Name: debbie hana yi
Date: 2004-01-27 11:39:59
Message Id: 7786
I have been thinking about Brain = Behavior since last Thursday's class. I was one of the people who raised my hand and agreed with Emily Dickinson. Not too long ago, I saw a television program on sisters who are Siamese twins connected at the head. They share a brain. One sister wants to vacuum the rug and watch television while the other sister wants to become a country singer. Their interests rarely overlap. They share the same parents, home, and brain. What explains their different behaviors?
Name: Dana Bakalar
Date: 2004-01-27 13:21:02
Message Id: 7789
Of the brain=behavior, doubts are raised about the xistance of the outside wrld, of persons other than ourselves, and of shared experiences. Theoretically, a correctly functioning brain would interperet things in much the same way other brains do, but people nonetheless have differrent views, ideas, and perspectives on what seems to be the same experience. This makes me wonder how much of that experience is within the brain and how much is some recording or reflection of an actual event ouside.
Name: debbie hana yi
Subject: Neurobiology of the Cricket Song
Date: 2004-01-27 17:21:10
Message Id: 7790
The Scientific American article entitled "The Neurobiology of the Cricket Song" by Bentley, D. and Hoy, R. is from August 1974 (not May 1974), in case anyone was interested in reading it. Enjoy.
Name: Aiham Korbage
Date: 2004-01-28 10:37:06
Message Id: 7798
Yesterday, Michael said something interesting about "behavior" of the environment. This got me thinking again about the differences between human behavior (which we seem to concentrate on), and the behavior of other living organisms, and even non-living entities (wind, weather, large bodies of water ... )
Is it ok to say that these inanimate bodies "behave" ? After all, they too are governed by physical laws of matter, just as our own bodies are. They too are subject to order that springs out of disorder (example --hurricanes?). This makes me ask myself the basic question "What is life?". Where do we draw the line between living and non-living? and where do we draw the line between behavior and non-behavior?
Again, I am resisting a bit the mater-based view we seem to be taking as our departure. I think it's important and essential, but not complete. With that, I am more in agreement with Amar.
When we speak of the Brain-Mind-Self relation, we can maybe see it as the following analogy of wine in a glass. The Brain or NS (the glass) contains the mind or self (the wine). If we shatter the glass, then we would lose the wine as well. However, from this alone, we can not conclude that the Container=All, and there is nothing else.
This seems more philosophical than scientific, but I think the reasoning hold, no?
Date: 2004-01-28 12:37:48
Message Id: 7799
I agree with Tegan's logic. We are what we do. I think views diverge based on how people see the effect of society's influence. I see society's influence affecting one's environment. The environment is broken down into observations (inputs) unconsciously and consciously taken in by the brain and as a result specific behaviors (outputs) arise. Different people behave differently based on how their brain takes in its environment. The environment affects the brain, which then dictates behavior. Our behavior is a collection of learned observations of the brain as a result of our past and current environments. We have not learned enough about the how the brain works, for example, how certain brain pathway functions interact and affect other pathway functions to falsify the equation brain=behavior.
Name: debbie hana yi
Subject: More on Brain = Behavior
Date: 2004-01-28 16:22:18
Message Id: 7802
Continuing the discussion of Brain = Behavior, does that mean that the brain leads to behavior? Does that also mean that behavior leads to the brain? I read a study a few years back that said that a person who is angry or sad should smile and laugh. According to the study, the act of laughing and smiling can trick your mind into thinking you are happy and actually lift your mood. In this circumstance, your behavior dictates your thoughts. Hmm...
Name: Amy Gao
Subject: more on brain
Date: 2004-01-28 19:05:57
Message Id: 7806
When one's body is in starvation mode and there is no intake of nutrition of any kind, the individual first starts utilizing glycogen, which is converted into glucose. However, this source is used up quickly and the body goes to fats and proteins to maintain the blood glucose level. In this process, fats are decomposed into fatty acids and glycerol. In order to preserve the glucose available for work for the brain, fatty acids are employed by other tissues as a source of energy to avoid drawing on the glucose that is vital to the brain. In other words, any glucose produced in the body, no matter through which biochemical pathway, goes to the brain first. This only begins to show that the brain is the most important organ in the body because it is most responsible for what we are.
I also believe that behavior can be strongly influenced by a lot of outside factors, which I don't think can be fully observed in a laboratory setting. Some say that these factors cannot be observed and therefore there is no correlation and that behavior is solely controlled by the brain, but I would like to raise the example of quantum physics. Basically, in this field of science, if anything fits the equation, then it's a good theory. No one has been able to physically prove the existence of black holes (frankly, I don't think we would know even if we are in one) and the theory of overlapping galaxies and universes, but it doesn't mean that they don't exist. But it doesn't prove that they exist, either. They are very good stories that fit in the greater picture. People win Nobel Prizes for these things. For imagination, the sky's the limit (or should I say the universe is the limit?;).
