Sensation, Perception, and the Aging Process

Course No. 1546
Professor Francis B. Colavita, Ph.D.
University of Pittsburgh
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Course No. 1546
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Course Overview

Why is it that we react to the world the way we do, not only in similar ways—turning our heads in the direction of a tap on the shoulder or a sudden movement in our peripheral vision, for example—but often in dramatically different ways as well?

What causes us to gasp in startled fear at sharp sound that our spouse, even though blessed with excellent hearing, appears to barely notice? Why do children twist their faces in disgust when asked to sample the smallest bite of their parents' most recent culinary addiction? How is it that the physically adventurous young person you remember being—the one whose greatest passion was riding the scariest roller coaster imaginable—somehow grew into an adult whose stomach begins to churn nervously at even the thought of such a ride?

The answer, of course, is that each of us—whether a different person or a more recent model of ourselves—isn't reacting to the same world at all.

Though the physical world we occupy may be identical, the reality we experience —the perceptions created when our brains combine the input from our senses with past encounters with those same inputs—is very different. And this is true not only from one person to another, but within the same individual, as well. For our various sensory systems can be altered over time, their acuity changing in response to aging or injury, life experiences, evolving personalities, and other factors.

Rich in science and potent examples and anecdotes, Sensation, Perception, and the Aging Process is a course that takes a distinct approach to the understanding of human behavior—which is, after all, always a reaction to a sensory stimulus.

Learn How We Navigate and Make Sense of Our World

In 24 fascinating lectures, Professor Francis Colavita offers a biopsychological perspective on the way we humans navigate and react to the world around us in a process that is ever-changing. Our experiences are vastly different today than they were when we were children and our senses and brains were still developing; and those experiences are becoming ever more different as we age, when natural changes alert us to the need to compensate, often in ways that are quite positive.

For example, children have many more taste receptors than adults, so they are more taste sensitive. Therefore it's both ironic and understandable that children often prefer bland food drawn from a small list of favorites to avoid being overwhelmed. Adults, on the other hand, lose taste receptors as they age, so getting older often moves us in the opposite direction, prompting us to try new varieties of ethnic cuisines and spicier foods.

One of the delights of this course is the balance of the real-life examples Professor Colavita gives and the crisp presentation of the physiological systems that explain those examples.

How do our sensory systems gather and process raw information from the world, enabling us to see, hear, smell, taste, or touch? How do we keep our balance? Or understand exactly where we are in space, so that we can reach for our morning coffee cup and not close our hands around empty space?

How do our bodies create motor memories that allow us to learn and then automatically perform the most complex tasks—such as the laboriously practiced elements of a golf swing—in one smoothly executed motion, or run through a series of rapid gear shifts while driving on a winding mountain road?

What sort of sensory system allows us to feel pain but also works to protect us from its most intense levels?

