Biology 202
Neurobiology and Behavior
Spring 2001

Forum Archive - Week 3

It was suggested at the beginning of the course that studies of the nervous system weren't in fact a way to "explain" behavior but instead a way to look at behavior from a different perspective which would yield new and different understandings of what behavior is. The study of the properties of neurons would seem to be a long ways from behavior. Do you think that studying the properties of neurons could itself change your understanding of (and questions about) behavior? If not, why not? If so, in what ways has this already happened? In what ways can you imagine it might happen?


Name: Paul Grobstein
Username: pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject: week 3
Date: Fri Feb 9 14:41:56 EST 2001
Comments:
So ... let's see. Lots of interest in/discussion of the "I-function", which you can now find in its own file. And this week, we've been perhaps at the other end of the neurobiology and behavior spectrum, talking about neurons and how they work. As usual, you're free to write about anything that struck you as interesting this week but, if you'd like a framework/starting point:

It was suggested at the beginning of the course that studies of the nervous system weren't in fact a way to "explain" behavior but instead a way to look at behavior from a different perspective which would yield new and different understandings of what behavior is. The study of the properties of neurons would seem to be a long ways from behavior. Do you think that studying the properties of neurons could itself change your understanding of (and questions about) behavior? If not, why not? If so, in what ways has this already happened? In what ways can you imagine it might happen?


Name: sural
Username: skshah@brynmawr.edu
Subject:
Date: Sat Feb 10 03:23:44 EST 2001
Comments:
While I can't say that the actual idea of the neuron and its workings truly excites me, I am really interested in seeing where this discussion is going in relation to our "box model." The idea of how a series of stimuli results in behavior(s) is obviously intriguing to the people in our class, and the process of tracking as precisely as possible the actual neuronal workings of the brain seems like the best way to get a relatively valid sense of the capabilities of the mind. Now that we have discussed the philosophical rationalizations for the existence or lack thereof of the I-function (or the mind), it seems like this is a good time to focus on scientific studies and views. Through our exploration of the nervous system and the brain on a cellular/mechanical level, maybe we'll be able to gather the information we need to make the transition from asking questions to possibly answering some of them.

That's all for now....


Name: Elizabeth Gilbert
Username: egilbert@brynmawr.edu
Subject: The Workings of a Neuron
Date: Sat Feb 10 18:20:48 EST 2001
Comments:
I have to admit that learning about the electrical properties of a neuron is a bit dry. However, I understand the need for such a discussion. By learning about how the neuron transmits signals from the dendrite through the soma down the axon and into the presynaptic terminal, one can begin to understand neuron communication. What I mean is that by understanding individual neurons we can start to see how groups of neurons (ie the boxes) talk to each other. From my understanding of class discussion, we have defined behavior as coming from these boxes. So it makes sense that we try and look at the smallest discrete box and then build up from there.

If we learn how a neuron chemically communicates with another neuron we can then go on to ask how changing that neurochemistry can change that communication and how that will change the observed behavior. So I say, try and get through the dry stuff so we can apply the concepts to the more interesting stuff.


