Biology 202
Neurobiology and Behavior
Spring 2004

Forum 6


Name:  Student Contributor
Subject:  
Date:  2004-02-19 01:26:41
Message Id:  8285
Comments:
Doesn't it kinda stand that we all experience things differently? I mean, ideally, we all have the same eyes, noses, brains, the same internal things that make us human. But we're not all the same - some people have missing limbs, some people are born devoid of certain senses or loose them in the courses of their lives. Wouldn't it necessarily follow from this that we all experience senses differently?

There's something in the film 'The Matrix' where they talk about the taste of a kid's cereal and how maybe what Sarah thought Tasty Wheats tasted like wasn't what they tasted like anyway, and how maybe the makers of the Matrix couldn't figure out what to make chicken taste like, which is why chicken tastes like everything. Now, take the absurdity of the context out of the picture for a moment, and maybe that's a thought. Maybe the reason why so many things "taste like chicken" is because the different things that different people taste just remind them of chicken.

Just a thought ...


Name:  Natalie Merrill
Username:  nmerrill@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  depression
Date:  2004-02-19 15:06:02
Message Id:  8291
Comments:
Several posts have mentioned depression and I thought I would chime in with a few of my own. It is interesting to think about why people get depressed and what medications treat it. I think it is most interesting to consider the different effects it has on individuals. I was reading in my fashion/health magazine this month that for some people, depression causes excessive eating and increased sleep while most victims experience insomnia and loss of apetite. I wonder why some peoples symptoms of depression are directly opposite from the way others experience it. Is this a brain chemistry problem or a link to personality?
Name:  Dana Bakalar
Username:  dbakalar@bmc
Subject:  
Date:  2004-02-19 19:42:19
Message Id:  8296
Comments:
From todays class comes a MAJOR metaphysical question. If signals can be, and are, produced without an outside "ZAP," Then who's to say what IS from the outside? Put a different way, if your nervous system can make its own input, what is the objective reality of outside? We only percieve some of it, and we percieve lots that isnt it at all, so why do we see the world the same way others do? or do we see it that way? Is there an "outside" at all?

Maybe we are all just brains in jars


Name:  debbie
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  
Date:  2004-02-20 00:20:56
Message Id:  8301
Comments:
According to today's lecture, ions which travel from one side of a membrane to the other are dependent upon the proteins in the membrane which act as channels. Then, since all humans function in a similar way (breathe, eat, etc), do we all have the same proteins? Or, does a certain protein in a membrane serve different functions for different individuals?

Separate from this discussion, I have been further researching the I-box to better understand phantom limbs (the topic of my webpaper). It seems that the brain is hard wired but malleable to certain experiences. What type of experience justifies a change in the circuitry of the brain? Patients who have lost limbs still feel sensations/pains in their limbs. Does a lost limb not call for a change in the understanding of self? Why can't the I-box recognize things which are no longer self (like an amputated limb)?


