Neurons are the fundamental basis of life
A specialized cell known as the neuron is at the basis of the way we think and feel and even the way perform our various actions as we go through life. At one time in psychology, the early researchers debated whether the psyche and soma, (two words derived from the Greek translation for mind and body), were two completely different processes or part and the same biological source. Finally, after much debate psychologists reached a consensus; now the mind and body are pretty much considered like “two sides of the same coin”. In other words, mind and body are no longer thought of as two separate processes. It is now seen as one integrated process. Modern research is backing up this theory as we see that an unhealthy mind often results in physical ailments, and physical ailments can result in depression and anxiety and other mental conditions.
The computer/brain theory
One theory in psychology holds that the modern day computer is a good analogy for the brain and its functions. The function of the neuron in the integrated body system is to send and receive messages from the brain and body. However, the human biological system is an amazingly complicated and a well thought out organism; far superior to any artificial intelligence known to humankind. The neuron is the tiniest component of the brain. According to the computer/brain theory, it would be considered the CPU of the computer.
The human body has up to approximately a trillion neurons which could be compared to computer bits, or bytes depending on neuronal function. These neurons make up two nervous systems, the central nervous system, which houses the brain and spinal chord, and the peripheral nervous system which houses nerves found all over the body.
Central nervous system and the Computer CPU
The central nervous system is the main hub for neurons. The neurons are at the basis of life and human functions. They are heavily guarded from damage by the skull and spinal chord, the meninges (brain tissue), and cerebrospinal fluid. We know that when we apply the computer/brain theory, the CPU is housed in casing as well.
The other main system in the body is the peripheral nervous system which is composed of nerves and axons. This system also divides into two systems.
Somatic nervous system
The somatic nervous system is responsible for movement of the voluntary kind, meaning we control this movement. For example, we control when we walk or run. Sensory nerves called afferent neurons carry information from the nerves back to the brain, and then there are efferent (motor) neurons which carry messages from the brain and spinal chord back to the muscles.
Automatic nervous system
The other system in the peripheral nervous system is called the automatic nervous system. It is called the automatic nervous system because the body regulates functions such as heartbeat, and breathing automatically.
When we look at the computer/brain theory, we note that many of the internal operations of a computer are done automatically and the user is not even aware of what is going on and why.
This automatic nervous system is further divided into two parts.
The sympathetic nervous system
The sympathetic nervous system is activated in stressful or dangerous situations. The flight or flight response which happens when we are put in a dangerous situation such as fighting off a dangerous animal, will cause increased heartbeat, and blood pressure, sweating, and so on, so that the body can respond in the appropriate fashion to ward off the enemy, surprise attack, traffic accident, or any other stressful or dangerous situation.
Parasympathetic nervous system
However, once the danger is over, the system must return to normal (homeostasis). This system that makes this happen is called the parasympathetic nervous system. In the computer comparison, computers are made with built in safeguards to turn off if the system if it becomes overheated or other situations occur where the computer could be damaged.
The endocrine System
The endocrine system, which is responsible for such functions as blood pressure, digestion, growth and maturity, is very important as a communication system for the brain. It is a system of glands that secrete hormones and they are regulated by the hypothalamus, which is housed in the brain. The endocrine system in terms of the computer analogy, could be considered a remote terminal, or hub for communication, apart of the CPU, but nevertheless connected and important as a secondary function, or relay system.