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Throughout your life, your brain undergoes extraordinary changes.
Fascinating physical developments in your brain unlock each new chapter as you grow. And with billions of neurons and trillions of connections, it responds to your experiences to make you the person you are.
What does the latest research tell us about howour brains work, from the minute we are conceived to the moment we die?
Explore the Brain Diaries to find out….
The Seat Of Consciousness: High Intellectual Functions Occur In The Cerebrum
The cerebrum is the largest brain structure and part of the forebrain . Its prominent outer portion, the cerebral cortex, not only processes sensory and motor information but enables consciousness, our ability to consider ourselves and the outside world. It is what most people think of when they hear the term grey matter. The cortex tissue consists mainly of neuron cell bodies, and its folds and fissures give the cerebrum its trademark rumpled surface. The cerebral cortex has a left and a right hemisphere. Each hemisphere can be divided into four lobes: the frontal lobe, temporal lobe, occipital lobe, and parietal lobe. The lobes are functional segments. They specialize in various areas of thought and memory, of planning and decision making, and of speech and sense perception.
Is There Anything You Can Do To Stop Dissociation In Its Tracks
Experts agree that there are lots of things you can do to reduce the severity of dissociative episodes and even eradicate them altogether. The first step, no matter what the cause of your dissociation, is to seek help from a mental health professional. “From a prevention perspective, getting into good therapy to address and work through the trauma is often essential,” says Dr. Lord. “Once the traumas have been fully digested, the likelihood of dissociation greatly decreases and may actually resolve.” Your therapist may also recommend medication to help manage mental health issues often associated with dissociation. In the longer term, Dr. Lord says activities that require rhythm and engagement, like dancing or singing, can also be helpful for trauma survivors, as they help connect you with your body and other people.
What you don’t want to do, says Dr. Saltz, is to just avoid whatever triggers your dissociative episodes. “Basically, what that does is reinforce as a coping mechanism,” she says. “You’re more likely to help it dissipate if youre able to recreate those triggers in a therapeutic setting. If you learn to manage the symptoms, you become desensitized to the trigger.”
*We withheld Sharon’s full name to protect her privacy.
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The Size Of The Human Brain
- In terms of weight, the average adult human brain weighs in at 1300 to 1400 grams or around 3 pounds.
- In terms of length, the average brain is around 15 centimeters long.
- For comparison, a newborn human baby’s brain weighs approximately 350 to 400 grams or three-quarters of a pound.
- Men tend to have bigger brains than women. After taking overall body weight into account, men’s brains tend to be approximately 100 grams larger than women’s.
- In women, parts of the frontal lobe and limbic cortex tend to be bigger than those of men.
- In men, the parietal cortex and amygdala tend to be larger than those in women.
- Neurons are the structures that serve as building blocks of the brain and nervous system. They transmit and carry information, allowing different parts of the brain to communicate with one another as well as allowing the brain to communicate with various parts of the body. Researchers currently estimate that there are around 86 billion neurons in the human brain.
What Does Your Guts Brain Control
Unlike the big brain in your skull, the ENS cant balance your checkbook or compose a love note. Its main role is controlling digestion, from swallowing to the release of enzymes that break down food to the control of blood flow that helps with nutrient absorption to elimination, explains Jay Pasricha, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology, whose research on the enteric nervous system has garnered international attention. The enteric nervous system doesnt seem capable of thought as we know it, but it communicates back and forth with our big brainwith profound results.
The ENS may trigger big emotional shifts experienced by people coping with irritable bowel syndrome and functional bowel problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain and stomach upset. For decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems. But our studies and others show that it may also be the other way around, Pasricha says. Researchers are finding evidence that irritation in the gastrointestinal system may send signals to the central nervous system that trigger mood changes.
These new findings may explain why a higher-than-normal percentage of people with IBS and functional bowel problems develop depression and anxiety, Pasricha says. Thats important, because up to 30 to 40 percent of the population has functional bowel problems at some point.
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Anatomy Of The Brain And Spine
Learn more about the anatomy and the functions of the brain and spine
- Information and support
- Anatomy of the brain and spine
The brain and spine are vital to keep the body alive and functioning. Everything we do depends on the messages that are sent from the brain, along the spinal cord and on to the rest of the body.
The Big Brain Competition
Brain Diaries introduces some of the fundamental developments occurring in the life of the human brain. But there is much that remains to be investigated and better understood in this rapidly developing ï¬eld.
