Biology 202
Neurobiology and Behavior
Spring 2003

Forum Archive - Week 4

This week we introduced the idea that somewhere inside the nervous system is a smaller box that we called the "I-function". Is this a well-founded concept, in terms of observations? Is it a useful one, in terms of suggesting approachable new questons about the nervous system? about behavior? About the relation between the two?


Name:  Shanti
Username:  smikkili@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2003-02-11 12:24:24
Message Id:  4539
Comments:
I found the following link today and I thought that it might be interesting since we had been talking about serial killers.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/11/national/11DEAT.html

The article talks about making a death row inmate sane enough to execute and the issues that arise from that


Name:  
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Trying to work out the I- Function
Date:  2003-02-11 12:42:24
Message Id:  4540
Comments:
I believe that we are all born with the capability to harm other human beings under certain cercunstances. Someone in class talked about how we are all subject to rage and anger at times and through evolution these emotions have served us so that we may at times protect the species and continue to exist. While presently we may not need the extreme case of these emotions, e.g. multiple murders. We do however need these emotions still, in order to be emotionaly healthy human being. The point is they are there. They have a capacity which we may or may not use depending on the individual. Something stops us when we feel we have gone overboard. Social controls are probaly one factor, as well as a properly functioning frontal lobe, but what about the I-function? Could the I-function be another form of checking agression?

According to Proffessor Grobstein (I am loosly quoting here) "the I-function requires the conclussion that thereis a box which is rostraly locatedto the nervous system and reports internal states and articulates it externally (output)". The example today was the I-function with relation to the motor or sensory system. I would like to try and find a relation between the I-function and the part of our brain which enables us to act on other people and feel emotion.

So to recap. I think all brains a different but have important evolutionary similarities. Therefore the I-function is different but has some important evolutionary similarities. Is somehow the I-function supposed to impact us emotionally? e.g. I feel sad. I feel angry. I feel like killing.I think it filters what we are thinking and feeling and translates it into the "self". Maybe?


Name:  Clarissa
Username:  Clarissagriebel@hotmail.com
Subject:  forgot
Date:  2003-02-11 12:44:15
Message Id:  4541
Comments:
I forgot to put in my user name. I wrote trying to work out the I-function. Oppps!!!
Name:  Michelle Coleman
Username:  mcoleman@haverford.edu
Subject:  What tune does your brain play?
Date:  2003-02-11 17:16:02
Message Id:  4545
Comments:
The extensive discussion we had today in class about serial killers really forced me to critically think about what the real difference between normal persons (non-killers) and serial killers truly was. Clearly we are in no position to answer this question with a collective and agreed upon answer, however there were various ideas posed today that I certainly had not considered before. In regard to the environmental factors that effect behavior, I found an interesting article on info track today that supports "one" of the many possible influences on violent behavior.
http://web2.infotrac.galegroup.com/itw/infomark/988/416/33138386w2/purl=rc1_EAIM_0_A20425397&dyn=4!xrn_1_0_A20425397?sw_aep=have19984

In reference to the psychical differences in brains, I suggest the following idea: We have all agreed that animals that have "similar" behavior should have "similar" brains. So, if the brain of a normal and a serial killer are at the least similar, maybe it is not the organization of the brain that differs, but the neuronal patterns that determine specific behaviors. If each behavior that we display is caused by a sequence of neuronal output (like a melody), maybe there are distinct melodies for distinct behaviors. If your brain doesn't play the melody "kill...kill" then you are not likely to display this behavior in any situation. Maybe this is what differentiates normal persons from serial killers.

*I know that this sounds a little off the wall but it's just a thought.


Name:  Grace Shin
Username:  gshin@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  i'm interested...
Date:  2003-02-11 23:22:19
Message Id:  4548
Comments:
Today's discussion in class really opened my eyes to several topics.

(1) If indeed, brain=behavior, and we could indeed know what details of the brain causes someone to be a serial killer (serial killer open to all motives and what not), I still don't think that the justice system could let that person go free in court. And so, this makes me re-think... do we REALLY WANT to know what difference or similarity causes someone to be a serial killer? Maybe there is a reason why we can't know such things... otherwise, these convicts may go free just because "they can't help it"... and that is scary!

(2) Wow... the discussion on "I" really opened my eyes today. Although I was one of the people who raised her hand for DISAGREEING with Emily Dickinson, and i was so sure that I would not be easily persuaded by this class into thinking this, I can honestly humble myself at this point and say, I need to know more! The idea of the box "I factor" really made me think about what it means when "I MAKE" a choice, "I DID" something, etc. I'm just really stumped at this point because I am not comfortable with the material presented. The pronouns and simple words like conscienceness that we used so freely before is no longer such a simple topic.

(3) So, WHERE IS CHRISTOPHER REEVES?? Well... C Reeves is in that "I" box when he regards himself... but now that brings up the point that to an outsider, Christopher Reeves is not only that one "I" box, but also the entire brain and behavior that he exhibits. So even this issue of identity is not so simple anymore! So to answer the question "IS HE PARALYZED?"... well, to C Reeves himSELF, he is because he can't move his body. But from an outside perspective, he really isn't paralyzed (what IS paralyzed anyway?) because we can see that he moves his foot!!

WHOA... too much to think about at once...


