When we talk about mental health we must look at the process in which we think and feel and go about living our lives. The human body is designed with two major components; the psychology processes of human behavior and the biological processes. At one time it was thought that these processes worked independently of each other. However, now we know that soma (body) and the psyche work together to create a healthy human being.
The neurons and the human nervous systems
At the heart of the biological processes in humans, is the nervous systems, and at the heart of the nervous systems are specialized nerves called neurons. Neurons are housed in the brain. They are responsible for sending messages back and forth within the brain and other parts of the body. These messages are transferred by brain chemical and electrical impulses and they tell the body to do whatever it has to to sustain and enrich our lives. The neurons in the brain will tell the legs to move, the heart to pump, and a high school student to buckle down and prepare for their biology exam.
The Similarities and differences between neurons and other cells within the body
Like all cells neurons contain a nucleus and this nucleus contains genetic information
All cells including neurons are surrounded by a protective covering called a membrane
All cells including neurons have organelles such as Golgi bodies, mitochondria, and cytoplasm, which sustain the life of the cells.
Beyond these similarities the neurons are highly specialized cells that are important to overall physical and mental functioning.
What most people do not know is that neurons stop reproducing once a human is born. When neurons die they they do not rejuvenate. Therefore, some parts of the brain will have many more neurons than others as the aging process goes on.
All is not lost though, neurons can form new connections and therefore brain disease is not always a major factor to consider when neurons die.
Different types of neurons which are responsible for different body and mind functions
Sensory neurons are responsible for carrying sensory information to the brain from the body’s various sensory cells. This information is the information we receive from our five senses; sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.
Motor neurons carry information from the brain to the body’s muscles. Motor neurons are responsible for movement.
Interneurons carry information back and forth between the neurons themselves.
Structure of the neuron
The whole neuron is designed to send information; the membrane sends information to other cells and the axons and dendrites are designed to send and retrieve information. The synapses are spaces in between the neurons which also receive information.
Dendrites are long fiber like branches that extend from the neuron or cell body. The electrochemical impulses which is the information come from the synapses or spaces between neurons and the dendrites of the new neuron receive this new information. This systems of communication passes from one neuron to the other in this fashion.
Whereas the dendrites receive electrochemical impulses, the axons are long slender projections that directs this information away from the cell body to send info to other neurons.
Sometimes it is hard to tell dendrites and axons apart. These projections can be rather small or rather long. The longest axon in the spinal chord which extends to the toes is approximately three feet long. The longer axons have a protective coating called the myelin sheath. This myelin sheath is a fatty substance that wraps around the axon giving it a necklace of beads or sausage look.
The electrical messages are received from the synapse by the dendrites of the neuron and this impulse is called the action potential when it is passed down the body of the neuron to the axon and then onto the next synapse.
Once the electrical impulses have left the axon they deposit into the empty space or the synapse. Sometimes the space is so small they can immediately be received again by the next neuron’s dendrites. If not they need help from the neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters are the actual chemical messengers and scientists believe there are over 100 types of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are responsible for all our brain activity.
Acytylcholine: This neurotransmitter is associated with muscle contractions, memory and learning. A deficiency in Acytylcholine has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Dopamine: is associated with thoughts and pleasure, a lack of dopamine is implicated in Parkinson’s Disease and an overabundance of this neurotransmitter is implicated in schizophrenia.
Serotonin and Norepinephrine also known as noradrenaline are implicated in mood. Mood disorders such as Depression occur when there is a lack of these neurotransmitters in the brain.