Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Wow, my brain is so broken.

I've been getting an amazing amount of sleep lately. Usually I can wake up after 4 hours and be nice and refreshed, but since I got sick, I've been pulling 7, 8 hours a night. I can feel my health drastically improving after each very long sleep, though; when I was sick and pulling 2, 3 hours a night, my lungs were miserable. Now I can climb a flight of stairs and not start wheezing phlegm! This also means that soon I'll be able to go back to 3-5 hours a night, since I think I'll be better in a few days (and won't need healing time further). Ah, immune systems. How I love thee.

On the other hand, the lost productivity from being sick last week is going to take a little longer to fix. I feel sort of bad for my ECS tutorials - just when they need the most (right before orals), I'm least able to give it. I've been pretty out of it for the last week or so, and completely not teaching up to snuff. Must fix. Hyarr.

Thanks to a mini-project Natalie and I did for Bio last year, whenever I sleep I think of my brain being bathed in a happy, calming fluid. The synaptic clefts between neurons are filled with conductive seratonin when you're awake, but it accumulates charge over time and the signals in your brain start transmitting messages strangely as a result (noisy signal). When you fall into deep sleep, nonconductive melatonin replaces the seratonin, giving your neurons a chance to rest; when you wake up, a new round of seratonin replaces the melatonin, and you're good to go again. At least that's how I understand it. This would explain sleep inertia and why you think differently when you're really sleep-deprived. I'm frustrated by the lack of completion of this picture, though; where does the seratonin go (is it metabolized? does it drain off somewhere? eh?) and from whence does it come, and the same for the melatonin? Where, for that matter, do the electrical impulses that travel through our brains originate - what yields the actual electrons to kick off that first tiny surge of current?

Traveling further off topic, how does something become encoded into muscle memory? I don't have to think of hitting keys as I'm typing this post, but I did when I was 7 (and when I was 14 and learning dvorak). How do short-term memories transfer into long term ones, and where are memories stored? I need to abandon my metaphor of brain as a computer; I realize it's a terribly restrictive one and blinds me to much more - but I have a hard time going with no metaphor at all. All my understanding and explanations are stored in terms of stories; I'm trying to find an alternative file format (see, the analogy again).

Idle thought: I wonder what Olin expected of me when I first got here. When they read my application, what did they think I'd be like? (What on earth posessed them to admit me?) What did they think I'd do? Have I met those expectations, or am I a disappointment (or, at least, not quite what they expected)?

I'm really typing this blog to stall on the grading I should be doing. Bad Mel. No cookie. Finish grading now. There we go.

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