATs this weekend.) In addition, I think it would be interesting to examine how people deal with stress and how their actions to overcome the stress are manifested in the brain.
After having seen "Memento" this weekend (which I highly recommend), I think it would be interesting to discuss the I-function. Seeing the protagonist attempt to deal with his inability to form new memories truly altered my understanding of what reality is (ie, what we believe it to be) and what one's sense of self is. Because Leonard could not form new memories, he essentially remained the person he was before he suffered the injury (at least in his own mind). In essence, he could no longer evolve as a person. In addition, he was able to form his own reality by selectively writing down certain facts and impressions of people and to some extent ignoring/forgetting others.
Subject: what's the I-function?
Date: Mon Apr 16 22:36:53 EDT 2001
I agree with what a lot of people have already said; I'd like to know more about the I-function. Considering I only just found out I have one I would like to follow up by knowing more about its possible location and the extent of its capabilities. When does the I-function develop? Are we born with one (is it genetic?) or do we "learn" things such as conciousness? What are the differences between different people's I-functions? I guess I just want to focus on the I-function and everything about it for the rest of the semester.
Subject: Emotion and rationality
Date: Mon Apr 16 23:43:09 EDT 2001
A lot of what Caitlin uncovered in her paper on Alturism was interesting. what especially struck me was Damasio's assertion that emotions are part of rational decision-making. Ive had a gut feeling that they were (and now I can say that gut feeling IS a part of rationality and not to be disgarded in the decision making equasion). There is so little cultural support for such a notion. She goes on to describe how the negative gut feelings are somatic markers that quickly warn us not to take an action and positive gut feelings could be somatic markers to act altruistically, (ie on the behalf of someone else). I wonder if there are also positive somatic markers to act on our own behalf, or only negative, danger based ones. As an aside, there is research in personality that has tried to identify stable charecteristics toward social interaction with others. of the 8 basic personalities theorized (cooperative, competitve, individualistic, altruistic, aggressive, sadomasochistic, masochistic, and martyr -- which were all theoretically derived based on a dual criteria: disposition to consider 1) self and 2) other in the payoff scheme. For example, "cooperative" would be a stable disposition to act in ways that achieve a good payoff for self and other, whereas "altruism" would be the disposition to act in ways to achieve good for others, irregardless of outcome to self...anyway) of the 8 possible personalities, the only three that showed up in myriads of tests were the cooperative, competitive and independent. (not co-incidentally, these were the only three that aimed for good payoffs for self)there were no altruistics, ever. and that makes sense from what Caitlins paper says: we engage in specific altruistic acts for specific ends, but our basic dispositions are always geared toward achieving good ends for ourselves.
Date: Tue Apr 17 01:10:50 EDT 2001
With the MCAT being foremost on my mind this week, talking about dealing with mental pressures would be interesting. After all, it is not like the stress I and fellow MCAT takers are physical, they are basically all in our head. The questions of if we are ready or not, or if we will be able to pass the test and go to medical school. All theses questions are put forth by the I-function and we respond to it like it’s a serious physical threat, when they are actually ideas. Sometimes I wish worries could be substantial, so I can pick it up and toss it somewhere it can’t bother me. But since anxieties are the result of the I-function and the I-function is me, I can’t hide from it. I’m sure I had a point when I first started, but it seems to have left me. Regardless, talking about abstract thoughts streaming through the physical neural net sounds like an interesting topic to explore.
Name: Nazia Ahmed
Date: Tue Apr 17 02:15:04 EDT 2001
My mother once told me, that being a good cook was similar to intelligence. Anyone can cook. Likewise anyone could be smart. A good cook, however, contemplated the leftovers in the refrigerator, trying to figure out what might go with them. This is what intelligence was-being able to reason and figure out what to do with the “questions” in life. Thus, with my mothers words of advice the thought of artificial intelligence seemed bizarre and far removed from the “cook” analogy. Thinking computers and binary languages? I always regarded as computers being smart. Yeah, they know how to cook but can they look in the fridge to whip together a meal? After reading Niru’s paper I wasn’t too sure. My first reaction was that they don’t have intelligence but merely “mimick” intelligence. But what do you do with cases like Deep Blue? “They’re not intelligence, my mother said in a conversation, they really can only string together numbers not thoughts. And anyway, even if they do think, someone put the intelligence into them. It’s the creators' intelligence not the machines.” Satisfying. For the moment at least.
