Biology 202
Neurobiology and Behavior
Spring 2001

Forum Archive - Week 14

Well ... ? Where were you on Emily's suggestion at the beginning of the course? And where are you now? Is the brain big enough to contain everything, or not? The internal mechanisms well enough know to begin to answer the question, or no? Has your perspective changed or not? And in either case, why?. What observations are particularly compelling to you one way or another? Have you new questions, new ways to explore them? Or the same old questions, with the same certainties/uncertainties?


Name: Paul Grobstein
Username: pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject: getting it less wrong ... ?
Date: Sat May 5 20:35:03 EDT 2001
Comments:
Well ... ? Where were you on Emily's suggestion at the beginning of the course? And where are you now? Is the brain big enough to contain everything, or not? The internal mechanisms well enough know to begin to answer the question, or no? Has your perspective changed or not? And in either case, why?. What observations are particularly compelling to you one way or another? Have you new questions, new ways to explore them? Or the same old questions, with the same certainties/uncertainties?
Name: Elizabeth Gilbert
Username: egilbert@brynmawr.edu
Subject: not so new perspective
Date: Sun May 6 17:54:57 EDT 2001
Comments:
Well, I guess my feelings really haven't changed all that much about the brain. In the beginning of the class, I was of the opinion that brain=behavior and nothing else and I still feel that way. What makes me so sure? Well, I guess the most impressive thing is the shear number of neurons that make up the human brain. There are certainly some unanswered questions that remain in regards to personality. For example, we never really addressed one question that I had which was when is the personality formed? Is it always changing or is it essentially the same after a certain point in life? (I would argue that the personality doesn't change really over time but I am not sure as to when it really is "formed".)
Name: Matt Fisher
Username: mfisher@haverford.edu
Subject: brain=behavior
Date: Sun May 6 18:14:48 EDT 2001
Comments:
At the beginning of the class I thought brain equaled behavior. At the end of the class I still hold the same opinion. So many actions occur without us or the I-function being aware they are happening. The brain goes ahead and does so much on its own. Without the brain's autonomy a person would not be able to operate. There are too many timuli to be consciously aware of all the time and be able to function. The brain processes all of these things and still has so much elft over that there is debate over the existence of the I-function. It does not allow awareness to get in the way of the body working the way it should.

As we have discussed there can be injury to the neocortex that affects the I-function, but the brain still regulates the bdoy in the same way. Just because one does not know something occurs, it does not mean it doesn't happen. The brain clearly equals behavior in my mind and I am amazed at how much it does.

I'm left with a few remaining questions. What exactly do we or the I-function control? What is left over for us to do?


Name: Huma Q. Rana
Username: hrana@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Progress
Date: Mon May 7 20:49:17 EDT 2001
Comments:
When this course first began, I was not a believer in the brain=behavior model. There was no way brain could equal behavior. How could the brain possibly account for our entire being? I had a huge problem accepting that we were our brains and that's it. I was caught up in the mysticism of the soul and really wanted to believe there was some magical component to being human.

Through the progress of the course, I somehow became a staunch believer in brain = behavior. I can't pinpoint exactly when it happened, but recently I picked up Eliot Valenstein's Blaming the Brain and found myself disagreeing with him. Valenstein is a retired neuroscientist who is critical of modern day psychiatry and refutes the relationship of brain chemistry to psychological problems and personality traits. He believes we've gone from a society that blamed mothers (i.e. Freud) to one that blames the brain for psychological problems. Though Valenstein had some legitimate arguments, all I could think was that in one way or another it all relates back to the brain.

So it wasn't till recently that I actually realized what a significant transformation I had undergone or should I say my brain had undergone.


Name: Kristine
Username: Kristineh44@hotmail.com
Subject: Brain=behavior
Date: Mon May 7 22:00:36 EDT 2001
Comments:
I was fairly sure that the brain equals behavior in the beginning of the semester and I am now positive that it does. While this is an enormous realization, it does not provide as much clarification as I thought it might. The intricate workings of the mind/brain overwhelm me in their complexity as genes, memories, chemicals, generalized control mechanisms, motor symphonies, specificities, corollary discharges, conditionings, environments, etc. collide in shaping a unique experience. The communication between the non-I-function parts of the nervous system and the I-funcion is particularly baffling. In other words, I have acquired an even deeper reverence for the brain.

