Biology 202
Neurobiology and Behavior
Spring 2004

Forum 8


Name:  Amanda Glendinning
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  
Date:  2004-03-02 09:18:34
Message Id:  8624
Comments:
I would like to respond to what Natalie wrote. In a way I hope that we never reach the final truth and completely understood how a brain and personality interact. At least our society is the type that needs something to aspire to and if that goal is to find this truth, it is a good one.
Natalie mentions that we should look for the personality link for animals which I completely agree with. I definitely believe that animal's have personality. Why would some birds let you hold them and others almost have a heart attack if a person even puts a hand in a cage. Dogs and cats know if you're having a bad day and react accordingly. If we do get to the point that has us with the answer of interaction, we should definitely move to animals.
Name:  Brad Corr
Username:  bcorr@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Hypnotism
Date:  2004-03-02 09:28:10
Message Id:  8626
Comments:
The idea of hypnotism also intrigued me. I've been to several entertainment hypnotist events and spoke with one of my friends who was hypnotized. She did some pretty crazy stuff that she would normally never do. I asked her about the events and she said that a lot of the stuff she remembers doing, she just had nothing in her head saying "don't do that" and other things that the hypnotist told her, she just believed as fact, there was nothing to question it in her head. And yet to other events she had no recollection whatsoever. What is interesteing is that I know different people have differnet responses to hypnotism but it appears that each person also has different responses to the same hypnotism. Certain suggestions tend to only remove inhibitions, while others I can't explain at all. Is theroute of it merely the power of suggestion? What is the method in which these receptors are inhibited?
Name:  Katina Krasnec
Username:  kkrasnec@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-03-02 09:38:14
Message Id:  8627
Comments:
In response to what many have discussed or commented on about ADD or ADHD, refering to the inclass topic of is their synaptic potential decreased?

So what is to occur, if someone without the symptoms associated with ADD or ADHD is to take the medications prescribed for them in order to gain the benefits of them, such as increased concentration, and ability to focus? Wouldn't this be seen as a positive benefit to the medications, and would it not seem like everybody, even those with attention disorders should be under this synaptic potential increasing drugs?

Also, in talking about languages and the affect on the brain; I was born in the United States, however both of my parents come from Slovakia. So when I was growing up, the most common language for me itself was Slovak, and entering preschool proved slightly interesting, as I spoke English only in situations I needed to. But once I had become accustomed to school and speaking English, I would return home and refuse to speak Slovak. In the end, I didn't speak the language for 3 years, but the moment I would return to Slovakia, I could speak it as fluently as I had before. So, my question is this, are there parts or functions of the brain that can change the perception of language and reception over the period of development in humans? Why are children able to learn languages so much easier?


Name:  debbie
Username:  dyi@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  More on Phantom Limbs...
Date:  2004-03-02 09:44:15
Message Id:  8628
Comments:
Regarding phantom limbs --

I have been doing quite a bit of research on phantom limbs. Although there is a popular theory that phantom sensations arise from stimulation of the nerves/nerve fiber path in the residual limb, there is a neurobiologist at UCSD named Ramachandran who proposes that once a limb is amputated, that part of the nerve path goes silent, and shortly after, a referred area of the body which corresponds to the amputated limb turns on. He conducted a Q-tip test, where he brushed a Q-tip along the face (specifically chin) of an amputee who had lost his arm. Surprisingly, the amputee felt sensations in his arm when a certain area of his chin was stroked. Further, the topographical, sensitive area on his chin precisely mapped out his arm. Apparently, the Q-tip test also works for leg amputees, and the referred area is along the chest. Ramachandran's theory of a referred area of sensation may be able to explain why amputees feel pressure, shocks, even the feeling of wetness. Perhaps all these feelings arise from a completely different area of the body being stimulated. It is fascinating.


