Week 6

This week began with Monday’s lecture. The lecture was about neurotransmitter systems and it was the continuation of the previous lecture on the same topic.
More specifically, the topic discussed during this week was the chemical control of the brain and its connection with behavior. As usual, at the beginning of the lecture there was a quiz on this topic.
Among the different aspects of the chemical control of the brain and its connection with behavior, it was emphasized the relation between acetylcholine and learning; the role of the hypothalamus in the release of neuromodulators and the possible connection between Alzheimer’s desease and neuromodulators.
I believe the topic of neuromodulators is quite interesting, even though it is very distant from my background in electronic engineering. I find it fascinating how neuromodulators can be used to communicate a wide range of neurons among each other, even if they are distant. Moreover, I consider it is a key piece in the development and evolution of the human brain, with a clear and important connection with behavior, learning and responses to the environment and external stimulus.
Next week there will be no classes because of the exams week. The week after, the excursions will begin and I think it will be very interesting to visit the companies and laboratories working in the field of neuroscience.

 

By Diego Milardovich

Posted by Ville Ahtiainen

Student at Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering
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Week 5

This was a rather different kind of week for me, as I missed both the lecture on Monday as well as the exercise session on Tuesday, due to being ill. Nevertheless, I was able to catch up on the topic of the week at home and through the slides posted on MyCourses, however the I missed the quiz of the week.

The topic of the week was about neurotransmitters. We learned what are neurotransmitters and what actually are the prequisites for a substance to be classified as a neurotransmitter. Some of these requirements are: it needs to be synthesized as well as stored in the presynaptic neuron; following stimulation, it needs to be released from the presynaptic axon terminal; it needs to produce some kind of response in the post-synaptic cell. The function of the neurotransmitters was also discussed in the slides, and terms such as second messengers, the cascading of neurotransmitters, nicotinic acetylcholine receptor and muscarinic acetylcholine receptor.

Neurotransmitters have been discussed in the course before and some of their functions and criteria was already familiar to me, but it was nice to have a good in-depth look on them, because of their importance in the operation of the brain. I’m hoping I can make a resurgence on the next weeks sessions, as I’m feeling a bit better now.

Posted by Ville Ahtiainen

Student at Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering
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Week 4

Today ended the fourth week of the course. As usual, on Monday we had a quiz and a theoretical lecture, while on Tuesday we had an exercise session.
The topics of this week were the olfactory system, the gustatory system and the visual system.  
I found to be specially interesting how the visual system processes information in a completely parallel way. In oder words, the shapes, colors, movements and other characteristics of the images perceived by the eyes are not analyzed in a sequential fashion (as one might expect), rather in  parallel way. This allows to process a much larger amount of information in a very reduced time.
A sequential process of such a large amount of visual information would be simply too slow to allow an effective response to extern stimuli and therefore it makes sense that the visual system and the processing of visual information evolved in this way. 
Moreover, I find this topic to be fascinating and very related to one of the research questions that I would like to address: could it be possible to design, develop and implement brain-inspired artificial processors based on the parallel information processing which takes place in the human brain? Would this approach show a better performance and/or would it be more energy-efficient than current sequential processors? 
By Diego Milardovich

Posted by Ville Ahtiainen

Student at Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering
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Week 3

Week 3 started of with a lecture on Monday. First we had a short quiz, followed by the introcuction of the topic of the day. The focus of the lecture was on synaptic transmissions and it was mostly lectured by Matias Palva. The lecture was heavy on information, with multiple concepts introduced, trickled with many minute details, which made it quite a heavy experience, especially early on a Monday. Nevertheless, some concepts that were introduces were the connections between neurons and how the actual neurotransmitters function and how a chemical synapse actually works. I found it very helpful and good structuring of the course that the lecture’s topics focused more or less on the exercises given and done by us in the previous week, such as the action potential, resting membrane potential and the Nernst equation, just to name a few. It flowed nicely and made following the rather heavy topic more fluid.

On Tuesday, on the other hand, as a nice contrast, the exercise sessions was rather light-hearted as we made a miniature model brain out of putty. It was the first time in 20+ years since I had put my hands on putty again. The 2 hour session flew by like a breeze, as it was an interactive and fun way of learning the various parts of the brain as the model was being built. After the session, I took the model to my office, but unfortunately some of it had dried and fallen off the next day when I came back to work.

Posted by Ville Ahtiainen

Student at Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering
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Week 2

The second week of the courses started on Monday with a theoretical lecture on action potentials and synaptic transmissions. During the first part of the class, the questions in Presemo from the previous lecture were addressed. I find this methodology to be quite interesting, as it is useful in order to refresh previous topics.

After the questions from the previous lecture were answered, the first topic to be addressed was the neuron membrane, starting with how ion-channels and diffusion work. Then, the sodium-potassium pumps were explained.

Following a detailed explanation of the neuron membrane operation, the action potentials were presented. In particular, its phases (rising phase, falling phase and undershoot), experimental depolarization; and activation, inactivation and deactivation of sodium channels.

Lastly, the propagation of action potentials was explained, paying special attention to the effect of myelin in the neuron axon.

Finally, on Tuesday the first exercise lesson took place. In it, the following topics were addressed: structure of neurons and glia, action potential phases, conduction velocity of action potentials and equilibrium potential. In this lesson, I found particularly interesting the last exercise, which consisted in deriving the Nernst equation from the Boltzmann equation and calculating the equilibrium potential for calcium in a neuron.

By Diego Milardovich

 

Posted by Ville Ahtiainen

Student at Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering
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Week 1

On Monday we had our first lecture on the course NBE-E4210 – Structure and operation of the human brain. At the start of the session the course staff introduced themselves. Each student also gave a brief introduction of themselves, basically their major in their master’s as well as some of their background (major of bachelor’s studies). After the formalities we had a brief glimpse of the course practicalities and the tentative schedule.

After the structure of the course was addressed, it was time to delve into the actual topics of the course. Topics that were introduced were white and grey matter, the various scales that the brain operates in, neurons and glia cells, components of a neuron as well as axions, dendrites and the synapse.

The building blocks of the brain, white and grey matter as well as the glia cells I was rather familiar with already, through my other master’s studies as well as my bachelor’s thesis work. The inner workings of the neurons as well as the connections (synapses) between neurons (the dendrites and axions) had something familiar but a lot of new information as well. The numerous components of which a neuron is constructed has similarities with other cells of course, but then there are also components that make them totally unique, such as the dendrites, axions, the soma as well as themicrotubules, neurofilamentsand microfilaments which give neurons their distinct appearance.

All in all, I felt that the first lecture kicked-off the course nicely and I am looking forward to learning more on the brain this coming fall. I’d also like to comment that the presemo tool used in the lectures seemed brilliant and a fantastic tool to use for learning and interacting during the lecture.

Posted by Ville Ahtiainen

Student at Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering
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Posted by Ville Ahtiainen

Student at Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering
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