Neurotransmitters – the natural messangers

Being unable to attend this week lecture nor exercise session, I had to study this week’s material by reading the course book by myself (that I do every week and I have to admit that my brain is better at learning by reading rather than listening). One thing I also enjoy a lot by reading the book is that, on top of invaluable theory, authors also provide interesting examples as well as history of discoveries.

This week I learnt many exciting things about neurotransmitters, including their synthesis, release (and metabolism that follows) as well as their action in postsynaptic neuron (or cells in general). Concepts are pretty easy to grasp, but I personally find it somehow challenging to learn all the terminology.

Being the kind of person who has every now and then difficulties with getting things started (meaning procrastination/laziness) and relating to things I learned about catecholamines and especially dopamine – a neurotransmitter, that is resposible for (among other things) self-rewarding and personal motivation, I started to wonder whether I might have some sort of imbalance in my dopamine systems. 😀 Might it be that in the future they will invent some sort of a pharmaceutical drug that makes people more motivated at studying/working? (I have heard about amphetamines and the way they can make you more motivated for a period of time, but I would rather look for some less harmful solution and more sustainable solution).

That’s about it for this week, until next time.




Posted by Pavel Filippov

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The greatest machine

This week we learned about synaptic transmission, along with learning about action potentials in the previous week’s lecture. We’re now getting into the area that I find most interesting: information processing in the brain.

It’s sometimes said that the artificial neural networks used in machine learning are a simplification of real neural networks. At this point, I would already agree with that.  There’s a lot going on in the brain, and it’s a little difficult to keep track of all the terminology, or to remember what every different thing does.

Because I never come up with questions during the lectures, I decided to write down some interesting ones that came to mind that I would like to understand.

What is the purpose of sleep? How does it work? What about dreams? Or all the other stages of sleep? Could sleep be induced artificially in people?

How about memory, how does it work? How are short-term memory and long term memory different? How feasible would it be to read memories from brains?

How did the brain evolve? How does the brain develop as we grow up? How do mental diseases come about?

We probably will not learn answers to these questions during the course, but it’s definitely a first step towards understanding.

Posted by Teemu

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The action potential has been created (First post)

The learning channels are truly open as the course “Structure and operation of the human brain” kicked of with the start of the autumn semester. For me personally, this is the first course in the Human Neuroscience and Technology minor and really a first course in anything related to chemistry or human anatomy since the high school.

After the first shock of reading the lecture notes with many colorful pictures of cells and nucleus and whatnots, the motivation to learn and really understand what is going on behind my eyes has really kicked in, generating almost an existential crisis when I truly grasped the complexity (and fragility) inside my scull and around my body.

So far we have learned the basics about neurons, neurites and how the signals are generated and moved through axons by a process called action potential and between neurons within synapses. The first steps on the long road before my brain starts to really understand itself.

Since the course is only starting, Im not even sure what kinds of questions to ask. The course book is really thorough but the lectures have felt so far a bit chaotic with two people talking (sometimes the sound is bit low without a microphone) and the questions sometimes interfering the natural flow. Also the exercise questions seemed sometimes a bit off (how will solving these equations aid my understanding of the basic processes?). However these have only been small hiccups that are far out-weighted by the fact, that learning all these new things is just really exciting!

How I imagine the course will continue would be best presented in a popular and very relevant meme:

Until next time.

Posted by Aleksi

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