Name: Aashna Hossain
Date: 2004-02-10 09:45:53
Message Id: 8088
Going back to discussions from earlier on last week...
I don't recall if we've already touched upon this or not, but did we determine the relationship between the brain or nervous system, and the self? The soul? Maybe a good starting point for these questions is to determine exactly what we mean by the self and the soul (again, not sure if we've quite covered this to an extent that leaves us satisfied...)? Are they the same thing?
And tying this in with the issue of depression...we've already heard the comment that some people say that in this state, they're not quite "themselves." I've also heard people voice the opposite worry - that once they, for example, take a step to attempt to normalize their brains' seratonin supplies, they fear they will alter their personality/identity and thus lose a part of it...
What do we make of this?
Subject: I-Function and NeoCortex
Date: 2004-02-11 00:33:42
Message Id: 8113
B=B was challenging enough to think about, and now the I-Function Box ... It is normal that everyone is fascinated by this newly-introduced concept (even though most of us I think would claim that self-awareness, or the soul, or consciousness, etc are based in the head -- Central Nervous System).
What I would like to add is the following:
Perhaps Paul will get back to discussing the I-Function in relation to the NeoCortex later on, but I did want to comment on that. It seems that some are worried that the concept of Humanity would be threatened if a cat too has an I-Function (in the examples given). However, maybe Paul wants us to think of the I-F in terms of its supposed "container" (NeoCortex). This way, we may begin to be more comfortable with the differences between a cat's and a human's I-F as we maybe comfortable with the fact that the human NeoCortex is bigger and more "developped" than that of cats and other animals...
What do you think ?
Subject: Brain=electrics, Mind=magnetism
Date: 2004-02-11 23:21:35
Message Id: 8127
I found this over the weekend, and it ties in perfectly with what I'm reading for my paper (about consciousness and the mind) and what Eleni said about the nerve and electrics:
Elenie: "In my Physics class on Friday, we were discussing electric potential, resistors, capacitators, etc. and talked a bit about the nerve being a real life case. It is pertainent to think of the nerve in terms of electrics and can possibly be applied to some of the questions posed surrounding the Christopher Reeves case"
Sceintific American Mind: "Perhaps 'conscious mental fields' arise from neuronal activity in the same way that magnetic fields arise from electric currents in a wire."
This is the best possible explanation for how I think of the connection between mind and brain. I was delighted to find it. It seems, in light of Eleni's comments, that SAM's comments might be more than just a metaphor. If the nerves are electric systems, and they are, then it is possible than the mind is a magnetic field, or something very much like it. Perhaps the mind is a force like a magnetic field, but of nature that we have not yet discovered.
Date: 2004-02-12 17:29:51
Message Id: 8140
The short story I mentioned was called "learning to be me" and is by Greg Egan. I would suggest it for anyone interested in the nature of self.
Subject: Seeing sounds.
Date: 2004-02-13 18:28:45
Message Id: 8151
I found it absolutely fascinating that action potentials are the same for seeing and hearing and only differ in where they are occurring. I would like to know more about the ability to see sounds and hear sights. What does that mean? If you are standing far away from a person and see him/her close a door, do you hear the door closing? Or, do you hear the sound of the movement of air?
Date: 2004-02-13 21:10:46
Message Id: 8153
I found the concept of a concentration gradient and how the membrane creates such gradients by way of pumps to be rather interesting. In the case of batteries, it seems that the organization of pumps is very crucial to create a working unit. Our discussion on Friday ended with the notion that a transverse longitudinal battery had a different change at either end as a result of different ion concentrations on either side of the membrane. Along those same lines, I was wondering about the mechanisms that determine membrane permeability. If the orientation and organization of pumps determine what ions are let through to create gradients, how do membranes decide which ions to be permeable? Are all resting potentials formed of an exchange of the same ions discussed in class?
