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Understanding Neuroscience: Brain and Mental Health

Understanding Neuroscience

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As early as the sixth century B.C., a Greek physician performing a dissection noticed the connection between the optic nerve and the brain. Anatomical research through the renaissance gradually documented the connections between the brain, the spinal column, and the nerves that carry neural signals throughout the body. Religious and philosophical worldviews often tend to separate mind and body, but advances in anatomy make the two intimately connected, and so the brain and mental health.

In the late 18th century, Italian professor Luigi Galvani performed an experiment over dead frogs. He applied static electric charges to their muscles and made them twitch—an achievement conceptualizing intention and perhaps even the lifeforce itself had a physical basis. After decades, in his honor, the study and clinical use of electricity in the body were called galvanism. These efforts to understand how the brain sends its signals evolved into today’s neuroscience, a field that has begun to provide anatomical and biochemical explanations and coverings for problems that were once thought to be purely psychological involving emotions and behaviors, not organic processes.

Medical Science, Mind & Brain

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Spanish physician and anatomist Santiago Ramón y Cajal made meticulous descriptions of the nervous system, distinguishing the basic nerve cell, or neuron, through the use of a silver nitrate stain. Neurons in the human body carry messages in billions via neurotransmitter chemicals, released from cell to cell across a vast network. Depending on the chemical mix and therefore the origin of the message, the signals might regulate the autonomic work of internal organs or get interpreted as dreams.

“A Neuron, also called a Nerve Cell, is the primary functional unit of the nervous system. It typically has one axon-the portion of the cell that carries impulses elsewhereby which it connects with other neurons or with muscle or gland cells.”

Early research linked different parts of the brain to different activities—higher-level functions to the cerebral cortex, the language in the left hemisphere, and memory in the right. Later, the advancement in electromagnetic imaging refined the study even further. In 2005, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, for example, used functional magnetic resonance imaging to map increased blood flow to the prefrontal cortex of people subjected to stress.  Research into the role of neurotransmitters has linked chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin to different diseases and disorders the basis for antidepressants.

What Are The Co

mmon Mental Illnesses?

Brain and mental health illness ranges from mild neuroses, universal to the human condition, and often not needing treatment, too dangerous breaks with reality. Bipolar disorder often labeled similar to schizophrenia, is one of the more serious categories of disease, known as psychosis. Some psychoses emerged in genetics and may cause imbalances in brain chemistry. Personality disorders including borderline and narcissistic personality disorder, often trigger antisocial acts and are believed to involve biochemical and social influences that immunize individuals to the emotions that check behavior.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and also the best understood as degenerative brain disease resulting in degraded mental health capacity in the elderly. It has physical characteristics in the brain which most other forms of dementia don’t have. It involves a gradual progression that can begin in middle-aged people. Autism, which is mostly diagnosed among children, can involve challenges with speech, inappropriate and repetitive social behavior, and extreme sensitivity to environmental change.

The Challenge Of Depression

Lobotomy, a controversial surgery with the idea to disconnect the prefrontal lobe, the center of emotion and social behavior, from the brain. It was the stirring brain surgery that might lead to hyper-emotional responses and aggressive behavior. It was pioneered in the 1930s by Portuguese neurologist António Egas Moniz for use with patients suffering severe mental illness. Today such mental health challenges are practiced with antidepressants, which increase available serotonin or norepinephrine-chemicals whose contact with nerve cells improves mood—by inhibiting the tendency for nerve cells to soak up or deactivate those chemicals.

There are a number of challenges in the treatment of depressed patients with brain stimulation. First, there are the legal challenges and they will vary according to where the patients come from and where the surgery might be performed. Second, the challenges of selecting the right patients. Finally, one of the biggest challenges is to decide which part of the brain requires stimulation. Deep brain stimulation for depression is a very exciting development among scientists as it offers hope to patients.

Whose Ideas Shaped Modern Psychology?

Sigmund Freud. The founder of modern-day psychoanalysis, Freud described an individual as divided into an impulsive id, the ego of everyday life, and a controlling superego.

Carl Jung. Breaking with Freud, Jung emphasized culturally or even biologically inherent thought patterns, which he called archetypes, as the forces driving behavior.

Claude Lévi-Strauss. Being an anthropologist, Lévi-Strauss saw people as governed by unspoken structures and underlying social rules, such as taboos and kinship.

B.F. Skinner. Known as the originator of behaviorism, Skinner believed that rewards and punishment shape behavior and developed a system of gratification and withholding as a way to raise children.

Jean Piaget. Child psychologist Piaget argued that the years leading up to cognition and self -awareness determine much about the rest of a person’s life.

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