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McGill University
PSYC 100
Daniel J Levitin

September 16 2010Biological Foundations of Behaviour Part IIGuest lecturer Shahin ZagenehpourHi I am filling in for Dr Levitin today Im here because Dan asked me to fill in the second part of this topic biological basis of behaviour I know Dr Ristic was here on Tuesday and gave you what the naturenurture interaction is in determining what behaviours could be produced by an individual or an organism Im here to take you through a finer level of analysis and perhaps focus a little bit more on the brain part and see what kinds of things we can discover about the biological foundations of behaviour Now I know that Dans act is a tough one to follow and I wont promise to be as entertaining as him and I dont have any candies with me unfortunately I thought about actually bringing a stack of dentist guards because youll need them eventually what with all the candies he hands out so maybe I can offset some of the damagebut then I forgot them on my desk so if you need a good reference for a dentist drop me a line and Ill be happy to help youBy way of giving you an outline of what we are going to go through I have a set of objectives which I hope we can accomplish throughout this hour and a half or so that we have So lets move onwhat are we going to cover today Well the objectives I have set for us include 1 defining the nervous system and in particular the brain as a centre piece for sensoryperceptual and all sorts of cognitive processing and also to look at how it can be the origin of a lot of behaviours that we produce we see in other people etc In trying to accomplish that in more detail Ill try to introduce some perhaps new concepts to some of you perhaps reintroduce some old concepts to some people here about how neurons play a role in mediating all of these functions so we will take to time look at 2 the anatomy and physiology of nerve cells which are the building blocks of the brain and the central nervous system in general Then we get into a few case studies By way of showing you some examples I will try to impart on you this knowledge Ive gathered myself and the field has gathered so far about how the brain or these neurons are playing those roles that I alluded to earlier The first example will deal with a tight coupling that exists between stimuli out there in the world and how neurons are tuned to specific features of those stimuli objective 3 examine an example of stimulusphysiology coupling I have a bit of a demo to take you through Then we will move on and talk a little bit about the relationship between these specific physiological responses of the brain and some interesting behaviours that we can study in a laboratory setting objective 4 review an example of physiologybehaviour coupling Then we will take a more global perspective and look at the brainbehaviour relationship objective 5 consider and example of brainbehaviour relationship In other words what are certain parts of the brain doing to allow us to have normal cognitive faculties and how do cognitive processes then allow us to behave normally in the world Then I will revisit at the end this issue of genes versus environment by taking you through a little example from my own research and Ill try to make it as salient and entertaining as possible and then well just wrap things up and go our separate ways objective 6 explore the concept of geneenvironment interplay as a determinant of behaviourFirst things first what can we say about the role of the brain Well we can take a historical approach to what we know about the brain today As you can see from this slide we have undergone a huge transformation over the course of history from attributing mental faculties or mental operations to the heart at the time of Aristotle to the modern day understanding we have about how networks of neurons are involved in mediating many of our day to day functions and so on thIn the 4 century BC Aristotle very simply stated and this is basically a boiled down version of all his stuff that hes basically written on this topic that the heart houses or provides a seat for the soul the mind and the soul interact with the body through the heart Now we know that he couldnt have been any more wrong in assuming or postulating this nd because of a whole line of research or evidence rather that came about as early as in the 2century AD where Galen accounted for having established a link between the brain or subcomponents of the brain and the mind Basically he stated that these cavities in the brain labelled as ventricles are the seat for the soul Why did he say this Because every time people or doctors ended up seeing a human brain it was typically after a person had died and what you have to do to get to the brain is open the skull and to see the inside you have to dissect it and take it apart so what happens is those cavities that would appear as empty holes in the brain which would perhaps justify the claim that there are these spaces in which the soul sits and from there it interacts with the brain and so on those cavities are usually filled with a fluid which we now know is called the cerebral spinal fluid This fluid has a very particular function for homeostasis of the brain and maintaining the pressure inside the skull and so on That was really the first instance when people started talking about the brain as the part of the body that is important for mental operations Then we go through other examples of this braincentered view of the mind or at least as a medium through which the mind interacts with the body There is Descartes claim in the 1630s that it is not those ventricles those empty holes but rather the pineal gland which is a tiny little structure at the top of the brain stem and sits on top of the cerebellum that is doing that job and he had his own reasons which I dont want to get into
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