Date: 2004-02-14 13:21:12
Message Id: 8162
In response to Erin's question about whether all membranes produce a resting potential from the same ions discussed in class, I think that is not the case. What is similar is the mechanism by which any potential is produced. A further look at this idea and we can easily see why the movement of any ions (well, for the most part) results in the formation of a potential. As we discussed in class, resting potential is created from the separation of charges. I like to think of it as the potential=the desire for opposite charges to attract (but this may confuse some people). So, all that is needed to create a potential is a charge difference across a membrane. We know already that ions carry a charge with them (Na +1, Cl -1, etc.) accordingly, simply movement of such ions across membranes easily sets up membrane potentials. Hope that helps, Erin.
Name: Paul Grobstein
Subject: the week past ...
Date: 2004-02-15 10:17:58
Message Id: 8167
One of the things I'll remember is the depressed cat, not for now but maybe for later. An interesting question is whether one can or can't know for sure whether another organism (including another person) has an I-function if one is limited to observing their behavior from the outside. Depression, in some ways of understanding it, may in fact be something that provides strong evidence of an I-function. To talk more about in a month or so when we have some other needed things under our belt.
In the meanwhile, you're free as always to write about whatever you thought about/are thinking about this week. For example, if its all action potentials, and they in turn are just movements of ions across a membrane, what new questions arise? and does that make one think differently about behavior? Usefully differently?
Subject: chemical equilibrium
Date: 2004-02-15 10:35:09
Message Id: 8168
Wow, I really enjoyed class on Thursday when we were talking about resting potentials and equilibrium. As a Chem major, I enjoyed linking the concept of equilibrium and diffusion to signals in the body when I have really not studied them in this biological sense and often forget that these are fundamental principles in the body, not just some random molecules written on a piece of paper. As someone else said above, I felt like for a brief moment we were studying the same thing in almost all of my classes-- like there was a merge between Neurobiology, Physics, and PChem, and it was just one of those times when you realize how connected everything is.
Date: 2004-02-15 16:20:44
Message Id: 8179
About seeing sound and hearing sight- I was trying to think how that might feel, and had an idea- probably not a terribly accurate idea, but it still seemed interesting. There're so many sensations that seem to be linked, in our minds- like the colour blue with the feeling of cold, and red with heat, and so on. If (and I've no idea if this is possible, even) your senses of touch and sight were switched, could it be that you'd feel cold when you saw blue? Are the connections that people make between sensations like that just created from associations- or could some of them possibly go deeper than that?
Anyway, it seemed a bit far fetched when I thought of it, but then I started wondering how else you might perceive colours in a situation like that- and I haven't been able to come up with anything that makes more sense to me. And how would you even find out from such a person, what the colour blue "felt" like to them? It'd be a bit like trying to understand what light looked like, if you'd lived in the dark all your life.
I just thought of something else- I remember reading a story, ages ago, about a little boy who'd been born blind, and his grandfather would try to describe colours for him. It was something like... green is the smell of grass after a thunderstorm, and blue is the feel of wind on your face on a spring morning, and red is a roaring fire on a winter's evening. It's really interesting, the way that we link senses together in that way. I wonder, though, again, if that's just a matter of associating one sensation with another after having experienced them together many times- or if it goes deeper than that, if there's something more fundamental about the ties between sensations.
Name: Brad Corr
Subject: Ionic Control
Date: 2004-02-15 20:57:39
Message Id: 8184
This last weeks classes were interesting in learning that the signals are in essence all the same as in a resting potential across a membrane which allows for an action potential to move down a neuron cell. So we've learned the mechanism for signal motion and that all signals are really just the motion of an ionic potential. But what we've left out are the "ends" of the cell. Clearly there has to be distinguishing factors among signals. In recently learning about cell-cell communication in another class, it seems to me that the responses of each cell have to be different. Maybe one potential causes the release of calcium ions which then signals the production of a certain protein, which in turn affects transcription and so on... Meanwhile another cell picks up the same signal and produces an entirely different protein and starts a whole new set of chain reactions. Is this what distingusihes between input signals? Just the response of each type of cell? The production of a different protein? If this is true than maybe varying behaivor is simply due to varying ion concentration and types within peoples cells, causing the same signals to have different responses in different people. Kind of neat to think of it this way and then in turn how much ones diet has the ability to manipulate ones behaivor, although i don't necessarily believe that to be true.
