Pharyngula

I’ll give this a shot…

I am currently taking the neurobiology course offered by Dr. Myers, and being as this is my first blog entry on his site, I will give a little introduction about my interest in neurobiology and why I am taking this class.
To begin, I will say that I really do not know much about neurobiology. I know the basic idea: that the brain is responsible for transmitting signals that tell the rest of the body what to do. What I would like to learn more about is the act of signal transduction, specifically the propagation of the action potential down the axon and the role of the sodium-potassium pump. This pump is involved in membrane potential and depolarization, and is also linked to HYPP, or hyperkalemic periodic paralysis. In this disorder, muscle attacks or paralysis occur due to elevated levels of potassium in the bloodstream. I wish to know more about this disorder, and I hope that learning more about neurobiology will help me to accomplish that.
I also hope that Dr. Myers’ experiment will toughen up my skin a bit.

Comments

  1. #1 Blake Stacey
    September 14, 2007

    I also hope that Dr. Myers’ experiment will toughen up my skin a bit.

    That’s what we’re here for! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. #2 No One of Consequence
    September 14, 2007

    How are we suppose to toughen your skin if you don’t give us anything to rip into you about?

    Anyway, you have me hooked with your reason for taking the class. Hopefully you can enlighten us with what you learn.

  3. #3 slim
    September 14, 2007

    I struggle every year to understand half of what my neuroscience brother-in-law says at family reunions, so you’ve already impressed me.

    We’ll try not to toughen you up too much – that might spoil the flavor.

  4. #4 zer0
    September 14, 2007

    First off, welcome to the community here, I am personally a long time reader but I seldom comment. I think you’ll find that many of the readers here are capable of providing insightful comments on a vast array of subjects, and that by participating in the discourse here you may not only “thicken your skin” but learn to express your views in a very clear and concise manner, such that you can debate more effectively. That may very well be the greatest thing you learn from Dr. Myers’ class and this little experiment.

    Also, don’t be discouraged by the piranha infested waters here. A good chuck of posters love to jump at fresh meat, tearing their arguments asunder at the very wisp of spirituality. I’ve been guilty of such bashings myself. I think it may stem from having no other avenue in which to express their views openly in their daily lives, and through the magic anonymity of the internet they can tend to lash out and devour pretty much anyone that ever had a thought of god creep through their heads. Dr. Myers had to reign them in earlier in the day. I think he fears we may discourage you all from participating.

    Before I’m the recipient of a burning inferno of flames, I am an atheist, don’t toss me out of these boards quite yet! I’m just trying to keep the students posting.

    Good luck in your semester ahead.

  5. #5 Lana
    September 14, 2007

    You already know far more about neurobiology that I do. I’m looking forward to your contributions. Just make sure you don’t misspell anything, especially Teacher’s name. You should also use good grammar and break down your comments into paragraphs. Oh, and don’t bless us. This is a tough crowd.

  6. #6 Reginald Selkirk
    September 14, 2007

    To begin, I will say that I really do not know much about neurobiology. I know the basic idea: that the brain is responsible for transmitting signals that tell the rest of the body what to do.

    That’s a fine start, that’s the motor circuitry. There’s also the sensory circuits where the brain takes in data, and the cognitive circuits in between.

    Oh, and of course, the miracle circuits, which pick up the secret radio signals from the soul.

  7. #7 Suze
    September 14, 2007

    Does the excess potassium that causes HYPP come from diet or some other malfunction — the body accumulates it or whatever? Also, what’s your definition of a “muscle attack”? Thanks (and good luck).

  8. #8 Mike Fox
    September 14, 2007

    A really interesting website I found in my undergrad is actually Canadian. You should check it out. It organizes in three depths (beginner, intermediate, advanced) and several different POVs (social, psychological, neuronal, and molecular – I think).

    http://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/index_i.html

  9. #9 Blake Stacey
    September 14, 2007

    Reginald Selkirk wins the Internet!

  10. #10 Ethan Romero
    September 14, 2007

    Having a tough skin is important for scientists or anyone who takes intellectual honesty to heart. But, you might also remember that to get to one true idea/theory/mechanism you have to try out at least 10 wrong ones. No one with a proper sense of decorum will fault you for having wrong ideas; they will, however, rightly fault you for holding on to those ideas in the face of contrary evidence.

    And, if you are ever feeling down, just ask Dr. Meyers to tell you about some of the mistakes he made (I’m assuming) in the course of his Ph.D.