Name: Jean Yanolatos
Date: 2004-01-28 19:35:19
Message Id: 7807
In response to Debbie's comments, I think that the brain alone induces initial behavior and drastic permanent changes in behavior, but environmental surroundings and the behavior of others can induce certain responses in the brain which then effect the person's behavior immediately after. Initial behavior has to be started in the brain because it exists before we can fully comprehend our surroundings and the behavior of other people/things.The brain is also the only thing that controls drastic permanent changes such as with many illnesses such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer's Disease (both familial and sporadic), and Bipolar Disorder just to name a few. For example, we know accumulations of Abeta and tau proteins are associated with the neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's Disease, and it is speculated that AKT-GSK3beta signaling is involved with certain types of mood disorders because it is what lithium(which is used for some treatments) targets. However once people can have behavioral responses because some they love is hurt and that triggers changes in the brain of the initial person. So while the brain does respond to outside stimuli, in the most fundamental sense the brain leads to behavior.
Name: Prachi Dave
Date: 2004-01-28 19:56:05
Message Id: 7808
The discussion in class about the degrees of separation between the self and the brain, arguments that the self as a construction of the brain and continual changes of the self reminds me of the kind of language Plotkin (an evolutionary psychologist) uses to discuss intelligence. Perhaps the "self" could be thought about as a form of intelligence for he asserts that intelligence is an adaptation providing organisms with a mechanism with which to track their environments. The self, if useful in understanding the environment and one's relationship to it, must change continually to keep abreast of any developments or changes in the surroundings (for example, during social interaction) as a way to adapt to the world. Therefore, if intelligence arises from the brain, the self may also.
Also, the self or conceptions about the self are likely to be affected by cultural differences and since we are not necessarily dealing with the truth but ideas of what may be the case, these differences may be worthwhile to look at.
Name: Eleni (Ellie)
Date: 2004-01-28 21:24:15
Message Id: 7809
I thought Debbie's story of the Siamese twins who share a brain was very intersting and relivent to our discussion of the brain=behavior question. Perhaps looking at Siamese twins who share a brain could aid our answering of this question. I am wondering that if the two twins share the entire brain (is this measurable?), yet answer the question "What do you want to do right now?" differently, then it appears that brain does not equal behavior. Could this type of study answer our question? It seems too easy.
Date: 2004-01-29 01:54:55
Message Id: 7811
I agree with Ginger's comments earlier. I think that behavior and the brain are overlapping concepts. I don't believe that they are identical features, or that one creates the other, nor do I think that they are entirely separate. It seems more likely that they function in tandem, perhaps the brain is more in control of the purely mechanical aspects of behavior. In this way both behavior and the brain can be effected by environmental factors, and the results, while related might not be identical.
Just as a side note (I have not had the chance to get my hands on the article) in the cricket experiment, where different environmental stimuli used when testing whether or not the male crickets would sing? I thought it would be interesting to know if the amount of light had any effect on their singing.
Date: 2004-01-29 21:29:08
Message Id: 7832
Since I'm posting at the end of the week, I have a bunch of random things I want to touch on:
First, is the question Amar posed to us: "The question I pose to the class is how many of you can really relate your emotions to chemicals in your body. When one thinks of the sky, do you think that picture you hold in your head is really in fact some sort of molecule which is a compound of some organic molecules that trigger your hypothalamus to envision a sky?" I want to devote my life to exactly this question, in various guises: How does the brain create the self, reality, dreams, memory...and as a starting point, I think that I have to say I DO think that all of these somehow arise from the physicalness of the brain, which at the most basic level is the chemicals. I have no idea how this happens, how I can "see" images in my mind, when I'm obviously not using my eyes and I don't even know what my "mind" is. There just seems to be a projector on the inner surface of my skull, one big enough, as Dickinson said, to contain the sky. And there are "boxes" of memories and emotions and facts, some of which I can't open or find or even know exist. As a scientist, I somehow feel that I must start with the assumption that this all arises from the physical. But I must also admit my total lack of understanding of this; I don't even have the right questions to ask yet.
Second, I'd like to exand of Aiham's question of "what is life?" In our quest to discover what is human, do we perhaps have to start with life, first?
Finally, I'd like to put something out into our little universe: "In traditional personality studies, raters try to infer how much of a given trait a person 'has' by observing that person in a laboratory. But in a classic text called Personality and Assessment, originally published in 1968, researcher and theorist Walter Mischel showed us that personality traits are mostly suppositions on the part of the laboratory observer, rather than real attributes of the person who is observed." (The Myth of Sanity, Dr. Martha Stout) This idea blows my mind! It begs the question: If we spent our entire lives alone, would we have personalities? I know that humans not raised among humans have grave developmental problems, such as not ever being able to fully acquire language. But what about personality? And what does this say of the self? Would we have no selves without others? If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound??
Subject: Random thoughts
Date: 2004-01-30 15:47:23
Message Id: 7838
I feel that this week's classes brought up many interesting topics that have been brewing in my head since. I agree with the idea that brain is equal to behavior, and therefore we have to have different equipment. I found the discussion in class about the difference in behavior of males/females as well as humans/animals extremely fascinating. I also like the idea that everyone's brain is unique-- which leads to the obvious conclusion that this is why humans are capable of such different things.
Name: Paul Grobstein
Subject: after two weeks ...
Date: 2004-01-30 16:39:31
Message Id: 7839
Enjoying thinking about/learning from our conversations. Hope you are too. Seems to me this past week jacked up the "brain = behavior?" ante a couple of notches.
Does the model we worked our way up to on Tuesday make one any more or less comfortable with the b=b idea? (remembering that "brain" should really be "nervous system" and that everything "outside" (experience, culture) can affect behavior by acting on the nervous system?). What observations/intuitions about behavior still aren't dealt with successfully by that version?