Name:  Chevon Deputy
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Compulsive Disorder
Date:  2004-03-02 23:57:30
Message Id:  8645
Comments:
Today in class, there was a section about different mental disorders and complusive disorder was one of them. I thought this was interesting ,because I believe that everyone has complusive disorder tendencies. For example, I always have to turn off lights and check all the doors and make sure they are locked. In junior high school, I thought I forgot to lock my apartment door so I went all the way back home to make sure. Of course, it was locked, but I panicked. Even today I do the same thing, I will walk all the way back to my room to make sure the door is locked. Is this a sign of compulsive disorder or is it just part of my routine. As far as turning off lights, I just like conserving energy. I will go out of my way to turn off lights. Is compulsive disorder when activities dominates your entire lifestyle, or is it just habitual activites that one performs? I will do further research on this subject.
Name:  Jean Yanolatos
Username:  jyanolat@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-03-03 01:46:44
Message Id:  8649
Comments:
In response to Chevon's comment I am pretty sure that obsessive compulsive disorder is characterized by a pratice/act that is done more times than is usually necessary and that dominates and interferes with your life. One classic example is the person who repetitively washes their hands even though they just washed them. Their hands are already clean, but the feel as though they must wash them again. A question that may arise though is what is the border that once crossed leads to interference in what many psychiatrists consider "normal daily routine"? Also, do people diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder know that their repetitive action is not necessary, but their I-function has no control over how many times the do it, or do they think the action needs to be done again and again for a reason and their I-function is controlling the repetitive action?
Name:  Jay
Username:  jashton@marmc.spear.navy.mil
Subject:  phantom limbs and perceptions of reality
Date:  2004-03-03 11:14:32
Message Id:  8654
Comments:
What an interesting forum to stumble on...

Antonio Damasio discusses phantom limbs and the importance of body mapping to conciousness in his book Looking for Spinoza. In a nutshell his premise is that conciousness is largely based on how our brains constantly map our bodies based on desires and emotions. It's a pretty interesting take on the mind/body question.

"Beauty in things exists in the mind which contemplates them."

David Hume
Essays

Pretty much sums up how I think about reality. My reality is different from anyone elses. I may also enjoy the smell of gasoline and bananas but my preference may be different. The reasons I enjoy the smells may not be the same. An old boss of mine told me that perception is reality and while he meant that in the context of the perception of the customer (I was in sales) he summed up how I think of reality. The only reality I know for certain is what I perceive. While it may not be TRUE it is all I have.


Name:  Ginger
Username:  gkkelly@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-03-04 14:24:06
Message Id:  8671
Comments:
I was very intrigued by the discussion of reality that seems to be dominating the forum as of late. Movies like The Matrix that raise questions about our own reality are fun because they force us to look at something in a new way. They challenge conventional knowledge and stimulate outgrowths in creativity. That being said, I share Michael's sentiment about reality and conceptualizing it--we just have to accept reality as it is. Taking what Prof. Grobstein discussed earlier in the semester about our brains being composed of boxes... I feel that that is a limit. The brain gives us the freedom to learn and grasp so much. However, I don't know if we're supposed to understand the big questions we have in life. Maybe our brains aren't programmed for that.
Name:  Jenny Stundon
Username:  jstundon@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-03-07 15:50:45
Message Id:  8717
Comments:
There are so many interesting ideas floating around in here!

I was thinking a bit about the definitions of reality and the extent to which we allow ourselves to question them. For example, if this really was a matrix, some sort of illusion set up for us that we couldn't comprehend, what would be the worth to exploring it? Is there some sort of defense mechanism built in to allow us only to explore those ideas that will not be detrimental? What would be the consequence of "discovering" a different reality that we could not control?

Akudo had mentioned that mental illness can be classified as social deviance. Perhaps it is because the mentally ill are often unwilling or unable to accept reality as we see it? By not conforming to the world as the majority of people see it, because some who are mentally ill do not believe the world exists as we think it does, they fail to follow the approriate rules and expectations of society.

Maybe there IS another world out there, real or imagined, another set of circumstances and rules, but what would we accomplish by convincing ourselves that this world isn't real, isn't within our control or isn't worthwhile?

