Week 6: Auditory Systems

The reading of this week and next week will be about the auditory system. This includes different parts of the ear, phases of the auditory processing and the vestibular system. The chapter discusses the entire auditory system in an extremely detailed manner. The ‘of special interest’ -boxes gave really nice practical examples related to the theory explained in the chapter.

We have couple of  improvement suggestions. First of all, the questions of the quiz this weeks were not very carefully collected, which is a bit frustrating. We read the chapter carefully, but then some of the questions were not even answered in the chapter. Second of all, the exercises, chapters to read for the quizzes , and the lectures could be a bit more synchronized. For example, the auditory exercise session was last week, but we are just now starting to read the auditory chapter. And the lecture won’t be until two weeks. One of us would also like to have the deadlines earlier to get feedback from the previous exercises to improve the reports of the following exercises.

Anyway, we all feel that we have learned a lot during this first half of the course, and all the subjects have been truly interesting. This course is certainly going to be a very good base for the upcoming master’s studies.

Posted by Anni

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Week 5: Chemical Control of the Brain and Behaviour

The topic of this week was chemical control of the brain and behaviour, which was very interesting in our opinion. We studied the chapter 15 from the book, which includes sections about  the autonomous nervous system, the secretory of hypothalamus and the diffuse modulatory systems of the brain. The length of chapter 15 was really good: it was not too long or too heavy to read.  That is a positive thing compared to the first few weeks. It is fascinating how the autonomous nervous systems work, without us being aware of them working all the time. Many vital functions are extremely regulated to maintain homeostasis and we do not have to take care of that.

The videos of the lecture were really illustrative, maybe because they were meant for kids. They were simplified enough to actually understand the synaptic transmission processes, which remained a bit unclear and complicated after just reading the last weeks chapter 6.

It was nice to test our own reaction times and create our own data with the Python script. That brought some refreshing variety in the exercise tasks. We started to wonder, why most of the exercises (five out of six) are in the first half of the course. Thus, the workload from the exercises is not so evenly distributed.


Posted by Annika Hautala

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Week 4: Neurotransmitter systems

This week we studied chapter 6 from the book, which discussed neurotransmitter systems. It includes for example different transmitter gated channels and transmitter release. The chapter is extremely detailed, so it is probably not one of the easiest topics of this course. However, it is positive that we had only one chapter this week, so there was more time to familiarise ourselves with the subject. We are wondering, why did we not study chapter 6 before the last weeks chapters 8 – 10. Is there any specific reason for this?

We also tested the apps recommended on the MyCourses page, such as 3D Brain, which was very helpful when trying to learn the different structures of the brain. Maybe if these kind of applications were be available  for studying other structures (e.g. visual and olfactory structures), it  would make the learning process more efficient.

The exercise questions were really interesting and required a lot of researching the topic on your own. When it comes to the quizzes, the 5 minutes was not enough time to answer the questions, because they were more complicated this week. We are already looking forward to the excursions, since they might give us a more practical touch to the subject. Especially visits to companies could be very interesting.

Posted by Juliaana

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Week 3: Senses

The topics of this week were gustatory and olfactory systems as well as the eye and the central visual systems. The workload was extremely heavy, since we had a lot to read and take in from all the three chapters. It’s a bit confusing that the exercises were about brain anatomy (chapter 7 in the book), even though we had to study chapters 8-10 for the upcoming quiz. It’s not possible to learn this much information in just one week — the order in which we study these things is not very logical. In general, the basic idea of the exercise was good and quite concrete, but maybe the two hours could have been used in a more efficient way.

It is very useful to study the anatomy of the brain at this point, since for most of us the names of different structures were not familiar beforehand. However, all of us had learned at least something about brain anatomy already for example while doing bachelor’s thesis or summer work. The lecture discussed the synaptic transmission, so it was again a recapitulation of last week’s subject. All in all, the topics of this week were all very interesting, but it requires more time and work to actually understand these truly complicated systems.

Posted by Anni

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Week 2: Action potentials and synapses

This week’s lecture was mainly about chapters 3 and 4 of the book. It felt a bit illogical that the quiz in the beginning of the lecture was about chapters 2 and 3, but then the lecture discussed chapter 3 not until after the quiz. However, it is always good to recap things we have already learned. Also, it was nice to notice that the presemo questions were answered properly. The exercises of the week were quite useful, and most answers could be found from the book (except the derivation exercise). Completing the exercises really supports the learning process.

The chapters 4 and 5 we had to read this week discussed the action potential and synapses. Again, the chapters gave a lot more in-depth approach to these topics, since for example in high school these are covered in much more straightforward manner. We didn’t notice any conflicts with the facts we had learned previously.  The chapter 4 was really helpful when trying to understand the entire action potential process. The topic of chapter 5 was a bit harder to understand though, since it had more small details that were rather difficult to put together. It is both interesting and scary how just small disturbances in these microscopic phenomena can cause so serious problems and even be lethal.

Posted by Anni

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Week 1: First thoughts on this course

The first lecture begun with a discussion about the importance of brain research as well as basic topics related to the brain. The rest of the lecture was strongly related to the second chapter Neurons and Glia of the course book, covering the different cell types and their structures in the brain.

Even though many of the topics and concepts were already familiar to us, it is always useful to go through them and refresh one’s memory. However, the book approached the topics in a more detailed way, so we learned new things as well. The amount of new information related to the time we have is quite large, even though not every detail has to be learned by heart. We must also accept that it is impossible to completely understand the brain by just taking one course, since it will always remain slightly mysterious.

It is important to understand the structure and functions of the brain to also understand how different disorders and diseases are developed. Especially when reading the Of special interest boxes one realizes how all this is related to real life. We are also looking forward to the excursions, since they give a more practical touch to this interesting subject. It will be interesting to see what kind of exercises we are going to have on this course as well.

Posted by Anni

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