Biology 202
Neurobiology and Behavior
Spring 2003

Forum Archive - Week 1

If you currently accept the idea that there isn't anything to behavior except the brain, explain why. If you don't or are fence-sitting, explain why.


Name:  Paul Grobstein
Username:  pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Welcome and ...
Date:  2003-01-21 14:17:34
Message Id:  4220
Comments:
Glad to have you here to continue/expand on our class conversations. As I said earlier today, please think of this as a place to pose questions/leave thoughts in progress/continue talking. Your thoughts in progress, whatever they are, are likely to contribute to other people thinking, and theirs in turn may be useful in your own.

Very much enjoyed our conversation this morning, pleased to have the diversity of backgrounds and interests we have. Pleased too to have your willingness/inclination to recognize some of the hard/interesting problems, like the importance for behavior of both "nature and nurture", of motivation/personality/aspiration/thought, of social/cultural interactions. And pleased to have both the theoretical and the practical concerns voiced: what IS the relation between mind and body, and how should one deal with issues of mental health (among other things)? Hope that, with everyone contributing, we can indeed keep the playing field large enough/rich enough to meet everyone's interests.

This week (as every week) you're free to write about whatever interests you (and as many times as you feel inclined). But if you need something to get you started, here's something to play with as a starting point ...

If you currently accept the idea that there isn't anything to behavior except the brain, explain why. If you don't or are fence-sitting, explain why.


Name:  Erin Fulchiero
Username:  zegrete@aol.com
Subject:  
Date:  2003-01-22 20:44:20
Message Id:  4230
Comments:
In our initial discussion, I claimed to subscribe absolutely to the belief that nothing, in fact, exists beyond the brain. However, upon hearing the suggestion of a "soul" from another student, I quickly realized that I had been extremely hesitant to admit a belief in something considered far greater than the human nervous system: God. Curiously, I had more or less denied an integral part of my personal belief system. Since that discussion, I have given a great deal of thought to the reality that enabled my response and to the many years I have struggled to resolve science and religion. I typically comfort myself by suggesting that even if religion is simply a manifestation of the mind created for personal comfort, adherence to a moral code and a dogmatic system enhances my existence.
Of course, I have found the task impossible and do not expect to discover a definitive answer in a single semester. Instead, I agree with Richard Feynman's suggestion that, "I don't have to know and answer, I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is so far as I can tell." I also believe, as Feynman does, that science and religion can coexist. Regardless, I am curious to see whether or not I will be able to remain comfortable in my practice of faith while gaining insight into the physiological motivation of my actions and behavior.
Name:  Daniel Elstein
Username:  delstein@haverford.edu
Subject:  is there anything other than the brain?
Date:  2003-01-22 21:28:42
Message Id:  4231
Comments:
I think that there isn't anything to behavior besides the brain, because I know you can control people's behavior to some extent by acting upon their brains through drugs. I think you could probably control a person's behavior completely if you knew how to manipulate their nervous system. On the other hand, I still believe that we have thoughts that are somehow not the same thing as what goes on in our brain, even though I think our thoughts are determined by our brains.
Name:  Alexandra Lippman
Username:  alippman@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2003-01-23 08:14:10
Message Id:  4237
Comments:
Although logically I think that the brain controls all behavior, for some reason I am still uncomfortable with that idea. While I think the brain controls most behavior, I am not sure that the brain controls all behavior. For example, some things we do are highly irrational, and I am not sure if the brain could account for that. Still the motivations behind apparently irrational actions may be too complex to understand, and the series of motivations may be hidden but still a part of the brain.
Name:  Patricia Palermo
Username:  ppalermo@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  While I was browsing...
Date:  2003-01-23 15:41:36
Message Id:  4240
Comments:
While I was checking out this site, I clicked on the word "fun" integrated into a paragraph on the right, and then from there, clicked on "Seeing More Than Your Eye Does." I was absolutely amazed at what I saw. The excersize takes you through a journey that shows just where your blind spot is, and then what your brain is capable of inferring about its surrounding even in the face of this spot that our eyes can not report bact to the brain. The fascinating part is that the brain infers things that are completely false! You stare at the screen and see things that are absolutely not there, and so while your brain is creating something, it allows you too "see" this imaginary object or color. For me, the excersize was a shocking realization, that at every moment that i feel i am veiwing something, my brain is innaccurately making up a very small part of it. I would love to learn what mechanism in the brain is in charge of creating this magnificent illusion! I just wanted to make sure that no one in the class passed the excersize by. It's worth your time and contemplation!
Name:  Rachel Singer
Username:  rsinger@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Baby wants food? I think not!
Date:  2003-01-23 18:25:20
Message Id:  4241
Comments:
While we were discussing hypotheses today (in particular, the one in which we mentioned how if a baby cries, it probably wants food), it reminded me of a relevant real-life experience that I had over winter break. While working with toddlers at a local community center, I noticed that the toddlers did in fact did begin to bawl at the first signs of hunger. However, many other instances occurred in which they cried - not because they wanted a pudding cup or some mac and cheese, but because they missed their mommy and daddy. Even more often, these toddlers started bawling because they seriously needed a diaper change (fortunately, there were other staff members who were available to do this!).

The experience with toddlers served as real-life proof that hypotheses are a summary of disprovable observations. While these observations may sometimes aid us in evaluating real-life situations, they do not hold true in all cases. I noticed this when I fed one sad little guy pudding (hypothesis: feed an unhappy toddler and he will cheer up) and he still kept on crying...then I smelled his diaper, and instantly knew that my hypothesis had been false :)


