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PSY270H1 Lecture Notes - Frontal Lobe, Phineas Gage, Occipital Lobe

Course Code
Gillian Rowe

of 10
Psych Lect 4 - Jan 29
- check to see which room you will be in
- will focus on the big ideas, big experiments
- about brain only need to know: neuron, basic process of firing, neurotransmitters (half dozen of
them), major brain areas and their primary functions
- won't ask for names (except the big ones, like BF Skinner, William James, Pavlov, Darwin, etc.)
- don't need to know names of ppl who did the experiments
- know the overall point of the experiments
- the last 10/15% of the exam consists of more detailed points; but most of it consists of overall/big
picture stuff
- text: chapters 1-6
- 40% lecture, 60% text material
- B.F.Skinner says that we must make great changes in the american way of life; if we do nothing a
miserable future will overtake us; we must use our knowledge about human behaviour to create a soc
env in which we can live productive and creative lives without jeopardizing future generations'
abilities to do so as well
- bottom-up processing: going from details to a big/major idea
- top-down processing: starting with big/major idea, then fitting in the details
The mind is what the brain does?
- the fact that our experience of the world relies intimately on the brain is shown in the bizarre
perceptual experiences of patients with certain kinds of neurological damage or dysfunction
- Olive Sacks, "The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat" --> good book; collection of stories of
ppl with brain damage who lost basic abilities, such as a man who couldn't distinguish btw his wife
and a hat
The Split Brain:
- the two hemispheres of the brain are actually two min-brains connected by a bundle of fibers, the
corpus callosum
- for several decades until the 1960s, it was not uncommon to cut the corpus callosum to attempt to
help ppl with epilepsy
- the brain is not a single entity; it's a collection of sub-systems that interact with each other; like a
collection of brains
- consciousness is what emerges in a moment of time
- as you go from the back of the brain to the front, you go from more primitive to more derived
- the back is the brain stem, then the sub-cortocal regions (must know them; hypothalamus, etc.)
which involve more complex functions, then get even more complex (occipital lobe, temperal lobe,
frontal lobe) involving reasoning, spatial control, etc.
- if corpus collosum is intact, left and right hemispheres communicate with each other so fast that it's
like they're functioning as one brain
- but if corpus collosum is cut, the functions of one side can't integrate with the functions of the other
Being of two minds:
- left hemisphere: logic, linear thinking, language
- right hem: emotion, spatial processing, music
- left side of brain communicates with right side of body and vice versa
- when corpus collosum was cut, the ppl seemed to be functioning okay (could walk around, talk,
split-brain experiment:
- found that the left eye can't see what the right eye can see
- his right eye/left brain sees the ball, and bc right brain controls left hand, he can pick up the ball;
but his left brain/eye doesn't see it (confused; listen again)
- left brain is language (right eye)
- left brain is the storyteller
- left eye/right brain sees snow; right brain controls left hand, left hand chooses shovel
- right eye/left brain sees chicken; left brain--> right hand finds chicken hand
- when asked why he pointed at these two pictures, left brain thinks about this and comes up with a
story (left brain thinks well i thought about the chicken, then you need a shovel to clean out the
chicken coop (doesn't think at all about the snow scene))
- we rationalize our feelings with our left brains w/o realizing where our feelings come from
- even thu a function requires integration of many areas, certain areas are critical for carrying out
certain functions (localization)
- the strength of how well that area performs functions depends on how big that area is
- ex: in london cab drivers the area of their hypocalamus that's related to spatial memory gets
bigger; gets bigger and bigger the longer they've been workingg
Where are you?
- you're nowhere!
- it is the physical and sociocultural env's surrounding you, which continually create and reinforce
patterns in your brain
- ie. the indiv is nothing; like how one neuron is like no neuron; one person, w/o the sociocultural
env around us, is nothing
- and within the brain, YOU arise bc of the interconnectedness of many functioning subsystems; just
think of the profound changes that happen when you knock out a specific system
Neurological-perceptual Problems
- blindsight phenomenon
- how vision works: when you get visual info into your eye, it goes to the back of your brain
(occipital lobe); and the spatial relationship btw the things we're seeing is preserved in the spatial
arrangement of the neurons in our brains (ex: if we see a dog that is closer to a cat than it is to the
speaker, so too is the neuron that sees the dog in our brain closer to the neuron of the cat than to the
neuron of the speaker)
- blindsight happens when the person becomes blind in a certain area of their vision; ie. only part of
the occipital lobe is damaged, so only one part of their field of vision is blind
- but there are about 40 areas of the brain involved in vision; so althu they can't see that particular
region of their vision, some parts of their brain can see it
- ex: guessing shapes, spatial locations of shapes on a screen, or movement direction of dots on a
- ex: 50 year old physician with no functional visual cortices ---> recognizing face expressions
- althu he couldn't see anything, when they put faces infront of him and asked him to guess the facial
expressions he saw, he would guess correctly
- it's bc there are many diff areas involved in vision; althu his thalamus doesn't work (and
thus he can't see), some of the visual info goes to amygdala, which is not damaged so he does "see"
certain things
- out perceptual experiences involved diff layers; for example if we see someone approaching us we
may not notice their brown hair, brown eyes, etc. but we can see right away their angry facial
Phineas Gage
- 1848, while working on railroad a big rod went thru his right head
- before the accident he was the most capable foreman
- after the accident he seemed fine, could still walk, talk, etc.
- althu he seemed to have fully recovered and had retained all basic functions, his personality had
- he had become fitful, indulging in profanity, impatient, rude
The Pre-Frontal Cortex: the center of rationality?
- yes, but it's more complicated than that
- not only is it the center of rationality, but it's also the site of integration of emotion and rationality
- we usually think of emotion and rationality as separate, but it's not so dichotomous bc they are
integrated and thus inter-dependent
- ie. it's very difficult to reason rationality w/o any emotion involved
- there's agreement about a functional frontal lobe dissociation
- dorsal (top of pre-frontal cortext) = cognitive (reason, rationality, thinking, "cold")
- ventral (lower down) = affective (emotional, "hot")
- thus cognition and affect are separated in the pre-frontal cortex, but there are many axons
connecting them, so they're inter-dependent
- cognitive func's: maintaining attention, mental flexibility, abstract thinking, motivation, etc.