Tuesday, January 29, 2008

This is Your Brain on the Internet

National Geographic is running a nice little feature on the brain covering neural anatomy in basic, layman friendly terms:

The diencephalon is located in the core of the brain. A complex of structures roughly the size of an apricot, the two major sections are the thalamus and hypothalamus. The thalamus acts as a relay station for incoming nerve impulses from around the body that are then forwarded to the appropriate brain region for processing. The hypothalamus controls hormone secretions from the nearby pituitary gland. These hormones govern growth and instinctual behavior such as eating, drinking, sex, anger, and reproduction. The hypothalamus, for instance, controls when a new mother starts to lactate.

The brain stem, at the organ's base, controls reflexes and crucial, basic life functions such as heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. It also regulates when you feel sleepy or awake.

The brain is extremely sensitive and delicate, and so requires maximum protection. This is provided by the surrounding skull and three tough membranes called meninges. The spaces between these membranes are filled with fluid that cushions the brain and keeps it from being damaged by contact with the inside of the skull.

They've even got a little interactive do-dad that shows what parts of the brain are primarily stimulated by various activities (e.g. getting tickled, smelling garlic, falling in love). We need more of this sort of thing--the average person knows woefully little about that most vital organ.


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