Name:  
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  quadriplegics
Date:  2003-02-12 01:19:12
Message Id:  4549
Comments:
With further observations, reasonings, and discussions we have so far came up with the current model on the nervous system. Thus, working with our current model, the idea of quadriplegics such as Christopher Reeves to be able have a reaction or reflex of being pinched yet at the same time unable to sense it is acceptable. According to our model, it is possible to have an output as long as there is an input within the box that produces the output. Since our boxes are interconnected, similar to the complexity of the brain, there must be a disruption between the sensing "box" that let you sense the feeling of being pinched and the reaction "box" which produces the effect of reflex when pinched. Even though there is a disruption this does not mean that since the sensing 'box' has no output then the reaction 'box' has no input or the resulting output. As long as the reaction box has an input, it does not matter whether there is any inputs or outputs in the sensing box, there will be an output. This was the case for Reeves.
Name:  Tung
Username:  tnnguyen@haverford.edu
Subject:  Anonymous
Date:  2003-02-12 01:20:07
Message Id:  4550
Comments:
Anonymous above is me Tung.
Name:  Kelvey
Username:  krichard@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Semantics
Date:  2003-02-13 08:27:08
Message Id:  4565
Comments:
To me, the discussion about Christopher Reeve became a issue on semantics and a simple laziness in the use of the English language to reflect what is happening. Since we defined the "I - Function' as the box that can 'initiate output' then 'He' is 'I' by definition of a pronoun (since I am not Christopher Reeve, I must refer to him as 'he' not I). Then when talking about Christopher Reeve and saying "He can not move his foot" is a correct statement as is "His foot can move". In lazy English communication it is common to say "He can not move his foot" without further clarification. It is the quick way of saying it and understood that he can not conciously control the movement of his foot. If someone grabs his foot or moves it or creates a reflex, it moves but 'he', the part that controls output, is not connected to the foot.
Name:  geoff
Username:  geoffpollitt@hotmail.com
Subject:  moving towards randomness
Date:  2003-02-13 17:55:05
Message Id:  4585
Comments:
today i was waiting for the blue bus and noticed a strangely stacked pile of snow, maybe a foot or two high that had been left from shovelling the sidewalk. my first impulse was to kick it over and ruin it, and i stopped and thought to myself how violent that thought had been. my second thought was that my kicking over the pile was just me fulfilling my natural drive towards randomness like all the other dots in the square that i exist in. the violence was a judgement i had superimposed over an act i had no control over, nor had any kind of "want" for...

we have before related the variability in minute structures to the actions that are eventually the result of those structures. how strong are the links b/w our behavior and the patterns of movement of our smallest building blocks? it may be a stretch, but does it seem so far off to say that as a people, we also move towards the greatest possible randomness?

thinking about the randomness made me think that maybe what we see is not randomness at all, but the greatest form of uniformity. each molecule moves randomly but together they make a perfect composition. if i saw a pile of snow like i did, but on a morning where everything was still covered in snow (ie uniform), i would not have wanted to step in the snow, let alone kick over a pile of it.

it is scary for me to think about this, because it suggests a much great force over us. if those molecules could think, they would surely see themselves as moving randomnly, thats all the computer has them doing, and their life span may not be long enough to see it any other way, but they are playing a part in a greater composition.

could this have something to do with our production of serial killers in society? are they deficient in being able to feel the uniformity that "normal" people are in line with (unconsciously), or maybe they play their part a beautifully uniformed pattern we would see if we were able to step back?


Name:  Paul Grobstein
Username:  pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  week 4
Date:  2003-02-14 15:03:00
Message Id:  4605
Comments:
Want to talk some more about randomness? Or about serial killers? Or about action potentials and neurons? Or about .... ? Whatever's on your mind is fine, but if you need something to get you started:

This week we introduced the idea that somewhere inside the nervous system is a smaller box that we called the "I-function". Is this a well-founded concept, in terms of observations? Is it a useful one, in terms of suggesting approachable new questons about the nervous system? about behavior? About the relation between the two?


