When we want to thank some one profusely, we say “Please accept our heart felt thanks!”. But it is not the heart but it is our brain, that “feels”! No one says” brain felt thanks”.
The Forms of Nervous System
Brain is a highly developed mass of nerves tissue that forms the upper end of the central nervous system. The average adult brain weighs 1.4 kg (approximately 2% of the total body weight). The brain and the spine and their nerves form the central nervous system.
Brain is well protected by the rigid casing formed by the bones of the skull. The skull is quarter inch (0.60 cm) thick at the top and more thicker at the base. The brain is kept immersed in cerebro spinal fluid that cushions the brain from shocks – and vigorous movements of the head. The brain floats in this fluid its weight reducing from 1.4 kg to less than 100 gm. This cerebro spinal fluid normally contains glucose, salts, enzymes and a few while cells but no red blood cells.
Three Connective Tissue Membranes
The three connective tissue membranes that line the skull and vertebral canal and enclose the brain and spinal cord are called “meninges”. The brain is divided into three groups, as follows:-
Hind brain (rhombencephalon) consisting of
a) Medulla Oblongata – functions as major pathway for nerve impulses entering and leaving the skull, responsible for regulation of heart, respiration, swallowing, regulation of blood vessels etc.
b) Pons Varolli – This part links medulla oblongata with thalamus and contains numerous nerve tracts.
c) Cerebellum – This is the largest part of the hind brain. It has an outer grey cortex and a core of white matter. It has two hemispheres. The cerebellum maintains muscle activities, muscle tone, converting muscular contractions into smooth coordinated movements.
Mid brain :- This small portion connects the hind brain to fore brain.
Fore brain:- Subdivided into :-
a) Cerebrum – is the largest and highly developed part of the brain. It is composed of two hemispheres. Each hemisphere has an outer layer of grey matter, the important cerebral cortex, below which lies the white matter, containing basal ganglia. The cerebrum is responsible for the initiation & co – ordination of all voluntary functions in the body.
b) Diencephalon – This includes the thalamus and hypothalamus.
Thalamus:- It is here that conscious awareness of messages as sensations – temperature, pain, touch etc – probably begins.
Hypothalamus – controls emotional activities, sleep, body temperature, thirst, hunger, eating, sexual function etc.
Amazing facts about Brain
Brain has some 30,000 millions of Neurons and 5 to 10 times that number of glial cells. (Glial cells are special connective tissues of central nervous system). Each of the 30,000 million neurons connects with others – some as many as 60,000 times.
For passing signals, the neurons do not touch each other. Signals are passed at “spark gap” fashion at a speed of 350 km/h.
Cerebral cotex, the outer layer of cerebrum, 40% of the brain by weight, is composed of 15 thousand millions of neurons.
Though brain represents only 2% of a man’s body weight, it needs 20% of the oxygen he inhales and one fifth of the blood his body needs.
The brain is totally dependent on constant supply of oxygen, blood and of course Glucose.
Though brain conveys the feeling of pain, the brain it felt has no pain when it is cut.
Neurons (Nerve cells)
Neurons are specialized nerve cells, for transmitting electrical nerve impulses and thus carry information from one part of the body to another. The point of contact of one neuron with another is called “synapse”. An impulse, when it reaches the synapse, causes the release of a “neurotransmitter” which diffuses across the gap and trigger an electrical impulse in the next neuron. Some brain cells have more than 15,000 synapses.
Grey matter means dark colored tissues of the central Nervous system composed mainly of neurons, dendrites (shorter branching neurons) and glial cells. Grey matter forms the important part of the brain, the cerebral cortex which is directly responsible for consciousness, perception, memory, thought, mental ability intellect etc.
This is a paler version of grey matter and is the nerve tissue of the central nervous system. It contains more nerve fibers and large amounts of insulating material called “myelin”. In the brain, white matter lies within the grey layer of cerebral cortex.
These are several large masses of grey matter embedded deep within the white matter of cerebrum. The basal ganglia have complex neural connections with cerebral cortex and thalamus. They are involved with regulation of voluntary movements at a sub – conscious level.