Whether exploring the complex structures of the brain or inner ear, explaining with compassion the animal experiments that have given us so much knowledge of sensory systems, or using humorous personal anecdotes to illustrate a point, Professor Colavita delivers a course that informs, entertains, and even prepares us for the changes that lie ahead.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Sensation, Perception, and Behavior
    In addition to presenting an overview of the course, this lecture offers a brief introduction to psychology in general and Behaviorism in particular. It distinguishes between the physical, sensory, and perceptual worlds and introduces the distinction between a sensation and a perception. x
  • 2
    Sensation and Perception—A Distinction
    We learn that the brain is the organ of perception. Beginning in infancy, experiences stored in our brains determine the meanings that sensory events will have for us and that shape our behavior. x
  • 3
    Vision—Stimulus and the Optical System
    We begin learning how our sensory systems do their job of transducing energy from the physical world into language the brain understands—electrochemical activity—starting with the visual system. x
  • 4
    Vision—The Retina
    This lecture explains the contributions that rods and cones—the human retina's two types of receptors—make to normal vision, including visual acuity and sensitivity. x
  • 5
    Vision—Beyond the Optic Nerve
    We look at the role played by the visual information processing centers of the brain in orienting and reacting to objects in space; identifying those objects; and determining their shape, form, color, and size. We also explore the consequences of damage to these processing centers. x
  • 6
    Vision—Age-Related Changes
    This lecture describes how the supporting structures, receptors, and neural elements of the visual system undergo progressive physical changes related to the aging process, and how, as a consequence of these changes, vision is affected in predictable ways as we grow older. x
  • 7
    Hearing—Stimulus and Supporting Structures
    What we call sound is the brain's response to small, rapid, in-and-out movements of the eardrums produced by pressure variations in air molecules. We examine how the supporting structures of the outer and inner ear begin the hearing process. x
  • 8
    Hearing—The Inner Ear
    This lecture explains how the transduction process is accomplished by the auditory receptors, known as hair cells, as well as the difference between the two mechanisms by which sounds from the environment reach those cells. x
  • 9
    Hearing—Age-Related Changes
    We look at several causes of age-related hearing loss, including changes in the ear canal and eardrum, degeneration of the temporal bone, reduced electrical output in the cochlea, progressive death of hair cells, and degeneration of the auditory nerve. x
  • 10
    The Cutaneous System—Receptors, Pathways
    Experimental examination of our skin sense goes back more than 150 years, but the workings—and importance—of the cutaneous system turn out to be significantly more complicated than those original experiments suggested. x
  • 11
    The Cutaneous System—Early Development
    This lecture presents an overview of the research indicating the importance of cutaneous stimulation—especially tactile stimulation—to normal growth and development. x
  • 12
    The Cutaneous System—Age-Related Changes
    Although there are decreases in cutaneous sensitivity that come with age, most have little effect on normal daily living. In fact, tactile stimulation is as important to young and old adults as it is to infants and children. x
  • 13
    Pain—Early History
    Although we learn more each year about pain, many aspects of the topic still remain a puzzle, for example, "good pain" versus "bad pain," the placebo effect, and cultural conditioning. x
  • 14
    Pain—Acupuncture, Endorphins, and Aging
    This second lecture on pain examines a once-controversial technique, explores a possible explanation for its effectiveness, and looks at how age affects our ability to feel different kinds of pain. x
  • 15
    Taste—Stimulus, Structures, and Receptors
    This introduction to the subject of taste looks at how the body gathers taste-related sensory data and why we have natural preferences for certain tastes. x
  • 16
    Taste—Factors Influencing Preferences
    In general, people are born with the same innate taste preferences. Yet by adulthood, people around the world have such different taste preferences that it is difficult to believe those preferences were ever similar. We look at why this is so. x
  • 17
    Smell—The Unappreciated Sense
    When asked which of their senses they would miss the least, many people choose smell. As this lecture shows, however, smell is far more important for humans than we realize. x
  • 18
    Smell—Consequences of Anosmia
    What would it mean to lose the sense of smell? Research findings show the impact might be greater than we imagine. x
  • 19
    The Vestibular System—Body Orientation
    In studying this little-known system, we learn about the components of the inner ear that the body depends upon to respond to and identify changes in our position in space. x
  • 20
    The Kinesthetic Sense—Motor Memory
    Although often referred to as "muscle memory," our kinesthetic sense is much more. It sends to the brain continuous sensory feedback from receptors located not only in the muscles but also in our tendons, ligaments, and joints. x
  • 21
    Brain Mechanisms and Perception
    Evolution has not replaced the older parts of our brain but has simply added new parts. The old ones retain their original functions, while our higher mental processes, including perception, reside in our newest part, the cerebral cortex. x
  • 22
    Perception of Language
    Language is made up of verbal auditory stimuli that have become charged with meaning. It is so critical to humans that it occupies two areas of the brain, one for producing speech and one for comprehending it. x
  • 23
    The Visual Agnosias
    The complex way different "visual association areas" in the brain allow it to integrate sensory data and memory into visual images can occasionally produce extraordinary kinds of deficits. x
  • 24
    Perception of Other People/Course Summary
    This final lecture describes some factors in how we perceive other people and presents a general summary of the course. Finally, it looks at current research and trends in the field of sensation and perception. x

Lecture Titles

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  • 136-page printed course guidebook
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Your professor

