The Human Brain - the most complex organ in your body and the centerpiece of your nervous system. Gives us the power to speak, imagine and problem solve. It is truly an amazing organ.
Parts of the Brain - brain is organized into three interconnected layers: the central core, limbic system, and cerebral cortex, all of which contain structures that regulate everyday life.
Brain Parts and Functions:
1. The Central Core (found in all vertebrates). Its five main regions help regulate basic life processes.
- The Medulla is the center for breathing, waking, sleeping, and beating of the heart.
- The Pons triggers dreaming and waking from sleep.
- The Reticular Formation signals the cerebral cortex to attend to new stimulation and to remain alert even during sleep.
- The Thalamus begins the process of interpreting sensory information. It determines fundamental properties, such as whether something is good or bad, and then forwards the information to the appropriate area of the cerebral cortex, where information processing continues.
- The Cerebellum coordinates body movements, controls posture, and maintains equilibrium.
2. The Limbic System exists only in mammals. Its regions mediate motivated behaviors, emotional states, and memory processes.
- The Hippocampus plays an important role in emotion, learning, and memory.
- The Amygdala plays a role in aggression, eating, drinking, and sexual behaviors.
- The Hypothalamus monitors blood levels of glucose, salt, blood pressure, and hormones. It also helps to regulate processes in the body through its connection to the central and autonomic nervous systems and endocrine system.
3. The Cerebral Cortex directs the brain's higher cognitive and emotional functions. It is divided into two almost symmetrical halves called the cerebral hemispheres. Each hemisphere contains four lobes.
- The Frontal Lobe assists in motor control and cognitive activities, such as planning, making decisions, setting goals, and relating the present to the future through purposeful behavior.
- The Parietal Lobe assists in sensory processes, spatial interpretation, attention, and language comprehension.
- The Occipital Lobe processes visual information and passes its conclusions to the parietal and temporal lobes.
- The Temporal Lobe assists in auditory perception, language comprehension, and visual recognition.
- Brain cells consume 20% of the oxygen used in the body which generates many free radicals.
- Detoxification of these free radicals is an essential task for the brain.
- Glutathione is an important antioxidant found in the brain that detoxifies these free radicals.
- As the brain's master antioxidant, glutathione plays an essential role in protecting this vital organ from free radical activity. Studies indicate that damage by free radicals to brain tissue may be associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as alzheimer's disease, parkinson's disease and huntington's disease. The neutralization of these free radicals is, therefore, an essential function of glutathione in the brain.
- Relative to many organs in the human body the brain is deficient in defenses to oxidative stress.
- This deficiency in the brain can leave it vulnerable to lipid peroxidation. Lipids are a broad group of naturally occurring molecules which include fats, waxes, and such vitamins as A, D, E, and K. Lipids play an important role in such functions as energy storage and cell signaling.
- The oxidation degeneration of lipids is called lipid peroxidation. This occurs when free radicals steal electrons from lipids in the cell membrane resulting cell damage.
- Accounts for only about 2% of the body's mass, yet it utilizes approximately 20% of the body's oxygen.
- Contains less endogenous antioxidant activity when compared with other major organs such as the liver.
These facts only underline the importance of supporting the antioxidant system for the best possible brain function throughout a person's life. The brain can become vulnerable to free radicals when it is subjected to chemicals that are known to decrease glutathione.
Effects on aging in the brain.
Research suggests that oxidative damage from free radicals is a major contributor to the functional decline characteristics of aging in the brain.
An August 2009 study conducted 2 groups of rats tested the aging effects of aluminum toxicity, administered to the first group. The same toxicity mixed with a substance that acted as a free radical scavenger with antioxidant properties was given to a control group with dramatically different result.
The first group experienced:
- Increase to lipid peroxidation, leading to free radical damage and oxidative stress.
- Decrease of SOD, glutathione and other antioxidants.
- Lipid peroxidation was lowered.
- Antioxidant activity was enhanced.
The study found that the free radical scavenger had a protective effect against toxin-induced changes related to aging by reducing oxidative stress. This slowed the aging process which was present in the first group.
The importance of a healthy brain is self evident. Subjecting ourselves to an abundance of free radicals and environmental stressors is not only bad for us but can accelerate the aging process in the brain. The brain requires a lot of oxygen and is more susceptible to oxidative stress than many organs because of a lower natural concentration of antioxidant activity.
To increase antioxidant activity in the brain to slow down aging, we need to optimize glutathione production at the cellular level.