Name: Tanya D Cooper
Subject: philosophy and the senses
Date: 2004-02-15 21:56:52
Message Id: 8186
I found that what Anjali posted about hearing sight and seeing sound to be very interesting. It also raises a question that has long baffled me and in fact came up in casual conversation with a friend from outside school a few nights ago. That is, if CNS aside, each of our brains are unique even if not detectable by the eye, how do we know how we all see different things and one another? I mean who's to say when we see the colour red that somebody else is seeing what we are, or if we eat chocolate, whether it tastes to everybody else the same way? We are limited by vocabulary to describe sense, and we only know something is a certain colour, sounds, tastes, or feels a certain way because from an early age we are conditioned to believe that it is the case. I don't know. It's just something I find intriguing.
Subject: Action Potentials
Date: 2004-02-16 00:15:04
Message Id: 8191
The last week of class has been extremely interesting. As a psychology major i cannot wait to see how these action potentials control our brains. I have a question though- are all action potentials the same or do some differ in terms of tasks? From the class lectures I understood the process of action potentials, but what do they do- what is their goal and what happens after they have achieve their goal? Is this a non-stop process?
When learning about the resting potential I was facinated to learn about concetration gradients. Even ions want equilibrium and therefore create pumps on the membrane to maintain it. Isnt that interesting, but I wonder what tells the membrane to create a pump...I was also wondering how does the membrane determine it's permeability?
Subject: Genes and the NS
Date: 2004-02-16 02:38:42
Message Id: 8196
When we describe the nervous system in such a mechanical way, it reminds me of other ways our body works. For example, the heart is designed to perform in a similar way in everyone (or else...); the spleen carries out its own function as does the small intestine and so on.
Now, with regards to our topic at hand, if it's "all action potentials, and they in turn are just movements of ions across a membrane," then just what is it that sets us apart from each other? If it's genes, then why should identical twins behave differently? If our "I-box" isn't solely determined by our genetic makeup, then just what IS there to account for our differences? Are our genes and experiences together enough to account for behavior? Could there be another factor involved? Are "common sense" and "human nature" genes that we've inherited from our ancestors?
Date: 2004-02-16 08:30:37
Message Id: 8201
I think that the relationship between action potential and behavior is subjective. If behavior is presented simply as a result of changes in ion gradients of membranes, then it seems far too scientific and mechanical. Let's say there are two human subjects presented with the same obstacle. Perhaps human experience is what dictates a specific combination of ions to move across certain membranes that then result in a given behavior. This would then account for the first subject (with combination action potential 1) reacting to the given obstacle differently then the second (with combination action potential 2).
The I-function pre-exists prior to mind development from experiences. I think that the I-function develops into the self, or at least dictates its characterization. From what we know about genetics, twins that have identical genetic information should then have an identical I-function. We know twins to behave differently from one another. But how can we account for the mysterious way twins feel each other's emotions, desires, and experiences? Perhaps their shared I-function is what accounts for this seemingly unexplainable phenomena.
Subject: I-Function and Sentience
Date: 2004-02-16 14:44:06
Message Id: 8213
The way we have been discussing I-Functions as being largely anthrospecific seems to imply a neglect for the universality of many functions and units of the CNS. If other animals have brains made up of the same tissues and cells as us (albeit with slightly different morphologies) and their nervous systems convey messages in the same way, they should have some type of I-Function as well. As Paul said in his posting about the cat, we cannot be sure of the presence (or lack) of an I-Function in other organisms because we cannot communicate with them as fully as we do with each other. The recognition of one's I-Function can only be known if it is expressed in a way that such a recognition can be observed through primary or secondary indicators.
