1. Organization and Evaluation of Brain Function
This module introduces the general external topography of the brain. To illustrate the relationship between specific behaviors and brain function, the module begins by showing a racecar driver exercising his skill, and then presents graphic illustrations of the internal activity of his brain. The module reviews several methods of studying brain activity including the CAT scan, PET scan, EEG, and MRI.
2. The Effects of Hormones and the Environment on Brain Development
This module presents some startling and significant findings relating to the effects of sex hormones on brain development. Beginning with in utero photography and then visiting an animal laboratory, this module shows how Dr. Marian Diamond's ground-breaking research has revealed structural differences in the brains of men and women, as well as factors influencing these differences.
3. Gender Development: Social Influences
Shifting from the biological focus of the previous module, this segment shows how social factors affect gender-specific behaviors. Mother-child interactions are shown, illustrating typical differences in how male and female children are treated, and how this treatment affects gender identity, roles, and expectations, and perceived differences in ability.
4. Intelligence and Culture
The issue of cultural bias in testing is explored in this module, presenting Judy Kearins's work with Australian children. White and aboriginal children are shown to perform differently on visual/spatial tasks, and use different methods to arrive at solutions to the problems presented. Theories of cultural influence on cognitive processing and the shaping of the brain are suggested as explanations for tested differences in ability.
5. The Divided Brain
This module begins with graphic representations of the cerebral hemispheres' specialized functions. It continues with a description of the brain's asymmetry, showing diagrams of how the two halves communicate. The extreme case of a patient who has undergone split-brain surgery for treatment of epilepsy illustrates the role of hemispheric organization in sensory perception and verbal skills.
6. Language and Speech: Broca's and Wernicke's Areas
The left hemisphere is dominant in this module on language and the brain. Relationships between specific brain areas and verbal processing are shown through the historic example of Dr. Paul Broca's brain-injury patient. The patient's preserved brain is subjected to CAT scan analysis, which shows correspondence between the damaged area and the patient's documented difficulties with language comprehension.
7. Brain Anomaly and Plasticity: Hydrocephalus
Hydrocephalus, a childhood disorder of excess fluid in the brain, illustrates brain plasticity — the brain's amazing ability to rebound after injury. While patients with this disorder experience compression and destruction of brain tissue early in life, many are able to function normally later in life, after their brains have compensated for the loss.
8. Visual Information Processing: Elementary Concepts
This module depicts the original pioneering research on how the brain's visual systems transmit and encode information. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, present their work on the visual cortex of the monkey using x-ray images. Two Nobel laureates also recount their serendipitous discovery of "feature detector" cells in the striate cortex that respond only to stimuli of certain sizes or direction of movement.
9. Visual Information Processing: Perception
This module concentrates on higher visual areas beyond the striate cortex, addressing the questions of when seeing becomes perception and where it all takes place. Face recognition provides an illustrative example — patients suffering damage to their temporal lobes may see familiar faces, yet be unable to recognize them.
10. Perception: Inverted Vision
The peculiar image inversion process that takes place in the normal visual system is examined in this module. The program traces the experiences of an art student who volunteers to wear lenses that invert her visual world, connecting the adaptation process she undergoes with how the visual system functions. Graphic animations reinforce understanding of the mechanism involved.
11. Sensory-Motor Integration
Three spectacular dives of Olympic gold-medalist Greg Louganis provide vivid illustration of the human body in motion. The complex visual and motor coordination involved in sophisticated sensory-motor integration calls upon the faculties of the motor cortex, cerebellum, and basal ganglia. The roles of kinesthesis, vestibular functions, and cutaneous sensitivity are also covered.
12. Huntington's Disease
Dr. Nancy Wexler of the Hereditary Disease Foundation and Columbia University recounts her research on the demographics, symptoms, and genetic cause of this debilitating illness. The module also explores ethical and moral dimensions of DNA testing, which can determine who will develop the disease.
13. Sleep and Circadian Rhythms
This module covers our natural rhythms and the stages that occur during sleep. It shows the brain's electrical activity over the course of a normal night's sleep, with its REM and non-REM cycles. The remainder of the module is devoted to an experiment conducted by Michel Siffre, a French cave explorer, in which Siffre spends seven months in a Texas cave. Without external cues, the body is shown to have its own built-in clock.
14. Sleep: Brain Functions
What is the purpose of sleep? This module sets out to answer this question by exploring the patterns of a woman's sleep and dream cycles in the setting of a sleep laboratory. Characteristics of the five stages of sleep and the typical 90-minute cycle are explained. The module also covers sleep disorders and the current techniques used to treat them.
15. REM Sleep and Dreaming
This module probes deeper issues relating to sleep and dreaming. The uniquely individual experience of dreaming requires researchers to look beyond conventional methods of study. Dream specialist Dr. J. Allan Hobson discusses the function of dreams, explaining his theory of the biological mechanism behind the phenomenon and reflecting on the contribution of dreaming to human creativity.
16. The Locus of Learning and Memory
In the history of psychology, the question of where learning and memory take place has occupied investigators for years. Recent work at the National Institute of Mental Health has brought scientists closer to resolving the issue. This module shows magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology being used to identify specific changes in the motor cortex of human subjects — changes that correspond to training in particular tasks.