Name:  c. sante
Username:  schamovi@haverford.edu
Subject:  response to natalie's post
Date:  2004-02-20 00:38:29
Message Id:  8303
Comments:
Natalie, in response to your posting it sounds to me that you are talking about two very different and wholly separate afflictions. What most people think of when using "depression" as a descriptive term, is what is known as typical unipolar depression, or Major Depressive Disorder (i.e.,MDD). This disorder manifests itself in outward expressions such as insomnia and/or loss of appetite. However, there is another form of unipolar depression known as atypical depression where the syptoms are quite opposite those of typical unipolar depression (e.g.,hypersomnia and weight gain from increased food consumption). So then in response to your concluding question as to the "reasons" for these marked differences (e.g.,personality or neurobiology), i am inclined to believe that like all other forms of "mental illness" or mood disorders, it all comes down to differences in individual biological/neural makeup. For example, differing activity at serotonergic synapses or amount of GABA receptors in the brain, could play a role.
Name:  Maryam
Username:  mbastani@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  the very notion of an i function
Date:  2004-02-21 03:30:06
Message Id:  8326
Comments:
I have a problem with the "I-function." To introduce the concept of an "I-function" in class, Professor Grobstein offered a clever thought experiment: When Christopher Reeves' toe is pinched, his foot retracts but Chris says "_I_ don't feel anything." The emphasis is then put on the "I" part of that statement but the part of the brain that distinguishes the self is in this experiment deeply linked to the "feel" part of the statement. The upshot appears to be that the sensation of feeling goes beyond the mechanics of what we might be able to account for physically, and that all of the "feelings of feelings" if you will that we have at any given time come together and make the "I." If the body experiences something but it doesn't appear to be LIKE anything to us to experience that physical occurrence, the idea of the "I-function" assumes that it will not be included in the calculation of the self, if that makes any sense. The "I-function" implies that it is just that quality of it BEING LIKE something to FEEL one's toe pinched is what counts in determining the boundaries of the self. BUT Christopher Reeves didn't say, "My toe didn't move," just that he didn't FEEL any pain. What I am trying to say that I think it is too much of a jump to conclude from the observation that because Chris doesn't feel the pain inflicted on his toe, the awareness of feeling a pain is a sufficient criterion of selfhood.
Name:  Chevon Deputy
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Rape and Behavior
Date:  2004-02-21 15:46:17
Message Id:  8339
Comments:
A week ago, I watched a documentary about intra-racial rape by Aishah Simmons. It was interesting, because I began to wonder what is the link between such a heinous crime and the psychological development of a person who performs the act. Actually, I have been thinking about this for awhile, especially when I constantly hear about such crimes on the news. Is it something hereditary or is it behavior that just develops over time? It is a very complex issue that should be discussed more often. I would like to know what fosters this type of behavior. Recently, there was a newstory about a 13 year old raping his 2 year old sister. I just can't imagine this happening!! I strongly believe there is a connection between the brain and crimes. I understand that it is difficult to prove that there a connection between the two, when there are internal and external forces involved.
Name:  Erin
Username:  eokazaki@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-02-21 16:27:35
Message Id:  8340
Comments:
I find the notion that our brain is continuously generating signals even without input to be fascinating. I think that the internal mayhem of our brain and the notion that sensory receptors "things on the outside" may act as regulators, is a very interesting aspect to consider when examining ourselves and our behavior. Everyone is different; everyone's brain is going off and generating random signals unique to that individual. It might be interesting to ask how we as humans are able to communicate and interact with each other when we are on such different internal schemes. And if, "things on the outside" are regulators, to what extent might they be working to organize, sort out and prepare the chaotic internal mess of signals into some sort of behavioral "output" recognizable to others? Could this grand scheme account for differences among people and the way others perceive such differences
Name:  Dana Bakalar
Username:  dbakalar@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  I-box is not a Self
Date:  2004-02-22 11:33:42
Message Id:  8348
Comments:
Maryam said "I-function" implies that it is just that quality of it BEING LIKE something to FEEL one's toe pinched is what counts in determining the boundaries of the self. BUT Christopher Reeves didn't say, "My toe didn't move," just that he didn't FEEL any pain. What I am trying to say that I think it is too much of a jump to conclude from the observation that because Chris doesn't feel the pain inflicted on his toe, the awareness of feeling a pain is a sufficient criterion of selfhood. "


I think we are looking (or should be looking) at the I-box not as the home of self or of personlaity, despite the misleading name. The fact that christopher did not feel his toe is also not the only thing we looked at in that story- he also said that HE did not move it. He still takes posession of the toe, unlike the cat with the dirty tail, but he feels that something that was not "him" moved it. Its not the pain that implies selfhood, but the fact that a movement can occur and the invidual who moved deny that it was "them" who moved.

I think we should trash the idea of I-box as personhood, which we really havent any evidence for, and focus on I-box as awareness of body


Name:  Anjali
Username:  gvaidya@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Signals starting in the middle of a box
Date:  2004-02-22 14:26:58
Message Id:  8353
Comments:
A couple things about the signals that start in the middle of the box:

First of all, something really doesn't make sense to me. If the neurons aren't firing in response to an input- if they just fire automatically, how is it that external stimuli are able to keep these signals from being random? How could external stimuli have any effect on such signals at all?

Another thing: also related to that, I had a thought after class on Thursday that maybe the idea of blank tanks could be linked to dreams. I think I remember reading, a couple of years ago, that there's a theory that dreams are just the result of random firing in the brain- random firing that your brain tries to give some coherency or sense to through dreams. Could it be that your lack of awareness about the outside world while you're asleep has a similar effect as a blank tank? Your brain generates its own input, and brings up images and makes up stories in the absence of external stimuli.