Name:  Shanti
Username:  smikkili@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2003-02-15 15:58:35
Message Id:  4612
Comments:
I've been thinking about what we've discused so far serial killers. I feel like we're groping for answers that would help us feel as though that there must be an extreme difference between us and serial killers because we all are positive that none of us would be capable of killing. Yet I don't like how we've been thinking about it. It seems that we need to identify them as so different and that they must be mentally disturbed or insane to perform these acts. In our legal system, a defendent can please mental insanity. If killing stems from insanity why is it that not all of our serial killers about being committed? Why are there so many who are found guilty? If they are lacking something, why is it then we treat them as though they were fully aware of their actions and intentions. It is because you don't have to have a damaged brain to make decisions that hurt others. I believe that a number of serial killers are calculated people who not only have the intelligence but also a sense of right and wrong. We want to say that we all have free will since all humans inherently have this. Then if we are all make our own choices, why do some choose to kill, because with this argument, they are choosing this. I'm not saying that some people haven't been damaged by their environment and past experiences, but you can't blame all actions on a person's background and things happening to them. Are we so incabable of molding our own lives that we depend on things happenening to us? And on that note, what about being held accountable for your actions?
Name:  Elizabeth Damore
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Serial Killers
Date:  2003-02-16 14:58:03
Message Id:  4619
Comments:
There seems to be social links between specific serial killers which may either stem from having suffered similar brain damage or which may transcend that idea altogether. Often, serial killers live an isolated life, are of a comparable age when they begin killing, and share obsessive tendencies. Also, many serial killers are white males. Of course, these general traits are not true in every instance. For example, a serial killer from my hometown was married and appeared to live a "normal" life. And, of course, there are plenty middle aged obsessive white males who live alone and are not serial killers. I just found it interesting that the majority of serial killers can be linked by a common behaviorial thread beyoned their compulsion to kill.
Name:  Elizabeth Damore
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Serial Killers
Date:  2003-02-16 14:58:11
Message Id:  4620
Comments:
There seems to be social links between specific serial killers which may either stem from having suffered similar brain damage or which may transcend that idea altogether. Often, serial killers live an isolated life, are of a comparable age when they begin killing, and share obsessive tendencies. Also, many serial killers are white males. Of course, these general traits are not true in every instance. For example, a serial killer from my hometown was married and appeared to live a "normal" life. And, of course, there are plenty middle aged obsessive white males who live alone and are not serial killers. I just found it interesting that the majority of serial killers can be linked by a common behaviorial thread beyoned their compulsion to kill.
Name:  Amelia Turnbull
Username:  aturnbul@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2003-02-16 15:59:19
Message Id:  4621
Comments:
I've been thinking about the serial killer issue and have been trying to relate it to what I've learned in my anthro classes; I don't know if this has any relavence or is correct or not, but here it goes. Humans are social creatures and live in social groups. As we live in communities, we must either choose to follow the rules, laws, and customs of those communities, or not follow those rules, etc. and face the consequences. Most humans will follow the rules, etc. of their particular community or incur only minor infractions. With serial killers in American society, though, the killers do not follow the rules, etc. of their communities. I don't think that there is a hard and fast rule about the differences between serial killers and "normal" Americans; some might have differences within their brains that would lead them to kill, while others seem to simply choose to kill people and have no apparent differences withing their brains.
I know that I cannot make across the board assumptions about other cultures and their views on serial killers, but I have done some research into the Fore of New Guinea who have been known cannibals in the past. I know in their society, they did not go around killing people simply to eat them. Eating the dead was a ritualized act; they would eat their enemies which they killed in battle to gain their power. They would eat dead family members to honor them and show them respect. While the human flesh did add a valuable protein element to their diet, they viewed cannibalism as a ritualistic practice, not something to be reviled.
Name:  Tiffany Litvine
Username:  tlitvine@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  "I-function"
Date:  2003-02-16 20:36:38
Message Id:  4628
Comments:
After having done the eye/finger experiment in class, I agree that somewhere inside the nervous system there is an "I-function" box. It was obvious that the nervous system was capable of accomplishing outputs that we could not or that our "I-function" could not. Therefore there must be a net distinction between what we do and what our nervous system does on its own. I think that this is somewhat frightening because it becomes more difficult to determine what part of our behaviour is really caused/controlled by our own selves. If our nervous system is capable of performing complex outputs without us realizing it, is our normal behaviour really the result of what we want it to be or a mixture of our I-function and the rest of our nervous system? Are we who we think we are or are we simply the product of our nervous system? The traditional understanding of responsibility is that we are directly responsible for our voluntary actions and indirectly responsible for things that happen to us. If our behaviour is not completely controlled by our I-function, people could blame their abnormal behaviour on their nervous systems and no longer be held responsible for any of their actions. Where does responsiblity lie if we are no longer liable for our behaviours?
Name:  Rachel
Username:  rsinger@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  serial killer
Date:  2003-02-16 22:24:01
Message Id:  4630
Comments:
Upon hearing the following statement mentioned in class, I became rather skeptical:

"Compare your brain with a serial killer's brain, and you may find it to be very similar or almost identical to yours."

On a gross scale, our brains may look the same as those of serial killers. Even a serial killer's amygdala, where aggression is rooted, could prove to be almost the exact same size as ours. However, it seems to me that it would be a bit of a generalization to assume that our brains are similar or identical to those of serial killers when taking the small-scale factors into consideration: How do we know for sure that the chemical compositions inside of our brains are comparable to those of the serial killers? How does one even begin to measure the precise chemical composition of a serial killer's brain in comparison to ours without some degree of uncertainty? I am just not convinced that we have the technological capability today to be able to measure the chemical compositions of 2 brains and say that they are very similar or exactly alike.


