Posted: June 6th, 2022
This week we coverChapter 4: Consciousness. We are going to cover sleep and drugs. This tends to be an interesting chapter for many college students! We’ll cover the basics of sleep and what happens when we don’t get enough. Then we’ll move onto drugs – both legal and illegal. As far as your brain is concerned, legal and illegal drugs activate your neural networks in similar ways. We’ll talk more about addiction and treatment in the weeks to come.
Disclaimer: I am not here to tell you to do or not do drugs. The purpose of this chapter is to tell you what happens to your brain if you choose to use. There will be no judgements and I ask that you do not self-disclose any drug (legal or otherwise) experiences. If you have a question, but want to ask it anonymously,use this link(Links to an external site.). I will post the Q&A on the DB.
We’ll focus our discussion on the following sections in your book:
· What is Consciousness
· The Nature of Consciousness
· Altered States of Consciousness (drugs)
We won’t cover dreams or hypnosis.
The following visual aids from your text will be especially helpful:
· Infographics 4.2 (sleep) and 4.3 (drug in combo)
· Table 4.5 (Psychoactive Drugs) (seeTable 4 here(Links to an external site.)for an alternative)
In addition to your textbook, and the links below, check these out for more information:
· Sleep and Sleep Stages(Links to an external site.)(open source textbook)
· Sleep stages and circadian rhythms(Links to an external site.)(video from Khan Academy)
· Brain Basics: Sleep(Links to an external site.)(NINDS)
· Neuroscience of Psychoactive Substance Use and Dependence(Links to an external site.)(from WHO)
· Learn about Drugs of Abuse(Links to an external site.)(interactive website)
· Altering Consciousness with Psychoactive Drugs(Links to an external site.)(open source textbook)
Consciousness is a hard concept to study. What does it mean to be conscious? Psychologists, philosophers, and neuroscientists have been grappling with this question for a long time and there are still no firm answers. But, if we’re going to study it, we have to define it. Here, we will study it by understandingattention,sleep states, andalternative states of reality due to drug and/or alcohol ingestion.
Attention is another hard concept to define, but cognitive psychologists have tried in terms of thinking aboutautomatic (versus controlled) processing(Links to an external site.),selective attention(Links to an external site.), andinattentional blindness(Links to an external site.). There are some really cool demos of these phenomena. I’ve often seen them used as parlor tricks on various TV shows purporting to “explore the mind”. Check out the links above.
Sleep – who gets enough? If you feel sleepy during the day, probably not you.Sleep deprivation(Links to an external site.)is a real thing and it’s more serious that people think. It can lead to mood disturbances (you’re more likely to get upset, cry, be sad), memory problems, and physical ailments (more likely to get sick). This is agreat podcast about sleep deprivation(Links to an external site.)- it tells the story of Randy Gardner who stayed awake for 11 days as part of a high school science fair project. If you think pulling an all nighter is hard, youneedto listen to this guy’s story and how it had long-lasting effects on his psyche.
Your body and brain go through differentstages as you sleep(Links to an external site.). These stages are characterized by differences in brain activity, muscle activity, breathing and heart rate, and the presence or absence of rapid eye movements (REM). There is also a proper order and duration of each stage of sleep. REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement or Stage 5) isespecially important(Links to an external site.)for learning and memory, and for your physical and psychological well-being.
Altered States of Consciousness
Every time you ingest drugs or alcohol, there is a change in the way neurons behave. Sometimes, neurons will release more or less neurotransmitters, sometimes they will block the reuptake of neurotransmitters leaving them around in the synapse for longer, sometimes they will change their connections to make them stronger or weaker. These neural changes lead to changes in behavior and thinking. Sometimes these changes are welcome (as they may be if you take anti-depressants), sometimes they are not (if they make you more aggressive).
Review how normal synaptic transmission occurs by readinghere(Links to an external site.), watching this 2 minute videohere(Links to an external site.)
, or going back to Chapter 2 (or DB #2). Review the following: what is the synapse and synaptic cleft, what are neurotransmitters (excitatory and inhibitory), how are they released into the synaptic cleft, what effect do neurotransmitters have on the post-synaptic neurons, and finally, how are the neurotransmitters cleared from the synaptic cleft.
Once you have done that, you can learn how different drugs affect your nervous system differently. This is something that pharmaceutical companies sue over – the mechanism of action of their drugs. This is also why certain drugs work better than others, even if they work on the same neurotransmitter system.Howa drug works is important to understanding the effects it might have on behavior and cognition.
For a fun activity, after you read about these drugs in your textbook, check out thisMouse House Party(Links to an external site.)orMeth Mouse(Links to an external site.)! These mice are on the following drugs and by exploring the site, you can learn more about the neurobiological bases of the following drugs:
· Heroin(Links to an external site.)
· Ecstasy/MDMA/Molly(Links to an external site.)
· Marijuana(Links to an external site.)
· Alcohol(Links to an external site.)
· LSD/Hallucinogens(Links to an external site.)
· Cocaine(Links to an external site.)
· Methamphetamine(Links to an external site.)
All the links above are from theNational Institute for Drug Abuse(Links to an external site.)whose mission is to “is to advance science on the causes and consequences of drug use and addiction and to apply that knowledge to improve individual and public health.” Whenever you are looking for information to learn about controversial topics (i.e.,should marijuana be legalized), it’s important that the information you are getting is not biased one way or the other. NIDA is a scientific-based organization.
Psychoactive drugs are those that cause changes in one’s psychological activities including sensation & perception, attention, judgement, memory, self-control, emotion, thinking, and behavior. Drugs can be classified into different categories based on how they affect a person’s behavior and cognition. Your book distinguishes 3 categories:depressants(Links to an external site.)(includes alcohol),stimulants(Links to an external site.), andhallucinogens(Links to an external site.).
Hit reply and type your answers to the following:
1. This is a hard question: what does it mean to be conscious. Read up in your book some answers, search the internet for some definitions, then summarizein your own wordswhat it means to be conscious. Give examples to support your answer.
2. Describe either a) automatic versus controlled processing, b) selective attention, or c) inattentional blindness and give a real-world example from your life.
3. Describe how your brain and muscle activity change as you go through the stages of sleep. Why is REM sleep important? Then answer ONE of the following questions:
· What causes jet-lag? What are some of the physical, psychological, and cognitive consequences of sleep deprivation?
· What does it mean to havegood sleep hygiene? Describe one of the sleep disorders mentioned in your textbook (narcolepsy, sleep paralysis and hypnagogic hallucinations, REM sleep behavior disorder, breathing-related sleep disorders, insomnia, other sleep disorders).
4. Pick one of the drugs highlighted above in the Mouse House Party. Tell us what class of drugs your drug belongs to and describe its psychological effects. Give the specific neural mechanism of action for your drug.
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