Biology 202
Neurobiology and Behavior
Spring 2002

Forum Archive - Week 1

Does the "brain = behavior" hypothesis fit your observations/experiences/ways of making sense of the world? If so, explain why. If not, explain why not. In either case, suggest new observations which might serve to further explore the hypothesis.


Name:  Paul Grobstein
Username:  pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Getting started ...
Date:  2002-01-22 09:02:24
Message Id:  737
Comments:
Welcome to the Bio 202 course forum area. This is a place to share thoughts, stories, reactions to what we talk about in class, what you read, and what you think. Don't think of it so much as a place to "write" (at least not formally), but rather as another kind of informal conversation. Your thoughts in progress can be valuable to others, and theirs in turn to you. The idea here is not to have "the answer" but rather to learn from each other as we go along. You should plan to write here at least once a week, but are welcome to write more often. Hope you enjoy it (and the course).
Name:  Beverly Weiss
Username:  BBWeiss@aol.com
Subject:  Brain=Behavior
Date:  2002-01-24 21:56:31
Message Id:  738
Comments:
Today’s class was so intriguing; I could hardly contain myself!

I agree with Paul that Brain=Behavior. I agree with Emily Dickinson’s poem that one can fit the universe inside the brain. And I also agree with the statement by Francis Crick that “a person’s mental activities are entirely due to the behavior of nerve cells, glial cells, and the atoms, ions, and molecules that make them up and influence them.”

When I think about the amazing workings of the body (actually every living organism) I remember one of my favorite children’s books, Horton hears a Who by Dr. Seuss. I recall reading to my children (who are now both grown) and discussing the tiny universe (inside the flower) where entire cities and populations existed, hustling and bustling, unbeknownst to the people up on top where Horton the Elephant lived. Only Horton could hear the cries for help from the tiny people who lived inside the flower. No one else could hear the cries; no one else ever listened. I wanted my children to learn to “listen and see.”

I think about the universe in the same way; that everything is made up of particles and cells and chemicals that simulate tiny populations to do what they are programmed to do, day in and day out, unless something causes them to change.

I wonder if the mind and the brain are the same thing; or if the mind and the soul are the same thing? I think about the mind, the soul, and free will and I believe that these are all inventions that emanate from our chemical brain. I think that different cultures have each created answers for questions that have no answers to quiet fear and offer explanations where no explanation exists. I am excited at the prospect that science is exploring a physical place inside the brain that could account for the creation of religious and spiritual “feelings”.

Feelings and emotions seem to be unique, private, and almost magical. But science has mapped areas in the brain, the amygdala, for instance, that control feelings and emotions, and when the amygdala is damaged, so is one’s ability to experience or control these same emotions. When a chemical imbalance occurs, our emotional states suffer.

We know enough about depression to know that Hamlet’s melancholia or Ophelia’s madness might easily be treated with Prozac today. The mysterious chemistries of the brain can sometimes be duplicated by our pharmacists. Our emotions can be changed with chemicals almost as easily as we make a headache disappear.


Name:  Nicole Pietras
Username:  npietras@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Thurs. Class
Date:  2002-01-25 16:33:33
Message Id:  739
Comments:
For the past 2 days I have been pondering over the discussion we had in class about the "brain=behavior" vs. the brain and other outside forces. I'm not really sure how to feel on the subject. By saying the brain controls everything and there is nothing else, I can't shake the feeling that there should be something else. Many religions believe in a person having a soul and after they die it goes to heaven. I was brought up with believing in the catholic faith, which teaches one to believe in your soul going to heaven after you die. By leaving out the notion of a soul, it's like leaving out beliefs of religion. However, there is not any scientific support on a person having a soul. All science on this subject points to the brain governing emotions and behavior in general. With all of this being said, I find myself still conflicted on this subject. My naive side wants to believe in outside forces being present, however, my sensible side is pointing towards the "brain= behavior" side of the argument.
Name:  Asra Husain
Username:  ahusain@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Brain=Behavior?
Date:  2002-01-25 17:49:20
Message Id:  740
Comments:
I am not sure if I agree with the statement Brain=Behavior because I don’t think I have enough knowledge to make a conclusion so soon. I have thought about the question and I could not come up with a definitive answer but here are some thoughts and questions.

Behavior is a response to external and internal stimuli, which are processed by the nervous system. The external stimuli refer to different experiences each person has and the internal stimuli refer to the changes taking place in the body. Since it is almost impossible for two people to have the exact same experiences, each person may behave differently to the same stimulus. So, based on the definition on behavior one could say that Brain=Behavior. It makes sense that behavior can only come from the chemical physical changes of the brain.

However, this Brain=Behavior cannot be such a simple relationship. What about the soul and the mind? Or are they a part of the Brain=Behavior relationship? Each on of us has felt at least one indescribable emotion that I believe cannot be accounted for by a few chemical reactions in the brain. So this leads me to believe that there has to be something else besides the brain that allows for such emotion.

Another thought that came to mind: What about identical twins? They come from the same cell and so they have the same brain but they aren’t identical in behavior but that can be due to their different experiences or maybe not.

I want to agree with Dickinson and Professor Grobstein because it makes sense and there are a lot more “concrete” observations that makes Brain=Behavior plausible, but I can’t just agree when there is something telling me that it can’t always be true. So, I’m left at the same position I started at: Unsure.


Name:  Paul Grobstein
Username:  pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  first week
Date:  2002-01-26 07:32:28
Message Id:  741
Comments:
Beverly, Nicole, and Asa have given us a good start on this first week's forum. Usually you can write about anything you've been thinking about during the week (and you can include any thing of that sort this week), but your thoughts about the "self in brain/its all in neurons/brain = behavior" idea at the beginning of the course are a good thing to get started with. And don't worry about not knowing enough, or about being "wrong". Remember, what we're about (like any good scientist) is getting our current thoughts in order, generating hypotheses, so we can think about how to test them, again and again. So, here's the question for this week:


Does the "brain = behavior" hypothesis fit your observations/experiences/ways of making sense of the world? If so, explain why. If not, explain why not. In either case, suggest new observations which might serve to further explore the hypothesis.


Name:  Amy Cunningham
Username:  acunning@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2002-01-26 14:41:36
Message Id:  742
Comments:
The question of whether brain = behavior is one that has interested me for a long time, and like a lot of other people I am still struggling to find an answer. I do think that our brains control our behavior to a large extent. Like others in the class, I would like to believe in the existence of a soul or self outside the brain, but I am not sure of its existence or how to go about finding some concrete evidence of its existence.
I think that there definitely is a lot of evidence for the brain controlling behavior- for example, the many ways in which brain injuries can affect someone's behavior. I thought that one of the really interesting ideas from Thursday's class was the "Game of Life," which showed how "remarkable things can emerge from interaction of simple elements." I read a book once called "An Anthropologist on Mars" where the author Oliver Sacks profiled several individuals with brain injuries and showed how a relatively simple thing (damage to brain cells) could lead to complex and unexpected outcomes. For example, there was one man who was a painter who was in a car accident and afterwards was completely color-blind: basically he could see only in black, white, and various shades of gray. Oliver Sacks wrote about how this man was initially devastated, but adapted to the damage to this vision and was eventually able to create art again, and was able to find beauty in the world without seeing color. This story showed not only how the brain influences behavior, but how a person's behavior can influence his ways of thinking and viewing the world. So, I think that the brain-behavior relationship is extremely complex, with the brain influencing behavior, and behavior and the environment in turn influencing the brain.
Name:  Rebecca Roth
Username:  rroth@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Relation between Brain and Behavior
Date:  2002-01-27 14:12:31
Message Id:  743
Comments:

Does the brain really equal behavior? I am not quite sure of the answer. It seems almost hard to believe that everything that one experiences and does in their lifetime is really a function of the brain. It also seems hard to fathom that the brain really contains everything. The brain is constantly changing. There will probably be constant debate over brain and behavior as the same thing. This relates back to the mind-body problem.

