December 2011 Archives

I: a Conversation - Last Neuroblog Post

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I would like to preface this post by saying this is my last post on this site. The semester winding down so I am doing my last post a few days early to clear time before finals. Hope whoever has read this blog has enjoyed it. -Ginger Synapse

I choose to study neuroscience because I have never found anything of equal interest, the complexity alone is enough to make me smile. However, telling people I love to study the brain is gateway into questions which deal little with neurobiology and for that matter neuroscience. People assume because you study the brain you can answer questions regarding their lives in a similar manner to a pastor in a church, which I am not. I try to avoid answering these questions because neuroscience, unlike religion, is difficult to accept and where the results seem to appease it is likely due to a lack of research.

The recently popular question to pose is the classic, who am I? The popularity here can likely be attributed to when David Eagleman gave a lecture earlier in the semester and freewill was put into question or rather he simply stated the truth. The next question, is of course, well if I cannot control what I think, then who am I. A question, which likely should have been resolved in the 8th grade, but college is better than never, I guess. Some recent research put out though seems to put this in a nice way which I was unable to articulate prior. The idea shown here is the brain hold a conversation with itself which creates the illusion of a being. Little more has to be said about who someone is, it answers the question. So, now I just have to deal with the reality that I enjoy to hold conversations with myself about holding conversations with myself.

Short Term Memory and Cortex Activation

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The primary somatosensory cortex is known for having many roles in tactile and haptic memory. That is, this region of the brain is known for its role in touch. The processing of touch is complex and involves a lot sorting and coordination in the midbrain and hindbrain regions. The primary somatosensory cortex's role in this process is mostly processing where signals come from, that is it functions a lot to just initially process signals. However, a recent research study from Italy has put this very basic function into question and instead suggest the primary somatosensory cortex also plays a significant role in short term memory.

This study have the subject put their index finger on a vibrating piece of metal. This piece of metal was set to vibrate pretty heavily. The subject would leave their finger on this piece of metal. The metal would then vibrate for one second. After this a 1.5 second delay was given. Then the vibration was repeated (same intensity and duration). Without interference most people could tell these vibrations were the same. However, when researchers took a magnetic coal which worked to disturb the primary somatosensory cortex and applied it to the region, 300-600 ms after the initial metal vibration, subjects were noticeably less accurate and identifying the metal on their finger was vibrating at the same rate.

I thought this article was interesting and goes into more detail, talking other factors. Read up if you would like.

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