Biology 202
Neurobiology and Behavior
Spring 2002

Forum Archive - Week 3

What's your reaction to the phenomena of quadriplegia as described in class? Is the addition to our model of an "I-function" box appropriate/useful? Why or why not? What new problems/questions does it raise?


Name:  Claire Albert
Username:  calbert@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Invertebrates vs. Vertebrates
Date:  2002-02-05 15:05:09
Message Id:  833
Comments:
When finding out that 99.999% of neurons are in fact inter-neurons and not motor or sensory neurons, I had a whole new perspective of the nervous system. Since most daily functions of survival require motor and sensory mechanisms, it was logical in my mind that most neurons would be used for such functions.

If most neurons are in fact just located in the larger box which is the nervous system, then what does that say about vertebrates and invertebrates? Are they really that different? Although invertebrates lack the cerebellum, midbrain and forebrain as such fact was mentioned in class, the data presented insinuates that they're possibly not that much different from vertebrates.They too have a collection of neurons which extend throughout their bodies and which I would assume serve the purpose of input and ouput functions.

We've also concluded that there is an infinite number of ways in which neurons can be assembled for input and output function. Thus, complexity is further brought as these neurons can differ not only arrangement but manner in which this information is processed and sent back out.


Name:  Gabrielle Lapping-Carr
Username:  glapping@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Neurons
Date:  2002-02-05 20:00:29
Message Id:  834
Comments:
During class we were talking about the difference between vertebrate and invertebrate. I started thinking about plants. They don't have brains, but we can see them as having behavior. Take for example when the sun is in the east, a sunflower will move so that its petals are aimed at the sun so that it can absorb the most amount of light. But, I soon realized that the reason that the leave moves is due to chemistry in the leaf. Yet, isn't that all that is happening in neurons. Chemical changes signal physical changes. But, there are other chemical changes that signal physical changes in our bodies, such as hormones, which aren't in neurons. The benefit of neurons is that they provide a faster messenger. So, why don't plants have neurons? Maybe nerves would be unbeneficial though, since plants can't move. Then they would feel when they were cut down and such, which wouldn't be pleasant.
Name:  Asra
Username:  ahusain@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  week 2
Date:  2002-02-05 23:21:01
Message Id:  835
Comments:
This idea of boxes within boxes representing our nervous system seems like a good way to approach the concept of brain=behavior. As far as we know our behavior must be triggered by a stimulus (input). The input can be big or small, it can take milliseconds or years for it to be processed but every input has an output.

The question about how many boxes are there is unanswerable. I do think there are a finite number of boxes but it is constantly growing as we acquire more knowledge and come across many more experiences day to day. So not everyone has the same number of boxes or the same “type” of boxes and this makes us the individuals we are.


Name:  miranda
Username:  mcwhite@haverford.edu
Subject:  Differences in Brains
Date:  2002-02-06 11:35:03
Message Id:  836
Comments:
I was looking online and I found an article on a very interesting experiment that proves (at least partially) that brain equals behavior. Scientists did an experiment in which they transplanted anterior midbrain tissue from a Japanese quail to a domestic chicken in the beginning stages of development. They then tested to behavior of the transplanted chickens to see if there were any apparent differences. Mother birds make a "maternal call" to signal danger to their young, and as a result the offspring rush over to their mother. It turns out that the transplanted chickens responded more quickly and strongly to quail maternal calls than chicken maternal calls.

On a separate note, I think it's important not to overestimate the similarities between the brains of different species. While it is undeniably true that we share the same building blocks with all vertebrates, we are still drastically and fundamentally different. We may have all the same parts, and our brains may all appear very similar under high magnification, however, the behavior between any two species is completely different. Even with humans, where the biology is nearly identical from one person to the next, behavior can vary dramatically. Thus there is obviously something immensely important in the little differences that exist. Though my brain may look very similar to any other person in this class, there has to be some very significant differences to account for our behavioral, intellectual, physical, etc. dissimilarities (assuming that brain does indeed equal behavior.)