The brain is only one part of the nervous system. I took neuroscience two years ago and went through the textbook, Physiology of Behavior . It read that the distinction between brain function and behavior is an important one. Circuits within the brain perform functions, not behaviors. No one brain region or neural circuit is solely responsible for a behavior; each region performs a function (or set of functions) that contributes to performance of the behavior.

I think that it is important to understand and look at the different functions that are ultimately responsible for performing a particular behavior. What circuits of neurons in the brain are responsible for each of these functions that we perform?

We do know that there are a nature of functions that are performed by various parts of the brain and that damage there disrupts people's ability to perform different functions.

Human brains are similar but in a way are different in an individual depending on the circumstance or the time. Human brains are also similar to one another but different individuals act differently. Even identical twins do not have the same behavior.

Don't people who live in different environments act differently? But could we just say that the environment affects the brain instead of affecting behavior? If we make mistakes or commit crimes, can we just blame it on our brains? How does learning theory and behavior come into play, such as Pavolvian and operant conditiong?

Genes, knowledge, and experiences all affect the brain. If the brain is behavior I guess it deals with what influences behavior as well.


Name:  Hilary Hochman
Username:  hhochman@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Brain = Behavior?
Date:  2002-01-27 14:49:50
Message Id:  744
Comments:
Does the brain = behavior? My gut reaction is no, even independent from my religious beliefs. I experience free will and self-consciousness, and feel like more than the sum of my anatomy and neurochemistry. Of course, if the brain produces these sensations in response to external and internal stimuli, than these experiences would support the claim that the brain does equal behavior. The idea that even free will is a product of the brain is distastefully mechanistic, yet destroy the subthalamic nucleus, and a person will involuntarily make the motion of throwing a ball, over and over again, however strongly he or she wills him/herself not to do so. Examples like this support the proposition that much of what we perceive as choice is in fact mediated by the brain.

What doesn't "brain = behavior" equation explain?? Perhaps creativity. Contrast cricket song patterns, each one unique to a single species of cricket, and reproducible by a cricket who has never heard the song of his species. Human song [or dance, storytelling, art, etc.] may be shaped by culture, but the range of human creative expression appears to be unbounded, the specific works of creative expression unpredictable even to their creators. Likewise, intellectual play: I recently sat in a roomful of lawyers, all of whom had read the same cases, yet each of us came up with a different legal theory to support the result we were trying to reach. Was each analogy, each leap in logic, solely the product of the slightly different neural pathways in each brain? I ask the same question about personality [even the most trivial aspects, like food and music preferences]: most parents contend that a child's personality is evident from birth or soon thereafter: assuming this observation is accurate, how much of a person's temperament can be attributed to the brain?

What observations could help to support the idea that brain does not equal behavior?? I agree with the suggestion that studying twins or siblings, or observing behavior in other circumstances where the differences in brain, experience, and stimuli, are minimized, would be useful. Likewise, observing and comparing brain activity in response to stimuli to determine if differences in behavior can be correlated with differences in brian activity.


Name:  Tua
Username:  schaudhu@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Brain=behavior
Date:  2002-01-27 14:58:31
Message Id:  745
Comments:
With the information and experiences I have so far accumulated, I can’t convince myself that brain=behavior. I think we do experience the world through our nervous systems as far as our senses interpret chemical, electrical sensations, changes, and translate them into "hot" "cold" "light" "dark" etc. But I’m not so sure about emotions and beliefs. I think that there is something else there, at this point beyond my understanding, which has to account for differences in individual experience and the sense of self. Also if brain=behavior then how is it possible that our brains can be deceived? Optical illusions are the most commonly known of these deceptions. Our brains make mistakes, and not only have we realized this; we’ve learned to use it to our own advantage in many visual arts fields. So which part of the brain makes the mistake, and which part makes the corrections? Is this the distinction between the brain and the mind?
There’s something eerie about the idea that the brain controls every aspect of behavior. In this scenario, control of the brain can be used to manipulate the sense of self. It leaves too little free will. Biologically, we’re all composed of the same bits, just put together slightly differently. But is this slight difference enough to account for the vast differences in beliefs, emotions, and reactions? When you change an opinion about something, when you learn about something, is that just a change of chemicals, a new pathway of signals? Not only do people have different thoughts, but they are very set on these thoughts. Yes, we decided that it takes time to think. But it strikes me that there is so much more involved in how our brains create individual thoughts, beliefs, and emotions that we can’t quantify, sometimes because we don’t even know how it occurs. Are all our thoughts, emotions, tastes, etc determined purely by chemicals and genetics? Is there nothing that exists outside and beyond the human mind? This is either really amazing or rather sad. I have too many questions to decide which it is yet.
Name:  Natasha Gjivoje
Username:  toshyg@hotmail.com
Subject:  a reaction
Date:  2002-01-27 15:46:11
Message Id:  746
Comments:
Just like many students in this class, i have trouble accepting that our brain = behavior. It is hard to emagine that everyting we do and everything we percieve and see is in one way or another connected to our brain. I had spent a long time believing that there was something else other than just the brain that controlled our actions, feeling, reactions etc.--something greater. But the more i read about the brain and the more i explore its capabilities, the more i have started to believe that the brain might really be as "grand" as this "something greater" that i previously mentioned. For example, i was exploring the brain on the web, maninly the eye, and i discovered something that intrigued me: I discovered that our blind spot is actually in the middle of our eyes and the reason why we don't "not see" objects is because the blind spots in our eyes are in different places and they "cover" for eachother. However, if you close one eye and do some of the experiments available on the web, you will see some really cool results of what the eye can do. Some of those cool results include the "adding" or "erasing" of some images that are or are not there. These little experiments that i did really got me tinking--why does the brain do such things as add images that are not there or erase images that aren't there? In a sense, the brain seems to have a mind of its own. Anyway, i am still strugling with the brain= behavior concept, but i am starting to understand some things better. I really think that the eye stuff on the web is really cool and you should go and check it out.
Name:  Kathryn
Username:  kfong@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  brain=behavior?
Date:  2002-01-27 16:52:37
Message Id:  747
Comments:
In class, I agreed with the majority and said that brain=heavior. But the more I thought about it, the more I disagreed with that statement. By saying that brain=behavior is like saying heart=emotions. So many people say "do what your heart tells you to do". In reality, the heart is just made up of tissues and muscles that pumps blood throughout the body. It has no control over one's emotions. We seem to have romanticized and exagerated the function of the heart. Same with the brain. The brain and nervous system are made up of tissues, nerves, neurotransmitters, etc.. The basic function of the nervous system is to react to stimuli by relaying messages throughout the body. Behavior and emotions are such complex characteristics of humans and by saying that they are only controlled by large tissue masses and nerves seems difficult to believe. I do agree that the brain contributes to behavior and emotions, but I feel there must be more to it. I do not know exactly what it is, perhaps some "higher being" or "higer power". It just seems odd to credit out actions, interactions, reactions, etc.. to just the brain.
Name:  Tiffany Vaughan
Username:  taildogv@hotmail.com
Subject:  Is The Brain All There Is?
Date:  2002-01-27 17:10:50
Message Id:  748
Comments:
Is the Brain All There Is?
The Brain - is wider than the Sky -
For - put them side by side -
The one the other will contain
With ease - and You - beside-
Emily Dickinson contests that the brain is all there is. This stanza from one of her poems expresses that everything is inside the brain. However, if everything is inside the brain than why can’t we understand everything that makes up our world? If the earth is inside the brain then why is it that centuries ago people thought that the earth was flat? If the sea is absorbed by our brains, then why is that we may never know everything that is at the ocean floor of the Mariana Trench? I believe that it is arrogant to believe that any human being has the capacity to contain all the facets of life within the brain, which in comparison to our surroundings, is minuscule.
It is true that without the brain we could not function. There would be no way to express the wonders of our world. However, to say that we are nothing more than a nervous system is to deny the “self.” If I were to accept Emily Dickinson’s belief system then I would be denying my own spirituality. If I said that everything was in my brain then I would be saying that even God was in my brain. This being would have just been a manifestation of my mind. And while there may be some that do not believe in God I think that it a great injustice to deny oneself the chance to look outside the box. This is to say, that we are more than just machines programmed by our brains to perform certain tasks.
Name:  Alyson Dymkowski
Username:  adymkows@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Brain=Behavior?
Date:  2002-01-27 19:03:33
Message Id:  749
Comments:
The brain=behavior has become quite a debate and I am not really sure where I stand. One thing I do not understand is why people have such a hard time with the concept of complex things, like emotions, coming from simple things. This makes a lot of sense to me.....think about it... almost everything in life that seems complex is made up of simple things working together.

