Notes on Chapter 2-1

Notes on Chapter 2-1 - Notes on Chapter 2 These are notes...

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Notes on Chapter 2 These are notes on topics covered in lecture which are not necessarily in the book. The test questions will be taken from the book, the notes and the PowerPoint presentations, so review all of these before the exam. The human brain is a wonderful organ of great complexity. We humans have done some remarkable feats as we strive to understand the world and to solve technical problems. So many exciting discoveries about the brain have been made in the 10 years since I retired and I am delighted to teach this course and tell you about some of these discoveries always emphasizing the everyday importance of our knowledge. I have tried to give you some background to help you understand why certain problems have been studied and why these problems are important. We have already talked about the scientific method and have stressed that in science our conclusions are always open to future findings and interpretations. Let’s look at a little history. There has long been an issue about the importance of the brain. Some people thought it worthless. Some philosophers thought it was a kind of radiator to cool the blood. Rene Descartes worried about a conflict between church teaching and scientific findings. He proposed that our bodies are material and are therefore obedient to the laws of the universe and are the property of scientists. He searched human brain anatomy and claimed that the only unpaired structure in the brain is the pineal body which resides in the center of the brain. He assumed that nerves are actually hollow tubes in which animal spirits move in order to carry information and to stimulate the muscles. The mind is an immaterial substance which acts on the pineal treating it as a little joy stick to move animal spirits around. The mental substance is best understood by the religious leaders. He assumed that at death this mental substance departed the body. Neuroscientists have not been able to identify any insubstantial mental substance so their work, and our discussion here, is about the material body and events in the brain which make our existence possible. Capernicus fell into disfavor with the church when he proposed that the sun, not the earth, is the center of our solar system. He died soon after his book was published. Galileo a hundred years later proposed the same thing, but he was punished by being placed under house arrest as he lived out his life. Pinel points out that de la Mettrie was punished for his “outrageous” idea that the human brain gives rise to thinking. As you can see, many of our current ideas were once very controversial, but the study of how the brain works moves rapidly ahead. Many neuroscientists have said that the explanation of how electrical and chemical events in the brain give rise to consciousness will be the big problem facing 21 st century neuroscience. Human thinking, reasoning, remembering all depend upon patterns of nerve impulses and the level of brain chemicals which make neurons more likely to fire or less likely to
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Notes on Chapter 2-1 - Notes on Chapter 2 These are notes...

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