Name:  Annabela Rutigliano
Username:  arutigli@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Civilization and Serial Killers
Date:  2003-02-16 23:49:18
Message Id:  4632
Comments:
I find it very interesting to trace the parallel between the development of civilization and serial killers. If you conduct some rudimentary research it becomes eerily apparent that the most civilized societies have the highest rate of serial killers. The United States on average has 30 serial killers 'operating.' Serial killers first became an apparent phenomenon in the Renaissance. Commonly, most serial killers come from the upper class. The more notorious serial killers are usually the wealthiest, or most intelligent members of society. What does this say about society, or man? More importantly what does this imply about the development of the brain.
As man, and thus civilization has progressed so have certain portions of the brain. Essentially this development of brain areas is what puts the human animal at the top of the food chain. Could it be supposed that what has spawned the greatest works of man, is also responsible for the more gruesome urges of man? If this is so, what separates us from a serial killer? It seems not much.
Name:  Kathleen Flannery
Username:  kflanner@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  more serial killers.
Date:  2003-02-17 01:24:23
Message Id:  4633
Comments:
The serial killer debate has me running around in circles. A serial killer's behavior is different than mine. Therefore, if brain = behavior, a serial killer's brain is different than mine. Because a serial killer's brain is different from anyone else's brain, just like their behavior differs, and brain = behavior, no decision making, "free will", or rational can change the state of a serial killer's mind (whether they're born that way or received head trauma in childhood, etc.) So what does this mean regarding the legal system and it's treatment of serial killers? Someone in class said, "Are we just supposed to let them run around killing people?" which, of course, is ridiculous, but should they be put to death or imprisoned for life because of something that's completely a propos to the brain, something that can't be controlled by free will?
Name:  Luz Martinez
Username:  lmartine@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2003-02-17 11:29:08
Message Id:  4635
Comments:
I have to say that I don't have a problem putting myself in that same category as serial killers; at least I don't think that I have seen enough evidence to suggest that my brain is completely different. The way I see it is that if Christopher Reeves can move his foot when you pinch his toe and he says his foot didn't move, then how do I know what my nervous system is capable of if my I-function can't detect it? As for free will, I don't think I have seen enough of the nervous system to know what it is capable of and to know how independent the I-function is.
Name:  Andrea
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  
Date:  2003-02-17 11:38:05
Message Id:  4636
Comments:
Brain Scans Reflect Problem Solving Skill
Name:  Maria
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  I-function
Date:  2003-02-17 13:57:05
Message Id:  4638
Comments:
I've been wondering about the development of an I-function in humans and how it relates to the idea that the brain contains the sum total of human consciousness. Why would the brain create an identity that is totally unaware of some of the functions the bosy is performing, like Christopher Reeve being unaware his foot is moving? I know his brain sustained significant trauma, but the same thing occurs on a smaller scale in all humans. What purpose, if any, does this serve in furthuring our species? Does it really assist in our survival, considering all the complications that arise in human civilization as a result of consciousness and self-awareness? Maybe the I-function developed in humans to deal with those issues that have nothing to do with our immediate physical survival.
Name:  Clare
Username:  csmiga@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2003-02-17 15:28:13
Message Id:  4640
Comments:
Even after this whole discussion about the "I" function, I still feel like I cannot fully grasp how it works exactly. When I think of consciousness and free will, these concepts are not tangible to me. However, if we are to think of the "I" function as our conciousness and free will etc. and as part of the nervous system and, therefore, as a set of interconnecting nuerons connected to the rest of the nervous system, then again I am confronted by the conflict between tangible things controlling intangible things. I guess the whole concept of the "I" function still seems pretty vague to me. For example, in Christopher Reeves' situation, even though his foot moved without him doing it on his own or acknowledging it happening, there was obviously a break in the connection between this signal and the signal that went to tell his brain what was happening or a disruption where he could send out the signal to make his foot move. But does this necessarily imply that his "I" function was disconnected and is ultimately the center of all free will and consciousness?
Name:  Marissa Litman
Username:  mlitman@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  The New Box
Date:  2003-02-17 15:42:33
Message Id:  4641
Comments:
I thought that the whole concept of the I-function was quite interesting, and made a lot of sense. Though I do find weight in what Elizabeth was saying regarding us not wanting to be the same as serial killers, the whole notion of the I-function is that there is yet another difference in every persons brain.
In discussions on brain and behavior, we have decided that their interconnection may be physically similar, but stimulus, lifestyle, and genetics have had individuals affects on every person. I the I-function is another box within a box, than its just an elaboration on everything we have already discussed. It is just another reason to believe that the brain's activity vary among different people.
I consciousness even traceble. If the nervous system controls everything anyways, than how are we aware of our conscienceness in the first place. The I-function to me, us just another contributing part of the nervous system that we cannot fully understand because by "knowing" what it is, we are deciphering it through our own conscienceness which is exactly what it controls.
Name:  Cordelia Stearns
Username:  cstearns@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  I function
Date:  2003-02-17 17:16:10
Message Id:  4642
Comments:
Here is my problem with the I-function. It seems a little drastic to separate one's consciousness (I-functio) from the rest of one's body and actions so completely. Whether we are talking about Christopher Reeve consciously moving his toe or having his toe moved by another person, it is still his toe that is moving. So how can we say he is not moving his toe, when in one sense he so obviously is? If an animal to whom we do not attribute the phenomenon of consciousness does something, are THEY not really the ones doing it? When bugs gather food, THEY are gathering food. However, would we say that they have such a complex thing as an I-function in their miniscule nervous systems that let THEM actually consciously control their movements in the way we do when we move our feet?
Also, humans have some behaviors that are not conscious, but that we still attribute to ourselves, even to our brains. How can we ignore the phenomenon of dreaming? When we dream, WE are dreaming. This is the only possibility, since no one else can dream for us in the way that they can move our toes. We call these dreams something that WE have, and yet the I-function can have little to do with them. This brings me to my point of confusion: are we possibly just arguing semantics when we talk about the I-function? I think it is possible that there is no inherent compulsion that makes us use language in a way where "I did this" means one thing and not the other. Therefore, when Christopher Reeve denies moving his foot as he watches HIS FOOT moving, is this not merely a product of the language he has been taught, as opposed to some definite line between "I" and "not I"?
Name:  Sarah
Username:  sfeidtATbrynmawr.edu
Subject:  Split "I"s?
Date:  2003-02-17 19:57:35
Message Id:  4644
Comments:

I think Cordelia makes an important point. It seems that by "I-function" we simply mean "the part that speaks." I am doing my web paper on split-brain consciousness -- I'll say a little bit about that here.