As far as Emily Dickinson's claim, I am not sure that the brain contains EVERYTHING - there may still be forces operating beyond the scope of human comprehension and realities and dimensions may exist that we may never fullly grasp or even stop to think about. But behavior belongs to the brain.


Name: Gwen Slaughter
Username: gslaught@haverford.edu
Subject: reflection
Date: Tue May 8 00:06:02 EDT 2001
Comments:
At the beginning the semester I wrote, "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." I still believe this. However, I have developed a more complex understanding of how the brain makes sense of sensory information to form emotions, personality and behavior. I think the most compelling evidence for this are studies like HM. His brain was severely damaged by the rod that went through his brain and his personality changed completely. There are also patients who have had their amygdala removed to combat epilepsy--these patients no longer suffer with epileptic attacks, but they have a flattened personality as a side effect. The amygdala is known to be the brain center of emotions, specifically fear. People who have had their amygdalas removed no longer show anger or have a sense of innate fear. These studies spell brain = behavior to me.
Name: Sural
Username: skshah@brynmawr.edu
Subject: :P
Date: Tue May 8 00:50:16 EDT 2001
Comments:
I just finished rereading my comments from the first week of the semester and I find myself agreeing with most of the ideas I presented there; instinctually, I still am kind of enthralled with the idea of a "mystic element," but I know that in terms of facts brain MUST equal behavior.

In terms of Emily, I initially wrote, "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." If one replaces the "mind" with "I-function" and also applies the conclusions we've made concerning the I-function's ability to "create reality," these thoughts are still ones I agree with. The brain has built-in devices to process new concepts or unknown/open ended situations--> an innate mysticism element which we have seen can apply to various aspects of perception.

I have really enjoyed this class this semester-- it is rare to find a class where thinking and discussing aren't discouraged by the assignment of insane amounts of readings (not exploring as the case was here on the web and in science journals and newpapers) and the like. If I could extend the class another week or so, I would have loved to have discussed religion and the role of the I-function in boths its evolution and its existence in humans today. I also would have been very interested in a discussion on language acquistion (I was intrigued by the section of learning that we just completed) and possibly genetics. Good luck to everyone this summer...


Name: Sural
Username: skshah@bmc
Subject: correction
Date: Tue May 8 01:11:11 EDT 2001
Comments:
just wanted to correct myself--> it's not necessarily the I-function which is capable of making up reality, but the rest of the brain which is capable of doing so.... in any case, the I-function is still a significant part of the bran=behavior idea, though it remains a part of a greater whole (the brain itself, as we've considered the CNS).
Name: Paula Green
Username: pgreen@haverford.edu
Subject:
Date: Tue May 8 10:00:55 EDT 2001
Comments:
My feelings have not changed much since the beginning of the semester about this idea of brain = behavior. This is definitely a phenomenon that will probably baffle the human race for all times. I completely agree with Emily when she says that the "brain is deeper than the sea" and "the brain is just the weight of God." Neither are really understood. Only God has all of the answers to our questions, but who will ask him. I personally feel if we were supposed to understand this phenomenon we would. It is nothing wrong to wonder and speculate.
Name: Alexis
Username: awebb@brynmawr.edu
Subject: a dazzling experience
Date: Tue May 8 14:38:20 EDT 2001
Comments:

Emily said that "the Truth must dazzle gradually/or ever man be blind" and I suppose that's what this semester has been about. Through our responses and readings and discussions and papers the Truth about the brain has been trying to dazzle us. Some have made more steps than others in changing their opinions. I believed in the beginning that brain equals behavior. And I continue to do. Still, I have been dazzled by the semester. Learning about concepts like the I-function, which seem so obvious and inherent that we should have realized their existence without being told, has been a very cathartic experience for me. Understanding allows me to pose new questions, to grow and learn.

Emily wanted us to get it less wrong... to be dazzled gradually... and eventually be able to open our eyes and see.