From a scientific perspective, it's hard to think that the mind or soul could be in any other place besides the brain. However, a religious upbringing can conflict with this statement, especially the idea of free will. I read some excepts from Owen Wilson's Consilience and I think he presents a very interesting take on the concept of free will. I do not know if I agree with him by saying that free will is just an illusion, but none the less it makes me think.

Personally I do not have a hard time mixing my religous beliefs with my scientific understanding. I believe that there are just some things that we are not capable of understanding and think that if there is something greater, he created our brains in such a way so that they could equal our behavior.


Name:  Shannon Lee
Username:  kitsumi12@hotmail.com
Subject:  brain = behavior
Date:  2002-01-27 19:26:56
Message Id:  750
Comments:
I am not sure that there is some component of the brain holding a unique soul of some sort that will always be in existence, but I hope so. I believe it is possible that individual brains and unique experiences can account for the unique people we become. I do think brain = behavior, because observations have shown that humans do not behave the same once certain parts of the brain have been altered. It is possible that the alteration does not make the person completely different, but that the uniqueness of the person cannot be relayed due to the physical problems.

I used to think I could not only be flesh and bone, especially after attending a Christian church for so many years. I did not have the knowledge of how complex the brain is. I think the brain is a miracle in itself, and that the greatness of it is often overlooked. There is so much still unknown and what is known is amazing to me.

I believe all behavior is processed and physically carried out by the brain based on what I have learned. I hope that after the complex organ itself is gone there is some sort of spirit that is left to show for all the growth and experiences of the brain.


Name:  Lauren
Username:  lauren_welsh@hotmail.com
Subject:  brain/behavior
Date:  2002-01-28 01:32:45
Message Id:  751
Comments:
The brain/behavior question is very controversial; there are many questions that I think will probably remain unanswered for quite some time. Memory, emotions, behaviors, nature vs. nurture, ect. However, it is known that certain parts of the brain control specific parts of the body and certain chemicals in the brain are responsible for emotions and feelings. The brain is very mysterious and powerful, as is humanity.

In answering the brain/behavior question, I think about perception. We are what we perceive. What we see, feel, smell, taste, and the knowledge that we deduce based on our perception is who we are. Of course, everyone is different and none of us begin life at the same starting point. We are shaped by the influences of our outside world. We react to the outside world, and these reactions are spurred from our perception.

The brain IS perception. I would, theoretically, like to believe that there is more to life than neurons and chemicals, but it would not make sense. Many people have stated that they believe there is more because of the complicated array of feelings and emotions that we feel as humans. They are incredible, yes, but not impossible to have been created by the amazing, incredible, mysterious (at this time), and complicated workings of the human brain.

Since we live in a physical world, I think in physical terms. If there is such a thing as a spiritual world, then I do not think that it has any influence on our physical world. There could theoretically be many other planes of life that we just are unable to perceive.


Name:  Michelle Tahmoush
Username:  mtahmoush@aol.com
Subject:  brain/behavior
Date:  2002-01-28 13:58:11
Message Id:  752
Comments:
The brain versus behavior pondery provides quite dilemma. If the brain is solely responsible for the emotions, knowlege, reactions, etc., then how can one believe in a soul or spirituality. There have been many instances of paranormal activity. Can these just be explained away or are there indeed such things as ghosts? Are ghosts lost souls trapped on earth or something else?

The point that I am trying to make is that there are a lot of things that we cannot understand at this point in history. Even though we like to believe that most of the worlds questions have been answered, there are fundamental perplexities that continue to astound us, especially when one thinks about the brain. Psychiatry and neurology are still very young fields of study.
I believe that, many years from now, we will be able to understand the functionings of the brain so as to understand that the brain is completely responsible for one's behavior. What I do know now is that the brain is much more than the sum of its parts. One cannot merely say that all of human existance depends on a melon-sized pile of gray matter. The brain is overwhelming in its functioning. It is the groups of neurons working together that produce memories and thought processes. Maybe it is the functions itself that produces the soul.


Name:  Kelli Deering
Username:  rdeering@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Brain equals behavior?
Date:  2002-01-28 14:01:31
Message Id:  753
Comments:
Brain equals behavior? Biology 202
2000 First Web Report
On Serendip

Brain Equals Behavior?

Kelli Deering

The idea that the brain is solely responsible for behavior and knowledge has clearly been met with controversy and doubt. Being one of the students that considers themselves a scientific thinker, as well as a religious person, I approach this topic with even more ambivalence.

I like the philosopher David Hume's notion of cause and effect. He points out that human reasoning is derived from custom. Repeated actions and observations develop an understanding of cause and effect. This is what ultimately allows for what is accepted as true. However, there is likewise ample room for doubt since much of the information stored in our minds does not come from immediate experience. For example, I consider it true that there are nine planets in our solar system, even though I have not seen all nine, nor have visited more than one. According to very good, scientific evidence I have never the less chosen to accept the nine-planet argument as compellingly true.

What does this have to do with neurobiology? From my encounters as an encephalized being, I have observed that, indeed, all of my present knowledge or understanding has come from conscious and deliberate experience. This experience involved my five senses. In fact, I cannot think of an instance where I did not employ my senses to learn something. Furthermore, the repeatability of my experiences provides a reasoning capability and judgment to help me to discern what is most likely true from what is most likely false, and thus associates ideas obtained from previous experiences. Essentially, exploration of the material world with our bodies' resources allows for understanding. This can also imply that there is a level of universality to human body systems, as well as the environments (physical) that we are immersed in.

Being aware of accessible knowledge and synthesizing it is what I feel leads to more complex thinkings; rationalizations or creative endeavors that sometimes are, in my opinion, mistaken for understanding from a non-material source. Maybe this is how the idea of a soul has become so independent and isolated from the physical aspect of people. Perhaps an eternal soul does exist, arising at conception and developing as the conscious mind throughout life. Whatever the case, I am not anxious about accepting the idea that brain equals behavior, either from a scientific or a religious standpoint. I am assured that the absolutes of science provide plenty of room for the mysteries of faith.

If understanding comes from perception, then there must be multiple relative truths. From my interpretation of the world, this is what I feel comfortable with right now. However, other peoples' impressions may have lead them in a completely different and equally acceptable paths that could sway me into another direction throughout the course. .