Francis B. Colavita

About Your Professor

Francis B. Colavita, Ph.D.
University of Pittsburgh
Francis Colavita (1939–2009) was an Emeritus Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, where he taught for more than 40 years. He also held an adjunct faculty position at Florida Atlantic University. He earned his BA in Experimental Psychology from the University of Maryland and his PhD in Physiological Psychology from the University of Indiana. He went on to complete a two-year postdoctoral...
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Sensation, Perception, and the Aging Process is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 62.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good course A well organized & well presented review of necessary subject for the lay reader. The professor is on top of the field and happy to share.
Date published: 2018-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Young or Old: Interesting and Informing! As I am getting older I thought this would be a good course to prepare me for what is to come and educate me about what is now. My expectations were much lower than the results I obtained. I don't know how many times during the course that I reacted as: "Wow, I didn't know that!" "So that is how it works!" "Now that is interesting." "I can see that happening to me as I age." Great course! Entertaining Professor. I know more about how my body sensors work and how their performance will change as I age.
Date published: 2018-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Better than anticipated Professor Colavita, does an interesting presentation. I have nerve damage from an accident that happened almost 20 years ago. At the time I tracked down every bit of information on the nervous system that I could find. After monitoring his course I find that much has changed over the years. Prof. Colavita presents the new concepts in a logical and understandable fashion. I find that he is an excellent presenter with strong credentials. This course was much better than anticipated.
Date published: 2018-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sensation, Perception, and the Aging Process Fascinating. I wish Dr Colavita would do another series or three.
Date published: 2018-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from very thorough This is a very thorough overview of the topics. Professor Colavita is obviously expert in his field and I don't recall his referencing any notes throughout the series . . . as an educator myself, that alone is remarkable. I enjoy his subtle humor and the specific down-to-earth examples he uses. I anticipate viewing this again and again. Given the production was in 2006, I hope there is a 2nd edition in the works. Thank you Great Courses. And thank you, Professor Colavita.
Date published: 2017-12-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A very good exploration of the science of sensatio The course contains a wealth of interesting information. It's well organized. I'm a retired physician, and I found the level of the science appropriate for my needs as a museum volunteer. I think that an interested lay person will enjoy and benefit from this course.
Date published: 2017-12-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great presentations. Useful information for anyone Knowledgeable and entertaining presentations. It was helpful to my understanding of the aging process and contained lots of detail that I did not know even though I had taken similar courses in college.
Date published: 2017-09-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Scientific but clear The professor provides a great deal of technical material on the function of the senses, but the presentation is always clear. There is considerable discussion of the cleverness of the American military during the Second World War, with many of the inventions still in use. I had considerable knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, and I still learned a lot I didn't know. I now understand better the deficiencies that my husband (age 79) and I (age 72) are experiencing! A terrific course for those of us who are getting up there in years.
Date published: 2016-03-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Lots of meaty details on how our senses work I really enjoyed this course, and was pretty satisfied with the material because I learned how my senses work at a basic but quite detailed physical/chemical/electrical level. Learning how the senses change from birth through to old age was also very interesting to me. The professor presented things in a clear and understandable manner while still using the proper words and terminology. Constructive criticism: I did feel that he went a little too far into the anecdotes, which I loved - don't get me wrong, but towards the end of the course it seemed there were more anecdotes and less scientific material than at the beginning. For example, the way in which the chemical sense of taste and smell work were not covered in very much detail - maybe it's yet unknown - if not then the course should have explained those more. Overall I recommend it, I will probably revisit these in the future at some point.
Date published: 2015-12-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Colavita's teaching is superb This is a remarkably informative and very enjoyable course on the senses and perception. Professor Colavita's use of personal anecdotes to illustrate scientific points makes the course very entertaining and allows students to understand perfectly the science behind sensations and perceptions. I have spent several very pleasant hours following this course and have learnt a lot. Thank you.