And what about Thursday's notion that all that's in the input/output box are smaller input/output boxes themelves made of smaller ... all the way down to neurons? And that the neurons are pretty much the same from one box to another and from one organism to another?
And what about ... any other thing that might have come into your head this week?
Name: Katina Krasnec
Subject: Boxes, Brain, and Behavior
Date: 2004-01-30 22:17:32
Message Id: 7842
When we began discussing in class, the example was about the brain and nervous system and other components being "boxes," with others housed within a continually spreading system, I began to think of paintings by Monet. In pointallism, the artist uses a series of small points of different colored paint to create a whole piece. When one examines the work closely, they see the individual dots, while if one observes from farther away, the dots and colors blend together, creating a painting.
From this, a metaphor can be taken away; the brain and it's compents are a painting. When one exams the contents and actions superficially, all that can be seen is what is expected, or what we want to see. However, when looking in depth, the true aspects (i.e. paint within paint, boxes within boxes) are visible to us, and things such as why and how the brain and behavior are linked are more obvious.
But again, what defines behavior? Is it the impulse reactions, stimulated by external forces, such as heat or noise? Or is it the implict actions we create in our minds? By using the idea that part of the many parts of the nervous system and self, we can begin to visualize how we has human function and behave.
Name: Liz Powell
Date: 2004-01-31 13:19:36
Message Id: 7844
One question I had after listening to this week's class is how experience plays in shaping behavior. Do the inputs that we receive throughout life change our brains and/or our behavior? One specific example that I am thinking of is identical twins separated at birth, and ended up choosing the same profession independently of the other, in this case, firefighting. This example would seem to indicate that we are born with certain behaviors that lead to decisions we make later in life. Though this seems to indicate that our brains are largely unchanging at least when it comes to choosing a profession, there may be examples of identical twins who choose different professions and who are influenced by experiences throughout the course of their lives. I guess my question is, if inputs from the environment do change behavior, how does this change occur and what determines if inputs affect outputs?
Subject: Just random thoughts...
Date: 2004-01-31 16:47:33
Message Id: 7849
In this week's lectures, we all pretty much agreed that each of our brains were unique. However, while the uniqueness of our brains is indeed influenced by our cultures, experiences, etc., are their differences in our brains that are manifest even from birth? I think it would be interesting to monitor brain activity in infants just to observe how (or if) they reacted differently to the same experiences, if they were all raised in the same environment.
Also, I think Debbie's story about the Siamese twins is quite interesting. The fact that they share the same brain, yet have different personalities, shows that there is more to the self than merely the brain...which brings us to the idea that humans have something, like a soul, in addition to the brain and body.
Date: 2004-01-31 17:05:10
Message Id: 7850
I agree with Nicole that there has to be more to the self than just the brain. I don't think that it is possible for the brain(which we have designated to mean the nervous system) to be completely responsible for all behavior. I can understand that there exist some internal processes that occur within the nervous system that influence or cause behavior, and I can also believe that things such as experience and culture have the ability to influence the nervous system, which will in turn produce a reflexive behavior of sorts. However, I don't think that everything "outside" acts on the nervous system because that, in essence, leaves the individual out of its own behavior. I think that people have the ability to think about, reflect on and cause their own behaviors, particularly when they are not in response to anything, therefore not really acting on the nervous system. I simply believe that somehow, some way, thoughts can produce behavior independently of the nervous system.
Date: 2004-01-31 19:12:08
Message Id: 7853
I thought that the analogy that Katina Krasnec made about pointillism was very interesting. When I think of the "box within a box" theory, that's exactly how I think about it. The only problem that I have with the theory is that I want to know what the final box is, is it the neuron, or is it the nucleus of the neuron, or is it even smaller? And if there is no way to tell what that final box is, I feel that the theory is not as useful as it could be.
Another point that I thought was interesting was how everyone's brain is unique, this seems like a viable theory, but I was wondering how genetics are related to it. Is one's brain more similar to their parent's brains? Or is everyone's brain similar until they begin to have experiences, and thus would our experiences be the only force shaping our brains?
Date: 2004-01-31 19:19:34
Message Id: 7854
I think that the organization of the "brain" – from the very specific and detailed neurons to the readily observable behavior level – is much like watching a sunset. When the sun sets, unless you are looking really closely, you don't really notice it getting dark, until you look up and become aware of the last bit of light setting over the horizon. Similarly, we have the notion that the brain is made up of cells (with neurons being the smallest input/output box). As development progresses, more and more input/output boxes form within others, further complicating the input/output responses of the "brain." In the end, just as the sun is setting, we look up and we have "the brain" evidencing itself through varying observations and notions of behavior.
We can draw rather sound observations as to what is happening during the physical (observable and tangible) process of a sunset or the physiological aspects of the brain. However given the concrete structure of the brain, it seems harder to assess why specific organizations of neurons create specific responses, how the boxes integrate, why the organization of a frog "brain" creates certain responses, that may or may not be evidenced in other animals with similar characteristics. And, within the organization, what constitutes what we see? What defines a 'set' sun (i.e. when it is completely dark, or when the moon is out, or when it is still light but the sun has disappeared over the horizon). Similarly, when do we recognize specific neuron organizations to be significant? When do the organizational differences become significant enough to account for a defining change in behavior?