Name:  Nicole
Username:  npietras@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2002-02-06 16:20:08
Message Id:  837
Comments:
I was thinking about our original question/ discussion, "Brain=Behavior" and how the model of boxes within boxes fits in with this discussion. By saying the nervous system, more directly the brain, is boxes within boxes this accounts for the variation in behavior of the same organisms. Reading Gabrielle's comment about plants, got me thinking about this question: However how can we account for organisms without brains that exhibit behavior? Yes if you were to look at these organisms on a cellular level, one could argue that the nucleus of each cell is the organism's "brain", which is how you could account for them exhibiting behavior.
Name:  T
Username:  buggleboy33@yahoo.com
Subject:  What?
Date:  2002-02-06 19:37:15
Message Id:  839
Comments:
Wait wait...I am now very confused and I once again have more questions than answers....
first of all, have we defined exactly what the brain is? ARe we SURE that the brain in composed of the the spinal cord, the midbrain...etc? how do we know that that defenition is correct?...what about, like some one else already mentioned, organisms that don't have these characteristic? Do they not obtain a brain? are they not able to demonstrate behavior?
Name:  Tua Chaudhuri
Username:  schaudhu@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  neurons
Date:  2002-02-06 22:48:01
Message Id:  840
Comments:
I was really surprised that so few neurons are motor and sensory. I had assumed that a large portion of brain cells were the ones we used to interpret and navigate the world, now I guess I just have a lot of questions. We use the edges of the largest box to interact with the world and everything else is inside. That's really amazing. How much, then, of what we see, smell, taste, touch is actually there, and how much does the inside of the box contribute to completing the picture we have of the world? We feel sensations, but it also seems that the brain has the ability to file away memories or certain sensations for when the neurons can't function or can't provide all the information. Different organisms have slightly different brain structures. Invertebrates don't have a neocortex, a part inside the big box(?). Do invertebrates and other organisms which we label as simple then not have the ability to create the world from the inside out? Do simpler brained organisms rely more on their sensory neurons than we do? The website about brain difference amongst members of the same species suggests that the things we do affect the way our brains develop. I'm a bit confused because this seems to suggest that while brain does equal behavior, behavior also affects the brain. So we make decisions and take actions which affect the structure of our brains, but in some way the way our brain is structured affects those decisions. Where does it all begin?! and who/what makes decisions/creates the output when we're not consciously doing it, the brain or the world that molded it?
Name:  TC
Username:  Psyche1223@aol.com
Subject:  
Date:  2002-02-07 03:13:56
Message Id:  841
Comments:
I was reading over some of the comments, and I have to agree with what Amy Cunningham said. I was thinking the same thing in class this week while we were discussing the input/output and the different brain structures. There are many other things that effect an organisms behavior that it's difficult to say that brain=behavior all the time. Also, I seem to remember it being said that if brain=behavior then the brains would be similar, but it was seen that in different organisms that there are different. If different brains have similar reactions/behavior to things, then does brain really equal behavior?
Name:  Beverly Weiss
Username:  BBWeiss@aol.com
Subject:  behavior
Date:  2002-02-07 07:24:41
Message Id:  842
Comments:
Now that we have discussed the limits, boundaries and perimeters of the boxes, and discussed some of the functions of the nervous system, we need to discuss what we mean by behavior. Do we define behavior as the output that is a result of the function of the neurons, chemicals and neurotransmitters, OR is behavior ALSO what is happening DURING the process of input/output?
Name:  Paul Grobstein
Username:  pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  week 3
Date:  2002-02-07 15:39:53
Message Id:  853
Comments:
I think behavior is (see Beverly, above) "ALSO what is happening during the process of input/output" (or before output even if there is no input).

As usual, you're free to write about whatever thoughts you've had this week, but if you would like something to get you started:

What's your reaction to the phenomena of quadriplegia as described in class? Is the addition to our model of an "I-function" box appropriate/useful? Why or why not? What new problems/questions does it raise?


Name:  Erica Carlos
Username:  ecarlos@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Christopher Reeves
Date:  2002-02-07 20:23:14
Message Id:  858
Comments:
In class today, we established that activity in the nervous system can occur without an individual, such as in the Christopher Reeves case, even knowing it. We also brought up the idea that there is a difference between processing signals and processing experiences. How does this exactly work and what does this mean? Is it the processing of signals in the nervous system that controls the behavior of an individual or the processing of experiences that controls behavior, or is it both? Or, are there other ways that behavior can be influenced?
Name:  
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  
Date:  2002-02-07 23:20:43
Message Id:  860
Comments:
In class today (Feb. 7th) we discussed that behavior is more than just output because behavior consists of MANY outputs. How integrated are these outputs? In many output/input systems such as we have designated human behavior for better understanding, there is something called negative feedback. For example, if too much of one chemical is produced in the body, the over abundance of the chemical will act negatively on the production of the chemical and prevent any more excess from being produced. This is a regulative measure and I was wondering if our "boxes inside boxes" model included something like negative feedback. For example, when we walk, we have to monitor the results of past "outputs/behaviors" -each step- so that we know the slant of the ground on which we are walking or if it is slippery/rough. If new inputs could be a result of varying outputs, how would this influence our boxes model?
Name:  Lauren
Username:  Lauren_welsh@hotmail.com
Subject:  
Date:  2002-02-07 23:22:09
Message Id:  861
Comments:
The last comment was from me, I just forgot to type in my name.
Name:  Rebecca Roth
Username:  rroth@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  "I-function"
Date:  2002-02-07 23:36:13
Message Id:  862
Comments:

Do we really need something outside the nervous system to truly discover what we are? I think there is more to the nervous system than just the nervous system itself. But is everything really a function of the brain? Again, we act differently under different circumstances and at different times.

Does the “I function” box have access to all information? There are always different inputs coming in and different outputs coming out. How does the "I function" fit into consciousness? Consciousness alone is very hard to define. Could consciousness be defined as the experience of being oneself and that oneself being reflecting in a sub-system of the nervous system (which would be the box).

There is a difference between behaving and being aware. Is the “I function” accounting for all of our changes in experience? Or does the "I function" change when we change? There are parts of the nervous system that can be doing things without us actually experiencing them. Ones feelings do change with time. But does the self actually change everytime there are nerve cell changes?

What about when your foot “falls asleep”? You know your foot is there, but it doesn’t feel the same. Also, many people are afraid of getting shots. My friend fainted when he got a needle injected into him. I highly doubt it was the pain of the needle going into him, but more of just the sight alone of a sharp object. Part of human experience and awareness is learned. People look toward the reactions of others. A wound that looks terrible, may not really hurt, but if people look at the injury in horror, the person may start to “think” that it does hurt.

Christopher Reeves has to feel a 'sense' of loss. But is that 'sense' of loss different than actually feeling pain if someone would pitch his toe? Is that a different 'feeling'? He would know that under normal circumstances (before the injury), that someone pinching his toe would usually elicit some type of pain.


Name:  Beverly Weiss
Username:  BBWeiss@aol.com
Subject:  I-Function
Date:  2002-02-08 16:05:46
Message Id:  870
Comments:
Is the I-function the “box” that makes us individual?
Given that everything that we do, think, and experience, (both physically and emotionally) determines who we are, and THAT something differentiates each of us from each other, is the I-function our personality?

