Featured

Welcome to Neuro-Psych Nerd!

Did you know that the human brain has billions of neurons that serve communication functions in the nervous system? Without them, humans couldn’t think, walk, eat, feel, and more that most of us take for granted.

What is the blog about?

Throughout my blog posts, information will be conveyed about neuroanatomy (how the brain is formed), disorders, and neurophysiology(how the brain functions) . The blog is meant to bring accessible information to sight.

Having the factual and correct information is essential for making decisions about others and one’s own body. Due to my interest in memory type neuroanatomy functioning, a lot of my knowledge will relate back to memory type behaviors or functions.

I will inform factual information and attack misconceptions head-on. The goal is to give the information and let people take that information to make decisions about everyday life decisions using the information.

Addressing questions

I plan on answering questions of readers as well. Email racheleinhaus@icloud.com with any questions or curiosities about the nervous system or behaviors, and we can address it with the blog. This feature will create more of a two-way conversation regarding essential topics.

“Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.”

Plato

The nervous system is far from random and is, in a way thoughtfully mapped and planned out to serve functions like deciding to continue learning and reading Neuro-Psych Nerd’s blog.

How do you plan on using information learned about the nervous system in your body?

Featured

What is the Nervous System?

The nervous system is the communication system in your body that relays things like sensations, motor movements, and more. The nervous system is responsible for the body’s decision making.

The nervous system is very complex and divided into two different regions: The central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.

The central nervous system consists of the brain and the spinal cord.

The peripheral nervous system is divided up between the autonomic and somatic. The autonomic is further split into two more subgroups called the sympathetic and the parasympathetic.

Below is a chart that explains the functions and divisions of the nervous system.

Some Diseases/disorders of the Nervous system:
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Stroke
  • Infection (meningitis)

There are more than what is listed. One particularly interesting is Alzheimer’s Disease.

According to the National Institute of Aging, Alzheimer’s is a long-term brain disorder that slowly destroys functions in the brain that help carry out tasks. Some of the functions affected in the brain are memory and thinking skills. There are two types. The late-onset type has symptoms that appear in a person’s mid-60s. The early-onset type can occur as early as a person’s 30s and is very rare.

It seems that when you have cancer you are a brave battler against the disease, but when you have Alzheimer’s you are an old fart. That’s how people see you. It makes you feel quite alone.

Terry Pratchett, Author diagnosed with Alzheimer’s

What makes Alzheimer’s Disease so interesting is how little we know about the disease. The main concept that we do know is when patient is autopsied, or studied after death to find cause, they are found with protein plaques in their brain.

This causes spacing in the brain that were not seen in a normal healthy brain. Below is an image that illustrates the difference between a healthy brain and a brain with severe Alzheimer’s Disease.

There will be more of an in depth dive into topics like this in future blogs.

The Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D)

              The Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D) is a measure or test that determines if a person’s brain is suffering from depression.  All information is found in the original scientific journal published by the author of the test, Hamilton. `Previously it has been proven to accurately show levels of depression before, during, and after treatment. The measure consists of 21 concepts or items but only the first 17 of them are scored.  The HAM-D measure is the most widely used depression scale clinically.

Scoring

A score of zero to seven is considered to be normal and a score of above 20 is considered to be clinically abnormal in one article summarizing the rating scale. Another interpretation of the score is a HAM-D score level of depression: 10 – 13 is mild; 14-17 is mild to moderate; greater than 17 moderates to severe.

Measurement

The test measures depressed mood, feelings of guilt, suicide, anxiety symptoms, physiological symptoms, insomnia at night, insomnia during the day, hypochondriasis, genital symptoms, difficulty at work and activities, intellectual loss, loss of weight, agitation, and insight.

              The measure was originally not structured and not intended to use clinically, but since release has been structuralized and used clinically for diagnosis. It was originally developed for hospital inpatients, and there is an emphasis on melancholic and physical symptoms of depression. They would use it to measure progress in subtypes during and after treatment. A limitation to the measure is that atypical symptoms of depression (e.g., hypersomnia, hyperphagia) are not assessed.

Misconceptions and uses

              One misconception is that the measure can tell severity of depression and it cannot. What it can do is subtype it to help with what symptoms are showing more. An appropriate way to use this measure is to be aware of what it is intended for and its current uses. It should only be used by those trained on it and its use and not used to diagnose others by the general public. This is because the value of the questionnaire depends highly on the skill of the interviewer.

Previous research shows internal, inter-rater and retest reliability estimates are good enough for the global score but are not for individual items. The measure is widely available and not protected by copyright.

What is considered abnormal in the brain?

The brain is very intriguing, and a lot of clinical personnel look at the brain and classify and diagnose different disorders and people with brain abnormalities. A brain abnormality can be looked at on a scale and looks into how well the person functions with themselves and with society. The spectrum ranges from abnormalities in brain composition but functions but impossible to function in society alone.