Anyway. Just a thought.


Name:  Aiham
Username:  akorbage@haverford.edu
Subject:  "Beating" Neuron
Date:  2004-02-22 14:29:51
Message Id:  8354
Comments:
Although I was aware that isolated muscle cells still contract on their own, the implications of an isolated Nervous System still "beating" is fascinating to me. I am curious to find out more about the idea that, put in a "blank tank", the brain goes awry with its "internal" generated impulses and signals...
It is true that further tests of this sort are highly controversial in terms of ethics (as we have pointed out). However, have there been no similar experiments done on brains of other vertebrates or mammals?

This forces me to think about cases where certain patients are "isolated" from the "outside" environment (can not see or hear...etc.) In the absence of changing sensory stimuli (which seem to "soothe" the NS), how does this state affect the mental well-being of these individuals? How much pain does this mean?


Name:  Akudo Ejelonu
Username:  aejelonu@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  To Be oneself or nor to be oneself, that is the question
Date:  2004-02-22 21:01:22
Message Id:  8368
Comments:
I am currently taking a sociology class this semester called Sociology of Deviance and we are discussing how ones social surroundings creates their understanding of what it means to be x, y, and z person from x, y, and z community. I just wanted to know what role our brain plays in making use feel that are part of a community that we live in whether or not we personally identity with the norms and expectations that are engrained within the area.
Name:  Brad Corr
Username:  bcorr@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Olfactory
Date:  2004-02-22 21:20:20
Message Id:  8370
Comments:
This is pretty much not on par with what were doing in class right now, but I recently read a passage on olfactory senses and how unique they are. The passage talked about how the olfactory neurons are located in the same area of the brain as memory and emotion. This is why a smell easily triggers memories and emotions, however our ability to describe smells is lacking in comparison to our other senses. When asked what something looks, feels, or sounds like we can go on and on with descriptive characteristics. But if we are asked what does it smell like? It is very difficult to describe. We can compare it to other like smells but that is almost the limit of our description. Basically I question why? What is it about the olfactory sensory neurons that limit this capability? or maybe it has to do with the terminal connection points? Maybe we'll get into the senses themselves and will help clear this up.
Name:  Kimberley Knudson
Username:  kknudson@byrnmawr.edu
Subject:  hypnotism
Date:  2004-02-22 21:38:02
Message Id:  8372
Comments:
A few years ago I attended the American Psychological Association annual conference in San Francisco. I saw a documentary about hypnotism that amazed me. One example shown was two people, one was hypnotized and one was not. They both placed their arms in a bucket of ice water. The person who was hypnotized reported no cold sensation or feeling and could comfortably keep her arm in the ice bath until the researcher told her to remove it. The person who had not been hypnotized was not able to keep his arm in the ice bath for more than about a minute. It is impressive that the mind can have the same effect on the body's responses as a physical injury, in that someone who had an injury similar to that of Mr. Reeve's also could not feel the cold nor have the desire to remove his arm. Since hypnotism has such a strong impact on behavior it is clear that internal "boxes" can both produce behavior as well as inhibit behaviors that would normally occur in the general population.
Name:  Chevon Deputy
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Rattlesnakes and Its Prey
Date:  2004-02-22 22:01:32
Message Id:  8375
Comments:
Since I did not know the reason why rattlesnakes have receptors for red light, I decided to research a little further. What I found was that rattlesnakes have receptors in pits underneath the eyes and the nostrils that detects infra-red radiation, which helps them to locate their prey. The sensory receptors are able to respond to changes in the external and internal enviornment. Because the rattlesnakes see two different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, it undergoes both external and internal changes. One change that occurs is when the snake forms the image of its thermal environment. In this instance, the snake "sees" the part of the spectrum beyond the red portion of the visible light spectrum. Therefore, the rattlesnake's ability to do this allows it to have receptors for red light and locate their warm-blooded prey.
Name:  Erica
Username:  egraham@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-02-22 22:04:37
Message Id:  8376
Comments:
I think that the task of discovering where the individual's sense of self lies is an interesting one. There are several factors that have been proposed to account for the differences that we see between ourselves and others. However, my question is how are we able to perceive ourselves as the individuals that we are and somehow relay that "person-ness" to everyone else? In other words, I was just wondering how much control we have over influencing the perceptions of us that other people have, to the effect that our own awareness of self matches those of everyone on the "outside." I believe that it is possible to be two completely different people simultaneously, but how much of that is simply who we are, how much of it do we create, and where does that development originate?
Name:  Maria(h)
Username:  mscottwi@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-02-22 23:12:21
Message Id:  8378
Comments:
I was quite interested by Brad's comment on olafactory senses...I'd never thought about it before, but it's quite true that when I try to describe a scent I can think of few things other than similar scents to describe it. Regarding the issue of soul, I feel that in our class discussions we are moving closer and closer to the conclusion that there is no seperate soul and that the I-function/us/conciousness is really just the very complex thing that all these simpler bits and pieces are making up. After all, as we have been reminded multiple times throughout the course, very very complex things are created simply by putting very simple things together in complex ways...It does seem a bit like a tv screen in that sense...when you look at it, you see people and things and stories, but if you get up close it's just a bunch of colored pin-points of lights flashing in a certain order. It makes you wonder if we take ourselves *WAY* to seriously sometimes. I think it would be interesting to hear other the opinions of other people in the class regarding the neuroscience versus psychoanalysis debate...just out of curiosity.
Name:  Kristen
Username:  kcoveles@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-02-23 09:39:08
Message Id:  8388
Comments:
I find if fascinating that our nervous system can do so much without us being aware of it. It's amazing that our bodies can keep such a seemingly chaotic system in check with outside controls such as receptor potentials. The whole thing seems just like another example of getting some kind of order out of randomness. I was just wondering if these random signals in the brain can account for dreams. If so, how exactly does that work? Is something different when we are sleeping that results in us having less control over the nervous system?
Also, the idea that there could be things going on outside of us that we have no receptors for is kind of disturbing. Then again, there must be some reason that we did not evolve to have these receptors, so maybe it's for the best that they are not there.
Name:  Katina Krasnec
Username:  kkrasnec@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Internal Signals
Date:  2004-02-23 18:22:46
Message Id:  8398
Comments:
When the discussion in class began last week, we determined there is a theory and proof that neurons within the nervous system can initiate impulses without the external sources most often need to generate a response. I find this extremely interesting because people themselves have nervous system reactions which they are unaware and cannot control, such as heart beats. But perhaps there are more of these internal signals within us that respond to us in our subconcious, allowing reactions and feelings in dreams, or impulses we can't control...is this inner reaction our instinct? Nothing physically externally stimulate it, but we can gain this feeling.