Date published: 2015-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Interesting Material This 24 lecture course covers in detail the subject of human perception, meaning essentially the various “senses” including sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, balance, memory, language and facial recognition. The course is a wonderful balance of amazing anatomical detail and psychology. It discusses how these senses generally change over time and how they are affected when they are injured. Totally fascinating.
Date published: 2014-06-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting, well-presented but some caveats I am a former college psychology major who went on to obtain a doctorate in clinical psychology and work in that field. I purchased this course to brush up on the subjects of sensation/perception, which I had not studied since college and especially to learn about the aging process.On the plus side, the material was interesting, easy to listen to, and easy to understand. Dr. Colavita peppers his explanations with many vivid and memorable illustrations from both the research literature and personal experience. He does a terrific job--far better than the typical psychology textbook--of explaining the anatomy of the sensory organs and how these systems work. I found that so much more is known now about this subject than when I was in school that a substantial amount of the material was new to me. On the minus side, I thought that the presentation was somewhat redundant and that information about the aging process seemed an after thought and not well integrated. I would have appreciated a more vivid and integrated picture of the sensory-perceptual world of the older adult, the kind of information that can correct misunderstandings, prepare us for aging and facilitate better cross-generational understanding and empathy. As Dr. Colavita was quite candid about his own senior status and was open about bringing his personal experience to bear on illustrating the basic sensory processes, I am sure that were he to give more attention to aging, he could provide unique and memorable insights.
Date published: 2014-05-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The seven(!) senses reviewed Dr. Colavita's course on sensation and perception was fascinating for a whole host of reasons. Much of what was covered in this course I had learned about before, but Dr. Colavita covers it with clear explanation and presents wonderful new insights. There are some hiccups along the road, but I recommend this course highly. Listeners and viewers should know what they're getting into before buying, though.... Course presentation: Dr. Colavita's presentation was, at first, rather trying. It took me a couple of lectures to get used to his style, but by about lecture 3, it was no longer bothering me. Dr. Colavita has a slight verbal tick, which is distracting only because it is relatively infrequent. He occasionally overemphasizes the end of random words. At first, I thought he was deliberately emphasizing words for meaning. However, it eventually became clear that the words are random and it is merely a verbal tick. Initially, I found Dr. Colavita's humor to be a little odd. I have a dry sense of humor myself, but Dr. Colavita's is desiccated. Eventually, you do realize when he's joking, and his jokes are quite funny. But, again, it takes a bit of getting used to. By the third or fourth lecture, I wasn't distracted by his presentation, and found myself chuckling at his jokes. When he tells the chocolate story, I suspect you'll be laughing out loud. Content: The content is outstanding. As others have noted, this is an introductory course, and the content is relatively shallow. Nevertheless, it is broad and it is comprehensive. You will get a very good introduction to the seven senses (and here I'd thought there were only five) and you'll appreciate not only how they work, but often how they fail. He also introduces a number of fascinating aspects of each sense that go completely unnoticed by us, but are often critical to function. The failures of these unnoticed aspects are often catastrophic. Learning about these aspects of both sense and cognition was fascinating. Dr. Colavita's description of our sense of smell is particularly fascinating, since this is an area that few of us pay any attention to. This course will teach you why we should pay lots more attention to it! A warning: Dr. Colavita does describe a number of (many) experiments, usually animal but even some older human experiments, that are disturbing to hear. The description of the experiments is not pointless, however. The results highlight some aspect of either sense or pathology that is part and parcel of the content of the course. In addition, it's clear that much of our understanding of how our senses work was facilitated if not totally dependent on research of this kind. In general, I'm no defender of animal experimentation and I suspect that animal experimentation is badly overused. But we shouldn't turn our backs on research that has already been done, however horrible it was. However, be prepared for these descriptions and know that you'll need to suppress an emotional reaction to understand the results as dispassionately as possible. Updates: This course was recorded in 2006, and Dr. Colavita gives us an overview of some of the directions that research was heading at that point in time. It's a shame that Dr. Colavita will never get a chance to update the course. (He and his wife were killed by a drunk driver in Florida in 2009.) I am fascinated by two areas of research that Dr. Colavita mentions but which have been much further advanced in the last 8 years. When Dr. Colavita talks about pain perception, he discusses situations in which pain is actually good. One area being