The human brain is without a shade of doubt God’s most sophisticated creation. It represents the best quintessence of creativity, ingenuity, spark, energy, reflection and automated response, being also the ‘central hub’ of our body, directing emotions, feelings, normal reactions from or towards main organs and keeping us ‘alive and kicking’, of course, together with the heart. Being the main actor in the human nervous system, the human brain, also called ‘general brain’, this organ has the same general structure as that of other mammals, but with a more developed cerebral cortex. Speaking in terms of size, despite the fact that some animals are considerably longer or larger than us, humans, when measured using tools of relative brain size, the human brain is almost twice as large as that of a dolphin and even three times larger than that of a chimpanzee.
What is interesting to point out regarding the human brain is the fact that it weighs almost 1.5 kilograms and makes up about 2 percent of our weight. Containing almost 85 billion nerve cells (neurons), the human brain also has millions of millions of nerve fibers (dendrites and axons), thus forming the ‘white matter’. Its neurons are connected by trillions of connections or synapses. Like all vertebrate brains, the human brain develops from three zones known as the forebrain, midbrain and hindbrain. Whilst the hindbrain enables the appearance and development to regions of the brainstem and cerebellum, the midbrain is the section which becomes part of the brainsteam. Also, it is important to note that all of these have fluid-filled cavities named ventricles. Near the back of the skull, more precisely in the occipital lobe is the place of the visual processing. Furthermore, between the cerebrum and the brainstem, there is the hypothalamus and thalamus. The first of these two relays motor signals and sensory ones, directing them to the cortex and the latter, namely the hypothalamus connects the endocrine system (where, thanks to the pituitary gland, hormones are produced) to the nervous system.
Few people actually know valid information regarding the human brain and the types of diseases or injuries it is subjected to. Also, there are many intricate mechanisms and components which make a brain, not to mention the brain capabilities. Few of us actually acknowledge the fact that, solely thanks to the brain, we are able to memorize certain things, come up with bold ideas, as well as manage to resist throughout the day, providing emotions, planning ahead and putting together pieces of information which are crucial in order to maintain a conversation, manage to finish a specific project or task and cope with stressful deadlines at the office. Thanks to our brain, we are able to fully understand what we are told, to fully acknowledge the things and people who surround us and assign qualities, sensations or feelings. Thanks to our brain, we can perceive things and be able to reflect upon them in a clear and concise mechanism or process. The human brain is so intricate, so special and so fragile, as well as paradoxically strong that most scientists and doctors, not to mention normal people are fascinated by it.
It is interesting to note the fact that the size (or much of it) of the human brain comes from the cerebral cortex, especially the frontal lobes, these being associated with several executive functions, including planning, reasoning, abstract thought, self-control and so on and so forth. Also, you should note that, as compared to that of other mammals, the cerebral cortex area is also significantly enlarged in humans.
People who wish to learn more about the general brain ought to also bear in mind the fact that the brain’s cerebral cortex represents a thick layer consisting of neural tissues which cover the vast majority of the brain. Also, it is important to keep in mind that the layer is comprised of nerve tissues and folded in such a way as to increase the surface amount that can fit into the available volume. The folding pattern is similar across human beings, although there might occur certain variations.
With respect to the structure, as well as the composition of the cortex, it is of utmost importance to bear in mind the fact that it is split into four zones called lobes (namely the frontal lobe, the parietal lobe, the temporal lobe and occipital lobe). Some specialists often include in this classification the limbic lobe and the insular cortex as a lobe. It is essential to note that the limbic lobe represents the type of lobe which has an arc shape. It is located on the medial surface of each brain hemisphere, comprising of temporal, parietal and frontal lobe parts.
Few people fail to realize that, despite the fact that it is protected by the skull and fluids, as well as isolated by the blood barrier, the human brain is prone to a lot of damage and disease. For instance, when accidents occur and a direct hit to the ground happens, the brain might suffer from a severe impact. Nevertheless, the most ordinary forms of diseases/damages include the following: strokes, head injuries and degenerative disorders (Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease) and so on. The least common form of physical damage to the brain is an infection, as there are many biological barriers which protect the human brain and, therefore, it cannot be affected.
When it comes to infections, it is important to bear in mind the fact that these can cause inflammation of the brain (called encephalitis), whose main causes are viruses. These infections can lead to the following consequences: inflammation of the layers of tissue (meninges) which cover the brain and the spinal cord. According to certified sources, bacterial meningitis can spread to the general brain and cause meningitis, which is an extremely serious disease which affects speech, hearing capabilities, extremity functions and leads even to permanent brain damage and death. Up to 15% of the survivors of this form of meningitis are left with very severe and permanent health issues and complications (as a result of WHO or World Health Organization statistics).
