Anatomy of Brain

Brain Anatomy

BRAIN

BRAIN

Brain acts as a control center by receiving, interpreting, and directing sensory information throughout the body. There are three major divisions of the brain. They are the forebrain, the midbrain, and the hindbrain. Intelligence, creativity, emotion, and memories are a few of the many things governed by the brain. The brain receives information through our five senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing, it assembles the messages in a way that has meaning for us, and can store that information in our memory. It controls our body, receives information, analyzes information, and stores information in our memories. The average human brain weighs about 3 pounds (1300-1400 g), the human brain reaches its full size at about 6 years of age. Continue reading

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Neuroscience & Farts

neuron fractal 1

neuron fractal 1 (Photo credit: Anthony Mattox)

The communication process of neurons in the brain is best explained by starting at the beginning.  Most people have about 100 billion nerve cells, which are also called neurons.  The basic purpose of all neurons is to receive and transmit information.  Dendrites, which are miniscule fibers extending beyond the neuron’s cell body, pick up incoming messages from other neurons and communicate them to the cell body.  The axon is a long fiber which extends far beyond the cell body.  The function and main purpose of the axon is to transmit outgoing messages to neurons which are close by.  The axon can also communicate outgoing messages to nearby muscles or glands.  “Terminal buttons at the end of each axon release chemical substances called neurotransmitters” (Morris & Maisto, Understanding Psychology, 2010, p.42).

Neurotransmitters are chemicals which have been released by the synaptic vessels that travel over the synaptic area, affecting nearby neurons.  Synaptic vessels are tiny sacs in a terminal button that release chemicals into the synapse.  The synapse is “the entire area composed of the axon terminals of one neuron, the synaptic space, and the dendrites and cell body of the next neuron” (Morris & Maisto, Understanding Psychology, 2010, p. 45).  Some common neurotransmitters have distinct effects on human behavior.  Examples of these types of neurotransmitters are acetylcholine, dopamine and serotonin.  Acetylcholine plays a role in arousal, attention, memory and motivation.  Dopamine usually affects voluntary movement, learning, memory and emotions.  Serotonin is related to emotional experiences and is often referred to as “the mood molecule” (Morris & Maisto, Understanding Psychology, 2010, p. 47).  Endorphins are also associated with the inhibition of pain.  These neurotransmitters are typically present during strenuous exercise, such as running.  Endorphins could possibly be responsible for the condition known as “runner’s high.”  Research conducted on the effects of endorphins and their relation to opiates, such as heroin, have concluded that when a drug user takes more of these types of drugs to emulate the same “high” given off by endorphins naturally, they lessen their own capability of naturally producing these neurotransmitters, thus requiring more of the drug to sustain their “high.” Continue reading

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Brain area ‘where evil lurks’ doesn’t exist

English: Middle frontal gyrus in the human brain.

English: Middle frontal gyrus in the human brain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Evil is alive and is lurking in the brains of certain individuals, if you believe news reports linked to a respected German neurologist. The news of the scientist’s discovery, however, has attracted some naysayers — including the neurologist himself.

According to The Independent, Dr. Gerhard Roth of the University of Bremen‘s Brain Research Institute reportedly discovered “the region of the brain where evil is formed and where it lurks” by performing brain scans on violent convicted felons.

“We showed these people short films and measured their brain waves,” Roth was quoted as saying in the Daily Mail. “Whenever there were brutal and squalid scenes, the subjects showed no emotions. In the areas of the brain where we create compassion and sorrow, nothing happened.” Continue reading

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Neurons can be reprogrammed long after they’ve matured, study finds

Human brain image via Shutterstock

These drawings by Santiago Ramón y Cajal show the cellular structure of three different areas of the human cerebral cortex. The cortex is the seat of higher mental functions such as language and decision-making, and contains dozens of distinct, specialised areas. As Cajal’s drawings show, the cortex has a characteristic layered structure, which differs somewhat from one area to the next, so that the layers vary in thickness according to the number of cells they contain.

Cells throughout the cortex are arranged in a highly ordered manner. Those in layers 2 and 3, for example, send fibres to the other side of the brain, whereas those in layers 5 and 6 send theirs straight downwards. This organization is under genetic control and, once established, was thought to be fixed. Now, though, researchers at Harvard University report that fully matured neurons in the intact brain can be made to switch identity and re-route their fibres to acquire the characteristics of cells in other layers. Continue reading

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Sciatica – Overview

If you suddenly start feeling pain in your lower back or hip that radiates to the back of your thigh and into your leg, you may have a protruding (herniated) disk in your spinal column that is pressing on the roots of the sciatic nerve. This condition is known as sciatica.