Name: caroline ridgway
Username: cridgway@haverford.edu
Subject: weekly thoughts
Date: Sat Feb 10 23:52:52 EST 2001
Comments:
The relationship between neurons and behavior can be very clear, if looked at from a simple systems approach. Given the nervous system of a more "simple" organism, applying a stimulus repeatedly will consistently result in habituation or sensitization, depending on the type of stimulus and the type of receptor activated. This process is understood to be a mechanism of neurotransmitter release and its subsequent impact on the neurons it either excites or inhibits. Having established this fact, in this way it is clear the direct effect neuronal and synaptic plasticity have on the manifestation of electrical impulses in observable behavior. If someone blows air in your eye, you will blink. If someone blows air in your eye and simultaneously pairs the air with a bell or other tone, you will be conditioned to blink in response to the tone. In order for you to blink in response to the tone, it is necessary that the neural connection that tells you to blink in response to the air be strengthened for the auditory stimulus. Rationally speaking, what could be simpler? The biology of the synapse results in the behavior. The behavior can be distinctly altered by manipulating the plastic capacity of the nervous system. That the nervous system is able to change is clearly an adaptive function; otherwise behavioral learning could never occur. So how can the nervous system and behavior justifiably be considered as separate? Every cause must have an effect, and every effect must logically have a cause. The problem I then come to is one of infinite regress, a classic "chicken or the egg" kind of dilemma: at what point can we identify the nervous system or its resultant behavior as the deciding factor? But what about reflex? Again, these may be problems of semantic definition more than anything.
Name: Camille Sinclair
Username: csinclai@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Nervous System
Date: Sun Feb 11 00:54:29 EST 2001
Comments:
I believe that studies of the nervous system is in fact a way to explain behavior. The nervous system by nature is based on plasticity and yields individual experiences and behaviors. But as a whole, humans act and react to stimuli in similar ways-indicating that our basic networks are the same. Thus studying the properties of neurons will definately further our understanding of behaviors. For instance, it was once believed that the stomach was responsible for propagating eating and drinking behaviors until further research of the nervous system found that stimulation of the lateral hypothalamus and medial preoptic nucleus is responsible for hunger and satiety. It is difficult to speculate on the ways that future study of the nervous system will change the way we view behavior because our knowledge of the nervous system is greatly limited. However, I can say that with further investigation researchers come closer to unraveling the mystery.
Name: sarah
Username:
Subject: neurons
Date: Sun Feb 11 10:55:07 EST 2001
Comments:
I believe that if we were able to completely understand exactly how the nervous system worked we would be able to understand behavior. However, since the nervous system is so complex in humans it would be insanely difficult to just look at how the whole system behaves in response to every combination of stimuli imaginable. So to me studying neurons is much more logical. I know that by understanding the four different potentials in neurons the mysteries of the universe won't suddenly be revealed to me, but it's a good starting point in my opinion. If we could build up to understanding the functions of different regions of the brain and how they work and then fully understand how the nervous system affects all the organs in the body then I think it would be possible to comprehend the I-function and where it originates. However, I think it's highly improbable that we will fully understand any of those things for a very long time. Until then we can only study what we do know enough about to question and research it adequately.
Name: Alice Goff
Username: agoff@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Neurons
Date: Sun Feb 11 11:52:42 EST 2001
Comments:
It is frustrating to be talking about such detailed cellular processes now, having been discussing behavior thus far in terms of observations which we can relate to our own experiences as people. How can all this structure and procedure possibly have to do with our thoughts, reactions, emotions...? However, by this exploration of action potential and resting potential, I think we are gaining and understanding of how behavior functions. It seems that if the nervous system is a series of boxes, then behavior is the largest box and cells are the smallest with many levels of boxes seperating the two. It is like those wooden russian dolls that open up to reveal a new doll which in turn pops open containing another doll and so forth. If you look at the biggest doll next to the smallest, the two seem to be two seperate dolls just as the relationship between the cells and the reactions we can observe may be so large that the two seem unrelated. I think however that one can be reached by way of the other, by moving up the levels of boxes. It is what relates the tangible structure of the nervous system (neurons) to the intangible reactions of a living thing (behavior) that remains a mystery to me.

I am still perplexed by the question of free-will and this study of neurons seems to complicate that question. As we have talked about so far with regard to action potential and resting potential, there must always be a stimulus, something that starts the battery moving. Where does this stimulus come from if a behavior is simply spontaneous? Is everything we do a reaction to something whether we can observe it or not?


Name: Kristine Hoeldtke
Username: Kristineh44@hotmail.com
Subject: neurons
Date: Sun Feb 11 16:41:21 EST 2001
Comments:
Once I realized that the behaviors related to rates of synaptic firing and chemical release are orchestrated by neurons and that it is through these interconnecting circuits that disorders manifest, rehabilitation acts, and life is lived, it became quite clear that an intricate understanding of neuronal activity is absolutely essential.

Before I began to study these things, I had never really thought of behavior as in any way related to electricity or "batteries." In my fairly oblivious conception, fundamental life energy was supposed to be more abstract somehow. As I begin to make this connection, however, the mystery of behavior becomes a little bit more tangible - and what's more exciting than that?


Name: Dena
Username: dgu@brynmawr.edu
Subject:
Date: Sun Feb 11 16:55:09 EST 2001
Comments:
I think that in order to try to understand more complex ideas in the study of neurobiology, one must be familiar with the basics. The study of the properties of neurons is necessary in our quest to understand behavior because it is the most basic component to the physical workings in the brain. If the brain is responsible for our actions, then understanding how brain works in detail could help us explain how the brain directs our behavior. But knowing how the neuron works, physically, does not mean behavior can suddenly be explained. I think understanding the root of behavior is still a work in progress, understanding the neuron’s electrical behavior and communication abilities is just a small part of a complex puzzle. Not only do we have to collect all the pieces to this puzzle, once we have it, we will have to put it together and make sense of it.

One thing that interests me in our discussions on the neuron is how it fits into the box model. On the surface, it seems slip neatly into the model, becoming the smallest ‘box’ of all the boxes. But in behavior that is exhibited without outside input or stimulus, does the neuron emit its own signal to be passed on to other neurons and eventually evolving into visible behavior. And if not, where does the spontaneous action come from and why? Are there boxes smaller then the neuron? After all, biologically, the cell is the smallest living component in an organism.


