Psychology & Psychiatry

Visualising mental valuation processes

Rafael Polanía and his team of ETH researchers have developed a computer model capable of predicting certain human decisions. With it, researchers can predict for example which food someone in a supermarket will choose to ...

Medical research

There's more to oxytocin, the so-called love hormone

A new study published in Nature Communications reveals that the role of the hormone oxytocin may extend beyond childbirth and social behaviour. By analysing gene expression maps and brain activation patterns, researchers ...

Neuroscience

Uncovering the evolution of the brain

What makes us human, and where does this mysterious property of "humanness" come from? Humans are genetically similar to chimpanzees and bonobos, yet there exist obvious behavioral and cognitive differences. Now, researchers ...

Cancer

3-D-printed tumor model shows interaction with immune cells

Around a glioblastoma, a very aggressive brain tumor, cells of the human immune system help the tumor instead of attacking it. To explore the interaction of these cells, scientists of the University of Twente have created ...

Alzheimer's disease & dementia

Professional classical musicians are not protected from dementia

Listening and practicing music have been reported to have many beneficial effects on human health. The effect of music on human brain has been previously studied in young professionals but studies on the long-term effects ...

Neuroscience

How we identified brain patterns of consciousness

Humans have learned to travel through space, eradicate diseases and understand nature at the breathtakingly tiny level of fundamental particles. Yet we have no idea how consciousness – our ability to experience and learn ...

Alzheimer's disease & dementia

A new culprit of cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease

It has long been known that patients with Alzheimer's disease have abnormalities in the vast network of blood vessels in the brain. Some of these alterations may also contribute to age-related cognitive decline in people ...

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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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