Fifth week

Dear all,
On this week’s lecture we continued the subject “Neurotransmitter systems” and learned about the different pathways for acetylcholine, norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. We also got to hear about the basics of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Alzheimer’s is a common disease and it was interesting to hear what actually causes it. Today there are only treatments that slow down the process, but no cure exists on the market. The Alzheimer’s association (www.alz.org) writes that the majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older, but the disease can also have an earlier onset. The first symptom of Alzheimer’s is that the person has problems remembering newly learned things and on the lecture we also learned that acetylcholine (ACh) cell death is linked as an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder, which still also exists without a cure. Parkinson’s disease occurs as neurons producing dopamine die, which results in that the brain having problem controlling movements and coordination.

As an exercise we got to write about some drug or disease that alters the function of the central nervous system. It will be interesting to start writing and learn more about some specific drug or disease.

 

Posted by Cecilia Björkman

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Fourth week

Dear all,
During this week’s lecture of the course ”Structure and operation of the brain” we discussed about neurotransmitters. We started the lecture by watching couple of related animations. The animations were really informative even though they were quite short. It was easier to understand the processes by watching the animations than to just hear or read the description of the events.  After the animations we continued to the most common neurotransmitters of the brain. We discussed about different neurotransmitters, their receptor subtypes, agonists and antagonists. We learned many new terms but it was nice that we also discussed about more familiar substances such as ethanol, nicotine and benzodiazepine. It was surprising to hear that most common inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA is actually excitatory in infants. It would be interesting to learn how and at what age the transfer from excitatory to inhibitory occurs.
 
In the exercise session we did a small experiment related to reaction times. We tested reaction times to both visual and aural stimuli and compared them. We also tested how repeating the test affects the reaction times. For our test subject the reaction times to visual stimuli were shorter than the reaction times to aural stimuli and for visual stimuli the reaction times became shorter when the test was repeated. However, reaction times to aural stimuli did not change with repetition. I hope that we will at some point hear what kind of results the other groups got.

 

Posted by Satu

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Third Week

Dear all,
On the third week’s lecture we first continued the examination of action potentials. Then we continued how the action potential moves through the axon with the case of myalinated and un-myalinated axon. It was really interesting to learn about the different phases of action potential and how the phases make the current move forward and making it impossible to move in the other opposite direction. Then we continued to the axon terminal and learned how the the signal is transferred to another cell. We learned that there are two types of synapses: electrical synapses which transfer the ionic current directly through gap junctions to another cell, and chemical synapses where the axon terminal and post synaptict dendrite has cleft and the current is transferred by neurotransmitters to another cell. The lecture gave us a nice view of the movement of current in the central nervous system (CNS). We also learned about different arrangements, and different shapes and sizes of the synapses in the CNS.

In the exercise session we first glipsed through the correct answers of the mondays quizz. In the quizz there was multiple choice question about Alzheimer’s disease and all the answer options were actuall diseases, which where intresting to learn. After we went through the quizz we continued with exercises which pretty much revolved on topics of this weeks lecture.

 

Posted by MN

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Second week

Dear all,

Now we have had our second week with the course ”Structure and operation of the human brain” and this week we also had our first exercise lesson. At the normal lesson we got to hear about what a neuron consists of, an introduction to synapses and also about what mechanisms that works for keeping the concentration difference over the membrane.

As we came to the exercise lesson we got the task to build our own brain model with play dough. With different color of play dough we made the brain step by step. We started with the different parts of the brain stem, continuing with the cerebellum and last but not least cerebrum with its four different lobes. As we were building the brain we also got to hear about the functions of these different parts of the brain. This was a good way to learn about the brain anatomy and at the same time get an introduction in which part of the brain that works in which situation.

It will be interesting to get deeper into the brains function, for example how we are able to make memories or from where our personality and behavior origins. The brain is really an extraordinary tool for us.

Posted by Cecilia Björkman

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Lecture 1

Dear all,
The first lecture of the course Structure and Operation of Human Brain started with everyone introducing themselves and telling why they chose this course. We had never done this in our previous courses and it was surprisingly interesting and motivating. We were excited to hear that there were students from many different majors.
 
Second half of the lecture concentrated the basics of structure and function of the brain as well as neuronal signaling. The topics covered where already familiar to us from our previous courses but it was still beneficial to revise them. We had interesting but short discussion about the different definitions of consciousness and we hope that we will return to this subject later during the course.
 
We also got some pre-reading material for the next lecture. In the material there was interesting discussion about whether we are actually able to fully understand the human brain or not since in brain research the system is studying itself. This is stimulating thought and it would be nice to hear what the lecturers of the course think about this. It is at the same time intriguing and scary thought that we would understand the brain fully since it would reveal the essence of who we are and we have to admit that we are not sure that we want know that. However, we do think that it is important to understand the brain better in order to help people with brain disorders.

 

Posted by MN

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