Elephant Brains

A common debate among scientist is how the relative size of an animals brain relates to it's intelligence. Elephants have the largest brain of all the land animals. Elephants are also very smart. Holdrege starts the article off by presenting a series of stories detailing accounts of elephants doing seeming intelligent things. He then describes intelligence as "the capacity to meet new and unforeseen situations by rapid and effective adjustment of behavior" . He believes that elephants are intelligent but not as intelligent as humans. He encourages one to not personify elephants like one would a person, but just acknowledge that elephants can think of alternative routes to solving problems.

Holdrege points out that, along with humans and dolphins, elephants have brains with many convolsions which create more surface area. They also have areas of the brain that are highly enlarged. Areas such as the cerebellum, temporal lobe, and olfactory lobe. These enlargements lead to an increased sense of smell and muscle coordination. This leads to the conclusion that this is the reason why elephants are so able to control their trunks.

In relations to body size an elephant's brain is .08% of it's weight whereas a humans is about 2% of the body weight. An elephant's brain usually weighs about 9 12 lbs. That is larger than the average size of a new born baby.

This type of comparison, along with animal behavior, is the subjects that I am most interested in and that I would like to continue studying when I am done with my undergraduate career. I would like to believe that humans are egotistical in thinking that they are many of generations and higher mutations away from any other animal. I believe all animals, especially animals such as elephants and dolphins, are still smarter than humans give them credit for.

http://natureinstitute.org/pub/ic/ic5/elephant.htm

Music

The effects of music on the brain is still a slight mystery. There is not a central brain area that that is activated when one is listening to music. Patients who have lost an area of one or the other brain hemisphere were still able to understand music and feel a beat. Babies are also responsive to music. If an uncomfortable chord is played, babies will squirm and cry. Whereas when a melody is played they might coo. Some researchers believe that each person is born with an innate sense of music. A sense of how music is suppose to go and how it is suppose to sound. This is then shaped by their culture.

Listening to music often invokes other responses also. This such as humming, singing, and dancing come with listening to music. These processes also involve parts of the brain in order to be coordinated. Music is a entity that can stretch and exercise the whole brain. Things such as the auditory cortex, the prefrontal cortex and other areas are often involved.

Music can also be used to help Alzheimers patients calm down. It can reduce blood pressure, increase premature baby weight, and can help dyslexics read more efficiently. Music is a very powerful tool. Research has to be done more on this subject because scientists are just beginning to understand the full effects. It would also be interesting to know if the researchers were correct if there is a learned and genetic program that tells all of us how music should sound and what good music is.

http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/2001/03.22/04-music.html

Food coma?

Tryptophan.
Everyone knows that you get sleepy after you eat a thanksgiving dinner. But why? Is it because of the high levels of typrophan, an amino acid used in other cases as a sleep inducer? No. The levels of tryptophan are too low in the thanksgiving turkey in order to produce a coma-like state that we are all so fond of after our meal on the important thursday of November, according to a Los Angeles TImes Article. In face, they claim that eating a turkey would put more tryptophan in your system and that the real reason for the sleepy state is the overload in carbohydrates.

In the video, they state that on average, a person consumers more calories in one thanksgiving meal than they would normal consume over an entire day. I find this statement very interesting, but when I think about it, I believe it to be true. I guess I will definitely have to be aware when I drive 2 and a half hours after dinner tomorrow.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/nationnow/2011/11/thanksgiving-busting-the-tryptophan-myth-wide-open.html

22q13

22q13, or the Phelan-McDermid syndrome, is a deletion syndrome that results in a lag in developmental behavior. My cousin has this deletion. It is a new deletion that has only been found due to a advancement in technology, particularly Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). Until now it has been diagnosed as basic autism seeing as individuals who have this deletion suffer from a lack of eye contact and some social communication deficiencies. However other symptoms such as habitual chewing and certain body and facial features have allowed doctors to be able to diagnose more and more individuals correctly, but many still require multiple DNA inspections in order to find the problem.

Most of these things I already knew. What I did not know is that many of the 22q13 deletion patients suffer from lack of perspiration and that, for some reason, these children are prone to ear infections. I also did not know (seeing as my cousin Kit is the only person I know with 22q13) that many of Kit's features are a result of this deletion. For example, his gorgeously-long eyelashes and large hands. I also did not know that there is varying degrees. I figured that with a deletion of a chromosome, the individuals would express the same basic symptoms at about the same levels. However, this is not true and some are much more advanced and communicate more than others.