Name:  Cindy
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  
Date:  2002-01-28 14:04:49
Message Id:  754
Comments:
    I have a question. What does it really mean the universe is contained in the brain. If brain=behavior and brain=the universe, does that mean that behavior is the universe? I agree that behaviour does not occur without going through the process of the brain, However, the universe or (sky), exist independent of the brain. It is the universe that provides input for the brain to process and then in turn, the brain will produce behavior.

-Cindy


Name:  Mary Schlimme
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Brain = Behavior?
Date:  2002-01-28 15:37:25
Message Id:  755
Comments:
After last week’s class I felt unsure about whether one can say that the brain = behavior, and as I continue to contemplate the issue I become even more unsure of the answer to this proposition. On one hand, I attended Catholic school for 12 years of my life and find it hard to dismiss the notion that there is something, whether it be a soul, conscience, etc., that exists that has an effect on our behaviors. On the other hand, data conflicting with certain religious notions have been presented throughout history and I feel that it is important to keep an open mind about this subject. In addition, I agree with some of the other students who have posted that the brain controls our behavior (at least in part) and if one removed the brain then there would be probably no behavior. Furthermore, if there is a conscience I think that it would most likely exist inside the brain, so then doesn’t the brain = behavior proposition still hold? As a scientist I know that the only way to become less wrong is to develop hypotheses and experiments, but I wonder how can one test that the brain is behavior if we do not have a concrete idea of what this other entity (i.e. the soul, etc.) is and where it is located? My current “answer” to this question is to say that the brain does not equal behavior, but it certainly plays an important (and huge) part in determining behavior. However, I think that the conscience also intervenes. And if both have an effect on behavior, then we would have to tease apart what influences what in order to cause us to behave in certain ways. Perhaps we could begin by trying to determine the physical location of the conscience, if that is even possible. Many religions believe that the conscience/soul is not tangible, so I am not quite sure how one would go about exploring it in that case. Either way, the brain = behavior proposition is certainly an interesting one and I am anxious to explore it further.
Name:  sook chan
Username:  schan@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Okay, so brain=behavior, so what about fate?
Date:  2002-01-28 16:31:19
Message Id:  756
Comments:
Scientists would like to believe that brain is behavior and nothing else comes into play. Every action, response, approach to every situation encountered in one’s life is traced back to the workings of the brain. My behavior is influenced by past experiences, emotions, responses, and values imbedded within my brain, affecting the way I perceive the world around me. The way I approach and interact with my environment in the present, affects my actions, responses and approaches to future situations. Hence, my behavior is dictated by my brain, yet, do I have any control on what dictates my behavior? What causes one individual to experience a certain trauma that scars and dictates the rest of his life and his approaches on situations, and another individual to never have a bad thing fall upon her? Yes, free will exists, one can choose to look at a situation from differing angles, yet, do we have free will over what events befalls upon us? If I decide to drive to the store today, can I choose to not be hit by a drunk driver and be terrified of driving for the rest of my life? Behavior is modified and molded by the environment, our brains store our perceptions of the environment, influencing our future behavior, but the environment which influences our behavior is far beyond our control. So maybe, the sky is not really within our brain, it’s just up to us if we want to believe it is blue or pink.
Name:  priya pujara
Username:  psp22@hotmail.com
Subject:  Brain = Behavior
Date:  2002-01-28 18:17:21
Message Id:  757
Comments:
From reading over the comments that others have posted it seems that most people agree on some level with the assertion that brain = behavior. The problem seems to be with the extension of the statement to say that the brain is all there is. What is discomforting about both of these assertions is that they appear to simplify the complexity of human existence. It makes us uncomfortable to be faced with the possibility that our emotions are perhaps dictated by molecular interactions. It makes us uncomfortable to be faced with the prospect that perhaps we are actors in a play being directed by the brain with no apparent freewill. As for myself, I tend to agree with the statement that brain = behavior, but I feel that the extension of the statement fails to account for the environment outside of our perception of the environment. In addition, sometimes we (or our brain) choose(s) what environment we want to experience and sometimes we have no choice in our environment. Call it fate.

A second point I would like to make is that the simplicity of saying that my emotions are a product of molecular interactions does not offend me. For one thing, molecular interactions happen to be very complex. In addition, when one considers that all that exists in the universe is a product of the combination of about 90 elements, why should I feel that I am somehow beyond what seems to be a law of nature---that complex things can be built from simple starting materials.

Another point I would like to raise is the question of how genetics fall into the brain = behavior equation. Doesn't genetics play a part in neural development?


Name:  Balpreet Bhogal
Username:  bbhogal@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Brain = Behavior
Date:  2002-01-28 19:00:50
Message Id:  758
Comments:
I have had mixed feelings concerning the question at hand. All scientific research and evidence shows that the brain is responsible for behavior. However, there isn't any evidence for the existence of a soul. But does that necessarily mean that the brain is all there is?
Personally in my religion, as well as many other religions, it is believed that when someone dies, their soul lives on. But if the brain was responsible for our every behavior, how could the soul live on when the brain dies? Even though there is no scientific evidence of the soul living on when a person dies, religious beliefs contradict the brain = behavior theory.
I was brought up believing that the soul lives on after you die, so, because of this belief, I have a hard time accepting that the brain is all there is. This is why I think that there is something else other than the brain that is responsible for some of our behavior. I am not saying that
the brain doesn't control our behavior at all, but that, in some parts of our behavior (conscious, emotions, etc.), there is something other than the brain that is existing.
Name:  Tara M. Rajan
Username:  trajan@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Brain = Behavior?
Date:  2002-01-28 19:29:27
Message Id:  759
Comments:
The question of whether the brain controls all of our behavior is one that has interested me for a while. I was brought up in a scientific family without any religious influence. Therefore I have always felt that any one person’s actions must result from some kind of scientific and or biological reactions. However, I have never found any exact scientific or biological explanation for the arise of individualistic qualities, such as instinct, morals, or a conscience. While some may insist that these things are too complex to be governed simply by chemical reactions, I disagree. There are many reactions that science has already pinpointed for certain feelings and emotions. For example, neurotransmitters can explain why people feel happy, depressed, jittery, or relaxed. If chemical can govern our feelings than it also seems possible that they would contribute to each person’s sense of self (complete with a conscience, personal instincts, and a soul). One other question that arises is, why do two people react to the same thing in different ways? If two individuals are caught in the same situation, but behave differently, what accounts for the difference in behavior? I think that behavior is influenced by personal experiences from the past, which are stored in the memory part of the brain, as well as inherent biological differences in each brain. Everyone’s brain is slightly different, which could explain why people act differently even as young children (since young children have less past experience). If this is true, then the brain does account for most, if not all, of behavior.
Name:  Joan
Username:  jsteiner@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  And emotion?
Date:  2002-01-28 20:25:20
Message Id:  760
Comments:
While on the course of “Brain = Behavior”, I beieve that it is the brain and the nervous system that provides the power and punch to which we as human being are able to “behave” (act, react, move, make noise, whatever). However I cannot say that Brain = Behavior and that is the be-all-end-all. However I would briefly like to tap into the aspect of emotion. I doubt many will disagree with me when I say that motion and “behavior”, as we innately know the definition, have a strong correlation.

But a question I would like to pitch is that if the brain, or nervous system is all there is, how do emotions come into play? Does the mind/body/brain create the emotions that are then released from the brain, and transmitted throughout our nerves, sending messages to our bodies to act or react a certain way, or are emotions external forces that penetrate into our brains and the story goes from there?