Name: Kristine
Username: Kristineh44@hotmail.com
Subject: (oops, forgot something....)
Date: Sun Feb 11 17:18:11 EST 2001
Comments:
In response to the free will issue; Is it possible that we ("we" being our I-function) have a say in certain out-puts, that we are capable of making certain decisions to act or not act, that not every stimulus has an innevitable end? Could cognitive dissonance, for example, be a condition of simotaneous, conflicting inputs, which we get to choose between? I guess this all depends on the nature of the I-function.
Name: PaShawnda
Username: pbriley@brynmawr.edu
Subject: neurons
Date: Sun Feb 11 19:31:21 EST 2001
Comments:
Learning about the mechanical functions of neurons in relationship to the philosophical issue of "self" is important, because we can look at the implications of some of the theories in relation to the physical attributes of the brain. For instance, if you believe that the brain equals behavior, then how do you explain the fact that some behaviors can occur at the same time? Since it takes time to travel down the axon of neurons, do both neurons related to each behavior fire at the same time and reach the final neuron to make the behaviors occur simultaneously or do different batteries have different travel rates, regardless of axon length? But we do know that not all axons are the same length, so how does the charged battery effect the last component of the neuronal connection to make multiple behviors occur at the same time? What does the behavior of people with deteriorating myelin sheaths covering their axons tell us about more common or normal behavior?

Also, learning of neuron's functions as the brain allow us to see unobservable behaviors. So perhaps there are other structures yet to be discovered that could explain how the "I" function (made of a cluster of neurons)does things that the brain cannot or the mechanics of the soul.


Name: Matt Fisher
Username: mfisher@haverford.edu
Subject: what does the neuron do?
Date: Sun Feb 11 19:49:43 EST 2001
Comments:
I think looking at the way neurons work has changed my perspective already. I see the whole process by which they trigger different responses and wonder how this relates to behavior. If a neuron responds a little slower one time than another, will this make for a different reaction? Or will is just cause the same reaction, but one that is delayed? These ideas come from the neuron.

The neuron is the tiniest box we will be talking about. We mentioned the other day in class about the permeability of the membrane and depending upon how it works a certain there will be an action or resting potential present. I see form this that something is controlling the behavior of the membrane. What makes it work one way at any given time? I wonder if there is some relative of the "I-function" in each neuron. I believe this could explain the actions of each individual cell. They communicate with each other much the same way whole organisms do. What is the level of sophistication in the cell and how does this influence or even create behavior?


Name: Sadie White
Username: siwhite@brynmawr.edu
Subject: neurons
Date: Sun Feb 11 22:02:13 EST 2001
Comments:
I think that the study of neuron function is essential for understanding behavior, if one accepts both the brain=behavior and box-model ideas of behavioral study. However, it seems likely that the sum of behavior is a more than the differing action potentials of a hundred trillion neurons. A simple analogy is a group of bricks. One could argue that they, like neurons, represent a complex "box within a box" system. They have both an outside and an inside, and their arrangement into steadily more complex boxes (e.g. a house) is readily observable in our common experience. However, just as each house is unique, so is each individual, even as we are fundamentally similar in our composition. Likewise, as a house is not a random assemblage of components, neurons don't act with complete autonomy. While studying neurons is necessary to understanding the nervous system, it does not appear to be sufficient.

On a completely different note, why do people cry? Certain physiological responses to external stimuli seem to be directly related to evolutionary advantage (e.g. adrenaline rushes that prepare us to cope with immediate physical threats, etc.), but crying seems to do no such thing. Any ideas?


Name: Alexis
Username: awebb@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Neurons
Date: Sun Feb 11 22:56:49 EST 2001
Comments:

I've always been told that the KISS theory is the best way to explain something: Keep It Simple, Stupid. What could be more simple than the flowing of ions across a membrane to generate an electrical potential? Could this be the solution to all of the lofty questions of brain and behavior? It definitely falls under the KISS theory. But, those who study philosophy of mind, like Churchland, would not be so quick to proclaim that the properties of neurons are the answer to our prayers as students of the brain. Simple is good, yes, but simple is not necessarily the solution.

I find that I appreciate the explanation of the brain in terms of neurons and potentials. As a chemist, it seems very physical, and therefore, very real to me. I would much rather learn about the brain in this way; the chemical why's and how's of things are much easier to grasp than the fuzzy questions that we have been trying to answer. Unfortunately, it's those areas outside of that KISS theory which are the most interesting to me. Ideally, I would be able to apply what I have learned about the actual physical world to things like the "I-function" or "consciousness." Our discussion of neurons gives me some hope that this kind of connection is possible. Maybe, if you "keep it simple" to start with, the places you can go reach into those fuzzy and not so simple realms. Studying neurons is an important foundation for learning about behavior.