By the age of 35, a man would have been loosing 1000 of brain nerve cells a day. With age, brain loses weight. But the loss of nerve cells is compensated, reducing the damage. But as we age, there may be progressive loss of sense of smell, taste gets less acute and there may be hearing loss. Generally speaking, the brain has two hemispheres – the right controlling the left side of the body and the left hemisphere controlling the right side of the body.
Major problems are strokes. A stroke is caused by a clot in the blood vessels of the brain. Symptoms range from minor mental lapses to paralysis and death. Cerebral tumors are abnormal multiplication of brain cells. Malignant tumors spread fast, causing progressive neurological disabilities. Brain injuries also could be serious. Any injury to the head has to be immediately taken care of.
Other Brain Disorders Are:
Parkinsonism – a disease affecting basal – ganglia. Could be due to depletion of ‘Dopamine’ in the brain.
Cerebral Palsy – a brain abnormality resulting in weakness and in-coordination of the limbs. The brain damage could have occurred at birth, or caused by haemorrhage, viral infection etc. The most common manifestation is spastic paralysis. Cerebral diplegia is a form cerebral palsy in which there is a wide spread damage. Hemiplegia is paralysis of one side of the body. It is caused by disease of the opposite hemisphere of the brain. Poliomyelitis (polio) is caused by an infectious disease involving the spinal cord and brain.
Encephalitis – is inflammation of the brain caused by viral or bacterial infection. It may cause post encephalitic parkinsonism.
Alxheimer’s disease – progressive form of dementia occuring in middle age or later. There is no cure for this disease. It is associated with degeneration of the brain. Dementia causes memory disorders, personality changes, impaired reasoning ability and disorientation.
Meningtis – is the inflammation of the membranes of the brain due to virus infection or bacteria that is responsible for pneumonia, syphilis or Tuberculosis. Symptoms could be intense head ache, fever, loss of appetite, muscle rigidity and in severe cases, fits, convulsions, vomiting, delirium, leading to death.
Epilepsy – It is one of the group of disorders of brain function characterized by recurrent attacks that occur suddenly. Unconsciousness accompanied by convulsions, occur.
One can get his brain to perform well in the same way as he does for his muscles. That is, one has to exercise his brain. Some tips to keep your brain alive are:
– Close your eyes and move about in your room trying to get your clothes or open the almirah etc using only yours senses to guide you. Take a bath or shower or soap your body with eyes shut.
– Follow the second hand of the clock for 1 minute. Think of nothing else. Close your eyes and try to open them in exactly one moment.
– Assign numerical values 1 to 26 to each letter of the alphabet. ( A = 1, B = 2 and so on ) think of 5 words in which the sum of letters equals 38.
– Break a monotonous routine activity. For instance change the route you use to your office, daily, or rearrange your office desk.
Things that reduce your brain function :-
– Avoiding breakfast. Breakfast brings to the brain the much needed glucose after starving in the night. Therefore if breakfast is not provided, brain function deteriorates.
– Excessive eating
– Smoking: This habit can shrinks the brain.
– Eating too much sweets
– Environmental pollution causing oxygen depletion
– Inadequate sleep
– Sleeping with the head covered with bed sheet. This way you breathe in more carbon – di – oxide than oxygen.
– Imbalance in Calcium, Magnesium, Soldium, Pottasium chloride levels.
– Excessive alcohol or coffee.
– High and low blood sugar
– Talking too less or not talking at all. Talking helps to exercise the brain.
– High fever
– Allergic reactions
– Psychotic symptoms
Ayurveda and The Brain
Ayurveda has potent medicines that bolster up the brain function, tone up nerves, increase blood flow to the central Nervous system, improve mental capacity and improve immunity to brain diseases. Brain disorders need to be diagnosed and treated properly, therefore the correct way of treatment is case of brain disorders, is to approach an Ayurvedic Physician. Some of the herbs used are :-
– Bacopa monnieri
– Centella asiatica
– Withania somnifera
– Asparagus racemocus
– Emblica officinalis
– Vitis Vinifera
– Cyperus rotundus
– Evolvulus alsinoides
– Mucuna Pruriens
– Embelia ribes
– Acorus calamus
– Convolvulus pluricaullis ( sanku pushpi )
– Nordostachys Jatamansi
There are also several herbal oils which used externally, are very beneficial.