The way I am interpreting this question is thaat there are no external forces that influence us in any way, shape, or form. That it is all within the mechanisms of the brain. If that is the case then I will have to disagree. As many in this forum are saying, past experiences can be a major influence on how each individual handles a certain given situation.

I find that emotion is one of the more complex issues when dealing with Neurobiology and behavior. Perhaps this field of study makes a great attempt at explaining the vast complexities of the human mind. But who knows if we will ever truly understand ourselves.


Name:  Serendip Student
Subject:  Behavior
Date:  2002-01-28 20:33:32
Message Id:  761
Comments:
While reading Aristotle this week, I found myself going back to Emily Dickenson's poem. While Aristotle's ethical writings had no bearing on the poem's theme, I began to see a connection. In the poem, Dickenson furthers the notion that the brain is a complex, wide expanse with extreme depths and capacities. Insert the class discussion on brain=behavior. This, in addition to Aristotle’s ethical writings on the good life, the soul, happiness and virtue led me to a clearer understanding of what we were talking about in class.

Where am I going with this? Well, often ethical writings expound on what’s right and how to be a good person and what I realized through Aristotle is that while these arguments are complex, they are in essence a sort of “how-to” for becoming a good person, hence having a good life. What they are telling us is how to behave. Perhaps in focusing on the complexities of the brain, which I don’t even begin to refute, we have overlooked behavior.

Behavior defines and frames our lives. Ultimately, our behavior is the only remnants of our presence on earth – our impact. It is very difficult to categorize such a critically important aspect of our lives under “brain”. Is it accurate to say that like behavior, the brain defines and frames our lives? I don’t know. In my opinion, behavior contains too many intricate features to even place them all under the umbrella of “behavior”.

My hesitation to relinquish behavior to the brain speaks to how vast of a subject matter behavior really is. Something with which I define myself as an individual can not be so systematic, so rigid and should I dare say it – so scientific as to be all attributed to the brain.

Perhaps my logic isn’t quite scientific, but I would like to think that if brain=behavior, we would have all made far fewer mistakes in our lives.


Name:  Alisa
Username:  alisacalexander@hotmail.com
Subject:  brain and behavior
Date:  2002-01-28 21:14:20
Message Id:  762
Comments:
The brain/behavior discussion was very interesting. So many good arguments were said that i find myself unable to make a conclusion as to which argument is more accurate or correct. I agreed with the student that stated that the our experiences are stored in the brain and those experiences form the soul. We act based on that which would make the argument that the brain controls everything. But as someone who has a "religious history", i believe in the soul, my previous statement wouldnt be true. Its difficult to say which comes first and what has the ultimate control over everything. i would like to believe that we all have a soul independant of the brain and body and that this soul lives on. yet there is part of me that believes that what we experience in our lives that are stored in teh brain form the soul. I guess im undecided and still confused.
Name:  melissa hoban
Username:  mhoban@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2002-01-28 22:23:37
Message Id:  763
Comments:
In class on Thursday I was quite sure that brain has a complete effect on ones's behavior. I felt that everything that one experiences is stored in their brain and, as someone once said for every action there is a reaction. So therefore, everything that happens to a person will effect how they act in any given situation or how they feel. However, I was reading Berry's "Life is a Miracle." and from this I was left with a feeling that if I were to fully believe that everything comes from the brain I would be raping all other possibilities of their respect. I feel that in order for me to fully believe this idea I would have to be an atheist or completely close minded to all other possibilities. Don't get the wrong idea. I do think that the brain and all of the stimulants in life have a huge impact on our behavior but, I cannot say that that is all that I believe. I believe in many things that contradict themselves and, if to believe in religion as well as brain=behavior is a contradiction, than so be it.
Name:  melissa hoban
Username:  mhoban@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2002-01-28 22:23:37
Message Id:  764
Comments:
In class on Thursday I was quite sure that brain has a complete effect on ones's behavior. I felt that everything that one experiences is stored in their brain and, as someone once said for every action there is a reaction. So therefore, everything that happens to a person will effect how they act in any given situation or how they feel. However, I was reading Berry's "Life is a Miracle." and from this I was left with a feeling that if I were to fully believe that everything comes from the brain I would be raping all other possibilities of their respect. I feel that in order for me to fully believe this idea I would have to be an atheist or completely close minded to all other possibilities. Don't get the wrong idea. I do think that the brain and all of the stimulants in life have a huge impact on our behavior but, I cannot say that that is all that I believe. I believe in many things that contradict themselves and, if to believe in religion as well as brain=behavior is a contradiction, than so be it.
Name:  Gabrielle Lapping-Carr
Username:  glapping@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Genetics
Date:  2002-01-28 23:35:05
Message Id:  765
Comments:
When we first started the class I was positive I agreed that brain=behavior. Then, I started listening to the people who don't agree with that statement. The idea that there is something besides the brain appeals greatly to me. I just can't shake the feeling that that "something" that affects behavior is still biological or physiological, whether it is a part of our brain or a part of our genetics or something else we still don't know about. I think that genetics plays a huge part in people's behavior. Studies have found that there are structural differences in the brain as a result of male vs. female genetics. I think that genetics plays a very great part in our behavior. There isn't that much influence on children before they are born, yet they have different behaviors from the first moment. Think about cases in which there are two siblings, close in age, raised under the same conditions yet one is a lot smarter, happier, or easy-going than the other. But, in the end, these are just alterations on the brain, which then controls behavior. So, I still believe that brain=behavior.
Name:  Gavin Imperato
Username:  gimperat@haverford.edu
Subject:  Brain = Behavior
Date:  2002-01-29 00:36:34
Message Id:  766
Comments:
The debate over the brain = behavior argument seems to me to be a result of a disagreement over whether we should locate environmental forces as residing in the brain or outside it. One might argue that clearly there is a world outside the brain and that the process of perceiving this outside world occurs within the brain. Conversely, one might choose to say that things physically outside the brain do not exist without the brain. Whichever perspective one chooses, the fact remains that the processes of the nervous system cannot be set into motion without interaction with the environment.

The higher functions of the brain such as cognition and belief are clearly influenced by the environment. Therefore, there is more to behavior than just the brain. However, if one regards the environment as something that is a construct that only exists in the brain, then brain does equal behavior, and there truly isn’t anything else. It seems to me that the crux of this debate lies in the way in which people understand the external environment.

I am hesitant to embrace the idea that brain = behavior, because it seems to imply that this system is much simpler than it actually is. If one really wants to split hairs, YES, all human thought, emotion, and belief is, at its most fundamental level, a result of a range neurophysiological interactions. However, we do not fully understand these processes. Human behavior is unpredictable, and is clearly influenced by outside forces (which in turn may result in biological changes). Neurological processes which govern cognition and free will cannot be activated or altered without interaction with the outside environment. I am thus uncomfortable with the notion that brain = behavior on the grounds that it muddies the notions of free will, personality, and spirituality by implying that interaction with the outside world is irrelevant to neurophysiological processes.