  11. #11 J-Dog
    September 14, 2007

    You said: This pump is involved in membrane potential and depolarization, and is also linked to HYPP,

    For a second there, I thought Dr. Myers had branched out and started a Marketing Class, but I quickly realized that my neurons had mis-fired and I read what you typed incorrectly as HYPE.

    Good Luck. Study hard, play hard!

  12. #12 Dahan
    September 14, 2007

    Welcome, you’ve chosen a topic of deep interest to me, and of which I also know very little. So much to learn, so little time you know… I look forward to your posts and the responses in hopes becoming more enlightened myself. Good luck!

  13. #13 SmellyTerror
    September 14, 2007

    “…specifically the propagation of the action potential down the axon and the role of the sodium-potassium pump. This pump is involved in membrane potential and depolarization…”

    …abuh?

    And here we find the flaw in this scheme: most of we Phanryngulites wouldn’t know biology from our own arses.

    (I wonder if that phrase translates into Americanian English?)

    Actually, that’s a useful thing right there: one of the best ways to consolidate learning (at least, in my experience) is to try to teach what you just learnt to someone else. Even if this is an imaginary friend, or a rabble of blog commenters, you work out where you needed to “fudge it” before your class, and that guides your revision.

    Of course, there are also those times you just completely miss the point – when you think you know what you’re talking about, but don’t – but that’s what teachers are for…

  14. #14 Russell
    September 14, 2007

    Hey there, good to have you on board. One thing you might try looking into is the action of various drugs (legal and otherwise) on brain chemistry–a subject of endless fascination for me. If your interest ever starts flagging, that is a good way to get the juices flowing again.

  15. #15 Brownian
    September 14, 2007

    There was an article in March’s issue of Discover about a patient developing hyperkalemia after eating durian.

    You may read it online at: http://discovermagazine.com/2007/mar/vital-signs-a-puzzling-high-potassium

  16. #16 Brian Thompson
    September 14, 2007

    Good luck in your coursework! My university offered a course on electrochemical analysis of neurobiology, but I wasn’t fortunate enough to take it. I do regret that from time to time. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy yourself and learn a lot about action potentials and Na and K pumps.

  17. #17 Anne-Marie
    September 14, 2007

    Hey, nice to “meet” you! I really like the fact that you mentioned that you’re in the course because you don’t know much about the topic (although I suspect you know more than you think compared to many people!), that is one of the best reasons for enrolling in a class that I can think of, although it’s amazing how many people are scared off by unfamiliar subjects! One of the best things about science is that everything is built on identifying what you don’t know, and figuring out how to change that. Great intro and good luck with the class!

  18. #18 SEF
    September 14, 2007

    the role of the sodium-potassium pump

    Don’t forget the evolution of it. ๐Ÿ˜€

  19. #19 Brownian
    September 14, 2007

    A really interesting website I found in my undergrad is actually Canadian.

    What the hell’s that supposed to mean? Us Canadians are plenty interesting. Did you know that we use the words couch, sofa, and chesterfield to refer to essentially the same thing? What about the fact that the variable-pitch propeller was invented by a Canadian? Or that Canadians buy and consume more Kraft Dinner per capita than any other nation? Or that the famous Warren Zevon song, “Werewolves of London” refers not to a place in Canada, but a city in England that has a district called Edmonton, which is also the name of the city in which I live which is in Canada?

    Sheesh. Open a book (many of which are written and published in Canada) why don’t you?

  20. #20 Russell
    September 14, 2007

    Lua Yar:

    I also hope that Dr. Myers’ experiment will toughen up my skin a bit.

    Nah. For that you have to pee on your hands:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2100652/

    But it won’t help with the girls. No matter what the monkeys say.

  21. #21 SEF
    September 14, 2007

    One thing you might try looking into is the action of various drugs (legal and otherwise) on brain chemistry–a subject of endless fascination for me.

    The students don’t have to use you (or themselves) as an experimental subject though. ๐Ÿ˜‰ There are also spiders to drug or re-program.

    NB I wanted to post 3 relevant links with that bit but I kept getting a “Forbidden” + “don’t have permission to post” message every time I tried. Whereas, the link-free first half of the post was allowed through alone (see previous post). ๐Ÿ™

    On the plus side, that link-free test did demonstrate that I’m not really banned from posting altogether, just from linking.

  22. #22 SEF
    September 14, 2007

    Now to try just one of those spider links at a time.