actively researched today is the role of mother's pain during childbirth. It's now clear that the experience of pain promotes the release of endorphins and a whole series of additional hormones. While their roles are still being studied, it may be that mother's pain during childbirth facilitates bonding , milk let-down, baby alertness, and a host of other important aspects of healthy childbirth. Who knew pain could be so positive?! Additionally, there is lots of research ongoing relating to mother-baby identification through smell. Dr. Colavita covers this topic, but much has been learned in the last eight years. (see, e.g., ) (I would swear that I saw something about maternal growth of additional smell receptors in advance of birth in order to facilitate baby recognition, but I can't find it now for the life of me. I may have imagined it, or it may have been internet non-sense.) Conclusion: I hope buyers won't be turned off by the descriptions of animal experiments. While they are clearly disturbing, the course content more than makes getting through these descriptions worthwhile. Overall, I highly recommend this course. Don't let Dr. Colavita's mild distractions or the fear of hearing about the dirty business of science experimentation deter you.
Date published: 2014-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worth Multiple Listenings This has been one of my favorite TC courses to date. I have listened twice already, and look forward to another round sometime in the future. It influenced the way that I made wine.
Date published: 2013-12-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Informative, but disturbing This was an informative course, but many of the descriptions of animal experimentation were disturbing to me. Most of these experiments were obviously unnecessary -- I was going to give an example, but it's too horrible to relate. Suffice it to say that the outcome of the experiment was obvious beforehand, so there was no reason to subject sentient beings to torture and death. Even the professor, a former animal experimenter himself, called one of these experiments "brutal," and in another admitted that the experimenters "felt sorry" for the animals. If you're deciding to purchase this, be aware that you will hear some things that may be disturbing and may haunt you for a long time afterwards. That said, the other content of the course is very worthwhile. But, personally, I wish I had skipped this one; what I learned, while valuable and appreciated, was not worth the images I now carry in my head of those poor animals.
Date published: 2013-06-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Blockbuster Course Most of us will experience multiple perceptual changes during our lives. Colavita, now deceased, was a much-loved interpreter of behavioral/physiological studies. The audio works quite well and the guidebook is comprehensive, with effective graphics. Some seem to say that the video is tedious. I enjoyed my second time through this classic course as much as I did on first review 6 years ago. PROS: 1. With financial hardship becoming more commonplace, this course may help multi-generational homes understand the joys and limitations of perceptual differences. Aging myself and with a live-in grandson, Colavita's contrast between the old and young is delightfully apparent in my family. And it's just nice to understand why other people might "see" things very differently. 2. Some call Colavita meandering. The sometimes medically rare conditions turn a few readers off. Others, including myself, call the digressions entertaining. The rare conditions are there to explain the "why" of science: this stuff does occur. For example, in the military I had the experience of global aphasia due to a complex partial seizure. I cannot describe the awesome experience of being fully conscious while watching others talk, not understanding their words and not being able to reply. With a part of my brain temporarily out of order, I had not changed, but communications were suddenly a problem. 3. His discussions of the organs of perception are very clear. He works hard to provide an accurate description of how things really work. The auditory lectures are very useful for aging men and there are many tips in all sections on what you can [and can't] do via a healthy lifestyle. 4. There is an awful lot of stuff here that is good for everyday living as well as insight into unusual conditions. If you've ever passed a car staring at the driver and noticed the driver turn to check out your stare long before you are in his line of sight, your answer is in Colvita's vision section rather than in psychic powers. If you want to know why the inverted retina is not a flaw [see p 16]; what "Blindsight" means [p 21]; why your grandchild's audiology test must be interpreted much differently than your own; why appropriate touch is of life & death importance [Lecture 12]; how cultural influences language development; the amazing sophistication of baby babbling; why limbs can suddenly "give way"; hear about the real-life SciFi of motion agnosia [where people suddenly appear out of nowhere], etc. listen to Colavita. CONS: [Lecture 1] Psychology occasionally harbors a deep [& dangerous] flaw. In Colavita's words: "Psychology accepts the principle of determinism, which is the basic assumption of all science". This concept is wrong-headed and leads to dangerous social policy. Determinism only works well with very simplistic starting conditions, ie: Pavlov's dogs or a damaged brain. It is a tool, not a basic assumption of science. Science is the study of what is knowable about existence. It includes the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, nonlinear mathematics with positive feedback loops [part of human cellular structure], strange attractors [a primary indicator of robust systems], etc. None of these are compatible with determinism. They, not the relative child's play of determinism, are the basis of science.
