Presented by Laura Driscoll and Shay Neufeld
The simplest way to think about the brain is as a platform through which we can interact with the world. Highly specialized sensory structures in our peripheral nervous system detect information in our environment and send these sensory signals to the “information hub” of our bodies, the brain. Here, sensory information is processed to produce an internal precept of the external world. This internal representation is our brain’s best guess at what’s going on around us, but this picture is not a perfect one, and we’ll discuss the limits of our own perception. The brain uses its interpretation of what is going on around us to then instruct remarkably precise and context appropriate behavior. Using motor movement as the key example, we will describe how cortex is involved in producing the ‘ideas’ of movement. A completely different system of the brain – the basal ganglia – is critically important for taking these ‘ideas’ from the cortex and refining them into precise and smooth behaviors. We’ll show how abnormal activity in both cortex and basal ganglia result in aberrant behavior and disease. Ultimately, this lecture is about appreciating the most fundamental functions of the brain: accurately and appropriately interpreting the world and reacting to it, and what can happen when it fails. After the lecture please join us for a lab tour of Dr. David Ginty’s laboratory where we can explore how research on sensory cells is conducted.