  23. #23 SEF
    September 14, 2007

    OK It’s looking as though ScienceBlogs doesn’t like at least one link in particular – the one I tried first and which isn’t the one I eventually ended up being able to post above. I’m guessing it might be a banned word issue. So I’ll deliberately break the name of it as a test:

    http://www.trinity.edu/jdunn/ spiderdr ugs.htm

  24. #24 SEF
    September 14, 2007

    It’s looking suspiciously like I’m right, since that went through straight away without a quibble from the SB site software. The remaining link of the three was:

    http://www.cannabis.net/weblife.html

  25. #25 Matt
    September 14, 2007

    HYPP is often seen in horses. I found an interesting site that has some good info. I am a vet, so I tend to focus on the animal side of things!!

    http://www.tufts.edu/vet/sports/hypp.html

  26. #26 Wicked Lad
    September 14, 2007

    I also hope that Dr. Myers’ experiment will toughen up my skin a bit.

    You’re a dunderhead! A mo-ron!

    Seriously, welcome to teh blawg, and I look forward to your posts, LY.

  27. #27 Patrick Quigley
    September 14, 2007

    Welcome, Lua. That was a good first post. One of the reasons that I love this blog is the exposure to areas of science which are new to me. It will be interesting to have you posting about this topic as you learn it yourself. This way I can learn as you learn.

  28. #28 Onkel Bob
    September 14, 2007

    Russell beat me to the subject, why do we have receptors for certain molecules, and why do those molecules have the effect they do? What’s also interesting is that certain substances effect different species in different ways e.g., snake venom and horses as opposed to its effect in other mammals.
    The Na – K pump is especially interesting when you consider the chemical properties of these two elements. How does the body differentiate between two substances with nearly identical reactions? (My chemistry text book has this passage: “Potassium has no major uses for which sodium cannot be substituted.”) Again, evolution obviously was in play here as it selected two elements that are abundant and eschewed development dependent on Li or Rb. Then, there’s the question of the ammonium ion and its similarity to K. Again, how did this occur?

  29. #29 Inky
    September 14, 2007

    Matt beat me to it, but I was going to mention Impressive’s bloodlines in the Quarter Horse breed. The Quarter Horse breed has the largest number of registered horses in this country; Impressive was a prominent prize-winning Quarter Horse sire and a good portion of the top Quarter Horses (for a time, anyway) were Impressive’s offspring, so there were a lot of horses with this disease.

    I’ve a B.S. in Animal Science, so my thoughts often wander towards animals, too!

  30. #30 Antongarou
    September 14, 2007

    Hi, I’m another neuroscience nerd hanging here:).Hyperkelamia sounds interesting:For good review of ion-channel operations, if you don’t have it yet, read the relevant chapters from Kandel’s “Basics of Neural Science”- I found them to be very good and extremely clear.

  31. #31 Dan
    September 14, 2007

    I also hope that Dr. Myers’ experiment will toughen up my skin a bit.

    Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelled of elderberries.

  32. #32 trrll
    September 14, 2007

    The Na – K pump is especially interesting when you consider the chemical properties of these two elements. How does the body differentiate between two substances with nearly identical reactions? (My chemistry text book has this passage: “Potassium has no major uses for which sodium cannot be substituted.”)

    It’s a really good question I’m not sure about the Na/K ATPase, but this was a big mystery for potassium channels for a long time. You could imagine that a sodium channel could keep out potassium by simply being too small, because sodium ions are smaller than potassium ions, but how could a potassium channel keep out sodium ions? The answer didn’t come until Roderick MacKinnon manage to crystalize a K channel and do X-ray crystalography. Basically, the pore of the channel is so tight that both potassium and sodium ions have to give up their shells of water molecules. The channel makes this attractive for potassium, by providing polar residues to substitute for the water molecules. But for sodium ions, the polar residues are too far away to properly coordinate with the ion’s charge. This makes the channel energetically unfriendly to sodium ions–they’d rather hang out outside with their water molecule buddies.

  33. #33 Matt
    September 14, 2007

    trrll- that’s so cool! What an amazing explanation! Thanks.

  34. #34 Matt
    September 14, 2007

    A link pertaining to trrll’s post:

    http://www.hhmi.org/research/investigators/mackinnon.html

  35. #35 windy
    September 14, 2007

    The Na – K pump is especially interesting when you consider the chemical properties of these two elements. How does the body differentiate between two substances with nearly identical reactions?

    I agree with trrll that this was a good question. In this article of Ogawa & Toyoshima 2002 you can at least see where the Na and K ions “sit” in the channel. They also point to some homologies with channels that bind other ions.

