This week we cover Chapter 2: Biology and Behavior. This week, we’ll focus our discussion on the following:
• Neurons and neurotransmitters: neuron parts, excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters
• Communication between neurons: synapses, excitatory and inhibitory connections
• Brain hemispheres: left and right
• Brain lobes: frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital
• Ways to study the brain
A note about the textbook: you do need it. You don’t need the most recent, most expensive version of it, but you do need it. It’s actually a very good textbook, written by psychologists and a professional science writer. I think you will find it interesting, as well as informative. I will give many links in these mini-weekly lectures here, but they are to supplement the textbook, not replace it. It’s important to learn about new subjects from many different sources.
I was able to find THIS WEBSITE (Links to an external site.), which I think is free to you. It’s part of your textbook. If you find more sections of it, let us all know!
For this chapter, to understand some of the neural concepts, I recommend poking around the following websites:
• Neuroscience for Kids (Links to an external site.): this is a great website run by a neuroscientist at Washington University that provides very clear explanations and pictures of various neural concepts. It’s not just for kids!
• The Brain from Top to Bottom (Links to an external site.): another great website run by McGill University. Check out this page and note how you can tailor the level of explanation from beginner to intermediate to advanced.
I think neurons (Links to an external site.)are some of the beautiful naturally occurring things in the universe! Seriously, one of my interests include brain/neuro art and I have to say there’s a lot out there to appreciate (Links to an external site.)! For this week, learn about neuron parts (soma, dendrites, axon, myelin sheath, terminal buttons) and check out Infographic 2.2: Communication with Neurons to learn about the action potential (AP). The AP is how neurons communicate with one another. Sometimes it is helpful to watch an action potential in motion, so check out these videos:
• 2-minute neuroscience: action potential (Links to an external site.)
• The Action Potential (Links to an external site.)
• Khan Academy: The Synapse (Links to an external site.)
Imagine you have 2 neurons, separated by a synpase (Links to an external site.). A synapse is the gap between two neurons where neurotransmitters (Links to an external site.)(NT) go from the pre-synaptic neuron to the post-synpatic neuron. NT are chemicals that either make the post-synaptic neuron more likely to fire an AP (an excitatory NT) or less likely to fire and AP (an inhibitory NT).
Your brain has 2 hemispheres (Links to an external site.), cleverly named the left and right hemispheres. 🙂 They are connected by a bundle of fibers called the corpus callosum (Links to an external site.). There is a type of surgery where the 2 hemispheres are severed by cutting the corpus callosum called the split brain surgery (Links to an external site.). Weird, huh? Well this is a pretty drastic type of surgery and is done in cases where people suffer from severe epilepsy (abnormal electrical activity in the brain). Studying people who have had this surgery has led to advances in our knowledge of hemisphere lateralization (Links to an external site.) and neuroplasticity (Links to an external site.). Simply speaking, hemispheric lateralization has to do with how the 2 sides of the brain have different functions and neuroplasticity has to do with how the brain heals after injury and how it learns by making new connections.
There are many ways you can study the living brain. Infographic 2.1: Ways to Study the Living Brain (I include it below) lists a few ways: CAT/CT scans, EEG, MRI, fMRI, PET. A few different websites can explain these in better detail:
• Types of Brain Imaging Techniques (Links to an external site.)
• Brain Imaging (Links to an external site.)
• Mayo Clinic: EEG (Links to an external site.)
There’s just so much to learn about the brain! After this week, I hope you have learned to appreciate it…your brain wants you to! 🙂
Hit reply and type your answers to the following:
1. Describe what happens during an action potential. What does it mean when we say an action potential is an “all or none” thing? What is the purpose of the myelin sheath and what happens if it is gone?
2. What happens during a split brain operation? Why would one be performed? What can we learn about the 2 cerebral hemispheres and lateralization from these operations? What about neuroplasticity?
3. Pick a lobe, any lobe! The frontal, parietal, occipital, or temporal. Describe some of the areas and main functions of the lobe. Using Infographic 2.1: Ways to Study the Living Brain, how would you use one of the ways to study the living brain (CAT/CT scans, EEG, MRI, fMRI, PET) to study your lobe? What experiment would you perform? Tell us your hypothesis, IV, and DV.