One of the most interesting phenomena associated with people who, for medical reasons, have had the two hemispheres of their brains separated, is that those hemisphere act completely independently of each other. The right side of the brain controls language; the left side is mute. If a split-brain person sees something only with his right eye (left side), he cannot say what it is. Even more interesting is, if you cover his left eye, show him a lock, and tell him to pick up the object associated with what you've shown him, he will pick up a key. But if you ask him what he picked up, he will say he doesn't know. The left side obviously knows; the right side obviously doesn't. This makes sense the same way Christopher Reeve makes sense: the language center, the part of the brain capable of answering, receives no information from the side that saw the lock and picked up the key. So it can't comment on that.
But did he pick up the key?
Does he know what he picked up? Obviously, because he had to associate it with a lock in order to pick it up to begin with. But can he say anything about it? No. Where is the "I" in this case? By "I function" are we really just referring to the part that talks? And if we are, are we saying that the part that talks is the only determiner of consciousness?


Name:  alexandra lippman
Username:  alippman@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  I-function
Date:  2003-02-17 23:19:49
Message Id:  4645
Comments:
While I found the concept of the "I-function" very valuable, I wondered about the location of this function. The existence of this function seems plausible because there are many activities in which people definitely feel a responsibility for or an awareness of and also activities, which are in some way or another separate from this consciousness. To me these conscious activities seem like they register with the "I-function" through a connection to the I-function box. For example, while the activity of the typing this forum response connects to the "I-function" box or boxes, the activity of dreaming does not activate the connection to the function. Although the dreamer claims that he was the one who was dreaming this lack of distinction is more a problem of language than a problem of the lack of differences between the two experiences.
Anyway to get to my problem or question, I was wondering where the location of the "I-function." Is there only one box for the "I-function?" What would happen if that location on the brain were damaged? Would the consciousness and sense of self of that individual disappear? Because this seems like an uncommon occurrence, it seems likely that there must be several locations of the "I-function."
Name:  Nicole
Username:  nmegatul@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2003-02-17 23:21:13
Message Id:  4646
Comments:
I've been taking some of this extra time due to the snow day to catch up on outside reading...To any who have not yet read Descartes Error by Antonio Damasio, you should check it out. It covers almost every topic we have discussed in class thus far and will clarify some of the scientific reasoning behind many of the questions raised in the weekly forum and in class! Related to our discussion about serial killers, Damasio writes, "We need to understand the nature of these human beings whose actions can be destructive to themselves and to others, if we are to solve humanely the problems they pose. Neither incarceration nor the death penlty--among the responses that society currently offers for those individuals--contribute to our understanding or solve the problem. In fact, we should take the question further and inquire about our own responsibility when we 'normal' individuals slip into the irrationality that marked Phineas Gage's [subject of a study in the book] great fall." Some classmate have expressed similar ideas and it was interesting to see them in print and backed up with case studies.
Name:  Christine Kaminski
Username:  ckaminsk@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  I-function
Date:  2003-02-17 23:39:26
Message Id:  4648
Comments:
The I-function making up its own box is an interesting topic. I believe that it's quite possible for it to be set aside from other function boxes in the nervous system. The example with Christopher Reeves is a great one since while it is he who is moving his toe, he is not at all aware of the fact that it is happening. There seems to be some kind of missing link in the signals there.

I think that it's important to acknowledge this I-function box in order to realize the significance of words like "consciousness", "self" and perhaps the meanings behind the intentions that some people have. Cannot the I-function then be held somewhat responsible for temporary insanity, as is seen as a plea for some serial killer/criminal cases? Many people are aware of their "self" and can usually distinguish dream from reality. Maybe this incontinuity between boxes, somehow not touching the I-function box, can explain lapses in judgment and what is considered to be conscious action of an individual.