Date published: 2013-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from SUPERB TEACHING, HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION DVD Review: This is a brilliant, sublime course, of value to everyone. The late and deeply lamented Professor Colavita (passed January 1st 2009) was a gem, gifted with a remarkable ability to make his points easily, with a perfect balance of gravity and humour. I am an animal lover, past president of an anti-vivisection society, so I had to suppress my gut feelings when the lecturer spoke of various animal experiments. He also referred to very early experimentation with human babies and children which today would be criminal offences. Dr Colavita is not always aware which camera is live, and, yes, he does suffer "haltings" or pauses from time to time as one reviewer stated, but I think these are very minor aspects when considering his presentation overall. You won't hear "Y'know" or "I mean" continually (just some "ums"); he is very smartly dressed, does not have any major tics, plus his voice is clear, his command of English praiseworthy. With his lengthy and deep experience in the field, the lecturer has a remarkable command of his subject and is eager to pass on the information; it is essential to pay close attention. I would strongly recommend that if you buy the audio version, you do NOT listen while driving. All lectures were excellent, his explanations vibrant... for example in detailing the difference between reality and perception. He draws on many anecdotes from his personal experience to highlight specific points. Often I found myself thinking "Ah! So that's why (such and such) happens". Wonderful! Truly, Dr Colavita brings it all together, explaining how all five senses work, reality vs perception, and the process & effects of ageing (e in there because I'm English!). An important note: even if you have no science background at all, you will be able to follow the lectures with no problem. Highest recommendation, a superb course.
Date published: 2012-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My perception on this aging process, sensational I very much enjoyed this course and to my mind that is the purpose of these lectures. There are no tests after all and the details missed or not fully grasped may be delved into by something as simple as viewing the course more then once. The awareness brought to mind on just how human knowledge is gained, typically at the expense of helpless animals, does not make the information gathered any less valuable. Dr. Colavita's presentation technique caught me off guard and I must admit I actually had tears in my eyes when his humor was displayed fully at around 21:49 in the last lecture. While I have now viewed 16 lecture series this is the first time I have been moved to make a review. I find it sad that the professor has passed away. I was looking forward to more lectures by him.
Date published: 2012-11-05
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Experiments on animals If you are a cat lover, don't buy this course. The professor makes frequent references to his experience with experiments on animals. If lecture five, when he talked about an experiment that involved blinding cats to study vision, I couldn't continue. I asked for a refund.
Date published: 2012-08-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Just OK This course is ok, but I've acquired a few different Great Courses discs on similar topics and found the others to be more challenging and enjoyable. The Professor is ok, but occasionally meanders off into tangents and then has to remind himself what he was talking about previously. His voice is pleasant but not compelling, he sounds like your friendly, gentle uncle. The course format is straightforward and easy to follow, dealing with first describing one of the senses, explaining how it works, and then exploring how it changes over time. I wish a bit more time would be spent exploring how the senses change over time and why, as this is the more interesting subject matter to me personally.
Date published: 2012-08-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great content, personable professor This course packs in a lot of content! My wife and I were both pleased with the wide range of topics covered, the clear explanations, the many examples, including personal stories, and the time we spent "with" Professor Colavita. Minor haltings and not being in tune with he active camera angle prevent a 5-star rating for presentation, but the course is very worthwhile.
Date published: 2012-03-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating As someone in the medical field, I listened with a fairly critical ear. Dr. Colavita does an excellent job of covering all 5 senses in a comfortably detailed way that everyone can understand with no science background at all. He also presents various problems that occur when part of the process (whichever sense he's discussing) isn't quite working properly (he also brings in the aging process). By the end of the course people will have a great understanding of how and why we "perceive" the world.
