NEUROSCIENCE OFFICE HOUR: THE CRASH COURSE
Visit 1. What is behavior? (Answers)
Before you begin, ask yourself: What would you say is behavior? Is a brain needed for behavior? Does one even need to be alive to have behavior? What do nervous systems add to behavior? How do you define intelligence?
After your visit: Did your definition of behavior change? Do you agree that an oscillating fan has behavior? Would you say that your fridge is alive? (I would not; but how do we justify that statement?) If not, does it still have behavior? (I would say yes; what does your fridge do?) How does the behavior of plants compare to the behavior of animals? Would you say that plants have flexible behavior, compared to you? How about cats and dogs?
Fill in the blanks to check what you have learned:
1. Behavior is any observable action (two words). No brain is required; actually, not even life is required. By this definition, any animal, as well as plants, the sun and moon, and even your fridge have behavior.
2. A bunch of neurons does not necessarily a brain make; the bunch needs to be organized to be called a brain. If it's not, that bunch of neurons is called a ganglion.
3. The impediment to becoming big AND functioning as an integrated whole is called diffusion, which is the word that describes the random movement of molecules. That is not a problem for creatures with a nervous system, which is a transport system that distributes signals that are not chemical, but electrical events, that is, events that spread by (previous blank) conduction - which is very, very fast.
4. Behavior does not require a nervous system, but when there is one, behavior becomes flexible - the opposite of stereotyped. With a nervous system, animals also gain a past and a future - that is, they are no longer bound to the present, like creatures without a nervous system are. The consequence is that, with a nervous system, behavior can become intelligent.