Term Paper: Memory, Cognitive Function, Mood Disorders, &amp Schizophrenia

Pages: 6 (1803 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Psychology

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¶ … Lashley sought to find the engram, the physiological representation of learning. In general terms, how would you recognize an engram if you saw one? That is, what would someone have to demonstrate before you could conclude that a particular change in the nervous system was really an engram?

Someone would have to demonstrate a physical representation of this learning -- there would have to be a physical response as a result to the connections made in the brain (Kalat, 2012). Because Lashley was able to prove that all behavior was a reflection of the central nervous system -- a physical-chemical system -- these changes in behavior created as a result of learning have to thus case physical chemical alterations (Kalat, 2012). Fundamentally, these alterations have to include dynamics of input and output within the central nervous system. Thus, I would recognize an engram if I saw one as being a physical reaction of the central nervous system.

If a synapse has already developed LTP once, should it be easier or more difficult to get it to develop LTP again? Why?

"Once LTP has been established, it no longer depends on NMDA synapses. Drugs that block NMDA synapses prevent the establishment of LTP, but they do not interfere with the maintenance of LTP that was already established… in other words, once LTP occurs, the AMPA receptors stay potentiated, regardless of what happens to the NMDAs" (Kalat, 2012). LTP only happens at the synapses that were highly activated; such synapses are now marked via chemical changes for easy identification (Kalat, 2012).

3. Dopamine facilitates activity at many AMPA synapses ( Tye et al., 2010). How might this fact help explain how methylphenidate (Ritalin) improves learning?

Dopamine assists the individual in controlling their actions; this indicates that it's just crucial to have the correct level of dopamine in the brain in order for regulated behavior and actual learning to occur. Ritalin bolsters the levels of dopamine in the brain helping an individual to focus, while pushing out distractions and helping decisions and connections to be made rationally. The dopamine transporter normally pushes the dopamine from the synapse over towards the sending neuron but Ritalin thwarts this dopamine transmitter, thus causing a spike in dopamine levels at the synapse allowing an individual to focus (Kalat, 2012).

1. When a person born without a corpus callosum moves the fingers of one hand, he or she also is likely to move the fingers of the other hand involuntarily. What possible explanation can you suggest?

As any lay person can succinctly explain, each separate hemisphere of the brain control the opposite side of the body; the main exceptions being that both hemispheres control the trunk and facial muscles (Kalat, 2012). "The corpus callosum is a large set of axons conveying information between the two hemispheres" (Kalat, 2012). Thus, in the scenario described above, it makes sense that there is no exchange of information between the two hemispheres. Because there is no informational exchange, there is no separation thus between the actions on the various sides of the body. Thus, it's not a huge surprise that the fingers on the hands of opposite sides of the body would move with such unison.

2. Most people with Broca's aphasia suffer from partial paralysis on the right side of the body. Most people with Wernicke's aphasia do not. Why?

This is because people with Broca's aphasia have damage to the left frontal cortex, an area which controls the left side of the body. "We use the term "Wernicke's aphasia, of fluent aphasia, to describe a certain pattern of behavior, independent of the location of the damage" (Kalat, 2012). People who have Wernicke's aphasia don't have any paralysis because their brain injury is not near the area of the brain which controls movement.

2. In a syndrome called word blindness, a person loses the ability to read (even single letters), although the person can still see and speak. What is a possible neurological explanation? That is, can you imagine a pattern of brain damage that might produce this result?

As a neurological explanation it would seem likely that word blindness would be caused via damage to the area of the brain which processes words and text -- visual information. This is the back, left area of the brain. It would be unlikely caused through trauma like a blow to the head -- but could possibly occur in this manner. Internal damage to this area through lesions or a stroke could be the possible culprit in such a case. A lesion is simply damage to an area of the body; a stroke kills neurons by overstimulating them (Kalat, 2012).

4. Could a computer be conscious? What evidence, if any, would convince you that it was conscious?

The answer given in the text Biological Psychology for machine consciousness gives the example of a human being with brain damage whose brain is piece by piece replaced by and engineered brain and all the pieces work together in harmony, restoring the person to their full capabilities and normal behavior (Kalat, 2012). However, this would not be enough to convince me of machine consciousness. As Kalat admits in the book, consciousness is extremely difficult to explain and to summarize as there's a certain degree of elusiveness to it and it is definitely something that philosophers have argued about and discussed for hundreds of years. However, for me, I would only be convinced of a computer's consciousness if it was able to use the programming that humans had created within it to engage in things like independent thought, independent observation and independent problem-solving -- things that the example provided by Kalat don't truly touch upon. I would need to see evidence that the computer was engaging in a higher level of thought that he had not been programmed specifically to do, but was instead using his programming to accomplish. For instance, if a computer noticed I was hitting the keys harder than usual and asked me if I was angry or upset would be sufficient enough evidence for me to suggest consciousness.

5. The operational definition of consciousness applies only to people willing and able to report that they are conscious of some events and not others. Research using this definition has determined certain brain correlates of consciousness. Could we now use those brain correlates to infer consciousness or its absence in newborn infants, brain-damaged people, or nonhuman animals?

"The function of consciousness is far from obvious. Several psychologists have argued that many nonhuman species are also conscious because their behavior is so complex that we cannot explain it without assuming consciousness (e.g. Griffin, 2001). Others have argued that even if other animals are conscious, their consciousness explains nothing. Consciousness may not be a useful scientific concept (Wynne, 2004)" (Kalat, 2012). Thus, what many of these remarks are alluding to is the fact that certain beings might be conscious, but there might not be sufficient evidence of this phenomenon. it's difficult to say if one can witness another person being conscious or witness an animal possessing consciousness; it's difficult to determine if consciousness leaves behind any clear discernible signs at all. However, if research suggests that there are specific brain correlates which infer consciousness or its absence, there is no reason why one can't use those brain correlates to determine if infants, brain damaged people or nonhuman animals possess consciousness. For example, certain people in a coma say that they can recall people who visited them while they were in the coma and recall hearing their voices and other details -- and they've been correct about these things. Some researchers have used this as evidence for consciousness. Other researchers have said that the brain activity of someone during a coma is so incredibly low this simply isn't possible.

1. Some people have suggested that ECT relieves depression by causing people to forget the events that caused it. What evidence opposes this hypothesis?

This remark is clearly not accurate, as many people are depressed without specific reasons or events which have caused it. Furthermore, ECT simply doesn't cause that type of memory loss. As Kalat explains, the most frequent side effect of ECT is memory loss, but when the shock is delivered, limiting it to a particular area of the brain -- the right hemisphere -- reduces the memory loss (Kalat, 2012). Furthermore, the memory loss is incredibly temporary, lasting just a few months (Kalat, 2012).

2. Certain people suffer from what they describe as "post-Christmas depression," a feeling of letdown after all the excitement of the holiday season. What other explanation can you offer?

Actually, what people describe as "post-Christmas depression" might be a manifestation of Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD). This disorder is most aggravated in people who live near the poles where winter nights are long; thus, this is a condition often treated by bright lights (Kalat, 2012). This disorder is not as aggravated as a standard depression, but can leave a person feeling… [END OF PREVIEW]

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