With the advances in Alzheimer’s research and other brain disorders it is important to look at both the physical and the mental functioning of the patients who suffer from it. Neuroscience is an important part of this research.
Neuroscience is known by many names such as biopsychology, psychobiology , physiological psychology, neuropsychology, and behavioral neuroscience. These psychologists study how biological functions interact with cognition (our thinking processes) our emotions and other mental functions. This field is dynamic and in great demand. The United States and Canada are among the leading countries in in the world for this field of research.
Researchers in this field must fully understand the functions of the brain, its anatomy, physiology, and brain chemistry.
The brain and its relationship with the various parts of the human nervous systems
Central Nervous System
We know from basic biology that the central nervous system is comprised of the brain and the spinal chord. The cerebral cortex is the outermost part of the brain and is the area that is responsible for our thinking (cognition), feelings, sensations, and motor skills. Each of these functions are housed in lobes of the brain. There are four lobes in total:
The Frontal lobe is responsible for our higher thinking processes such as our analytical processes, our ability to express language and our motor skills. The frontal lobe is also called the motor cortex.
The visual cortex or Occipital lobe as the name implies, is responsible for our ability to visualize and make sense of the information we see.
The Parietal lobe which can also be called the somatosensory cortex regulates our tactile senses and is responsible for our feelings related to touch, pain, and pressure.
The Temporal lobe, or auditory cortex is responsible for our ability to hear things and to interpret what we are hearing.
Peripheral Nervous System – Somatic Nervous System and Autonomic Nervous System
The actions of the skeletal muscles are controlled by the Somatic Nervous System, while processes such as breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure are controlled by the Autonomic Nervous System.
Sympathetic Nervous System
The Sympathetic Nervous System is responsible for our protection against a dangerous environment of any sort. For example this system will trigger our “fight or flight” response when we encounter a dangerous animal in the wild or are stopped by dangerous people on the street in our hometown.
Parasympathetic Nervous System
Once the human body is stimulated from fear and adrenaline is released from the fight or flight reflex, when the danger is over, the body must return to a normal state. It is the Parasympathetic Nervous system which is responsible for bringing the body make into a state of equilibrium.
Brain chemistry and neurotransmitters
The nerves in the brain are called neurons and the neurotransmitters are messages which carry chemical information from neuron to neuron and back again. These messages are essential for humans to function. Every time we think, walk, move, do anything in life, it is because the brain is sending messages back and forth through these neurotransmitters to get our body to do just what it has to to perform the task that is needed.
The neurotransmitters contain different chemicals and these chemicals are responsible for different functions. For example dopamine is responsible for learning and movement; too much dopamine in the brain can cause schizophrenia, while not enough dopamine can cause Parkinson’s disease. Norepinephrine and serotonin are neurotransmitters that are implicated in mood disorders; too little of these substances are known to cause depression.