Date: 2004-02-16 16:13:39
Message Id: 8216
One thought that I had after class on Thursday was the role that inputs and experience may have on forming connections of processes in the brain. Genetics plays some role, but there also may be instances when the brain matures where environment influences the synapses that neurons make with one another. Action potentials may be an all or nothing process with ions moving across a membrane, but what sets each individual apart is the connections between neurons that we have. No two individuals would have the same connections because genes would play some role, but so would environment.
Name: Katina Krasnec
Date: 2004-02-16 16:35:59
Message Id: 8217
As many other people have stated, the correlation of discussion and topics in class have been oddly similar with the others I take. As a Biology major, Psychology minor, I find myself very much surrounded by the concepts talked about in class on Thursday. Diffusion, signals, and interpretation are all concepts of the body that are linked in all the sciences, each with it's own ideas of how they function. But where have these differences come from? How did evolution and change effect the way humans recieved these signals from the nervous system?
The I-function itself isn't quite as straightforeward for me as it might be for others. Yes, it helps dictate which areas of the body are being controlled by the nervous system, but what about "mis-wiring," or injury creating a malfunctioning I-function? How does the organism necessarily cope with this, and what is the behavioral reaction to this? How, as Michael said earlier, do we recognize the I function itself, functioning properly or improperly. The CNS itself is a maze, designed to bring signals to each other from complicated systems, so what happens when something goes wrong? What about when it's non-human?
Date: 2004-02-16 17:56:32
Message Id: 8220
I think the idea that the signals in the nervous system can be attributed to simple chemistry is brilliant. It is amazing that something which appears to be so complicated (the workings of our nervous system) can be broken down to ions passing in and out of membranes. This, to me, seems to be a process that could be replicated in a synthetic environment. It makes behavior seem more mechanical and programmed. It may be order out of randomness, but it still seems that there is some kind of order to the way our nervous systems operate. The only thing that appears to separate us from any other machine is the I-function. Then again, when we finally figure out what this I-function is and how it works, chances are it will be just as mechanical as these signals passing through the nervous system
Name: Amy Gao
Subject: a little bit about the genes
Date: 2004-02-16 17:58:48
Message Id: 8221
In genetics, identical twins, though they have the same genes, may have different gene expressions. For exmaple, females inherit two X chromosomes, one from the father and one from the mother. There is only one X chromosome that is truly active; the other one is compressed into a Barr body, tightly condensed so that transcription can't occur. There maybe a few genes along the Barr body that remains active, but for the most part it's inactive.
Since women have two chromosomes, it's totally random chance which gene is active and which one is a Barr body; a woman may have her mother's X chromosome active in her cells (and her mother's X chromosome expressed a little bit in some of her cells) and vice versa for her identical twin sister. I was thinking that maybe this could be an explanation (though definitely not an adequate one, because I realized that since there is a 50/50 chance, some identical twin sisters could very well have the same chromosome expressed and the same one as their Barr bodies) for the differences we observe in twins, including the I-function.
Date: 2004-02-16 18:41:09
Message Id: 8224
Until last Thursday's lecture I had always considered myself a very disorganized, imprecise person. If I were responsible in reality for repeatedly doing something as precise and carefully executed as effectively creating a balance to ensure between ionic concentration gradient and specific membrane permeability I would undoubtedly screw it up on a massive scale. Yet my body, in this case my nervous system, does it like clockwork. I love the idea that my I-function or some other box gets in the way of doing in reality (repeatedly performing a fairly complex and essential chemistry...thing) what my nervous system can manage basically on auto-pilot. It makes one think that perhaps in somethings the I-function gets in the way. Instead of just *doing* something we start questioning "am I doing this right?" "what if I mess up?" "I don't think this is what I truly want to be doing at this moment". After Thursday's lecture/discussion I mentally apologized to my chemistry teachers for sitting in class thinking dismissive thoughts about concepts such as diffusion and my rather insolent questioning of the use of being taught the definitions of terms such as "membrane permeability" and "ion". Using the idea of a lightbulb to communicate the idea of a transverse battery also being created reminded me of a quote from Nabokov's 'Speak, Memory' (a very good book that I believe someone already quoted in the forum earlier this year.) "The cradle rocks above the abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness." Okay, so it's a bit of a stretch to equate the phrase "a brief crack of light" to the transverse battery-thing that occurs in resting potential/action potential situations, but I'm a humanities person...all that light/energy/heat/lightening stuff rather blends together for me. At any rate, I do recommend the book.