Name:  Tung
Username:  tnnguyen@haverford.edu
Subject:  Collective Consciousness
Date:  2003-02-18 01:45:26
Message Id:  4649
Comments:
Ever since the introduction of the I-function into our model of the nervous system, I have alot of questions in mind. Although we have barely touched the topic of the relationship between the I-function and the so call human's consciousness, I was very intrigue to know whether there is any relationship between the two. My question currently is more specically whether consciousness is an advance form of the the I-function. I have research the internet for various perspectives on what the human's consciousness is. In doing so, my hope was to see whether any relationship existed between the I-function and consciousness. Well, my research so far have led me to an even more interesting topic: the collective consciousness. This site gives a very informative background for the initial understanding of the collective consciousness that I would like to share with you all: http://www.soultospirit.com/earth/columnists/elgin/consciousness/consciousness4.asp. Just paste and copy that site onto your browser and it should work. I've also stumble upon another website: http://noosphere.princeton.edu/. This site is about a global research project that is trying to "measure" the collective consciousness in/of the world by collecting responses and emotions of people, representatives for certain part of the world, to specific events (ex. 9/11). With further research, hopefully I can share with you all any substantial informations on this topic.
Name:  Erin
Username:  zegrete@aol.com
Subject:  I think, therefore I am???
Date:  2003-02-18 04:30:20
Message Id:  4650
Comments:
I am grateful to Nicole for reminding me of the extraordinary case of Phineas Gage! Although I have not read Descartes' Error, I am aware that the author suggests that Descartes' mistake was his belief that the mind and body are separate entities. Damasio suggests, instead, that the collaboration between mind and body is essential for consciousness and individuality. Phineas Gage's accident (wherein an iron rod violently passed through his frontal lobe) resulted, not in physical malfunction but rather in extreme personality alterations. After reading Nicole's comment and a bit about Gage, I decided to investigate the regions of the brain purportedly responsible for emotion. I discovered that specific cortical and subcortical forebrain structures, often referred to as the limbic system, play a significant role in mediating emotional and motivated behavior as well as memory storage. However, as lovely as it is to have discovered the name of this system (which would seem to be intimately connected with the I-function), I still have many, many questions and many concerns. If there are portions of the brain, which exist as identifiable representations of human emotion, can these portions be stimulated by non-traumatic occurrences? Without such realities as trauma or physical abuse that may lead to personality disturbances and emotional illness, are there inputs that can account for such phenomena as serial killers? I hope not to take Damasio's beliefs as definitive, but the equation of brain with behavior certainly does seem substantiated and exemplified by such a case as that of Phineas Gage.
Name:  enor wagner
Username:  enorenor6@aol.com
Subject:  addiction
Date:  2003-02-18 05:42:20
Message Id:  4651
Comments:
Although we have discussed the input / output system in accordance with brain function, we have only discussed controlled input partially. What accounts for the differences seen in behaviors when an input is no longer merely a natural input unaffected by substance? When an input is mixed with something chemical such as a drug (prescription or other) or alchohol, often that substance will affect behavior. For instance, when driving a car without having ingested chemicals, a deer running out into the road normally would cause a sharp reflex sent from the brain to slam on the breaks. However, when a chemical substance has entered the body, reflexes may be slower, and may cause a person to hit that deer. If the brain did not affect behavior, than why would a chemical whose effects can be traced inside the brain affect the actions of a person. Another example we talked about in class was seratonin. It is often given to chemically depressed people who cannot produce enough to keep their brain chemically satisfied, however the effects of the drug can be easily seen through their behavior. They appear happier, they sometimes become less isolated or suicidal, their emotions are less easily brought out. The fact that chemicals which affect the brain commonly affect behavior aswell should represent a bridge of evidence between the brain and behavior.
Name:  enor wagner
Username:  enorenor6@aol.com
Subject:  addiction
Date:  2003-02-18 05:42:28
Message Id:  4652
Comments:
Although we have discussed the input / output system in accordance with brain function, we have only discussed controlled input partially. What accounts for the differences seen in behaviors when an input is no longer merely a natural input unaffected by substance? When an input is mixed with something chemical such as a drug (prescription or other) or alchohol, often that substance will affect behavior. For instance, when driving a car without having ingested chemicals, a deer running out into the road normally would cause a sharp reflex sent from the brain to slam on the breaks. However, when a chemical substance has entered the body, reflexes may be slower, and may cause a person to hit that deer. If the brain did not affect behavior, than why would a chemical whose effects can be traced inside the brain affect the actions of a person. Another example we talked about in class was seratonin. It is often given to chemically depressed people who cannot produce enough to keep their brain chemically satisfied, however the effects of the drug can be easily seen through their behavior. They appear happier, they sometimes become less isolated or suicidal, their emotions are less easily brought out. The fact that chemicals which affect the brain commonly affect behavior aswell should represent a bridge of evidence between the brain and behavior.
Name:  Kate
Username:  kaleishi@hotmail.com
Subject:  my thoughts this week
Date:  2003-02-18 22:30:11
Message Id:  4666
Comments:
Everyone keeps referring to "the" I-function in the human body. However, from the evidence we have observed, it seems quite apparent to me that there cannot be only one. If the I-function is defined as something which can report an internal state and possibly use this information to create outputs and/or actions, then Mr. Reeves must have some kind of I-function in the lower part of his body which observed the pain in his toe and "decided" to move the foot. I do not think the issue is speaking but rather some type of internal reporting mechanism. The conventional thinking on this topic is that his reaction was simply a reflex requiring no thought, but working from the definition of the I-function as I understand it now, it fits the criteria.

This idea is also supported by Sarah's post about split-brain function. There must be at least one separate I-function in each the left and right side of the brain when they are split. The left side of the brain, although it cannot verbally voice it's processed thought, demonstrates and communicates its I-function by picking up the key. What is the difference between the function that moves the big toe, the function that picks up the key, and the function which is able to speak? These each seem like very distinct functions to me, and it seems that some I-functions must be able to reach a greater level of sophistication than others. Perhaps there could be some sort of hierarchy of I-functions to sort out the vagueness. This raises the idea that there may be a supreme, ultimate level of consciousness and awareness. Nirvana, maybe?

And how many I-functions are there in the human brain? If the nervous system is not cut off or broken apart do separate I-functions still exist? Does this mean separate identities? Do people with multiple personality disorder channel into completely different I-function boxes at different times?

The eye tracking experiment also made me think about another facet of behavior in relation to the I-function. There are clearly some actions (like smooth eye-tracking) which exist without going through an I-function box. There are times in which we truly do not have control over ourselves. We must breathe, we must react. But wait, isn't breathing and reacting caused by some sort of observation and reaction which is an I-function, albeit perhaps a much less sophisticated one? I am very confused on this point. Where does reflex end and self begin?

My last thought is about the serial killer debate. The way I visualize the situation is this. A person is standing suspended on a board above the water. Jumping in the water is like make the decision to kill. All of the factors like brain damage, environment, abuse, etc. are piled on top of the person. The weight can become so heavy that jumping off would be a an extreme relief, but the person still makes the decision about what he or she will choose to endure.

But I also can visualize the situation in which there is no choice. The weight could become so heavy that the board supporting the person breaks, the I-function is bypassed, and he or she helplessly drowns. This to me seems to support the view that our criminal justice system has things right...some murderers may have been criminally insane, but others did make a cold-blooded decision to kill.