I think we want to confirm our preexisting notions that what we've perceived to be real is real.


Name:  Kimberley Knudson
Username:  kknudson@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  practice makes permanent
Date:  2004-03-13 10:49:33
Message Id:  8731
Comments:
I took tennis all four years of high school and I still remember one phrase my coach said during the first talk he gave our team, which he gave at the beginning of every season. He said "practice does not make perfect, practice makes permanent." I was doing some reading about learning and memory, how learning involves changes in the structure of synapses. And the more those particular neurons involved in a particular activity such as serving in tennis are used the easier they are to excess, or the stronger those connections are. So if you learn something incorrectly it would probably be more difficult to learn it the right way than if you had just learned it correctly in the first place.
Name:  Amanda
Username:  aglendin@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-03-14 10:25:10
Message Id:  8733
Comments:
Kimberly spoke of her tennis coach saying "Practice does not make perfect, just permanent". My volleyball coach would always say "Perfect practice makes perfect." It's along the same lines. If an athlete repeats the same perfect motion then it will become engrained in her head. The same thing is true with school work. When learning to write, I was forced to practice writing each word at last five times. That repetitive motion helps me when I want to write something even now because it became what I memorized. The same can be applied to typing or playing the piano.
Name:  Liz
Username:  epowell@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-03-14 18:56:40
Message Id:  8736
Comments:
Our discussion of a central pattern generation has expanded my view of behavior from my initial belief that behavior was a response to stimulus. As is the example with playing tennis or any other repetitive motion, behavior can result without an external stimulus. A motor symphony can be produced from a central pattern generation which can still be altered by external environmental factors.
Name:  Shadia
Username:  cbelhamd@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Self-control
Date:  2004-03-14 21:21:47
Message Id:  8739
Comments:
Brad's comment about hypnotism , "Is the route of it merely the power of suggestion?" got me thinking about mind over matter. What dictates the control we have over ourselves and our action? In learning about the I-function, we realized that without self-knowledge, we are merely passive recipients of external &internal stimuli to which we respond either blindly or inadequately (e.g. Christopher Reeve having his toe pinched and pulling back while claiming he felt nothing.)
How do we reconcile self-knowledge with self-control? I recently read an article (The New Yorker, Jan 20, 2003 v78 i43 p052 ) describing how people could be taught to alter their EEGs. Niels Birbaumer, a leading expert in brain-interface research, taught epileptics to prevent seizures by adjusting their SCPs (slow cortical potentials)—brain waves that occur over a period of seconds (rather than milliseconds). By attaching electrodes to their scalps their EEG's where translated onto a screen as a moving ball. They then practiced keeping the ball on one side of the screen, effectively controlling their brain activity. I find this type of brain-interface research fascinating—it has far-reaching implications and is being used to help those who are severely disabled to communicate. But I'm also curious to explore what this indicates about our role in the neural symphony—do we have the ability to "interfere" with the score, or is there simply no central score?
Name:  maria s-w
Username:  mscottwi@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  ideas, learning concepts etc...
Date:  2004-03-14 22:53:41
Message Id:  8741
Comments:
I've been wondering about how one learns things...which I admit sounds like a really simplistic question, but it recently occured to me that I have literally no idea how the brain learns concepts. If when you teach someone philosophy, like Plato's theory of Forms, you are simply teaching their brains a pattern of
activity...Well...HOW THE HELL DOES THAT HAPPEN? I mean, it's not hard to
figure out how a brain learns that a stove is hot. You're a little kid,
your parents tell you not to touch the stove because it's hot, you do anyway and burn yourself, and from then on you know that (a) the stove is hot (b) hot things can hurt you and that (c) you're parents are probaby right when they say other things like..."don't touch fire, it's hot." But then ideas of morality or kindess or happiness...how are those learned? Probably the same way that one learns that a stove is hot, yet when I, or at least my *I function* thinks about those things, they seem to be considered in a different way because they are not tangible yet they are universal and recognizable...I know what greed looks like most of the time, just as I know what kindness looks like as well as what happiness or humor is...how can I identify those things, and why are they, if not universal, at least common enough that some things are found to be kind (Mother Teresa), or greedy (um...lots of people...) or funny (Bill Murray, Jon Stewart and Monty Python) by large numbers of people. In what way does the brain change to accomodate a new idea? the
other day, sort of out of nowhere I realized that *ideas* and *concepts* such as freedom and justice that are not innate and which I always
considered to exist seperately from myself (by that I mean that I always
sort of assumed that my concept of what constitutes freedom or justice
would, at least abstractly, continue to exist even when I wasn't actively
thinking about it or even after I was dead...) are simply patterns of
neurological activity, that they might not really exist in the way that I've always thought they did. Obviously, everyone's version of what constitutes freedom or justice or any other concept along those lines varies...though I am loathe to admit it, it provides the only valid explaination of why Scalia and Thomas can have opinions on issues that are thought to be of equal value of those of Bater-Ginsberg, Kennedy or O'Conner--I mean the more recent O'Conner, her earlier rulings were too conservative for my taste. (That is, if aynthing can serve as a valid explaination of Clarence Thomas' existence on the Supreme Court. Insult to injury: he replaced *Thurgood Marhall*, who was such a genius...) But still, it seems that this raises the question of how ideologies or concepts of this abstract nature are dealt with by our brains...I mean, while ideas of equality vary from person to person, there is at least a commonly accepted standard that if there is one cookie and two people, all other considerations aside, it is fair that each get half...So is the notion of fairness just hard-wired in our brains and then when we learn or read about equality or justice or whatever we just recognize the idea? What got me thinking about is that after I read William James, or Malcolm X, or Lucretia Mott, I act differently, the ideas and notions that they write about and represented change the way I behave...and if brain=behavior, then I'm wonering what learning those new appraoches, ideologies and beliefs do to my brain? I mean, literally, HOW does one learn and how is the brain structred to allow for the accumulation of knowledge?
Name:  Elissa
Username:  eseto@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  learning and reality
Date:  2004-03-15 01:42:51
Message Id:  8743
Comments:
A couple of comments regarding people's posts:

Ideas about learning: I agree with the ideas with practice makes perfect/perfect practice makes perfect/practice makes permanent. For example, think about studying for exams. Yes, even though we all try to be great students, I'm sure there has been some point in everyone's academic career where they've crammed for an exam/quiz. You don't know the information well at all, and the night before, you study until your brains are fried. You retain the information well enough to take the exam/quiz the next day, but when it comes time to take the final exam, that material was long gone from your brain, because you only studied it once. People often make flashcards to help them study, because it's something they can always go back to easily and review their topics. The Chinese courses require you to do homework that consists of writing a single character repeatedly. In chemistry, math, and physics classes, you often have to do variations of the same problem over and over again in order to understand the concept. If we don't consistently practice something, it's easy to forget.

Reality: Reality can certainly be a function of perception, because we want to believe that what we see is true, is actual, is real. I don't know if anyone has ever experienced a situation where it is possible to walk on air, instead of on the ground, or flap your arms fast enough that you fly...Unless you're on drugs, and that adds a new dimension to reality. If you trip on acid or shrooms, you think you can do things that you probably couldn't do (and wouldn't) if you were sober. You think that you can fly, you think you're floating, you may even have some incredible spiritual awakening. And while you're tripping, to you it IS reality, because it's your perception, and you believe that it's real.