Since all of the chemical materials that make up our bodies are the same, what makes us unique is that which we have inherited, experienced and learned. The axonal connections that create the sensory and motor systems also make neurotransmitter synaptic connections that allow us to store, file, and remember. The ability to synthesize what we store, retrieve it, and make decisions about it (the output) is what makes us emotional beings. Are the emotional connections the I-function? Is it the I-function that allows us to be different from other creatures made of the same chemical material?


Name:  
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  
Date:  2002-02-09 16:50:07
Message Id:  882
Comments:
The Christopher Reeves phenomenon...

When we pinch Christopher Reeves' foot, it will jerk, yet when asked whether he felt pain, he does not.
But, then how do we know he is Christopher Reeves? We ask him, and he responds.

This example made me think about ethical debates in medicine. For example, the debate about the use of stem cells.
There are many people who view the use of stem cells as cloning. Hurting an individual being. But one could argue that the I function is not really there.
Worried about the stem cells potetial for life.

OK


Name:  Peffin
Username:  plee@brynamwr.edu
Subject:  Ignore the top part, i was pushing random buttons!
Date:  2002-02-09 17:01:29
Message Id:  883
Comments:
The Christopher Reeves phenomenon...

When we pinch Christopher Reeves' foot, it will jerk, yet when asked whether he feels pain, he does not.

But, then how do we know he is Christopher Reeves? We ask him, and he responds.

This example made me think about ethical debates in medicine. For example, the debate about the use of stem cells. There are many people who view the use of stem cells as cloning. Hurting an individual being. But one could argue that the 'I function' is not really there. The organs are independant from the brain. One is not really killing a human.

And then what about abortions? If aborted before the brain begins development...is it really murder? I mean, if what you are killing has no way of processing what you are doing?

Well, I guess my thoughts don't take into account of the potential for life. But this is what I have been pondering...


Name:  Serendip Student
Subject:  does time heal all wounds?
Date:  2002-02-10 15:38:48
Message Id:  891
Comments:
In light of the paper we need to write in the near future, I began to look at things around me and see what interests me, a search for inspiration if you will. With the September 11 tragedy, a pretty obvious question came to mind: does time heal all wounds? A cliche catch phrase, but an intriguing one as well. Preliminary inquiries into the subject matter forced me to get more specific. Therefore, with current events in mind - what it is the dynamic between grief and time. Mourning and grief are powerful emotions tangled in many different aspects, one which being the brain. A few words that kept popping up during my light research: brain, memory, depression, human condition, depression.

My results yielded one conclusion, I need to narrow down the topic further. I just find that while the subject is compelling its tied to at least 25 separate issues. I have not yet decided if I would like to pursue this as a paper topic, but I am certainly interested in it for my own knowledge.


Name:  Hilary Hochman
Username:  hlhochman
Subject:  Where is Christopher Reeves??
Date:  2002-02-10 16:52:57
Message Id:  896
Comments:
Christopher Reeves' body moves without his will, and he cannot will it to move. Yet he has thoughts, memories, emotions and perceptions. He may live only from the neck up, but he is aware of and can respond to his environment. So, his consciousness must reside in his brain.

For the first paper, I am reading about the "mind-body" problem, and the biggest hurdle in takcling this subject is the idea that this is a problem. It seems to me outdated: as we look at a PET scan of a functioning brain, and study the brains and behavior of those who have suffered injury to the brain, be it from physical trauma, pharmacological excess, genetic defects, or extreme emotional stress, it appears evident that consciousness is a product of the neural connections in the brain.

What I suspect troubles current thinkers about the mind-body problem is that humans cannot create consciousness in another brain -- even with healthy raw material, we can stimulate neurons electronically, but we cannot get them to stimulate themselves. We do not know how to get the machine up and running. As a result, we are inclined to believe that consciousness, the "I-box," must be more than the sum of its physical parts.

Yet if we believe that the nervous system controls the movement of a leg, why not the decision to move the leg and the perception of that movement? What difference is there between the two that requires movement to be relegated to the nervous system, and consciousness to be elevated above it?


Name:  Claire Albert
Username:  calbert@brynamwr.edu
Subject:  Quadraplegia and Reeves
Date:  2002-02-10 16:53:58
Message Id:  897
Comments:

"Not all functions of the Nervous System depends on Christopher Reeves being there" (Grobstein)


After weeks of pondering the soul over brain=behavior phenomenon,
Feb. 7th's class enlightened me in many ways.
It makes perfect sense that the nervous system is independent of state of mind. If Reeves, had been a vegetable, his nervous system would have continue functioning independently. If he had also had a mental breakdown or suffered from psychosis, Reeves may have "been gone" but a majority of his NS would have been functioning.


The latter examples, however demonstrate that we are more than our nervous system. Quality of life as we see it, depends on the functioning of the input/output brain boxes. When these brain boxes fail to properly transmit information, the individual is no longer "here." Yes, Reeves may have had an interruption btw his brain and spinal cord. However, he will continue to experience life on an emotionally sensory level which would have been impossible if he had been a vegetable.

On a different note: Although Dickison states that the brain contains me and the sky, she speaks of the capability of the brain.
I believe that the individual's experience and reality can also manipulate the brain: So what's real to me may not be to you


Name:  Balpreet Bhogal
Username:  bbhogal@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Christopher Reeves
Date:  2002-02-10 21:10:51
Message Id:  904
Comments:
I was fascinated by the Christopher Reeves discussion in class on Thursday. I knew that if you ask Christopher Reeves a question, he would answer you. What I didn't know is that if you pinch his foot, the foot will move away. And even though Christopher Reeves doesn't feel the foot in that he doesn't have control of the movement, it still moves by itself.

The question concerning "where is Christopher Reeves" is also very interseting. It makes one wonder whether or not "christopher Reeves" is his entire body, or only his brain. From what we learned in class on Thursday, I am prone to think that Christopher Reeves is his brain and that his body is merely a capsule for his brain to function in.