The article about metal buildup in the brain being a very important factor in creating aggression was very interesting, but I can still see how it would fit into this scenario. The book I am reading now (Awakening the Buddhist Heart by Lama Surya Das) describes every thought, attitude, or action as creating an imprint in the mind. Repeating the action creates a deeper groove, until eventually there is a deep channel of habit connected with a certain attitude or course of action in the process of thought. I can see how if certain channels are nurtured and grow in a person that certain chemicals like lead or whatever could tend to buildup by way of certain channels in the neurons. I feel the same way about many mental diseases...depression, etc. I am not proposing that environmental concerns do not matter, or that in every case people make decisions which lead to mental disorders, but merely that I hold on to the notion that each of us has a great deal of freedom in shaping the chemistry of our own brains.


Name:  Patricia Palermo
Username:  ppalermo@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  I Function Location
Date:  2003-02-18 23:31:24
Message Id:  4667
Comments:
It seems very understandable that so many of us would tackle the "I- function." I think that many of us, at least from what I have read in the forum and what I think myself, are concerned with mapping a location in which our truest identity can exist. If the "I-function" exists in the nervous system, and we believe that a reasonable summary of observations leads us to believe it is above the spinal chord, then it must be even more identifiable than that. Therefore, if we can locate this "I-function" which exists within the nervous system, and then destroy that section of our nervous system, are we now completely diffrent people? Do we have no "true" identity? Is the "stuff" that makes us feel like the center of the universe contained in one myriad of neurons in the nervous system?

I know this question has been tackled many times in science, psychology, and philosophy. How much of a person can you remove or replace before you view them as a diffrent person? Where do you draw the line? It may be a question of symantics, but I feel that it is a lot more than that. I'm not quite sure why, but placing the "I-function" within the nervous system threatens and unravels ones faith in a soul or in any sort of "I". It challenges the idea of heading to an after life. If everything that we are can be found within the nervous system, then there is nothing greater waiting for us, no rainbow after the rain, and no other level of existence beyond death.

And so, I guess the question of the "I-function" is what I find most perplexing, because each time I see the "I-function" inside our "Input-Output box," my vision of immortality, (which I think most people who believe in something after death posses) becomes immediately threatened.

However, this question of the "I-function," as silly as this may sound, has inspired me to sincerely treat my body better. A lot better, in fact. What if all we are is within our nervous system? Why does that threaten me so much? That isn't even such a bad alternative to the prospect of a soul, it is still individual and within us. I think while I continue to grow as a spiritual being, I will stop placing my conception of the afterlife on a pedestal so high above my blood-pressure, my eating habits, and lastly, my body.

The question of the "I-function" demands so much of a person's collected beliefs on life, that I feel we must discuss its' placement inside the nervous system first, even if we arrive at the conclusion that we must chalk it up to symantics.


Name:  Ingrid
Username:  ihansen@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  addiction
Date:  2003-02-19 03:45:14
Message Id:  4668
Comments:
Yesterday morning I was listening to a program about addiction on npr & I couldn't help relate it to the "I" function. Addiction is a behavior where the "I" function seems rendered helpless. Although the addict knows that s/he performs the behavior and can feel the consequences (unlike Reeves and his toe), s/he cannot control that behavior (more like blinking, breathing). Yet "I" function does have some part in addictive behavior--experience, personality, the intangible stuff of individuality all contribute to addiction. What is more, a person can overcome an addictive behavior. A person can retrain the trigger for the addictive behavior output, but not every person does so successfully (so can they?).

Sarah writes: "By "I function" are we really just referring to the part that talks? And if we are, are we saying that the part that talks is the only determiner of consciousness?"
Can we trust ourselves and use our internal "I" functions, for observations? How does do "I" know anything about "you"? Any observation of another person's "I" function must involve communication. I don't think this need be limited to speech/oral communication; writing, body language, facial expression, gestures/movement, can all indicate there is an "I" in there somewhere. When a person chooses not to communicate, or perhaps cannot help but not communicate, does this mean their "I" function is gone? No. We have interior monologue, and know that other people have it also; we admit to thinking things we don't speak.

The addictive bit of the "I" function--where is control? Is control voluntary or involuntary? Is control pathways that have been trained to carry out impulses a certain way, what we deem the "correct" way, and is absence of control/ aberrant behavior impulses carried out a different way? So where do serial killers, exhibiting aberrant behavior, fit? And isn't it interesting that we keep looking at exceptions, special cases, post-trauma accidents, whatever is not normal, to try to figure out what is normal? Does "normal" get under anyone else's skin?


Name:  Patty
Username:  ppalermo@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Phantom Limbs
Date:  2003-02-19 17:55:00
Message Id:  4677
Comments:
I know that I was told we would discuss this later, but I got to wondering what implications this phenomenon (phantom limbs) might have on the "brain (or nervous system) = behavior." Our mind is capable of experiencing something that the nervous system does not. Can this be explained with similar rational used for the existance of a dream, or does the existance of phantom limbs begin to collect evidence in favor of the mind being seperate from that of the nervous system? I feel as if people who have, for example, a leg amputated due to a battle wound, show us that the mind and the body can completely disagree with one another, and in this way supporting that they may be seperate.

I also wonder how we would handle this situation when relating it to the "I-function." If a person has a pain in their leg, only they no longer have that leg, do "they" still have a pain in there leg. This is basically the opposite of the Christopher Reeves situation, but yet it aises interesting questions because it can be treated in 2 ways; by psychological therapy OR with medicine (some tests show improvement with actual medication, and others with placebos.) I just want to understand if this posses an even greater problem with our Brain=Behavior and our "I-function" within our nervous system.