Name: jess
Username: jamiller@brynmawr.edu
Subject: neurons
Date: Sun Feb 11 22:57:50 EST 2001
Comments:
I think that by studying neurons, we can definitly achieve insight into behavior. One specific example that I can think of is addiction. In cocaine users, the cocaine affects nerve cells in the limbic system. The cocaine binds to the transporter proteins in the gaps between nerves. When receptor proteins on limbic system nerve cells are exposed to high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine for long periods of time, the nerve cells turn down the affects of the pleasure signals by lowering the number of receptor proteins on their surfaces. With so few receptors, the user needs the drug to maintain even normal levels of limbic activity. I feel that the biological explanation for this is facinating, for many people continue to believe that drugs such as cocaine and nicotine are not truly addictive, that the user can stop at anytime with little to no affect. The understanding of neurons allows us to see that this is not the case, for the person will experiance biological with drawl from the substance.
Name: Gwen Slaughter
Username: gslaught@haverford.edu
Subject: Neurons
Date: Sun Feb 11 23:27:56 EST 2001
Comments:
The study of the activity of individual neurons is key to understanding behavior. We would not behave in any manner if action potentials were not carried from neuron to neuron to neuron. So, it is important to understand how a neuron reaches this action potential, how action potentials are passed on from neuron to neuron and how action potentials cause behavior by making neurons communicate with muscles. In order to understand behavior, one must understand the simplest form of behavior--the activity of the individual neuron.
Name: Sarah McCawley
Username: smccawle@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Action potential and Neurons
Date: Mon Feb 12 09:52:51 EST 2001
Comments:
I have to start out by saying that I have learned about action potentials in various other classes that I have taken, but I feel like a have a better understanding of it now than I have ever had before. As far as studying neurons to better understand behavior...I am not sure how I feel about the connection between the two. I think that neurons and how they interact with each other could be very useful in understanding behavior. If brian=behavior, then the interactions of individual neurons may be the key to unlocking the secrets of behavior. Neurons make up the brain and if the brain controls the body and the mind (the I-function?), then looking at the physical aspect of this manifestation could teach us so much about ourselves. I think that to be able to understand so many things that appear abstract, we must understand the concrete things that underlie these ideas. For example, emotions seem like an abstract idea, but often emotions are invoked by concrete things like words and actions of other individuals
Name: avis brennan
Username: abrennan@haverford.edu
Subject: neurons
Date: Mon Feb 12 13:22:56 EST 2001
Comments:
Along with answering the question of what the nervous system is composed of, an understanding of the properties and structure of neurons has allowed for new clinical perspectives on treating and interpreting disorders such as depression and schizophrenia. When we look at the debate over Prozac-- whether this treatment for depression is effective in getting to the root of what is disturbing life-behaviors- we are brought back to the fundamental question of does brain=behavior, and which constrains which. If we can treat the brain and solve the problem-- if depression is simply a chemical imbalance, than we can assert some-sort of causal relationship between brain and behavior. An understanding of action potentials, chemical release and reception and the overwhelming efficacy of psychoactive and antidepressant drugs indicates to me that affect and behavior are pretty mundane, and surprisingly within out control. I guess the greater questions that inspires is, if these fundemntal units of communication work in similar, mechanical ways, how can we say that our brains are different?
Name: Christine Farrenkopf
Username: cfarrenk@haverford.edu
Subject: neurons and addiction
Date: Mon Feb 12 16:42:25 EST 2001
Comments:
While it is the fundamental concept of neurobiology, it is difficult to comprehend how the seemingly simple action of the firing of a neuron can result in complex behavior. I have found that I can better understand this by examining how alterations to the nerves can cause abnormal behavior.

The brain of an addict is clearly different from the brain of a normal person. Drugs such as cocaine and heroin (among others) increase the concentration of dopamine (a neurotransmitter), which has the effect of overstimulation of the pleasure/reward circuit of the brain. In an effort to control the overactive pleasure circuit in chronic drug users, the brain reduces the number of dopamine receptors. The effects of the phenomenon are twofold: first, an addict must use higher concentrations of drugs in order to achieve the same high he did before; and second, experiences that formerly brought pleasure no longer do (which is why anxiety and depression are often seen in addicts). This example of addiction clearly demonstrates how the neurons are directly related to behavior.


Name: Daniel Burdick
Username: dburdick@brynmawr.edu
Subject: on/off
Date: Mon Feb 12 17:04:57 EST 2001
Comments:
The point in the current study of neuronal function that I found interesting is that an action potential is an "all or nothing" event, that is, it's either turned on or off. This seems to have remarkable implications! For one, I interpret this as saying that behavior must exist as quanta -- in discrete units. For any individual, what appears to be continuous behavior can, in fact, be no more than the sum of non-continuous action potentials. This perhaps shouldn't be as startling to me as it was, given that so much of the universe that appears continuous is understood to be composed of discrete units, from motion pictures right on down to space-time. Still, there's something revelatory in applying old ideas to new situations.

For two, this means that the complexity of behavior is producible from nothing more than the random interaction of a series of simple actions: it's chaos theory! Granted, I don't really understand chaos theory well enough that this could help me, but seeing the connection is exciting. And it means that someone, if not me, could understand behavior in terms of chaos theory.