But Grobstein's comment on the nervous system not needing Christopher Reeves to be there for some functions to happen makes one question the brain=behavior theory. If the brain was responsible for all behaviors, and Christopher Reeves was his brain with his body being a capsule, if some functions can occur without Christopher Reeves "being there," then doesn' that mean that the brain isn't responsible for all behaviors??? And the questions continue....


Name:  Alyson
Username:  adymkows@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2002-02-10 21:13:19
Message Id:  905
Comments:
I was so surprised to hear that so few of our neurons were in actuality motor or sensory neurons. Although surprising, I now think that this definetly supports the idea of behavior=brain. Previously in the forum, people stated that they believed there was too much going on inside the mind to only be contained within the brain. I believe the fact that 99.999999% of neurons deal with what is going on inside the nervous system, indeed illustrates the capacity that the brain has to contain all of behavior.

The discussion of Christopher Reeve brings up many ethical issues. In class we decided that Christopher was contained inside the upper part of his brain and that his nervous system continued to function below his injury without input from his "being". I think this is very interesting because it helps us define where an individual's being comes from. Many have become involved in heated topics over things such as brain death and what living actually defines. Does living mean a continuation of one's nervous system or does one's "being" have to be aware to be considered alive? If the first is true, then even when the "being" seems to die, the nervous system still functions, much like Christopher's reflexes and how does one make ethical choices over this.

I once saw an interesting program depicting sufferers of post-war syndrome. They were incapable of responding (aka making behavioral outputs), but were perfectly aware of what was going on around them. Without complicated machinery, it would have never been known that their "beings" were indeed still alive within bodies unable to respond. I wonder how people would classify them. As a cousin to two severely retarded children, I find this issue to be very personally. People have made comments that they do not understand what is "really going on", including Mr. Politically Incorrect Bill Maher himself, who compared them to "mere animals". I refuse to believe that just because their behavior is different to us means that they are any less "aware".


Name:  Ricky
Username:  rtripp@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  I-function
Date:  2002-02-10 23:27:25
Message Id:  910
Comments:
I think it is interesting how we have progressively transformed our model into input/output boxes and, recently, added the I-function. It is understandable about adding the I-function because based on everyone's experiences, they will react to input and output responses differently. This function seems to take into account personal influence upon behavior. For instance, the smell of a fresh apple-baked pie would stir memories of family gatherings at Thanksgiving for me but incite a different response from someone who dislikes apple pie.

The I-function is the basis of our will to control ourselves or our behavior. Watching Kung Fu movies, I was amazed at the men who would embrace scolding hot iron pots to brand a symbol of a dragon on their arms. From personal experience, whenever you feel something hot, you have an initial reflex to move away. However, these men overcame that reflex with their will, which the I-function accounts for. This example of will overcoming intial reflexes is also present in tattooing. The only questions with the I-function are how it works? What is it composed of? Is this the part that is referred to as the "mind" in the brain? Is the I-function only influenced by personal experience? Is there a commonality in the I-function that everyone uniformly has? How different is my I-function compared to another's? How large is the I-function in the brain (size) and how important is its role in everyday activity?

Just some food for thought on the I........


Name:  Cindy
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  
Date:  2002-02-11 00:04:34
Message Id:  911
Comments:
   it seems to me that through out the class, we are trying to narrow down other possibilities of the contributing to behaviour until we are left with the brain alone.

I have some question, perhaps they will get answered by the end of the semester...

What if Christopher Reeves is so depressed by his accident that he decided not live as if he's a vegetable. He dosent want to talk to ppl , dosent want to eat...etc. In this case, can we say that it is his "mind" that directs his behavior and not his brain? In the other words, he made up his "mind" to live like a vegateble. in this case, the mind dictate the brain... the brain must obey...
Name:  Yasmin
Username:  ymashhoo@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Hmmmm
Date:  2002-02-11 04:02:32
Message Id:  914
Comments:
The subject of quadraplegia has always interested me, primarily because it seems so incredibly frustrating and irritating to be alive, able to speak, and unable to move. It almost seems like if you think about it long enough or if you try hard enough, one can move an arm or a leg. Its heartbreaking really-- to know that your brain just won't cooperate. The fact that a paralyzed body is capable of responding to a stimulus that one cannot actually feel is a disconcerting notion. I suppose that after a while, one forgets what it was like to feel a warm hug or a pat on the back. Its frustrating too that everything we feel is connected to our brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) because our whole life is essentially travelling along a thin bony road which travels up our back and transmits messages to our brains. The fear of hurting one's back is quite prevalent in our society, primarily because there aren't many treatments for that kind of injury. It seems an almost tenuous connection to life.
Name:  Michelle Tahmoush
Username:  mtahmoush@aol.com
Subject:  reflexes vs. nervous system
Date:  2002-02-11 13:57:34
Message Id:  915
Comments:
When I considered the nervous system and the Christopher Reeves phenomena where his foot twitched yet there was no pain, I suspected it was due to reflexes. There are places on the body that if it is hurt there is an automatic response. I'm not sure where this response is connected. I assume, given the information, that it is connected in the brain. This would make sense because Chris Reeves was paralyzed from the neck down. He was able to move unknowingly, which is similar to the reaction of touching a hot stove. One automatically pulls his or her handf away without thinking.

Even though Chris was able to move in a reflex scenario, he was not able to move his foot otherwise. This is because there is a large difference between the normal nervous system reaction and the reflex movements. The sensory and motor neurons are connected to the spinal cord which is below th point of paralysis. Therefore, the normal sensory input was meaningless for it was not connected to the brain. This would explain the reaction that was discussed in class. One of the problems with my conjecture is that I am not certain where the reflex center (if there is one) is located.