Date: 2004-02-16 19:03:15
Message Id: 8225
I think it's interesting to consider how animals other than humans can possess an I-function. As Michael stated, the existence of a living being's I-function can only be observed from the outside. If this is the case, there can never be a way of disproving the I-function's existence. In addition to this, however, comes the idea of everybody, every living being, being separated by distinct I-functions, as Kristen mentioned. But, if this is so, how can we really tell if someone's (or something's) I-function is malfunctioning? Would be possible to just chalk it up to a difference between beings? What would we consider to be a "normal" I-function?
Name: Nicole Wood
Subject: More thoughts....
Date: 2004-02-16 21:50:22
Message Id: 8230
This is in reference to a conversation we were having in class on Tuesday. Basically, the question was posed that, if a person is completely paralyzed (unable to move anything whatsoever) how do we know that "they" are still there? I once read a book that described a nurse's experience as she cared for a young woman who was completely paralyzed. The other nurses who helped care for this young woman referred to her using terms like "the vegetable" and other adjectives of a degrading nature. However, one particular nurse, refused to treat the young woman as if she couldn't hear them. For one thing, she actually called her by her name. This nurse actually was called in to work on Thanksgiving and although she was disappointed that she could not spend time with her family, she decided to not let it affect her interactions with her patients. The first thing that she said to her young patient was "I was upset to be working on Thanksgiving, but I'm happy to see you." When she looked back to see the young woman, there were tears rolling down her cheeks. Though there was no verbal or physical response, I think this nurse's story is a testimony that this young woman's I-F and emotion were still intact, and that exactly what constitutes the "self" is more than just its location.
Name: Aashna Hossain
Date: 2004-02-17 00:34:49
Message Id: 8239
Referring to Amy Gao's comments above:
>"In genetics, identical twins, though they have the same genes, may have different gene expressions. For exmaple, females inherit two X chromosomes, one from the father and one from the mother. There is only one X chromosome that is truly active; the other one is compressed into a Barr body, tightly condensed so that transcription can't occur. There maybe a few genes along the Barr body that remains active, but for the most part it's inactive.
Since women have two chromosomes, it's totally random chance which gene is active and which one is a Barr body; a woman may have her mother's X chromosome active in her cells (and her mother's X chromosome expressed a little bit in some of her cells) and vice versa for her identical twin sister. I was thinking that maybe this could be an explanation (though definitely not an adequate one, because I realized that since there is a 50/50 chance, some identical twin sisters could very well have the same chromosome expressed and the same one as their Barr bodies) for the differences we observe in twins, including the I-function."
So what exactly is the function of the X-chromosome that isn't activated (the one compressed into a Barr body?)? How is the X-chromosome that is to be activated made active/"selected"?
Subject: neurons and I-function cont..
Date: 2004-02-17 00:35:04
Message Id: 8240
The notion that our behavior is dictated by changes in ion gradients, which in turn are responsible for generating signals across neuron pathways is very interesting. However, it seems a bit of a jump to make the connection between our I-function's ability to control these gradients (through our unconscious autonomic nervous system) and our behavior. Maybe we can think about it if we take into account such factors as temperature, axon properties, the stimulus etc...all of these variables that contribute to make a unique action potential for a unique behavior. Different amplitudes, periods, concentration gradients make for different voltages that translate into signals of different speeds and strength. It seems incredible that all of these miniscule differences can potentially translate into behaviors as a much more general process.