According to Chief Medical Editor Melissa Conrad Stoppler and Igor Boyarsky (DO, FACEP, FAAEM), it has been shown that the overall occurrence of meningitis as a consequence of vaccinations from the last years of the 1990s and up until our days, has slightly decreased from approximately 25,000 to 4,100 cases. What is more, the two-thirds of cases included children. It is important to keep in mind that bacterial meningitis usually happens in epidemic-free cases, being also more common in males than females, being also more likely in the colder months of the year, as opposed to warmer ones (such as spring or the beginning of summer). Furthermore, in 2001, WHO published that up to 170,000 annual deaths from the above-mentioned bacterial meningitis occur worldwide. It affects mostly the African continent, being also known as “the meningitis belt.”
Among other pieces of information for brain inflammations, we can include the fact that, usually in meningitis and encephalitis, the inflammation and infection are not present in only one area. It may happen all throughout the brain or within the meninges, along the entire length of the spinal cord and, of course, over the entire brain. Furthermore, according to merckmanuals.com, the infection may be confined to one area, being called an abscess, depending, of course, on the location. It is important to bear in mind that these abscesses, which are very similar to boils, can definitely form in any part of the body, including within the brain. Fungi forms (including aspergilli), protozoa, parasites and other formations can develop in the brain. Therefore, these localized brain infections can consist of a real organism clutter, all enclosed in a protective wall.
When it comes to the distinction between the left brain and the right brain, it is essential to keep in mind the fact that these two rather symmetrical sides are interrelated, yet fundamentally distinct. Both are connected by a bundle of nerve fibers which bear the name of corpus callosum. While the left brain controls all the right-hand side of the body muscles, the left side is being controlled by the right side. The left brain comprises of zones involved in language and speech (Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area), being also associated with mathematical calculation. The right brain plays a visual and auditory role, being also ‘home’ for more inspiring, artistic ideas, spatial skills, and artistic abilities.
What is more, it is essential to bear in mind the fact that a very significant part of the current understanding of hemisphere interaction has come from the study of “split-brain patients”— namely individuals who have gone through the surgical procedure of the corpus callosum in an attempt to significantly reduce the epileptic seizure severity. These people do not show unusual and immediate behavior, yet, in some cases can behave almost like two distinct individuals in the same body, with the right hand taking an action and the left one undoing the very same task. What is more, it is important to bear in mind that the vast majority of patients, when briefly shown a picture on the right side of the point of visual fixation, are able to openly and verbally describe it, yet when photos are shown to the left, they are not able to describe it, yet may be capable of offering an indication with the left hand of the nature of the object shown.
What is more, it is relevant to keep in mind (in connection to the two hemispheres of the brain) that there are certain linguistic processes which the brain subserves. It has been shown that the above-mentioned zones, namely Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas have been traditionally linked with various language functions, being also connected in several non-speech functions. The study of how language is processed or represented, as well as acquired by the brain is neurolinguistics, being basically a large multidisciplinary field (being given by cognitive linguistics, cognitive neuroscience, and psycholinguistics). This field is from the 19th century discovery that damage to the distinct parts of the brain seemed to cause different symptoms: specialists have observed the fact that people with damage to a portion of the Broca’s area, the left inferior gyrus, experienced a rather difficulty in producing speech or language, whereas those with a problem in the Wernicke’s area experienced trouble understanding it.
With respect to brain knowledge and initiatives undertaken by government bodies, it is worth reminding about the 2013 initiative of Barack Obama, which was called BRAIN (an abbreviation which stands for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies). This 100 million dollar initiative is aimed to find and support new programs and technologies which can produce a dynamic picture of the general brain (that belonging to humans, not animals), beginning from the level of individual cells to more complex circuits. It is essential to note that, at the moment in which the project was announced, Obama called upon a commission to evaluate the ethical issues which were involved in the brain research and, furthermore, in May, this released the initial report, calling for ethics to be early and explicitly included in neuroscience research. Furthermore, in March 2015, this same commission issued a second part of the report that was primarily directed towards informed consent and neuroscience and the legal system, as well as on issues of cognitive enhancement. However, some specialists question what the initiative will manage to change, as it is very likely that it will not achieve anything in the end. Also, it is worth noting that opponents of the project claim that it lacks clear goals and may siphon away from further research,
People ought to be aware more of the fragility, yet also the complexity of the human brain, its development and risks, as well as amazing and noteworthy capabilities. As compared to animals, the human brain is capable of much more (its size being also considerably larger). Its structure is also different, as the brain layers contain more neurons per unit volume.