Name:  Michelle Coleman
Username:  mcoleman@haverford.edu
Subject:  Placebo
Date:  2003-01-23 18:31:25
Message Id:  4242
Comments:
The mentioning today of the Placebo effect is one that stimulated great thought. I have grappled with the reliability of many drugs due to the strength of placebos. Additionally, with the existence of things such as behavioral therapy and its often significant effects in the modification of learned behaviors, I have become very suspicious of the true nature of drugs as manipulators of human behavior. However, thinking along the lines of Prof. Grobstein's comment on the genetic information that our genomes have retained from our ancestors it is no wonder our body is capable of sufficiently healing itself. If the knowledge, insights, and strengths or our genetically connected ancestors is stored in our genome and you are a firm believer in Darwin's survival of the fittest.... what the hell are drugs really giving us that we cannot essentially do for ourselves? Our minds seem to dictate what our bodies are capable of doing. According to the effectiveness of the placebo...drugs are giving us just an idea of wellness which triggers our body's natural healing process.
Name:  Cordelia Stearns
Username:  cstearns@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  drugs
Date:  2003-01-23 19:22:00
Message Id:  4243
Comments:
I tend to disagree somewhat with Michelle in the above posting. Drugs can be exraordinarily powerful in their effect on the brain and behavior. This is observable in the success of drugs like Prozac, which is an amazing tool in lifting depressive illnesses. It is also observable in any methadone clinic, where patients' are trying to piece together lives torn apart by the effects of heroin on their behavior. Drugs can cause people to take risks, to calm down, to have energy, to be apathetic....an immense number of behavioral changes can be created by drugs. Placebos also affect people's behavior, but not nearly so much as drugs. Taking a placebo causes some change in the brain as well. It is calming when you are sick to think that you have taken something that will make you better. But drugs alter the brain in much more elaborate ways. I just worry that underestimating drugs could perpetuate the stigma already on people who take drugs for mental illness. Therapy is important, perhaps as much or more so than psychiatric medication in some cases, but many people depend on drugs to maintain their ability to function in daily life.
Name:  Danielle McManus
Username:  dmcmanus@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2003-01-23 19:24:34
Message Id:  4244
Comments:
The question(s) I find interesting is: what are the boundaries of the brain? Can we imagine them? If the brain regulates activities of which we're unconscious, such as digestion or temperature regulation, what other, perhaps intangible, unrealized functions could it perform? If someone claims to have the unconscious ability to sense the intangible, say, the future or ghosts or God, is it possible that they've accessed some unconscious area/function of the brain that others haven't? Or should those people and ideas be dismissed as silly or attention mongering?
Name:  Zunera
Username:  zmirza@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Brain=Behavior?
Date:  2003-01-23 20:40:56
Message Id:  4245
Comments:
Note: this was supposed to be posted on the 29th...but it wouldn't go through. Here it is anyway.

During our initial discussion, when we either agreed or disagreed whether there was anything besides the brain to behavior, the first thought to my mind was...well, that seems logical, but what about external factors- ex. environmental factors, other people, drugs, abuse, etc? For instance, if a healthy and moderately well off person who lived in a wealthy suburb with all the "necessaries"- house, food, water, heat, etc was put into a situation where he/she was left in a dark basement in another country without clothes, water, and food they may begin to behave differently, or the same person was subjected to some type of abuse repeatedly, be it verbal or physical, their behavior could also become different from what it was before the abuse...but, if you think about it, everything surrounding you can affect you, your body, and your brain. Therefore, I feel that the brain is the underlying medium for behavior, but sometimes it would require/ or be faced with things that can influence and can impact the brain. The brain would then interpret that stimulus (or stimuli) to elicit a response, which could be exhibited in the form of a certain behavior, or change in behavior.
One other thought. I also believe that religion and science coexist, go together hand in hand, especially since I feel that my religion supports a bond between the two. Therefore, accepting the idea that "yes, the brain is everything and the brain=behavior," while also believing that there is a God that controls everything from above does not seem unfeasible...but that's a whole other story.


