My last study break
Wednesday, May 19, 2010 :: Tagged under: pablolife. ⏰ 2 minutes.
Hey! Thanks for reading! Just a reminder that I wrote this some years ago, and may have much more complicated feelings about this topic than I did when I wrote it. Happy to elaborate, feel free to reach out to me! 😄
My final Final Exam is tomorrow; after that, my graduation is at the mercy of my graders. I'm studying for Principles of Neurobiology, which has been a most excellent way to finish college. While Biology was always my least favorite science (chemistry!), the brain and how we study it is out-of-this world cool. Neuroscience is tied with dancing in the Big Regrets That I Didn't Pursue This Further At Brown (it's no exaggeration that, had I taken these classes earlier, I may have become a Neuroscience major).
My curiosity is naturally piqued after my family's recent medical trauma, my sister's neurological illness. There's lots to say about that and how it's affected me, but in reviewing my notes I came upon this slide (click to enlarge):
And felt a flurry of emotions. Context:
In reviewing my sister's condition and her trouble retaining memories, the doctor's hypothesized that the NMDA receptors of her neurons weren't functioning properly.
I tell this to my new, madly brilliant neuroscientist friend, who in helping me study told me that NMDA receptors are partially responsible for coincidence detection, which contributes to LTP.
This class and my friend help me connect a few dots to the bullet point above:
LTP stands for long-term potentiation, which is basically a mechanism of retaining information in the brain via the strength of synapses between neurons. This mechanism is what is most believed to be related to how individual neurons grow to Something Greater like a functioning brain, with memory.
LTP occurs when related events occur repeatedly. When neurons notice this, it's called coincidence detection. For example, suppose you repeatedly smell a rose when you see a rose. Certain neurons will activate the next time you see or smell a roses. If you do both, the pairing will strengthen, if you do one or the other, the pairing will fire but not as strongly. They won't activate at all when you smell an onion (presumably some other neurons will).
Coming full circle, what is it that enables coincidence detection? NMDA-receptors, through the process that was introduced in that slide.
Being able to piece all this together, albeit as an amateur (I'm no biologist) has been a hell of a ride. Not gonna lie, I'm a bit worried about the exam tomorrow. I've passed my practice tests, but not by the most comfortable margin available
(also, let this be a case for Brown University offering the S/NC grading option. I would never have taken an intellectually risky class like this if I was preoccupied with GPA maximization).
If you want to see what I'm up against, take a look at the midterms covering the material of the final (first, second, third) and the research paper we need to be familiar with.
Wish me luck ^_^
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