To coincide with the exhibition at the Museum of Natural History an Oxford University research team offered the chance to use state-of-the-art MRI scanners to investigate the brain, asking the public what they would you like to know.
Read about the results of the Big Brain Competition entries here.
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Other Cool Facts About The Brain
- The brain can’t multitask, according to the Dent Neurologic Institute. Instead, it switches between tasks, which increases errors and makes things take longer.
- The human brain triples in size during the first year of life and reaches full maturity at about age 25.
- Humans use all of the brain all of the time, not just 10% of it.
- The brain is 60% fat, according to Northwestern Medicine.
- The human brain can generate 23 watts of electrical power enough to fuel a small lightbulb.
What Psychosis May Look Like To Others
Its nothing like the movies.
Entertainment and news media give a dramatic and distorted picture of psychosis that tends to emphasize criminal activity and unpredictability. Rachel notes that movies and popular culture tend to portray psychosis as if youre a danger to others.
Its nothing like the movies, Rachel says.
Its really just confusion. Whats scary about it is its very confusing. Nothing makes sense, and the entire time youre trying to make sense of everything going on around you, she says.
Still, it can certainly seem scary if youre watching someone you care about disconnect from reality. They may appear to be talking to themselves, acting erratically, talking about unusual subjects, or just looking completely bewildered.
In these situations, it may be good to remember that theyre probably even more scared than you are.
If you have someone in your life who is experiencing psychosis, dont be afraid. This person is going through something very confusing. Its hard for them to process anything thats going on in the real world.
Their own body isnt making sense. Things that have always made sense just dont make sense anymore, Rachel says.
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What Does The World Look Like Outside Of Our Brains
Asked by: Nye Lewis-Davies
Your question has echoes of the American philosopher Thomas Nagels classic paper What is it like to be a bat? a creature that is able to navigate using echolocation . Nagel wrote that we can never step outside of our own brain and take the bats perspective on the world because we lack their sensory equipment.
Likewise, one could argue that we can never know what the world looks like free from our brains because we can only perceive objective reality through the veil of our senses, such as via wavelengths of light hitting our retina, or odorous molecules stimulating nerve cells in our nose.
We cant even ever truly know if the world looks the same from the perspective of another human brain. For instance, the colour that I label red may subjectively look different to you than it does to me.
We know as a matter of fact that there are aspects of physical reality that we cannot detect ourselves such as radio waves, ultraviolet light and high-pitched ultrasound . And of course, there are likely many other aspects of reality not yet detectable by any creature or our most advanced technology a possibility that fuels the imagination of science fiction writers and mystics alike.
But while our take on the world is restricted by the limitations of our own neurological systems, it would be a mistake to underplay their potential. For starters, we have way more than five senses .
Complete Episodes Of Psychosis
If Im in a fully psychotic episode Im still here, Im just far away.
Rachel distinguishes these everyday symptoms of psychosis in which she can still function in reality from complete episodes of psychosis. These episodes are when symptoms totally take over.
They can last like a few minutes to days. For some people with schizophrenia, they can last much longer. The longest one Ive had was only a few days.
If Im in a fully psychotic episode Im still here, Im just far away.
I know something is wrong. Its not like Im in an alternate reality. I know something is very wrong, and theres nothing I can do about it. And in those moments Ive even had the ability to think, Oh no, what if I dont come out of this?
Nowadays, Rachel is able to recognize the early signs of an episode. One of these signs is when she starts thinking in third person.
So, once I realize Im having one of those warning signs, that means I need to get home and pretty much get into bed. I just need to get safe.
A lot of times when I have a psychotic episode, I lose body parts, Rachel says.
She recalls one time when her arm kept running away from her. It was slithering away like a snake in her bed.
Even when her mom tried to explain to her that her arm was still attached to her body, Rachel kept trying to find it.
There is no rational talking to me about it, she says.
People have asked Rachel if having schizophrenia is like a horror movie.
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What Does A Bipolar Brain Scan Look Like
Bipolar disorder is representative of abrupt shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels. If you’ve heard the term, manic-depressive disorder, it refers to the same disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 2.8% of adults in the U.S. were diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2017. About 4.4% of adults experience bipolar disorder at some point in their lives. The disorder is serious enough that it affects the person’s ability to carry out normal, everyday tasks. The shifts in mood are more extreme than normal sadness and excitement.