    Again, evolution obviously was in play here as it selected two elements that are abundant and eschewed development dependent on Li or Rb.

    Careful there, some pretty rare elements are surprisingly important in biology.

  36. #36 sailor
    September 14, 2007

    “Hey there, good to have you on board. One thing you might try looking into is the action of various drugs (legal and otherwise) on brain chemistry–a subject of endless fascination for me. If your interest ever starts flagging, that is a good way to get the juices flowing again.”

    I think #14 is suggesting neuro-tranmitters would be a better field for self-experimentation.

  37. #37 sailor
    September 14, 2007

    I wondered what the hell the pump was you were talking about, so I found a nice little animations:
    http://www.brookscole.com/chemistry_d/templates/student_resources/shared_resources/animations/ion_pump/ionpump.html
    To think, I always thought those noises were my stomach rumbling, not my pump going…

  38. #38 Brenda von Ahsen
    September 14, 2007

    Welcome Lua, I rarely post but thought I would delurk.

    Boingboing had a link to this recently:

    Elephants on Acid and Other Bizarre Experiments

    and also

    NY Times on Capgras Syndrome

    Not exactly your area of study but close. I’m a lay person but have always enjoyed the writings of Oliver Sacks (and others like him) and if you look at his pic on Wikipedia it seems he is sporting a “Welcome Squid Overlords” T-Shirt. Clearly he has good taste.

    That should toughen you up.

  39. #39 Randy Owens
    September 14, 2007

    As a flip side to all the flack sent at a previous student poster for some pretty bad spelling, let me commend you on a pretty good job with spelling and grammar.

    Brownian:

    Did you know that we [Canadians] use the words couch, sofa, and chesterfield to refer to essentially the same thing?

    Bah. We Americans… er, I mean, south Americans… that is to say, Americans more southerly than yourselves… say all that, and “davenport” too!

  40. #40 David Marjanovi?
    September 14, 2007

    I suppose making the word drug a link triggers the spam filter.

  41. #41 David Marjanovi?
    September 14, 2007

    I suppose making the word drug a link triggers the spam filter.

  42. #42 Chaz
    September 14, 2007

    Hey Lua,

    Just wanted to say that I’m a sophomore just getting into neuroscience, and not only can I relate but I am profoundly jealous of the opportunity PZ has given you. Good luck!

  43. #43 TheBlackCat
    September 14, 2007

    Technically the Na-K pump is not directly involved in depolarization. It keeps the Na-K concentration gradient high enough that depolarization can occur, but does not actually play a part in the depolarization itself. The depolarization is controlled primarily by voltage-gated Na and K channels and is powered solely by the concentration gradient established by pumps like the Na-K pump.

  44. #44 Keith Douglas
    September 14, 2007

    windy: Indeed. I think there is a biological use for lithium, if I recall correctly.

  45. #45 folderol
    September 14, 2007

    Lots of people beat me to this, but I was out giving riding lessons all day . . . .

    I see mention of HYPP and immediately think I’m reading the work of a horse person — I guess I didn’t even know it was a problem in non-horses.

    Lua, if you’re interested in the horse side of HYPP, check out http://www.thehorse.com — do a search for HYPP and you’ll get tons of good research articles (register for free).

    I’ve fortunately never had to deal with an HYPP horse — I work mostly with warmbloods, who have their share of other problems, but not HYPP.

  46. #46 David Harmon
    September 14, 2007

    To begin, I will say that I really do not know much about neurobiology.

    And thus you begin with wisdom; knowledge is much easier to learn.

  47. #47 Arnosium Upinarum
    September 14, 2007

    Hi Lua. Welcome!

  48. #48 jeffox backtrollin'
    September 15, 2007

    To the horsie people posting in here: Isn’t a quarter-horse one leg? ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

    Welcome, Lua, best of luck to you here and in class!

  49. #49 PhysioProf
    September 15, 2007

    “The answer didn’t come until Roderick MacKinnon manage to crystalize a K channel and do X-ray crystalography.”

    This is only partially correct. The mechanism for selectivity that you describe is probably close to correct, and supported by the K+ channel crystal structure, but it was proposed well before the first K+ channel structure was obtainde.

  50. #50 Zeolite
    September 16, 2007

    I owned a HYPP (Positive/Negative) appendix quarter horse for seven years (until I sold him in college) and can share my experiences with you if you’re interested. He had Impressive blood from both sides and overall was a very healthy normal horse.

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