The human brain is a highly complex organ, which relies on a lot of different processes in order to work properly. Not only does the brain rely on many different processes, it’s also responsible for many different functions within your body.
Your brain controls your heart rate, body temperature, and rate of breathing. It also controls your pain response, as well as your response to pleasurable sensations. It moderates your emotions, processes your thoughts, and stores your memories. It translates visual and auditory signals into recognizable images and sounds. It determines whether or not you like the taste of strawberries, or why certain smells remind you of your childhood. It’s your brain that makes it possible for you to read and understand these words on your computer screen.
In fact, there is not one organ or function in your body that your brain doesn’t have a hand in, so to speak.
However, as complex as the brain may be, the way it functions is comparatively simple.
How the Brain Functions
Like a lot of other organs in your body, your brain relies heavily on chemicals to function. In the brain, these chemicals are known as neurotransmitters.
Your brain works by sending signals out to the body, and receiving signals back from the body. The process is instantaneous and happens billions of times a day.
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that carry those signals. Some neurotransmitters control physical functions, like your heart rate; while others control your emotions and thought processes. You make a majority of these neurotransmitters within the nerve cells in your brain and nervous system; however some of these neurotransmitters are also made in other organs, such as your adrenal glands.
Other chemicals in your body, such as hormones, can influence how well your body makes and uses these neurotransmitters. Additionally, issues with the actual brain tissue can also affect how well the neurotransmitters do their job.
Issues with Brain Tissue
The brain is made up of nervous tissue cells called neurons. It is also made up of proteins and fatty tissue.
The brain is divided into multiple sections:
- The cerebrum, cerebellum and brain stem;
- The left and right hemispheres; and,
- The frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes.
Each section of the brain controls different parts of the body and brain, and each section relies on neurotransmitters to relay messages to and from those designated parts.
However, if the tissue in one of those sections is damaged by disease, injury, or an anomaly (such as a tumor) it can affect how the nervous tissue in that section responds to neurotransmitters.
For example, a woman in the United Kingdom had a tumor in her brain that turned out to be an embryonic twin. Because of the location of the tumor in her brain, she was having trouble with reading and listening comprehension, until Dr. Hrayr Shahinian successfully removed the tumor.
Another woman, in Ireland, had a tumor deep within the center of her brain. Because of its location, the tumor actually interfered with vital bodily functions. In this instance, Dr. Hrayr Shahinian was able to remove that tumor and save her life.
Tumors aren’t the only threats to normal neurotransmitter function. Brain injuries, such as severe concussions, can also have a long-term effect on the way neurotransmitters function in the brain. Additionally, certain mental illnesses can prevent you from making certain neurotransmitters, or it can cause your body to reabsorb the neurotransmitter before your brain can use them effectively.
In the case of a brain injury, surgery on the brain could correct the problem and help restore proper brain function. In cases where surgery is not an option, physical therapy and medication can help restore some or all of the neurotransmitter activity in the brain.
In the case of mental illness, a combination of medication and therapy can help restore neurotransmitter function.
Although the brain is a complex organ, it relies heavily on fairly simple chemicals to transmit and receive the signals that allow it to function. Although these chemicals are fairly simple, there are thousands of them and they all perform specific jobs within the body and brain.
Anything that disrupts the action of those chemicals can disrupt brain function and cause problems in all areas of the body – from memory and behavior to life-saving functions like your heartbeat and breathing.
This is why it’s important to make sure your body is healthy, to ensure that it can support the production of these chemicals, and to make sure that your brain is healthy as well.
Author: Mayank Pal