Subject: emergent systems
Date: 2004-01-31 19:34:45
Message Id: 7855
I really enjoy the idea that all of these different brain systems are composed of the exact same neurons at the most basic level. I think it would be fascinating to study the development of the brain. How do these neurons combine to form different brains in different organisms? It is an interesting evolutionary question.
I also like the idea of emergent systems. Every organism has neurons which must follow a set of simple rules, but somehow when they act together, these complicated thinking systems develop. I played that life game and others like it numerous times over the weekend and I am fascinated how each time out of randomness, some kind of ordered system develops. This idea of emergent systems can also be seen on the level of culture. Every individual has their own unique set of rules that they follow, but when you put a bunch of individuals together, complicated systems of culture develop.
Name: Aiham Korbage
Subject: On Single-Celled Organisms and Freud...
Date: 2004-01-31 19:41:37
Message Id: 7856
Nice discussion here. I have some questions of my own, and I do want to comment on certain opinions being made.
I must admit that I understand now that Brain (NS)= Behavior is a good starting point. We can start with the material/physical aspect, which we can observe directly and indirectly -- the Nervous System.
However, I still want to ask the questions about the "lower" species, especially those that do NOT have an organized NS. When I brought up the question last time "what is life?", I wanted to make sure that all living organisms are agreed to "behave" -- process energy, reproduce themselves... etc. All organisms that have DNA, and are able to copy it and "multiply", are alive. We established on Thursday that the differences in behavior are due to differences in the nervous systems, which are due to differences in the organization of neuron cells. I ask again, what about those species that do NOT have "neurons". I am sure they exist, and I would like to know: 1) If we all agree they have behavior? and 2) How do we account for that behavior (if B=B) ?
As for the comments about the interactions of the "outside" (environment) with the NS, I think that we should be careful when talking about the "personality" (it deciding, making outputs by itself ... etc.) This is because Brain=Behavior does include personality within the NS. In other words, the "personality" needs the NS to perceive, react and act ... etc.
This makes me think of Freud and his theories about the Conscience, Pre-Conscience and Unconscience, and Id, Ego and Super-Ego. These ideas would be difficult to combine into the Brain=Behavior theory if we insist that these entities should be localized in certain neurons or "boxes" of the NS. However, if we think of "boxes within boxes" as both a physical and a metaphorical organization of the NS, we could then maybe reconcile the physical NS (Brain=Behavior) with other existing (metaphorical) notions about behavior of the human mind.
Subject: siamese twins and medication vs. therapy
Date: 2004-01-31 22:51:21
Message Id: 7857
About what Debbie said, about the siamese twins: I'm going to have to disagree a little. If they were connected at the head, that didn't necessarily mean that they had the same brain- and having a connection between two brains isn't the same as sharing a single brain. Sometimes information can pass back and forth between the two brains- they can almost share thoughts with eachother- like with the siamese twins who shared the same body and each controlled one half of it, and they were able to coordinate their movements with eachother. But they have distinct personalities simply because they have separate brains. Connected brains, but still two of them.
And also, if more than one personality does exist within a single brain- like with multiple personality disorder, the brain scan for the person differs significantly from personality to personality. Which again, I suppose, supports the theory of brain=behavior...
A couple more things- I've sort of been accumulating comments all week.
I've been thinking a lot about something Jenny posted on Monday- about how therapy and medication can ultimately lead to the same chemical changes in the brain (or at least, that's what I got from it- sorry if I misunderstood). That idea has so many implications- some kind of disturbing implications, for me. I don't like the idea that medication can help with something like depression just as well as therapy can. I mean, it makes sense. If all that depression is, at the most basic level, is a chemical imbalance in the brain, righting that chemical imbalance with medication is a logical solution.... And I know that medication is used, that medication does help. But something in me seems to really react strongly to the idea of replacing human contact and assistance with pills. Let me think how to put this in words... I think I can accept that personality, that behavior, that the self, all somehow have their root in chemical interactions in the brain. But sometimes that isn't a useful way of looking at things.
It's very easy to assume that the theory that all behavior has its root in chemical reactions in the brain implies something mechanical about behavior. Kind of in the same way that saying something similar about the self- that consciousness has its root in connections between neurons, makes it somehow less real. If all you are is chemical reactions, if each thought in your head can be traced to the physical, and the "self" is constantly changing- then it kind of makes you feel less real... Kind of makes you wonder how much your "self" is an illusion- whether consciousness itself is something of an illusion.
But I don't think there's anything purely mechanical about the brain- nothing truly fixed or predictable- it's beautifully dynamic and complex. It feels as though, theoretically, any mental illness could be treated by seeing it as a material problem, as (in some cases, anyway) a simple chemical imbalance. But that feels too much like seeing the brain as a machine that's broken and needs to be repaired. It would be like trying to fix a broken spider web with your bare hands. The human mind may have its root in the physical brain, and medication may help to some extent... But no medication, no chemical could ever be found to replace the healing power of human affection, of love and caring. Even with disorders like schizophrenia- which most definitely can't be treated with therapy alone, but has to have medication, a supportive family's been shown to help so much. Something that's forgotten too often.
I don't know. Just a thought.