Name:  Yasmin
Username:  ymashhoo@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Brain=Behavior
Date:  2002-01-29 00:55:37
Message Id:  767
Comments:
To echo the thoughts of my peers, I also hesitate at taking a definitive stance on brain equalling behavior, simply because its not something I have spent a great deal of time reflecting over, nor have I examined all the angles. I do have several opinions, however. The idea that the universe is contained entirely within our craniums is not an altogether ridiculous one. We would be unable to appreciate nature, literature, poetry, art, food, or love without the ability to process our emotions and perceptions. There is a theory that we use about ten percent of our brains. Perhaps if we were indeed able to tap into the other ninety percent, we would be closer to understanding more existentially, philosophically, and emotionally. We are limited by what we perceive to be genuine understanding by our capacities to think. Someone mentioned that a "sense of self" must come from something beyond the brain, some other essence. That may be true, but the essence seems to me to only develop through thought and personal reflection. That sense of self is developed through experience and maturity-- but the brain is what allows us to think about our lives and our experiences. Its worth some though, thats all.
Name:  Sarah
Username:  sfeidt@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Computer analogy
Date:  2002-01-29 01:00:39
Message Id:  768
Comments:
If you were nothing more than a series of molecular reactions, why would a sunset affect you? Why would something as separate from you as an entirely different person have an impact on you? Why would you be affected by something as vague and insubstantial as the concept of goodness? How could love be based on something other than physical attraction? How could an addict quit through "will power" if he is nothing more than his body's systems?

I mentioned my take on this issue in class on Thursday, albeit briefly. I'll expound here:
To say that brain=behavior is to say that a human's entire personality and behavioral patterns, "mind", everything that is thought to constitute a person -- all of this is contained solely in the histology and chemistry of the human nervous system. Period. If a memory makes you smile, it's biochemical. If music or poetry is ever so beautiful and dead-on that it makes you cry, it's biochemical. If you pray, when you pray and you find that moment of peace and communion and centering, it's simply because you have induced a chemical reaction in your nervous system. Everything you do, say, think, experience, believe, realize, feel, it's all a series of complex reactions and mechanisms. You are a very well-designed machine.

Computers are the most complex machines we have now. You can have a computer with an amazing conglomeration of parts. The hard drive can be unfathomably huge, the hardware can be top-of-the-line, the circuitry can be phenomenal, and the way each of these parts work together may be an awe-inspiring thing. Who would argue that the parts of a computer aren't amazing and complex?
Well, have you ever tried to run a computer with no software? The parts work to an extent, and it's still complex and awesome, but you can't do much of anything with a machine that has no programs. Yes, everything that happens in a functional computer happens via the circuitry and hardware of the system. But it happens because of the commands and manipulation of a program. No software, no complete computer.
I offer the analogous conclusion that while everything that you experience in your body is the result of complex biochemistry, such circuitry is manipulated by what some call a soul. The body is amazing, yes. The nervous system is amazing, yes. But in order to manipulate this "hardware" in the way humans do on a daily basis, you need to run the right "software". The parts work by themselves, but they are controllable (to whatever extent control is possible) throught the soul. No soul, no complete human.


Name:  Sarah Eberhardt
Username:  idy3176@yahoo.com
Subject:  Brain vs Behavior
Date:  2002-01-29 01:37:10
Message Id:  769
Comments:
While many disagree that “Brain=Behavior,” it is hard to devise a different hypothesis for human consciousness that explains all the facets of human personality. The idea of a soul is a commonly-held assumption among many religions, yet there is no physical evidence of any such thing. What we do have evidence of is a complex biological mechanism that observes the environment and synthesizes these observations into information which can be acted upon in various behaviors.
However, true consciousness extends further than this simple data and analysis model. What typically prevent us from thinking of the brain as the sole bearer of our conscious selves are our particular personalities. While most are willing to accept the smell of bread, the sound of speech, or the feeling of cold as sensations perceived by a sort of organic circuitry, it becomes more difficult to make these distinctions when we get into the fuzzier regions dealing with thought and emotion. For years we have had two separate sciences dealing with the two so-called “different” functions of sensation and thought, biology and psychology; in other words, Brain and Behavior. Susanna Kaysen puts this very aptly in her memoir Girl, Interrupted, speaking of the problems inherent in treating a mental disorder which, conventional wisdom dictated, must be categorized as either physical or emotional. “For nearly a century the psychoanalysts have been writing op-ed pieces about the workings of a country they’ve never traveled to, a place that, like China, has been off-limits. Suddenly, the country has opened its borders and is crawling with foreign correspondents; neurobiologists are filing ten stories a week, filled with new data. These two groups of writers, however, don’t seem to read each other’s work. That’s because the analysts are writing about a country they call Mind and the neuroscientists are reporting from a country they call Brain.” This, the central problem to understanding the working of the brain, and indeed all the aspects of human consciousness, is a miscommunication that this class works to rectify.
I would agree with the declaration that “Brain=Behavior.” However, this does not mean I believe that humans are coldly mechanistic beings, impelled only by reflex and instinct. While the traditional idea of a soul may be false, it is also true that within the complexities of the brain, a consciousness is born that will perform the function of a soul. At the risk of appearing a bit over-zealous I will quote our own illustrious professor in a letter to the editor of the New York Times (accessible on http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/gen_beh/Lett-NYT-12-94.html): “Biology cannot subtract from what it is to be human.” Experience, memory, genetics, and individual perception all combine to produce a human personality, different from any other on the face of the earth. This simple fact is every bit as wondrous as the religious concept of a soul.
Name:  Ricky
Username:  rtripp@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Brain = Behavior
Date:  2002-01-29 02:21:06
Message Id:  770
Comments:
Like some, I was one of the people who rose her hand with uncertainty to the question if brain equals behavior and nothing else. Based on religous reasons and spirituality, I was taught to believe that there was something greater than the self--a soul-- that would prosper on after the brain and body are dead. However, I know there is no physical evidence for this belief, unless you count the experiences of those who have claimed they died and came back to the living. I personally believe that religion stemmed from the need for people to have faith in something to relieve their fears, such as the fear of what happens after death. Accordingly, the spiritual side of me believes that this seemingly innate rejection to the idea brain= behvior is just since there is something else other than the brain and its cells. Everyone consists of cells, however, we all share various characteristics. If everything just depended on cells, would we still have these drastic differences among each other? For instance, identical twins, who come from the same egg and developed in the same manner, have distinct differences between their personalities.
On the other hand, the more questionable and scientific side of me, agrees that the brain may be the control of everything. I believe that Emily Dickinson may be correct with saying that "the brain is wider than the sky." We use such a small percentage of our brains that it is hard to deny that the brain encompasses all. We may believe that there is a thing called a soul. But where does that belief stem from? It stems from what we have been taught by our parents, friends, or in Sunday school. Our beliefs seem to be bits of information we have gathered around and have now accepted as part of us. How do you explain the different religions and what they believe as true? Each religion must teach from a book (source of information)in order for the followers to learn and then accept. Additionally, you hear of amazing life stories of people who have cured themselves by using their brains like in holistic medicine. How do we explain the miracle of healing by the brain? We can't basically because the powers of the brain are unknown and, I believe, underestimated.
In conclusion, I believe that we just have such little knowledge of everything in the brain to claim that it may or may not equal behavior. From observing behavioral experiments, we may see that behavior is definitely linked to the brain, but there is no definite evidence that the brain equals behavior.
Name:  Jennifer
Username:  jmillman@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Brain = Behavior
Date:  2002-01-29 09:10:38
Message Id:  771
Comments:
I would assert that the brain does equal behavior. Without a brain we would cease being ourselves. When the brain dies so do our thoughts and feelings. The idea that the soul lives on after our bodies die is a religious idea, and while I would like to believe it I'm not sure that I do. I don't really want to believe that the brain = our behavior and therefore our personalities, because that seems to simplify the human psyche and all of our personal interactions. This bothers me because everyone's brain is made up of the same base material. First there are the cells, but simplify it further and there are just atoms. It is strange to think that emotions can be derived from the same elements that we studied in chemistry. These elements on their own are devoid of life, yet when combined in a specific way as in our brains they are capable of allowing us not only simple body functions that allow us to subsist but the ability to form complex thoughts and carry them out.
People all have different patterns of behavior. The brain is a complex enough organ that everyone has different sets of behavior. The brain directs how we interpret experience which then forms our opinions and thoughts.
I agree with Emily Dickinson's idea that the brain encompasses the universe, because for a human to experience the world the brain must first interpret and process it. The chemistry of our brains may change how we experience things. For example, there are color blind people who see colors in different ways. They wouldn't necessarily know that they were seeing things differently than everyone else if no one made them aware of this. The way in which we see the world is determined by our brains.
Name:  miranda
Username:  mcwhite@haverford.edu
Subject:  The Brain as Behavior
Date:  2002-01-29 09:11:58
Message Id:  772
Comments:
Unlike many people, I am not made unvomfortable by the idea that the brain is behavior. All behavior can and has been proven through evolutionary, neurobiological, chemical, etc. explanations. I understand that there is certainly something unsettling about the idea that all we are is the shooting of neurotransmitter signals throughout our body. We want there to be something else, something grander - but I don't think there is anything else there. Perhaps if we removed the arguments from humans, we could better understand the issue. I think people would be made much less uncomfotable by the idea that in animals brain=behavior. Most people don't believe that animals' souls live on after their death or that their beahvior is the result of anything other than their brian. Why should humans have some biological or spiritual exception? Are we really so different from other animals?