Symptoms

Sciatica may feel like a bad leg cramp that lasts for weeks before it goes away. You may have pain, especially when you sit, sneeze, or cough. You may also have weakness, “pins and needles” numbness, or a burning or tingling sensation down your leg. Continue reading

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Learning About Parkinson’s Disease

What do we know about heredity and Parkinson’s disease?

Press advert for Parkinson's Disease Society

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurological condition that typically causes tremor and/or stiffness in movement. The condition affects about 1 to 2 percent of people over the age of 60 years and the chance of developing PD increases as we age. Most people affected with PD are not aware of any relatives with the condition but in a number of families, there is a family history. When three or more people are affected in a family, especially if they are diagnosed at an early age (under 50 years) we suspect that there may be a gene making this family more likely to develop the condition.

Genetics: The Basics

Our genetic material is stored in the center of every cell in our bodies (skin cells, hair cells, blood cells). This genetic material comes in individual units called genes. We all have thousands of genes. Genes carry the information the body needs to make proteins, which are the substances in the body that actually carry out all the functions we need to live and grow. Our genes affect many things about us: our height, eye color, why we respond to some medications better than others and our likelihood of developing certain conditions. We have two copies of every gene: we inherit one copy, one member of each pair, from our mother and the other from our father. We then pass only one copy of a gene from each pair of genes to the next generation. Whether we pass on the gene we got from our father or the one from our mother is purely by chance, like flipping a coin heads or tails.

We all have genes that don’t work properly. In most cases the other copy of the gene makes up for the one that does not work properly and we are healthy. A problem only arises if we meet someone else who has a non-working copy of the same gene and we have a child who inherits two non-working copies of that gene. This is called recessive inheritance.

Sometimes if one of our genes is not working properly the other copy of the gene cannot make up for it and that causes a condition or an increased risk of developing a condition. Each time we have a child we randomly pass on one copy of each gene. If the child inherits the copy that doesn’t work properly, they too may develop the condition. This is called dominant inheritance. Continue reading

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Neuralgia explained

Neuralgia is pain in a nerve pathway. Generally, neuralgia isn’t an illness in its own right, but a symptom of injury or a particular disorder. In many cases, the cause of the pain is not known. Older people are most susceptible, but people of any age can be affected.

Almost everyone will experience mild neuralgia at some point, but these bouts are usually temporary and tend to ease by themselves within a few days. Some types of neuralgia are longer lasting, debilitating and so agonising that a person’s quality of life is severely reduced. Trigeminal neuralgia, a condition that usually affects one side of the face only, is said to be one of the most painful medical conditions. Neuralgia can be managed with medications and physical therapy. Surgery is an option in some resistant cases.

Symptoms

The symptoms of neuralgia include:

  • Localised pain.
  • The area may be excruciatingly sensitive to touch, and any pressure is felt as pain.
  • The pain can be sharp or burning, depending on the affected nerve.
  • The affected area is still functional.
  • The muscles may spasm.

Nerve inflammation can trigger neuralgia

Nerve inflammation (neuritis) can trigger neuralgia. Causes of neuritis include:

  • Shingles – inflammation of a nerve, caused by infection with the herpes virus. This common type of neuralgia is known as post-herpetic neuralgia. The pain may linger long after the shingles rash has disappeared, particularly in areas of the face.
  • Infection – the nerve can be irritated by nearby infection, such as a tooth abscess.
  • Pressure or injury – broken bones, slipped vertebral discs (sciatica) or certain tumours can press and irritate a nerve.
  • Syphilis – in its advanced stages, this sexually transmitted disease affects the functioning of the nervous system.

Trigeminal neuralgia

This is the most common type of neuralgia, also known as tic douloureux. The trigeminal nerve supplies various areas of the face, including the cheeks and jaw. Trigeminal neuralgia is characterised by sudden jolts of shooting pain that usually affect one side of the face only. Sometimes, a person experiences pain on both sides of the face, though at alternating times. The pain may be severe enough to cause spasms of the facial muscles (tic). Trigeminal neuralgia turns everyday activities, such as teeth brushing or shaving, into agonising events. Even a gentle breeze blowing on the face can trigger pain. Known causes include multiple sclerosis or tumours pressing against the nerve. Women over the age of 50 years are most commonly affected.