Subject: More on Brain=Behavior
Date: 2004-02-01 10:30:59
Message Id: 7860
I have been studying the neurobiology of parasitic nematodes, specifically host-seeking behaviors, for the past 2 years. Chemotaxis (response to chemicals) is among the necessary behaviors critical for worms to find hosts. For example, worms are attracted to sodium chloride, otherwise known as table salt, a large component of human sweat. Using laser ablation, a single neuron of a worm can be eliminated. Ablated worms' behavior is then studied to examine how that neuron contributes to each worm's behavior. The ablation of the ASH neuron eliminates the worm's ability to sense salt gradients. This lost ability changes the worms' behavior when presented with a salt gradient environment. The worms' behavior prior to the removal of the ASH neuron cannot be reproduced after ablation. Therefore a change in the brain=change in behavior supporting the idea that brain=behavior.
Subject: "box" theory
Date: 2004-02-01 13:12:10
Message Id: 7861
I hope everyone is well. I just wanted to make a comment regarding Prof. Grobstein's box theory, and in particular its expansion to the smaller box inside a box notion. This is also similar to Katina's comment. When one takes this box notion down to the neurons, I think it's interesting to see how our basis to our nervous system is only input/output function. I wonder at what point in this box system we can actually move from the simple input/output function and into making our own inputs for the benefit of our own outputs.
Another thing I would like to add relates to the box theory, I would like to know how something like "Freudian slips" come into play. For that manner, how does any subconscious thought relate to the conscious behavior? (in terms of the box, would it be the box that produces its own output from internal input?)
Date: 2004-02-01 13:48:37
Message Id: 7862
This is just something that has been bothering me for a while so I thought I would post on it. I was thinking are we really one organism or a community or organisms. Are our cells really ours or do we just live with them. There are many organisms that are communities such as the man of war and sea sponges. This idea occurs to me because we don't seem to have any concious control over many of our cells and I wonder if we have any unconcious control over them. Cells do many of their daily activities such as metabolism, dividing, and dying without us controlling them. I know many of these things are programmed into their DNA and that is why they do them but to mean that does not mean we have control. We share the same DNA as all of our cells but I still can't shake the possibility that we are not one organism. Another possibility is that we are a parasite that lives off our body. Are we one organism or many???
Name: Eleni (Ellie)
Subject: box theory
Date: 2004-02-01 14:34:44
Message Id: 7866
I like to think of the "box in a box" theory of input/output boxes containing smaller and smaller input/output boxes as folding a peice of paper until you can't fold it anymore. (I think you can only fold any size piece of paper 7 times). Then you get to a point where you can't break it down anymore, just like you reach the neuron, the smallest input/output box. I think it is fine that you can only get down so far-I mean that the neuron is the smallest box and that all brains come down to them. It is fascinating how smiliar all the brains of the animals we looked at on Thurs were. But it makes sense and I agree that it must be the arrangement of these boxes (all made up of neurons) that account for the differences between different animals.
Date: 2004-02-01 18:56:41
Message Id: 7873
Tegan mentioned that Descartes himself questioned the workability of dualism, wondering how two substances of different kinds could interact. Actually, Descartes did have a theory for it- he believed the mind and body were connected in the pineal gland. (I think he picked the pineal gland just because it was centrally located.)
The boxes inside boxes model we looked at in class hints at the near impossibility of linking outputs to their causal imputs on a purely physical level. I am wondering if the idea that brain=behavior implies that for every (what we call) mental state there need be a specific, identifiable physical state that corresponds. Could mental states have causal properties? Would they supervene over corresponding or roughly corresponding physical states? Also, does acceptance of brain=behavior in fact call for a rejection of the existence of mental states altogether, and would we be better off not even talking about our beliefs and desires, replacing "I feel happy" With "I feel an abudance of serotonin" or something?
Name: Tanya Cooper
Date: 2004-02-01 19:26:58
Message Id: 7874
I never read the Time article that Elissa talks about in an earlier posting about the brains response to being in love. However, I did see a similar documentary on Discovery Health that was quite riveting. What interests me about this experiment is it further makes me ponder the question or theory of brain=behaviour, and if this is the case, is behaviour truly gender specific. In class on Thursday we discussed how the brain of every animal is different. Could we go further as to say that because we are all individuals, each of our brains has different wiring that is not yet detectable by science?
Name: Dana Bakalar
Date: 2004-02-01 22:56:14
Message Id: 7887
Regarding the differences in gendered behavior we discussed- I believe this is a major subject with which the nature vs nurture idea has been tested, and come out rather on the side of nature. I refer particularly to a case where twin boys were born but one had his penis destroyed in a circumsicion incident. They decided to give the child surgery and to raise it as a girl, but (s)he always felt male. Here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/2000/boyturnedgirl.shtml .
This shows that behavior and brain are the same, or at leat closely linked. Depite the input from the child's environment encouraging 'her' to be female, something in the brain asserted the maleness of this person. This also raises questions about gender identity disorder, transexualism, etc. Its very possible then that their brains are ocnstructed in such a way that they are indeed of the opposite gender, although their body is not. It seems that an individuals brain can take the same input and translate it to different output based on the individual
I also found this article abou the brain and sex drive that I thought was interesting: http://channels.netscape.com/ns/love/package.jsp?name=fte/brainsize/brainsize
Name: K. Schwalbe
Subject: something new to think about
Date: 2004-02-01 23:16:34
Message Id: 7888
One thing that's struck me while perusing the posts this week relating to brain and behavior is the relationship between accountability for one's behaviour and the brain=behaviour argument. We've mainly talked about behaviour in terms of personality, but what about things like delinquency and criminality? Can these actions also be blamed, whole or in part, on the brain? If you don't think someone is capable of changing their personality (because it arises from the brain), can you legitimately say that someone is capable of changing their tendency towards criminal behaviour? And to what extent can you hold someone responsible for actions arising out of their brain, criminal or otherwise?