Subject: a thought
Date: Tue Apr 17 02:31:07 EDT 2001
One topic that interests me a lot is mental illness, and what exactly is happening to the I function and why. I am especially interested in mental diseases that strike quickly and leave permanent damage to the brain and the I function. Until I heard the description of memento in class, I hadn't thought a lot about the fact that people who have a loss or impairment of some sort will always react in such a way to restore their identity, by any means possible. I think it would be interesting to spend some time discussing different ways in which people affected by mental disease try to compensate for loss of mental ability to replace identity.
Name: Caitlin Costello
Date: Tue Apr 17 02:34:07 EDT 2001
Like Euree, I was really interested in Irma's giftedness paper, and particularly in the question of how much giftedness comes from the genes versus the environment. From personal observations it is really hard to separate these two components. I have often seen giftedness "run in the family", where two siblings are both gifted, and since their genetics and environments are both similar, it's hard to tell which contributes more. There's also the possibility that people are more likely to label a second child "gifted" when his or her older sibling has already been given that label--either because the second child's capabilities are encouraged with the same great amounts of intellectual stimulation as the first, or because the label is more freely given to the younger sibling since people expect that he or she will follow the older sibling's lead. And where do we exactly make the "gifted" distinction? Who belongs in the "top 2-5%"? This also becomes a touchy issue in education, where schools have to make such seemingly arbitrary distinctions and decisions about whether to separate gifted children into special classrooms or include them with the regular class. I don't know what has been done in this area with twin studies, etc. to try to separate the genes/environment issue, but that would be really interesting.
Perhaps something can also be learned from the exceptions--the cases where average parents have gifted children, or children from impoverished, "unintellectual" environments are really gifted. A fascinating book dealing with one such case is "One Child" by Torey Hayden, which tells the story of a girl who was living in terrible poverty and abuse, and whose resulting emotional and behavioral problems had turned her into a child no teacher could deal with in the classroom. When Hayden was able to break through this surface, she discovered an incredibly gifted child. One really amazing aspect of this to me was that the girl's reading level was extremely high, and she could read lots of words that it seemed almost impossible she had had exposure to in her home environment. Since her parents were not gifted, and her environment was hardly conducive to intellectual development, where did her ability come from? And had an amazing teacher not stepped in, how would the emotional trauma have affected her ability to develop her intellectual capacities? Although really about education and not at all neurobiology, this book is worth reading for the way it shakes up our notions of giftedness.
Name: KAte Lauber
Subject: Biology 200
Date: Tue Apr 17 07:51:36 EDT 2001
This entire semester, before I come over to Neurobio and Behavior at Bryn Mawr, I have a molecular neurobiology class at Haverford. In that class we learn about the pathways of g-protein, the insulin receptor, light/dark adaption. Basically, it's all memorization. I've had trouble balancing these totally different areas of the same field. They are both neurobiology, but I think I've secretly been thinking thet Haverford's class is the brain and this one is the mind. What if we weren't able to think about these things in any sort of real capacity? What if all thinking was was just chemicals and pathways and the next step, no room for individuality. How does creative and curious thinking somehow arise out of these boring and universal pathways? I guess since thinking is creative then it has to be the mind, but the mind is the brain... I guess what I'm trying to say is, I'd like to spend the last 3 weeks trying to get less wrong about this distinction. I'm really interested in the question of where creativity and curiosity arise in all the biology.
Subject: course plan suggestions
Date: Tue Apr 17 08:02:03 EDT 2001
I would definately like to spend a good portion of the rest of the class time discussing emotions: what they are, where they come from, and why those origins produce something we characterize as a feeling rather than a thought or physical sensation. I want to know what it takes for an outside event to trigger an emotion and why we have no control over it. I would also like to finish the class with an overview of the I-function and everything we've decided about it thus far.
The only other thing I'd like to talk about briefly is the topic of AI. We've talked about it in class, I have read the paper on it and feel relatively secure that I understand how it works. But this is a topic that's bothered me for a long time and I think it would be interesting to talk as a class about whether or not it's a good idea. In my experience, science majors think it's great and humanities majors think it is the one great act of huberous that's going to lead to the extinction or enslavement of our species (this is a generalization of course). Being a humanities major with a science minor, it would be very interesting to me to find out what's going on in the brains of people who feel strongly one way or the other about it. We could also tie in (to make it a little more neurobiologically oriented)a discussion of ethics, what they translate to in the brain, and why some are common for almost everybody and some are different for each individual.
