Chemical control of the Brain and Behaviour

To begin with, I think it’s fascinating how does the different pathways spread widely into the brain. As we have learned so far during the course, there are many areas in neuroscience where there are caps in knowledge. Especially different types of neurons, patterns among other things. How does these pathways actually work and what is our understanding about their functions? Personally, I’m really interested about the complexity of the brain. One good example of these caps in our knowledge and complexity of the brain are ascending pathways from locus coeruleus. It has 12 thousand neurons, and each has approximately 250 thousand synapses across cortex and cerebellum. As we know, this part of the brain and pathways are connected to for e.g. mood and depression. We all know that neuroscience today can’t give completely perfect answers for each question. To really understand this kind of system might not be in near future.

Hypothalamo-pituitary portal circulation functioning is rather interesting. The fact that axons from hypothalamus does not extend into the anterior lobe, but instead use of hormones and blood veins, tells me even more about brain’s complexity.

The excursion to Elekta was truly interesting. During the two hours presentation I learned a lot about the magnetoencephalography (MEG) technology. The similarities and key differences between EEG and MEG were interesting as well.

Posted by Tomas Villikka

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Neurotransmitter chemistry, responses and response times

In my prior studies, the neurotransmitter chemistry and responses were only briefly introduced. I had no idea how complex the small molecular sized system could be. There is a lot of different receptor subtypes, agonists, antagonists and complex responses, and the whole system works in a combination of divergent and convergent elements.

It made me wonder, how much there is still to be found in the neurotransmitter chemistry area. I know that today there are a lot of incurable neuro-related diseases. Is it possible to one day cure them all? How the complex neurological network can be modelled? What is the role of kainate receptors? Could the glia cells have an unknown role in transmission process?

It was interesting to learns that the Alzheimer’s diseases mechanisms are somewhat knowns, and the memory loss can be decreased with the inhibition of ACh breaking enzymes. In the future, is it possible to prevent the cause of Alzheimer’s disease, which is loss of cholinergic neurons?

In the exercise it was interesting to learn more about altering the CNS, and about the reaction times. The reaction time test was fun to do and it was interesting to notice how much the results varied.

Posted by Niina Kanerva

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Learning about neuronal transmission and anatomy of the brain

I have a strong background in molecular biology, so most of the things on this week were already familiar to me. Though, it was interesting to learn these things from the perspective of brain. I also learned a lot of new nomenclature and classifications.

The book is well-written and easy to understand so I learned a lot by reading the chapters 4 and 5 before Mondays lecture. The classification to Gray’s type I and type II neurons was new for me as well as the principles of synaptic integration. It really was eye-opening to learn the difference of spatial and temporal summation. The shunting inhibition is also a new important thing, that I had to understand, in order to fully know how neuronal transmission works.

At the lecture I really started to wonder the effects of glial cells. As we spoke there, the exact function of glial cells is not yet known, but there are suspicions that they may have a bigger role. I started to wonder how much these non-neuronal cells can affect to the formation and progress of action potentials and to the synaptic transmission. In the future we will need much more research that concentrates on glial (and other non-neuronal) cells.

It was nice to learn about new methods. I have heard of patch clamp before but never fully understood how it is used. Optogenetics also intrigued me and I think that it will be an important method in future brain research.

Exercises were also useful, because I had never learned the different brain areas and their nomenclature. It was fun to use Play-Doh as a learning tool.

Posted by Maija Vahteristo

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Intelligence, firing frequency and selectivity of ion channels

First of all, it has been really interesting to learn about human brain in past few weeks. I have always been interested in intelligence. We talked briefly in class that people could be willing to enhance their IQ. The questions which raised from that discussion was that what intelligence really is? What we know already is that larger head (meaning larger cerebral cortex surface usually) correlates with IQ. However, in order to design any kind of drugs or machines we should first know deeply where the intelligence comes from. Somehow related to intelligence, I found it very fascinating to think that there are around 1015 synapses in our brain and different firing frequencies which tells us a great deal about the complexity of our brains. No wonder that it’s commonly said that human brain is the most complex system in the universe.

The other question which came from reading the book is about action potential. The maximum firing frequency is 1000 Hz and absolute refectory period is stated to be about 1ms. For my future reading I should find out how it can be so that the next action potential can be started without undershoot. One interesting thing which I founded when reading the book, “…a pore in the membrane that is highly selective to Na+ …” The question for myself is that are these channels permeable also for other ions which shouldn’t pass the channel. Furthermore, what kind of problems there might be regarding this topic. I’ll probably get an answer for this question in following chapters.

When wondering these questions, it has come clearer for me that what is the level of analysis that I’m most interested. For now, I think it might be system level.

Posted by Tomas Villikka

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Posted by Tomas Villikka

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