Lots of research still needs to be done to determine the cause, whether genetic or environmental, and perhaps ways to implement early developmental programs to encourage an increase in communication and coordination. It is known, though, that a unbalanced translocation on the 22 genes or the parents lead to an increased chance of 22q13 developing in their children.

http://www.orpha.net/data/patho/GB/uk-22q13.pdf

Adult Neurogenesis

When we are fetuses, are huge number of neurons are produced. They then migrate, differentiate, and some die. Up until recently scientists thought that the neurons that we were born with were the only ones that we would ever get. However, new evidence shows that this is not the case. In fact, thousands of new cells are produced in the hippocampus daily, but they soon die. Since the hippocampus is related to learning and memory, it is safe to assume that these neurons are produced as a result of learning or memorizing something. Studies on mice show that this is the case. The mice that had learned more retained more of their neurons.

They also found that exercise had a factor in whether or not the new neurons survived. The scientists researched further and found that a mood-elevating chemical that is present during physical activity, beta-endorphin, could be the reason for this. Mice who were allowed to exercise kept more of their hippocampal neurons, but mice who had beta-endorphin inhibited and were allowed to exercise did not show an increase in the retention of their neurons. It was also found that perhaps stress had the opposite affect, and decreased the chance that the new neurons would survive.

This is very big for the science community. If we can pinpoint this mechanism it can be used to treat retrograde brain diseases such as Alzheimers and stroke. Also, it poses the question of whether or not there are other areas of the brain that can possibly regenerate themselves, or could regenerate themselves with some help. Some say that there is muscle memory, I would like to know whether or not these new neurons have anything to do with that and if the new neurons were still located in the hippocampus or in the connections between the hippocampus and the motor cortex or other areas.

http://www.sfn.org/index.aspx?pagename=brainbriefings_adult_neurogenesis

The Amygdala Hijack

The Amygdala is the control center for our fight or flight responses. When we are in a dangerous situation our body releases adrenaline, shuts off our digestion, and heightens our senses. This response has been programed in the human brain for millennial. However, the prefrontal cortex, or the thinking part of our brain is at war with our amygdala.

The Amygdala Hijack is considered to happen in any situation when our emotions take over our intelligent thinking. This includes outbreaks of anger. In present society we are less likely to get frightened by a saber tooth tiger and more likely to get into a bar fight, or feel road rage. A threat to our ego and threat to our physical being is all the same to our amygdala. This happens because it sends out hormones that basically override our prefrontal cortex, which can happen is a second, and we act on instinct and not on rational thoughts. Often times when people look back on Amygdala hijacks they feel guilt and understand that their actions were often irrational.The second video notes that our amygdala narrows down the option so that only one seems like the rational one.

There are also articles that tell one how to train themselves in order to stop the complete over taking of the amygdala. I almost see that as something that you wouldn't want to do. Yes, the amygdala's actions aren't always adaptive for current situations, but people still run into bears, or other people with knives and not having that response could be dangerous. If you stop to think about what the problem is while someone is drowning you might not jump into the pool fast enough. Also, there has to be something in the brain that tells us road rage isn't a life or death situation or else there would be fights breaking out on the street everyday.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0VOgGPUtRI&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YM3cXZ7CFls

Cell Migration

The basic amount of cell migration that I have learned has led me to believe that it only happens in developing embryos. In fact, I am wrong. This article has taught me that it is very important in adult brains also. In fact this article is actually a blog about the work that this man, Dan, has done.

While cell migration is still mostly seen in fetuses, in terms of numbers of cells migrating in a small amount of time, migration as an adult is also critical. Migration of white blood cells helps the body to fight off disease and destroy pathogens that the body may have picked up. A continued expression of these fighters could result in inflammation though, so a solid balance is required between fight and retreat. I found it very interesting that this is actually the cause of asthma. If a person with asthma develops leukemia do they still have asthma? (Keep in mind that this question is NOT meant as a joke or harp on either of these diseases, but a serious question in terms of white blood cell counts. I mean no offense to anyone.)

