Considering everything the brain does, how can this relatively small mass of tissue possibly be the source of our personalities, dreams, thoughts, sensations, utterances, and movements?
Understanding the Brain, a 36-lecture course by award-winning Professor Jeanette Norden of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, takes you inside this astonishingly complex organ and shows you how it works, from the gross level of its organization to the molecular level of how cells in the brain communicate. With its combination of neurology, biology, and psychology, this course will help you understand how we perceive the world through our senses, how we move, how we learn and remember, and how emotions affect our thoughts and actions.
Solving the Mystery of the Brain
The ancient Egyptians discarded the brain during mummification while carefully preserving other organs; to them, the brain was of no importance. Starting with the Greek physician Hippocrates, however, observers began tracing more and more of our sensory, nervous, and intellectual activities to the brain?and eventually to specific regions of the brain.
The brain is still a mystery in many respects?for example, we still are unsure as to how consciousness is generated?but recent decades have seen unparalleled advances in understanding how the brain does what it does. In the last 50 years, an explosion of knowledge about the brain?s structure and function has occurred. Scientists have performed amazing research by using tools such as MRIs and PET scanning to get a better grasp on deciphering the mysteries of how this important organ works.
Due to these technological advances, we can now pinpoint:
where light that enters the eye is converted into the subjective experience of sight
where pressure waves that reach the ear are processed into sound
where fear is generated
which areas of the brain are involved in spoken and written language
where the deep chemistry of love is kindled
What You Will Learn
Understanding the Brain provides you with an in-depth view of the inner workings of your brain. Your tour starts with the organization of the central nervous system at the gross, cellular, and molecular levels, then investigates in detail how the brain accomplishes a host of tasks?from seeing and sleeping to performing music and constructing a personal identity.
The Structure of the Brain: Lectures 1?11 cover the cellular structure and the overall layout of this intricate organ. You learn how the brain develops during gestation, and are introduced to the technical vocabulary that you will use throughout the course.
Brain and Mind: Lectures 12?19 explore how the brain and mind are thought to be related by examining the sensory functions of sight, hearing, and bodily sensation. You analyze the motor system, which governs how movement is initiated and coordinated, and explore Parkinson?s disease and its progressive impairment of movement.
Higher-Order Cognitive Functions: Lectures 20?29 discuss the areas of the brain thought to be responsible for language, emotion, executive function, and cognition?abilities that, in large part, define us as humans. You look at the underlying neurological mechanisms and explore their role in various phenomena like depression, musical ability and appreciation, and drug use.
Special Topics: Lectures 30?36 look at several subjects of universal interest. Are the brains of males and females different? How does the brain regulate sleep and dreaming? What is consciousness? And how can you understand the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer?s disease?
Our insights into the functioning of the brain often come from cases where something has gone wrong, such as strokes, tumors, injuries, neurological diseases, and mental illnesses?pathologies that vividly demonstrate the distinct roles played by the various affected regions. An expert neuroscientist, Dr. Norden provides a fa