Date published: 2011-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Introduction to How the Senses Work Having recently completed this course, I agree with other reviewers who found it very accomodating to science novices. I knew very little about the senses and perception before I took this course; I have an arts background. I just enjoy learning. The only other science course I can remember taking from Teaching Company is the one that teaches you the constellations, which I also liked. I listened to this class on CDs in my car and that worked great for me, although it did occasionally help to look over some of the diagrams in the course booklet afterwards. The professor's stories were enjoyable. Along the way, you will learn all kinds of wacky things, like why those little old ladies have blue hair and why your wife loves chocolate. I must confess that I wasn't originally interested in the aging aspects of the class, but that turned out to be very interesting, helpful in understanding and being sensitive to the challenges that older people experience. That part is really practical if you spend significant time around seniors. I especially enjoyed learning about the different areas of the brain, what they do, and how they interact. The course also confirmed some things that I knew from life experience; a lot of the conclusions that researchers have come to through scientific experiments are common sense. People who really love animals might find some of the laboratory anecdotes difficult, but they aren't graphic or presented callously. The professor's voice is very pleasant to listen to, kind of a grandfatherly baritone. He doesn't have any distracting qualities to his presentation, in my opinion, although I am a lot more tolerant than others. The overall style is friendly and a little casual. I want to take other courses about the brain and perception to go deeper, but I am glad that I took this one first. I think it has prepared me to go to the next level. I was otherwise unfamiliar with things like ganglion cells and the cutaneous system. As I had forgotten whatever I might have once learned in biology class long ago, I didn't mind having these things explained to me again. I gave this class 5 stars because I got everything I expected out of it information wise, and it was enjoyable.
Date published: 2011-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating topic charmingly presented I purchased this course as the third selection of a "buy two, get one free" deal, as much because it was one of the sale items in the relevant price range as for any intrinsic interest in the topic. And yet I found the material absolutely fascinating. If, like myself, you don't have much prior knowledge of the subject, this course will greatly enhance your understanding of how your senses work, how your brain interprets the data it receives from the sense organs, and how sensation and perception change over time. Dr. Colavita has the manner of a neighbour speaking to you over a backyard fence. His knowledge is exceptionally wide-ranging but he delivers it in a folksy, conversational style. The concepts are illustrated with copious well-chosen and often humorous or startling examples. The lectures are well organized and, despite having no scientific background, I found them easy to follow. This course may have very practical impacts on listeners also. To give my example, as a (totally foolish) child I shot a pop gun close to my ear repeatedly to see what would happen; what happened was I permanently damaged my hearing in one ear. Dr. Colavita's discussion of hearing problems and their remedies gave me hope that I can improve my hearing, so I'll be booking an appointment with an audiologist shortly. I loved this series so much that I Googled Dr. Colavita to see if he had other courses on offer. I was saddened to discover that there will be no further courses from this genial and gifted teacher. Dr. Colavita and his wife were killed by a drunk driver in February 2009, less than three years after he recorded this lecture series. You can find quite a few personal tributes online from his students and colleagues; I feel privileged that I got to experience his teaching through this course and can relate just a little bit to what those who knew him lost. What a waste. I hope Great Courses releases this on Video Download as I would love to share the experience of watching this with my wife (who prefers video to audio-only).
Date published: 2011-10-28
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing I purchased this DVD set at a very good price, otherwise I might have returned it. I enjoyed the professor, but the material lacked depth. Most of the lectures focused on the anatomy of the senses, which is much better presented in "Understanding the Brain" with Jeanette Norden (Excellent) or Dr. Goodman's two lecture series. I was hopeful when the topic turned to the cutaneous system, and how we perceive various stimuli as pain or pleasure/hot or cold etc. But again, it was a mere introduction and lacked depth.
Date published: 2011-10-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perception and how it changes over time This was very interesting. For each of the senses, there would be lectures on the sensing biology followed by one on how things change as we age (personal area of expertise of Professor Calavita). These were very detailed and I learned new things about every sense. The descriptions of how things change as we age was illuminating. A key part of the course is the difference between sensation and perception. The latter being how the conscious brain interprets the stimuli. Probably the most fascinating lecture was the one on what we have learned about vision processing in the brain from people with very localized brain damage that takes out a particular function. For example, not being able to perceive things that are moving or to be able to see something and describe it, but not be able to point to where it is. I listened to this course and that was fine.