For three, this "all or nothing" conception of action potentials is starkly reminiscent of the 0/1 logic that underlies all digital technology. In other words, put together a trillion or so transistors, and we ought to be able to reproduce human behavior -- artificial intelligence guaranteed! And if not, then that means there's still something important missing from this understanding of behavior.


Name: Sabah
Username: squraish@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Neurons
Date: Mon Feb 12 17:20:42 EST 2001
Comments:
Studying neurons may seem dry in comparison to our earlier discussions but it serves them well. In studying neurons, the smallest boxes in the model, hopefully we will be able to understand how they produce outputs in the body. From that we can work backwards from the output to the neuron and back further to trace the input signal to its origin. In doing that we can determine to what extent brain=behavior and to what extent behavior is inaccountable, lost in the boxes.
Name: Irma Iskandar
Username: iiskanda@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Neurons and Behavior
Date: Mon Feb 12 17:30:09 EST 2001
Comments:
I found the opinions offered by several students in the forum very interesting, especially regarding drug use and how its involvement with the brain (neurons) affects behavior. I am confident that neurons and how they are modified at least give a new understanding of what behavior is - in other words, giving it a more physical, chemical explanation.

For example, take the case of lobotomies, which in its heyday in the 40's was used to control violent and pathological disorders of the insane and even young children - that is, before prescription drugs became a more popular and humane way of controlling behavior. The American neurologist Walter Freeman was the first to popularize "ice-pick lobotomy", in which an ice pick is pierced into the brain to destroy the prefrontal lobe. This procedure took no more than a few minutes, but it could alter a person's behavior permanently. 1/3 of patients improved (i.e. "became more calm") but also 1/3 became worse in behavior. Furthermore, such procedure was used cruelly to silence political opponents and hyperactive children. But my main point is that the ice pick undoubtedly alters the physical components of the brain (i.e. it damages neurons), and could change an individual's behavior.

Therefore, I do believe that studying neurons does give another perspective to understanding behavior, including the correlation between the modification of neurons and resulting human behavior, although I belive more studies can help us better the relationship between the two.


Name: Katerina Sioutis
Username: grkdelfini@aol.com
Subject: How does this relate?
Date: Mon Feb 12 17:59:21 EST 2001
Comments:
The wierd thing is - that everytime I learn about neurons and action potentials and concentration gradients and so on... I always seem to forget what I learned after I have taken the exam or quiz. The explanations that were given in class last week really seem to be sticking in my mind better. Maybe it's because the concepts have been over simplified or maybe it really isn't that complex after all! When I think about it, it's acually kind of scary to think about our brain as action potentials - is that how our "I" function works too? So where do action potentials originate? We have learned how they travel but where do they come from? So everything we do can be explained by action potentials going in and out of different "boxes" in our nervous system? Could we create a robot that does this? What makes humans so special - we kind of seem like machinery - or maybe I am visualizing this the wrong way . . .
Name: Meghan
Username: mshayhor@brynmawr.edu
Subject: neurons
Date: Mon Feb 12 19:17:27 EST 2001
Comments:
Understanding the properties of neurons is essential to the understanding of the nervous system. These neurons are the smallest boxes which interact to account for one's behavior. We won't understand behavior until we fully understand the transmitting information in the brain that goes into creating behavior.

This way of thinking is common- we must understand the individual pieces that make up the whole before we can fully understand the function of the whole. We cannot understand a society's culture and way of life without first looking at the people who live there and make up that group.

I anticipate learning what kinds of behavior are controlled by these seemingly simple neuronal impulses. How big a part do axons and dendrites actually play in determining who we are? I look forward to learning what kinds of behaviors require the functioning of the mysterious I-box.


Name: Kate Lauber
Username: klauber@haverford.edu
Subject: Tourette's
Date: Mon Feb 12 19:44:30 EST 2001
Comments:
So, I'm choosing to write on the article posted on the website in the Daily News this week mainly because it holds some personal interest and meaning to me. The article was called "The Tourette Trap" and was a discussion of how schools are struggling with what disciplinary actions they can take again outbursts that originate from a neurological disorder. This seems to be one of the topics of the day. Behavioral standards in schools have had to change in recent years to accomidate the possibility that some kids "just can't help it." Be it ADHD, ADD, or Tourette's the idea that a child's abnormal behavior is linked to neurotransmitter mechanisms that can be medicated is a whole new ball game. But this isn't what I want to discuss.

I have a friend who has Tourette's syndrome. I knew him for a year before I ever knew and I found out only because he told me in passing. His tic today manifests itself in him sniffing just once, every now and again. This tic just became part of him that I knew. I don't know if I assumed he had allergies, or was trying to be tough or just never noticed it because it was so inconsequential. When I asked him about it he said his tics used to be a lot worse and he was made fun of a lot as a kid until he learned to control them. He learned to control his facial muscular tics that came from Tourette's syndrome without medication. If Tourette's is truly a neurological disorder due to errant levels of neurotransmitters, and my friend was able to learn how to control his through fear of childhood torture, then what else about our selves or our brains can we learn to control? If tics can be overcome, can attentional difficulties? Or depression? or OCD? It makes you wonder if all there is is the brain. You could argue that here, the self was able to overcome the brain. My friend's fear of childhood rejection was able to control his neurological disorder. I don't mean to bring us back to the whole discussion of brain vs. self but I can't help wondering where he would fit into all of this...


