The basic nutrient employed by neurons is glucose, a simple sugar. In order
to metabolize the blucose, neurons need lots of oxygen. While the brain is
only two percent of the body's weight, it uses twenty percent of its oxygen.
Because the liver actively makes glucose from carbohydrates, fats and sugars,
there is rarely any shortages of glucose for the brain. However, the brain
needs Thiamine or vitamin B1 in order to process glucose.
Neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers of the brain are produced by the
various nutrients in our food. These neurotransmitters include serotonin,
epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine and acetylcholine. The brain can continue
processing these even if a person does not eat fo a while, but nutrition
contributes greatly to one's brain functions.
Milk and cauliflower contain choline, which helps produce acetylcholine, which
aids in the transmission of impluses. Lecithin,the substance that helps to make
choline, can be found in soybeans, peanuts, egg yolks, butter and liver.
Proteins contain amino acids such as phenylaianine and tyrosine, which help
form such neurotransmitters as epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine.
These influence our emotions, and too much epinephrine can cause excitability,
irritability and anxiety.
Tryptophan, the amino acid responsible for the production of serotonin, is
abundant in turkey, as well as in other meats and fish.
Serotonin is thought to be the neurotransmitter responsible for perception and
sleep function. In order to increase the amount of tryptophan received by the
brain, one must combine carbohydrates and proteins. This is because
carbohydrates increase the body's release of insulin, which transports other
amino acids from the blood into cells, leaving a higher concentration of
tryptophan in the blood for the brain.
Voluntary & Involuntary Brain Functions
In addition to allowing us to make deliberate decisions, the brain controls those
body functions over which we have no control. The lower area of the brain known
as the medulla controls heart rate, breathing, vomiting, sallvation, coughing and
other automatic functions. These automatic functions are a great advantage.
Imagine having to tell yoruself to breathe, or tell your heart to beat! Because of
the importance of these functions, damage to this area of the brain and spinal
chord is very dangerous.
Contains about 85% of the nerve cells in the brain and the human cortex has
become increasingly complex in comparison to other species. It is dividied into
Temporarl, Frontal, Parietal and Occipital lobes. The bereb ral cortex contains the
gray matter of the brain and the prefrontal areea of the cerebral cortex comprises
a larger portion of the human brain then the brains of other species. Yet, the
prefrontal cortex develops more slowly in humans than it does in monkeys. Large
numbers of neuronal connections develop in the human brain between 7 and
The frontol lobe controls planning of movements and some aspects of memory.
Controls body sensations like the sense of touch.
Controls visual functions.
Controls hearing and some advanced visual processing.
The human brain controls every action, thought, and process of the body; but
what makes the brain function? A network of nearly one hundred billion individual
cells called neurons, or nerve cells, allows the brain to think, remember, hear a
symphony, enjoy a sunset, love and imagine. Neurons tell our bodies to move,
breathe, and create. The amazing network of neurons that forms the human brain
makes it the most complicated brain on the planet.
The complexity of the brain, not its size, accounts for its capacity. Given the brain's
complexity, it requires a highly developed system of communication in order to
coordinate all of its nuerons.
This sytem is based on electrochemical impulses. Like a computer, these impulses
travel along circuits. Unlike computers, these signals are created chemically. These
chemical transmissions are called neurotransmitters, and they are responsible for
the incredibly rapid communication between neurons. The speed and accuracy of
these neurotransmisions are what let us react to the world around us, and ultimately,
Faulty functioning of this communication between neurons may be responsible for
all sorts of illnesses, from depression to Parkinson's disease. An overabundance
of neurotransmitters has been linked to schizophrenia. Various medications that
increase or decrease neurotransmitters are now available and have been showns
to be effective in treating some of these conditions.