Name:  Clarissa
Username:  clarissagriebel@hotmail.com
Subject:  
Date:  2003-01-24 22:46:33
Message Id:  4247
Comments:
There isn't anything to behavior except the brain, true or false? What about inner strength, the ability to fight the bad things which happen in our lives? If there is nothing except the brain is our total "self" ensconced in that five pounds of flesh? I am struggling with the idea that all of my behavior can be summed up with THE BRAIN. While writing this I am thinking about all of the ways in which my body is being regulated in order to keep me alive. But at the same time I am interested in my brain's ability to regulate emotion. Which brings me back to my original question. Besides inner strength what about love, faith, compassion, and creativity. The things that are difficult to measure but what I consider important characteristics. If they do infact originate somewhere deep inside our brain. Then how did they get there? And why do some people have them while others don't?
Name:  Clare
Username:  clareadele81@yahoo.com
Subject:  
Date:  2003-01-25 12:33:02
Message Id:  4249
Comments:
When we first voted I was "fence-sitting." However, after reading some of the comments and thinking about it more I've slowly been convincing myself more and more that there isn't anything to behavior except the brain. To me it's all about proof. And because we can't prove it one way or the other, I know that there will always be a part of me that remains open to the idea of a soul or other aspect controlling behavior. The question at hand deals with one tangible and one intangible thing; however, we can obviously collect more data on the tangible thing, the brain. That's why, as I think about the more and more possible things that we have shown the brain can control- how you feel, what you think, how you react, how well you do or do not do things- it becomes easier to believe that the brain is all there is to behavior. Although the brain is a tangible thing, it can control intangible aspects, such as emotion, by regulating tangible chemicals in your body. At the same time, however, it is impossible to show or disprove what those intangible things, such as the soul, that might control behavior are capable of doing and, therefore, they lose significance, in my mind, in their role in behavior. I know that some philosophers, like Socrates, Aristotle, and Descartes, have tried to "prove" the existence of the soul through deduction, reasoning, or the existence of God. Yet, these still lack the tangible significance that the brain gives as evidence to its control in behavior.
Name:  Amelia Turnbull
Username:  aturnbul@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Drugs vs. Placebo
Date:  2003-01-25 16:24:33
Message Id:  4250
Comments:
When I was looking over the comments that my classmates have already posted, I was particulary interested in Michelle and Cordelia's comments on the uses of placebos and drugs.
I do agree with Michelle about the power of the brain in the use of placebos. The brain and body can do remarkable things in healing itself, especially when the person is taking something that she believes will help relieve her suffering. I know from experience that I have been able to fight off colds and other infections by willpower (and extra sleep) when I could not afford to become ill. Placebos and other remedies that do not have proven healing powers are attributated healing powers, when in reality it is most likely the brain that is affecting the body.
However, I do agree with Cordelia as well. The placebo affect and convincing oneself not to get sick do not take the place for drugs. I know from personal experience what antidepressents can do. From my experience in my anthropological studies, the human body as a whole does not evolve into a perfect entity. For example, in adopting upright posture, the body sacrificed a certain degree of joint health in the knees and a certain degree of back health. Because walking upright outweighed this drawbacks, we remain an upright species. However, knee and back problems are very common.
I also disagree with Michelle in her comment that the brain should be able to provide all of the healing powers for the body by itself. There are many examples in the animal kingdom of animals, especially higher primates, who self medicate with plants and such for diseases and other problems. If other animals feed the need to medicate themselves, why should we be so different?
Name:  Paul Grobstein
Username:  pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  classlist available
Date:  2003-01-25 17:49:41
Message Id:  4251
Comments:
Check out the tentative class list. If you're among those on the enrolled list and have changed your mind about taking the course, please email me as soon as possible so students on the waiting list can be accomodated. Thanks.
Name:  Shanti Mikkilineni
Username:  smikkili@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2003-01-25 23:10:35
Message Id:  4253
Comments:
I would like to comment on what Clare wrote earlier about believing that the brain is all there is to behavoir. While I do agree that the brain is capable of regulating much of our emotion, I don't think that there can just be the brain. While I do think that it is because of the brain that we are able to conceive of things like the soul and spirit, I think it is because those things can exist outside of the brain. The poem that we were talking about earlier characterizes the brain as something that contains everything else. But just because the brain is what perceives the outside world or sky, that doesn't mean that those things do not exist independently. If a person dies, those things don't go away, it is that the person is not capable of perceiving them. Clare also mentions that since it is impossible to disprove the existence of intangibles that they lose their significance in terms of behavior. I disagree because one of the biggest things that control behavior is love. If you were to ask someone to prove that they loved someone, the only way they would be able to do it would be through their behavior.
There is no imperical way of measuring emotion and the closest thing we have to measuring them is through actions and behavior. We can't say that these ideas have been proven absolutely because science itself and the tangible things that we have measured aren't absolutes either. It is my belief that those tangible things such as chemical pathways aren't anymore absolute than the notion that the soul exists outside the brain and controls behavior.
Name:  nicole jackman
Username:  njackman@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  work in progress..
Date:  2003-01-26 13:24:14
Message Id:  4254
Comments:
I was one of the people that agreed with Dickinson and believed that the brain and behavior are the same thing. Nevertheless, I do believe that there is something more to existence. It is a rather depressing thought to view people as robots that act and react to their environment. Free will and personal responsibility would not exist. I think there is something more than the brain like a soul that also influences behavior. But it is possible that the brain can create a soul, in a manner similar to the way that it creates thoughts. However, if the brain invents the soul that means that when the person dies, the soul dies too. So this is problematic. I'm still trying to analyze the idea of something similar to a soul being carried through genes and being passed from generation to generation. This seems feasible, however, it assumes that this collective, ancestral knowledge is only passed down within a species (which may not be compatible with ideas on reincarnation. And I haven't thought about reincarnation too much.) Behavior is incredibly complex and hard to predict. The environment influences behavior, but there is an emotional, irrational side to it as well. Somehow I am trying to resolve the idea of a soul and place it within a framework of being controlled by the brain or genes or something else. If anyone has any thoughts let me know.
Name:  Jen
Username:  jhansen@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  pondering...
Date:  2003-01-26 15:26:47
Message Id:  4255
Comments:
I would like to briefly comment on Shanti's posting which encompassed the belief that there is another component and she utilizes the emotion of LOVE to demonstrate this point. I would like to say that I had never thought of love as being a factor that controls behavior. I am unsure how to comment or whether I agree or disagree with this notion; however, I feel that it will add insight and shape my previously defined relationship connecting the brain and behavior. I have always believed that there is a strong correlation between the brain and behavior due to the fact that doctors can alter behavior by manipulating aspects of the brain (and nervous system). I never questioned how emotions played into my simplistic correlation. I guess I haven't reached a point of clarity in this posting but I have begun to question the definition previously known.
Name:  Nupur
Username:  nchaudhu@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  From A Fence Sitter...
Date:  2003-01-26 15:52:53
Message Id:  4256
Comments:
During class, I was reluctant to vote one way or another for my complete lack of knowlage about the subject. Being interested more in the humanities than in the sciences, to make a decicison on an absolute such as brain=behavior proves to be a daunting task for me. Unlike the humanities, the sciences contains actual right and wrong answers, concrete examples and a proving or disproving of observations. Consequently, to agree to something such as brain=behavior would, I feel, make it an absolute, to deny the existance of a soul, as mentioned in an earlier posting, or the implications of a god, mentioned in yet another posting. And yet, to disagree that brain=behavior could be wrong. Even after class, I am still unsure as to wether or not I believe brain=behavior.
Name:  Nicole Megatulski
Username:  nmegatul@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2003-01-26 16:58:54
Message Id:  4258
Comments:
I agree with Zunera's earlier posting. I think it is very important to take into account the importance of an environmental stimulus when discussing brain and behavior. The brain and resulting behavior are molded by experience and surrounding conditions and vary between people of different environments/backgrounds/experiences. Without an environmental stimulus, there is not brain/behavior reaction. One of the books that Prof. Grobstein posted, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness by Antonio Damasio seems to further explore this notion and so I intend to check that out for some more ideas. I'd also like to note that I found it interesting to partake in a class discussion that centered around broader concepts in supplement to the pure scientific reason that is typical of a biology class. I tend to think of bodily functions/behavior in a purely physiological manner and am glad to have an outlet to explore other aspects.
Name:  Tiffany Litvine
Username:  tlitvine@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Undecided
Date:  2003-01-26 17:09:56
Message Id:  4259
Comments:
At this point in the class I do not feel comfortable saying that brain = behavior and that the brain is all there is. Obviously this idea has already caused some controversy with people who have religious beliefs since it would disprove the fact that there is a spirit or a soul within us. I personally do not believe that there is a difference between the mind/brain/spirit/soul, yet I still have trouble accepting the fact that the brain would be entirely responsible for our behavior.

The brain certainly plays a large role in people's behavior since medication can change someones mood and even help people emerge from states of depression for example. But where my skepticism lies is when factors such as creativity, aspirations, curiosity, emotions enter the scene. How can neurons be responsible for such abstract notions? I feel that these feelings cannot simply be caused by the nervous system. Therefore I cannot say that brain = behavior.

While thinking this question over, I was also wondering how much genetics had to do with behavior. How much of our behavior is caused/controlled by our genetic makeup? I have no concrete answer at this point, although I am sure that some of our behavior is genetic which would go against the idea that our behavior is simply caused by our nervous system.


