Friday, March 9, 2012

Got an ITCH for Biology?

Some of the most interesting functions (or malfunctions) of the nervous system are the things we understand the least. Why do amputees often feel their long-lost limbs? Why do we perform compulsive behaviors - like scratching an itch - when there isn't actually anything making us itchy? Read Dr. Atul Gawande's article 'The Itch,' and you need to respond and participate in this online discussion by the end of the day on Tuesday. You can use the questions below as a launching point, but it should be a discussion, responding to the article and other people's responses. (for 10 points, yes--better than a reading quiz!)
Some Questions to start your discussion:

1. What did you find interesting/fascinating/horrifying from this article? What would you like to explore more?

2. The patient 'M' experiences a strong, persistent itching sensation, but her doctors were not able to identify a medical basis for her itch. Do you think that M's itch was 'physical' or was it 'all in her head?'

3. Gawande states: "perception is the brain's best guess about what is happening in the outside world." How does this description of brain function relate to phantom limb pain?