Name:  andrea
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  
Date:  2003-02-19 20:23:34
Message Id:  4682
Comments:
Our bodies are perpetually sending demands to our brains which are fulfilled without our being aware of it and there is no way that "we" could handle the continuous actions of our nervous systems. Similarly, Christopher Reeve withdrawing his foot is an immediate natural reaction that needn't (and shouldn't) require the approval of the "I" function. I don't think we have to worry about loss of free will just because our nervous systems have control over some things that we ourselves do not.
Name:  Katherine
Username:  klafranc@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  potential, and traveling ions
Date:  2003-02-19 20:47:38
Message Id:  4683
Comments:
The I-function idea generates so many interesting thoughts and questions! What I've been thinking about is the energy and "wiring" that enables such a function to exist. For neurons to fire, electrons must move; for this motion, there needs to be a potential difference—a battery—that will supply energy...

But where is the beginning of the batteries, where is the initial potential? Our nervous system is sending electrical signals; And—we talked about how it is not "matter" that is being transmitted, but "information."

My question right now is in figuring out where we can draw the line between "matter" and "information." Are we talking about a "tangible vs. intangible" issue, where matter is tangible and information is not? This would introduce interesting questions about the connection of mind and body, raising again the voices of Descartes and Phineas Gage.

But, it seems that any "information" being transmitted (as opposed to "matter") is actually an informative electrical signal consisting of traveling ions. Aren't ions material? (Maybe, though, it is not the actual ions that move, but only their POTENTIAL that travels). However, it seems that this traveling information must have some aspect of matter because it relies upon the body's topography and upon complete connectivity of the nervous system in order to relay successful messages-- (ie, the I-function of Christopher Reeve did not get the message because a connectivity had been severed...)

Electrical signals also take TIME to be transmitted. Does this then point to a certain materiality?


Name:  Neela Thirugnanam
Username:  nthirugn@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2003-02-19 21:03:33
Message Id:  4684
Comments:
Kate's question about the I-function and multiple personalities caught my attention. The disorder lends one to beleive that because multiple and distinct "I"s can control one nervous system, there must be more than one I-function, or perhaps, the I-function has more than one set of perspective possibilities. Does one personality have different neural pathways than another? Perhaps we all have the potential for multiple "I"s or I-boxes, but we supress them, thus limiting or blocking certain behaviors and brain activities.
Name:  Kat McCormick
Username:  kmccormi@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2003-02-19 22:53:47
Message Id:  4688
Comments:
I really enjoyed patricia's post on the spiritual development of a person who is evolving to treat their body as if it contains thier personage and soul- this idea seems to coincide with another of the observation (by Erin) about Damasio's book Descates' Error wherin Damasio implies that Descartes error is in separating mind and body so fully.

Just to bring another interdisciplinary note to the "I" function discussion, I was thinking about a course in poetry I took last year and how the class had a discussion over the "I" presented in poetry, and its relationship to the "you" of poetry, and how these two intities are sometimes intersecting and sometimes seperable from the intities of "poet" and "reader" and the relationship between them. "I" does not necessarily equal "poet", and sometimes these two entities may not even be related within one poem. Because the "I" is a creation of the "poet", it represents only a selection of what she chooses to present of herself. In this equation, I suppose that the "poet" of this model is best represented by the "I" function of our discussions. So then, where is the subset of the "poet", the "I" presented in our discussion? Just another thought on multiple selfhood.


Name:  nicole j
Username:  njackman@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  serial killers and free will
Date:  2003-02-19 23:01:59
Message Id:  4689
Comments:
I do not mean to bring up serial killers again, but I think that the example is a little bit extreme. I do feel that there is a difference between the brains of normal people and the brains of serial killers. Furthermore, I strongly believe that the difference is not related to a serial killer structure or a certain imbalance, but rather the lack of a filter. (I mentioned this in class). A different analogy would be a comparison of how different people react to frustrating situations while driving. Imagine travelling down Lancaster Ave and some other person does something annoying that potentially puts you at risk. Some individuals may yell, others may honk their horn, and others may give the person the finger. I think all of those behaviors are reasonable. I personally just yell obscenities in the car because I do not think that giving the finger is appropriate or necessary. The response that a person displays is a function of what they think is an appropriate and acceptable response to the input that they received. Depending on the environment that a person was in while they were growing up, different responses are appropriate. However, there are individuals that feel that horn honking and other outlets are not enough. These are the individuals that display road rage and may tailgate a person, follow them to their destination, or occasionally pull out a gun and try to shoot the other driver. In all cases, one person is clearly frustrated, but the responses differ even though the emotions experienced may be similar. Some individuals may have a properly functioning filter that prevents the emergence of certain unacceptable behaviors. Nothing really new here, but I just wanted to take it down a level.

And on a completely different note. I think I am becoming a non-believer of free will (Courtesy of talks with Kelvey). I do think it's a little depressing that what we call choices may simply be a response or output that occurs as a result of a tremendous amount of input. I guess I find comfort in the fact that the amount of input needed to make a choice, display free will, or assert our autonomy is so great that we cannot be reduced to a computer that just reacts to the world around it. However, since input can be generated inside the box, I guess there is more to life than just reacting. I think there may be a bit of fiddling with semantics to feel better about that which we don't fully understand.




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