Name: Kat
Username: grkdelfini@aol.com
Subject:
Date: Tue May 8 15:21:44 EDT 2001
Comments:
The brain does equal behavior. The brain is everything. The brain is something separate from who "we" are - hence the reason why it does so many things without us even knowing it. In essence our existance = brain. We wouldn't have an "I" function if it weren't for the brain. The brain owns us. But yet we have free will? Maybe the brain only makes us think we have "free will". Where does G-d come into this. I am pretty religious so I like to incorporate G-d into science because He belongs there. G-d gives us the free will to chose between bad and good, but then why are some decisions not made by our "will", but instead made by the brain? Anyone have any ideas?
Name: Euree Choi
Username: echoi@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Reflections...
Date: Tue May 8 15:59:58 EDT 2001
Comments:
I feel that the objective of this course was to prove that the brain=behavior. It took a lot of convincing, but I finally do believe this phenomenon with a great conviction. I cannot pinpoint what actually triggered this belief. It was definitely a process that fluctuated from belief and disbelief. However, working with leeches in lab has helped me through this process. By liberating the leech of it's nervous system, one can record reaction signals by stimulating the dorsal posterior nerve. These signals have shown me that organisms can behave without a physical body. With only it's nervous system, the leech thinks that it's in full physical form and will behave normally. Leeches also show creativity and personality because they prove that the Harvard Law of Animal Behavior is true. With or without a stimulus, the leech will respond by swimming when it wants to.

My whole perspective on life has changed through this course. That's what I believe a course should be like. I particularly enjoyed the topics involving personality, language, and the implications of self. The brain is indeed "wider than the Sky." It's amazing what the brain can and will do.


Name: Euree Choi
Username: echoi@brynmawr.edu
Subject:
Date: Tue May 8 16:12:54 EDT 2001
Comments:
I am quite religious myself, Kat. That's probably why it took me such a long to be convinced that the brain=behavior. It does seem like the our entire existence is the brain. Maybe we have free will through consciousness. It's an interesting issue and I would like to know the answer. What determines choice and decisions?
Name: Mary
Username: mferrell@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Neurobiology & Behavior Afterthought
Date: Tue May 8 17:03:55 EDT 2001
Comments:
Does brain = behavior? To answer this question I would need to know if the mind is contained in the brain and I'm still not sure. After this course there is more reason than ever to hypothesize that the mind is only part of the material brain. I gather that there is a lot of evidence showing the correlation of consciousness and other behaviors to neuron activity but that gives no conclusion as to the mind's true nature just its physical correlation. Some of the evidence has made the "I" function seem to be only a naturally selected process of observing and integrating information from the non "I" function nervous system with a little bit of causal power rather than being the big mahaf. The evidence suggesting that the "I" function has a location - distributed throughout the neocortex; that it gets its "story" from the rest of the (creative) nervous system rather than being the all-knowing and all-choosing mental; that personality is located away from the "I" function; and that understanding and learning is not uniquely done by the "I" (implicit learning), all serve to contain the "I" function in the brain and affirm brain = behavior.

This information makes the "I" function, "the mind" seem so physical, small, and fractional compared to the view of the self as a metaphysical essence or as a non-physical entity. But I should be careful not to assume truth or belief from what I "see". I realize that there might be a big part of the story in what I don't see. And the relationship between the mind and the body has a lot unseen. The mental mind can be a version or extension of the physical brain but it can also be a nonmaterial substance that has a relationship with the brain. I have no way of knowing. So I have no way of knowing if brain = behavior. Perhaps after taking this course, I am getting it less wrong and that inconclusiveness makes me a fence-sitter.