Name:  Luz Martinez
Username:  lmartine@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  not sure
Date:  2003-01-26 19:40:15
Message Id:  4261
Comments:
After reading some comments about the brain and behavior, I couldn't convince myself that only the brain is responsible for behavior.
I agree with Tiffany and the idea that creativity and emotions may not be the product of the nervous system.
If my brain is the one in control, then it makes me doubt the importance of my emotions. I'm not sure I can agree that brain=behavior because I still have not been exposed to enough information or data that supports this.
Name:  priya
Username:  praghava@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  substitution to the equation
Date:  2003-01-26 20:24:05
Message Id:  4262
Comments:
I believe that the brain=behavior science is rooted in several divisions- biology, philosophy, religion, and psychology to name a few. Since ours is a more neuroscience class, I want to examine the equation using a neuroscientific methodology. Perhaps one of the reasons why neuroscientists are reluctant to account for the "mind" or "soul" is because these factors cannot to measured or quantified, something absolutely essential to scientific approach.
I still do not completely agree that the brain=behavior but rather that it plays a complementary role in the determination of behavior. For example, the equation brain=behavior could be replaced by- Brain:Behavior :: Structure:Function.
The Brain/Bahavior form a sort of cause and effect relationship. An example? The "subtraction" of a piece of the brain either due to experimentation or injury causes some observable aspects of behavior missing in a person. When the frontal portion of the brain is altered or manipulated, people who have perfect vision suddenly for some unforseen reason have visual impairment. Nevertheless,although the brain definitely plays a crucial role in behavior outcome, I think factors like environment, ecology, culture, and just human evolution need to be equally considered before reaching any solid conclusion.
Name:  Neesha Patel
Username:  npatel@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  how would individuality exist?
Date:  2003-01-26 21:36:21
Message Id:  4265
Comments:
In the beginning I did not agree with the statement that brain=behaviour, however, after reading through some of the web articles and the comments posted by other students, Im fence sitting now.
Numerous experiments have shown that damaging a part of the brain causes changes in behaviour linked to the damaged region and the adverse effects of drugs can be traced to physiochemical events in the brain. Considering this I would say that brain= behaviour, however many students have brought up creativity, emotions, inner strength that cannot be traced to any 'region' of the brain. Clarissa questioned how some people had more of certain qualities such as inner strength while others didnt.. if brain truly = behaviour, then everyone should have the same character. How would individuality exist if there was nothing more than the brain?
Iv read many articles which have spoken of the positive effects of spirituality and meditation- how would spirituality play a role in changing personality if there was nothing to behaviour except the brain?
Name:  Annabella Rutigliano
Username:  xanthos_@hotmail.com
Subject:  Brain=Behaivior
Date:  2003-01-26 22:41:56
Message Id:  4266
Comments:
I began to write this essay as an argument aimed to prove that the brain is not behavior. However through the course of my argument I found that I had argued my self into the opposing camp, ending with the conclusion that brain is behavior. Below is the original essay, up until the point where I realized my error.
****In class we have been exploring the idea that the brain is behavior. At this point I take the stance that the brain is not behavior. I do believe that the brain dictates our biological functions, and reflex reactions. I define behavior as the result of empirical knowledge and personal experience. Biological factors can only take us to a certain point, from then on behavior come into play. To explore this opinion further, we must look at a human behavior, and label where the brains programmed reactions stop and unique behavior starts. If you were walking through the woods and saw a bear, the brain would begin to induce physical reactions. Your viscera would clench, adrenaline would be produced, and heart & breath rate would increase. At this point your brain dictated reactions would be poised on the narrow precipice between fight or flight, awaiting your decision. This decision is where behavior comes into play. Here behavior, previously defined as knowledge and experience, comes to the fore. If you happen to be a bookworm or an avid watcher of the Discovery Channel, you would know that neither fight or flight would get you out of the situation alive. An adult bear can easily overtake, and over power your average human. Therefore, take a page from the Dog Obedience School Book, and play dead. However, some people might make be unable to think rationally and give into the brains initial physical response to run. Running is caused by the brain, the rational 'play dead' reaction is behavior. ****
At this point in the original essay I realized that I my argument had one huge flaw from the very beginning. In my very definition of behavior, I give a great reason why brain is behavior. I defined behavior as learning. Isn't learning part of the brains function? Our knowledge is stored in our brain. Does this mean that our personality predetermined by a bunch of cells? Or do those 'cells' only provide us with the canvas upon which we build our life masterpieces? Until I can reach a conclusion I leave us with words of William Shakespeare: A man in all the world's new fashion planted, /That hath a mint of phrases in his brain.
Name:  Alanna Albano
Username:  ajalbano@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  My thoughts and questions
Date:  2003-01-26 23:38:09
Message Id:  4267
Comments:
I was one of the people who couldn't decide whether Emily Dickinson's comparison between the brain and the sky was legitimate...well, after giving it some serious thought, I believe she is right. To me, the brain is bigger than the sky. I think that we probably know more about the sky above our heads than we do about everything that goes on inside our heads. No matter how dig we deep into the brain we will never ever be able to determine all. We can study the anatomy, but studying the creativity, perceptions, and learning processes is a completely different ballpark. There are still so many puzzling mysteries about the brain that researchers have not yet been able to figure out. Take our dreams and nightmares, for example. How exactly does the brain figure out what images to take from our daily lives and create a dream, which may cause us to either have a restful or sleepless night? Do our dreams really possess those certain meanings that we read so often about in books and magazines?

Also, the discussion of the baby and food created another question in my mind, although it is a bit random: if you observe a baby while sleeping and see it smile, is the smile the result of a quick reflex or the reaction to a dream that the baby is having? I ask b/c this example comes straight from my own personal experience. Is it possible that a baby wakes up crying in the night because it had a nightmare?


Name:  Grace Shin
Username:  gshin@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Still don't buy the equation...
Date:  2003-01-27 10:39:11
Message Id:  4268
Comments:
Yeah, I just can't buy the equation of brain = behavior...

Although I agree that brain controls many of our behaviors, in considering our moral decisions, I feel like there has to be more than just our brain playing its part. Imagine the lil angel and the devil sitting at your shoulders, or just think about our conscience. When our "brain" is telling us two different things, how do we choose? With WHAT do we choose? If our brain made all the decisions, I feel like being the selfish and stubborn people that we are, we'd all be living for ourselves. But if that was the case, where do our religious views come into play? Especially for Christianity?

This class is going to be interesting to see how our views may or MAYNOT be altered as the semester goes on... =)


Name:  Maria
Username:  mcruz@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Brain=Behavior?
Date:  2003-01-27 10:44:29
Message Id:  4269
Comments:
I am not sure if I agree that the brain is all there is. I know the brain and nervous system are in control of everything mechanical in our bodies, but the fact that brains create behaviors in humans that are not conducive to survival and serve no clear purpose makes me doubt that it's all there is to humans. That explanation seems too simple considering what people are capable of; of course the best explanation is often the simplest one, so I know I could be wrong.

I am also intruigued by the placebo effect which we discussed in class. I wonder how our brains are capable of simulating the effects of a drug. How do we create from sheer belief processes in our bodies which should require the introduction of a foreign chemical to occur? I hope we talk about this in greater detail in class.