Name:  kelli
Username:  rdeering@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2002-02-11 14:39:52
Message Id:  916
Comments:
Our past meetings have provided me with a new perspective on how we interact with our environments. It seems acceptable to say that most of our knowledge is acquired by experience, through sensation. As mentioned by others, the sensation neurons are represented by an astoundingly small number of the total neurons. In my mind, this seems to give even more authority and control to the I-function, and ultimately to the underlying tacit function.

What is curious about quadriplegia is that the sensation ability is lost. Here, the term sensation must be seen in relation to I-function. Sensation implies awareness, becoming a more mental than physical term. Hence, there is a definite boundary between physical death and mental death. One can essentially receive input and involuntarily respond via output, but the process is removed consciousness.

I help to take care of a gentleman who suffers from a very rare brain disorder called progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). The actor Dudley Moore also suffers from PSP and has helped to fund research on the disease. To me, this is an even more devastating problem than quadriplegia. An individual suffering from PSP experiences gradual loss of function, first speech, ability to swallow, etc which then progressively leads to almost total paralysis. The person I am speaking of developed his first symptoms about five years ago and now is limited to subtle finger movements and occasional control of facial expressions, such as lifting his eyebrows. To blink, he must concentrate on forcing his eyes closed and then forcing them open again. We must frequently remind him to blink.

What is so tragic about PSP is that the mind is not at all affected, and capacity for sensation is maintained. However, output functions are almost completely suppressed. If I were to pinch this gentleman's toe, he would indeed feel it but he could not express that, or even move his foot away.

In an individual with PSP (as well as quadriplegia), the box model would be quite inefficient in describing input/output relationships. In PSP, output is limited to the realm of the I-function, or awareness. In quadriplegia, input/output is not even experienced by the I-function. These are very different instances. Is it better to maintain some normal input/output functions as in Christopher Reeve's case, or to be fully aware of all input yet have very, very limited output capacity?


Name:  priya
Username:  psp22@hotmial.com
Subject:  
Date:  2002-02-11 17:43:38
Message Id:  919
Comments:
In an effort to further understand the Christopher Reeve phenomena of output / response in spite of severe spinal chord damage I started to read William James’s The Principles of Psychology. James classifies actions into 3 primary categories—reflex actions (involuntary), semi-reflex actions, and voluntary actions. According to James, all three of the categories are inspired by “intelligence” because the responses are because “appropriate” to the situation at hand. More specifically, crying in response to something in your eye (involuntary) is inspired by intelligence and so is running in anticipation of catching a train (voluntary). This led me to think about the definition of intelligence. I’m not accustomed to thinking about actions related to mere survival as part of intelligence. More specifically, I don’t consider instinctual responses as intelligence. Returning to the Christopher Reeve phenomena, stimulating the appropriate area in his body resulted in an appropriate action even without his awareness. Although the action was appropriate to the input I find it hard to define this as intelligence. It seems to me that intelligence has more to do with the fact that Christopher Reeve can answer the question “Who is Christopher Reeve?” In particular, intelligence has more to do with awareness of one’s own existence. I surmise that James would consider the response of Christopher Reeves’ body as intelligent even though his awareness of the activity that led to the response was absent. In contrast, I feel that the I-function is were intelligence resides.


A few unrelated questions:


Is the I-function another namme for the mind?

How can we explain the fact that although Christopher Reeves suffered severe injuries to his spinal chord he has been able to regain some of the functions that had been previously lost as a result of his injury?


Name:  Cb
Username:  cbarnes@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Is the I-function necessary for behavior?
Date:  2002-02-11 18:05:11
Message Id:  920
Comments:
Now we know that behavior is broken down into parts and that behavior is caused by different parts of the nervous system. There are linkages among the different parts of the nervous system for behavior. So, if you pinch Reeves leg, it behaves as though it hurts. But, it does not hurt him because the neuronal disconnections did not let the signal to the brain. I would think that it still hurts, he just does not know that it hurts. However, if there is a box that corresponds to being there, the I-function, then the painful stimulus does not hurt him because the signal never reaches his brain. If behavior is being aware of behaving, then Reeves was not behaving. It sure seems like he was behaving.

Remember how Dr. Grobestein can not see on the right side because of the damage on the left side of his brain? Well, I think the conclusion we came to with that was the stimulus was there, but he did not think that he saw it, even though he did and even though he pointed to the area of the stimulus. So if Reeves was stimulated, and he reacted, acted or behaved to it, then how can that not be behavior just because his I-function was not there? This just seems like a different type of behavior.

If behaving is to be aware of behaving, then what about those who act out their dreams and sleep walk. Those who sleepwalk are not totally there or, their I-function is not there, just like Reeves or Grobestein’s isn’t. But how is that not behavior?


