THE BRAIN - The brain includes the spinal cord. Combined, the brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous system. The brain is made up of the cerebrum, cerebellum and brain stem.
The cerebrum is the uppermost part of the brain, the portion with the division in the center.
Each one of the hemispheres is known as a cerebral hemisphere. Each cerebral hemisphere is surrounded by a large outer layer known as the cerebral cortex. This is the “gray matter” of the brain.
The brain stem is the part of the brain that has motor, sense and reflex functions. In addition, it contains the spinal tracts. The 12 pairs of nerves from the brain to the rest of the body branch off from the brain stem.
The cerebellum sits below the cerebral hemispheres.
The medulla oblongata follows the brain stem. The heart, blood vessels and breathing centers of the brain are located within the medulla.
MEMORY - Memory is connected with smell in a sense that both of them have functions deep within the temporal lobe of the brain. This is also believed to be a region where thoughts are selected. An interesting fact about the cerebral hemispheres is that the left one is dominant in right handed people. And those people that are left handed have a dominant right cerebral hemisphere. The cerebrum involves the sensory and motor functions. Therefore, processes involving memory, speech, writing and emotional response would be monitored by it.
Despite the advances in neurophysiology, scientists are still uncertain exactly how the function of memory is accomplished by the brain. However, they have been able to discover, in some aspects, how information is acquired and stored. Memory is loosely defined as the ability to recall thoughts.
As experiences occur, a process in the brain changes the experience to memory, classifying it as either short term or long term memory. This process is known as an engram. Short term memory lasts from only several seconds to several hours. Long term memory can last a lifetime and may be retrieved for use whenever needed.
Some estimates are that only 1% of all information entering the brain is stored in long term memory. If memory captured all the data entering the brain, the brain would be overwhelmed with data.
There is some evidence that the function of short term memory depends on electrical and chemical occurrences in the brain. One theory states that memories may be caused by reverberating neuronal circuits, in which one nerve impulse stimulates a second, which stimulates a third, and so on.
Once the circuit is formed, the memory lasts as long as the reverberation continues. Most research in long term memory focuses on anatomical or biochemical changes. Anatomical changes occur in neurons when they are stimulated or made inactive.
Studies in nerve synapses show changes in the neurons used for synapses after they have been subjected to prolonged, intense activity. As these neurons age, they grow new endings, which suggest increased use.
Interestingly, the nerve endings which are inactive do not grow. In fact, some studies of animals show that the visual area of the cerebrum actually thins after the animal loses eyesight, which would indicate an end to growth of the neurons.
Another direction of memory research is in the area of DNA and RNA study and the possible involvement of nucleic acids. Scientists have proven that these molecules store information and that activated neurons increase in RNA content. When RNA is inhibited, research shows that long term memory will not occur. Since RNA synthesis precedes protein synthesis, these studies might indicate that a relation between synthesis of proteins and the function of memory.
There are many possibilities how neurons and nerve synapses communicate, which would form the chemical exchange in long term memory. Some studies point to the brain’s use of receptors, known as NMDA receptors, which open channels into the neurons to permit the inflow of calcium. These receptors then open neurotransmitters and allow for the chemical exchange between neurotransmitters, creating a way to process information related to the formation of memory.
CHOLINE is important to the metabolism and transport of fats and cholesterol. This nutrient is involved in lecithin formation and normal nerve transmission. A carrier mechanism within the blood-brain barrier transports free choline into the brain. This carrier is able to carry choline into the brain at the rate that is proportional to serum choline concentration.
ACETYLCHOLINE Some investigators report that consumption of choline or phosphatidylcholine results in the accumulation of acetylcholine within the brain neurons.
Acetylcholine seems to play an important role in the function of memory.
PHOSPHATIDYLCHOLINE is an important contributor to blood and brain choline concentrations which co-determine the rate of acetylcholine biosynthesis.
B COMPLEX nutrients are essential for the nervous system function, as well as healthy skin and muscle tone.
VITAMIN B-1 (Thiamin) is essential for nerve tissues, muscles, digestion and for the normal functioning of the heart.
VITAMIN B-6 is necessary for healthy skin, the nerves and muscles and aids in antibody formation and digestion.
NIACIN is a B-complex nutrient which is necessary for growth and the proper functioning of the nervous system.
PANTOTHENIC ACID is essential for growth, contributes to energy production, and is necessary for the skin.
UNSATURATED FATTY ACIDS are essential for growth, but can not be synthesized by the body. Fat is an important nutrient for brain and nervous system health.
All cell membranes are composed partially of fat. And the myelin sheath, the protective covering of neurons, is composed mostly of fat.
VITAMIN E protects fat-soluble vitamins, and maintains healthy nerves and muscles while strengthening the capillary walls.
SELENIUM is necessary for tissue elasticity, and works with Vitamin E. Like vitamin A, C, and E, it is an antioxidant.
● Drink water to improve blood circulation and brain health.
● Try to eat whole grains like brown rice, liver, fish, and molasses to intake more B vitamins.
● Eat organic eggs, whole grains, fresh vegetables, seeds, etc.
● Poultry, avocados, and low fat dairy products to increase tryptophan, an essential amino acid needed to produce nervous system messengers.
● Mild exercise daily.
● Avoid items that may contain aluminum such as deodorants, canned foods, cookware, dandruff shampoos, pickles, salt, tobacco. Read the labels of the items to be sure.
● Avoid tobacco.