Conflicting arguments to tbe brain being responsible for delinquent behaviour are all around us - criminal behaviour arising out of poverty, poor parenting at the root of juvenile delinquency - and i'm sure we can all think of more specific arguments as well. On one hand, you could avoid the conflict by saying that things like poor parenting or poverty are capable of changing the brain and thus changing behaviour. Another reasonable solution could be that we're all born with the capacity to be criminals but a sort of "trigger" is needed to turn this capacity into something more tangible.
One final comment: people who are unable to morally tell the difference between criminal and non-criminal acts (or right and wrong) are sometimes described as legally insane. Likewise, an insanity defence is based on the premise that an individual should not be punished for a wrongful act that he/she cannot appreciate the criminality of. Would this be an example of brain=behaviour in an entirely pure sense - your behaviour is not at all affected by the morals and laws of the outside world and instead would seem to come only from the brain?
What do you all think?
Date: 2004-02-02 02:09:29
Message Id: 7893
In class on Thursday, the idea of the "brain=small boxes" immediately carried me to my Developmental Biology class the day before. We had just learned how all anatomical and physiological diversity existent within the adult body comes from undifferentiated cells during gastrulation. The artistry of the body blows me away... In a trite example, our bodies manage to sculpt a "David" out of Play-dough! I admit that it is an amazing feat. But I still beg to question, why did it take scientists so long to buy into this theory? Everywhere in life there are examples of simple forming the complex: a house after all is only the representation of many smaller pieces. Did we refuse to think of our minds on a basic level because it made us appear primitive? Is complexity revered by our society more than simplicity?
I was also enthralled by the comparison of animal brains. On the neuron level, we are sheep (somewhat literally). This information allowed me to see why instincts exist. If brain=behavior, it is logical that we would have common behaviors among organisms.
Subject: The box theory
Date: 2004-02-02 02:38:26
Message Id: 7894
When we first started talking about the nervous system using the "box" concept, my first reaction was one of skepticism. However though the model is slightly abstract to me and leaves some questions unanswered, it comes up with a credible observation. The understanding that at the most rudimentary level we're composed of the same kind of cells and that it's the organization of these basics that is the key to the difference between species, individual organisms and I guess individuals themselves to me is an amazing result.
One of many examples that helped me corroborate the "box within a box" idea is the observation that damage to specific areas of the visual cortices impedes color perception while judgment of shape and movement remain flawless. The proper working of each box is integral for the "correct" discernment of the output. What is remarkable and puzzling is how this hierarchical organization coordinates and integrates the inputs and outputs of the individual boxes to produce a final output that is a consequence of a summation of each of them.
This model gives us that big picture that we can work with to examine the individual pixels that make it.
I'm beginning to appreciate the idea of brain=behavior a lot more!!!
Date: 2004-02-02 12:18:00
Message Id: 7898
Today in psych class, we were looking at coding in the visual system, and we learned that certain types of cells recognise only lines going in one direction, and of a certain width, some recognise entire faces and only faces, and etc. These smaller boxes (the cells) each do a very specific thing, and these different responses meld to form the picture we "see."
As an example, we looked at a caricature of Bill Clinton, which, although made of simple lines, can be translated and recognised by the interaction of the boxes, and a pointilism painting, made up of tiny inputs that result in a single picture.
This implies to me that the smallest boxes- neurons- muct have some boxes within, so that they have differences, and sense different things. Its also interesting how the interaction of the small boxes- neurons- interrelates with the big box -vision
Subject: Response to Emma/ Consciousness and Genetic Predetermination
Date: 2004-02-02 17:24:14
Message Id: 7902
I think that the conception of an organism as a motivated community of cells is valid to an extent. There are systems of control which can make that argument seem incorrect, but lets ignore that for now. An important theory which has been put forth and expounded upon in recent decades (by Trivers, Wright and Dawkins) is that which suggests that our bodies (brain included) are really just machinery generated by our genetic predisposition with the intent of being the best possible autonomous machine for passing on its genes.
By this logic, we are one organism, but one which pursues two goals. Our genome (which is determined before the actual organism is functional) wishes to build a survivable vehicle, whereas our cells wish to concertedly procreate and maintain themselves as a serviceable vehicle.
To relate this explicitly back to the subject matter, I believe that consciousness, and all that can be related to a brain or soul are merely tools which have evolved as being the most effective means for maintaining a survivable procreation machine.
Name: Amy Gao
Subject: wired brain?
Date: 2004-02-02 18:14:21
Message Id: 7903
This is perhaps detracting somewhat from the current discussing thread, but I noticed that people were bringing up articles they'd read in newspapers and magazines in relationship to our discussion on brain and behavior, so I thought I'd contribute my two cents' worth about what I read in the press.
There was this article in Newsweek (or maybe it was Time, I cannot recall correctly as it has been a while) on a study of brain activity in relation to praying. I believe they found out that across people of all faiths, praying seem to stabilize brain activity. The question of whether the brain activity stabilized because of repetitive chanting or are our brains genetically pre-programmed to stabilize upon praying was raised by the conclusion of the study.
