Medical research

How the gut influences neurologic disease

A study published this week in Nature sheds new light on the connection between the gut and the brain, untangling the complex interplay that allows the byproducts of microorganisms living in the gut to influence the progression ...

Neuroscience

Scientists identify a new kind of human brain cell

One of the most intriguing questions about the human brain is also one of the most difficult for neuroscientists to answer: What sets our brains apart from those of other animals?

Medical research

Leptin hormone spurs body's shift from burning carbs to fat

To keep the human brain supplied with energy when food was scarce, mammals evolved the ability to switch from burning carbohydrates to burning fat in order to preserve skeletal muscle that would otherwise be metabolized and ...

Neuroscience

Forgetting uses more brain power than remembering

Choosing to forget something might take more mental effort than trying to remember it, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin discovered through neuroimaging.

Medical research

Scientists keep pigs' brains alive for 36 hours

US-based researchers have successfully kept alive the brain cells of decapitated pigs for 36 hours, sparking concerns over the ethics involved in such frontline research.

Neuroscience

Researchers create first artificial human prion

Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine researchers have synthesized the first artificial human prion, a dramatic development in efforts to combat a devastating form of brain disease that has so far eluded treatment ...

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Human brain

The human brain is the center of the human nervous system and is a highly complex organ. Enclosed in the cranium, it has the same general structure as the brains of other mammals, but is over three times as large as the brain of a mammal with an equivalent body size. Most of the expansion comes from the cerebral cortex, a convoluted layer of neural tissue that covers the surface of the forebrain. Especially expanded are the frontal lobes, which are involved in executive functions such as self-control, planning, reasoning, and abstract thought. The portion of the brain devoted to vision is also greatly enlarged in humans.

Brain evolution, from the earliest shrewlike mammals through primates to hominids, is marked by a steady increase in encephalization, or the ratio of brain to body size. The human brain has been estimated to contain 50–100 billion (1011) neurons[citation needed], of which about 10 billion (1010) are cortical pyramidal cells.[citation needed] These cells pass signals to each other via approximately 100 trillion (1014)[citation needed] synaptic connections.

In spite of the fact that it is protected by the thick bones of the skull, suspended in cerebrospinal fluid, and isolated from the bloodstream by the blood-brain barrier, the delicate nature of the human brain makes it susceptible to many types of damage and disease. The most common forms of physical damage are closed head injuries such as a blow to the head, a stroke, or poisoning by a wide variety of chemicals that can act as neurotoxins. Infection of the brain is rare because of the barriers that protect it, but is very serious when it occurs. More common are genetically based diseases[citation needed], such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and many others. A number of psychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia and depression, are widely thought to be caused at least partially by brain dysfunctions, although the nature of such brain anomalies is not well understood.

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