THOUGHT QUESTIONS Could a sufficiently large and complex computer ever be programmed to be aware of itself? Suppose that someone someday claims to have done just that. What kind of evidence would you need to prove or disprove this claim? Is consciousness found in animals other than humans? Is the ability of some animals to communicate with each other and with humans evidence for at least some form of awareness of self and others? Clearly, the left hemisphere of a person with a split brain is conscious of the information it receives and of its own thoughts. It is not conscious of the mental processes of the right hemisphere. But is it possible that the right hemisphere is conscious too, but is just unable to talk to us? How could we possibly find out whether it is? Do you see some similarities between this issue and the one raised in the first question? KEY CONCEPTS Behavioral neuroscientists believe that the mind is a function performed by the brain. The study of human brain functions has helped us gain some insight into the nature of human consciousness, which appears to be related to the language functions of the brain (i.e. the effects of the split brain operation).
The Goal of Research
Biological Roots of Behavioral Neuroscience
THOUGHT QUESTIONS What is the value of studying the history of behavioral neuroscience? Is it a waste of time? Suppose we studied just the latest research and ignored explanations that we now know to be incorrect. Would we be spending our time more prfitably, or might we miss something? KEY CONCEPTS Scientists attempt to explain natural phenomena by means of generalization and reduction. Because behavioral neuroscientists use the methods of psychology and physiology, they employ both types of explainations Descartes developed the first model to explain how the brain controls movement, based on the animated statues in the royal gardens. Subsequently, investigators tested their ideas with scientific experiments.
Functionalism and the Inheritance of Traits
Evolution of the Human Brain
THOUGHT QUESTIONS What useful functions are provided by the fact that a human can be self-aware? How was this trait selected for during the evolution of our species? Are you surprised that the difference in the DNA of humans and chimpanzees is only 1.2 percent? How do you feel about that fact? If our species continues evolve (and most geneticists believe that this is the case), what kinds of changes do you think might occur? KEY CONCEPTS Darwin's theory of evolution, with an emphasis on function helps behavioral neuroscientists descover the relations between brain mechanisms, behaviors, and an organism's adaptation to its environment We owe our status as the dominant species to our bipedal stance, our agile hands, our excellent vision, and the behavioral and cognitive abilities provided by our large, complex brains, which enable us to adapt to a wide variety of environment, exploit a wide variety of resources, and with the development of language, from large, complex communities
KEY CONCEPTS Scientific research with animals has taught us most of what we know about the functions of the body, including that of the nervous system. This knowledge is essential in developing ways to prevent and treat neurological and mental disorders
THOUGHT QUESTION Why do you think some people are apparently more upset about using animals for research and teaching than about using them for other purposes? KEY CONCEPTS Behavioral neuroscientists study the physiology of behavior by performing research with animals. They use the research methods and findings of other neuroscientists in pursuit of their particular interests.