Week 6. Chemical Control of the Brain and Behaviour

This week’s topic was the chemical control of the brain and behaviour. As usual, the week started with a lecture followed by a quiz.


This week’s topic was a nice follow-up of neurotransmitters week. The quiz itself was much harder than thought to be. I was still able to answer the questions.

It was really interesting to learn how a little organ in our brain can affect so much. Hypothalamus. The homeostasis topic is quite familiar to me. It is an important part when developing drugs and gene technology. Homeostasis act as customs when testing a drug. It will check if the drug does not interfere so much the body and if it does, it will try to balance the body back to its normal status.

The new thing that I learned, was the different areas of the hypothalamus and how they function. I did not know that thirst of water came from the anterior lobe of the pituitary and so-called ”love” comes from the posterior lobe of the pituitary.

Next week will be the exam week, therefore there will no lectures or quiz. I will focus on the exams and at the end of the week I will study for the next topic which will be the auditory system.


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Week 5 Neurotransmitters

This week, our topic was neurotransmitters and how different chemicals can mimic these transmitters. As usual our weeks started with a lecture and quiz. On Tuesday we had a exercise 3 were the topic was about the vision and senses.


This week’s topic was interesting. Neurotransmitters are the key factors to determine what kind of functions does a neuron have. In my studies, we study how these neurotransmitters are produced and what compounds could mimic them. From my previous studies, I have learned that some psychedelic drugs have the ability to mimic these neurotransmitters and inhibit their normal functions. This abnormal functioning of the neuron are considered to be main reason to have hallucinations when using these drug recreation use. It was also interesting to know, what compounds are considered as a neurotransmitters. Would there be a possibility that we could produce synthetic neurotransmitters by following the rules then?

Quiz was really easy but I would think that the reason might be that I had more time to read for the quiz and the context was much easier to understand.

I think, it was weird that we had a exercise that was related last week. But it was a good reminder of the last topics and gave a better understanding of senses.


The complexity of the brain is increasing as the course progresses. Neurotransmitters are a new layer of complexity to inhibit or excite neurons. This chemical layer of neurotransmitters can cause cascades, have fast and slow long term changes both divergent and convergent.

Additionally, the part about how chemical compounds can mimic our natural neurotransmitters is interesting for obvious reasons since we humans partake in them so much. Overall, the delicacy of this system is amazing because how well it work while being fragile – like how deriving the brain of blood flow (oxygen) for just a few minutes already causes neurons to die.

I think this chapter humbled me further in how much there is to understand about the workings of the brain. It is not only a complex network of electrical synapses – there seems to be equally complex network of chemical causes and effects that are continually at work.




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Week 4. Senses

This week our topic was senses. Especially visual, smell and taste senses. We begin our week with a Monday lecture, followed by a quiz.


Senses rely largely on the membrane proteins’ ability to react to external stimulus. Activation of the receptor membrane proteins and their signalling pathways are an important part of cell biology and understanding how cell work.  As a Life Science students, it is important to know how these pathways are formed and human senses are an excellent example of these. That is why the topic to me was really relevant and important to know.

The quiz itself was too hard. It was really hard and annoying to list two things, using only 10 words or less. I can understand that you can understand better but I see no point to used it on that question.

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Week 3. Neuronal Membrane at Rest, Action Potential and Synaptic Transmission

This week, our topic was how information from neuron to neuron is transmitted. As a pre-assignment, we needed to read chapters 3,4,5 and our knowledge was tested with a quiz.


In my opinion, the topic was quite basic but important to know. The ability of a neuron to create action potential and cooperation between other cells makes this structure of cells quite unique. The interesting and related to my studies was that how many different medicines affect the synaptic transmission between cells. Different drugs can inhibit or excite the synaptic transmission which could lead to different responses. The ability of a drug to surpass the blood-brain barrier into synaptic clef could be quite hard and could cause a lot side effects.


How the action potential is created and how neurons are connected was quite new for me. I am fascinated by the likeness to computers 1 and 0 the neurons have. However, neurons are much more dynamic and this threshold that is needed for them to be activated is much different than computers. They can be on the edge of spiking and connect in more complex ways. As opposed to a computer that is always 1 or 0 – there is no range until a threshold is reached.

Also, I learned a lot about chemical synapses  – in essence that yes neurotransmitters affect neurons but in the end they only affect the probability that a certain neuron will have a action potential or not (inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters). They are chemical but affect the same base electric communication that neurons uses.

Finally the network of the brain is amazing. I wonder how hard it is to create new or remove old synapses by changing thought and life patterns?

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Week 2. Neurons, Glia and Neuronal membrane at rest

This week, we had our first quiz. The idea of the quiz is to get an idea/preview of the week’s topic. This week, it was neurons, glia and neuronal membrane at rest. I was not able to participate in the quiz and Monday’s lecture which was unfortunate.

I was very familiar with today’s topic. As a student, who has studied different cells types and how they function, I consider neurone and glia cells quite unique. Neurons give information and form memories, thinking and action while glia cells support them. It seems like these cells are dependent on each other since, without the other one, the brain would not function the same way.

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Week 1. Introduction to the course

This is blog posting from the course

Structure and operation of the human brain

Our course started with the introduction lecture. Lecturer gave good info about the to expect to learn from the course and what is required to pass it.

This blog is written by 3 people from different fields. During the course, we think to discuss the topic of the week from our field of studies.

My name is Samuel. I’m fifth-year biosystems and biomaterial technology student from Aalto University. I came to the course to wider knowledge of the topics and this course could be good since it’s a little bit related to my studies. My expectations from the course to find a new perspective on how we understand the brain.

From my field of study, I can investigate the cell-cell interaction and how the metabolism and external input affects the cell. Cells are building blocks of the brain. These cells are not able to create complex interactions such as thinking or learning by themselves. I find it interesting how these simple cell could possibly create complex things like conscious and are able to interact with other cells of the body.

I look forward to learning more about the brain and its anatomy.



I’m Chiara, the other writer of this blog.
I’m a fall exchange student at Aalto University, from Human-Computer Interaction master. Neuroscience and Technology might seem two different fields with no point in common, but there’s a strong connection indeed.

How we relate to technology is extensively studied by Neuroscience, intent on discovering and improving our experiences with machines or interfaces, in order to design them in such a way that they are functional and intuitive. There is an interaction between a man and a machine: and interaction is a language, even if in this case it is driven by gestures. Language is a cognitive process and emotions related to the use of technology also arise with it.

The study of the brain’s reaction is useful for understanding what happens on a cognitive level. There are many usability tests that use fMRI, EEG, MRI, etc. to be able to closely investigate what happens in our head. Furthermore, the field of Human-Computer Interaction also includes Brain-Computer Interfaces and Assistive Technology, aimed at solving disabilities and cognitive diseases.

I am here therefore to know how the main subject for which I project facilities works, in order to be able to design more consciously and to deepen the field of usability tests.


I’m Maximilian, the third writer of this blog.

I’m a second year master’s student in Information Networks. My minor is Neuroscience and Technology. On my free time I enjoy racket sports, technology and literature.

My interest in Neuroscience and the brain stems from the fact that it is an unexplored fronteer – lots to find out and understand! Also, understanding how humans work both on cognitive level and on neural level seems important no matter what you do in life.

The structure of the brain and its operation seems very fascinating because of the depths at different layers. Ranging from molecules interacting, neurons firing, all the way to immense networks of almost a hundred billion neurons playing together to create consciousness. Really looking forward to understanding more about this area of science, well done course personnel in sparking this enthusiasm for the course early on.

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