It has been proven that the brain is basically where all of the individuality, identity, and bahvior stem from. We know that in people with brain damage they or drastically different form their former selves. Similarly, amuptees do not change significantly as their brain is left untouched. Thus it seems logical to me that we are in many ways our brains and that brain=behavior.


Name:  Kathryn
Username:  krorer@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Brain=Behavior
Date:  2002-01-29 09:55:25
Message Id:  773
Comments:
I must admit that although I raised my hand in class and agreed that with Profesor Grobstein that I was comfortable saying brain=behavior, I am not really that comfortable with the idea. There does seem to be a fair amount of evidence that supports this theory, and in this respect, I am comfortable saying that the brain and behavior may be the same thing. However, from an emotional perspective I find this theory somewhat disturbing. Like many other students in the class, I was raised to believe that there was something beyond the brain, a soul. The idea that one has a soul and that this soul will continue living after death is very comforting. Perhaps the reason why people say that there is a soul, even though there isn't any scientific evidence to support this, is because they want to feel comforted about questions they cannot answer. Even though I like feeling comforted by the idea of a something beyond the brain, it is difficult for me to ignore the evidence that supports the idea that brain=behavior. One thing that I think strongly supports this idea is that brain damage can cause changes in personality and perception, as in the case of Phineas Gage and some of Oliver Saks' patients. Another piece of evidence is the effectiveness of psychiatric drugs in treating disorders because it shows how much chemicals can effect our emotions and perceptions. I think that the capabilities of the brain have been underestimated for a long time, and we are just now learning about how amazing the brain really is. While the idea that the brain is all we are is not very comforting to me, I think it is very plausible.
Name:  Paul Grobstein
Username:  pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Beginning the conversation
Date:  2002-01-29 10:02:18
Message Id:  774
Comments:
Rich thoughts from the forum this week ...

What about the "soul"? About life after death?

I was brought up with believing in the catholic faith,
which teaches one to believe in your soul going to heaven after you die. By leaving out the notion of a soul, it's like leaving out beliefs of religion.
Nicole Pietras

Personally in my religion, as well as many other religions, it is believed that when someone dies,
their soul lives on. But if the brain was responsible for our every behavior, how could the soul live
on when the brain dies?
Balpreet Bhogal

i would like to believe that we all have a soul independant of the brain and body and that this soul lives on. yet there is part of me that believes that what we experience in our lives
that are stored in teh brain form the soul. I guess im undecided and still confused.
Alisa Alexander

I offer the analogous conclusion that while everything that you experience in your body is the
result of complex biochemistry, such circuitry is manipulated by what some call a soul. The body
is amazing, yes. The nervous system is amazing, yes. But in order to manipulate this "hardware" in
the way humans do on a daily basis, you need to run the right "software". The parts work by
themselves, but they are controllable (to whatever extent control is possible) throught the soul. No
soul, no complete human.
Sarah Feidt

I believe all behavior is processed and physically carried out by the brain based on what I have
learned. I hope that after the complex organ itself is gone there is some sort of spirit that is left to
show for all the growth and experiences of the brain.
Shannon Lee

What about individual differences? creativity?

Each on of us has felt at least one indescribable emotion that I believe cannot be accounted for by a few chemical reactions in the brain. So this leads me to believe that there has to be something else besides the brain that allows for such emotion ... What about identical twins? They come from the same cell and so they have the same brain but they aren’t identical
in behavior but that can be due to their different experiences or maybe not.
Asra Husain

Human brains are similar but in a way are different in an individual depending on the circumstance or the time. Human brains are also similar to one
another but different individuals act differently. Even identical twins do not have the same behavior.
Rebecca Roth

... specific works of creative expression unpredictable even to their creators ...
Hilary Hochman

If chemical can govern our feelings than it also seems possible that they would contribute to each
person’s sense of self (complete with a conscience, personal instincts, and a soul).
Joan Steiner

What about "mind"?

Our brains make mistakes, and not only have we realized this; we’ve learned to use it to our own
advantage in many visual arts fields. So which part of the brain makes the mistake, and which part makes the corrections? Is this the distinction between
the brain and the mind?
Tua Chaudhuri

In a sense, the brain seems to have a mind of its
own.
Natasha Gjivoje

What about the world out there, "reality"?

However, if everything is inside the brain than why
can’t we understand everything that makes up our world? If the earth is inside the brain then why
is it that centuries ago people thought that the earth was flat? If the sea is absorbed by our brains,
then why is that we may never know everything that is at the ocean floor of the Mariana Trench? ...
we are more than just machines programmed by our brains to
perform certain tasks.
Tiffany Vaughn

I agree that
behaviour does not occur without going through the process of the brain. However, the universe or
(sky), exists independent of the brain.
Cindy

The way I am interpreting this question is thaat there are no external forces that influence us in any
way, shape, or form. That it is all within the mechanisms of the brain. If that is the case then I will
have to disagree. As many in this forum are saying, past experiences can be a major influence on
how each individual handles a certain given situation.
Serendip Student

Conscience, free will?

... the conscience also intervenes. And if both have an effect on
behavior, then we would have to tease apart what influences what in order to cause us to behave in
certain ways.
Mary Schlimme

Behavior is modified and molded by the environment, our brains store our
perceptions of the environment, influencing our future behavior, but the environment which
influences our behavior is far beyond our control. So maybe, the sky is not really within our brain,
it’s just up to us if we want to believe it is blue or pink.
Sook Chan

Someone mentioned that a "sense of self" must come
from something beyond the brain, some other essence. That may be true, but the essence seems to
me to only develop through thought and personal reflection. That sense of self is developed
through experience and maturity-- but the brain is what allows us to think about our lives and our
experiences.
Yasmin Mashoon

Complexity, and beyond ...