Some classmates mentioned and questioned how our I-function controls these gradients...how does this apply to free will? It seems absurd to think that free will is changing our ion gradients to alter our behavior! Perhaps this is a case when our somatic overtakes the autonomic processes in our peripheral nervous system—which brings up the question of how neuron signals differ in the two pathways. What distinguishes a voluntary from an involuntary signal?
Subject: Skepticism about I-box
Date: 2004-02-17 00:48:39
Message Id: 8241
Is anybody else starting to view the whole concept of an I-box as a "default" system? Allow me to explain, someone said above that the I-box can not be disproven. Okay, I can accept that, but neither can it be proven. I find myself getting very confused about what an I-box is, because it seems as though we just refer to any factor of the nervous system, or any characteristic of behavior that we don't understand, as part of the I-box. I find it frustrating to refer to the I-function as the function of "self." By doing so we are allowing so many variable behaviors and responses to fall under one controlling mechanism...I just find that hard to believe. I would much prefer to think of behavior and response to stimulus as the result of a cascade of neurological signals. In the future, perhaps we should further question the true abilities of this so-called I-box.
Date: 2004-02-17 01:22:49
Message Id: 8242
We have often been told that laughter can help to heal, and that having an optimistic outlook when sick can increase your chances of recovering. However, CNN (http://www.cnn.com/2004/HEALTH/conditions/02/09/cancer.optimism.ap/index.html) reported yesterday that a study published in the journal Cancer showed that "optimism [is] no help against cancer". The study was done on patients with a common type of lung cancer, and after five years only 8 of the 179 patients were still alive. There apparently was no appreciable increase in the life span of the optimistic patients. In fact, one of the authors of the study wrote: "We should question whether it is valuable to encourage optimism if it results in the patient concealing his or her distress in the misguided belief that this will afford survival benefits." However, the American Cancer Society (which publishes the journal Cancer) points out that optimism can still increase the quality of life that a person living with cancer experiences.
I though this was interesting since it could be construed to demonstrate that the conscious mind has a smaller effect on the body than one might think. I would think that if by being optimistic you increase the health of your body, than that would indicate that your "self" has considerable control over the rest of your body. But since having a positive frame of mind does not increase these patients' live spans, does that indicate that perhaps the "i-box" is less powerful than we think it is?
Subject: Re: Lindsey's
Date: 2004-02-17 02:45:02
Message Id: 8245
I just wanted to comment/agree with Lindsey's comments about the leap between the chemical gradient creating the ionic signals across the box pathways and its relation to the I-box. Although all the boxes are composed of neurons, it is hard to distinguish the notion of voluntary versus involuntary movements. One question about that is whether the movement of Christopher Reeve's foot is done through this I-box or whether the movement can simply be a reaction that has been set up across the nervous system regardless of the I-box. Unfortunately this idea poses two real questions. If it does not need the I-box, then perhaps one can take this idea a step further and say that this involuntary movement of the foot is therefore not connected to any emotion such as pain, but rather some physical impulse. And perhaps that is where the distinction lies, whether there is a connection with the I-box or not, will determine the voluntary versus involuntary movements.
Date: 2004-02-17 03:46:34
Message Id: 8246
I have thought about sensing and our perception of things and have reached similar dead ends. Is the problem that we perceive certain situations, smells, textures, colors, etc. differently? Or is the problem on the other end of things; where our senses are fairly uniform, but our reactions differ due to environmental influences. Or is it a combination of both, which would explain why there is such a huge scale of personality differences among individuals.
Date: 2004-02-17 08:23:04
Message Id: 8247
Tanya mentioned a thought she has had about whether or not things look and taste the same to different people. I have always wondered this. As she said, if a person has different brains then why can't we look at things differently. Everyone may have two eyes and a nose, but what if those eyes to one person have a slightly different shape. Our reactions probably would not change much as we're reacting (even now) to what WE see, not what other see. I used to think that this must be the case because we react differently to things, but I see now that those reactions are based on our differences not the object's
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