February 13, 2014

Happy Thurs. Partly overcast here and -18.

We finished watching a series of 36 lectures on the human brain. The 30-minute lectures, produced by The Teaching Company, are by Prof. Jeannette Norden of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. The course assumes no prior knowledge about the brain. The first two-thirds of the lectures cover the anatomy and physiology of the brain with frequent excursions into key neurological discoveries and case studies that illustrate how damage to different parts of the brain affects normal function.

The last third of the lectures cover how the brain processes movement, emotions, speech, music, memory, dreams, and homeostatic regulation of basic body functions like balance, blood flow, breathing, and sleep. Norden also gives extended coverage of the effects on the brain of MS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, and other brain disorders. Everyone knows about left-brain, right-brain, but few realize that the brain is actually divided into two halves with central connecting tissues that integrate the functions of both halves. Moreover, sight and hearing are integral to brain function. The eyes are actually specialized extensions of the brain, and the mechanics of both sight and hearing are incredibly complex.

Norden explains how gross structure (visible to the eye with or without microscopes) first suggested to early neurologists that the brain has different sections devoted to different functions. Based on structural differences they numbered different areas of the brain up to 52, called Brodmann areas after the scientist who figured this out. Some of these areas are shown on the diagram below.




The lectures are well organized and copiously illustrated. Norden is an effective lecturer. We learned a lot about the brain, its many functions, its incredible complexity, and how to care for it. Well worth watching and suitable for the whole family. From the public library. For a sample, you can view the lecture Memory and the Brain at

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