I recall reading to my children (who are now both grown) and discussing the tiny universe (inside the flower) where entire cities and populations existed, hustling and bustling, unbeknownst to the people up on top where Horton the Elephant lived ... I think about the universe in the same way; that everything is made up of particles and cells and chemicals ...
I wonder if the mind and the brain are the same thing
Beverly Weiss

The point that I am trying to make is that there are a lot of things that we cannot understand at this
point in history. Even though we like to believe that most of the worlds questions have been
answered, there are fundamental perplexities that continue to astound us, especially when one
thinks about the brain.
Michelle Tahmoush

If understanding comes from perception, then there must be multiple relative truths. From my
interpretation of the world, this is what I feel comfortable with right now. However, other peoples'
impressions may have lead them in a completely different and equally acceptable paths that could
sway me into another direction throughout the course.
Kelli Deering

It makes us uncomfortable to be faced with the prospect that perhaps we are actors in a play being
directed by the brain with no apparent freewill. As for myself, I tend to agree with the statement
that brain = behavior, but I feel that the extension of the statement fails to account for the
environment outside of our perception of the environment. In addition, sometimes we (or our
brain) choose(s) what environment we want to experience and sometimes we have no choice in our
environment. Call it fate.
Priya Pujara

I feel that in order for me to fully believe this idea I
would have to be an atheist or completely close minded to all other possibilities. Don't get the
wrong idea. I do think that the brain and all of the stimulants in life have a huge impact on our
behavior but, I cannot say that that is all that I believe. I believe in many things that contradict
themselves and, if to believe in religion as well as brain=behavior is a contradiction, than so be it.
Melissa Hoban

I am hesitant to embrace the idea that brain = behavior, because it seems to imply that this system
is much simpler than it actually is. If one really wants to split hairs, YES, all human thought,
emotion, and belief is, at its most fundamental level, a result of a range neurophysiological
interactions. However, we do not fully understand these processes. Human behavior is
unpredictable, and is clearly influenced by outside forces (which in turn may result in biological
changes). Neurological processes which govern cognition and free will cannot be activated or
altered without interaction with the outside environment. I am thus uncomfortable with the notion
that brain = behavior on the grounds that it muddies the notions of free will, personality, and
spirituality by implying that interaction with the outside world is irrelevant to neurophysiological
processes.
Gavin Imperato

For years we have had two separate sciences dealing with the two so-called “different”
functions of sensation and thought, biology and psychology; in other words, Brain and Behavior.
Susanna Kaysen puts this very aptly in her memoir Girl, Interrupted, speaking of the problems
inherent in treating a mental disorder which, conventional wisdom dictated, must be categorized as
either physical or emotional. “For nearly a century the psychoanalysts have been writing op-ed
pieces about the workings of a country they’ve never traveled to, a place that, like China, has been
off-limits. Suddenly, the country has opened its borders and is crawling with foreign
correspondents; neurobiologists are filing ten stories a week, filled with new data. These two
groups of writers, however, don’t seem to read each other’s work. That’s because the analysts are
writing about a country they call Mind and the neuroscientists are reporting from a country they
call Brain.” This, the central problem to understanding the working of the brain, and indeed all the
aspects of human consciousness, is a miscommunication that this class works to rectify ... "Biology cannot subtract from what it is to be human"
Sarah Eberhardt

Perhaps if we removed the
arguments from humans, we could better understand the issue.
Miranda White


Name:  Miriam Shiferaw
Username:  mshifera@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2002-01-30 19:48:32
Message Id:  780
Comments:
I don’t believe that by agreeing with the equation brain= behavior that means we can’t believe in other things such as a soul, mind, etc. This scares most people because it makes us feel as though there is nothing about us that is controlled by ourselves or our different personalities. Each of us is unique because we were born with unique traits, genes that our parents passed onto us that no one else has. That right there makes us all individuals, and should appease some who think that the statement brain=behavior strips us of anything we call our “own” or different. Based on things I have learned in different classes and on my own, I am beginning to believe more and more that brain does in fact = behavior. I don’t know how many people have heard of the story of Phineas Gage, but he was a friendly, sweet, trustworthy man that people he worked with loved. Gage ended up having an accident that caused a pole to go straight through his frontal lobe, and his personality completely changed afterwards. After he was mean, bad-mouthed and unreliable. If brain did not = behavior then why did his personality change? Many could say that he was suffering from the accident, and that I’m sure if you had a pole go straight through your head you wouldn’t be too happy either. I guess there’s no real way to test that besides taking cheerful people and sticking a pole through their heads to see if they become mean, but it does make somewhat of a point.
Although our experiences do affect the way we behave, the truth is that everytime we learn something new we are forming new synapses, or connections in our brain that change us and probably the way we would behave in different situations. I am a religious person as well and I don’t think that by believing that brain=behavior that belittles the idea that there is a soul or spiritual world because we all have things we believe in that we can’t explain because we’ve never seen them before. In the same way that things I’ve learned in the past help me believe that there is a huge part, if not the whole part, of the brain that controls our behavior. Maybe things I will learn in the future will help me solidify my belief that there is a soul and spiritual world out there that we can’t touch or see. Just because we can’t see something, doesn’t mean something we believe in is not there, it just means we have to search further and harder to find proof that it exists.
Name: Tania Romero
Username: buggleboy33@yahoo.com
Subject: Brain and Behavior
Date: Sun Jan 27 17:30:17 EST 2002
Comments:
Talking about the effects of the brain on animals is as complex as talking about religion. There is no right or wrong answer because we do not obtain God’s manuscript to answer our uncertainties. Yes, yes…I know, one could argue that the bible holds the key to God’s purpose. But then again, how do we know that some of the statements in the bible aren’t lies? (I apologize if I have offended anyone). The truth is that in talking about these subjects, we have to include the issue of belief. We believe that everything the bible says is true and it is our faith that keeps us believing we should live our lives a certain way. This is also true when it comes to the brain. We believe or accept what we see around us because we don’t have another example of what reality is. Some of us belief that everything we see and do is in the brain. In our discussion, we played with the idea that our behavior is our brain. But just as there are uncertainties about the bible, we cannot be sure that this is true. How do we know that our behavior is not a stem of our brain, or just another aspect of brain function? But then there is the issue that there are many types of behavior. There is instinctual behavior, which some might argue, does not require a thinking process at all. It is made up of chemical reactions that are responsible for the way you react to something in your environment. So where do our instincts come from if they don’t require thinking? Something else discussed in class was the fact that your environment also has to do with the way that your brain develops. Mentioned in class but not identified as something else that affects that development is time. Not only does the environment that one is subjected to account for some of the developmental changes of one’s brain, but also the times in which one lives as well. Our brain is not infinite like the sky, as Emily Dickinson mentioned in her poem. The brain is limited to the ideas of the time it lives in. Time creates boundaries for the development of the brain. Do we purposely imagine these boundaries? Where does imagination fit into this whole issue? What is imagination? If we do train our mind to create boundaries, then can we also train it not to?
Name: cb
Username: cbarnes@brynmawr.edu
Subject:
Date: Mon Jan 28 13:59:21 EST 2002
Comments:
Have you ever had someone tell you to "go with your instincts", or "listen to your stomach"? Whether we call them visions, dreams, gut feelings, or just feelings, they all mean intuition. Intuition gives us the sharpest insight into decisions or problems we encounter daily. Intuition is immediate cognition and it never seems rational to act on it. M. R. Wescott described it as "the process of reaching accurate conclusions based on inadequate information". No matter how illogical it sounds, acting on your intuition always seems to be beneficial. The truth is, science can not pinpoint where this perception of feeling, hearing, or seeing comes from. Thus, it seems natural for people to dismiss it. But, intuition is common to all of us. It is like an underdeveloped sense. Intuition hits us all the time. Even little things like knowing who will be on the other end of the phone when it rings. Many nurses act on intuition even though they can not give the doctor a reason why they think the patient is in trouble. Intuition explains why we happened to pick the lottery ticket at the right time, or why stockbrokers have an expertise for picking the winners. Our intuition is an inner voice prompting us to act and behave. It hits us immediatly, and may seem illogical, but for some inexplicable reason, we have the confidence to act on it. There is more to behavior than neuronal connections and chemicals that remain in the brain.




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