The human brain book: An Illustrated guide to its structure
NO ORDINARY ORGAN
The human brain is like nothing else. As organs go, it is not especially prepossessing-3lb (1.4kg) or so of rounded, corrugated flesh with a consistency somewhere between jelly and cold butter. It doesn’t expand and shrink like the lungs, pump like the heart, or secrete visible material like the bladder. If you sliced off the top of someone’s head and peered inside, you wouldn’t see much happening at all.
SEAT OF CONSCIOUSNESS
Given this, it is perhaps not surprising that for centuries the contents of our skulls were regarded as relatively unimportant. When they mummified their dead, the ancient Egyptians scooped out the brains and threw them away, yet carefully preserved the heart. The Ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, thought the brain was a radiator for cooling the blood. René Descartes, the French scientist, gave it a little more respect, concluding that it was a sort of antenna by which the spirit might commune with the body. It is only now that the full wonder of the brain is being realized. The most basic function of the brain is to keep the rest of the body alive. Among your brain’s 100 billion neurons, some regulate your breathing, heartbeat, and blood pressure and others control hunger, thirst, sex drive, and sleep cycle. In addition to this, the brain generates the emotions, perceptions, and thoughts that guide your behavior. Then it directs and executes your actions. Finally, it is responsible for the conscious awareness of the mind itself.
THE DYNAMIC BRAIN
Until about 100 years ago, the only evidence that brain and mind were connected was obtained from “natural experiments” accidents in which head injuries created aberrations in their victims’ behavior. Dedicated physicians mapped out areas of the cerebral landscape by observing the subjects of such experiments while they were alive then matching their deficits to the damaged areas of their brains. It was slow work because the scientists had to wait for their subjects to die before they could look at the physiological evidence. As a result, until the early 20th century, all that was known about the physical basis of the mind could have been contained in a single volume. Since then, scientific and technological advances have fueled a neuroscientific revolution. Powerful microscopes made it possible to look in detail at the brain’s intricate anatomy. A growing understanding of electricity allowed the dynamics of the brain to be recognized and then, with the advent of electroencephalography (EEG), to be observed and measured. Finally, the arrival of functional brain imaging machines allowed scientists to look inside the living brain and see its mechanisms at work. In the last 20 years, positron emission tomography (PET), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and, most recently, magnetic encephalography (MEG) have among them produced an ever more detailed map of the brain’s functions.
Today we can point to the circuitry that keeps our vital processes going, the cells that produce our neurotransmitters, the synapses where signals leap from cell to cell, and the nerve fibers that convey pain or move our limbs. We know how our sense organs turn light rays and sound waves into electrical signals, and we can trace the routes they follow to the specialized areas of the cortex that respond to them. We know that such stimuli are weighed, valued, and turned into emotions by the amygdala a tiny nugget of tissue that punches well above its weight. We can see the hippocampus retrieve a memory, or watch the prefrontal cortex make a moral judgment. We can recognize the nerve patterns associated with amusement, empathy even the thrill of schadenfreude at the sight of an adversary suffering defeat. More than just a map, the picture emerging from imaging studies reveals the brain to be an astonishingly complex, sensitive system in which each part affects almost every other. “High level” cognition performed by the frontal lobes, for instance, feeds back to affect sensory experience so what we see when we look at an object is shaped by expectation as well as by the effect of light hitting the retina. Conversely, the brain’s most sophisticated products can depend on its lowliest mechanisms. Intellectual judgments, for example, are driven by the body reactions that we feel as emotions, and consciousness can be snuffed out by damage to the humble brainstem. To confuse things further, the system doesn’t stop at the neck but extends to the tips of your toes. Some would argue it even goes beyond to encompass other minds with which it interacts. Neuroscientific investigation of the brain is very much a work in progress and no one knows what the finished picture will look like. It may be that the brain is so complicated that it can never understand itself entirely. So this book cannot be taken as a full description of the brain. It is a single view, from bottom to top, of the human brain as we know it today in all its beauty and complexity. Be amazed.
100 Questions and Answers about restless legs syndrome (PDF)
Numerous scientific papers published in peer-reviewed journals and chapters in textbooks dealing with RLS in the last 20 years or so attest to the fact that RLS is a real neurological movement disorder severely impacting sleep and quality of life.
Restless legs syndrome-Willis Ekbom disease (PDF)
Despite few cases of partial or complete remission, idiopathic RLS is usually a chronic long-term condition with a longer duration for patients with an early onset of symptoms.
Restless legs syndrome: Diagnosis and treatment (PDF)
This book summarizes our current understanding of restless legs syndrome. The chapters cover all of the latest relevant restless legs syndrome science and pertinent related topics.
Polio (Deadly Diseases and Epidemics) 2nd Edition
Millions of people, especially those who are poor and living in developing countries, are also at risk from disabling communicable diseases such as polio, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, and onchocerciasis.
Post-Polio Syndrome: Guide for polio survivors and families
Polio, like smallpox, is one of those ancient diseases that is destined to have a modern ending. According to the World Health Organization, acute paralytic poliomyelitis, after a run of many millennia, will be eliminated from the world not only in our lifetime but most likely in the next few years. In this country, the history of polio is much shorter.
The healing power of the breath: Simple techniques to reduce stress and anxiety, enhance concentration.
This book will introduce you to knowledge and modern research on stress reduction through breathwork that is just as relevant to health in modern life as it was in ancient times.
End the Insomnia Struggle: A Step-by-Step Guide
Insomnia is a large-scale problem, with one in three people experiencing insomnia in their lifetime, and about one in ten US adults reporting insomnia that is severe and chronic (National Institutes of Health, 2005).
The Effortless Sleep Method: The Incredible New Cure for Insomnia and Chronic Sleep Problems
Insomnia may seem almost to have a life of its own, an autonomous persona, or a self-sabotaging part of you over which you have no control; a monster, a possessing demon which taunts you by day and tortures you by night.
Evaluation of concussion and post concussion syndrome (PDF)
A blow to the head that results in an “altered state of consciousness”; represented by confusion; may or may not have unconsciousness; almost always some level of amnesia (memory loss): Post-traumatic amnesia / Retrograde amnesia
Bowen therapy for adult long term post concussion syndrome (PDF)
Because the damage to the body and brain was unique to each participant, it quickly became apparent that the selection of therapeutic procedures had to be customized to each participant.
Disorders of the Hand: Hand Reconstruction and Nerve Compression (PDF)
The hand has been called an extension of the brain, and the sensory and motor performance of the hand is based on the adequate function of components in the peripheral as well as the central nervous system.
Nerve Compression Syndromes (PDF)
Definitions, Radiculopathy, Mononeuropathy, Brachial Plexopathy, Sensory Supply to the Arm