I personally thought it's interesting that the different prayers of the different religions in the world that are rooted in vastly different histories and cultures would seem to have a common effect on brain activity:)
Name: Jean Yanolatos
Subject: Problems with the Concepts involving Neurons
Date: 2004-02-02 20:29:29
Message Id: 7909
I was thinking about the notion of smaller and smaller input/output boxes until you reach the level of neurons and it seemed only have true. I mean if you think about it there are organelles which receive input and then output something [i.e. the ER complex gets information from RNA (the input) and then it forms the basic structure of a protein(output)]. I therefore think that in many cases we must look into intracellular processes in order to find the smallest input/output boxes (depending on your idea of "input/output"). Also I think we must re-examine the concept that neurons have no variation. The nuclei of all neurons houses DNA among other components (i.e. proteins) and even though not all of this DNA is expressed, the DNA is not exactly the same in all organisms. While some sequences may be highly conserved across species it does not mean they are exactly the same, or the sequence may code for homologous genes, but we must remember that homologous does not mean the same. Therefore you can say that neurons are similar in different organisms, but you can not say neurons are the same in all organisms because their intracellular components contain variation.
Name: Sarah Caldwell
Subject: Some thoughts here and there
Date: 2004-02-03 00:09:07
Message Id: 7915
I've been giving some thought to the comments posted thus far and am left with the following ideas:
1) If the brain is modeled according to our class discussion, the "box-within-a-box" format then where do we define our basic unit. Is it the neuron? Scientists to date would argue that yes, the neuron is the basic "unit" of the nervous system. I'm here to ask whether that's true, if we stick to our model of box-in-a-box, then whose to say that there aren't smaller boxes within the neuron? Maybe we just can't see it...that's a cool possibility.
2) In response to the idea that the brain is not equal to the self. While I think this idea that a person develops from more than just their brain is interesting, I feel such a theory needs more. If the brain is argued NOT to define the self (as was argued with the siamese twins) then what parts of the brains are? How are we to distinguish between the various functions of the brain to the extent that we can identify the characteristics that define the "self?" Simply put, I struggle with where to draw the line between "brain" and "self" if they are, indeed, not the same.
Name: Shirley Ramirez
Date: 2004-02-03 01:00:23
Message Id: 7920
It is really weird to think that we are made out of boxes but when the professor discussed it in greater detail it made sense to me. Basically it all comes down to the neurons, it seems as though they are directing our behavior since every box leads to neurons. Does it come down to neurons in all organisms? If it does- than it is interesting that despite the fact that we are so different at the end we are compose of the same cells.
Also, the notion that the "outside" affects the nervous system is something that is very debatable. It is the notion of nature vs. nurture, does the nervous system and our genes effect behavior or does behavior effect our genetic makeup. I personally think that there is balance. We start off genetically equipped, but our culture and experiences have the ability to act upon our nervous system—at least this is the way I want to think about it! I wonder what others think about this nature vs. nurture debate.
Subject: box within a box system
Date: 2004-02-03 01:09:00
Message Id: 7922
The idea that an arrangement of simple things can create something very complex is often overlooked and taken for granted. However, all around us, there are tangible examples of such a setup. Even society, for example. There is only so much that each individual can do, however, when they are considered from the larger perspective of a society, a combination of all these individuals is what makes up the complexity of social scenes, ideas, conduct, etc. I like the idea of the box within a box system. It's logical and makes sense. There is so much information that needs to be processed, that compartmentalizing and subdividing the various processes would make it possible to accomplish everything in the grand scheme of things. However, despite the fact that I agree that behavior is the result of brain activity, I'm still uneasy with the idea that this is all there is to the equation.
Subject: box overload...
Date: 2004-02-03 01:09:57
Message Id: 7923
The "boxes within boxes" model may be abstract, but it presents an attractive logic in that it allows for exceptions and flexibility to exist within a system of order and directionality. I liked Mridula's comment about the visual cortex and its integration of inputs and outputs. To expand on that, a great article in Scientific American (Crick & Koch, the Problem of Consciousness) mentions neuronal coalitions (which form the basis of what we see) as the result of many neurons firing simultaneously and in parallel. Within this "box," neurons are arranged in a rough hierarchical system that together, orchestrates our sense of vision. However, within this "box" correlating to visual awareness, smaller boxes (neurons) interact in different combinations to accommodate and generate different responses. It seems appropriate to keep this model on the abstract level, because it would be impossible to map some of the brain's complex processing that involves indefinite (?) permutations of inputs. I wondered if this model would still hold true if we said that no two inputs or outputs were the same? It would seem that the brain couldn't support or reinforce past experiences if it encountered a different input every time (resulting in a different output?). Indeed, there is a certain degree of order in the "boxes w/in boxes" model, but this order is always rearranging itself in order to accommodate different inputs. What do we think about the model as more organic—one that is either destroyed and recreated with each input, or one that somehow rebuilds upon past integrations? It seems reasonable to say that we can superimpose the model on b=b because if the order of boxes is always changing in response to different inputs, then we can account for the incredible diversity of behavior that one organism is capable of.
Subject: Dot dot goose
Date: 2004-02-03 01:11:30
Message Id: 7924
I really think Katina has hit on something very useful with her Monet analogy. Not only is it useful when describing the "box-within-a-box(-within-more-boxes?)" model, but it also is descriptive of the way our brains truly work.