Occipital neuralgia

Irritation of the main nerve that runs from the back of the skull can cause occipital neuralgia. This type of headache or pain is dull, throbbing and localised to the back of the head. The pain can sometimes include the forehead. It is suspected that tense muscles or ligaments may press against the nerve, causing irritation, inflammation and subsequent pain. Other causes may include viral infection, trauma to the neck or bad posture.

Diagnosis methods

There are no specific tests for neuralgia. Diagnosis relies more on ruling out other possible causes for the pain. Tests may include:

  • Neurological examination – to determine specific areas of pain.
  • Dental examination – to check for abscesses that may be irritating nearby nerves.
  • Blood tests – to check for infection.
  • X-rays – to see if the affected nerves are being compressed.

Treatment options

Treatment options include:

  • Treatment for the underlying cause – such as dental treatment and antibiotics for a tooth abscess, or surgery to remove bone from pressing against the nerve.
  • Pain-killing medications – such as aspirin or codeine.
  • Anticonvulsant medications – to treat the pain and muscle spasms associated with trigeminal neuralgia.
  • Antidepressants – to help relieve pain in some cases.
  • Surgery – to desensitise the nerve and block pain messages.
  • Physical therapy – such as physiotherapy and chiropractic.
  • Alternative therapies – such as acupuncture, hypnosis and meditation.

Where to get help

  • Your doctor.

Things to remember

  • Neuralgia is pain in a nerve pathway.
  • Generally, neuralgia isn’t an illness in its own right, but a symptom of injury or particular disorders.
  • In many cases, the cause of the pain is not known.
  • The pain can generally be managed with medication, physical therapies or surgery.
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NINDS Trigeminal Neuralgia Information Page

 

Synonym(s):   Tic Douloureux
Condensed from Trigeminal Neuralgia Fact Sheet

 

What is Trigeminal Neuralgia?

 

Mapping the Brain

Trigeminal neuralgia (TN), also called tic douloureux, is a chronic pain condition that causes extreme, sporadic, sudden burning or shock-like face pain.  The pain seldom lasts more than a few seconds or a minute or two per episode. The intensity of pain can be physically and mentally incapacitating. TN pain is typically felt on one side of the jaw or cheek. Episodes can last for days, weeks, or months at a time and then disappear for months or years.  In the days before an episode begins, some patients may experience a tingling or numbing sensation or a somewhat constant and aching pain.  The attacks often worsen over time, with fewer and shorter pain-free periods before they recur.  The intense flashes of pain can be triggered by vibration or contact with the cheek (such as when shaving, washing the face, or applying makeup), brushing teeth, eating, drinking, talking, or being exposed to the wind.  TN occurs most often in people over age 50, but it can occur at any age, and is more common in women than in men.  There is some evidence that the disorder runs in families, perhaps because of an inherited pattern of blood vessel formation. Although sometimes debilitating, the disorder is not life-threatening. Continue reading

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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) – Management

Management of CFS

Introduction

Managing chronic fatigue syndrome can be as complex as the illness itself. There is no cure, no prescription drugs have been developed specifically for CFS, and symptoms can vary a lot over time. Thus, people with CFS should closely monitor their health and let their doctor know of any changes; and doctors should regularly monitor their patients’ conditions and change treatment strategies as needed.

A team approach that involves doctors and patients is one key to successfully managing CFS. Patients and their doctors can work together to create an individualized treatment program that best meets the needs of the patient with CFS. This program should be based on a combination of therapies that address symptoms, coping techniques, and managing normal daily activities. Continue reading

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Brain Fog Causes

English: The Cycle of Obstructive Sleep Apnea ...

English: The Cycle of Obstructive Sleep Apnea – OSA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are times when we are firing on all cylinders, when we feel alert, focused and on the ball and inevitably these times see us being highly productive and creative and achieving a lot. Then there are the other times, when we feel lethargic, when we can’t quite concentrate on anything – when we feel detached and where the world feels like we’re viewing it through a thick fog. For this reason the term is described as ‘brain fog‘ and this is something that many of us dread as it means we are destined to be unable to work well and to spend minutes sitting there staring into space and being unable to concentrate.

There are many different types of ‘brain fog’ and actually this is not a technical term or even a colloquial one for any particular condition or ailment. It is a general term to describe any scenario in which we are not quite alert and not quite with it – any time when you get that feeling of detachment that tells you you’re going to be stumbling over your sentences and looking at the computer screen without typing anything. Continue reading

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