Date published: 2011-09-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Physiology and Physics as Behavioral Constraints These lectures are more technical than the course title suggests. Professor Colavita delivers his message with a warm and personal touch and the lectures are interesting and informative. At times, his style is refreshingly casual, yet he still covers a lot of material. I recommend these lectures to the following audiences: pre-med students, everybody over age 35-40 who can sense the inevitable growing constraints related to aging, anybody interested in biology or psychology, and finally younger people who need motivation to protect and preserve their hearing. I listened to this course while commuting and while restoring an older vehicle. Due to the technical nature of physiology, the lectures do require some focus, but the course is perfectly suited to an audio format and background listening. Professor Colavita discusses some historical experiments on animals and humans that could make some listeners upset or squeamish, but that is the nature of the history of science and medicine. History has some warts and accepted practices evolve, but we can still learn from the past.
Date published: 2011-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sensation-al Very well done. Thorough coverage of the subject, peppered with interesting anecdotal material. I agree with one reviewer that he could have included discussions about illusions and what that teaches us about how the brain works. I take issue with one statement he made saying that hearing loss in the elderly in the upper registers being not serious because hearing speech is not affected. I recognize that the word 'serious' is relative. As one that is experiencing hearing loss in the upper registers, some speech sounds do get lost, especially the hard consonant sounds such as k, s, t, z, ch. The result is to hear speech as a run of vowel sounds only which can be very difficult to understand. Female voices become more difficult to understand also simply because they tend to be in a higher tone. Young teenage girls serving as waitresses and who speak rapidly are especially maddening.
Date published: 2011-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from IMPORTANT FOR UNDERSTANDING SENIOR YEARS I believe it would be more helpful to view these lectures on DVD. I listened to the CD'S. This series belongs in that growing group of TGC lecture series on how to enjoy, or cope with, many of the problems of aging. No matter how hard one follows exercise, diet, weight, life style and other suggestions, there are certain verities to aging that have to be faced. The challenge, of course, is an individual thing. But, the more one can know about the issues, the better one is armed to face them. It'a particularly important in communicating with--at least for me as someone in his eighties-the harried medical professionals of today. His detailed description of the physiology of hearing was particularly meaningful, but that's only one of many examples one could furnish. Dr Colavita's forthright lecture style allows him to describe technical details in an easily comprehensible fashion. This lecture series may be most useful to a defined older subgroup of listeners or viewers, but that doesn't detract from its appeal to caregivers, or those interested in learning more about some of the strange practices and attitudes of our species which is a whole additional side to these lectures which is outside the purpose of this review. Dr Colavita does an excellent job to getting his intellectual arms around a large group of aging and health issues. He deals in considerable detail with some common problems, and I believe this is a very helpful series which is recommended to the general public..
Date published: 2011-05-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Captivating--EvenToOneAlreadyWellVersedInPercpPsy I happened to buy this course on audiocasette tape -- thinking "I already know all about Perceptual psychology, so I'll just listen to it in car & see how presenter does (even though I could have bought CD)." Boy was I surprised! For someone (me) expecting this all to be "old hat" (already well-known to me) and just a way to study the presenter, I was TOTALLY CAPTIVATED. Now you know why my bit of background mattered. The presenter is superb in delivery style. He is a captivating speaker. The delivery & intonation (prosody for the linguists amongst you) is so well matched to every nuance of the kind of thing he is saying. So, yes, the presenter is a model of speaking generally. But the material IS well-organized. And what really blew me away was this: here I was having had an actual Perceptual Psychology course, a cog psych course, and having attended PhD dissertations and seminars in Perceptual Psychology -- and I still got stuff from the lectures I never knew about. Moreover, those items new to me seemed like they really SHOULD have been presented to me before, but weren't. So that means the choice of material was excellent. As for any negatives, well, some discussion should have been given to the ROLE illusions play (auditory or visual) in perceptual psychology. The point should have been made that they are not cute games, but clues to how it is that we DO get only a hundred gazzillion correct percepts per day. If you can find what it takes to get an incorrect perception (the illusion) then you've learned something. This was the only item missing. (Example: Hochberg-Beck trapezoid/flat-square -- which looked darker? -- demonstrated that we take into account DIRECTION of illumination [subconsciously] in our percept of brightness of material.) This was the only kind of thing missing. Otherwise, totally captivating. And the info on perception in the aging person was a nice bonus.
Date published: 2010-02-04
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