Name:  Kathryn
Username:  kfong@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2002-02-11 18:44:32
Message Id:  921
Comments:
I was really surprised about the Christopher Reeves phenomena. It seems strange that he would pull his foot away if one were to pinch it, yet he does not "feel" the pain. This just shows that brain=behavior. Before the accident, Reeves learned through experience that if someone pinches your toe, you pull your foot away. So although he does not feel anything from the waist down, it is programmed in his brain to pull his foot away from someone is pinching it. Even if the neurons do not send the pain sensation to his brain, his brain still registers the fact that someone is causing pain, and therefore he needs to pull the foot away. This behavior is still being acted out, even if the actual pain was not felt. This scenario brought new perpsective on the whole brain=behavior mystery.
Name:  natasha
Username:  toshyg@hotmail.com
Subject:  
Date:  2002-02-11 19:28:43
Message Id:  922
Comments:
I was really surprised to find out, just as many of those in class did, that 99.999% of our neurons are interneurons, and not sensory and motor neurons. Upon thinking about this a little, it does make sense though--our bodies are huge in comparison to a neuron, and therefore in order for information to be sent from one place to another, you are going to need many neurons that are between the motor and sensory neurons in order for this to be achieved. Also, i was really surprised to find out that Christopher Reeves' foot withdraws when it is pinched but he doesn't know it...it's amaizning that our body can respond and in a sense have a "mind of its own" without us (the brain) knowing about it. But how does this idea fit with the "brain= behavior" question. Obviously, in Reeves' case his brain does not know what his leg is doing when it is pinched, but he still exibits the behavior of moving the foot away from the irritating stimulus. So, is this not sort of like behavior without the brain?
Name:  Amy Cunningham
Username:  acunning@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  I-function
Date:  2002-02-11 20:02:41
Message Id:  927
Comments:
I have been thinking over the "I-function" idea and an still confused about how to define it. Is it something completely separate from the inputs and outputs that we have been talking about, or is it part of the whole input-output system, and if so to what extent? In the Christopher Reeve example it seems like the I-function is separate from the rest of the body, but what about individuals with Alzheimer's or dementia? Does their I-function still exist, or does it disappear with the changes going on in the rest of their brain?
Name:  Shannon Lee
Username:  kitsumi12@hotmail.com
Subject:  awareness box
Date:  2002-02-11 20:02:59
Message Id:  928
Comments:
There must be a box or many boxes in the brain corresponding to the awareness one experiences since a severed brain cannot acknowledge feeling the parts cut off from it. There are motor neurons in the medulla, the midbrain, and the most caudal portions on into the spinal cord. The most rostral portions of the brain, the diencephalon and the forebrain do not have motor neurons and few sensory neurons. The forebrain has only the olfactory nerves. We know that the spinal cord does not contain the portion of the nervous system that is aware and that it has many motor and sensory neurons. The farther rostral one examines up the nervous system there seems to be fewer motor and sensory neurons. Perhaps a suggestion can be made that the primary portion of the awareness box is in the forebrain.
Name:  sook chan
Username:  schan@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2002-02-11 22:07:28
Message Id:  931
Comments:
When one pinches C.R's foot, it jerks back. How does this account for the brain and behavior mechanism? If one follows by this mechanism, Christopher Reeves is nothing but his face. That's the only part of his body whereby the sensory inputs are integrated and processed in the brain. Everything else is nothing but involuntary reflexes. This brings to mind the matter of perspective. In my perspective, I would say that Christopher has "behaved" in response to my pinch, and in his perspectve, the incident never happened. Say for example, if ten years ago, I met a man named Chris. However, it completely slipped my mind, and his. We meet again today and we have no recollection that we had ever met before. Does this mean that the event never took place? It did in the scheme of events in the world, yet it didn't in mine and Chris's world, and this in return, does not affect our behavior. In a sense, why does it even matter if we had met before if we don't remember it now? Why does anything that does not involve our lives and our direct experiences matter? This is just a thought that came to my mind, it may not even make any sense ...
Name:  Joan Steiner
Username:  jsteiner@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  reconnection
Date:  2002-02-11 22:18:47
Message Id:  932
Comments:
They say that the body cannot live without the mind. Are the mind and the brain one of two different forces? Only a part of Christopher Reeves' brain was damaged, but evidently an important part as he is unable to walk or control most of his body and physical movement. But he is still able to speak, hear, see, feel, and think.

When there is brain damage, do neurons attempt to re-establish the former connection or try and establish a new connection? Is that what happens when some who are paralysed eventually get healed? Perhaps that is the method we need to develop in order to heal those who are parapalegic.


Name:  Beverly Weiss
Username:  BBWeiss@aol.com
Subject:  Brain=Behavior
Date:  2002-02-11 23:42:28
Message Id:  937
Comments:
Christopher Reeve does not experience sensation below his neck. Since his riding accident he has no control over muscles in most of his body. Yet his mind and memory are intact. He can remember that he once walked, ran, “flew” rode, drove, biked, skied and experienced other physical activities as a healthy man. His body is broken…but his mind is whole. When I think about the mind/body connection, I think that although CR’s body takes up space in the world, his body no longer defines him. The connection must be that they are one and the same thing.

Consider Steven Hawking and his crippled body. Despite his disease, he is still brilliant and although his body is withered, he is still Steven Hawking. His brain still functions in a most remarkable way and we can still recognize him although his voice and body are unrecognizable. The essence of the man is his brain, and since the brain controls everything, brain equals behavior even when there is no behavior other than the behavior of the brain. When all behavior ceases, so does the brain. If the brain can hold the sky and all that is in it with room enough for the "I", than the brain’s capacity is only limited by the scope of the imagination of the person who houses the brain.


Name:  ashley
Username:  afarrell@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2002-02-12 00:04:51
Message Id:  940
Comments:
When thinking about the I-function and what it does, I wonder what memory is. How does it work? It was easy in grade school to think of the mind or memory as a computer or as a filing cabinet... Thinking about Christopher Reeve's condition, I started to really wonder why people act certain ways. It seems to me (although I admit that I have not followed too closely) that he has taken a generally positive outlook. He doesn't have to do that. I could not come to class. But, based on past experiences, I find it's best if I do attend.
So, how does this happen physically in the nervous system? In Reeve's brain, what happens that makes him smile for the camera as opposed to not? Is there a seperate neuron pathway for each and every single choice we ever make in our life?
Name:  Gavin Imperato
Username:  gimperat@haverford.edu
Subject:  Christopher Reeve, etc.
Date:  2002-02-12 00:06:51
Message Id:  941
Comments:
The problem that faces Christopher Reeve, to put it simply, is a circuitry problem. He can perform all of the functions of higher thought and processing that any other human can; however, he has lost the ability to control "himself" in the biological sense. I think the idea of the I-function is confusing because people have very differing views on what exactly constitutes the self. Most people would tend to think of Christopher Reeve as a normal human being. By this logic all you need to be normal is to have a functioning head, forget about interaction with the rest of the body.