17. Learning As Synaptic Change
This module presents researchers investigating the structural changes involved in learning. Research conducted at the Pasteur Institute in Paris shows that the learning process involves the formation of new brain connections and the elimination of others. Other researchers dispel the myth of brain loss in aging, present evidence of changes at the cellular level, and review research on associative learning.
18. Living With Amnesia: The Hippocampus and Memory
Amnesia appears in many different forms. This module shows how the extent and location of damage can result in varying levels of memory impairment. Footage of Mike, an amnesic individual, demonstrates the result of an injury to the hippocampus. Mike's reaction to his memory deficit and drastic coping measures underscore the importance of memory to everyday functioning.
19. Alzheimer's Disease
When this program was first filmed, Eleanor, age 51, was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. This module follows Eleanor's physical and mental decline after the initial filming. Pathology in the brainstem and other regions in the brains of Alzheimer's patients are shown to interfere with acetylcholine release, resulting in neuronal atrophy. The module discusses our current knowledge of the disease and the direction of future research.
20. A Super-Memorist Advises on Study Strategies
This module explores the brain's potential for storage-as-memory. Rajan Mahadevan, a "super-memorist," demonstrates his phenomenal memory by scanning a 7 by 7 matrix of digits and recalling all forty-nine digits forward, backward, and by columns. He also claims to have memorized 100,000 digits of pi. Mahadevan offers suggestions to help college students improve their study habits when learning new material.
21. Emotions, Stress, and Health
Commentary from scientists, dramatic reenactments, and graphic illustrations show the consequences of prolonged stress on health. Animated diagrams show the brain releasing hormones, followed by a role-playing situation illustrating on-the-job stress that may set this process in motion. Researchers explain how low-level stress leads to the breakdown of frontal lobe functioning.
22. Stress: Locus of Control and Predictability
The classic rat experiment described by Dr. Jay Weiss of Rockefeller University, New York, is presented in this module. Two rats are connected to a stressor — an electric shock to the tail. One rat is able to turn off the stimulus by turning a wheel, while the other receives the stress stimulus regardless of what it does. The rat with more control is shown to suffer fewer deleterious health consequences.
23. Multiple Personality
Tony, walking down a country road, is shown talking to himself about his multiple personalities. Dr. Frances Howland of the Yale University School of Medicine describes Tony's case, and viewers are shown Tony's therapy sessions as different personalities emerge. The narrator explains the phenomenon as triggered in childhood by the need to flee psychologically from physical or sexual abuse.
24. Aggression, Violence, and the Brain
This module links human aggressive behavior with specific regions of the brain. Scenes from classic experiments show stimulation of a bull's brain to stop it from charging and excitation of a cat's hypothalamus to trigger aggression. A striking case of violent human behavior is then linked to a brain lesion — the surgical removal of which restored normal emotional control.
25. Frontal Lobes and Behavior: The Story of Phineas Gage
This module relates the story of Phineas Gage, whose name appears in virtually every general psychology textbook. After a heavy metal rod was blown through his temporal lobe, Phineas experienced dramatic mental change. The study of the trauma and its physiological effects provided the first documented evidence of how brain injury can affect human behavior.
26. Schizophrenia: Symptoms
In this module, mental health professionals observe a patient named Jerry, a classic schizophrenic. Jerry's case and medication schedule are described, and his disordered speech and behavior are shown. Prominent psychiatrists describe schizophrenia and the prognosis for those diagnosed with this disease; a locked psychiatric ward provides a graphic illustration.
27. Schizophrenia: Etiology
This module covers the history of attitudes, beliefs, and theories about the etiology of schizophrenia. While the illness was long thought to be environmentally caused, this module emphasizes the scientific evidence in support of its organic origins. Dr. Arnold Scheibel of UCLA Medical Center describes cellular pathology in the hippocampus and speculates on the possible role of viruses. A genetic component is also demonstrated.
28. Schizophrenia: Pharmacological Treatment
Dr. Arnold Scheibel reviews the various ways in which schizophrenia has been treated since the 1950s, ranging from the use of physical restraints and cool baths to the administration of antipsychotic drugs. He and other psychiatrists elaborate on the ways in which drugs alter the chemistry of the brain. Drugs that are effective seem to reduce the levels of dopamine in the brain — to provide amelioration and stabilization, not a cure.
This module opens with statistics and a description of autism and how the disorder has been viewed historically. Studies now support the theory that autism results from a lack of normal neural growth during prenatal development. Dr. Temple Grandin of Colorado State University, severely autistic as a child, is presented as someone who overcame her autism and managed to use her way of perceiving the world to her advantage.
30. Understanding the Brain Through Epilepsy
In the midst of a young boy's epileptic seizure, Dr. Fritz Dreifuss describes what is happening to him on a medical level. He explains that a lack of adequate inhibitory neurotransmitter function leads to an "electrical storm" in the brain. Different types of treatment are covered, including valproic acid and radical surgeries, along with how and why they are effective.
31. Brain Transplants in Parkinson's Patients
This module covers the symptoms and mechanisms involved in Parkinson's disease. It explains the effectiveness and limitations of traditional treatment using L-dopa. The module then describes one of the most promising new approaches to treating Parkinson's disease — brain transplant — involving the implantation of fetal tissue into patients' basal ganglia.
The promising results of rehabilitation after brain trauma have encouraged a growing number of centers dedicated to working with brain-injury victims. Specialists at such centers discuss the range of treatments now available, and the cases of actual patients are reviewed. The module shows that people can recover significantly from brain damage.