The first lecture was mainly an introductory lecture to the course, in which we went through all the practical matters of the course, motivational aspects and also some basics of the brain’s structure and functions.
Well, why is it important to study the brain? Two aspects were presented: first of all it is highly interesting how does the brain work (e.g. how can we store things in our memory or use languages). Secondly, the burden of brain disorders is huge. For example, alone dementia causes globally approximately $1000 billion costs to the society per year. Therefore, even a tiny achievement towards the cure of some brain disorder could have huge impacts.
After understanding the importance of studying the brain, we started to learn the basics about brain anatomy, neurons and glia, and the organelles inside the cells. Many of these things were already quite familiar, but some things were new. For example we learned how to classify neurons. They can be classified for example based on 1) the number of neurites (unipolar, bipolar, multipolar), 2) the dendrites (pyramidical/stellate & spiny/aspinous), 3) the connections formed (primary sensory neurons, motor neurons, interneurons), 4) axon length (golgi type I, golgi type II) and 5) gene expression (use of different neurotransmitters). Another relatively new thing we learned was the different glia types: astrocytes (most of the glia in brain are astrocytes) and myelinating glia (oligodendrocytes in the central nervous system and Schwann cells in the peripheral nervous system).
Alexandra & Alisa