Name:  Kelvey Richards
Username:  krichard@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Is behavior retarded if the brain is?
Date:  2003-01-27 11:12:31
Message Id:  4270
Comments:
I have never really thought about the statement that the "brain=behavior and there is nothing else'" but since both 'brain' and 'behavior' are words that encompass a scope of complex interactions that most things can fall within (and the existence of those beyond the scope are debatable), I do not greatly doubt it. Instead, the proof of the statement is what is of greatest interest ot me. The idea that the changing of the brain results in the changing of behavior is the theme I have focused on while reading 'Flowers for Algernon' by Daniel Keyes and watching 'I am Sam' starring Sean Penn and Michelle Pfieffer. In 'Flowers for Algernon'', Charlie undergoes an operation to make him 'smart' . The operation raises his IQ to the level of a genius but it also affects how he behaves towards others as he realizes the difference between being laughed at and laughing with a person. In addition, the behavior of others towards him changes as he is seen as a threatening 'smart person'. Sam's mental limitaitons become an issue once society takes an interest adn intervens after judging his behavior. The interactions are all based on a perception that is an action by the brain and is relayed to a behavorial response. Behavior is not only derived from an internal source but is clearly a reaction to external stimuli. In addition, the effect of the mind on emotional behavior is the case of either a 'normal' or 'mentally challenged' person is apparent in 'Flowers for Algernon' and 'I am Sam' as in both cases the simple minds of the protagonist is able to display complex emotions simply. Similar to a blind person who has a heightened sense of smell, a mental deficiency can heighten an emotional awareness. Not focusing on the complex interactions (by not understanding) can allow for a more instinctive reaction to a situation. Sam's fatherly behavior concentrates on expressing love. By having an altered mental state, the behavior is different and yet the beauty is that it can be seen as a skill or gift as opposed to a retardation. Due to the direct relationship between brain and behavior, the question that arises in 'Flowers for Algernon' is if indeed an operation to change the brain and make it 'smart', creates behavior that is actually 'smarter' than the simple-minded person who looked at the beauty in people and did not know how to judge.
Name:  geoff
Username:  geoffpollitt@hotmail.com
Subject:  love...
Date:  2003-01-27 11:25:59
Message Id:  4271
Comments:
The topic of brain=behavior always runs me in circles, and I will probably contradict myself plentifully (hopefully en route to fulfilling my being wrong quota for the week).
I wanted to respond to a trend in many of the comments to forfeit certain basic functions of the human mind over to the brain while keeping others mysterious such as creativity, spirituality, inner-strength, and of course love.
I have been raised to think about certain concepts as being out of our grasp, inexplicable. I will pick on love, my favorite. Most people I speak with today, do not still argue that there is something magical about love. I feel like it is almost accepted that "love" starts out with pure animal attraction, or some kind of compatibility between two people.
When the excitement dies down, the two people have the possibility of working on their relationship and becoming an important part of each others' lives. This may or may not happen, and I think that partners who never find themselves satisfactorily a part of their significant others' life may be able to stay "in love" longer. I do not want to say that working with someone on a healthy relationship is not exciting or worthwhile, but I will say that it is not the "love" that I have been told to look out for.
And as far as not being able to explain it in any other way than the divine concept we have been given, I don't see the problem. Between my personal experience and what I do know about science I feel like I understand enough to at least hold the very real possibility that there is a "love center" in the brain (right up there with a creativity on and a spirituality on and an inner-strength one). It would not look like any kind of center and would not have a neon flashing sign above it, but would be an intricate system of synapses connecting neurons from all over the brain and the rest of the body as well (hormones, etc also playing their roles), like many other centers of the brain. It would have a functional role that can be explained through evolutionary psychology, along the lines of individual and species goals.
A response may be, "but no one has ever found a working theory, it is still a mystery!" And to that I would say that other than reading Hemmingway I get no indication in my life experiences that love is anything of the mystery that we were told it would be (and isn't it convenient that all these fictional lovebirds die before finding that out themselves), and since no one in science has ever misled me on the topic, I'd rather go with the biological explanation.
I would also like to add that no matter how much I claim to be the faith-less scientist or try to explain away the world rationally, I don't think I would ever get out of bed in the morning if I didn't have a faith that there was more, that today I might just fall in love.
Name:  Neela Thirugnanam
Username:  nthirugn@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2003-01-27 15:10:22
Message Id:  4273
Comments:
"Soul" remains confusing to me because I have yet to hear a substantial definition of it. It seems to be used as a spiritual marker of individuality and the primary cause/code of our behaviour and existence. It is placed outside the realm of the brain and mortal body. Yet, the soul, as a concept, is a human creation, and I'll have to agree that it may be a subcategory (or perhaps a spiritual equivalent) of what the brain may be. However, thinking of any being in purely biologic terms undermines and ignores what exists beyond the confines of science. You can't determine a potential criminal by pysiognomy, a future life by genes, or behavior by the nervous system. The brain holds more than the sum of its physiological contents, but what that extra something is remains a mystery to me.
Name:  Stephanie Richardson
Username:  srichard@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Spiritual world contain the sky, you...and the brain beside?
Date:  2003-01-27 17:15:09
Message Id:  4275
Comments:
I do believe that, in a sense, the brain=behavior, but only in the way that my computer=my school work. Almost everything that I write for my classes comes off of my computer. If (for some reason) I was invisible and you could only see my computer, it would look like my computer was writing this paragraph and all the other papers I've written. But just because the computer is the mechanism that I use to produce my papers, it doesn't change the fact that the computer is not creating the essay, I am. I see the brain as the control center of our behavior, but not the thing that's in control. Psychology textbooks are filled with MRI's showing brain activity . Yes, schizophrenics show less activity in certain areas and some types of depression result from low seretonin levels, but what if those are just the effects of something else? The manifestation of things we can't see? I believe that God invented the brain, so the new discoveries that are being made about the correlation between the brain and behavior don't make God, souls and the spiritual world in general any less important. It just makes us rethink how the whole thing works.
Name:  Cordelia Stearns
Username:  cstearns@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  altering behavior
Date:  2003-01-27 17:28:36
Message Id:  4276
Comments:
I wanted to talk a bit about how people are finding the idea that brain=behavior depressing. On first glance it is....do we have no control in our lives? Are we at the mercy of our genes? Can we never move beyond whatever limits our brain holds for us? Are we just vessels for our genes to get into the next generation? I definitely believe that the brain=behavior, after taking evolutionary psychology and genetics. I have ceased to be depressed by the idea, and now am rather empowered by it. Genetics and the brain are not maps of our lives, and do not control our destiny. They do have a massive impact on our behaviors, but many of our genes adapt to the environment. The thing is, if we want to change negative behaviors that are universal (homicide, depression, war, oppression...etc.) we must first come to terms with the fact that the brain is controlling them. We have evolved as a culture much faster than we could ever possibly evolve physically. Thus, certain behaviors that are dominant in the animal kingdom are considered immoral by human standards. Take for example rape. In NO way am I advocating rape, but we can understand an evolutionary reason for its occurrance. It occurs in other species as well; those who can't find consensual mates use force to get their genes into the next generation. However, rape is completely immoral in our society. In my opinion, to stop behaviors like rape, we must acknowledge where they come from as opposed to simply locking up people who are rapists. How else can we prevent behaviors like this before they happen? This is why I find it comforting that something tangible controls our behavior. If we did not know where behavior comes from, we could have no hope of ever altering it. Not that I know how to alter it now, but the fact that we know where it comes from lets me be optimistic.
Just a thought.
Name:  Laurel Jackson
Username:  ljackson@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2003-01-27 17:42:33
Message Id:  4278
Comments:
I agree with Stephanie?s posting. I do not believe that the brain is all there is. I believe humans possess souls that cannot be explained or explained away scientifically. In my opinion, behavior is the result of a combination of circumstance and brain functions. For instance, the definitions of abnormal behavior differ across cultural boundaries because abnormality is generally defined within a specific situation. The brain controls unconscious functioning of our bodies such as pulse and breathing. Behavior does not directly maintain or halt heartbeat.

