Peter Ralston — Our Brains: Molecules to Memory, Part 1 (Fall 2018)

Peter Ralston — Our Brains: Molecules to Memory, Part 1 (Fall 2018)


Good morning the class that I teach — and I’ve taught it in previous years in different forms — is intended for people who are interested in their brains, and I think it’s fair to say that most people are interested in their brains, and it is also intended for people who have not had a background in science. So it’s my job to introduce scientific concepts around brain function in a way that people can understand and then learn from. I’ve had people in the past take the course who are from backgrounds in history or creative writing or music who then sign up for the second course so I guess they felt that they did learn something and not to be afraid of a course which is a science course. The way the course is presented is I have a series of topics this fall I’ll talk about how the brain develops, how it forms and how it’s organized. Then I’ll talk about movements: how we move and movement disorders — what happens for instance in Parkinson’s disease. I’ll talk about stroke — which in this country is the fourth leading cause of death — and ways to prevent or at least decrease the risk of stroke, and new therapies many of which have just been developed in the last five years for treating stroke, and with much better outcomes. There’ll be a lecture on how we hear and hearing disorders and what can be done for people that have hearing disorders. The molecular basis of learning and memory and by the time we roll — that’s lecture number five — you’ll be very familiar with that molecular basis and finally we’ll talk about cognition and memory at the very end of the course. There are many topics which are very important and as you read the paper every day. I intend to give you information about how opioids work on the brain and what happens with opioid addictions and how that can be treated or not treated and a variety of other drugs. About half the medications that we take that are prescription medications work on the nervous system so by the end of this course you’ll know how those drugs affect your nervous system and so you can make wiser choices: perhaps when you get a recommendation to take a particular medication whether or not that’s something that you want to pursue or not. So it’s a fun course. I give out lecture notes ahead of time so everybody — posted online, it’s in the course, as a chance to look at four to six pages. You can sit down with a nice glass of your favorite beverage the night before the lecture and read the lecture notes and then I will talk about the material at the beginning of each lecture then show slides. All the slides that I show in the lecture then are posted online after so you have lecture notes before and all the slides after which will give you a chance to learn the material. So I enjoy teaching it. It keeps me on my toes: every time I give a talk about something, someone comes out to me before the lecture and says “did you see this in yesterday’s Science Times?” and I better damn well have seen it. So anyway it keeps me going, and I think that you’ll enjoy the course. So I look forward to seeing you on Tuesday afternoons in Lafayette. Thank you.

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