Blog 1

This was our second week of learning about structure and operation of the human brain. All our learning happens remotely due to the global pandemic. While studying remotely is organised well and there have been only minimal technical difficulties, it is not the same as learning on site. It is especially hard to be proactive during online exercise sessions.

The topics of this week were the basic structure of a neuron and action potential. A lot of the topics were already familiar to at least some of us. For an example we knew about the basic structure of a neuron with axon and dendrites. Our previous knowledge was complemented with more detailed information, like the Nernst Equation to calculate the equilibrium potential for a specific ion. Some things were also completely new for us like glial cells and their role in nervous system. It’s funny how we had never heard about such an important part of our brain!

Overall, the basic function of neurons and action potential is relatively clear for us. Hardest part is remembering all the new terms such as names of specific parts of a neuron. The book is reasonably good at explaining concepts and there’s plenty of pictures to visualize it all. However, a few times it seems to lose track. For instance, in the chapter about the neuronal membrane at rest, some very basic concepts such as ions are explained with detail. Maybe it’s required if the reader has no background in physics or chemistry, but we found it boring and distracting from the real topic. We also wish that the lecture slides were a bit more detailed, so we could use them to remind ourselves of the most important concepts.

At the end we have a few questions for the experts.

What is the main function of the nodes of Ranvier in myelinating glia and can the size of a node vary?

Why was the membrane potential at rest calculated only considering the permeability of the membrane for K+ and Na+ ions without considering Ca2+ and Cl-? Is the membrane at rest completely impermeable to these two ions?

What kind of signals initiate protein synthesis in the nucleus? How does the DNA know which proteins are needed?

Posted by Jaakko Salmenkylä

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