I also share Nicole?s feelings of refreshment for the new perspective through which we are examining science. It is nice to think things through from a philosophical standpoint, too.


Name:  Elizabeth Damore
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  On the Fence for the Moment
Date:  2003-01-27 19:07:54
Message Id:  4279
Comments:
Since I don't have any previous experience with neurobiology, or any scientific subjects, really, it's hard for me to form a definitive idea regarding the brain = behavior question. Initially, I would have thought that behavior stems from so much more than the brain. Outside sources, such as society and education, seem to determine so much of our behavior. In addition, the highly irregular nature of human behavior would lead me to believe that our actions don't all orginate from our heads, given that all humans have similar brains. However, without the brain to process and "select" a form of behavior, would humans do anything at all? One can't really exist without the other, but, for me, it remains to be seen whether their mutual dependency is exclusive.
Name:  Sarah Feidt
Username:  sfeidt@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Both.
Date:  2003-01-27 19:24:12
Message Id:  4282
Comments:

(( Strangely, I came out of our first week of NB&B discussions feeling only a small bit of confusion, and that had nothing to do with the brain=behavior question. It was confusion as to the significance of the Dickenson poem. The first stanza seems to simply say that the brain contains an impression of the sky "and you beside." Isn't this the same as a photograph? To me, this poem doesn't address behavior at all. If anything, it could point to a subjective reality viewpoint, where the sky "and you beside" only exist as a perception inside the brain. Taking Emily literally seems to say more that brain=reality than brain=behavior. ))

Right now, I think that any given aspect of behavior can be traced to a certain chain reaction in the mind-bogglingly complex systems of processes in the brain. For now, I joyfully embrace the idea that there is a distinct cause and effect for every blink and smile and twitch and conclusion reached. Far from empty, it seems exciting. Imagine the complexity, the jaw-dropping minute and interwoven nature of our brains!

But you know, every aspect of computer function can be traced to a certain chain reaction in the mind-bogglingly complex systems of processes in the hardware. Still, if you put together the materials and forms needed to make that hardware, and sent the right amount of electricity pulsing through it, would it run? No. Nothing would happen, except electrons would glide their merry way through the circuitry. Why is that?

Because hardware DOES NOT = output.

A computer will not work unless it has software, programs, a guidance system. It needs something to tell it how to run. It's not a wheel that will just roll on its own, it's far more complex -- and it requires instruction to work right.

I can imagine that some would say genetics fits this description nicely. But what is a genome but raw code? If you give a computer raw code, it still won't work. That's because code needs to be compiled: it needs to be packaged in a way that makes it usable for the computer. It doesn't influence the computer without first being influenced by... the programmer.

I realize that this is a potentially confusing and awfully long analogy, but it's really the clearest thing I could come up with on the spot to really explain what I believe. In summary, I believe in a human soul that influences the brain to create and effect behavior. I think that behavior can be traced back to the brain's commands, and the brain's commands can be traced back to the soul.


Name:  Kathleen Flannery
Username:  kflanner@brynmawr
Subject:  thoughts.
Date:  2003-01-27 19:48:32
Message Id:  4286
Comments:
The brain=behavior dilemma still has me wondering. When we talk about the brain's singular role in determining behavior, does this include certain kinds of psychological conditioning? (i.e. neglected children who begin to hide food in the homes of new foster parents or the behavior of abused pets, etc.) Are these behaviors related to the brain because they are psychological, or is personal experience something different?
Name:  Ingrid
Username:  ihansen@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  irony and onward
Date:  2003-01-27 20:48:11
Message Id:  4288
Comments:
Just a note.. I recommend using the cut/paste method of posting rather than typing straight in.. I just lost my posting.

Isn't it a fabulous irony that the brain, the tool we use to understand, can't comprehend (or hasn't comprehended so far as far as anyone knows) what exactly it is? The brain understands other body parts, but because we associate brain not only with material matter, but with transcendant qualities. The only conceivable "thing" that could understand the brain, is the brain. To me this is a wholly solipsistic notion, because self is brain.

solipsism [f. L. sl-us alone + ipse self.] The view or theory that self is the only object of real knowledge or the only thing really existent.

Behave, the word, comes from a reflexive sense of have, as in "to have (bear) oneself." Then it follows that behavior is concerned (linguistically at least) with self, which is brain, which supplies one argument for brain=behavior, there isn't anything else. Because we don't know everything about the brain, and because the brain is involved in every discipline, there is widespread material about it. It is the ultimate, self-supplied mystery. Not confined by the existence of right (provable) answers, there is tremendous room for creativity in thinking about the brain. This feels like a cicuitous argument because, in the last sentence, there are four terms for what I have said is the same thing (existence, creativity, thinking, brain).

I wanted to comment on external factors of behavoir; many people brought up drugs and environment as examples. I started to think about mind control and brainwashing. Brainwashing is an enormous affront to self, but is it more so than the tools it uses (drugs, environment, suggestion)? Mind control alters behavior--external factors, changes the landscape of the mind--internal factors. Although we associate brainwashing with a kooky cultish fringe, aren't we constantly subject to it by virtue of mass media/ advertising?

I recast my vote from fence sitting to pro-Emily.


Name:  Kate Tucker
Username:  ktucker@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2003-01-27 21:52:22
Message Id:  4291
Comments:
Personally, I find it very exciting to think that the brain equals behavior! I don't find it depressing in the least to consider the brain the sole origin of our behavior. Think of the wonder of it! We have this complex instrument which reacts to outside stimulus, processes genetic instructions, and learns from experience. Somehow this great mass of neurons is able to direct all the complex behavior that we witness.

We cannot separate ourselves from the brain. The emotions we feel and the actions we perform are all part of the brain. The brain doesn't have to be logical. Just because humans (and other animals) can act quite irrationally at times doesn't mean that the brain isn't the root of this behavior. I think perhaps people associate the brain with science, and thus with logic. Much of science does follow a certain logic, but that does not mean that the behaviors we produce must be logical. The logic of science and the logic of society are two very different things.