Name:  Erica
Username:  egraham@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-03-15 11:18:04
Message Id:  8745
Comments:
I think that it is very interesting to discuss the idea of perception versus reality. What is reality? There are very concrete examples of what is real and what is not, but is it possible for that which we believe to be unreal to exist as a reality in some way? I feel like everyone can agree that 2+2=4, but not everybody would agree that 2+2=0, even though it does in some instances. My point is that it is very possible that what we as individuals (or what our I-functions tell us to) perceive as reality can often be very different from everyone else's reality, and how are we to distinguish between "real" reality and something else? Whose perceptions are accurate enough to be termed reality, or can we assume that perception is reality? When we discuss the matter in terms interpersonal interactions, it's possible. Yet, the case in which an individual perceives a state that does not exist (think phantom limbs or proprioceptor malfunction) suggests otherwise.
Name:  Lindsey
Username:  ldolich@haverford.edu
Subject:  A literary take on the difference b/t "self" and "brain"?
Date:  2004-03-15 19:42:00
Message Id:  8819
Comments:
I recently read a short novel (science fiction) over break written by a neurosurgeon who describes his journey through the symptoms of amnesia/brain damage. It was fascinating to read the novel because he differentiated between his "mind" and his "brain," or in other words—what we know as the I-function and the nervous system. Essentially, he began to develop symptoms, but there was always doubt as to whether he was imagining these symptoms (voluntarily tricking his brain into manifesting "brain damage") or whether these symptoms were out of his conscious control. Reality and perception of reality became blurred when the I-function and the rest of his the nervous system became separated. He explored the possibility of brain damage, more specifically amnesia as "freedom" and the liberation of self from the physical workings of the brain. By undermining memory and continuity (the very bulwarks that create a sense of self), he realized that by living in the present and future he was his "true self."

He also considered volition as a mysterious and perplexing problem. If volition means will power and intentionality, he wondered how the initial impulse to action was generated? I was excited by this question he raised because we had just studied how an action potential can be generated in the middle of the box. His conclusion was that the "impulse to action" preceded the actual "action" and that was part of the casuality triggered by the brain. This impulse to action goes back to what we talked about for the central pattern generation and the reafferent loop! Ultimately, the novel came back to the larger question of "circularity"—excessive reflection within the brain about the brain itself. Was this dangerous? Why? Is his situation a result of circularity? What are the implications of us thinking about our brains? Although the question seems absurd, do we have the power to negate our perception of reality and ultimately, ourselves?