The general populace throws around terms such as shallow coma and deep coma, without much regard for the fact that there are numerous clinical features of the different stages of a "coma." So, given someone who is unconscious for an extended period of time, when do we begin to stop thinking that they possess an I-function? I have had the opportunity to witness the management of numerous such patients with a range of neurologic conditions in the medical intensive care unit of a major academic medical center. Many of the physicians I worked with had differing views on patients with brain damage. Some were quick to assume that comatose patients ceased to have a sense of self and the ability to have any awareness of themselves or the outside environment. Still others cited how the "locked-in state" (patients can process events and stimuli around them, but cannot effect a voluntary response to them) is mysterious, and one can never be certain of exactly what activities are going on in the brain.

It seems that all of this begs the questions – when do you stop being you? Are you really there if you are in a persistent vegetative state? Are quadriplegics like Christopher Reeve really there? Can you actually cease to possess a "self" after a certain degree of brain injury? Essentially, patients in the persistent vegetative state are on autopilot. There is no one manning the controls, but the plane keeps flying. This does not mean to say that the possibility for patients with even severe brain injury can’t be aware of what is happening to them. There are a range of behaviors that do not require you (the psychological construct of you) to be there, but they require the biologic and physical you. Some patients with no hope of ever leading a productive life again who are teathered to a ventilator can open their eyes, move them spontaneously, and cringe when tested with a deep pain stimulus, but for all intense and purposes, they are not there. In the ICU, I observed this to be a very difficult thing for family members of patients to accept. They would look a loved one in their eyes, see them blink, and swear that he or she was in there somewhere. They saw such actions as things the patient himself or herself was doing – they saw this as evidence of free will – however, it wasn’t really "him" or "her" in the sense they thought it was.

When someone has ceased to be able to carry out higher order processing, have they lost their I-function? Some scientists argue that even when there is just the slightest trace of brain activity, one can never be certain that there are not processes going on elsewhere in the brain that we just don’t know about. The mere fact that there has been intense debate about what constitutes brain death is a testament itself to how muddy and complicated the idea of brain = behavior is. A person who is suffering from a drug overdose can temporarily exhibit the same clinical findings as someone who has had severe irreparable brain damage. However, the overdose victim can regain mental status fairly quickly.


Name:  Mary Schlimme
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Week 3
Date:  2002-02-12 00:24:05
Message Id:  942
Comments:
I think that we gained a better understanding of the relationship between brain and behavior when we examined Christopher Reeve’s injury in class last week. It makes sense to me that since his spinal cord was damaged and information can’t get from his lower body to his upper body then Christopher Reeves the “person” is located in his brain. It then follows that we need to add a box in our model (the I-function) that symbolizes “awareness” or “consciousness” of oneself and one’s surroundings. However, one thing I am a bit confused about is what we are calling Christopher Reeve’s response when we pinch his toe if we are not considering it a reflex.

It is useful to add the I-function to our model since it makes sense from the observations of Christopher Reeve’s condition that this consciousness is probably located somewhere in the brain (although we might want to get more data that supports this notion). However, adding the I-function box raises many new questions. For example, what is the box made of? Is it an area in the brain like the amygdala and thalamus or is it neuronal activity in the brain? What behaviors is the I-function (i.e. consciousness) capable of producing – is dreaming a state that the I-function moderates or is dreaming controlled by another area of the brain? Are insects conscious? These are just some of the unanswered questions that we might want to address when we modify our model.


