Communication between our Little Grey Cells

The topics of the lecture this week were the action potential and synaptic transmission. The basics of action potentials and synaptic transmission, both electrical and chemical, were familiar to us from our previous physiology and biology courses. However, the lecture and the chapters in the book gave us a deeper and more detailed understanding of the underlying processes. There was a lot of biochemistry, including the transportation of neurotransmitters in vesicles and their release into the synaptic cleft as well as their binding to the receptors to create an action potential in the postsynaptic neuron. Our previous knowledge of biochemistry and surface chemistry aided our learning greatly. It is nice to notice that even though we do not have an extensive background in physics, our knowledge from chemistry is a useful asset for this course and seems to be an important basis for understanding the structure and operation of the human brain. There were also some new and surprising facts, for example that in reality one neuron produces and uses only one type of neurotransmitter and thus has only one task. It seems very logical now, but our previous knowledge was more about the overall structure of a neuron and an overview of the different neurotransmitters, which left room for inaccurate interpretations. The lecture was easier to follow and understand this week compared to the last week and gave new insights to the topic, including the previously mentioned example.

The exercise session was in the form of a lecture this week. The topic of it was brain anatomy, which was interesting and very important for the course. Some very basic structures of the brain were familiar to us, but those also mainly in Finnish, so overall the exercise lecture had a lot of new terminology and facts. It contained a massive amount of new Latin words and also new English words and two hours was not nearly enough to understand and internalize them all. It requires a lot of work outside of the lecture to learn them and their functions. The exercise session contained a few breakout room sessions, where the idea was to draw or build the discussed brain structures and thus learn them better. The idea was good, but the remote implementation through Zoom made it very hard and the sessions were so short that it was impossible to complete the tasks there. Therefore, the learning remained quite superficial. Overall, it was very good to have this session, but it was not enough to actually learn and understand the topic. In the upcoming weeks, the topics of the course will be more about the operations of the brain, which are probably newer for us and the familiar parts are then mostly behind us.

Posted by Inka Lehtimäki

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