Thursday 12 December 2013

Your Brain - Use it or Lose it!

HotScience │Petrosains

Cow's brain
The brain is the microprocessor of your body, controlling almost everything that you do.
It’s a complex organ with responsibilities that belies its weight, which is a mere 1.5kg!
The brain is the crown jewel of the human body - without it we cease to exist.

How it works  
The 3 basic units of the brain:

The nervous system is a complex, sophisticated system that regulates and coordinates the body's basic functions and activities. It is made up of two major divisions - central nervous system (consisting of the brain and spinal cord) & peripheral nervous system (consisting of all other neural elements).  
The Science Engagement at HotScience
Neurological disorders & treatment
There are over 600 known neurological disorders & conditions - treatment options for many of them are very limited.  A neurological disorder is a disease or injury of the central nervous system that causes paralysis of any part of the body.  It may be due to physical injury to the brain, spinal cord or nerves, or biochemical causes.  Sometimes the cause may be unknown and only the effects are seen.  Neurological disorders are common and can be life-threatening.

Some disorders:
Epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease & other dementias, cerebrovascular diseases including stroke, migraine & other headache disorders, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, neuroinfections, brain tumours, traumatic disorders of the nervous system such as brain trauma, and neurological disorders as a result of malnutrition.

Diseases that attack the nervous system: 
Infections (bacterial, viral or fungal), cancers (malignant or benign), degenerative conditions (such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease), and disorders of function (e.g. epilepsy, Tourette's syndrome).
Food which can make our brain healthier  
Many scientists the world over have done researches on ‘food for the brain’.  However studies on the effects of food on the brain are relatively young. Scientists know that certain foods and diets are better for the brain, but figuring out why is still in progress. 
Explore brains
Research suggests that four different types of chemicals and nutrients interact with the brain positively.
1. Glucose
The brain draws nearly all its energy from glucose. 

2. Fatty Acids
Polyunsaturated fatty acids, aka omega-3 and omega-6 help strengthen the synapses in our brain related to memory.

3. Amino Acids
Amino acids come from protein-rich foods and help connect the neurotransmitters which are essential for keeping your brain sharp. 

4. Antioxidants
Antioxidants help regulate the oxidative stress that destroys brain cells. The stress is caused when our body is converting glucose to energy and extra oxygen is created called free radicals. Antioxidants block them so our brain doesn't have to work as hard.
The Science Engagement at HotScienc
Science Engagement Session at HotScience Petrosains
The two days session focused on brain basics – the different parts and how it works.  Some interesting interactive activities were also prepared by the University to help the public understand better this complex topic. On-going research on Alzheimer’s disease was also shared in the form of a mice which is afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease and how certain foods help alleviate the disease.  Those brave and not squeamish were invited to touch the cow, rabbit & rat brains – a rare opportunity for many! 
The Science Engagement at HotScience

This article is written in conjunction with Science Engagement Session at HotScience, Petrosains from 29-30 June 2013 with scientists from UiTM –
1. Prof. Dr. Abu Bakar Abdul Majeed, pharmacist-cum-neuroscientist & Assistant Vice-chancellor (Research), UiTM
2. Prof. Dr. Kalavathy Ramasamy, head of the Collaborative Drug Discovery Research (CDDR) Group at the Faculty of Pharmacy, UiTM
3. Dr Lim Siong Meng, a senior researcher, UiTM


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