Over the past two weeks, this course has focused on the importance of the brain as the processing center in the human body. We have learned that thanks to our brain, we are able to turn energy from our environment into energy that our brain can understand and use in addition to previously stored knowledge in order to interpret the world around us quite efficiently (Elbich, Lesson 3: Perception). The brain, which is a highly complicated organ, makes all of this possible. Each and every part of the brain serves a special purpose and allows us to be the highly sophisticated animals that we are by constantly taking in information, analyzing it and sending it to other parts of our brain and body (Goldstein, 2011). However, what happens when the brain is not able to pass this information on correctly?
Well, I myself have witnessed such a thing. My mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous which often disrupts the connections that the brain makes with the rest of the body by damaging the myelin that insulates the nerve fibers and allows for messages in the form of energy to be sent throughout the body via the 180 billion neurons that are found in our brain (Definition of MS; Goldstein, 2011). The degradation of the myelin of different neurons takes places at different times, leaving certain neurons unable to properly send signals to other parts of the brain and body. However, the location of the damaged neurons is key because just as we learned in Chapter 2, many specific areas of the brain serve specific functions. That being said, merely by studying the location of the damage that specific neurons in my mother’s brain have sustained due to this disease, doctors are able to decipher and understand the affects that this has on my mother’s brain function and mobility. For example, she has sustained damage to several neurons in her occipital lobe, which we learned functions as the primary receiving area for vision (Goldstein, 2011). For this reason, she is legally blind in one eye, despite the fact that she has no damage to her actual eye. Instead, she is able to receive the energy from the cones and rods in her eyes and convert them into action potentials that should in theory pass on to other neurons throughout her brain in order to interpret what she is seeing, however these messages are typically not able to pass on due to the lack of insulation that certain neurons have and therefore she is unable to actually pass this information on in her brain therefore making her unable to completely interpret the information she receives from her occipital lobe(Elbich, 2016). Due to the locations of the damage she has sustained, one is able to fully understand where the connections in the brain are cut off, which directly explains the loss of functioning that she experiences in different parts of her mind and body (Elbich, 2016; Goldstein, 2011).
All in all, the brain is an extremely fascinating organism. It has the power to control the human body and mind with much precision, however damage to the brain is somewhat catastrophic because as we have learned in the past two weeks, every part of the brain serves a very specific function and sometimes many functions at once, and damage such as that caused by multiple sclerosis can change the way in which our brain is able to take-in, understand and interpret things about ourselves and the world around us.
Definition of MS. (n.d.). Retrieved on June 27, 2016 from http://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS/Definition-of-MS
Elbich, D. (2016) Lesson 3: Perception. Retrieved from Lecture Notes Online Web site: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1782691/modules/items/20877302
Goldstein, E. B. (2011). Chapter 2: Cognitive Neuroscience. Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research and Everyday Experience (3rd ed.)(pp. 23 – 45). Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.