Bipolar disorder is still puzzling to doctors and psychiatrists in some respects. To diagnose someone with bipolar disorder, doctors typically use a combination of a physical examination, mood chart, and psychiatric assessment. In recent years, researchers have discovered that advanced technology in bipolar brain scans can help them to diagnose bipolar disorder faster and more accurately. By continuing to study the cerebellum, researchers hope to develop new treatments for bipolar disorder that have few or no side effects.
What Is A Brain Scan?
Our brains control every part of our bodies even our breathing. A bipolar brain scan is an imaging technique that forms a picture of the brain. Brain scans tell doctors many things about the brain. Brain images tell doctors how large or small the brain is, what parts of the brain are functioning well, and how the brain responds during different activities.
What Does Dissociation Feel Like
While dissociation can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity, it doesn’t look the same from person to person. “As people have different brain patterns, their symptoms can vary from periods of spaciness, to panic, to rage outbursts,” says Dr. Amen. Someone can also enter a trance state and have no awareness at all of what’s happening around them, adds Dr. Lord.
That said, there are a few distinct categories of dissociation that mental health experts recognize. “Depersonalization is a form of dissociation where you feel like you’re outside of yourself and you don’t have conscious control of your identity,” says Dr. Saltz. “Derealization is another form, which is feeling like things aren’t real in some way.”
Dr. Saltz adds that many people with PTSD have flashbacks to the traumatic event they experienced during dissociative episodes. “Those intrusive flashbacks are like a daydream you can’t stop having, and you’re unaware of what’s going on now.”
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Multiple Sclerosis: Its In Your Head
Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system that causes damage to your brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. Its characterized by lesions, or areas of tissue damage that occur when your immune system behaves abnormally and attacks these areas.
While many symptoms of MS throughout the body can be caused by lesions in either the brain or the spinal cord, cognitive symptoms of MS those related to your memory, language, and problem solving are believed to be caused only by lesions in the brain.
Brain lesions are a hallmark of MS, but theyre not the only way MS can affect your brain function. MS can also contribute to brain atrophy, or shrinkage, over time a process that occurs in all people as they age, but typically happens much more quickly in people with MS. Brain atrophy, in particular, can contribute to cognitive symptoms of MS.
Brain Stem Keeps You Breathing And More
Another brain part that’s small but mighty is the brain stem. The brain stem sits beneath the cerebrum and in front of the cerebellum. It connects the rest of the brain to the spinal cord, which runs down your neck and back. The brain stem is in charge of all the functions your body needs to stay alive, like breathing air, digesting food, and circulating blood.
Part of the brain stem’s job is to control your involuntary muscles the ones that work automatically, without you even thinking about it. There are involuntary muscles in the heart and stomach, and it’s the brain stem that tells your heart to pump more blood when you’re biking or your stomach to start digesting your lunch. The brain stem also sorts through the millions of messages that the brain and the rest of the body send back and forth. Whew! It’s a big job being the brain’s secretary!
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White And Gray Matter
The CNS can be roughly divided into white and gray matter. As a very general rule, the brain consists of an outer cortex of gray matter and an inner area housing tracts of white matter.
Both types of tissue contain glial cells, which protect and support neurons. White matter mostly consists of axons and oligodendrocytes a type of glial cell whereas gray matter consists predominantly of neurons.
Also called neuroglia, glial cells are often called support cells for neurons. In the brain, they outnumber nerve cells 10 to 1.
Without glial cells, developing nerves often lose their way and struggle to form functioning synapses.
Glial cells are found in both the CNS and PNS but each system has different types. The following are brief descriptions of the CNS glial cell types:
Astrocytes: these cells have numerous projections and anchor neurons to their blood supply. They also regulate the local environment by removing excess ions and recycling neurotransmitters.
Oligodendrocytes: responsible for creating the myelin sheath this thin layer coats nerve cells, allowing them to send signals quickly and efficiently.
Ependymal cells: lining the spinal cord and the brains ventricles , these create and secrete cerebrospinal fluid and keep it circulating using their whip-like cilia.
Radial glia: act as scaffolding for new nerve cells during the creation of the embryos nervous system.
Where Is Your Brain Located
Your brain fills the upper part of your bony head, which is called the skull. The top part of the skull, called the cranium, is made of 8 bones. The rest of your skull includes 14 bones in the face and 3 small bones in each ear. How about that! Altogether, there are 28 bones in your skull, and your brain is tucked safely inside, protecting it from most minor bumps and blows. Learn more about the skull at this Neuroscience For Kids site.
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