Humans by nature, are scarcely controlled by our own "free-will," but by the response our body has to the stimulus of our minds and the outside world. From this, it would be interesting to determine what in the human mind is one of these inner neurons, sending out signals internally, with the obvious outside source.


Name:  Natalie Merrill
Username:  nmerrill@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  socio-biology?
Date:  2004-02-23 18:41:13
Message Id:  8399
Comments:
Erving Goffman, in his written 1982 presidential address to the ASA said that "at the very center of interaction life is the cognitive relation we have with those present before us, without which relationship our activity, behavioral and verbal, could not be meaningfully organized." This really got me thinking. Perhaps our brain is the synaptic energy allowing us to percieve the actions around us and arrange our own action and society and culture is what allows us to organize and understand these occurences. I have come to one conclusion: society and personality are intrinsically linked. Personality is certainly dependent on neurobiological processes. Therefore, society must depend on the nervous system...
Name:  Emily Hayes-Rowan
Username:  ehayesro@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Thinking about thinking
Date:  2004-02-23 22:37:02
Message Id:  8409
Comments:
Thought is something we so much take for granted. Our brains are never silent, and yet we aren't always consciously aware of our own thoughts. But really, thinking varies. As a native English speaker, I think in English. Also, as a hearing person, I think in what I consider to be auditory signals--I "hear" words in my head. I can also think and dream and remember in images and smells but this is less common. I have taken French for seven years, and it's still a stretch to think in French; even when I do, it's usually in French words with English grammatical structure. But a native French speaker thinks, obviously, in French. This I can understand, because it is also "auditory" thought. I wonder, though, if we think in our native language, do deaf people think, visually, in ASL?