Name:  Beverly Weiss
Username:  BBWeiss@aol.com
Subject:  "I-Function"
Date:  2002-02-12 07:11:37
Message Id:  943
Comments:
Is there a difference between NORMAL and HUMAN? We cannot really define normal, but we know what is human. Is the I-function that which makes us human, or is it consciousness?
Name:  Kathryn
Username:  krorer@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2002-02-12 09:52:49
Message Id:  945
Comments:
The idea of an "I" function really makes the brain=behavior argument a lot stronger in my mind. It answers many of the questions I had about the input/output boxes model, such as where consciousness and decision making take place. I also thought it was extremely interesting to see that the self really seems to be contained within the brain alone. Christopher Reeves shows us that even without control over the movement of his body, he is still there. It is just as Emily Dickinson stated in her poem, "the one the other will contain with ease -and you- beside." My uncle has had cerebral palsy since birth and is paralyzed from the neck down, with only limited movement above the neck. His perspective is very interesting because unlike Christopher Reeves, he had never be able to have control over his movements so to him, this is all he knows, and he thinks a person can live a good life without having control over his movements. To him, the mind or "I" function is much more important to who a person is than a person's behavior. This shows that a person is really contained within the brain, it is who we are.
Name:  Sarah Eberhardt
Username:  idy3176@yahoo.com
Subject:  a middle ground to the I-function?
Date:  2002-02-12 23:44:27
Message Id:  954
Comments:
The concept of the so-called “experience box” or “I-function” box seems to be a fairly straightforward idea: if the input is not relayed to the brain, the I-function is limited; if input is relayed, the I-function is unrestricted and can operate normally. This, however, is a fairly black and white view of things.
An example of the contrast used in class was that of the wish of a quadriplegic to move his foot. This prompting, while occuring in the I-function box, had nothing to work with, since the nerves leading down to the muscles controlling the foot were severed. However, when a fully functional person triggers that same wish to move his foot, the movement is accomplished because the link from I-function box to motor neuron is complete.
Departing slightly from the condition of quadriplegia, there is an incident related in a book by Oliver Sachs that seems to stand on the middle ground between the two seeming choices of the I-function box. He gives the example of a young woman, hospitalized for a minor operation, who mysteriously became close to paralyzed. As she recovered, slowly regaining mobility, she found that she was only able to control her muscles by watching what she did. If she attempted to hold a spoon, she could only retain her grip on it if she kept her eyes on her hand; if she moved her gaze away, her muscles would immediately go slack and the spoon would fall to the floor. This constant concentration was required for every movement that she made.
In other words, while the link from brain to muscles was intact, there was still something faulty in the I-function box, the “experience box.” Perhaps in a way she was unable to recall that “experience,” the knowledge acquired as a baby while learning to walk. In any case, it seems to disprove the black-and-white, on-or-off notion of the I-function box.
Name:  Cb
Username:  cbarnes@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2002-02-13 22:08:00
Message Id:  969
Comments:
If there is an I-function for conscious "internal experience", then shouldn't there be a box for the unconscious "internal experience?
Name:  miranda
Username:  mcwhite@haverford.edu
Subject:  christopher reeves and self
Date:  2002-02-13 22:24:08
Message Id:  971
Comments:
Chritopher Reeves situation is certainly very interesting and helpful in understanding the relationship between brain and behavior. Knowledge of his condition really aids me deciding whether or not brain equals behavior. It seems obvious to me that Christopher Reeves' self-hood would be located in his brain. Amputees do not suffer from anything other than the loss of a limb and can function completely in every other aspect of life. Christopher Reeves' condition seems to be nothing more than an affirmation that the self is located in the brain. Though his body still has the capability to move (in the case of his retracting his foot), his actions are independent from his identity. Because we experience every movement and our entire bodies seem to be so much part of us, we are uncomfortable with the idea that all behavior stems from the brain. However, in Christopher Reeves' case, we can easier understand the question we are trying to understand. Though Christopher Reeves has no sensory experiences from his neck down, he has no less of a sense of self than you or me.
Name:  alisa
Username:  alisacalexander@hotmail.com
Subject:  
Date:  2002-02-14 00:13:38
Message Id:  972
Comments:
im still a little confused about the i-function. When we put it in the context of Christopher Reeves case, it seems to make sense. but does the function still exist if the person has no memory? does the i-function control both the trasmition of input/output signals?
Name:  Lilian
Username:  lburgler@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Frontal Lobe
Date:  2002-02-14 00:27:30
Message Id:  973
Comments:
Has anyone ever seen the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest?" I'm not sure when it came out- possibly in the 70's- Jack Nicholson, Danny Devito, Christopher Loyd (i think that's his name- Doc Brown from Back to the Future). Well, the movie's relevence here concerns the "I-Function." In the closing scene of the movie, McMurphy is escorted back to bed by two hospital attendants. Chief tries to communicate with McMurphy, but he is inresponsive. He is not dead, nor is he parylized- he walked back to his own bed. Upon closer examination, Chief sees a scar across his forehead. He then takes a pillow, and suffocates his friend (who by the way offers some resistance to dying). What they did to McMurphy, after he tried to strangle nurse Ratchet, was give him a frontal lobotomy. The I-Function seems to correspond to the concept of "the self" (in psychological, or philosophical terms). Afterall, i am mySELF and the reason that I can say that is because there is a self to be, more specifically, MYself, namely "I". In McMurphy's case, it seemed that he no longer had a concept of the self. He did not respond to attempts at verbal communication, nor does he speak when he is touched, although the remainder of his life functions were in order. Perhaps then, "I-Function" box is located in the frontal lobe of the brain (I heard this part of the brain is light-sensitive, and is referred to as the "third-eye"- anyone know more about that?). While we're on the topic of Hollywood, let's take a second to remember the not-so-memorable follow-up to "Silence of the Lambs," "Hannibal." In the climactic scene of that movie, Hannibal Lechter performs a frontal lobotomy on his dinner guest, fries up the slivers of brain, and then feeds him his own brain. He mumbles something automatic, like "mmm, good." And as he cuts away more tissue, his guest (I can't remember his name) loses more and more of his speech, but he can still perform certain basic thoughtless things like chewing (his own brain).
Question: Can you habituate, that is, teach a frog anything? Or are learned behaviors courtesy of the cerebellum.
Name:  Tua
Username:  schaudhu@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  "I-function" box, connections, experience
Date:  2002-02-14 02:06:33
Message Id:  979
Comments:
In class on Tuesday Prof. Grobstein said "Internal experience is the experience of being there, much behavior is just doing things and not being there." There are activities, especially habitual activities which are often performed on auto-pilot. Is it that the connection between the I function box and a motor neuron are so quick that it can go unnoticed by our consciousness? I wonder then at the selectivity of the i-function box, and how it/we choose(s) what to experience. Even if the connections between the i-function box and certain motor neurons are broken, can the i-function box, from previously having experienced something, remember what it was like to be in that particular situation? For instance, it would seem, judging from the likes of Beethoven, that people who become deaf later in their lives, can still have an internal experience of music. The connections might be broken, but it would seem as though these individuals can still "be there." Where does memory and habit come into this process? Also, can inputs and outputs be rerouted and if so could this procedure be used to repair broken connections?
Name:  TC
Username:  Psyche1223@aol.com
Subject:  
Date:  2002-02-14 02:24:24
Message Id:  981
Comments:
I was very surprised to learn that Christopher Reeve's foot would move if you pinched it. I hadn't expected that to be the response at all. Biologically, it makes sense, but now I'm unsure as to what to think in terms of brain=behaviour. Because if brain equals behavior and the nerves of the foot were no longer connected to the brain... then there should be no behavior or reaction. But then again, since the spinal cord is considered part of the brain, I guess the idea of brain=behavior still works.




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