Many people have said here that they don't like the idea that the brain is all there is. I don't see why a brain=behavior theory has to cheapen that behavior. Just because the brain is the root of my emotions, doesn't mean that they have any less significance to me. I am not aware of how my brain processes the inputs it receives, but that doesn't mean the process is any less awe inspiring.

One last thought...I am not a religious person, but it seems to me that a theory of brain=behavior could be entirely compatible with a belief in God. If God created people, then he created the brain. I find the brain fascinating and I could certainly see how a deity that created it would be worth worshipping.


Name:  Nia Turner
Username:  nturner@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  The Brain and Behavior
Date:  2003-01-27 22:28:36
Message Id:  4294
Comments:
Initially in class I was indecisive about the question. After thinking critically I still do not assert that I know the right or wrong answer, but rather I suggest a possibility. The brain is similar to a computer, because it has intricate structures that correspond with different functions. Both the computer and brain interact with an exterior agent. The brain interacts with the environment, and the brain responds to stimuli. Behavior is the brain's language for communicating with the world. The brain and behavior are co-dependent.
Name:  Melissa Osorio
Username:  mosorio@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Brain = Behavior ?
Date:  2003-01-27 22:37:21
Message Id:  4295
Comments:
After our first discussion I wasn't convinced that brain and behavior were the same thing. While I understood what Emily Dickinson was saying about the brain encompassing everything, I felt that there are other reasons for behavior. I was thinking that if we merely claim that brain equals behavior than are we missing something? It seems to me that nuturing and one's environment may also play into one's behavior. Although that being said, I'm not so sure that all of these outside factors are not processed by the brain and thus behavior is encompassed by the brain. I guess that I'm still not sure what I think, if anything our discussion led me to more questions. If the nervous system is the origin of behavior then can all our behaviors be explained by the workings of the brain? Are there any behaviors that stand on their own or can be attributed to other factors? I feel like I need more information to answer this question and to see where I stand on brain equaling behavior.
Name:  lara
Username:  lkallich@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  more on the brain and behavior
Date:  2003-01-27 22:40:26
Message Id:  4297
Comments:
Possibly the best argument in favor of there being more to behavior (or human nature in general) than just the brain that I have ever come across was probably the one made by Descartes in his Second Meditation (from Meditations on First Philosophy). He states that the existence or nature of everything material or sense-related, including the world and one's own body and brain, can quite plausibly be doubted; however, by virtue of the fact that these doubts exist, that someone or something - mind, soul, essence, whatever you like - is having these doubts, one's existence itself cannot be doubted. According to Descartes, the claim that the brain stands in direct causal relation to behavior and human nature in general could not possibly be true, because the nature and very existence of the brain is not definite.

I generally have agreed with the statement "brain = behavior". Descartes' argument, unlike any others of its kind, very nearly had me convinced that there existed something which I will call "mind", and that the brain thus could not be the sole source of human nature or behavior. However, there is a serious problem that makes it impossible for me to agree completely: the fact that, after having made this argument, one cannot subsequently give a meaningful characterization of "mind". Descartes says it is "a thing which thinks". This is the only characterization of "mind" that is at all possible in light of his arguments - however, in light of his arguments it is impossible to say what "thinks" means. At the most basic level, humans understand abstract concepts such as thought in terms of sensory experiences of the material world (this can be best demonstrated through observation of the way infants, toddlers, etc. learn things); if those sensory experiences are unreliable, abstractions become meaningless. Thus the argument for the existence of "mind", in order for it to be successful, requires us to take its nature for granted. I, for one, refuse simply to accept that mind is without being able to understand what mind is. At the moment, however, I am unable to understand the nature of mind, and thus stand by my original position. Until, of course, I am convinced otherwise. (I would like it if anyone in whom these arguments trigger some sort of reaction would tell me their thoughts on the matter.)


Name:  Christine Kaminski
Username:  ckaminsk@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Placebos vs. Drugs
Date:  2003-01-27 22:54:25
Message Id:  4298
Comments:
I actually brought up the question our first day about the relationship between the mind and the body. It's something I've long wondered about. Specifically, the argument between drugs versus placebos interests me.

I have read the book , "Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient" where Norman Cousins describes the effects placebos have had on patients. I have to agree with his reasoning that the placebo is only a tangible object made necessary in a society that is uncomfortable with the intangible-specifically I see him meaning that society today cannot see a cure for an illness without a physical antedote. It seems that people need that physical cure for a visible answer.

I still do believe that drugs provide a cure but its definitely highly possible in my opinion that the drugs are unnecessary. Placebos, or actual natural remedies can accomplish the same results. Antibiotics represent one example of something the body actually can surely benefit from. This is of course as long as the body really needs it and does not abuse it to become then resistent to several antibiotics. This would only be putting the body at further risk by needing to find another antibiotic remedy. But basically I think that natural remedies, or a shift in the mind's belief and power, can cure many of the illnesses that people are becoming so accustomed to relying on drugs for.

Another example of the mind's power I witnessed in an episode of CSI:Crime Scene Investigation. There was a daughter whose mother had died but a few months beforehand, the mother had left leaving the daughter to take on the household roles that mom held up while she was them. Psychologically through taking on mom's role, she fell romantically in love with dad and felt like she had fully assumed mom's role. So in an interview with the police investigating the later death of mom, the daughter started lactating because she made herself believe that she was pregnant-even though nothing ever physical happened between the daughter and dad.

So I really do find the mind an amazingly powerful force over the body. What are its limitations? I don't know...maybe it has absolutely no limitations, as Emily Dickenson described in her poem relating the mind to the sky. I would love to further invest some thought in this topic.


Name:  andrea
Username:  anathema@optonline.net
Subject:  
Date:  2003-01-27 23:34:49
Message Id:  4300
Comments:
I disagree with the statement that behavior is exclusively a function of the brain and of genetic makeup. The brain cannot force us to act in certain ways, but only predispose us to certain reactions when exposed to environmental triggers. If behavior were based solely on environmental factors, then all people faced with similar conditions would act in the same way. I don't believe that behavior can be separated into categories of "brain" or "environment" or "soul," but that these factors are inevitably mixed. I therefore disagree with the propositions that the dependence of our actions on our brains somehow destroys the notion of a unique personality, and that we are slaves to our genetic makeup with no free will. I believe that when the brain creates the mind it endows it with both certain natural reactions to environmental triggers and the power to overrule these inclinations. or whatever.
Name:  Enor Wagner
Username:  enorenor6@aol.com
Subject:  placebo and vets
Date:  2003-01-27 23:34:54
Message Id:  4301
Comments:
After reading Michelle Coleman's and Cordelia's opposing comments with regards to the placebo effect, I find my opinion lying somewhere in between the two. Studies have proven that using a placebo in the place of an active drug often produce similar results. I conducted an experiment in 7th grade on preschoolers wherein the children were each timed running 30 yards. Then I brought out a pile of 'magic shoelaces' and retimed them each running the 30 yards. Only the children who believed that they were magic ran faster, while the children who were more cynical about the power of the shoelaces ran either the same speed or slower. The placebo cannot solely be dependent on its nature to be effective. Instead, the amount of belief an individual mind has in the pill or shoelace will most often be directly proportional to its rate of its success.