Name: Nana Dawson-Andoh
Username: ndawsona@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Neurons=Behavior
Date: Mon Feb 12 19:48:28 EST 2001
Comments:
I believe that what should be kept in mind when discussing how the properties of neurons affect the greater phenomenon of expressed behavior is that although neurons operate on a micro scale, they ultimately affect the macro aspects of behaviors. Action potentials, resting potentials, and the diffusion ions are the basis of observable behavior. People with so-called "chemical imbalances", or schizophrenia, and bi-polar disorder have malfunctioning neurons. These irregularities are then manifested in their external behaviors. This is why prescribed drugs seem to work by re-adjusting and re-establishing the neuronal chemical equilibrium. Studying the characteristics of neurons would strengthen the hypothesis that brain=behavior.
Name: Euree
Username: echoi@brynmawr.edu
Subject: neurons
Date: Mon Feb 12 21:14:52 EST 2001
Comments:
Learning about neurons and potentials may not be the most estatic thing to do; however, I find this method of learning to be an exciting journey to understanding. By investigating the functions of neurons through the many potentials we are in the process of discussing, we can attempt to illiminate certain possibilities that involve our nervous system. Like Alice Goff, I have questioned the stimulus regarding action and resting potentials. If there must always be an initial stimulus, where does the stimulus come from?

I found the "backward" way of thinking to be very interesting and useful as well. We proved that since the frog doesn't possess a neocortex, the frog doesn't need the neocortex for functions such as seeing, moving, eating, mating, etc. By utilizing these techniques, we can continue to learn the process of becoming "less wrong."


Name: jenny
Username: jecohen@brynmawr.edu
Subject:
Date: Mon Feb 12 22:12:11 EST 2001
Comments:
I don't know how much the study of neurons will change the way I view behaivior, but it is changing the way I go about thinking about it. Before, when asked a question such as, "Does brain equall behavior," had I been completely honest I would have said no. If I had been asked why I would have said something to the effect of, "Because it doesn't." There were things which I thought that I, as a human being, fundamentally knew. I didn't have to know the "why" because for some reason I always thought that my first reaction was a reflection of some kind of inner-truth that inherently was. Being forced to answer weekly questions, and especially being forced to study actual neuron functions has definately opened me up to thinking about behaivior in a more analytic and less emotional way. Whether it will change what I acutally think about the connection between the brain and the self, I don't know. Regardless, at least now I am thinking.
Name: AndrEa
Username: n2tiv@aol.com
Subject:
Date: Mon Feb 12 22:39:43 EST 2001
Comments:
Perhaps one intersting way that the nervous system can provide a window into behavior is by studying nervous system malfunction -- as is the case with "Neils Brain" and his epileptic seizures. epilepsy seems to be one of those cases where the action starts itself up from "inside the box" and produces (much unwanted) behavior. I am very curious about this and other situations where the nervous system produces behavior of its own accord -- basically organizing a mutiny over the volitonal part of the "I" function (does the "I" have volition, or is that something else?). Another example: (perhaps WAY unrelated), in another class we're studing ADHD. Evidence seems to be mounting that its a neurological disorder, and it seems from the description, that kids who suffer from this disorder produce all these unwanted (disinhibited) behaviors -- often seeing them happen but unable to stop them. And what about psychotics? and dreaming? all of these unbidden behaviors -- we can observe evidence of them in the brain. We can even alter/control some of them (like epilepsy or ADHD) with drugs, so what does that say about whats happening in the brain to produce behavior?
Name: Claire Walker
Username: cwalker@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Involuntary movement and behavior?
Date: Mon Feb 12 23:00:06 EST 2001
Comments:
As some other people have noted in their comments, the relationship between neuron activity and behavior can be understood. Conditioning has a large responsibiliy in this connection, I believe. Now, although "normally" a person would burn their feet when walking on hot coals, some people through conditioning (and perhaps religious beliefs) can walk across burning coals without severe injury to their feet. This behavior of dulling pain stimili is repeated in many examples, not as severe as this example.

the question I have relates to the article on Tourettes Syndrome and the actions that result from (what seems to be) involuntary muscle contractions and neuron stimuli. The sudden outbursts and violent activities do not reflect the "mental behavior" (that is what is normal behavior) of the person suffering from Tourettes. The question is, is it possible for people suffering from this disease to control themselves, or is it mearely a drug which helps people (like Jim Eisenwright (sp?)) continue with complicated jobs and tasks. So are these outbursts behavior or something else??