Name: avis brennan
Username: abrennan@haverford.edu
Subject: last thoughts
Date: Tue May 8 17:38:47 EDT 2001
Comments:
This class has certainly helped me to approach the question of development, behavior, and the impact of experience. I have learned that approaching this question as a neuroscientist not only requires a consideration for brain function, but for the multiple dimensions where brain function interacts with the processes of our body and the activities of our environment. More importantly, I have come to understand that these interactions are not isolated collisions, but complex interconnected webs. Much like the internet, I have come to appreciate how decision making, even that which does not involve the I-function, is a reflection of uniqueness, and that such individualized directions result in unique behaviors. Now, when I think about the brain and behavior, I do not picture a linear domino effect of input generating output in a predictable pattern. I have come out of this class with a conception for this relationship that more closely parallels that of virtual information storage. I am not quite sure whether I am more frustrated or fascinated by this. I would like to know more, not less- I like it when things make sense. Yet, I think that knowing too much, when it comes to issues of the self and the mind, is perhaps more depressing and limiting than enlightening. So in a very abstract way, I am better off knowing less. Such thinking is representative of how this class has guided me in combining ungrounded philosophical questions, with more rooted scientific and developmental theories.
Name: Sarah
Username: smccawle@bmc.edu
Subject: Brain=behavior
Date: Tue May 8 19:08:38 EDT 2001
Comments:
Does Brain=Behavior? Well, at the beginning of the course I was a fencesitter that leaned towards the fact that brain does equal behavior. After having gone through the class, I would have to say that I brain=behavior. I have to agree with Matt when he talked about the damage to the neocortex. For me that is what seemed to clench the argument. If someone can still act and do all of the tings they normally do without the complete function of the I-function (except for the fact that they aren't aware that they are doing it), then I don't see why brain shouldn't equal behavior. Since we know that animals like the frog do not need a neocortex to live and operate, we know that it is possible for us to operate in a manner where brain=behavior, without our I-function.
Name: Christine Farrenkopf
Username: cfarrenk@haverford.edu
Subject: brain = behavior
Date: Tue May 8 19:48:04 EDT 2001
Comments:
At the beginning of the course, I was a believer in the brain=behavior model but had little evidence to back such a theory up. This class has really brought a lot of insight to this idea and I am now confident in saying that brain does in fact equal behavior.

I think the topic that interested me the most was the I-function. Throughout our studies, I have come to realize that the I-function does not play as significant a role in our brain as I had initially thought. We can perform tasks without "thinking" about them (riding a bike, shooting a basketball); the rest of our brain creates dreams without our I functions knowing; people who are blind can still "see" without being aware of it. This knowledge that the I-function isn't as important as I thought is a bit unsettling, but it has taught me a lot.


Name: Alice Goff
Username: agoff@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Finishing up
Date: Wed May 9 13:29:04 EDT 2001
Comments:
Going back to Emily's poem, which I immediately accepted at the beginning of the course, I have come to have a different perception of its accuracy. At first my association with brain was immediately mind. I had no knowledge of the absense of mind in so much of the brain's activity. So now I read the poem to mean that it is the actual organ in our heads that encompasses it all. Our own awareness, our mind is only a fraction of the picture.

Despite everything we have discussed thus far in the course that would suggest the relative minority of the I-function in our brain function-- Christopher Reeves, sleeping, vision, etc.--I still have trouble minimizing it so completely. Since conscious perception is ALL that we have to see the world through, would our I-function not have an effect on unconcious behavior given these perceptions? I realize that I am playing with vexed terms-- conciousness, awareness, perception... Still, I don't think that they should be isolated to such a small structural presence, if they do indeed have any structural presence.

This course has given me new ways of seeing old problems. Each new way presents its own set of problems, all we may hope for is for new questions from answers to old ones.


Name: Meghan
Username: mshayhor@brynmawr.edu
Subject: final thoughts
Date: Thu May 10 15:44:20 EDT 2001
Comments:
I do agree with Emily Dickinson that the brain is "wider than the sky...deeper than the sea...and just the weight of God." We have learned that the brain does contain everything- experience, thoughts, emotions, behavior, memory, personality, the I-function, etc.

At the beginning of the course I was a fence sitter, not really sure how much the brain controlled. Now I can confidently say that brain=behavior. I understand that my brain is not who "I" am, as it can do almost anything without "me." "I" am just a small part contained in the I-function located in the neocortex.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of the course for me was learning about the I-function and being able to pinpoint the surprisingly small role it plays. As we saw from the frog experiments, the I-function isn't necessary to live. Instead, the I-function just monitors the outside world and makes up a story using whatever information it has, giving us a perception of reality. I guess we never really know how much is real and how much our I-function is making up for us.

Back in January I did not understand the part the environment plays in affecting the brain and behavior. I now see that there is a clear relationship between the brain and the world around us- the environment influences our brains, which in turn affects our behavior.

This course has raised many more questions than answers for me and has brought about a new way of learning that I have not encountered in any of my other classes. It has challenged me to not specifically look for an answer, but to keep asking more and more relevant questions. I really enjoyed this course- thanks for a great semester!


