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Neuroscience

The Brain: How does it actually work?

The brain, arguably it’s the human body’s most unexplored organ. That’s because it’s a very complicated organ that controls every possible aspect of our life. The way we think, how we feel, touch, see, and even something as simple as breathing, letting us stay alive every second. 

The brain is made of about 60% fat and the rest is water, protein, carbohydrates, and salts. Before understanding the way the brain works, understanding the anatomy of the brain is important. The most common misconception of the brain is that it is a muscle. However the brain is an organ made up of nerves. The brain appears to the untrained eye as a pink glob. If you simply look up the structure of a brain, you’ll see a pink glob with portions that are color coded and each of which is accountable for a specific function. That being, there are three main structures that make up the brain, the cerebellum, cerebrum, and brain stem. 

The cerebral cortex is a part of the cerebrum, which is the front of the brain. This section accounts for thinking, emotion, problem-solving, and personality. The folds of the cerebral cortex completely enclose the cerebrum. Additionally, this region of the brain accounts for 50% of the weight of the entire brain due to its huge surface area.

 The cerebral cortex covers the cerebrum and has four lobes. The frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital lobe. These lobes are in charge of their own activities in the brain. For example the frontal lobe is responsible for language, and other cognitive functions, the temporal lobe (which contains the wernicke area, helping humans understand language) plays a major part in visual perception and hearing, the parietal lobe porches what they see or hear, leaving the occipital lobe to interpret visual information as it also contains the visual cortex. The cerebral cortex’s right hemisphere, also referred to as the right side, governs the left side of the body, while the left side (or left hemisphere) governs the right side. The corpus callosum, a bridge of white matter, connects the two hemispheres (or sides) of the brain. The cerebrum and spinal cord are linked via the brainstem. The brainstem is made up of the midbrain, pons, and medulla. The midbrain aids in awareness and helps you respond to environmental changes, such as potential threats.

The pons have multiple functions, including blinking, facial expressions, and focusing vision. Ten cranial nerves arise from the pons which connect to the face, neck, and trunk. 

The medulla regulated the biological functions which are key for survival such as heartbeat, blood flow, and breathing. This part of the brain detects changes in blood oxygen and CO2 levels. Swallowing, coughing, and vomiting also originate from the medulla. 

Lastly, there’s another section of the brain called the cerebellum, also known as the “little brain”. It’s stuffed underneath the cerebrum at the back of the head. It regulates balance, and movements we’ve learned, like fastening buttons. However, it cannot initiate the movements, it just manages them. The cerebral cortex developed on top of the cerebellum, an ancient portion of the brain, as humans developed. 

There is no single “centerpiece” for the brain. No particular part of the brain acts as a control system that merges signals from various regions. However, instead, multiple connections form a dense network that overlaps between the different regions. Your brain contains billions of nerve cells that are arranged in patterns that coordinate actions and thoughts. Nerves work similar to an electrical circuit, if the brain is considered a big computer. The brain processes information that it receives from the senses and body and sends messages back to the body through the help of nerves. However, in biology, electricity is the movement of charged particles (ions) through a cell’s membrane, also known as the surface layer. An electrical wave travels the entire length of a neuron, also known as a nerve cell, due to the movement of ions. This neuron has longer branches that send messages and shorter branches that receive signals, resembling a tree (called an axon). And at the ends of axons known as synapses, electrical messages leap from one neuron to another. This results in the generation of a fresh electrical wave in that neuron via the release of chemical signals called neurotransmitters. The little chemical neurotransmitters are then released by the neuron in response to the electrical wave at the synapses, where they travel to other cells to connect proteins on their membrane-like cell surfaces. Our muscles receive instructions from our neurons about when to move in this way.

References: 

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/anatomy-of-the-brain

https://www.webmd.com/brain/picture-of-the-brain

https://www.aans.org/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Anatomy-of-the-Brain

https://nida.nih.gov/videos/human-brain-major-structures-functions

https://www.mayoclinic.org/brain/sls-20077047?s=3

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7725213/

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