All the good things must come to an end

…Everything is temporary

This, too, shall pass

There are countless variations to this theme, in part because idea is so central to the human condition, and in part, because it’s true. So, this course, too, is approaching its end and it’s time to look back and see what is is we have got.

In the beginning, I stated my interest in learning about correlation and causality in the physical 7 biological operations of brain and the mind contents. We started from the very basics, the topological structure of neurons and glia cells was the starting point, as well as the function of neuron cell membrane. To navigate the brain, a motherload of new terminology was introduced:

For some reason, it’s the brain has no up and down, but dorsal and ventral. Anterior and posterior are used for front and back, but sometimes substituted with rostral and caudal. Medial kind of makes sense, lateral is a bit vaguer, at least if I need to locate something like dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, Brodmann’s area 9. I mean, wouldn’t area 8 be even more dorso and still lateral enough to fit the description?

We also learned to name quite a few anatomic structures in the brain, which I generally enjoyed, as annoying as it was to try and wind basal ganglia into a 3D formation with the playdough… 😊

I was interested in how to regulate the sleep / arousal balance, as I’m suffering from insomnia. It appears serotonergic raphe nuclei play a role, as does the pineal body that secretes melatonin. Also, reticular formation regulates sleep and wakefulness, retinal ganglion cells have direct projections in the hypothalamus that sync sleep and wakefulness biorhythm. There would have been a whole chapter dedicated to brain rhythms and sleep, but it was left outside of the curriculum. I’ll read it on my own when I have time, maybe some night when the sleep escapes me once again… 😉

The brain is much about chemicals, neurotransmitters. We learned about inhibition and excitation, different types of direct and indirect receptor systems that are coded to specific neurotransmitters and can also be tampered with external chemistry, drugs.

Of senses, vision and hearing were central. Both produce a very subjective understanding of the world by definition (the said understanding being an illusion born in the brain), but sometimes the reality effect fails and the gaps in the perception are revealed. We investigated some particular types of conditions that produced very ambiguous perceptions among us hoi polloi of the lecture hall.

Motor cortex and the motor function received also their due attention. We learned the signal path from brain to muscles and what is involved before the motor cortex sends its commands and after. Many parts of the chain, again, revealed to be under conscious control and more or less automatical.

Finally, excursions have been made to EEG, MEG and imaging facilities, research and hospital alike, and we’ve also had a taste of TEM and tDCS modalities in tampering with the neurons firing probabilities. Now there’s only one little experiment to run before the exam and we’re done. Thank you everybody for your contribution! This has been an interesting journey and I hope to be able to continue it in another course in the future.

Posted by Tapio Saarinen

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