Hello. My name is Susan Swanberg and I'll be live blogging tonight's lecture for the Arizona Daily Star. The lecture will begin at 7:00 p.m.
The lecture will begin in about 25 minutes. Tonight we'll hear from Katalin M. Gothard, PhD, MD, an assistant professor in the University of Arizona departments of physiology and neurobiology and the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute.
Gothard received her MD in 1988 from the University of Timisoara in Romania. She received her PhD from the University of Arizona in 1996.
The broad goal of research in Gothard's laboratory at the University of Arizona is understanding the neural basis of emotion. Her laboratory uses nonhuman primates as a model system to study normal and pathological emotions within the context of social behavior. That is, she studies nonhuman primate emotion in order to better understand human emotion.
Tonight, Mar. 3, 2014, Gothard's topic will be "The Ancestors in Our Brain."
Gothard will discuss the ancestral neural circuits underlying behavior necessary to satisfy basic biological needs. She will also discuss the more recently evolved neural circuits superimposed on these ancestral circuits.
The interface between the ancestral and more recent neural circuits enables us to be social, emotional beings as well as thinkers and inventors of technology.
Who are the ancestors in our brains? Katalin M. Gothard, PHD, MD, an assistant professor in the departments of physiology and neurobiology and the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute will explain that to us in about 15 minutes.
Evolving Brain 101--Neurotransmitters are chemicals that mediate direct information transfer between neurons.
Macaques are nonhuman primates often used to study emotions, those unique brain-body states triggered by objects and events of personal significance.
"The Ancestors in Our Brain," a lecture by Katalin M. Gothard, PhD, MD, an assistant professor in the departments of physiology and neurobiology and the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, will begin in 10 minutes.
The hall is nearly full for tonight's lecture. There are a few seats left, but not many. These lectures, part of the University of Arizona College of Science series on "The Evolving Brain" have been very well attended.
Funding for "The Evolving Brain" series has been provided by a number of sources, including The Arizona Daily Star.
"The Ancestors in Our Brain," a lecture by Katalin M. Gothard, PhD, MD will begin in 5 minutes.
We have 111 watchers so far on this live blog tonight.
The lights are dimming and the presentation is about to begin.
The speaker is being welcomed with applause by the audience.
"Let's talk about the evolution of the brain." On the tree of evolution, we are a small branch. The basic structure of the brain was set down millions of years ago.
"When I look into the limpid eyes of the macaque, I think it is only a coincidence that I study them instead of them studying me." Dr. Gothard
Molecules lead to cells lead to circuits which lead to behavior.
Depending upon what type of mother fosters a long/short baby, the baby might be like the orchid or like the dandelion--so nurture counts, too. The socio-emotional environment in which we grow up is important.
Oxytocin induces positive, pro-social behaviors.
Oxytocin levels can be induced by human contact or even human/pet contact.
In her laboratory, they put oxytocin in the brains of male monkeys. Before oxytocin, the monkeys looked all over the face of another monkey. After increasing oxytocin, the monkeys looked mainly in the eyes of the other monkey.
In monkeys, oxytocin increases looking at the eyes of another monkey. Scientists study this behavior by "gaze-following" experiments.
Oxytocin increases gaze following, which is important in establishing social relationships.
Imaging the brain while the subject is looking at faces activates a part of the brain called the amygdala, the hot spot activated when monkeys look at other monkeys.
The amygdala became the social center of the brain in mammals, the "Facebook running" machine in the brain. In the amygdala, signals from the body merge with signals from the senses. The individual can elaborate on the signals and plan a reaction when this information is merged in the brain.
Listening to cells in the amygdala--must use very fine micro electrodes, nearly as slender as a hair. Using these micro electrodes one can listen to the activity of a single neuron.
Two members of her lab--Clayton Mosher (a graduate student) and Prisca Zimmerman (a technician.) They trained monkey subjects to look at movies of other monkeys so the monkey subjects could see the full range of expression. They measured neuronal activity while the monkey subjects watched movies.
The viewer monkey's eye cells responded to moving images, not to static images. The viewer monkey's eye cells responded dramatically to the direct gaze by a monkey in a movie. Eye contact is part of our repertoire.
But, the amygdala is an old structure. Why is the amygdala so involved in higher behavior like social behavior?
A very simple brain circuit that supports very simple behavior like blinking an eye or raising an eyebrow, is the visual cortex and the amygdala. The visual cortex sends a signal about what has been observed to the amygdala which associates the visual signal with an emotional context. If you destroy the amygdala, behavior becomes impulsive.
Connectogram of the human brain--illustrates in color the relationships between portions of the brain. Most parts of the brain react to their close neighbors. There are several parts of the brain with more distant connections. The amygdala is one of the most interconnected parts of the brain.
Mirror neurons fire when a monkey lifts a peanut to its mouth, and also when the monkey watches another monkey lift a peanut to its mouth.
We have now an open horizon. We can study the brain in more detail with our new technology. When we leave we will make eye contact. When we do this, the cells in our amygdala's will sing.
Next week, the last lecture will be presented by William Bialek, PhD. The topic is "More Perfect Than We Think" about how our brains can solve problems in an essentially perfect way, that no machine can improve upon. Mar. 10, 2014 in Centennial Hall at 7:00 p.m.