The topic of this week was wiring the brain and there was a lecture and an exercise session. Lecture was very good, clear and also entertaining. It discussed neural proliferation, migration and differentiation, as well as the genesis of axons. The elimination of unnecessary synapses was also discussed as well as neuroplasticity. It was very interesting to hear how the brain eliminates unnecessary and redundant connections to optimize the functioning of the brain and surprising how many neurons all in all are destroyed. We were interested to hear about neuroplasticity and Hebb’s hypothesis stating that “neurons that fire together wire together” because we have heard it many times in different contexts. It was nice to hear that it is at least somewhat true. It was fascinating to hear how the brain develops from a prenatal brain to an adult brain and that some neurogenesis also happens during adult age to enable memory and learning. Most of the neurogenesis happens early in life but it seems like so many skills are also learned during adulthood. Are the connections already there but they are just somehow rewired and refined during learning? Even though we knew about apoptosis, we were surprised to learn that apoptosis is genetically coded into all neurons and needs to be switched off by neurotrophins. The chapter was also a good recap of the visual system we studied before because it was used as an example. It’s amazing how the brain works and keeps functioning so well in so many people even though the wiring is so specific and it seems like so many things can go wrong.
The exercise sessions topic was central nervous systems disorders and reaction time related to aural and visual input. The assignments were again very applied. For the exercise session, the focus was on the reaction time assignment. It was a very interesting assignment and it was nice to get a chance to do a “real” neurological test and analyse its results by ourselves. The test tested the reaction time from input to sensorimotor action of pressing a key on the keyboard. We have not finished the assignment yet, so it will be interesting to analyse the results and see if the reaction time changes during the test and how it changes if it changes. The assignment required some python related installation, which is always complicated and problematic according to my experiences, so it was nice to get technical support during the exercise session.
Next week’s topic is mental illness and we are very eager to learn about it!