On the subject of the soldiers in Vietnam who suffered from heroin addiction, I wanted to point out that drug addiction is not completely dependent on chemical addiction, but also on psychological conditioning. It should be noted that of all the Vietnam vets who were addicted to heroin while in war, only close to ten percent relapsed once they arrived back in their home environment. The mind had associated the drug with a certain environment, but once taken out of its known habitat, it was no longer as desirable. This is why I tend to agree with Michelle, that drugs cannot always alone cause change the state of the mind, it also depends on other contributing factors. For example, Cordelia pointed out that Prozac changes the mind's state, making those who take it feel happier and less depressed, however, I wonder, what would happen if they did not know that they were taking it? Would the drug render the same results or would people remain in their depressed states, since their minds have been conditioned to function that way. I understand that there exists serotonin in Prozac and that the it alters the chemicals in the brain, thus helping them to achieve greater happiness, but can their entire state be accredited to serotonin, or does their outside knowledge of the drugs effects contribute to that state?

On the opposing side, I agree with Cordelia in that there are drugs which alter the mind, with or without the knowledge that they have been ingested or injected, such as GHB the date rape drug, or IV drugs when a patient is unconscious such as morphine. Whether or not they are aware that the drug is entering their body, the effect remains the same. My question is what is the range of reactions? Does the mind take react more intensely or dramatically once it is aware that it has entered the human system?


Name:  Enor Wagner
Username:  enorenor6@aol.com
Subject:  placebo and vets
Date:  2003-01-27 23:36:07
Message Id:  4302
Comments:
After reading Michelle Coleman's and Cordelia's opposing comments with regards to the placebo effect, I find my opinion lying somewhere in between the two. Studies have proven that using a placebo in the place of an active drug often produce similar results. I conducted an experiment in 7th grade on preschoolers wherein the children were each timed running 30 yards. Then I brought out a pile of 'magic shoelaces' and retimed them each running the 30 yards. Only the children who believed that they were magic ran faster, while the children who were more cynical about the power of the shoelaces ran either the same speed or slower. The placebo cannot solely be dependent on its nature to be effective. Instead, the amount of belief an individual mind has in the pill or shoelace will most often be directly proportional to its rate of its success. On the subject of the soldiers in Vietnam who suffered from heroin addiction, I wanted to point out that drug addiction is not completely dependent on chemical addiction, but also on psychological conditioning. It should be noted that of all the Vietnam vets who were addicted to heroin while in war, only close to ten percent relapsed once they arrived back in their home environment. The mind had associated the drug with a certain environment, but once taken out of its known habitat, it was no longer as desirable. This is why I tend to agree with Michelle, that drugs cannot always alone cause change the state of the mind, it also depends on other contributing factors. For example, Cordelia pointed out that Prozac changes the mind's state, making those who take it feel happier and less depressed, however, I wonder, what would happen if they did not know that they were taking it? Would the drug render the same results or would people remain in their depressed states, since their minds have been conditioned to function that way. I understand that there exists serotonin in Prozac and that the it alters the chemicals in the brain, thus helping them to achieve greater happiness, but can their entire state be accredited to serotonin, or does their outside knowledge of the drugs effects contribute to that state? On the opposing side, I agree with Cordelia in that there are drugs which alter the mind, with or without the knowledge that they have been ingested or injected, such as GHB the date rape drug, or IV drugs when a patient is unconscious such as morphine. Whether or not they are aware that the drug is entering their body, the effect remains the same. My question is what is the range of reactions? Does the mind take react more intensely or dramatically once it is aware that it has entered the human system?
Name:  Andy Greenberg
Username:  agreenbe@haverford.edu
Subject:  A powerful argument that the mind is not just the brain
Date:  2003-01-28 01:24:44
Message Id:  4305
Comments:
In class we have quickly discussed a very complicated question, namely "Is the mind the brain?" Prof. Grobstein's answer to this question (along with that of Emily Dickenson) seem to be a very definitive "yes." But, being a philosophy major, I've already had a chance to read about and discuss these problems from a philosophical standpoint, and I've learned, if nothing else, that the answer is not so simple. If all you scientists and other philosophy haters will excuse me, I think I might be able to offer an argument which throws a nicely crafted wrench into our friend Prof. Grobstein's machine. (I haven't been able to find who originally formulated this argument, but it appears in an article by the philosopher Frank Jackson entitled "Epiphenomenal Qualia.")

The thought experiment is as follows: Suppose a girl grows up in one room which she can never leave, where she spends her time watching tv, reading books and otherwise gathering information about the outside world, although she never has first-hand experience of that world. Now this room she is in is very special, and the girl herself is also very special: In fact, everything in the room, the books the girl reads, the tv she watches, the food she eats, is all totally black and white. The girl herself also happens to be black and white all over her body, such that she has never seen color before. In this black and white world, the girl grows up learning about the world from all her black and white sources, and in fact reads everything there is to know about color in every scientific book ever written on the subject about how color works in the world and in the brain. But despite this universal knowledge about everything about color which is scientifically reducible, when she leaves the room on her 21st birthday and sees color for the first time, we cannot doubt that she experiences something new.

What she gained in leaving the room, what Prof. Grobstein and Emily Dickenson have trouble dealing with, is called by philosophers "Qualia." It is subjective experience. It cannot be reduced to anything physical and objective, by which I mean we cannot say "the experience of color is nothing but certain physical processes in the brain." If color were a reducible physical brain processes, the black and white girl could read a black and white book on neurobiology and understand it. But the fact that she learns something upon leaving the room proves that there is an aspect of color, like all qualia, which cannot be reduced. We thus cannot say that the mind, with its capacity to experience things subjectively, is merely the brain, a physical object. If the mind were the brain, every aspect of it would publicly observable like other physical objects. But because that subjective experience is accessible only to the experiencer, (when he/she walks out of the black and white room and looks at color for the first time, so to speak) the mind cannot be totally physical.

This is only one of many arguments for the split between brain and mind, but I have no space for more. In the meanwhile, what have you got to say about it, Emily Dickenson? Huh?




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