Name: anonymous
Username:
Subject:
Date: Tue Feb 13 00:06:36 EST 2001
Comments:

Name: Mary Ferrell
Username: mferrell@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Churchland lecture
Date: Tue Feb 13 00:55:59 EST 2001
Comments:
Paul Churchland's lecture at Villanova last week was on his interpretation of how the human brain forms and uses concepts. His theory states that concepts aren't just word-like elements in our head but that they are points, regions or trajectories in neural activation space.At any time, our contents of consciousness,can be mapped as the momentary fleeting activations on an idiosyncratic, high abstract map with a high # of dimensions, structured by neurons and their spaces. Concepts are embodied in the configuration of the synapses. He believes that concepts aren't innate but that this system of synapse configurations manifest all the knowledge that we have accumulated about the world. We shape our synapse configurations as we learn. Meaning arises from a system of inter-concept relations.

Possesion of this conceptual framework helps us navigate the world. Similar to a Global Positioning System in a car It is a bunch of maps that shows the driver his global position with trajectories for certain paths.

Someone in the audience asked him, "Who is reading the map?" He responded,"Well, I guess you are referring to the 'self'. In order to talk of this,we should talk about the assembly of all the maps. Think of it that we are not possessing a bunch of maps but rather we are a bunch of maps."


Name: rachel
Username: rkahn@brynmawr.edu
Subject: neurons
Date: Tue Feb 13 01:04:35 EST 2001
Comments:
I agree that studying neurons probably won't lead us, at least in the near future, to a comprehensive explanation of behavior. However, studying neurons is probably the best way to begin putting together a picture of what behavior is. At the moment, I don't see any indication that behavior will become a concrete, explainable thing. Nervous system studies, on the other hand, often result in concrete explanations of small parts of a big picture. Along the same lines as Sadie's brick analogy, the concrete explanations we might obtain from nervous system studies will most likely lead us to a decent understanding of much of behavior. I suspect, though, that there will remain a part of behavior that we can't understand through the studies.
Name: Melissa
Username: mhoegler@brynmawr.edu
Subject:
Date: Tue Feb 13 01:07:48 EST 2001
Comments:
As of yet, I am not fully convinced that a neuron has as much influence over human behavior as some propose. However, when I think about it, I would not be surprised to learn that a neuron is responsible for aspects of behavior. I say this because if something as small as a cell can hold massive amounts of genetic information and something as tiny as an atom can be split and cause massive destruction, a neuron could most definitely function to control behavior.

Anytime someone knows something exists and does not quite understand it, many hypothesis have to be made and tested in laboratories before any real "truth" can be accepted. For now, I am open to any logical explanation of the function of a neuron.


Name: Caitlin Costello
Username: ccostell@haverford.edu
Subject:
Date: Tue Feb 13 01:38:39 EST 2001
Comments:
I think the involvement of addiction in all this is really interesting, as Christine brought up with how neurons are related to behavior. The example of cocaine is interesting, as I have always heard that cocaine is not physically addictive, but only psychologically. I'm not sure exactly what that refers to (what the mechanisms are for physical addictions to drugs that cocaine does not cause), but if brain=behavior, and the psychological addiction definitely alters behavior, isn't this a physical addiction of sorts too? so why do we draw that distinction? Another example is nicotine. I've read that it takes smoking like half a pack a day to cause a physical addiction to nicotine, but you definitely can be "psychologically" addicted to smoking if you smoke less than that. so how does that all play into the neuron to behavior and brain to behavior thing?

Kate brought up tourette's syndrom, which is another interesting aspect of this. I read something by Oliver Sacks about a prestigious surgeon who has severe Tourette's. When he is performing surgery he exhibits no tics, but as soon as he is done they start again. I think I agree with Kate that controlling Tourette's is an instance of the self overcoming the brain...so how does it work that you can't overcome it all thhe time? How is the self working here?


Name: Niru
Username: nkumar@brynmawr.edu
Subject: neurons
Date: Tue Feb 13 02:36:07 EST 2001
Comments:
It just doesn't seem possible in some intuitive level that repeating lines of boxes, ie, neurons, can be responsible for all the complexities involved in the brain and behavior. I mean, if all the chemical signals resemble each other, and one action potential looks like another, what accounts for the difference between triggered signals and responses?

However, there a multiplicity of different pathways in the brain which could add up to all of the behaviors and responses given. Obviously though, there must be more to life and consciousness within the brain than these chemical signals, becuase the signals may exist, and have current injected in them..but still would resemble real living tissue and deliberate action. I think these differences must be explored to gain an understanding of how the boxes function. The boxes appear to be simple on the surface, butafter study show how the brain uses them for learning and acting all through the use of chemicals. But, perhaps we simply do not just know all the facts about these chemicals yet to make conclusive statements about neurons.