We don't always see the things we can perceive- does that make sense? The brain fills in gaps for us, drawing on information already gathered by the brain. There are even games on serendip to illustrate this point ("Seeing more than the eye does," etc. at http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/blindspot1.html)
Similarly, when we look at a Monet or a mosaic, we are capable of looking beyond the individual components to see the "whole picture;" only it's NOT the whole picture, it's the picture with the holes filled in.
Subject: Criminals, Free Will
Date: 2004-02-03 01:23:15
Message Id: 7925
In response to K.'s post about criminal behavior, in relating the brain=behavior issue to personal responsibility, she seems to imply that if our behavior is only rooted in our brains, then we—-as individuals-—must not have any kind of responsibility for our behavior. I don't think this is the case: deciding that the brain is the cause and creator of behavior is not saying that the world is wholly determined. It is only saying that our behaviors are rooted in our brains, that our brains are the processors of our actions and the keepers of our identities. And even if we were to say that the world is determined and that free will is an illusion—-again not necessitated by the brain=behavior principle—-that doesn't necessarily rid individuals of having to take responsibility for their actions.
If we are determined in our actions, then so are others: if I am pre-determined to be a criminal, say, then the rest of society is pre-determined to put me in jail. Might not be fair, in a sense, but it seems to be how it's working. (Determinism/Free-will is not a debate specifically for biology. But it's interesting.) Seems to be a case of playing one's part well...
On a final note, I think that instead of Brain=Behavior being a problem in the case of criminal behavior, or what have you, it could be seen as a plus. If criminal behavior is rooted in some sort of physical plane-—chemical balances, neurological structures, etc.-—then it is susceptible to manipulation, at least theoretically. We may not know how to do that, and we may not want to (has anyone seen/read A Clockwork Orange?), but it could be done. If criminal behavior is rooted in something not physical, though, if deviance is a product of an evil soul or perverse mind or somethng more ephemeral, then we have fewer tools with which we can approach it, and many of those are not what we would consider scientific. In treating the criminal or deviant among us, I'm a little more comfortable with mood enhancing drugs than with exorcisms.
Date: 2004-02-03 04:25:22
Message Id: 7928
I suppose that predeterminism is associated with physical causes of behavior because while we are comfortable holding individuals responsible for their ambiguously mental traits and processes (lack of morals, careless or selfish decision making, etc) we are less comfortable blaming them for, say, neglecting to recognize and constuctively address a chemical imbalance. I think Tegan is right though, that if the two can be accepted as the same thing, our concept of free will need not be affected.
Subject: the self is a parasite
Date: 2004-02-03 04:44:10
Message Id: 7929
Emma's comment, "we are a parasite that lives off our body" made me think about the self from an entirely different angle than I had been. I think that 'we' is the self, our perceptions of the environment and of ourselves as well as our unconscious and conscious thoughts. Personality is a construct of the self, it is not the self, but one's personality is a marked part of the self. However backwards that sounds, it makes sense to me. From this standpoint, yes the self is a parasite that lives off of the body. The body serves as the host to the self by sustaining one's physical life through obvious means such as eating and breathing, but also by processing inputs from one's environment. How the brain processes these environmental inputs shapes and changes what I consider the self. Though debatable, one way to look at this idea of the self being a parasite of the body is what occurs after death. Some believe, the 'soul' of a person continues/lives after the physical death of the body. The 'soul' and the self are separate. From my understanding of what is commonly believed to be the 'soul,' it is not perceptions, processed inputs, the unconscious, or personality. All of these things are dependent on the body being alive. They are all dependent on change. I believe that death is the ending of change. Therefore I agree with Emma comment, the self is a parasite that lives off the body.
Name: Aashna Hossain
Date: 2004-02-03 06:20:22
Message Id: 7931
We've already determined that "brain=behaviour" vis-a-vis the "spaghetti +" box model...but how do we determine how much of our behaviour is nature, and how much of it is nurture? will this differ greatly from person to person, or will there be basic standards applied across the table?
And as far as the breakdown of the boxes go...how do we determine whether or not it ends, i.e. whether the level of boxes continue to break down infinitely or if there is a point where it ends?
Subject: emma's post
Date: 2004-02-03 07:18:52
Message Id: 7932
As a response to Emma's post about being one organism, or a community of cells, and I think that is really related to how the body works, as a system of boxes within boxes. It's similar to the idea of cells -> tissues -> organs. That's an example of how are bodies are systems of intertwining entities. Can parts of our bodies exist without the other? Not really. Like the boxes, it depends on how you want to look at our bodies in determining whether or not we're one organism or many.
Name: Amanda Glendinning
Date: 2004-02-03 09:01:55
Message Id: 7935
One of the questions that Professor Grobstein asked in his write up was "Do we always need some kind of go-between to mediate from ourselves to the universe? (that could be either a priest or a brain?) My initial response was of course we do. But I see brains and priests as exceptionally different things. And what do we mean by the universe? Without a brain we would not be able to grasp the concept of a universe let alone think of what we want to communicate to it. But, I believe that we do not need such things as priests to communicate to the same universe. This becomes a religious debate about whether or not a mediator is needed to talk to God if we assume, in this context, that God and the universe are one and the same.
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