All of this was sparked by David Kaiser in his article on dolphin intelligence. "Human language," Kaiser says, "reflects the refinement of acoustic-vocal systems in primates. Similarly, dolphin 'consciousness' may be a refinement of an echolocation-based cognitive system."

Since we think in our language, does this mean dolphins "think" in echolocation?? Wouldn't it be amazing if they do?


Name:  c. sante
Username:  schamovi@haverford.edu
Subject:  phantom limbs
Date:  2004-02-23 22:51:17
Message Id:  8412
Comments:
dana posted----"The fact that christopher did not feel his toe is also not the only thing we looked at in that story- he also said that HE did not move it. He still takes posession of the toe, unlike the cat with the dirty tail, but he feels that something that was not "him" moved it. Its not the pain that implies selfhood, but the fact that a movement can occur and the invidual who moved deny that it was "them" who moved."

when i read this i couldnt help but think about the numerous surgeries where epiderals (sp?) have allowed me to experience the "feeling" of paralysis...

when i was undergoing surgery, my anaesthesia wore off long enough for me to see several people touching my leg and moving it around. i could see them manipulating my leg but i couldnt feel anything at all. this of course was extremely disturbing to me, as it felt as if MY leg was lying flat on the table (thats where i felt that it was and thus that is where i looked for it) however A leg (other than my own) was sticking straight up in the air. it took me a significant amount of time to realize that that random leg was in fact MY leg. after that realization, even though i knew that it was my leg, i still couldnt make any sort of cognitive connection between what i was seeing and any sort of internal recognition or feeling.

this phenonmenon is referred to as "phantom limbs", where an amputee can still "feel" the presence of her amputated limb. this blows my mind and i was wondering if anyone knew anything more about this in terms of a more psychophysical/neurological explanation...


Name:  clphilli@brynmawr.edu
Username:  Chelsea Phillips
Subject:  "self"
Date:  2004-02-24 02:25:50
Message Id:  8430
Comments:
I was really excited about Erica's comment because it is something I was addressing in my paper. Basically, my paper suggests that our sense of self must come from whatever our default chemical makeup is; that's why so many people who are depressed claim that they aren't "themselves." BUT, the really interesting thing (that I didn't put in my paper) is that frequently (compared to people with depression) people with manic depression do not feel the same disconnect between their "normal" selves and their manic or depressed selves.

Is it really all about balance? Manic-depression HAS a balance, whereas unipolar depression does not. What do you guys think? Is our sense of self really all relative to our default chemical settings?


Name:  Maja
Username:  mhadziom@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Thinking Languages
Date:  2004-02-24 03:51:42
Message Id:  8434
Comments:
Emily's article on thinking in languages reminded me of a question I often get asked. What language do I think in? What language do I dream in?
English is not my first language, though I speak it well enough at this point for it to be fluent and practically my second native language. My first language is Bosnian, and along with that comes my knowledge of Croatian and Serbian, which are considered by some to be different languages, though I think of them as just different dialects. Then I quickly learned to speak Czech through living in Prague, yet another language I have mastered to the level of a native speaker. In school I have always been taking Spanish, though I never became fluent, I know it on a conversational level. Lastly I was dropped in the middle of an American schooling system and forced to learn English. When it comes to languages, I'm a firm believer in the theory that "If you don't use it, you loose it." (Though not forever, it could come back to you fast... it's only temporarily forgotten).
So at this point, I would think of both Bosnian and English as my native languages regardless of when they were learned. And when I thought about that question, I came to the realization that I usually think in the language that I last spoke in. Therefore, if I just got off of the phone with my parents, my next thought will be in Bosnian, however, as soon as someone addresses me in English, my mind is back to thinking in English. What's also interesting is that the phone numbers from Sarajevo that I have memorized, I can only recall in Bosnian, and vice versa. I also have a friend who, unlike me, when she's doing anything that involves numbers, she has to switch over to Bosnian. However, my parents, for example, never think solely in English... their brains are constantly flipping between the two languages both in terms of vocabulary and grammar.




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