Name:  Emma
Username:  eberdan@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  learning
Date:  2004-03-15 20:26:35
Message Id:  8820
Comments:
I was rewatching memento over break and the main character has a condition where he cannot make any new memories and thus has no short term memory. However, they say that someone with this condition should still be able to learn through conditioning. Does this mean that learning and memory are separate?
Name:  Sarah
Username:  scaldwel@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Completely off topic
Date:  2004-03-15 20:48:16
Message Id:  8821
Comments:
Hello all,
This really isn't in response to anyones post, although I must say it was interesting reading the latest. I can't remember who brought up the idea of how learning occurs, but I have something to add to that. In that comment she spoke of how certain people are viewed as funny (i.e. Bill Murray and Monty Python). My question is what makes something funny. I may not be explaining this right but, we all see different things as REALLY funny. Like me, I find people who run into things REALLY funny, but other people don't find that funny. I guess my question is, what is responsible for that? What part of our brains determines something is funny? And further, what happens within the brain (in terms of signal transduction) that causes a laugh to occur? Just some questions I had to get out.
Name:  erin
Username:  eokazaki@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-03-15 21:25:29
Message Id:  8822
Comments:
I think the concept of motor symphonies -- is a complex working of many elements to create what we perceive as movement -- is rather interesting. I like the idea that "music" can be written as the symphony is taking place or that it can be reproduced from an existing score. I was thinking a little about its relation to perception, reality and learning. In terms of learning something new, we are told to practice. The score of the particular motor symphony, manifest as a 3-point shot in basketball, crisper trill in violin, or neater penmanship, seems to be created during the time we "practice." Our perception -- the way we see things -- seems to change, as a new reality is manifest through our new ability (the mastery of a new motor symphony). ie: We make the connection that we need to hold the basketball a certain way and apply a certain amount of force to make the shot, all elements of a new motor symphony that we didn't have command of before. However, does this mean that people who can't make that connection are without this new understanding – even though at times, they might make a lucky shot? Or is this the same reality for everyone, just some are able to perceive and access these concepts while others are not? How does this affect our motor symphonies? Are there some types of music we just can't create no matter how hard we try, or are we all capable of making music, however, because our perceptions of our individual realities are different, we have access to different notes, and thus can't recreate the exact symphony if we tried.
Name:  Chevon Deputy
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  The Shortage of Child Pyschiatrists
Date:  2004-03-15 22:09:05
Message Id:  8823
Comments:
I was reading an article in "The Philadelphia Inquirer" about the need for child pyschiatrists. When treatment is delayed, children can slip further off their proper developmental track, which influences their actions. One woman said that her child was on the waiting list for two months before he had an appointment to determine if he needed to see a psychiatrist. By this point, her son's behavior got worse. Therefore, the treatment does play a significant role in shaping the behavior of the child. It is a shame that children are being denied the immediate attention they may need, because of the shortage of pyschiatrists. Where else can they turn?
Name:  Ariel
Username:  asinger@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-03-15 22:17:30
Message Id:  8824
Comments:
I think that the 'practice makes permanent' idea is really interesting. I think that that is very true, but I also was wondering about the different ways in which people learn. For instance I know that if I write a paper on a topic, the likelihood of me remembering the information on that topic is considerably higher that if I just had to memorize it for a test. Or if I do a hands-on project I will often retain information better than by hearing it in lecture. I know that everyone learns in a different way, but why? Are there certain aspects of a person's 'i-function' that are stronger, or more developed than other areas? It seems like there must be. Also does this relate to age? For instance when a person is a child it is easier for them to learn different languages, does this imply that a child's 'i-function' is more flexible and receptive than an adult's?
Name:  Mariya Simakova
Username:  msimakov@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  learning
Date:  2004-03-15 23:30:29
Message Id:  8825
Comments:
In response to Ariel's post, I don't think that children really learn foreign languages better than adults. Rather, I think that their environment makes it easier for them. I think that if adults trying to learn languages had the same privileges as children (a.k.a. not having to worry about feeding themselves, etc.), did not have a family or obligations and could devote all their time and energy to studying the language, the results would be pretty much the same. I don't know if there were any studies done on this, though. But judging by the fact that adults learn other things as well (and sometimes even better) as children do, I don't think we can say that a child's I-function is more flexible than an adult's.

More on mysteries of learning, though... I always wondered why for some people learning is a pleasurable experience, while for others it is a torture. And why do we all like to learn different things? For instance, my friend goes into a euphoric state when she cracks a difficult math problem. She says that she feels physically happy when it happens. I can understand her feelings, since I myself feel like skipping when I read a good poem. But I will never be able to feel this way about a math problem, whether I solve it or not. What is it about our I-functions that makes us so different (and so alike)? We perceive color and smell differently because of different receptors. Is it something like this? And also, how is the I-function, which I would think regulates the rational acts of reading and problem solving, connected to our emotions?

Also, about this "feeling physically happy," when one is engaged intellectually. When I read a particularly remarkable poem, I experience a strange but very pleasant pain-like tingling sensation in my chest and almost stop breathing. I'm sure I'm not the only freak who does that, whether in response to a poem, a musical piece, a painting, or a math problem. How does a purely "brain" activity like reading engage us to such an extent that we respond in physical ways? I think that might be pretty good evidence for brain=behavior.

And lastly (sorry, this is getting long), if it's merely something about our biological makeup that makes us appreciate (or be bored by) art, music, etc., can we justly talk about "smart" people (in the sense of college students who like to learn) and "dumb" people (who hate studying)? Wouldn't it be the same thing as saying that people who hate the smell of bananas are in some way deficient? Maybe the maxim that there is no "normal" and "abnormal" people, but we're all just different applies to this as well. And what does it then do to the concept of high art? If my biological makeup makes me appreciate a ballerina figurine from Dollar General more than Giotto, does it mean I'm "dumber" or "lower" or less refined than someone who sees it the other way around?




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