Name: sarah
Username:
Subject: final thoughts
Date: Thu May 10 21:16:53 EDT 2001
Comments:
My position at the begining of the semester and now are the same- Brain=Behavior and there is nothing else. The little experiments we did in class proving we couldn't conciously control some of our own behavior and laboratory experiments exploring the workings of the brain have supported this arguement time and again. But while I think I've learned a lot from this class (like how tricky my brain is and I never knew) there still remain a multitude of questions. It's easy to say brain=behavior and there is nothing else, but with 10^12 neurons in a vast array of combinations and configurations I think we could study the brain till the end of time and not fully understand it. My biggest unresolved issues surround the I-function. It still bothers, intrigues, and excites me that there's so much that "I" don't have control of in my own body. So I agree with Emily, but still think there's a lot out there to explore in order to get things less wrong.
Name: Daniel
Username: dburdick@brynmawr.edu
Subject: not a conclusion, but a beginning
Date: Fri May 11 22:08:05 EDT 2001
Comments:
Well, yes, I'm still convinced that all behavior can be explained in terms of the brain. What's changed is that I now recognize a whole lot of behaviors that I didn't even know I was exhibiting. That's the scary/exciting part -- to think that all this time I was doing things I wasn't even aware of. It's really cause for a fundamental change in my understanding of my self to recognize that "I" am responsible for only a fraction of "my" behavior. I have a feeling I will revisit this thought -- and the implications of this thought for issues of spirituality and the like -- many times in the future...
Name: isabella
Username: izzy98@aol.com
Subject: brain surely does equal behavior
Date: Sat May 12 10:03:37 EDT 2001
Comments:
but it is more complex than I thought... Brain equals behavior however, the process isn't as simple as I thought it was. The pathways within the brain seem to be the most important in supporting this idea. It appears than the important things occur within the brain in the organization of the brain. This idea has changed my focus of wanting to understand the brain from examine the inputs (outside of the box) and the outputs to the actual organization. At first it seems daunting because the number of neurons also for a great deal of flexibility and variety in organization. Furthermore, for me the behaviors that result from this organization are usually what catch my eye and spark my interest in learning more.

So what's the next step for me. I can continue to examine behaviors and let other look at the details of organization that lead to this behavior, or I can seek to understand the details of organization for myself.

I will probably end up doing both allowing information from each area to fuel my interest in the other area.


Name: Sadie White
Username: siwhite@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Still a fence-sitter
Date: Sat May 12 15:00:41 EDT 2001
Comments:
Reading the comments I made at the beginning of the course made me laugh - not because my indecision has evaporated, but because, despite all that we have learned in the course, it persists. Oh, well. I think that's the point. This course has taught me a great deal of the merits of mistakes. I think that the only poor decision I, or anyone, could ever make in the world of academic pusuit would be to believe that any single idea is infallibly correct. It's interesting, because it opens a number of interesting doorways, without closing any. Happy future investigation, everyone!
Name: caroline ridgway
Username: cridgway@haverford.edu
Subject: final thoughts
Date: Mon May 14 16:04:54 EDT 2001
Comments:
so... how do i feel about the brain and behavior? how about, separate but equal? maybe that's not even accurate. i still can't quite admit to their being the same. i am too aware of how each functions on its own to say that they are one in the same. but i have a better understanding of how they work together than i did at the beginning of the semester. they seem to operate in a sort of quasi-checks and balances system. except my awareness of that interaction doesn't necessarily imply to me that they are aware of it. sometimes it seems to me as if it is largely by accident that we developed the way we did. i do appreciate that that organization often serves to protect us from seeing the world as it really is, with no real color and holes in it. i much prefer believing that the picture i see is real. believing that certainly faciliates my deeper interpretation of it. somehow my mind interprets what my brain sees, but my brain automatically and unobtrusively constrains what my mind has acces to. i guess they make a good team. but, i guess that's largely the point.
Name: Irma
Username: iisknda@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Final Thoughts
Date: Thu May 17 16:25:35 EDT 2001
Comments:
Well, before I had been in the opinion that brain does not necessarily equal behavior, but now I see where strong arguments could be in favor of the latter view. With or withou the "I" functio, brain correlates are necessary to function in life. This is an important dicovery that I have only not been able to discover.




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