Example:

At the beginning of the following video on a different website, a neuroscientist discusses the difference in abnormalities and her experience of Tourette’s syndrome.

Is the brain being considered abnormal a bad thing?

Can Social Isolation Lead to Opioid Addiction?:

It is not a bad thing to be abnormal depending on the extent and where the abnormality lands on the spectrum and where it is headed on the spectrum. In Alzheimer’s disease, it is a progressive disorder, so it is worrisome to see the loss in brain matter that is seen. With Tourette’s, it is not a bad thing if the person can still function and has quality of life still.

 It is a bit subjective and personalized in analyzing where on the spectrum of abnormality functionality wise. One could also analyze brain scans to see differences in those that have functional differences and see biological losses in working brain mass as that seen in Alzheimer’s in previous blog posts.

What is next for neuropsych nerd?

Next, we will be discussing what research-oriented people and non-research-oriented people can do to help the world during the covid-19 pandemic with a video call from a psychology(neuroscience and behavior) professor at Northern Illinois University.

What are the four different lobes of the brain?

The brain is classified into four different lobes or sections that locate different categories of function that is localized to each lobe of the brain. The four lobes are the frontal lobe, parietal lobe, temporal lobe, and the occipital lobe. The lobes used to be used for anatomical reasons. They would help students and researchers in terms of location, however due to recent findings of localization, they can determine some functioning information as well.

The frontal lobe:

The frontal lobe is at the very front of the brain. It is located where your forehead is. The frontal lobe is responsible for cognitive skills such as emotional expression, problem solving, memory, language, judgement, and sexual behaviors. According to the Mayo Clinic, the frontal lobe controls thinking, planning, problem solving, short-term memory, and movement. The frontal lobe is the largest lobe in the brain.

“Frontal lobe is the CEO of the brain. The rest of the brain is just past programming.”

Dr. Joe Dispenza, Neuroscientist and Author

The Parietal lobe:

The parietal lobe is on top of the brain right behind the frontal lobe. If you put your hand on the very top of your head, that is where the parietal lobe is. According to the mayo clinic, the parietal lobe is where your brain interprets sensory information like taste, temperature, and touch.

The Occipital lobe:

The occipital lobe is located in the back of the brain. If you were to put your hand on the back of your head but not touching your neck yet, there is a very high chance your hand would be over the occipital lobe. According to the Mayo Clinic, the occipital lobe is responsible for processing images and linking the processes images with those that are already in your memory.

The Temporal lobe:

The temporal lobe is below the parietal lobe and is about where your ears are located on your head. According to the Mayo Clinic, the temporal lobe is responsible for your sense of taste, smell, and sound. This lobe also plays an important role in memory storage.

The brainstem:

The brainstem controls the flow of messages from the brain and the rest of the body. It also regulates important bodily functions like breathing, swallowing, heart rate, blood pressure, consciousness, and more according to Medicine Net. If there is going to be an accident and damage to the brain, this part of the brain is where you must protect.

What is next for NeuroPsych Nerd?

In the next blog, we will go over what is considered typical/atypical or normal/abnormal in the brain. Remember to email with request on information you are curious about. Email: racheleinhaus@icloud.com

Electrical and Chemical aspects of Brain messages

The process of messages in your brain is a bit more complex then just sending a text message. There are electrical charges and chemicals that help send messages along a neuron, which was explained in a previous post.

Chemical communication:

The process begins with a chemical called a neurotransmitter. The neurotransmitter attaches to the dendrites of a neuron via receptors which are paired with curtain kinds of neurotransmitters. For example, if serotonin, a transmitter which is responsible for a lot of brain functions like feelings of wellbeing and happiness bonds to the specific serotonin receptor, then messages of wellbeing and happiness will continue to the electrical part of the communication.

Electrical communication:

The electrical part of the communication process requires things called action potentials. Action potentials are charges that travel along the axon. An action potential is measured in millivolts(mV) of energy. There are several states in an action potential, and they last in about 2-5 milliseconds according to cv physiology.

Phases of Action Potentials:

The first phase of an action potential is the resting state and the energy is measured at roughly -70 mV. The energy is preparing to reach enough energy to reach the minimum threshold or energy to send the action potential further on the axon. Action Potentials are all or nothing so if the energy doesn’t reach the threshold of -55mV then the process has to restart.

After the threshold is reached, then the cell depolarizes, which is a shift in electric charge distribution resulting in a less negative charge inside the cell. After the cell reaches 40mV of energy the cell begins to repolarize which is a shift in electric charge resulting in a more negative charge inside the cell.

This causes the cell to go into the refractory period which is a period where the charge is below that of the resting state. Once the cell is reset to the resting state the process starts over until the message is at the end of the axon.

More chemical communication?

Once the message reaches the end of the axon, transmitters decide which type of transmitter is required to be sent out via the terminals to find their way to the associated receptor to begin the same process again.

Why are is neuron communication so important for the brain to communicate?