Name: karen munoz
Username: kmunoz@haverford.edu
Subject: neurons
Date: Tue Feb 13 05:17:17 EST 2001
Comments:
i think it's obviously necessary to study how neurons work to fully understand the behaviors they produce. but it definitely presents a different perspective on how to view behaviors. i'm thinking of how the brain has changed in autopsies of people who have had eating disorders and have died as a result. there were abnormalities observed in hypothalamic regions. but there remains the question of biology first or behavior first. there isn't a way of knowing whether that person was predisposed to develop an eating disorder, or whether society, other things made the person engage in the behavior, and their brain changed because of it. but even if it was behavior first, something biological must have occured in the brain to make that initial behavior happen. it's just amazing to think of how something commands these neurons to change accordingly--something causes the proper channels to open and close, certain changes cause the action potentials to last longer, etc. it's also interesting to think about how the brain can become addicted to its own chemicals. i was reading an article about endorphins, and how they result in effects that are similar to those of morphine, opiates--thus the brain (thoughts) would encourage the person to engage in behavior stimulating the rush of endorphins.
Name: Diana Applegate
Username: dapplega@brynmawr.edu
Subject: Neurons and Churchland
Date: Tue Feb 13 08:23:34 EST 2001
Comments:
As of right now, I think the key to better understanding our behavior lies in the analysis of brain chemistry and neuronal interaction. Before we can make sense of any of this, it is important to know and comprehend the properties and structure of a basic neuron, as we reviewed last week. A few other posters mentioned that, although they had learned about neurons before, their understanding of them this time around seemed heightened. I feel the same way. But I'm looking forward to moving on and learning more about the role of the synapse and the networks of neurons in our brain.

On that note, I was glad that Mary posted some info on Churchland's lecture. I wanted to attend but was unable to get over there. She mentioned that he discussed synaptic maps, but didn't have much to say about who interprets these maps. I think the idea of synaptic maps is feasible, although I don't know nearly enough yet to say why I feel this way. I took a Philosophy of Cognitive Science class a few years back, and the Churchlands were constantly labeled (and mocked, even) as "radical behaviorists" for focusing so much on neuroscience to understand behavior, and the self. Although I think it's difficult for most of us to envision the self as emerging from interaction of neurons, perhaps the Churchlands' views aren't as radical as they first might seem.

The more I read, the more I see connections between brain and behavior. Drug use, epilepsy, depression, anxiety, strokes, and Parkinson's Disease all bring about changes in behavior that seem to be linked to changes in neuronal communication. The concept of brain equaling behavior is becoming more of a reality to me as we move forward each week in class.


Name: isabella
Username: izzy98@aol.com
Subject: still believing brain equals behavior
Date: Tue Feb 13 08:48:00 EST 2001
Comments:
I think with an understanding of how the smallest units of the nervouse system work, we can begin to understand how these small units, 10 to the 12th right can result in complex behaviors. Think of all the cells that we have and how these same numbers result in complex behaviors also. What I'm really interested in learning is how these neurons, all similar in structure can be specialized for different types of function. How do we get the amygdala or the hypothalmus to preform different complex function. In addition to that how do different areas of the brain result in SEVERAL different function. For example, the amydala is responsible for emotions, fear, pleasure, maybe also pain (i'm not sure). Yet, with differences in function, they have the EXACT same structure right. The neuron with the action potential, the cell body, etc. It not like a muscle cell vs. a nerve cell. It's a nerve cell vs. a nerve cell. Does this differientiation take place early on in life. If so, how long before these areas become specialized for specific functions. And hey, are we going to learn why men's brains are different from women's I think i understand how, but is there an answer or suggestion to why. Just curious..
Name: mel
Username: mrohall
Subject: perspective
Date: Tue Feb 13 08:58:51 EST 2001
Comments:
We understand behavior through the perspective of past expereinces. Similar actions typically provide us with similar explainations. For instance, take two people whose arms and legs are both crossed. If a family member habitually did this when angry, we might assume that both people in this example are angry. Maybe only one is actually expressing anger while the other is simply sitting in a cold room. With further investigation, we might determine that the room is cold and come to the more accurate conclusion about the second person. The study of neurons has the same potential. By examining the system of origin,, we cannot only see slight differences, but more importantly, we change our perspective of behavior irreversibly altering our scope of personal experience to view behavior.
Name: Janine Fuertes
Username: jfuertes@brynmawr.edu
Subject: neurons and behavior
Date: Tue Feb 13 16:35:04 EST 2001
Comments:
If we accept the idea that "brain = behavior", and we view the brain as simply a large box comprised of smaller boxes called neurons, then naturally it would make sense to first understand the mechanism of those smaller boxes before we can even come close to deciphering the mechanism of behavior as a whole. But how long and twisted the road is that leads from the simplest neuron to the truth behind behavior and its workings! I agree with Dena in that understanding action potentials and passive current flows is only the first, baby step in deciphering the ever-perplexing mystery of why we "do the things we do". However, without that understanding, it would be impossible to build an explanation, as it is the basic framework for behavior's mechanism itself.




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