Week 5: Neurotransmitter systems

The fifth week started with a lecture and a quiz about neurotransmitter systems. The exercises were about central nervous system disorders and reaction time.

On the lecture

The lecture started with a quiz. It was nice to notice that five minutes with a pen and paper in the classroom felt much longer than five minutes between other task when taking the quiz online. During the lecture we had couple of videos that demonstrate how the neurotransmitters bind to receptors at cellular membrane and affect to the behaviour of the cell. It is always nice to have different teaching methods, so one might find a new one that suits well for her. At least for us, understanding a  phenomenon from the video felt easier compared to learning from pictures or text. Because we were already familiar with the slides it was easier to follow the lecture.

The exercises

The exercises had this week a python program, which was yet again a new type of assignment on this course. Because all the exercises are very different compared to each other, it keeps things interesting.

At home

The lecture slides were available already before the lecture, which made it easier to get ready for this week’s lecture. At home we studied for a quiz, and learned about the topics from the book. There was also a deck of Brainscape cards for studying key concepts. The subject for next week’s quiz is the chemical control of the brain and behavior (chapter 15). Reading this chapter was particularly interesting, because it tights up some of the subjects we have learnt in the previous chapters. It also describes the actions in a larger scale, and not only the small details that the previous chapters mostly had. The book included some really interesting examples (eg. Addisons disease when too much cortisol vs. Cushing’s disease when low cortisol levels), which were really helpful in the learning process.

What did we learn?

This week’s topic was quite strongly related to the topic of week 3. At week 3 we learned the basic functioning of the chemical synapses and this week was more specifically about the different type of neurotransmitters used in the chemical  synapses, and how they will bind to receptors.

By reading the book for next week’s quiz, we learnt a lot of new things, and  especially the enteric division of ANS, “small brain” raised some thoughts. Enteric division is a neural system among the lining of the esophagus, stomach, intestines, pancreas, and gallbladder. It was something that we had heard about, but didn’t really know how wide network it is. It also raised some questions; calling it a “brain” is probably somewhat exaggerating, but can it still be (until some extend) compared to it? For example, a brain damage is a really serious matter and it’s usually difficult to recover from it completely (if at all), but the enteric division area is subject to a lot of changing conditions and surgical operations. How does it affect our enteric division’s nervous system, if person gets a sleeve gastrectomy surgery? Or suffers from bowel cancer and some of intestines have to be cut off? Or a person can survive with one kidney or without uterus – but how much does their absence affect the neuronal network? It would be very interesting the learn about the flexibility and the effects the enteric division of ANS actually has.

Posted by Ona Westerlund

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