Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Neurons are so cool.


If I have one piece of advice for the world, for people as individuals...if it is at all possible to take a neuroscience class, take one. Because there is nothing like learning how much and how little is known about what thinking and feeling are actually 'made of'.

I was looking back at my notes from some classes over the past year. And I sat there for about twenty five minutes, just looking. The amazing thing about the microanatomy about the nervous system is that the function and anatomy of individual cells are known in great detail, but the interactions between those cells and how consciousness arises from that is knowledge that is still emerging.

We know exactly how an impulse is conducted down the axon, jumping and skipping like a stone on water, releasing neurotransmitters into the synaptic cleft, which bind to receptor sites on the dendritic spines of another neuron, which then sends an electrical signal bouncing down its' axon...

But how the thousands of impulses, transmitted by thousands of neurons, create consciousness- create silent, abstract verbal cognitions such as "Should I write about nudity on my blog that people I know read?" or "I like peanut butter sandwiches" is still completely unknown. A scientist can open your skull and directly stimulate your brain, making you see red, twitch your thumb, feel pressure on your toe- but we've got no idea where to tickle to make you think "My mom's name is Katherine"

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