Without this communication your brain would lack capability of running smoothly and would lack basic functioning. In this case, the brain can be compared to a computer.

“I think the brain is essentially a computer and consciousness is like a computer program. It will cease to run when the computer is turned off. Theoretically, it could be re-created on a neural network, but that would be very difficult, as it would require all one’s memories.”

Stephan Hawking

What is next for Neuropsych Nerd?

The next blog post will explain the four different lobes or sections of the cerebral cortex and what the function is for all of them.

Neurons: Why is something so small so important?

Has someone ever told you that doing drugs kills brain cells and wondered what those brain cells are and why they are so important? Brain cells consist of Glial cells (supporting cells) and Neurons. Glial Cells provide structure and support for the neuron and assist with taking out the “trash” in the brain. They remove things like dead cells and waste. Neurons are the communication system. They are the building block of the brain systems.

 Killing neurons is not a good thing because some researchers think neurons you are born with are the limit of the neurons you have for the rest of time. New research looks into the possibility of neurogenesis or creation of neurons. One sad aspect of the new research is that there could be more creation of neurons it just occurs very slowly and will not fully replace what was lost.

Each person’s body contains billions of neurons and people don’t have to think to make them work, just as one doesn’t think to make their body breath.

What is inside a neuron?

Neurons have different parts and functions. The dendrites which are at the end of the soma or cell body are what receives information from other neurons. The soma contains the nucleus and cytoplasm which are core elements for cells because the nucleus contains genes and coding which can determine how and what messages are sent. Then there is the axon. The axon is the path that messages are sent with. The axon takes the message along the long stem and takes it to the terminals that transmit the message via brain chemicals called neurotransmitters to the next neuron. Some neurons have coverings called myelin sheath. The purpose of the myelin sheath is to speed the process of the message traveling down the axon up.

What is next?

            The next blog is covering action potentials. Action potentials are the messages and how they travel along the axon. The next blog will be discussing the electrical and chemical aspects of the neuron communication process.

Alzheimer’s Disease: Eating away at brains and wallets

As explained in a previous blog, Alzheimer’s disease is a disorder in the brain where there is complete loss of function and in scans comparing a normal brain and a diseased brain, one can see the loss of brain tissue.

People with Alzheimer’s struggle remembering day to day things and the more progressive cases can forget family members. They forget how to do basic functions like regular day to day stuff. For example, they may forget who their own daughter or wife is.

“One day early in my wife’s battle with Alzheimer’s I made a statement about not remembering where I put something. She looked at me and asked if I needed one of her pills.”

Mike, husband of an Alzheimer’s patient

There are many thoughts/hypothesizes on what is the cause of such degeneration or loss of brain and nerve tissue. One of the Hypothesis that is being tested for at the moment is the cholinergic hypothesis

The Cholinergic Hypothesis

The cholinergic function hypothesis is an explanation for the disease saying that there is an dysfunction or interruption of a neurotransmitter(brain chemical that controls various functions) called Acetylcholine.

Acetylcholine is a brain chemical that plays a role in muscle activation, sensory (physical feeling) information, and the dream portion of a person’s sleep. The disruption of the chemical can cause plaques which are thought to be responsible for the holes seen in the diseased brain model. This model is used by many researchers in drug trials and other research settings.

Why is Alzheimer’s important ?

It affects all of us. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 3 seniors die of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. This means that we all have a high chance of witnessing someone we love experience this or experiencing it ourselves.

We lack residency trained physicians in diagnoses and care. Only 22% of primary care physicians are residency trained. Of 78% minimally trained physicians, 65% reported the amount of training was “very little” according to Alzheimer’s Association.

According to Alzheimer’s Association, it costs so much for treatment and care:

  • Expected out of pocket spendingto treat the disease is about $66 billion for all individuals.
  • Payments are expected to increase to more that $1.1 trillion dollars in 2050 for all individuals.
  • Total Lifetime cost for individual is estimated at $ $357,297

What can be done for family members?

If someone in your family has Alzheimer’s, the best thing you can do is be there for them. It is important to still be there for them even when they forget who you are. It is important to still show up even when you may leave at the end of the day crying because the person you are visiting doesn’t seem like they are themselves anymore. It important to still show up because it is worse for them to feel alone during this time. They too are upset that they can’t remember who you are. It hurts them to not remember.

If you continue to show up, they will remember that you care. I personally try and visit nursing homes monthly to play board games with patients I am not related to. I do this because I care about others and have seen and heard stories from those who have Alzheimer’s and feel lonely. I visit as an attempt to help others feel not as alone.

Another way you can truly help the continued progress in the research is to donate. Donations help to continue research as it is so costly.

Donate to the Alzheimer’s Association. The money goes towards continuing research to benefit those who are and will suffer.

What is next for Neuro Psych Nerd?

The next Blog will be about neurons. Neurons are cells in your brain that help to communicate within the brain. More detain will be on its way.