Subject: Dreams and Personality
Date: Tue Apr 17 08:14:05 EDT 2001
As I was reading through some of the comments on the forum I was fascinated by the discussion of building computers that "think". I personally don't think that we will ever be able to build a machine that can show emotions. Sure we might be able to program it to express certain emotions at different times, but that is a far thing from having the computer know what emotions are appropriate for unprogramed situations. It is like a person who always cries at sad things and laughs at happy things. There are plenty of times when we cry at happy occasions, I think the computer would never be able to mimic true emotion. I am sure that we could program a computer to solve a puzzle, but we would have to give it a list of answers from which it will pick.
Anyway I think for the last few weeks of class we should discuss the sleep pattern and how dreams are formed. If we could also touch upon how personality is related to the nervous system. I know all of this topics are probably unexplainable because we are only working on being less wrong, but if we are going to discuss neurobiology these are a large part. The idea of stress is also very interesting, as I am taking the MCAT on Saturday as well, but am experiencing considerably less stress than some of my friends.
Subject: emotions and creativity
Date: Tue Apr 17 08:31:45 EDT 2001
I would enjoy spending the last three weeks on a wrap-up of the I-function and how it relates to emotions and creativity. I've been reading up on the relationship between creativity and manic depression, and the fact that there are similarities between "creative" brain states and "manic" brain states. But I think there is much more to be said about this, and there definitely is a lot that I am still unsure of. It seems that creativity is still very much a mystery to psychologists and neuroscientists alike. Backing up a little, defining creativity, in itself, is somewhat of a challenge.
I'm still amazed by something that we learned weeks and weeks ago, which is that there are PLENTY of neurons and neuronal arrangements to account for all of human diversity. We've covered a lot of the technical stuff. But why is it that I may be more emotional than someone else? Research on depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses have identified a link between certain neurotransmitters (serotonin, for example) and emotional behavior. But can we say more about this?
Subject: lots of questions about emotion
Date: Tue Apr 17 09:38:41 EDT 2001
I too, am interested in learning more about emotions. How can we explain the variety of emotions in terms of the organization within the brain. Additionally, how do disorders related to emotion in some respect, Depression, PMDD, Social phobias and other phobias, autism illuminate the idea that brain equals behavior. How different are persons' brains with social disorders from those considered to not have social disorders. Can this difference be recognized considering that it may be a difference in organization. How can we study these differences?
It seemed a bit easier to say that the brain equals behavior, when we are discussing things like movement (eyes, christopher reeves), but I can't imagine how we can translate emotions into simply brain equals behavior. How does the I-function and its relationship to other parts of the brain account for emotion?
I have a lot of questions, but few ideas on how to answer these questions. Can we begin with the eye function
Lastly, I hope that we will have a chance to look at dreaming, possibly in context of conciousness?
Name: Nirupama Kumar
Subject: some final questions...sigh..
Date: Tue Apr 17 12:02:51 EDT 2001
So, what questions do I have left of this course? Do I feel more
enlightened about the brain? Certainly. Do I still have a lot of
lingering doubts? Definitely. The main question that keeps coming up for
me is how the I-function really works? What makes it an I-function? What
gives teh brain the awareness to think "I am" ? I think it would be
interesting to see how far human development really has come and to look
at what the limitations to free will still exist in terms of instinct. It has to be explained in terms of neurons for the brain=behavior model to stand. I'm pretty sure that I believe that model, but I still need more prroof.
Name: Paula Green
Date: Tue Apr 17 21:17:18 EDT 2001
I have to admit by reading through the webpapers posted, I learned a lot about the general topics and what we as students find
interesting. One thing that we never truly talked about in class, is this idea of forgetfulness. Why do we forget things that may have
happened a day before versus remembering specific events in our childhood. What does that say about the thinking process in general?
What biological functions of the brain holds the key to this phenomenon of thinking which likewise gives us the ability to remember
and forget certain events in our life.
Subject: Lots of Questions
Date: Tue Apr 17 21:17:55 EDT 2001
Why are we aware("I" function) of certain experiences? Are the experiences chosen in order to advance successful reproduction?
Is creativity all about better survival rates too? Do we experience creativity as beautiful and pleasurable just as we experience sex and eating as beautiful and pleasurable just so we keep doing them to in order to survive as a species? Is pleasure just a survival motive for organized cells? If so, where does this force driving continued existence come from?
Is this "all" its all about? Well if it is, then hurray at least for dopamine and the pleasure neurotransmitters! At least. Seems pretty cold thinking about it in apurely physical way. But perhaps the physical has created something else-something spiritual, transcendental, or perhaps it was always intrinsically there and here.
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