From the beginning not only do the eggs and sperm have to travel to the meeting place but then the embryo has move to the uterus wall. The cells then divide and become differentiated. This also requires migration. There is especially coordinated migration in the young brain. The right connections need to be made in the right areas otherwise fatal or serious defects could occur. I would like to think of it as a dance or play of some sort where each person or nerve knows what it has to do and where it has to be at what part of the act. I know that many teachers and authors like to equate it to an orchestra.

It all just blows my mind that a human, or any organism, can develop from a single cell that has a mash of genes and develop into a fully functioning adult. Some times there are mistakes, but even then it is still on one in a couple hundred. It is a miracle! Another thing that I have learned about cell migration, not from this article, is that cells can know where they need to go based on the cells around them. Or they can differentiate into a certain cell based on their locations. The things that the brain can do, especially only days into development, are truly amazing and it's no wonder that most of it is still a mystery to the current generations.

Your Brain Is Not Prepared For Porn, Historically

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Your Brain On Porn is a detailed account of how people get addicted to internet porn and how this happens because, historically, our brains have never come into contact with something like this ever before.

It says that our brains were programed to make us indulge in the things that would keep us and our species going, such as sugars, fats, and sex. In modern days people are always able to obtain fats and sugars which is part of the problem as to why America is in general obese. Same goes with internet porn. Our programmed brains want us to have sex with as many people as possible, especially men. When we have sex our brains release dopamine which we experience as pleasure. When we have sex with the same person in the same way, the levels of dopamine that are released are decreased. When a new mate is found a surge of dopamine is again released. With internet porn one can "have sex" with as many people as they feasibly want.

The problem with this, along with them becoming shut-ins and perhaps some raw body parts, is they can become addicted. When these surges in dopamine are released, the person feels pleasure. The brain adjusts to this by decreasing the amount of dopamine it releases, along with the receptors that it possesses. This leads to the person needing more and more in order to feel the same pleasure.

They conclude that although porn has not been studied as much as other addictive substances, such as drugs or fatty foods, it is still just as dangerous when it comes to addictions as the others.

Craniopagus Twins

Craniopagus twins are twins that are conjoined at the head. This happens to about one in every 2.5 million births. Twins in the United States occur about one in every thirty-one births. The operation of separating conjoined twins, let along craniopagus twins, is a very risky procedure. However, it is one that needs to be done. Blood supply is often shared between the two twins. The stronger twin ends up having to pump it's heart harder in order to make up for the weaker twin. The stronger child then suffers from the extra effort.

These twins, Rital and Ritag Gaboura, from Sudan traveled to London to be separated. It is a procedure that would take four different operations. The first of which was one to stretch their skin so it could fit over their head once the separation is complete. Luckily for these twins the operation went smoothly and both girls are alive and healthy. Operations of this sort are not often done, and very often not successful.

I did not realize that one twin would have to make up for the other. I would also like to know if both of their brain are complete in mass and function. The article said that they will not know if either of the girls are going to be brain damaged until they get older. Science has come a long way since the 1950's when the first successful operation of this sort was reported. It gives families everywhere a hope, not to mention anyone with a deformity, in their brain or not. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-20108161-10391704.html

A different article looked back on different twins after their surgery and noted that both twins were well. One just had some hearing problems from a deficient from the surgery and her brain fluid did not drain well. It also just said that her development is slower than that of her sister's. http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/ctwins.html

Daniel Tammet

The brain is the only organ in that body that scientists do not have an almost complete diagram of how it works, and people like Daniel Tammet just accentuate that point. Tammet has an amazing mind. After experiencing epileptic seizures at the age of 4, Tammet has the amazing ability to remember series of numbers and do complicated math in his head. Large multiplications or divisions provided no problem while the rest of us would need a calculator. Tammet claims that his brain just tells him the answer, and that he does not actually have to do any thinking.

Tammet is also a whiz with words. He is fluent in 8 languages including English, French, Finnish, German, Spanish, Lithuanian, Romanian, Estonian, Welsh and Esperanto. I haven't even heard of some of those! He was given a challenge. It was said that he could not learn Icelantic in a week and prove his fluency on a national television store. When the week was over, the host said he was "not human".

Tammet is an amazing man, but the most amazing thing about him has to be that he developed these abilities from epileptic seizures. It would be interesting to know what went on in the brain, what new connections were made. Also if his brain really is telling him the answer or if his he is just processing information faster than he can comprehend. Or maybe the part of his brain is now cut off from his consciousness.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbASOcqc1Ss

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