Neuroscience 3 - Neuroscience 3: Module 1: Introduction to...

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Neuroscience 3: Module 1: Introduction to Cognitive and Behavioural Neuroscience: Cognitive neuroscientists seek to understand abstract mental processes in a neural framework. Traditional paradigms used to study cognitive functions such as learning, memory, language and problem solving are complemented by techniques such as neuro-imaging to trace the routes of neural processing. Behavioural neuroscientists seek to understand the neural processes underlying behaviours such as reward, sexual motivation, and feeding mechanisms. Typically, these complex behaviours are simplified into component behaviours that are modeled in simple animal systems to use the full range of techniques available in neuroscience such as electrophysiology, pharmacology and behavioural genetics. For example, research of feeding can be divided into Hunger and Satiety mechanisms. We will focus of addressing the question of how we learn about the world, remember information and apply knowledge, moving from lower to higher levels of processing. Module 2: Neural Plasticity: As the case of Phineas Gage demonstrates, individuals who have sustained head injuries can experience permanent changes in cognitive behaviour and function. Depending on the severity and the region of the insult, deficits can affect changes in planning, motor control, language production or even induce coma or brain death. In some cases, rehabilitation can lead to miraculous recovery allowing an injured person to regain lost abilities. Although recovery from brain injury is a particularly dramatic demonstration of its flexibility, the brain is changing in every interaction with the environment. This everyday neural plasticity allows the brain to adapt incoming stimuli and rewire itself to optimize interactions with the outside world. Although neural plasticity is now a hallmark of neuroscience, it was not always the case. In the 1950’s researcher were well aware that environmental influences can lead to enduring changes in complex behaviour. For example, classic studies by Bingham and colleagues (1952) demonstrated that exposure to complex environments made animals subjects into better problem solvers. However, it was not until about a decade later that researchers realized the importance of environmental experience on enduring changes in the physical structure and functional organization of the brain. Bennet and colleagues compared the brains of rates raised in enriched or impoverished environments. The enriched environment was like a little piece of rat
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heaven, where the rats lived in social groups in a complex environments filled with toys, ladders, tunnels and running wheels to explore. In the impoverished environment, rats lived alone in small cages with access to food and water only. Astonishingly, researchers found that brains from the two groups were wired very
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This note was uploaded on 04/17/2009 for the course PSYCHOLOGY 1XX3 taught by Professor Kim during the Spring '09 term at McMaster University.

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Neuroscience 3 - Neuroscience 3: Module 1: Introduction to...

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