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The Core Concepts of Neuroscience

Rapid advancements are frequently made in the exciting field of neuroscience - and underpinning every bit of research and discovery are fundamental concepts, established approximately a century ago. Let’s get to it!


Core Concept #1: The Complexity of the Brain

  • Each human brain contains over 80 billion neurons, with each neuron exchanging electrical signals with thousands of others

  • Nervous system function involves the coordinated action of neurons from many different regions of the brain

  • This complex organ, with its intricacies of interconnected parts, may go wrong - causing neurological and psychiatric conditions, the solving of which requires a more deep understanding of how the brain works.


Core Concept #2: The Neurone’s mode of communication

  • As the body’s command center, the neurons within the brain communicate with each other and relay information throughout the entire body

  • Sensory stimuli, such as pain, are converted into action potentials (electrical signals) which are rapidly carried along neurons.

  • These action potentials are unable to cross the synapse (gap) between neurons and so chemical messengers cross the synapse instead, triggering the a second action potential on the other side of the synapse neuron

  • The strength of communication between neurons depends on the frequency in which it is stimulated, e.g. through frequent exercise or drug use


Core Concept #3: The nervous system relies on genetically determined circuits

  • The nervous system is comprised of circuits of neurons which relay messages around the entire body, including:

    • Motor circuits: send commands to muscles

    • Sensory circuits: transmit signals from sense receptors to the brain

    • Simple circuits: carry out reflexes

    • Complex circuits: complex activities such as decision making

  • All of these circuits are genetically determined before you are born.

    • However, new experiences cause circuits to evolve, increasing in complexity

Core Concept #4: Life experiences shapes the nervous system

  • Neuroplasticity - “the ability of the nervous system to change its activity in response to intrinsic or extrinsic stimuli by reorganizing its structure, functions, or connections after injuries”

  • Each new experience shapes your brain, through strengthening or weakening connections between neurones or even making new ones.


Core Concept #5: The brain’s innate ability to reason, plan, and solve problems

  • The brain combines sensory inputs and makes use of inference & instinct to depict the world around you.

  • It also makes use of emotions - value judgements - to respond to events

  • Through experiences and its imagination, the brain is able to predict best actions in response to future and present events

Core Concept #6: The power of language

  • The human brain has a gigantic cerebral cortex relative to other animals.

    • The cerebral cortex, specifically the temporal, parietal, and frontal lobes, contains neural circuits dedicated to language

    • Hence explaining why humans are able to effectively communicate with each other

Core Concept #7: The Natural curiosity of the brain

  • All the discoveries and inventions of humankind? We have our curiosity to thank.

  • Curiosity can lead to unexpected discoveries and subsequent inventions which may benefit humanity as a whole


Core Concept #8: Research is fundamental for the advancement of mankind

  • According to UN estimates, 1 in 4 people suffer from neurological and psychiatric conditions

  • Studying the conformation of nerves throughout the body and the brain, Neuroscientists attempt to understand this complexity in order to alleviate these dangerous conditions, resulting in treatments for pain and multiple diseases

    • In the 1950s and 1960s, the med- ication L-dopa was discovered, helping alleviate symptoms of millions of patients with Parkinson’s disease.

  • Every advance in neuroscience has the chance to help ease suffering

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